by Marzipan77
Renaissance: (n) rebirth
She burned, fury and compassion brightening around her into an impenetrable shield of protection. He lay beside her, unmoving, unaware, his presence dimmed, his brilliance caged by the Others.
“He must be punished.”
“No. He did nothing,” Oma Desala projected, strong, sincere.
“Only because you prevented him.”
“The failing was mine,” she insisted.
A blinding wave of silence buffeted against her but Oma allowed it to pass over and through her and stood, untouched, her charge safe at her side. The presence of the Others diminished, but she sensed their unending vigilance, their concrete accord against her.
She would not waver. She had not erred, offering this one Ascension. His soul pulsed; it glowed and flashed amidst the congealed darkness of humanity. But the ties that she had thought severed at his death had drawn him back again and again to those he’d left behind. And his sadness, even as he reveled at a universe opened before his questing mind, defeated her guidance.
Oma had cleansed his psyche, had rekindled his physical body from the ether when she sensed a separate presence lingering nearby—so young, so very young, and yet his light was fueled by such love and loyalty. “He has chosen,” she whispered, soundless.
“My brother.” The unuttered words rode the gleaming strands of devotion towards her. “So empty.”
“It was his decision to return so.”
A wordless grief expanded to fill the cosmos.
She enfolded the young one with tendrils of support.
“And yet—he blazes.”

A is for Arrom
Being: (n) Existence; life; essence
The blue robes fell heavily against his legs as he walked, the echoes within his mind painting them with other colors—black, tan, green—and he somehow knew they meant to hide him in the darkness, within forests, against blowing sands. Other textures rubbed against his skin—smooth, tough, hugging each leg, each arm, in a way that robes couldn’t—didn’t. The images flashed dizzily through his mind: feeling the cloth beneath his fingers, sharp edges of broken glass tearing at it, leaving it in shreds against blistering skin, a thin sleeve between his hand and a sickening heat, burning… clawing at him… His breathing stuttered in his chest—blood clogging, skin oozing—until he felt his body spreading, thinning, undoing itself into the air around him and he forced his fingers to clutch at the brittle branches near his face. Eyes closed, the rough bark under his fingers, the sharp scent of leaves crushing, pebbles scuffing beneath his feet, the tang of his own sweat—these pulled him back together, reminding him of this place, this body. Alive. Whole. He was real. He was…
Essendo… zijnd… sein…
Arrom. Naked One. Found beneath the lowering sky. He didn’t know how long he’d lain here, tossed unregarded onto this plain, naked, cold, alone—and without any words to describe the sensations that had curled him into a ball and shook him in angry waves from head to foot. Loss. Failure. But, with Khordib’s one question the words had flooded him, smothering, sparking along his skin, behind his eyes, filling the emptiness, stealing breath and making a heart pound that he now could name.
Varlik… etre… istnienie…
Arrom loosed his fingers from the bare tree and touched his face. There had been tears there, but no other outward sign to reveal his inward pain. Faces above him—pale, dotted with two dark eyes, a mouth, a nose—they’d seemed almost right, essentially familiar, triggering a wash of warmth that quickly edged towards fear. He’d lay, gasping, flashes of other eyes, faces both pale and dark beneath other skies had slashed at him, pummeled him, accused him. And Shamda—calm, unsurprised—had stilled the others’ questions, handed him his outer robe and invited him to join them.
Yn bod… sendo… olemassaolo…
Arrom latched onto the man’s quiet words. Story after story unfolded from the village leader as they’d crossed the plain, the men’s pace slowing to match his own stumbling gate. The words trickled along his nerves, fell into the yawning pit within him. He’d wanted to grab onto them, as if they could hold his head above the darkness that sucked at him, darkness that writhed and curdled with horrors, fears, hopes left bloody, and lives broken. He’d found his hand was gripping the elder’s sleeve, tugging at it like a child when one story would finish, silently urging him on.
Siendo… res…
Arrom stood still now, alone on the plain, the branches creaking in the chill breeze, dead leaves stirring into movement before they rested again against the hardening ground, bird calls receding towards the south. Winter had come. And, with it, with the morning frost and shortening days Arrom had turned that clutching darkness to stone.
Arrom felt the tight muscles across his back, the lines deepening on his forehead. The villagers welcomed him kindly, clothed him, fed him, and yet he knew his silences and sorrow had driven them away. He wanted—an unexpected sob thrust itself from his throat—he wanted… but touching their lives was wrong, and he’d shied away from any attempts at closeness, avoiding gentle hands of comfort, smiled greetings, gestures of friendship, knowing, somehow, that he’d only bring them pain.
Today, he’d so easily eluded the usual gaggle of children who daily delighted in his ignorance of the simplest things.
… “… like grinding yaphetta flour—have you ever tried to grind your own flour?”
… “I’m trying to quit…”
Sometimes the voices tore loose from their prison of stone and loss gripped him again, brought his hands up to shield his face, to hide from the shame and the guilt that tried to swallow him. No. Not again. Arrom hid in the dark and the silence, stripping away the memory of hands and voices that tried to entangle him, until the surge of memory passed, the voices quieted, and the emptiness grew up again like black, creeping ice.
Arrom. He was Arrom. It was enough. It had to be enough.
He set his face to the east, towards the lifting sun, hazy and dim among the clouds, its heat barely warming his skin. Arrom lowered his head and trudged on, senses now dulled to the crunching leaves and the furtive scurrying of small lives within the crackling brambles. Today he would walk, allowing time to carry him far from the worried eyes of Shamda and from the elder’s care and concern. He shook his head wearily. Of late the elder’s stories had become more pointed, demanding, his voice never wavering from its even cadence as he tried to push and prod a reaction from behind Arrom’s careful control. Soft, earnest words had met him early this morning as he’d left his tent, and Arrom had fled. He’d been shaken, memories too near the surface after another night of restless sleep filled with the flooding streams of nearly forgotten voices struggling to break free, bringing with them the panic, the urge to run, to lose himself again among the ruins, among the ashes of those long dead where hands didn’t rush to touch or eyes to accuse.
His foot scraped a thick stone and he stumbled and raised his eyes. No—not again. He clutched at anger, self-loathing, berating himself for his weakness as he stood, again, defenseless against the draw of this silent grey circle that rose above the horizon. Again his wandering had led here; again his icy control splintered as he stood in its shadow—this thing that tore at his dreams and spilled unwanted light into the darkness he’d wrapped around his soul. Even the words couldn’t hide him.
Chappa’ai… Doorway to Heaven… Annulus… Gateway… Circle of Darkness… Circle of Woes.
“What’s that?”
“That’s your Stargate, Jackson.”
He fell to his knees, hands pressed to his ears to block out the sounds that sent him spiraling into the darkness.
“No… I’m Arrom… Arrom,” he cried.

B is for Buried
Daniel – Arrom – angst. His memories aren’t all pie and cherries.
Arrom slowed his pace as he neared the ruins where the villagers had made their homes. He blinked the sweat from his eyes, rubbing the sleeve of his robe over his flushed face even as the panic urged him to run, to shout out their danger to the peaceful men and women, to gather up the laughing children in his long arms and force them into hiding, into safety. His heart pounded, his breath panting puffs of steam into the cold air as he turned from the calm scene and rested his back against a broken pillar. He closed his eyes tightly, willing the horrifying visions away, fighting to submerge them once again beneath the dark emptiness he’d cultivated for so long. But, although the screams faded in the whistle of the rising wind, and the smell of blood and pain transformed into the harsh fragrance of roasting meat in the cooking pits, a deeply sunken awareness of fear and loss remained.
When he could trust his limbs to a steady, deliberate pace, and trust his steely mask to conceal the choking grief that had erupted as he stood beneath the great grey ring of stone—
… “Stargate… Stargate… Chappa’ai” …
Arrom made his way between the groups of figures, nodding and smiling tightly to murmured greetings and gracefully avoiding the fleeting touch of hands. His eyes scanned wildly, trying to pick out the white-haired figure of the village elder among the blurred blues and browns of the robed shapes. He ducked beneath an arched lintel and turned to make his way down the stone steps and into the gathering of tents, his relief at the sound of the familiar droning voice setting his knees to trembling.
Shamda stood, hands clasped behind his back in his traditional pose, the words of his story falling easily from his lips as he spoke to a small group of young men who were stretching out hides to dry in the weak winter sun. Suddenly, the blue robes are transformed to tan, heat scorching, sand swirling, black braids falling down around the boys’ determined faces, their hands busy with darker, more desperate efforts. Another stiff figure, beard grey, radiating dignity, addressing young men who were loathe to hear him.
… “You will bring disaster to all of us, son.” …
Arrom set his jaw and shook his head, forcing the vision away.
“Shamda,” his voice was louder, more abrupt than he intended. The surprised look on the elder’s face made him pause. “I’m sorry,” Arrom ducked his head, “sorry to interrupt, but I must speak with you.”
One young man, Yaasur, flashed a quick smile. “It is all right, Arrom,” he hurried to assure him, exchanging relieved glances with the others, “Really. It is fine.”
The elder sighed, allowing a quelling glance to linger on Yaasur’s face before he gestured an invitation for Arrom to walk beside him.
“You are troubled, my friend.”
Arrom stuffed his cold, shaking hands into the sleeves of his robe. “Shamda—the stone ring out on the plain…”
The older man nodded calmly, his voice even. “Ah, yes. It has stood so as long as time remembers, Arrom. The stories tell us that, by its power, our people once traveled a different path, on a much longer journey than our feet can walk in these days. They called it Ya-eger Manget Makakal in the old tongue.”
“The Path Between,” Arrom replied, frowning, the words slipping from his mind between one heartbeat and the next.
Shamda hesitated for only a moment before continuing his winding journey through the tents. Finally, he shrugged. “It rests silently among the shattered stones—why does it cause you pain, my friend?”
“I don’t—” Arrom swallowed. “I don’t know.” He heard the edge of fear in his own voice and reached out to snag the elder’s sleeve, stepping quickly in front of him. “It’s dangerous, Shamda,” he stared into the storyteller’s quiet regard, urging him with clutching hands and blazing eyes to hear him. To listen. To understand. “It brings death and horror, blood and pain.”
The smell of seared flesh, the biting tang of blood on the air, the screams of the darkly-braided boys overwhelmed him and only Shamda’s strong hands kept him upright.
“We have to bury it,” he muttered, Shamda’s soothing words barely grazing his skin as his gaze turned inward—
… “As soon as we’re gone I want you to close it, bury it, put a big, heavy cover stone over it—nothing good can ever come through this ‘gate. Do you understand me?” …
Fear—grief—a loss so deep, guilt so pure that it burned his soul to ashes. Arrom felt the tears slide down his face.
… “you came through” …
No. His fault. He’d let evil through the ‘gate.
… ” you came through” …
“No!” he shouted, denial tearing its way from his throat, drowning out the words in his mind. He opened his eyes to the elder’s troubled face, to the concerned stares of the villagers now gathered around. “Shamda, please, we must bury the Stargate. Now.”
The elder placed a hand on his shoulder. “You have remembered this, my friend?” His voice was gentle, warm, his kind gaze settling tenderly on Arrom’s face. “Your memory returns?”
Muscles rigid, Arrom took in a deep lungful of air. “No.” He kept his own gaze even, open, denying the power of the images, words, and sensations that gripped him. “No,” he insisted firmly, “I just… I just know.”
Shamda shooed away the watching villagers with a few flips of his fingers and then carefully led Arrom back to his tent. He stood, waiting, as Arrom’s panic fled and his heartbeat calmed from its hammering rhythm. A few moments later, the elder straightened and placed both hands behind his back.
“I would tell you the story of the flightless bird, but, somehow,” a smile curved the old man’s mouth, “I think you have heard many, many more stories than even I can tell in your young life.”
Arrom’s gaze darted back and forth as words poured through his mind in a soft lilting voice that warmed him even as it left him empty again. “I’m not hiding my head in the sand, Shamda,” he insisted as his mind grew silent.
“Are you not?” The question was quiet, but the elder’s eyes glowed with a firm persistence. “How long will you be ‘Arrom,’ and stand naked among those who would be your brothers, your friends, who would clothe you with their memories?”
“I’m not—”
“You are,” Shamda nodded. “Perhaps your fear of the stone ring is a fear of taking up your own journey. And, perhaps,” he moved closer and set one hand against Arrom’s cool cheek, “that is something that will not be buried so easily as you would wish.”

