Rating: R
Category: Horror, Drama, H/C
Warnings: Violence, Disturbing images
Spoilers through season 7, before Heroes

Author’s notes: This is entirely from Daniel’s POV. This made it much more challenging to write especially considering what happens to Daniel (you’ll get the idea when you read it). Please note this is the longest SG1 story I’ve written to date. I could have expanded it even further but I needed to get it out there and see what people thought about it. So if there is a big out pouring for a sequel – I do have some ideas!

The soil felt like ashes in his hand as if the planet itself was made of the cold remnants of a long dead population. He sifted through it, tracing the lines of a disintegrating stone wall. Crouching low to the shattered bricks, he fingered the base to tease out a root. Was this the cause? Could nature itself lead to such damage of these ruins?

Jack rambled over to him, his P90 slung casually over his shoulder, an ease about his walk. Daniel glanced up at him for a second but was drawn inexplicably back to the root work. It laced up through the foundation of the building and seemed to corrode the stone of the wall. How was that possible? He shook his head; none of this made any sense.

Janet closed the gap between them, her hands never stopping as she examined the roots, as she sampled the soil. He smiled to himself. She had been dying to come on a mission just for the scientific pursuit. No injured to rescue, no one dead to resuscitate. This had been the perfect circumstances for her to join SG1 in the field. The mystery of Planet Dead as Jack called it. Peering up at him, the doctor smiled. Her smiles were always warm and welcoming even in his darkest days in the infirmary. She fought, struggled and pulled people from the edge of death, himself more than once. She even let people die when it was the right thing to do. But she never stopped trying, never stopped hurting when they died – when he died.

He tried to pretend she wasn’t here to keep a vigilant eye on him. It had been over three weeks since he served as a lifeboat; the migraines had faded to faint headaches. It was only with this concession, that someone from her staff accompany them on a relatively benign mission she agreed to clear him for duty. When Janet offered to be the one to join SG1, he’d open his mouth to complain, glimpsed the yearning in her eyes then closed his mouth and nodded. He could do this for her, give her some release from the stress of being the CMO.  Looking at it as therapy for her gave Daniel a sense of accomplishment and relief. It wasn’t about his weakness, about the headaches, about his team and their fear of losing him again.

He glanced up at Jack as his friend keyed the radio and checked in on Sam. She and Teal’c walked the outer perimeter of the ruins. Squinting against the harsh wind, Daniel grimaced at the grit of the ashes against his corneas. There was nothing salvageable about this planet. Its barren landscape and desiccate winds painted the area with broad strokes of desolation and despair. He almost wished the planet was a bit more interesting, a bit more exciting so that Janet might experience an adventure and understand some of their exhilaration when they stepped through the gate.

“Start heading back to the gate,” Jack was saying. Daniel peered over his shoulder to see Jack nodding to the horizon. The sky turned colors of pink tinged with amber. The dusk of day threatened. Calling to them, Jack said, “Okay campers, gather up your gear and let’s move out.”

He reached for his brush and noted a tint of color in the gray soil. He touched the tiny stain of red then glanced at his finger, thinking he might have punctured it. But he hadn’t, the color wasn’t blood. It followed the line of the root.  He wiped away more of the ashes, the hue startling in the bleak landscape.

A second of absolute silence elapsed and he thought the very sound of his breath disappeared. The world tilted, off angle and shocking. The effect left him dizzy and falling forward toward the vine work. He heard a slight puff of air from Janet as she collapsed onto the dusty ground. Glancing at her, the disorientation he experienced etched across her features.

“What?” she murmured.

The blare like a sonic wave  jolted him, slammed against his chest, rammed into his heart. He gulped for breath and clawed at the crumbling soil. What the hell was happening? The sound throbbed within the hollow spaces of his chest, yanked at the air in his lungs then caused a vacuum about him. It reminded him of an oncoming train and a sudden thought that they were about to be overcome by a tornado wrenched through him. Raising himself up on outstretched arms, Daniel glimpsed the horizon. A swirling dust gathered but it wasn’t a cyclone. It wasn’t anything like a cyclone. And that is when he heard Jack’s voice, screaming, telling him to get the fuck up and run.

Next to him Janet staggered, her knees looked like they were the loose joints of a marionette puppet. Her mouth dribbled spit and he realized then he was drooling as well. What the hell was wrong? Scratching at the dirt, he clambered to his feet but the tide shook the ground and he fell to his knees.

The sound frequency undulated the earth beneath them, the dust and ground rolled in a tumultuous tidal wave as if it was the ocean itself. He heard Jack yelling for back-up, asking Sam and Teal’c for help as he stumbled across the ever changing ground. Cracks yawned open, the ground heaved and groaned beneath them as the swirling dust clouded the sky and air about them. He crawled across the ruins as they crumbled and crashed before him.

It was then the vines began to move, began to twist, began to vibrate. Janet was up, barely standing, but able to walk as she balanced against the rock debris of the broken buildings. His hands scraped over the bricks as the vines once as ashen in color as the soil now bleeding red whipped the air.

“Holy Christ!” Jack screamed and his P90 punctuated the air.

As Daniel struggled to stand, the vine at his feet slipped around him. He fumbled in his steps and a vine snaked up the side and lashed at him. The sting of the whip heated his cheek.

“Daniel,” Janet yelled for him.

His focus turned to her and in that one second the vines about him attacked, ripping through his clothing to tightened about him, forming a noose about his neck.

“Carter, Teal’c what the hell is taking you so long?” Jack was at his side, grabbing at the vines. Janet kept telling him to breathe, her cool fingers went under the vines around his throat and worked to loosen them.