C is for Candlelight
Arrom is struggling.
Arrom sat cross-legged on the deep piled rugs just within the low-hanging awning of his tent, never minding the occasional drop of freezing rain that fell against his face, his hands, gradually turning the blue of his robes to the color of the stormy sky. Now and then a breath of wind brought a lingering touch of warmth from the fire within the circle of huddled tents, still smoldering beneath the crude, wooden structure meant to shield it from the elements while its golden glow reminded the villagers of the sun that had not been seen for days.
The rain had begun a few hours after he’d spoken with Shamda about burying the ‘gate, and Arrom had stood silently beneath the downpour, still aching with the pain of unrealized memories and unwanted scenes of death and destruction playing across his vision until the elder had pushed him into his tent with chidings and mutterings. And here he’d stayed. Now and then he’d watched as a family splashed across the open plaza, parents hurrying beneath burdens of baskets and bundles, children giggling just out of reach, until they plunged within the canvas walls of a friend or loved one. Sometimes voices rose above the hissing fall of icy pellets—laughter, songs, stories shared and solitude eased as each tent was turned into a small island of warmth among the freezing mud of winter.
His eyes no longer sought out the flickering embers of the central fire, nor the flashes of color that accompanied scurrying figures. Instead, Arrom simply watched the thin sheath of ice grow up around the few blades of grass just outside his tent that defied the deepening winter, counting the colors reflected in the dimming light of day, feeling that same icy shell spread within his soul. The deep green grass seemed preserved there beneath its glass-like covering, perfect, alive, waiting to be discovered. An artifact of the now bygone spring. Perhaps Arrom’s own past was as well preserved.
A rustling sound and the brush of movement against his cheek startled him into blinking his tired eyes before lifting them to the hunched figures suddenly bustling within his tent.
“Tsk, tsk—even the stupidest beast knows enough to find shelter in a storm, Arrom.” Shamda hooked one arm around his shoulders and drew him away from the drafty opening to his tent. Fingers plucked at the darkened fabric at the edge of his sleeves, along the hems of his vest-cloak, scattering thin ribbons of ice onto the damp rugs. The old man shook his head and clucked his tongue again. “Foolish!” he snapped, his voice somehow scolding and kind at the same time and Arrom gasped at remembered affection, dark eyes that held a depth of tenderness and exasperation, the furtive scent of rich spices and wheat and grain. The elder had tugged the damp covering from his shoulders before he noticed.
“Iranya,” Shamda gestured towards the dark-haired woman who had settled a large, steaming pot on the low table deep within the tent. “Bring another cloak and shirt from the chest.”
“Wait—I’m fine—” Arrom protested, trying to brush grasping hands from his clothing as his words echoed dully in the air.
“If you act as a child, my friend, then as a child will you be treated.” Shamda took a half step backwards holding his hand out, demanding, until Arrom struggled out of his wet clothes and dropped them there. He stood, shivering, half-naked, beneath the pale, nearly mocking gaze.
Iranya—oldest daughter of the village elder and mother of three strong sons of her own, smiled and winked from behind the old man’s back before filling Arrom’s arms with warm, dry garments. Arrom couldn’t help but grin in return, feeling a flush rise along his pale skin that he hurried to cover with the blue cloth.
“Now,” Shamda clapped his hands. “I am hungry and my daughter’s stew is best eaten hot.” He made himself comfortable on one side of the table and spooned generous portions into two clay bowls.
Arrom turned to thank the woman for her kindness, but the look of sadness that shadowed her broad, plain face caught the words in his throat. She stood silently before him, a length of intricately woven fabric held between her callused hands. Arrom unconsciously bent forward as she reached up to loop the long scarf behind his neck once and again, finally smoothing the soft ends against his chest with light, timid movements. He pressed one hand against hers, flattening it gently against his shirt, and she looked up to smile again into his puzzled gaze.
“This belonged to my dear Rhandan,” she offered simply. “He was taken from us two winters ago.”
He felt his eyebrows rise. “A son?”
She nodded. “My firstborn,” she added, slipping her hand from beneath his to poke one finger towards him in accusation. “He died of the winter fever. You,” her finger stabbed at him again, “who came to us a gift dropped from the gods, are not to seek to follow him in your sadness.”
… “… my son …my son… I lost my son…” …
Arrom knew the sheen in her eyes matched his own and he lowered his head, ashamed, ashamed to mean so much to these people. How… they shouldn’t care… how could they care so much?
A feather-light touch through his hair and she was gone.
“I would listen to her,” Shamda advised around a mouthful of stew.
The smell drew him towards the table and he took his place across from the old man, reaching for the brimming bowl. The warm silence grew around them as they ate and the darkness deepened. Arrom finished last, slowly wiping a piece of flatbread through the thin glaze of sauce that coated his bowl, unwilling to disturb the air that seemed thick with unspoken thoughts.
“Why do you sit here in the dark, my friend?”
A scraping sound—a spark—a flare of light caught and held to the wick of a soft, yellow candle, chasing the shadows back from the bright circle that now cradled the two men.
“Is that not better than stumbling in the darkness?”
… “better to light a candle than curse the darkness” …
Arrom frowned, unconvinced. “Is it?”
Shamda nodded, his eyes glittering in the simple glow. “Yes, my friend. The light of one candle is enough until the day dawns.”
Arrom turned and let his gaze shift from the single flickering flame to the empty doorway and the darkness that crouched there. “The rain is letting up,” he muttered, listening to the quiet, empty now of the relentless hiss and hammer of the icy drops.
The elder stood and shuffled towards the door. He took a deep breath of the evening air and blew it out. “The dawn will be bright, my friend.”
Arrom swallowed against a lump in his throat. “Shamda,” he breathed, his hands clenching against each other.
The grey-haired man drew his robes about him and peered up into the sky. “Ah. Even the brightest stars seem as nothing more than flickers of distant candlelight in a great field of darkness.”
A cold shiver crept down Arrom’s spine and he reached out one finger towards the candle’s flame, holding it there for just a moment too long. He blinked at the sudden pain. “It still burns,” he whispered.