In response to their ministrations, the noose constricted about his neck and only his fingers and Janet’s grasping the gnarled roots kept him from choking. The ground beneath their feet gave a heavy gasp, lifting up and they tumbled apart. He heard Janet yelp in pain as she fell away and then he saw a vine dart at Jack. Screaming, he saw it form a long sword like appendage. Jack cried out as it speared him through the left shoulder – close to his heart. His heart.

The vines surrounding his neck squeezed and he coughed tasting metal as he did. They wrapped around him and he tugged at it, trying to loosen it from his airway. For one brief moment, Janet considered him but he shook his head and pointed to Jack. She nodded, understanding. Blood pounded in his ears, throbbed at his temples.

The heat of a blast weapon singed his face and the after image of the whitened explosion blinded him. He heard the blast weapon repeat and repeat again. Voices called around him, but he couldn’t answer, couldn’t see. A moan close to him brought the stark reality of Jack’s wound into focus. Hands clasped him and he felt the cut of a knife.

“Daniel Jackson, Daniel Jackson, are you able to stand?”

A sensation covered his skin as if the whole of his body just woke up and suffered pins and needles. But with Teal’c’s help, Daniel stumbled to stand. The grit of sand and dirt hurt his eyes but he opened them to see Janet and Sam leaning over their unconscious team leader.

An eerie quietude descended over the ruins and the ground settled, grumbled as it did. “What happened?” Sam was asking him as she assisted the doctor. Her hands shook and the smear of blood and dirt stained her face.

He shook his head and looked out at the dead ruins. Nothing moved, the vines had collapsed. “I don’t know.” He coughed and rubbed the soreness still troubling his throat. The horizon stretched out before them, silent and colorless. It reminded him of the grave. Shivers took him and he looked at Jack. “I don’t know.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They refused his requests to see Jack. Instead the infirmary personnel – both nurses and doctors alike – insisted that he had to stay put on the gurney and receive a thorough check over. He assured everyone he was fine, the bruising on his throat and the puncture wounds lacing his arms and legs were worse than they looked. The medical team did not believe him.

He sighed. At least he knew that Janet was with Jack, helping Jack, saving Jack. Again, he saw the vine’s long thorn plunge into Jack’s flesh, tearing it. His friend’s cries echoed in his mind and caused a hollow ache in his chest.

“Doctor Jackson?”

He shifted and came out of his reverie. A nurse stood over him, iv line in hand. “I don’t think I need that.” He pointed to the iv.

“Doctor Warner thinks you should be on antibiotics for all the puncture wounds.”

His arms and legs were riddled with tiny wounds, speckling his fatigues with drops of rusty blood. Absurdly it reminded him of stories of stigmata. Shaking his head to clear the vision, he said, “They’re just scrapes really.”

“Some vaccines are literally just scrapes of the skin, Doctor Jackson. Anything that breaks the barrier of your skin and causes you to bleed, even if it is just a minute amount, could lead to infection.” The nurse glared at him.

Huffing, he lay back on the bed and stretched out his arm. He didn’t want to be here, he wanted to be waiting with the rest of his team to hear the update on Jack. The nurse went about her duties with silent efficiency. She cleansed his wounds, checked the bruising on his neck, inserted the iv line and made notes in his chart. Lastly, she gave him a quick smile and told him Doctor Warner would be by to do a final review before leaving for the evening.

“When will I hear about Jack?”

She stared at him.

“Colonel O’Neill.”

“Oh.” She smiled and patted his arm. “I’ll have someone bring by an update when he’s out of surgery with Doctor Fraiser.”

Surprised by her sudden warmth, Daniel ventured to ask for another favor. “Is it possible for me to wait with the rest of my team outside the OR suite?” He lifted his arm, the tubing hanging down. “I’ll bring it with me.”

Again, she smiled and patted his arm but this time her answer was sterner and without any of her former softness. “Not a chance.”

She left him in the corner of the infirmary. He tried to take it as a good sign that he hadn’t heard anything; that Sam and Teal’c hadn’t shown up to express their sorrow at the results of events. The adrenaline high eased off and exhaustion set in. He pushed back into the pillows of the bed and drifted to sleep.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The haze of sleep still haunted him as he walked into Jack’s private room in the infirmary. Machinery clicked and beeped along and the dark recesses of the room seemed to seep into the lighted areas. It was cool and quiet in the room and he heard the gentle sound of Jack’s snoring filter through the air before he even stepped into the room. As soon as Doctor Warner released him, Daniel made his way to Jack’s room to find out how his friend fared.

Overall, he felt fine but a slight smudge of grogginess hung about him to fog his senses. He blinked several times as he tugged off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They’d let him sleep for twelve hours and he still felt as if he could crawl onto the floor, curl up and sleep another twelve.  He found Sam standing by Jack’s bedside reading off her report to him.

“I’m not sure exactly how to describe the vines.”

“Sam?”

She gave him her brightest smile. “Daniel.” Leaning over to him, she gave him a fast kiss on his cheek. “Good to see you up. Yikes that looks painful.”

He touched the bruising about his neck, swallowing was hard and gave him a thick feeling in his throat. “It isn’t as bad as it looks,” he lied. “Sam, Jack’s asleep.”

She laughed a bit and said, “Well I think he probably sleeps through my briefings anyway and doesn’t read my reports so I was saving him some time.”

Chuckling, he joined her at the bedside and looked at the reposed man. “Janet told me he would be fine.”

She nodded. “It nicked his aorta and it was touch and go, but they were able to make the repair. He’ll be fine.”

Again the recalled vision of the sword like thorn blurred his vision, the feel of Jack’s flesh cleaving, shredding streaked through him. The texture of muscle splitting from bone, ligaments and tendons rupturing passed over him and the stench of blood filled his nostrils.

“Daniel?”

Gripping the rail of the bed, he hauled in a breath and tried to stabilize his legs. Nausea swept over him and he gave a firm swallow to choke back his bile.

“Daniel, what is it?” Sam’s grabbed hold of his shoulder. Her fear throbbed through her touch and he shrugged it off.

Stumbling away from her, Daniel said, “Nothing, nothing.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Sorry Sam. I just didn’t realize how tired I was. I got to, I have to go.” He glanced at Jack. “Tell Jack I’ll see him later okay.”

“Sure.” She nodded and gave him a tentative smile but the questioning look remained in her eyes.  

Escaping the infirmary, Daniel leaned against the wall of the corridor. He gulped for breath but barely felt as if his lungs responded. He could taste Jack’s flesh; he could smell the metal of his blood. He clenched his fists to hold back the vomit. He’d been through so much more than this, seen so much more. Off center, he felt off center. He needed to focus, concentrate. Yes that was it. He needed balance. After surviving being a lifeboat it wasn’t surprising that he was startled and overwhelmed after seeing his friend skewered.

Yes. He would be fine; he just needed to focus on something everyday. Translations. That would help. On shaky legs, he made his way to his office while ignoring the passing glances in the corridor. He collapsed with an audible sigh into his chair and flipped through folders piled on his desk. Something hard, difficult.  He tossed a few aside. Languages often gave him peace, offered him a certain serenity and tranquility when nothing else would.

He fingered a disk on top of the folders. Smiling, he realized it was the disk he’d asked for some weeks ago. This he could immerse himself in.  He inserted it into the computer and started to review the documents, as he leafed through reference books laid out on his desk. He worked through the files saved on the disk, ignoring the ever present headache. Though he attributed it to lingering aftereffects of his recent experience with the survivors of Talthus, a bubbling anxiety rasped at the edge of his consciousness.

Suffering an hour with the burgeoning strain, Daniel shoved his seat back and rifled through the drawers in his desk.  As he shuffled through the papers and notebooks looking for the acetominphen, he came across a journal. He frowned. He recognized it instantly and pulled it out.

He’d been searching for this particular journal since his memories returned. His memory was spotty in areas especially the weeks leading up to the disastrous mission to Kelowna. He pulled it out and opened it. What was it doing in his drawer? He knew that Jonas had used some of his reference materials and that his journals had been kept for reference but all of them were neatly placed on the shelves, not stuffed in the drawer.

Flipping through the journal, he stopped at his last entry. It mentioned the Kelownian issues and their dangerous studies of naquadria. He almost closed the book when he noticed the crumpled page and turned it. Writing – not his own – scrolled over the paper. A weigh thudded into his chest as he recognized Jack’s writing.

Daniel closed his eyes. What the hell was he doing in his office instead of sitting with Jack? What the hell was his problem? A little headache, a tough mission and he couldn’t even stay with Jack to just show his support? He slammed the book down and stood up.

His senses expanded, grew outward. For a moment he heard Siler talking with an airman about the latest renovation of the matrix switches for the computers, then he witnessed Sam push aside a red jello in search of her favorite blue. He reached out his hand to steady himself. Blinking to clear his vision, he failed and then saw the General pick up the phone and begin to talk.

“What?” he said. The words the General spoke stabbed like spears into his brain. He closed his hands over his ears but it didn’t help. He dragged in a breath through his clenched teeth, his nostrils flaring as he exhaled.

“Daniel Jackson? Daniel Jackson, are you injured?”

He opened his eyes and saw Teal’c standing in front of him. The large Jaffa clasped his wrists and pulled his hands down. “Can you confirm if you are injured Daniel Jackson?”

“Teal’c, Teal’c,” Daniel said. His eyes stung with tears. “I don’t, I don’t know.”

“Perhaps you should permit Doctor Fraiser to examine you.”

He only nodded. Teal’c took his arm and led him out of his lab and into the corridor. A combustion of sound and sensory input blasted him and he staggered against Teal’c solid form. Wrapping his arm around Daniel, Teal’c led him toward the infirmary.  Teal’c continued to talk to him, speaking low words of support. By the time they reached the infirmary, Daniel was clawing at Tealc for support. The walls caved inward, the nurses stood too close, the machines clicked too loudly.

Clamping his hands over his ears and squeezing his eyes shut, he allowed himself to be led to the bed but then struggled off anyone’s hands. They burned and scraped his skin.  Even through the cacophony of sound, he overheard Teal’c explaining the circumstances to Janet.

“Just make it stop Janet, just make it stop.”

He felt hands on his wrists as she tugged at his arms. He released his hold and opened his eyes to look at her. It surprised him to find tears streaming down his face.

“Daniel, you have to tell me what is going on. Do you still have passengers from the Stromos?”

He shook his head but he wasn’t sure if it was the truth or not. Perhaps there was someone else, someone hiding, waiting for the opportune moment to take his body over like some insidious Goa’uld. He listened – internally – waiting for the inevitable fight for control. Nothing happened. “I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.”

“Describe to me what is happening.”

He grimaced against her words. “Could you not shout at me?”

The doctor gave a sidelong glance to Teal’c and then turned back to him. In a whisper, she addressed him. “Okay, we’ll try to be quiet. You’re sensitive to sound. Anything else?”

“The lights.”

She nodded to Teal’c and he lowered the lights. “What else?”

“My clothes feel like their cutting into my skin, I can smell what bacterial cultures you have in the incubator and I’m terrified of tasting anything at this point.” Daniel gave a little chuckle.