D is for Discovery
A discovery is made with the dawn.
The glistening spears of grass crackled and broke beneath his feet, loud in the stillness that arrived with the colored fingers of dawn reaching above the horizon. Clear skies, a warming breeze, the sight of sunlight dazzling the frozen ground into pinpoints of brightness, each piercing through one layer of the buffering darkness wrapped around his mind. Arrom let the light in, allowed the flickering images to come and go, each with a pang of sorrow, a jolt of hope, a silent shout of laughter, a wash of despair. He let them come, never reaching to grasp a single one as it slipped past.
The braying of the goats on the hillside seemed to keep time with his heavy steps and their dun colored bodies were transformed into a jogging phalanx of green-clad men, chanting nonsense as they passed. A brief flicker of red moved up and down, up and down, singing along a string until it slapped into a waiting hand poised above it. His own hands swept tiny grains of dust and dirt from the shallow lines of an ancient language, the delicate brush moving in and out so gently, tenderly caressing the stone as he would a lover’s face. Soft black hair curled around his fingers, tightening until it became a baby’s clutching grip, the same dark eyes smiling up at him from within his arms. A lingering ache of loss dropped his arms to fall heavily to his sides, empty.
… “I’ll see both of you again someday, right?” …
… “All roads lead eventually to the great path” …
… “Eventually” …
There was an identity there, a name, flowing easily in and around the momentary scenes, the familiar scents and sounds, a place he filled within the ebb and flow of the lives around him. A space beside one, or across a jumbled table, or walking just a step behind. A child’s place within circling arms. A young man struggling beneath a weight of books. And then, older, beneath a weight of grief, and all those spaces with his shape suddenly didn’t fit any more.
His fault? Was the emptiness, the loneliness, the dark, echoing places in his soul that had nothing to do with a failure of memory his fault? The wind whispered that it was true. He lowered his head and allowed the scattered thoughts to seek their own path within him. His punishment, his penitence, judgment, perhaps, for a lifetime of mistakes. This much seemed clear.
… “There is only one thing we can truly control” …
…”What’s that?” …
… “Whether we are good or evil” …
When the pain came again it was blistering, mauling his skin, pulling his breath from his body, pressing dead weight against his chest and Arrom stumbled, vision graying, blood draining so quickly he was surprised to see it had not pooled out onto the plain around him. He fell, knuckles bruising against the frozen ground, knees thudding, sharp pain lancing up through his hips, his belly, his chest. Blinking up into the winter sun he brushed his hands up and down beneath his wide sleeves, expecting open sores, seeping blood, tissues soggy as they wept out the essence of his life. Firm, warm skin, tingling in the chill air met his touch and he frowned.
The hours drifted past as he made his way back, silently, towards the village. The memories came more slowly, almost hesitantly now, as if afraid to throw him back to remembered agony of body or soul. He grimaced. Shamda was wrong—even the light of a candle was too bright, and the comforting darkness was a shield he didn’t know how to discard. Perhaps with time the blaze would dim to a glow, the hurt would not be as sharp, the grief as raw. Perhaps.
Arrom swept aside a slender branch with one hand, exhaustion chilling his skin, shaking through his bones, drawing his face into a frown. One step, and then another. Food, his cot, the comfort of his tent—these would be enough for now.
The sharp crack of a broken branch brought his head up, rushed reaction through his nerves, tightened weary muscles to readiness in an instant. Men. Men wearing the green clothes of his memories rose to stand before him. Confusion sparked anger and Arrom narrowed his eyes. Real or merely phantoms from his dimly veiled past?
One man stepped forward—tall, hands allowing what Arrom knew to be a weapon to fall to his side, his eyes wide in shock, skin paling as his mouth worked open and closed. A whisper of sound drew his attention to a man behind, dark skinned, seemingly just as stunned to be met here, on the path.
“Doctor Jackson?”
… a blue shirt, bald head reflecting harsh lighting, the words gentled with compassion … small, efficient hands holding tightly to his arm, demanding … a sneering face filling the words with contempt … a young man, crouching in fear beside a thick window, the words shouted in terror …
“Doctor Jackson, is it—it’s you, right? Are you all right?”
The first man moved closer and Arrom flinched backwards, avoiding the reaching hand. He closed his mind to the taunting images, the fear, the dread, the miasma of uncertainty.
“Stupid question, Foster,” the man before him snapped, lowering his hand. “Doctor Jackson. Doctor Daniel Jackson,” he urged, as if the repeated name would bring a sort of clarity to this confrontation. “Have you been here all along, sir?”
Arrom’s frown grew deeper at the delighted wonder coloring the strange words. Why was this man so happy? What did he want?
“Arrom,” he touched one hand to his chest.
Eyebrows rose on the man’s blank face. “Arrom? You—you’re Arrom?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“No way, sir,” the dark skinned man’s head shook back and forth. “That’s Doctor Jackson.”
“Okay, Marine, stand down,” the first man warned, one hand raised. “You guys back off a minute.”
Arrom watched closely as the three men walked off a few paces, throwing concerned glances over their shoulders. He remained still, guarded under their scrutiny and the fierce gaze of the man before him, betraying nothing of the wrenching of his gut, the sweat erupting beneath his suddenly thick and strangling robes.
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Scott Reynolds, SG-3. From Earth. The SGC. Stargate Command.” The man’s face shone with hope, expectation.
“I am Arrom,” he insisted.
“Arrom—okay. I guess it could be—but let me tell you, you look exactly like this friend of mine who, ah, got lost about a year ago.” Reynolds shrugged. “I guess you’ve lived here all your life?”
The flicker of doubt must have been clear on his face, as the man surged with victory.
“You haven’t, have you?”
“No—I—” Arrom swallowed his explanation. “I must return to the village.” No. He shouldered past the man, anxious to be away, to find his tent, his cot, to close his eyes and embrace the darkness. One hand clutched at the soft cloth of the scarf still wrapped around his neck. He wasn’t lost. Found. He’d been found.

E is for Enough
Familiar faces bring unwanted pain.
The green clad man kept whatever pace Arrom set, staying right beside his shoulder and motioning for his men to precede the two along the pathway. Clenching his jaw, Arrom locked his gaze onto the uneven ground, shutting out the friendly inquiries, the casual comments, and the frequent glances that swept in his direction. He felt them watching, their gazes heavy and demanding against his skin, whipping the leaden, viscous swamp of memory within him until it belched up tortured images, words, flashes of pain, and the stench of death and sorrow. He concentrated on his steps, the feel of the cool breeze on his flushed face and the rough texture of the robes against his skin, the soft warmth of Iranya’s scarf around his neck as the man droned on.
“I remember one time, Doctor Jackson and his team got these cool armbands from the Tok’ra—you know who the Tok’ra are, right? That Anise, whew, some outfits-”
… a snarl of anger … “we are not Goa’uld” … a flash of heat, the smell of scorched flesh … “you okay, Danny?” … worry, fear, a blow to his chest and the tormented eyes of a friend over a limp figure falling lifeless to the floor … “Samantha” …
Arrom stumbled and felt a firm grip on his arm. He jerked away, anger spiking, and turned, a harsh rebuke dying on his lips as the soldier pulled back.
“Sorry,” the man offered, a smile twitching his lips upward. “You sure you’re not Doctor Jackson?”
He frowned, mind swimming with the images the man’s words inspired. A denial would not come. A moment later he tore his gaze from Reynolds’ smiling face, lowered his head, and moved off down the pathway in the wake of the others.
Reynolds chuckled to himself and joined him, resuming his incessant narrative. “Anyway, Colonel O’Neill was driving everybody crazy—especially the General—General Hammond. He’d race through the hallways, pull pranks, eat twice his weight in the commissary—it was hilarious.”
… his hip smacked against the cold floor, carefully organized papers in heaps around him … a half-smile kindled both aggravation and comfort … anger … strength … “are you trying to kill me?” … the warmth of a hand on his cheek, arms holding him … “shut up, Daniel” … icy disdain …
He barely kept his steps steady, holding himself tightly, his muscles rigid, against the warring emotions that poured through him. Arrom shook his head to try to dispel the roaring in his ears.
“And Teal’c, well, he scares the daylights out of just about everybody on a good day,” the colonel continued.
… dark eyes so deep, so grave, revealing a grief as profound as his own … a single muscle jumping within a clenched jaw … the tiny shift of a brow that defined the difference between scorn and approval … “false god—dead false god” … a spear of light … a woman’s strangled cry …Arrom clenched his teeth against the searing bile that flooded his throat. Names, faces—they dropped like heavy stones into his gut, setting off waves of despair and fear that washed away his carefully built bulwarks, touching every hidden thought, every dark corner he was certain he’d cut off from the light.
His anger surged and he felt his skin flush darkly. All these could not be true memories—the images and words dredged up a mass of conflicting emotions—comfort, loss, trust, regret, wistful hope, and bitter disappointment. They clashed and fought, writhed and struck at one another like snakes—pale snakes within a crystal vase. He could not catch his breath.
Reynolds’ droning voice suddenly cut through his churning thoughts. “And the Major—smart, tough, gave you—ah, Doctor Jackson—a run for his money-”
Arrom slammed shut his mental barriers and wheeled to face the startled soldier.
Shock flared hotly in Reynolds’ eyes as he lurched to a stop just inches away.
“I am not this Doctor Jackson,” he growled, shaking, his harsh, gravelly voice alien to his own ears. His mouth was dry, his throat tight and thick with unshed tears of rage and shame.
Arrom glanced up to see that the other men had turned, hands clutching at the weapons they carried.
Reynolds brought his hands up slowly, palms out, yet stood his ground, his eyes blank and his expression a careful mask. “Stand down,” he stated unhurriedly, calm in the face of Arrom’s fury. “We’re fine, aren’t we, Arrom?” He pronounced the name clearly.
Arrom’s panting breath turned to steam in the cold space between them, creating a barrier as thin as his self-control. He narrowed his eyes, the ache in his head now throbbing in rhythm with his pounding heart.
“I do not know you,” he hissed, one hand clutching the soft weave of Iranya’s scarf to his chest, “I don’t know anyone but the people of this land.” He flung out the other hand, pointing towards the village. “These people took me in when I had nothing, when I could barely speak, and gave me a home and new memories to fill my empty mind.” He buried his hand again beneath his robes when he noticed it trembling. “You don’t know me,” he whispered urgently.
“You… you lost your memory?”
Reynolds moved a step nearer and Arrom jerked backwards, lips pulled into a thin line. “I am going back to my village,” he insisted, unwilling to play the man’s game, to suffer any more casual stories, or too familiar touches, or these unwanted overtures of friendship. He blinked into the gathering gloom, the haze of anger blurring the familiar landscape to threatening shadows and jutting obstacles. The sun had disappeared behind the heavy clouds and the air felt colder, more bitter, leaching all warmth from his flesh, biting in his nose, his throat. The men before him turned to move off again.
“No problem, we’re headed that way ourselves,” the green clad man answered evenly.
Arrom nodded, waiting, eyes fixed on the vague horizon. Finally, Reynolds took a few steps down the pathway, leaving him to follow at his own pace.
The familiar broken pillars resembled jagged teeth, poised to devour him, as Arrom moved between them, lowering his head under the lintel of carved blocks that marked the edge of the main settlement. Reynolds’ voice echoed from the tumbled rocks as he walked down the stairway. Arrom set his jaw and turned the corner, his mind stubbornly focused on the anger, the frustration that had claimed him out on the plain. Three figures moved towards him and he felt a hot stab of pain behind his eyes, nearly blinding him.
… dark eyes and light, hovering over him… sharp words and words of affection … a searing light that was torn out of him, erupting from every pore, every nerve on fire, screaming as it left him spent, empty, alone … a thundered warning …“Daniel?”

F is for Fragile
His barriers are fragile, the edges sharp.
Dark eyes shadowed by the brim of a cap, guarded, stance deliberately casual even as he seemed drawn forward to meet him at the base of the steps. Blue ones filled with so many emotions—familiar disbelief, eager intensity, wonder—hurrying her steps ahead of the others. And last, a warm regard laced with deep sorrow shining from beneath an emblem of ancient slavery. Arrom felt his barriers crack but clung to the crumbling shards with bleeding fingers, his anger raising one hand to block a touch, to mumble his denial, still hot enough to carry him past the blurred faces, to deafen his ears to their pleading, to blind him to their demanding compassion.
He hurried through the shocked figures of the villagers, no longer calmly welcoming, easily holding out hands of friendship and warmth, but now turned to him in wariness and speculation, afraid of what their welcome had brought them. His steps took him past his own tent, wandering aimlessly, yearning for a place of peace, somewhere he could hide from nearly dear faces and newly distant ones. Familiar steps echoed his own and he knew that Shamda strode silently at his side, patient, waiting, unrushed by either events or emotions.
Arrom stopped and turned to him, searching, eyes burning with unshed tears.
“Shamda—who am I?”
A gnarled hand reached for him, comfortingly heavy on his shoulder. The elder’s face was drawn, the fine lines around his eyes and mouth startlingly deep, his bright eyes revealing a burden of concern, a heaviness of spirit that Arrom had never noticed.
“My friend,” he began, “are you ready for the answer to this question?”
He stared, fear flickering at the edges of his mind. “Shamda?” he whispered.
The hand guided him, stumbling, into the elder’s tent, pushed him down onto a worn cushion, and brushed gently against his cheek before retreating. A heavy mug of tea appeared before him and he watched the old man’s face carefully through the rising steam.
A tender smile touched the thin lips. “My friend, do not mistake a foolish man’s words for the wisdom of the ages,” he cautioned, one finger raised. “Your journey is your own, and, whether to take up the path again from where you wandered off, or to begin the journey anew,” he bowed his head, “is your decision.”
“I don’t.” Arrom swallowed the words that sprang to his tongue. “How—how can I go on when I can’t see the path behind me?”
“‘One’s steps are guided by his past, even though he deny it,’” Shamda quoted.
Mind a whirl of images, Arrom felt the truth the elder uttered. “Whether or not I remember, my feet will still carry me along the path.”
The old man nodded, his face grim, shuttered with resignation. “They will. You must choose whether to go blindly or to reach for those answers these new ‘friends’ offer you.”
“They believe they know me.” Arrom’s cold fingers held stiffly to the warm bulk of the clay cup.
“And will you seek to know yourself as well?”
He raised his eyes to the tiny piece of sky visible through the folded fabric of the tent’s roof. “‘This above all: to thine own self be true.’”
Shamda tilted his head to one side. “There is a story in your eyes, Arrom.”
Arrom allowed a rueful half-smile and lowered his gaze to his cup. “A very old story, told of a young man who is broken by loss and hopelessness and has lost his way along the path. He causes profound sorrow, deep, grievous wounds, and a glut of death. And, although they are not said to him, these words—an old man’s words—resonate throughout the tale with the certainty of truth.” He felt the speech tear through his being. “‘This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’”
“I must hear this story some day, my friend. But, for now, this choice you have been evading since your arrival seems to be forced upon you.” Shamda reached out his hand and touched Arrom’s shoulder once again. “Will you be Arrom, or will you be this Daniel? Which is it that you want?”
… “Daniel? Did you want something?” …
… the musty smell of books, cracked bindings rough beneath his fingers as he packed them away … a figure suffused with light, a golden halo framing serene features and a knowing smile … “I couldn’t leave it alone. I was the one who unburied the ‘gate. What happened to her was my fault” … frozen figures gathered around a bed … “Why do you care?” … emptiness, pain, an ending … “I will have lost one of my greatest friends” … drowning, fighting for breath … “why do we wait to tell people how we really feel” … “admire you a little” … not enough, never enough … “your journey will continue as before” … unworthy, a rush of shame, of bile, guilt blinding him … “what if I don’t want it to” … the light growing, rushing towards him, filling him, reaching into all the empty spaces as he fled …
Shamda’s voice pulled him back, drove the bitter taste away. He blinked into the caring eyes, his breath caught in his throat.
“‘I believe that my entire life has been a failure.’” Truth. He felt it vibrate within his chest, searing with an unholy fire, tearing away memory and thought and connection to everyone and everything around him. Failure. The crackle of fire from the heavens. An entire world laid barren and desolate. “I’m being punished.” The words came grunting from deep within his soul.
He didn’t want to lie to this man—this man with the dark, shadowed eyes who struggled for words within his tent. Arrom had fled from Shamda, trying to outrace the certainty he’d discovered in the presence of the elder, his guilt equaled only by his rebellious fury. And it flared, reawakened by the glint of silver hair and the determined assault of this man on his newly reinforced defenses.
Arrom had tried to keep him out, to avoid the knowing gaze, the seemingly careless explanations, denying the immediate bond he’d felt even as the man muttered indifferent accounts of his life, his death. The air was stinging, cruel with change, with the snapping of bonds and the testing of his courage. And, sitting across from this man, Arrom found he could still fight, still resist, as if fighting against him was natural; the expected response.
‘A friend of mine,’ he’d said, the phrase thrown out as if meaningless. But Arrom read the substance there, the weight of those four small words pulled from between thin lips and, again, his walls crumbled.
… “I’m not good at this” …
… “No, you’re not” …
And, suddenly, even if this were the end of all the things he knew, all the comfort of this village and the heady feeling of namelessness Arrom had drawn around himself like a thick blanket, he could not deny the sense of belonging those words had sparked within him, warming his frigid soul.

G is for Grounded
Arrom trusts.
The air sat silent, heavy with unvoiced thoughts and nearly uttered remembrances. He’d watched the man’s strong back as he left the tent and wondered why he’d gone, leaving so few words between them. The thought touched off a spark within him, the faint brush of memories of other times, other places—a bare handful of words, a flick of hands, or a shrug that exposed a wealth of meaning. Arrom stared into the growing darkness, his brows drawn down until the pain in his head throbbed dull flashes behind his eyes. He reached for his flint and struck a flame that speared the gloom, shaking hands just able to carry it to the candle’s wick. It flickered in the chill breeze and he held his breath.
… “Because it is so clear, it takes a longer time to realize it; if you immediately know the candlelight is fire, then the meal was cooked a long time ago” … “You must trust. You must believe” … “Well maybe what I don’t believe is that I can light a candle with my mind. You see, I find it a lot easier to use a lighter or matches” …
The small flame burned along the tinder—he watched it as it journeyed back towards his hand. He was caught, unable to move, unwilling to break the spell of memory.
… “Place your hand in the flame” …
Pain. He remembered pain.
… “Why did you tell me to do that?” … “Why did you do it?” … “Because you told me to” … “Because you trusted me” …
Yes. Arrom nodded, unseeing gaze turned inward.
… “Within you is the capacity for trust” …
He released a shaky breath and forced his hand to move towards the second candle. Light. Shamda had been telling him, showing him, that he could not remain in the darkness forever. Light found a way in, crept past the fabric of his tent, stole beneath the clouds, and lit the winter landscape with even its weakest glow. The light would pursue, would chase him with fleeting touches of memory. How long could he run, hiding behind the soft blue robes of Arrom before it pierced him? If he trusted Shamda, he should be the pursuer, should hunt down the truth, dig it up, expose it. Swallow down the pain, the sorrow, the cold despair until he finally found the good, the joy, the warm comfort that surely, surely, would bring it all into balance.
The candle flared, its light stark and pure, and Arrom flinched away from its brightness. Arrom was a simple man, untouched by these sweeping failures that had stood out so fiercely within him. If he heard this woman—this man—if he let their words tear gaping rents in his defenses, Arrom would be lost. His hand reached up and touched the edges of the scarf around his neck. Who would he be?
“Can I come in?”
He quickly blew out the flame and sat back against the cushions, unconsciously drawing the darkness around him. Too much. Too soon. His heart beat wildly.
“Sure.” His throat closed over the word, and, shifting his weight, he tried to force his muscles to relax, to clear his mind of its immediate rejection of anything this woman would say. Arrom was fighting to stay.
The rustle of her movement brought his head up and he was struck to stillness by the honesty in her blue eyes. The man’s had been guarded, sharp, carefully hiding the true depth of his feeling even as he took in everything that slipped past Arrom’s own barriers. Her emotions slipped openly across her face.
Arrom listened and found an answering truthfulness on his tongue, until her words became intense, pushing and pulling at him, searing him with her need to make him understand, to mold him back into a shape she would recognize. He turned away, feeling heat across his cheeks even as heard himself promise to consider what she’d said. It was too easy to hurt for her loss, to be caught up in her memories of sorrow and her hope that Arrom would suddenly become this other man—this Daniel—before her eyes.
His sudden fear called her back and he reached nervously for a deeper connection. Her kind smile sent a wash of relief through him that left him shivering, trembling at the thought that perhaps he’d left someone alone, that his abandonment among these people had torn him from a family, a wife, children. His stomach clenched and bile froze within his throat as he returned an empty nod and she turned away.
A moment later, his mind cleared as if flashed through with summer lightning. Brothers, sisters, the man’s careful words, the woman’s insistence—perhaps he had left a family behind.
Seared fingers crushed the surviving candle flame to smoke, a convenient excuse for his stinging eyes and choking cough. He found the thin cloth of his journal, the woven bag in which he kept his few treasures—his flint, a sharpened stick of charcoal, a leather bag for water. He smoothed his scarf against his skin. Shamda was right—the decision was his, but he could not spend a lifetime trying to keep the memories at bay, carefully crafting his barriers so that not even a brief spark could steal inside. And perhaps it was to these strangers that he owed his debt—to the dark eyed man, the intent woman, the dark-skinned giant who had stood back and watched with a wealth of unspoken support.
He stood, listening to their words, searching his tent for a something—someone—he couldn’t name. He closed his eyes and found Arrom there, within him, fading against the surge of roiling emotions, the confusion of thought, the flooding memory of exploration and discovery. “Good-bye,” he whispered as he took his first step outside the tent.
“He’s going home.”