“Seems to be some type of sensory input overload.” She marked a chart she’d just begun and said, “It might be some latent aftereffects of what happened to you on the Stromos. How about you get out of those clothes and I get one of the nurses to get you something a bit more comfortable.”

He smiled. “Why doctor are you trying to seduce me?”

She went to pat him but stopped before her hand touched him. “I’d have to get in line behind all my nurses now wouldn’t I? Hop up on the bed, Daniel.”

In due time, he stripped and put on scrubs but the shirt irritated him too much and he ended up just wearing the pants. He lowered himself on the bed as Teal’c pulled the curtain away.

“Are you properly clothed Daniel Jackson?”

Considering his bare chest and his barefeet and realizing there was nothing more he could do about his situation, he nodded. “Come on in.”

“O’Neill has awakened and is requesting your presence.”

“Not yet,” Janet interrupted them. “I want to start an iv.”

“What for?”

“Just a simple glucose solution to keep your energy up. I’m betting you haven’t eaten anything since you snubbed the breakfast we provided to you six hours ago.”

“Still, I really don’t think I need that.”

 Pointing at him, Janet said, “Doctor of Archeology.” Then she indicated herself. “Doctor of Medicine.  Do we understand one another Doctor?”

He rolled his eyes and frowned. “Yes Doctor.”

“Good. Karen will start the line and I will be right back.”

The same nurse that started his iv line last night came up to him and smiled. The touch of her hands sent jolts through his skin as if she used a metal file to abrade his flesh.

Teal’c moved closer and said in a low rumble, “Daniel Jackson is exceptionally sensitive to touch.”

Karen eyed the Jaffa then glanced at Daniel. “I’ll be careful.” Yet she squeezed his upper arm as if to reassure him. He grunted and wondered if she bruised him. The needle came out and slide under his skin as he watched.

He jerked as the needle seared his flesh, as it pierced his vein. “Oh God,” he groaned and yanked his arm away from the nurse. Blood spurted from the line and he grasped his arm as if he’d been set a flame. Teal’c jumped to his side and held him as the nurse pulled the needle free. “Shit, shit, shit.” Tear stung his eyes as he rocked the pain away. “Feels like my arm is on fire.” He curled around his arm and took deep breathes.

 “Ma’am, I’m sorry. I just started the iv,” Karen was explaining as Janet came to investigate.

“It’s all right. Karen, why don’t you go help with SG3’s physicals?”

“Thank you. I’m sorry Doctor Jackson.”

He only nodded in reply. The burning sensation faded to a low sting in his arm.

“Daniel.” Janet hovered close to him, her hand on the bed close to him. “I’m sorry I should have realized. Do you think you could eat something? Something bland?”

“I could try.” He gasped for air and concentrated on regulating his breathing.

 “Teal’c?”

 I will endeavor to bring a plate of uninteresting food for Daniel Jackson to consume.” Teal’c bowed once and left. 

Daniel smiled as his friend left and Janet crouched by his side. “We’ll figure this out, Daniel.”

“I’m sorry Janet.”

 For what?”

“Screwing up your off world fun yesterday.”

She smiled. “Don’t be silly. Taking care of my family is just as important to me.  Now rest and I’ll think about letting you go visit our cranky Colonel.”

“Thanks Janet.”

She walked away but he didn’t see her. He kept his eyes shut against the intrusion of the world.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It does not suit our purposes well. It is weak and clumsy. It is stupid, believes itself to be a single entity. We cannot focus on It yet, It is too far from us. We need to find where It is.

Yes, yes we will learn Its location soon enough. But first we need to teach It, Its place. It needs to know It is nothing more than an instrument.

It is dispensable.

It is disposal. To be used and thrown away.

It is garbage.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Getting to Jack’s private room should have been easy. Just a turn down the corridor from the infirmary proper and there was the row of isolation rooms. Yet Daniel limped down the hallway sucking in gasps of air through his teeth as he squinted against the bright lights. When had they turned up the wattage anyway?

“May I assist you in your conveyance to O’Neill’s room, Daniel Jackson?”

He opened an eye and peered at Teal’c. “Just lead me there Teal’c.”  He placed his hand lightly on Teal’c shoulder and nodded. Closing his eyes, he sighed in relief. He could endure the sharp graze of Teal’c’s shirt against the palm of his hand but not the glaring lights of the corridor.

The soft beeping in the isolation room announced to Daniel that he approached Jack’s bedside. He thanked Teal’c and the Jaffa nodded, bowed and left.

“Jack.” He eased down into a chair, grimacing only slightly at the hard plastic seat. “Nice to see you awake.” His friend lay semi-reclined on the bed. His left arm taped to his chest to keep it immobilized.

“I heard you were stealing my thunder.”

“Your thunder?” He kept his eyes partially closed against the glare emitted by the computer screens surrounding Jack.

“Yeah, here I am all laid up and you end up with some weird ass malady.”

“Malady?” He shook his head, only Jack would come up with weird ass and link it to malady.

“Yeah, I heard you were all loopy with lights and sound.” Jack gave a quick whirl with his index finger to the air.

“Something like,” he said. “Janet thinks its must have something to do with the after effects of what happened on the Stromos.” He bit back the nausea threatening on the edge of his senses. “I just don’t get why it’s happening now.” He shrugged, even movement jarred his senses. “But what about you?  How are you doing?”

“After being made into plant food? Okay. Fraiser said I’ll probably have to work through some physical therapy to get full function in my shoulder again.” Jack shifted in his bed and for the first time Daniel looked at him.

His friend’s features were wane, his face drawn with a haggard tiredness that only plagued Jack on the rarest of occasions. But what startled him was the concern Jack bore for him. His deep brown eyes were absent of the glint, the mocking humor normally present.

“Don’t worry Jack. It isn’t serious. Just a bit of the migraines and all.” He didn’t explain the pain growing at every moment. The creeping sensation that crawled up his arms and legs, the ache in his joints. “Really just migraines.”

Jack pursed his lips as if he might refute his claims but then reconsidered and shrugged. “Then I expect much moaning and renting of clothes due to my unfortunate incarceration.”

“Can I have the nurses get you anything?” Grabbing the arms of the chair, he went to stand.

“Uma Thurman?”

“Sure Jack.” He smiled. “It hopes you’re feeling better.”

“It?”

“Hmm?”  He turned as he hobbled toward the doorway, eyes like slivers.

“You just referred to yourself as It.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did.”

“Didn’t.”

“Did.”

“Jack.”

“Daniel.”

“Okay,” he said and waved Jack off. “Whatever. I have to get back to the infirmary. Janet will have my ass if I don’t.”

He shuffled down the corridor, noting the quiet of the day as night approached the mountain. Even so far underground it was possible to follow the rhythm of the world. His eyes were tearing when he finally crawled into the bed set to the back of the infirmary Janet had assigned to him. The lights were dimmed but there wasn’t much she could do about the sounds colliding at him. He lay on the bed but didn’t cover himself with the sheet; it scratched too much. Shivers inched over his skin like mites burrowing into his flesh. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Everything hurt. His brain pounded against his skull, his skull felt tight like he wore a skullcap.

It didn’t feel good. It wanted relief but it was sure it would not be able to sleep. It lay with its eyes open, unblinking, unfocusing as it listened to voices flickering within its brain.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The link is strengthening. It is releasing itself and becoming attached to us.

It will understand Its uses soon. It will connect with us and do our bidding. Though It is a fragile thing, made of flesh and blood, It will service us and do what we need for It to complete.

And after?

As we agreed we will dispose of It.

Its connection grows stronger; It might be useful later. There are many of these flesh and blood vessels. We might use It to capture more.

It is useless and pathetic. Once It has fulfilled Its purpose It will be disposed of.

Terminated?

It will be killed, yes.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

He jolted awake. His throbbing heart deafened him as the surroundings confused him. Instead of the low lighting of the infirmary and the hustle of the nurses, a silence pervaded his senses. Daniel glanced around and realized he was in a VIP room. Sam slouched in a cushioned chair next to the bed and when she saw his eyes open, she straightened and leaned forward.

“Welcome back.”

“Back?” He pushed himself up on the bed.

“You were out of it. Janet couldn’t wake you but you were still reacting to all the sights and sounds of the infirmary.” Sam kept her voice barely above a whisper. “She’s worried, Daniel. We’re all worried. She couldn’t get an iv line in you because you would scream each time she tried. It was all she could do to give you an injection to calm you down. We moved you to the VIP room about three hours ago when you started to sob.”

“Sob? I was crying?” He sniffled and the congestion in his sinuses verified her story.

She nodded but did not attempt to touch him. He longed for their kinship like touches of support. “Janet thought at one point you were catatonic until you started to cry and beg for it to be free.”

“What?” Daniel furrowed his brows. “I don’t understand.”

Frowning, she patted the mattress next to his arm. He took slight solace in this gesture. “Neither do we, Doctor Mackenzie theorizes that you might have some type of post traumatic stress disorder.”

“Mackenzie,” he said the name like a curse. His eyes blurred and he rubbed the grit out of them. “So I’m shell shocked.”

“It’s the best explanation we have right now.”

“It doesn’t trust Mackenzie.”

“What?” Sam cocked her head as she stood up. “Daniel, what did you say?”

“I said, I don’t trust Mackenzie.” The perplexed look on her face stopped him and he bit his lip. “What Sam? What did you think I said?”

“Nothing, I must be getting tired.”

“Did I hear someone else in here?”

“Someone else?” Sam shook her head and glanced around as if she might find someone lurking in the shadowed recesses of the room. “No one’s been in here since Teal’c left about an hour ago.”

“Oh, I thought I heard someone talking about getting terminated.”

“Terminated? Like fired?”

Shrugging the echoes of the distant conversation seemed to be a dull din in his ears, he said, “Yes, I suppose that would be it. Fired.”

She laughed a short stunted sound. “No Daniel, people don’t get fired in the Air Force.” She started for the door but turned at the last minute and said, “I’m going to tell Janet you’re awake. Oh and just to warn you, the colonel is going to give you a visit today.”

“He’s up?”

“Janet hasn’t released him yet but he’s was told he could visit you.” She grasped the door knob. “Janet doesn’t want you wandering around. She wants you to stay put and as she put it, ‘eat uninteresting food’. If you can manage it I brought some books for you and placed them by your bedside.”

Turning to the nightstand, he glimpsed an orderly pile of books. Daniel smiled. “I’ll ask Teal’c to find me some more oatmeal. Thanks Sam.”

“No problem.” She left the small room.

He stared at the closed door. He kept hoping this would make sense to him, but it didn’t. He fisted his hands and let his fingernails cut into his palms. Inside, deep inside he repeated that he was Daniel, not It. Daniel. Daniel.

It must remember to be Daniel. It is Daniel. It is nothing. It is only a tool.

“Yes,” It whispered. “It is a tool. It is nothing. It is not Daniel, but a thing.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 It sat quietly, removed from all else. A quaver shuddered It as It listened to the shuffle in the corridors without. It fought - pushed the other thing within It down. It kept to the silent recesses, It liked the darkness of the room. If It remained in the shadows the other would wilt and fall away. The other would decay into obscurity without light, without touch the other would die, simply and quickly.