H is for History
The past connects with a heavy hand.
The silver-haired man walked out across the plain, eyes scanning the darkening horizon, resting for a moment on a scraggly patch of growth, a heap of broken stones, or turning towards the slightest sigh of wind through empty branches. The woman, a few steps behind as if hesitant to touch the edges of the leader’s long shadow, moved gracefully even weighed down with a heavy pack and the long metal weapon she held against her chest. They’d begun their journey towards the Stargate on either side of him, close but careful not to touch, but his steps had gradually slowed and, finally, they’d shared a glance and allowed him to fall behind.
Arrom strode next to him for a while, urging Daniel to turn back, to remember the soft touches and wistful good-byes of the villagers, the fierce strength of Iranya’s arms around him and her hastily dried tears, the warmth of Shamda’s hand against his cheek. Arrom pointed out the path to the water hole, the stones worn smooth by the passage of hands and feet, the wealth of crumbling walls that had drawn his eager eyes time and time again. But, as they left the familiar sights and sounds and the flashes of memory dredged up a rush of emotion, Arrom had faded, face creased with loss, his cry echoing in the cusp of evening that Daniel would regret this step along his journey.
… “Doctor Jackson” … pointed, strident, amiable … “Daniel” … angry, fearful, gentle … “Danyel” passionate, worried, screaming in pain …
“Daniel Jackson.”
He didn’t know why, but the bulk of the tattooed warrior drew him, and he’d found himself walking at his side, comforted by his quiet strength, warmed by the man’s dignified presence. He turned at the questioning tone to meet the dark eyes.
“Do you require assistance?”
Daniel felt his lips curve into a smile. “Thank you. I just—” he shook his head, unable to give words to these feelings. “I hope you don’t mind, I just feel—unrushed—with you.” He shrugged. “Calm, I guess. Safe.” None of those words were quite right and Daniel sighed, searching for understanding in the broad face. He caught his breath at the profound gratitude he found there.
The large man tipped his head and Daniel felt his own forehead wrinkling in confusion at the clenched jaw and the eyes that blinked so quickly before they focused again on their surroundings. This man—Jaffa, he reminded himself—communicated so easily without uttering one single word.
“Yeah, once I got over my initial terror of Teal’c, here,” the thin voice of the fourth figure drew Daniel’s gaze, “I realized I never felt safer than when he was watching out for me.” An easy grin and bright eyes shone in the young face.
Daniel stumbled, dizzying visions crowding his mind—fear, dread, a screeching alarm…
… “Call your medics—do it! Don’t touch anything!” … seething with impatience at the delay, pain exploding in his hand … “No, it was his fault! He interfered!” … denial, disbelief, silence, resignation …
“Doctor Jackson?”
“What?” he barked.
A large hand held his shoulder in a strong grip, steadying his balance. Daniel looked up at the concerned face above him and nodded his thanks. As the hand dropped away, almost reluctantly, Daniel turned to the other man, surprised by his sudden paleness, fear stalking in the widened eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, frown knotting his sweat-soaked skin. He drew one sleeve across his forehead and tried to curb his sudden trembling.
“Do you remember, Daniel Jackson?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s not memory,” Daniel tried to explain, “Just flashes—feelings, mostly. Sometimes words, sounds, smells.”
… glass cracked, the air burned his throat, his nose … sweat dripped down his back … waves of heat and energy danced across his vision … the coppery taste of blood … the gagging smell of scorched flesh … “No!” …
Daniel’s gaze snapped to the thin figure now keeping a careful distance to his right. “Voices.”
The young man jerked a nod in his direction and quickened his pace to walk beside the woman—Samantha Carter. Sam.
Daniel stepped away from the Jaffa and steadied his breathing, forcing down the dimming anger, the flooding despair, the heavy weight of surrender. His eyes focused on the tips of his boots, just visible beneath the billow of his robes. One foot and then the other, safe against the ground, the frozen grasses crinkling, their slender sheaths of ice breaking into brittle pieces.
He was tied down to the earth, tied to these people with invisible bonds that sometimes grew lax, sometimes tightened harshly against his spirit. The man—Jack, not Jim—turned and pierced him with a dark, unreadable stare and Daniel could almost see the connection between them. Strong, turbulent, holding him close, but not too close, even when he’d resumed his steady gait across the plain. Sam’s quick smile, a shade too bright, gripped him and loosed him in one motion. At his side, the Jaffa, Teal’c, stood guard, immovable, over his soul.
The fourth man was a puzzle, their bond sloppy with broken threads and choking knots, chaotic, intense and yet as thin as a shard of glass. It seemed that Daniel could break it with one sideways step, but it held him nonetheless, clutching fingers scrabbling at his skin.
He needed his memories, needed them to buffer him from these naked, crushing links that burned like freezing metal.
Dead and yet alive again. Ascended, the man had said, to a higher plane of existence. A being without form, without body, encased in the skin of the universe. It sounded impossible, like a story told to children of unseen guardians, inhuman creatures who watched and waited, helped and comforted, toting up good and evil on a celestial scoreboard. Perhaps that’s why these connections burned, left bruises, beating him with such cumbersome thoughts and sensations. He clenched his fists, reveling in the sharp prick of his fingernails against his palms. Perhaps he’d forgotten how to feel, how to survive within a human skin, how to live with the demands of family, of friendship, of hate and love and every other human emotion.
He’d fallen from that higher plane: pushed out, thrown down, banished. Such a fall must leave scars. Daniel breathed deeply of the air of his adopted world as they reached the stone ring and the device that he knew controlled its twists and turns. He reached out one hand to touch seven symbols, the grind and scrape of metal familiar, comforting, each light along the circle warm and healing. Perhaps even these scars would heal.

I is for Ignorance
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” —Confucius
The blue surge of energy swelled from the center of the circle, rushing towards him, but he didn’t feel an instant of fear. The light and sound splashed across him, tying him to the ancient ‘gate, to the people around him, and to the pain and discovery awaiting him on the other side. This was right. Felt right. Even though, beneath this certainty lay a reservoir of doubt. A strange sensation ghosted across his skin and he looked up to find four pairs of eyes focused on him—some in open disbelief, some in hooded, wary suspicion. Daniel stepped back from the dialing device, not sure what he’d done wrong.
“You dialed Earth’s address.”
The man—Jack—spoke to Daniel’s unuttered question. He glanced down at the concentric rings of symbols.
The dark gaze never wavered, holding him still as if pinned to the very air. He felt naked there, flayed open by the man’s intensity. The woman finally moved and broke the spell.
“Sir? Should I send the IDC?”
Jack nodded, still staring, and Daniel swallowed. He’d done it automatically, without thought, without real knowledge of his actions. He rubbed his fingers together, lifting his hand to regard it with frowning mistrust. His body had moved confidently, had reacted to the sight of this mechanism unconsciously. What else might it do without his clear intent?
A thin voice issued from the left shoulder of each of the green-clad figures. “SG-1, this is Hammond. Report.”
Samantha turned away and grasped the device, cocking her head to one side. “Sir, we have an … unexpected situation here.” He watched her glance towards the silver-haired man. “Perhaps you should send the MALP, sir.”
The voice carried a hint of impatience. “Very well. We’ll disconnect and ready the MALP. It should be coming to you within fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you, sir. Carter, out.”
The blue pool dissolved into nothingness with a noisy sigh.
Jack walked closer, hands quiet where they hung across his weapon. He jerked his head towards the symbols on the dialing mechanism. “Show me.” A command—a demand—but flavored with something that tasted like hope.
After a moment, Daniel nodded and moved back to his place at the device’s foot. He touched each symbol reverently, one finger barely brushing against the raised surface, tracing the patterns almost wistfully as he repeated the names that came easily to his tangled mind.
Auriga,” the charioteer, he added to himself. “Cetus.” The sea monster, or, in modern times, the whale. His mouth had dried to desert sand and he looked up, blinking, to find the hooded eyes now laced with compassion, their former coldness replaced by empathy, and one hand moved quickly to his shoulder. The simple touch calmed the surge of frustration that had erupted in Daniel’s spirit. He dropped his gaze to the symbols and continued.
Centaurus, the centaur,” ‘so close,’ his heart insisted. He cleared his throat. “Cancer. Scutum.” Crab and Shield. “Eridanus, the river.” His fingers traced down to the symbol that rested just below the globe in the center, a symbol that was noticeably different from all the others. “Vis Uban,” he muttered, sketching out the straight lines and uneven boxes of another language.
“Well done, Daniel Jackson,” the dark-skinned man bowed solemnly, a lightness spreading across his face. “You remember well.”
He turned back when he felt the hand on his shoulder squeeze gently. Jack’s other hand was tapping against the dull red jewel in the center of the device. “Who made this, Daniel?” he asked softly.
His reply was immediate, leaping from his lips. “Anquietas.”
Two raised eyebrows and a crooked half-smile responded.
“Sir, that’s Ancient—it means-”
“It means ‘the Ancients,’ Major.” Jack never released Daniel from his intense gaze. “You remember any other ‘gate addresses, Daniel?”
He frowned, images of unpatterned sand, a sea of waving grasses, a dark, shadowed forest, crowded rooms filled with dust and boxes, ornate golden walls, tents, ruined stone, sleek domes … his breathing sped and his heart pounded, the heavy hand barely enough to keep him from falling beneath the wave of memory.
Chulak—Tollana—Argos—Cimmeria—Abydos—six symbols and the constant seventh.
… “A funny little … with two funny guys …” …
A pyramid with one moon. Giza. Terra. Earth. Home.
His eyes must have answered, because Jack simply nodded and held him firmly at arm’s length. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’d remember Stargate addresses before you remembered us.”
Disappointment. Daniel heard it even though the words were even, the face a careful mask of bland approval. This man who held himself so rigidly under a veneer of good humor and efficiency was waiting. Waiting for Daniel. He searched himself, digging mental fingernails into the morass of his mind, his memory, trying to tear away the clogging visions of symbols and worlds, to burrow beneath the confusing litany of addresses, the color of alien skies, and the wreckage of foreign cultures. As completely as he’d rejected his former life, as fiercely as he’d battled to remain ‘naked,’ with no ties to man or world, now he wrestled to find a way to soothe the regret in Jack’s eyes, to fill the emptiness that wrenched at him from the older man’s soul.
How could he forget these people who radiated their concern? How could he remember languages, words, symbols, and yet remain ignorant of the other lives that were connected to his own? Fleeting images, faces thrilled with discovery or burdened with grief were not enough. Not nearly enough.
“I’m sorry.” His voice cracked painfully in his throat.
Jack tapped his shoulder gently, shaking his head. “Don’t sweat it.” His smile slid quickly away. “You’re a pretty fast learner.”
Daniel tore his gaze away from the false amusement, brows drawn harshly, his mind denying the easy pardon offered from the man’s thin lips. The remembered sense of failure rose up again within him, Jack’s face surrounded by a nimbus of light.
… “You just giving up?” …
No. Not this time.