It heard the steps in the corridor before the hand caressed the door knob. It crawled further into the corner of the room, away from all intruding noises and light.

 The door swung wide and It blinked against the shaft of light stabbing into the lightless room. A click and light flooded the room. “Daniel?”

The other inside It moaned even though It beat the other back.

“Daniel?”

“J-Janet?”  Janet rushed to his side, her hands catching him as he grappled to stand.

“Daniel, what happened? Why are you on the floor in the corner?” Janet caught a glimpse of him and, putting a hand to her mouth, gasped. “Good God.”

“It’s taking over Janet. You have to stop It.” Scrawled over and through his skin, vines laced patterns up his arms, across his chest and down his abdomen.

She jumped up and raced to the phone. “Get an isolation room set up immediately. I want a biohazard team in VIP room 3 immediately. Yes, Doctor Jackson’s room.” Pulling latex gloves out of her lab coat pocket, Janet snapped them on as the door opened.  She peered over her shoulder and commanded, “Colonel I am going to need you to leave immediately.”

“Why?” Jack entered the room and looked at Daniel. “Christ, Daniel.”  He didn’t listen to Janet but hurried to his side.

Janet’s arm blocked him from touching Daniel. “I am going to have to ask you to leave Colonel. I don’t need a full blown biohazard incident on my hands.”

“Janet, Janet,” Daniel cried out as the muscles of his throat seemed to constrict. “It has me. I can’t – can’t.”

She grasped his arm and said, “Daniel listen to me, stay with me.”

It struck out at her, Its fist swinging in a wide arc but the one called Jack seized Its arm and blocked the blow. “Crap, Daniel, what the hell are you doing?”

It spat at Jack, the spittle dripping from Its lips, smearing across Its chin. “It won’t be held by you. It will free itself of this vessel.”

“Fraiser, what the hell is going on?”

The biohazard team raced into the room. Janet ignored it and called to one of the suited biomedical team, ordering a sedative.

“But the biohazard protocols Doctor?”

“Forget about the protocols, get me the damned sedative.” Instantly a syringe appeared in her hand and she pressed the needle to Its arm. It growled at her, slapping and hitting at her.

“Let It go. Let It go,” It yelled but the prick of the needle overwhelmed It and It shrieked through clenched teeth. The other surfaced and It receded. “Janet, Janet, they’re coming. They’re getting closer.”

“Daniel?”

“Shit, who's coming? Those people from the Stromos?” Jack asked.

Breath couldn’t fill his lungs as he hyperventilated and battled with It, forcing It down and silencing It. “Not the Stromos. Not.”  Daniel shook his head, the dizziness of the movement brought on nausea and the urge to vomit. He couldn’t stop it, it spilled from his mouth and he gagged as vomit filled his nostrils and clogged his lungs. Janet was by his side, towel miraculously appearing in hand, wiping away the mess, her hand on the back of his neck.

Tears blocked his vision and he dragged in a reluctant breath. “They’re coming. Can’t stop them.”

“Who Daniel? Who?”

Daniel gritted his teeth, groaning against It as It clawed Its way to the surface. He reached out his arm, shaking it at them and then lost hold, all hold.

It pushed the other down, the weak minded original owner of this frail vessel. It snarled at those that had the impudence to try and suppress it. It leapt forward and lashed out, grabbing hold of the weak female vessel and biting her shoulder. She tumbled backward as the one called Jack hauled his fist back and bashed It. It felt the frail vessel collapse backward and moan. The pain thrust and yanked at It, It cried out as It faded and the other took control again.

Daniel opened his eyes as the biohazard team strapped him down to a gurney. He was bound at the wrist, ankle and neck. The lights were on in the room and seared his retinas, burning his already scarred skin. Even through the activity all around him, he heard them, heard It stealing Its way to consciousness.

He opened his mouth and whispered, “Jack.”

But no one heard him as he sank away to be devoured by It.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It progresses well. We did not think it would be able to be taken over so easily. But the bag of bones is weak and easily breakable. It has completely transformed.

We are not sure. It fights for control yet, the consciousness still exists.

It must win.

It will.

Once It has control of the vessel it will be just a matter of time until we can translocate to It.

The hunger grows in our bellies. We desire It.

It will be our first feast and then the rest of the world will be ours for a lifetime.

As it was before.

As it was before.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It heard them as they stood watching It through the glass window. It pulled at Its restraints but did so only to feign the struggle to them. They must believe the fight was to win the freedom of this vessel. It knew this was not Its focus. Its focus would be achieved silently, insidiously within the vessel. The twining of the vines twisted and wove within the body of this vessel, infiltrating and invading. It cackled at those that watched It from above. Even from Its confined space It could hear them, could hear the fragile vessels speak of It and the other.

 “I dropped the ball on this one, General Hammond,” the one known to the other as Janet said. “When Daniel started showing signs of distress, Doctor Mackenzie and I concluded it was post traumatic stress from his experience with the survivors of the Stromos.”

“But it isn’t.”

“No, Daniel’s been infected by those vines that attacked us while we were on Q3T-441.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stared down at It. “I can’t believe how quickly its spread but it is all over his arms and legs and criss-crosses over his chest and back.”

“If those vines are infecting Daniel, why aren’t I infected?” It knew the other called that one friend, called that one Jack.

“Colonel?” the one known as Janet said. “What are you doing up? You haven’t been released yet.”

“Doctor I would like to know too. Why isn’t the Colonel infected?”

The one known as Janet turned to the window and looked down upon It. It read sympathy and pain in the female vessel’s eyes. Disgust rolled in Its belly. She spoke as she gazed upon It. “It must have been the blood.” Her focus diverted a moment to the one she called General but then fell back to It. “The Colonel lost a lot of blood in those first few minutes. Bleeding, while not a good thing, actually does have its purposes. It cleanses the wound of any potential contaminates.”

“So because I almost bled to death, I was saved from whatever is happening to Daniel.”

“Luckily, yes.”

 They all turned then and looked down at It. It tugged on the bindings and sneered at them. It would have this thing, this decaying corpse, and they would watch as It consumed the other.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It sent us sustenance. We tasted the frail vessel and imbibed in its elixir. Once the bond has become stronger we will be able to tie It to us and we will translocate to It.

We will dine on Its flesh and be satiated.

We will use Its knowledge.

It will be our beacon.

To the world of our succor.

s it was before.

As it was before.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bright light scorched Its eyelids, flashed afterimages of crisp white light through Its brain. It murmured and turned Its head, attempting to escape. The agony awoke the other, gave the other strength.

“Daniel, I need to check your eyes.”

“Janet, hurts,” Daniel whispered as the penlight burned his retina.

“You’re with us now?” Janet said as she leaned away from him.

He nodded but kept his eyes closed. The thing inside him was cursing them, telling him It could make the pain go away.  He ground his teeth and groaned as the piercing pain rammed through his brain. Cracking his eyes open, Daniel peered at Janet and his team huddled together but not close to the bed. He realized she wore a mask and goggles as she touched him with gloved hands.

“Thought I would be in isolation,” he rasped, his mouth parched, his lips chapped.

“You are, we have an isolation tent set up in the room.  You’re team is right outside the tent.”

“Is it enough?” Daniel asked as It slithered within him, wrapping around him, pulsating. Across his arms and chest blood leaked to form patterns like roadmaps drawn on his flesh.

“Don’t worry. It doesn’t seem to be airborne or transmitted by bodily fluids at all,” Janet said and her hand caressed his cheek. Even the delicate touch of her felt like a razor but he leaned into the feel. The lancing pain nailed through his cheekbone and speared him.  Tears streamed out of his eyes but he could not stop them.

“Daniel?”

He turned and glimpsed Jack sitting in a wheel chair next to his bed. Sam wheeled him closer as Teal’c stood to the side – the ever vigilant sentinel. He licked dry lips and said, “Jack?”

“Can you tell us what’s happening?” Jack’s voice was muffled, but he didn’t know if it was the distortion of the isolation tent or the thing inside of him, eating him. Eating him, alive. He gasped as the image of some amorphous creature shredded him from the inside out. “Daniel? Daniel, stay with us.” Jack reached out and hit the clear plastic tent.

Moaning, he whipped his head back and forth as he pushed the thing away – forced it back. “It’s here. They’re coming.”

So you’ve said, Doctor Jackson.”

For the first time, Daniel realized the General was standing to the side of his team. The hard edge to the General’s normally kind eyes frightened him but he gulped back his reaction as General Hammond spoke again, “Can you explain to us what you mean by they’re coming, son?”

Shaking his head, he bit at his lip. “Yes, yes I can.” It struck back, constricting the lattice work running over his flesh to elicit bloody wounds and bruising across his ribcage and stomach. He cried out at the affliction.

“Christ, Daniel, what the hell is happening? Who’s coming?” Jack stood from the chair and Daniel witnessed his wobble as if the strain of Daniel’s illness was eating away at his friend’s own health.

“They’re coming. They can hear you. I can hear them.” He screamed then as It tightened its hold. Suffocating. “I don’t – don’t. Jack?” He glanced around and his friend was there – just beyond the plastic sheet, holding his hand out and open to him. “Jack, I can’t.”

 “Daniel, stay with us. Stay with us!” Jack yelled. “Damn it, Daniel, do you hear me?”

“Jack?” His voice faded, broken and anemic. “Only the pain, only the pain.”  He thrashed against the cushion of the pillow and Janet crouched over him.

“Only the pain Daniel?”

“Maybe he can’t feel anything but pain, Janet.” In the far distance he recognized Sam. He wanted to dispute her theory, wanted to shake his head no. But It strengthened within him and overcame his defenses.

“Take – pain.”

“He wants us to take the pain away,” Jack said in a low almost hushed tone.

“No, no, no.” Daniel couldn’t help the tears running down his face to puddle on the pillow, wetting the sheets to mix with his blood.

“I do not believe that is a correct assumption, O’Neill.”

“I’m giving him something for the pain. He’s my patient and he’s exhausted from whatever is happening to his body. I need to calm him down so that my nurses can clean his wounds.” Janet indicated the stains of red smeared over his body. She pulled a syringe out of her pocket, uncapped it and slipped it into his vein.

He tensed, squeezing his eyes shut. “No, no, no.” The stress of his muscles relaxed, the rigidity smoothed and he inhaled a shattering breath. “It comes back, It claims this vessel, to devour it, to win it. To kill you.” Its eyes opened and It raised Its upper lip in a snarl. Janet stumbled backward and fell out of the plastic isolation tent.

“What the hell?” the one called Jack caught her arm. “He was just with us, just a second ago.”

“I don’t understand it. Could it be a reaction to the medication?” the one known as Janet said as she stared at the empty vial.

“No, I don’t think so,” the other female vessel said as she walked up to the bedside, pushing against the plastic sheet. Her hand lightly traced circles on the sheet.

“I would agree with Major Carter’s assessment.”

“Sam?”

The one called Sam turned to the doctor vessel and said, “I think you took away Daniel’s one defense against it.”

“One defense?”

“Pain,” the one known as the other’s friend said. “Daniel’s only defense is the pain.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
They know of Its weakness.

There are no worries. It is ours. It knows It is our tool. It becomes our instrument every moment as our net ensnares It.