J is for Judged
Is Daniel going home?
The clanking sound drew Daniel’s gaze to the Stargate. A moment later a strange, gangly device lurched through the puddle of suspended sky and the familiar, tinny voice issued from its thin neck.
“Colonel O’Neill, report.”
More than impatient now, somehow Daniel knew that that tone meant apprehension, concern; the powerful man who stood reflected in a sheet of glass on a world one step and a million miles away was worried. He frowned, watching Jack move quickly to stand before the camera—his head pounded—the camera that would send a video signal back to the other man.
THAT he remembered. He remembered that a video or audio signal could preserve a voice or an image through the warping tunnel in space that connected one world to another, but not the names of his friends. What if he never remembered? What if those flashes of pain, the momentary snatches of connection were all he’d ever have, and these people who now crowded around him, herding him towards Jack and the Stargate—what if they only received back these tattered remnants of Daniel Jackson’s life? How could that be enough? He stumbled and tried to focus on taking one breath, and then another.
It wasn’t the teasing lightness that Jack meant them all to hear that echoed within Daniel’s aching mind. Something else colored the soldier’s easy tone, something darker and more desperate. “Well, General, we’d like your permission to bring along a hitchhiker.”
Permission? The winter wind raised bumps along Daniel’s skin.
… “You’re in no position to make demands, Jackson.” …
Panic caught at him. The man at the other end of the wormhole, the powerful man, could make Daniel’s exile on this planet permanent.
“Care to explain, Colonel?”
One hand snatched off the brown cap and brushed through the short silver hair. “Turns out the nice people here got a visitor about two months ago-”
“—closer to three by Earth measurements, sir,” Samantha hurriedly corrected from her position on Daniel’s left.
Daniel watched narrowed brown eyes turn to her for a moment, but the interplay brushed past him, almost unnoticed. No. He couldn’t—not now. Just one day ago Daniel would have fought to stay, to shelter in his tent cloaked in the reassuring loneliness of disconnection. But now—his gaze flickered from face to face, a wail of protest rising to a piercing screech within him, and, shaking, he grasped at the thick forearm of the Jaffa. This voice of power may choose to reject him as thoroughly as those ‘Ascended Beings’ had.
Was that his punishment for whatever dark deeds had led his conscience to accept this overwhelming feeling of utter failure? To be alone—abandoned by those he’d known as Daniel Jackson, whether in life or in whatever afterlife he’d been granted?
“As I was saying,” Jack continued his explanation. “About two months ago they discovered a stranger along one of their footpaths—didn’t know who he was. He first appeared in a bright flash of light.”
“It’s okay, Doctor Jackson.” Daniel jerked his attention to the young man in green who whispered nearby, one hand briefly resting on Daniel’s wrist where his fingers were clenched in the fabric of Teal’c’s sleeve. The man smiled and gestured. “This is just a machine we use to talk-”
“I know,” Daniel interrupted impatiently. He tightened his grip, unwilling to lose what tentative connection he might have to these people.
“—but you—”
“Jonas Quinn.” The deep voice of the Jaffa silenced the young man and Daniel raised panicked eyes to calm brown ones. “Daniel Jackson will be fine.”
Fine. He would be fine. It sounded like a promise. Daniel felt the fear loosen its grip and turned back to watch Jack’s side of the conversation. They hadn’t wanted to leave him with Shamda and the villagers, he reminded himself. They’d seemed anxious to convince Daniel to leave, to ‘go home.’
“Goa’uld?” The disembodied voice was angry, sharp, demanding answers. “Did Anubis get there ahead of us?”
Daniel focused, listening, trying to find a reason to expect the nameless man would let him through the iris—he clamped his teeth painfully over his lip at the ease of memory—the metal shield that could bring his journey to a quick stop against its impenetrable surface. Others had been shut out by it before. Those unwanted, who hadn’t earned their place. Daniel screwed up his eyes, headache throbbing. He needed to remember enough to get beyond the suspicion and irritation, to cover the distance from anger to acceptance. Harsh words rang in his ears, and then, later, softer, compassionate ones.
… “a good friend of mine is lost” … “yes, he’s a very good friend” …
Perhaps this name—Anubis—that caused such distress. He’d heard it before. Jack had described him as an ‘over-the-top cliché bad guy’ but other sights, other words played across Daniel’s memories. Anubis. Anpu. Jackal-headed, Old Kingdom god of the underworld. Ruler of the bows. Weigher of hearts. He breathed in the sweet incense, the herbs and unguents of preparation.
… the chill desert wind scoured his flesh … “Grant me a place in your blessed dwelling” … the slender figure wrapped in white linen bands. … “If my heart weighs more than a feather my soul still contains sin, if not, may my soul join the gods.” … The scale of judgment, poised to accept or reject the sundered soul …accept or reject …
“No, sir. No sign of the Goa’uld here.” Jack turned towards him and frowned. “Hey,” he called, the word suddenly gentle, the older man’s expression kind in the face of what must be Daniel’s palpable dread. “It’s okay,” he urged, cocking his head towards the device and reaching out one arm in invitation. “C’mon over and say a few words to the boys back home.”
What could he say? What would allow him entrance to the place that must hold his memories?
Samantha grinned, nodding. Teal’c steered him with a large hand on his back. Daniel felt Jack’s light grip on the back of his neck as he guided him into position.
Still, he groped for the right words, the code, the set of syllables that held the key. “I don’t know … what should I …”
He heard a gasp, the clatter of metal against metal, a jumble of raised voices, the scrape of chairs and booted feet. And then silence.
“Doctor Jackson? Son?”
Daniel breathed, tears in his eyes. Perhaps, somehow, his heart was light.

K is for Kindness
Kindness may be too much for Daniel right now.
Daniel lowered his chin, eyes closed, arms wrapped tightly around his chest. How had that one word spoken across light years through a strange mechanical device loosed the fragile hold he’d kept on his emotions?
It swept through him, lighting dark corners of his mind and opening him to such intense feelings of warmth and belonging that they threatened to tip him into an embarrassing emotional release. True memories were still fleeting, overwhelmed by the visceral reactions that shook his resolve, made his limbs tremble with weakness.
Other voices echoed within him—voices from the past, dusty with age and distance—that spoke kindness and compassion and love. And other voices—closer, brighter, undimmed by time—that took up the same warm sentiments. He recognized some: the deep, resonating voice, the lighter feminine tones, both undergirded with steel, the voice of support and experience he’d just heard issue from the speakers on the MALP, and the wry, demanding tone that did its best to hide a deep well of caring and connection.
Probably only a moment later, the firm hand gripping his neck tightened briefly before it eased him to the side and dropped away.
“Sorry, General, but Daniel’s not quite himself. Seems somebody’s messed with his memory.”
“But you’re sure it’s Doctor Jackson—and he’s … physically present?”
Daniel found the practical, unemotional exchange grounding him, allowing him to pull himself back together, to allow his hands to fall away from his body, to raise his head and his eyes to the silver-haired man at his side.
“Well, I haven’t tried to throw a shoe through him, but he feels pretty solid to me, sir.”
A fine trickle of regret filtered through the cushioning detachment Daniel had begun to enfold himself in once again. Regret—grief—frustration. Jack’s face mirrored the emotions. He struggled to hold on, to present a calm front when every casually uttered phrase sent him reeling.
“Any idea how this could have happened, Colonel?”
Daniel tore his gaze from the older man’s and saw that Sam eased forward half a step before Jack stopped her with a brief gesture.
“Ideas, theories, conjectures, wild speculation—oh, we’ve got those by the handful, General, but no real facts. I’d like to get Daniel into Frasier’s hands as soon as possible.”
… cool hands, firm but gentle and so small compared with his own … a bright light flashed before his eyes … eyes dark with concern, frantic with worry … “I really need to get back to Cassandra” … steely with resolve … “you’re very lucky, Doctor Jackson” … filled with tears as she stood, speechless, above him …
“Very well. Any precautions you believe we should take on this end?”
A shiver rocked Daniel for a moment before Jack turned his sharp-eyed regard in his direction. Without changing his focus, Jack continued to speak to the unseen man on the other side of the wormhole.
“I’d clear the corridors between the ‘gate room and the infirmary, sir.”
“Understood. Hammond out.”
The blue shimmer dissolved into the air with a snap and Daniel jumped, startled.
“Jonas, let’s give it a couple of minutes and then dial her up.” Jack seemed to gather the others without saying a word—Teal’c and Sam closed on either side, drawing Daniel into the circle of their company. It felt right standing with them—as if their nearness held a portion of his missing soul and he could regain himself by their very presence. The initial fear and denial were drowned by other, more immediate emotions. Daniel stood very straight, frowning, fists clenched to try to hold back a sudden, irresistible desire to reach out to feel their warmth against his skin. He knew a single touch might undo him.
“Listen, Daniel.” The older man placed the cap back on his head, eyes scanning for something over Daniel’s head. “I know this is all feeling very weird and,” he waved both hands, “wacky, but in a minute we’re going to step through there,” he pointed towards the Stargate, “and take a little trip to the SGC. Everybody there is a friend.” His seemingly nervous movements stopped and he tucked his hands on top of the weapon strapped to his chest, finally letting his gaze rest on Daniel’s face. “You have no reason to trust me, but-”
Daniel ducked his head. “I do,” he choked out. He wanted to say more, but words were like the first drops of a torrential rain; they wanted to pour out of him, released on waves of his floundering emotions. He had to bite them off, smoothing his features into a mask of controlled acceptance, before the mixture of comfort and relief and hope crushed him beneath his sudden expectations.
The expression on Jack’s face was just as guarded, as if he could understand, could see beneath the simple statement into the precarious hold Daniel had on his reactions. He nodded, once.
The cold, prickling of his skin, colors bursting to life, sliding through his veins, roaring, whirling, tugging him apart, leveling him to nothing and then building him up, molecule by molecule, into muscles and sinew and guts and anticipation and despair carried him through space to take a first, echoing step home. Grey walls rose around him, all harsh angles and rigid restraint. No sky. No horizon. But a barely contained contentment expanded within him, filling him, every inch, every cell exploding with relief. Daniel let gravity pull him down the ramp, answering the man who stood there, amazed, with a few mumbled syllables.
Again, it was Jack who rescued him with simple gestures, light tones, and an anything but effortless wit. He walked close behind him, easing Daniel away from wrong turns with a fleeting touch, and gracefully cutting him away from the others with a few words of command. No demands. No emotional scenes.
As he made his way deeper into the complex, each step farther from the naked man who was torn out of heaven and deposited on a planet beneath stormy skies, from the gentle comfort of Shamda and the cold detachment of a life of fear, from Arrom, he knew Daniel Jackson was rushing towards him, and the pain and confusion of memory and the weight of his past and the burden of friendships waited for one breach of his control—waited to drown him. One kind word, one entreating look would do it. But this man—this friend—stood guard, allowing Daniel to rebuild his walls, shore up his defenses.
White light spilled from an open doorway ahead and Daniel hesitated, his steps faltering for the first time. The presence at his back, close, steadying, never wavered, but matched him stride for stride.
“It’s okay,” Jack stated evenly. “I’ll be right here.”

L is for Life and Death
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” —Norman Cousins
“Hello, I’m Janet Frasier.”
She was so small, wrapped in a long white coat and a thick shell of professionalism. But Daniel could see the cracks, could recognize the signs of dissolving self-control—he knew that feeling from the inside out. This woman’s eyes were devouring him.
“Hello.” He wished—longed— to have something else to give her.
The answering smile that rewarded his single word was full of life.
“Would you come with me, please?”
Daniel followed without a thought until his curious gaze fell on a white expanse of clean, bright bedding and sleek metal and glass devices winking red and green. His throat closed with a sudden clench of muscles as a red haze filled his vision, a thick, heavy weight bearing down on his flayed flesh, his chest, his face, his arms oozing his life drop by drop.
… “He’s seizing—get the crash cart. Get me five of Valium!” … pain, lightning searing his nerves, blinding, deafening, drowning him, drowning …
Hands gripped his arms from behind and shook him once, twice, the sound of his teeth rattling like rocks skittering across a marble floor.
“Daniel! Breathe!”
… “Why do you care?” …
A sharp gasp—not his, not this time—air barely trickled into his raw, burning throat. Had he said that out loud?
“I care, Daniel, I care.”
Daniel felt the words sink through his skin and into his soul. The solid figure at his side guided him, one arm now around his waist, to sit, body hunched, curling away from pain that was more than memory. He tried to blink the blood from his eyes and suddenly found them clear.
“Try to breathe normally, Doctor Jackson.”
Oh, god—she was crying, haunted by the same ghosts, sharing the same stifling air—pale beneath her forced calm.
“Sorry—I’m sorry—” he choked, memories filling him, bleeding images mingling with the here and now. The same hands, smells, sounds, the same despair, fear, and loss.
A hand against his cheek steadied him and Daniel focused on the familiar lined face inches away from his, brown eyes flaring with intensity, shadows of his death clearly visible within the dark orbs.
“Daniel—you with us?”
Jack was crouched before him, one hand on his knee, the other warm on skin strangely whole and unbloodied. Daniel sensed the doctor’s concerned presence at his side, trembling fingers pressed to his wrist. He nodded, swallowing frantic mutterings of apology that couldn’t possibly touch the others’ grief.
“Good. Good.” The dark eyes never let go. “Doc—what happened?”
The silence from the small woman was full of tears.
“I—I died,” Daniel whispered, gaze roaming the ranks of beds and instruments beyond the colonel’s motionless form. “Here—I died here.”
One breathless syllable acknowledged an expanse of loss that filled time and space, drawing Daniel’s eyes back to Jack’s face. His jaw was clenched. Lips thin. Eyes now pools of emptiness. The doctor—Janet, he’d called her Janet—shuffled her feet, heels clicking against the floor. The sound echoed beyond the dikes that held back his memories.
“What do you remember, Doctor Jackson?”
… glass against his face, falling around his body … burning, his skin was burning, collapsing from the inside, melting away … “may have … come to admire you … a little” … snatches of breath, hot and cold, pins and needles and knives gouging out troughs of skin and bone and thought, leaving nothing … “Colonel!” …
He huffed out a breath and tried to smile. “It hurt.” Simple truth. Agony, torture of his body, of his soul—but there weren’t words and he shook his head.
“You were both there.” A strange thought intruded, something dear to this man, but the slippers were the wrong color and there wasn’t a farm or a twister.
Jack never moved, didn’t speak. Held onto Daniel with hands and eyes. Never denying, never compromising the memory to lessen the pain. Never suggesting it had been a dream.
A touch on his shoulder broke the spell and he turned to look into tear-filled eyes. “You remember that? And us?” She seemed to be caught between hope and fear, the same feelings that had tumbled through Arrom to lead Daniel to this place.
“Sometimes,” he admitted. “Some things make it through the fog.” He reached out to smooth one finger over her small hand. “Important things—feelings. Faces.”
Janet—smiling, stern, demanding … full of sorrow …
The General—commanding, honorable, soft and hard in balance … grieving …
Teal’c—stoic, amused, protective … anguished …
Sam—intense, honest, loving … sobbing …
And Jack—he turned back and surprised a look of open, raw pain on Jack’s face. He remembered this man was strong, warm, accepting, cynical, infuriating, playful … faltering … overwhelmed by regret …
The faces dissolved, leaving behind only the dregs of memory, the ties of friendship and family that remained firm within him. There were other faces, some he’d glimpsed in dreams, some he’d tried to forget, and others he yearned to remember. But these were the faces of his memories, tied to this place, to his death—and his life.
“I’m sorry.”
Jack tightened his hand against Daniel’s face, mouth quirking. “So are we, Daniel. So are we.”
His pounding heart slowed, the trickling sweat soaked up by the soft robes on his back, and Daniel licked dry lips. The doctor’s hand sketched a familiar path up and down along his arm. Jack pressed both hands against his bent knees and groaned as he straightened, drawing Daniel’s gaze upward to follow. The small doctor and the veteran soldier exchanged a long glance filled with shock, disbelief, amazement, and, finally, a careful joy.
Daniel lived.

M is for Mezzanine
Mezzanine: A partial story between two main stories of a building. A balcony from which the audience can watch a show. From the Latin, medianus – in the middle.
George Hammond watched silently as O’Neill ushered a dead man down the ramp and towards the base infirmary. The very familiar blue eyes had been strong and clear, unapologetically denying his connection to Hammond, the SGC, even Earth itself, but George glimpsed the telltale signs of discomfort in the averted gaze and the nervous clutch of the archaeologist’s fingers in the soft fabric of the scarf around his neck.
He’d searched for answers or explanations in the faces of his premier team but saw only his own hope and confusion reflected there. Jack O’Neill’s attempt at ice-breaking humor had nearly snapped a surly reproof from him, but Hammond had tightened his jaw and allowed the moment to pass.
Giving Major Carter and Teal’c the command to meet him in the briefing room ASAP, Hammond slowly climbed the steps to the control room, immediately pierced by the wide-eyed stare of the technician there. Harriman sat stiffly at his station, eyes sharp behind his glasses—and those eyes had witnessed wonders and horrors through that thick glass window over the past six years. But this—Daniel Jackson’s return in flesh and blood—seemed more like a miracle.
“Chief—” Hammond started firmly and then found no words to follow.
“Sir. Is it… I mean… it sure looks like…”
George shook his head. “Walter, let’s hold off on the betting pool for the moment.” He glanced at the empty chair where Master Sergeant Siler had been sitting when the MALP transmission had come through. As usual, Walter anticipated his question.
“Sergeant Siler cleared the corridors and is preparing quarters for—for—”
“For our guest,” Hammond finished for him.
“Yes, sir.”
He nodded. “Good. Keep the base on general alert for now. Oh, and Walter—”
The chief straightened in his chair.
“Discreet guards on our guest, please.”
A fleeting frown was quickly replaced by the airman’s professional, reserved expression. “Of course, General.”
Hammond turned towards the stairs, thoughts and images crowding his mind. The veteran soldier within him, the one who’d seen duplicate robots, alternate realities, and alien masking technology urged caution, reminded him of every enemy infiltration, every near fatal mistake the SGC had weathered during his tenure as its commander. But the man—he shook his head and allowed a moment of pure, parental delight to fill him—the man wanted to simply accept Daniel Jackson’s return with open arms and an open mind.
Inside his office, door firmly closed on the Enigma that would, by now, be suffering under the gentle care of Janet Frasier and the mother-hen hovering of Jack O’Neill, Hammond slumped into his chair and felt his gaze drawn to the red phone at the corner of his desk. There was a call he knew he should make. A call that would inform the dangerous political world, and would release the slavering wolves to descend on the resurrected—the confused and vulnerable—man, and on Hammond’s equally aching team. He sighed and smoothed both trembling hands across his head, closing his eyes, feeling the heavy weight of the stars on his shoulders.

“He doesn’t know us, General.”
Samantha Carter’s sorrow was plainly written on her face; it echoed from her voice. Her description of the startling meeting within the nomadic village on Vis Uban had begun with the officer’s usual business-like efficiency, but the immensity of the shock and the depth of her emotions had gradually worn away her control. Beside her, Teal’c, the stoic, reserved warrior and anchor of SG-1 was forced to blink away tears. He’d remained silent, the muscle in his square jaw jumping with tension, needing every ounce of rigid control that he’d learned under the heavy hand of the Goa’uld to restrain himself. Dark eyes flickered again and again towards the empty briefing room doorway.
Hammond turned towards the young man sitting one chair away on his left, hoping that Jonas Quinn, one step removed from the grief that had brought this team to its knees barely a year ago, would have more information. The pale, drawn face and distressed gaze that seemed fastened to his teammates’ reactions reminded the general that what Teal’c, and Sam Carter, and Jack O’Neill—and Hammond himself—saw as a miracle, a return of hope and the filling of a dark void in their lives, this man saw as the physical reminder of his world’s fatal mistakes and his status as ‘replacement’ among them.
The displaced air and sense of vibrating anxiety that Jack O’Neill brought into the room was a welcome distraction. George managed one glance at the others to confirm that this proficient, disciplined team had completely forgotten their commanding officer’s presence, and were concentrating every particle of their attention on the colonel’s face. As the officer lowered his lanky form into the chair to Hammond’s left next to Quinn, George didn’t blame them for a moment—military protocol be damned.
The slight smile and exasperated head shake that answered him touched Hammond’s heart—only a certain archaeologist/linguist/diplomat could produce that exact reaction from the Air Force colonel.
“Oh, it’s him, sir,” Jack insisted, rubbing one callused hand across his face and into his short, grey hair. “I don’t know what the glowy types did to him up there, how permanent this amnesia-thing is, but the guy down on that bed being poked and prodded and proven completely human is our Daniel Jackson.”
“But Colonel, how—”
“You are certain, O’Neill—”
“That’s amazing, sir—”
The voices cut off all at once when Hammond raised one insistent hand. He turned back to meet Jack O’Neill’s dark, glittering eyes to see that the smile had become grim, painful. The man looked every day of his age and every instant of every mission in his thick personnel file. But beneath all that, under the surface, a peace, a serenity, glowed briefly from the hard-assed soldier’s soul. “Go on, Jack.”
Jack nodded his thanks and placed his hands flat on the oak table. “Besides the stuff we saw on the planet—the way he dialed the ‘gate without thinking about it, the languages he knew, all the little things,” the pressure on his hands whitened the colonel’s fingers against the dark wood, “his reaction as soon as he saw the infirmary was a dead giveaway—horrible pun most definitely intended.”
“Oh, God.”
His roiling gut echoed the major’s sentiment, but he swallowed down the bile. “Are you saying that Doctor Jackson remembers his own death?” Anything but the forceful commander now, George heard the incredulous horror in his own voice, pleading for Jack to deny the truth.
The colonel banged one fist on the table and flashed an icy grimace. “Oh, yeah. Nice bunch those Ascended bastards, huh? Can’t let him remember his friends, but his painful, lingering death? No problem.”
Silence fell among them, crowding each one into isolation within his or her own memories of those desperate, agonizing hours, smothering any attempts to stutter soothing platitudes into the emptiness. Turmoil swirled through the air: grief, regret, words left unsaid, hope and fear dissolving what little control this team—this family—still grasped. And George knew that, as commander, as the head of this barely functioning family, he had a decision to make. He could stick to his standing orders. Protocols. SOPs. Or he could allow his time at the SGC, with this group of people, with Daniel Jackson especially, to inform his choice, to put those military directives into proper perspective.
Finally, Hammond rose, drawing the colonel and the major up to stand with him in a long-accustomed response. His words would steer the path these people walked, would supply their mission towards healing, towards the future, or keep them lingering here drowning in uncertainty.
“Gentlemen—Major—barring any findings to the contrary from Doctor Fraiser, we will proceed under the assumption that Doctor Daniel Jackson is… home.”
Major Carter’s smile could power the Stargate. Teal’c straightened in one motion and then placed his right fist against his chest and bowed with regal gratitude. Jonas scrabbled with the books and papers spread before him, eyes downcast, nodding quietly to himself.
George turned to the man at his left hand.
Colonel Jack O’Neill tried to hide his desperate joy behind the fixed mask of command. And failed.

N is for Numb
“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now—the child is grown, the dream is gone.”
Hands—he remembered the touch of these hands. Cool on blistered skin, soft enough to soothe the deep wounds of the spirit, and firm and decisive when he needed a solid connection to hope. These hands that touched him with what should have been unnatural and unwelcome intimacy, that pierced his skin with needles and drew out his life-blood—he watched them blurring quickly in and out of his vision as they moved and danced and the doctor wove words in the air around him. Lying on the narrow bed, bright light bleeding into all of his darkness, he watched her hands. Daniel watched her hands because he did not want to watch her face.
That face now echoed others—light eyes and dark, faces that towered above him or crouched to smile into his eyes. Hair spread in soft waves, short, blonde strands stiff with desert winds, tousled brown in an uncombed mess. Glasses reflecting the soft light of lanterns and candles within a dim, crowded tent. Bright blue eyes wide in panic before they disappeared in dust and screams. Brows wrinkled in dismissal beneath graying, flyaway tendrils.
One finger touched a long thin scar on his side. Two grazed a patch of unmatched flesh on his right shoulder. Daniel closed his eyes as they swept back his hair and lingered along his forehead. Here and there they brushed against him, lighting for a moment as if in recognition, as if greeting old friends. He felt his own hand creeping up to touch the strange, familiar pad stuck to his chest and met warm fingers there. He snatched his away as if burned.
“It’s all right, Doctor Jackson. We’re almost finished here.”
A smile touched his mouth at the habitual lie. Somehow Daniel knew that ‘almost finished’ promised just the opposite. He opened his eyes and recognized the flash of humor in the woman’s dark eyes before the ghost of memory returned and filled him with that deep, yawning emptiness. He laid his bare arm across his eyes, shutting everything out. The rhythmic beeps and sighs of the machinery, the crisp feel of the sheet on his skin, small touches, all smeared into a haze, dulled to a background hum that left him floating, distant, numb.
… a woman’s voice soothed like cool water. “Shh, Danny, you’re okay, it’s just a scratch.”
“Hurts, mama.”
“I know, I know. Here, let mama blow on it. See?”
Gentle fingers wiped the tears from his cheeks and then tilted his chin up. “Better?”
He blinked, squinting up into the searing desert sun, the face above him darkly shadowed but surrounded by a glowing halo of light …
“We’re just about done here, Daniel, but we’ll need to wait for your test results.”
He lowered his arm, frowning. The small doctor had gathered up all the vials and tubes, the thick sheaf of papers that Daniel somehow knew told a long, detailed history of his pain, and smiled quietly down at him. The cloud of confused detachment still seemed thick, cushioning him from more than the physical tenderness. He reached up but his face was dry.
“Maybe you’d like to get a shower? I’ve had Sergeant Siler bring down one of your—” she hesitated, one hand patting a pile of green cloth that lay on an opposite bed, “some clean clothes.”
“A shower?” Daniel sat up, clutching the thin sheet, puzzled to find that the sticky pads had been removed, disconnecting him from the surrounding machines. The tall, dour figure that hovered nearby, gaze carefully averted, deepened his sense of separation.
“I’ll be happy to escort him, ma’am.”
The doctor—Janet, he remembered—nodded and hurried off. The sergeant gestured and Daniel dropped the sheet and followed.
… warm arms wrapped him in a huge, fluffy towel, and he clutched hard to the sturdy, familiar chest that smelled of spice and sweat and home and love.
“You’re going to turn into a wrinkly little bean if you stay any longer in the bath, Danny.” The deep, throaty chuckles vibrated through his bones and he held tight, tighter, suddenly afraid.
“Hey, what’s up?” Large hands ruffled through his wet hair, smoothing it back to try to find his face.
Daniel buried his head, shaking, small fingers white as they gripped as hard as they could. Finally, soft kisses pressed against his head, gentle hands turned down the folds of the towel, hands lifted him to sit atop the vanity, and he emerged and sought the familiar, tender eyes. The light from the open doorway behind him blurred his father’s form to a foggy silhouette, glinting in sparks and shards through his tumbled hair …
He opened his eyes into the falling water, finding the right pattern and pace in his movements to clean himself, rinse, letting the pounding rhythm work his tense muscles. He turned the knobs and skimmed his hands through his short hair, squeezing the water out to run down his back before he reached for the towel. The clothes fell against his body in familiar folds and sure, certain fingers buttoned, zipped, closed buckles, tugged everything into place.
Moving out through the dimly lit room, Daniel saw that the sergeant stood, his back turned, a phone held to one ear. His gaze was drawn past his empty bed, past the chair that stood at its side, towards the doorway beyond.
He couldn’t say what compelled him, only that he had to go, had to see—he had to find the bonds, the ties that held him to this world, that promised that Daniel Jackson deserved to live and that Arrom could be left to dissolve behind him. Perhaps the numb, hollow cold that had grown around him since those agonizing memories of his own death had been meant to be a shelter, a sanctuary from further pain or hurt, but the fog distorted his memories to hide beloved faces, to veil him from the very things he needed to give him anchor and weight in this new/old life. He’d chase the pain if he had to—chase it, hold it, draw it deep within him if that was the cost to see the faces in his dreams.
Daniel reached out and slid his fingers along the metal door frame as he passed through. Guilt, dread, failure—nothing he might find could be as wretched and desolate—as lonely—as this numbness.

part 2


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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.