We fear the fragile vessels will find a way to save It.

How? We are too strongly intertwined with It. It is no longer a human creature but a creature of our design, made to service us, made to feed us. Soon It will be strong enough and we will translocate to It and we will finally be able to find them.

And then they will all be ours for the taking.

Ours for the taking.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It made promises, It told the other that ‘Daniel’ was a myth. It has always been a tool and nothing more, never ‘Daniel’, never anything other than It. The other was lost, drifting and apart, numbed and emotionless in the abyss, in a sheltering void. The other gave himself over to It, knew for the first time the meaning of worthlessness. It was only an instrument, to be used, to be abused, to be consumed. It would do Its duty. It was not two separate creatures, one a human vessel and the other a viral appendage. It was only the tool. It had no identity or worth.

It grew strong as It lay listening to the faint cries within of the other, of ‘him’. The lights in the room were dim, the sounds muted. Just as It needed it to be. They afforded this vessel comfort and It drew nourishment from their soothing efforts. It only needed to complete the transformation of this vile body before the masters would come for It. Before It could become one with Its masters.  As It consumed the lower being within the flesh and bones of this feeble body, It would be devoured by Its masters. It relished the thought of them taking its flesh into them, It reveled in the thought of the masters tasting It, licking It, eating It.

It would die to become one with the masters. Once this flesh was consumed by the masters, they would know what It knew. It would share Its knowledge and the wealth of knowledge of this frail vessel.

In the faint din of electrical equipment, It felt the squirm of the vines as they dug deeper into the flesh, splitting it and lacerating it. The pain caused It to lose control, It struggled with the fine balance – to keep control of the vessel while nurturing the vines to grow within the tissues. The growth brought on the torment and with that anguish enabled the other to clamber to the surface.

The moans erupted from him and he felt blood trickle across his face and into his mouth. He curled his fingers into a fist, digging his nails into flesh. Even the smallest of pains helped him stay in control. He was Daniel, Daniel, not It. He opened his eyes but saw no one. He was alone – isolated from everyone. The plastic sheeting covered the walls, the ceiling and he imagined the floor. The room was sealed. He lay there, waiting to succumb to It. Knowing he was becoming this thing, this vile thing. His breathing broke and the machines beeped insistently.

“Daniel?”

He listened to the name, comprehended it was his own but he knew it was a fleeting thing. He was modeled, molded, transformed into something else, something dangerous, something base and depraved.

“Will you kill It?” Daniel asked her.

Janet stepped into the shallow light surrounding the containment tent. “I’ve tried Daniel. It isn’t responding to any antibiotic or anti-viral treatments.”

“It won’t die that way.” He focused on her. Her small form wavered in his sight, his blurred vision dimmed further. “You have to kill me, Janet.”

“I don’t accept that.”

“And neither do I.”

“Jack.” He gave a small smile. “Nice to see you.”

“Daniel, you have to hold on. We’ll figure this out.”

The pain receded even as he tightened his fists, punctured his fingernails deeper into the palms of his hands. “Jack,” he murmured as the control slipped, fell, fractured.
“It calls. Calls to the masters. They’re coming.”

“Who?” The one known as Janet asked.

“The masters. It awaits the masters.”

“Damn it Daniel.”

“There is no Daniel, only It exists. It exists to feed the masters. It will be consumed.”

“Doctor?”

“Colonel, I can’t inflict pain on a patient. It’s against my oath.”

“What does your damned oath have to say about letting Daniel die?” the one known by the other as friend yelled. This one, this Jack, paced as he cradled his arm to his chest. It would direct the masters to attack this one first after It was ravaged. This one with an injury presented an easy target and would nourish the masters after their long translocation.

“Colonel, I don’t want Daniel to die anymore than you do. Watching him die once was enough for me.”

“Well then I want answers and I want them now.”

The small female vessel turned to another vessel standing at the doorway and nodded. The lights flashed on. It howled against the brilliance. “It can endure the pain. It will suffer it as It suffers you.” Within the vessel, it contracted the vine work enveloping the torso. It would falter in control yet It was willing to give up its hold on the weak body for a few minutes if it meant It would win the power over the body. The tendrils constricted and ribs broke, the right foot turned inward.

“Daniel!”

“Oh God,” Daniel cried out, his back arching as his foot cracked. He thrashed against the cushion of the pillow. Sweat pricked over his skin, stinging his eyes and the sliced wounds from the tendrils.

“Turn off the light!” Janet demanded.

“No, don’t please,” Daniel begged through clenched teeth. “Any pain, anything. The pain stops It, stops them.”

“Daniel, who are they?” Jack pressed his forehead against the plastic sheeting, his eyes a mixture of grief and worry.

“I don’t know, but It speaks of them all the time. I can hear them whispering…Oh God!” Daniel wept as the tendrils burrowed deeper, causing blood to spurt from his tortured foot. “I hear them whispering, whispering. They are using me to feed them…God, God.” He swallowed a groan then fixed his eyes on Jack. “They’re planning an invasion Jack. There isn’t much time left….they….they’re gaining str-strength through me. You have to kill me.” He sobbed and then added to assuage their fears and guilt. “I don’t want to be eaten alive…please. It would be a mercy.” He felt Jack’s focus touch him, move him.

“Daniel,” Jack said in the lowest of voices.

He shook his head and looked away. Whispering, he pleaded, “Please Jack do this for me.”

He heard his friend’s voice break, shattered from the trauma. “I don’t know if I can Daniel. Damn it, I already did it once I don’t know if I can do it again.” He paused and then through tears said, “We just got you back.”

The pain drifted away, becoming a low ache within him and the control unraveled, like so many pebbles through his fingers. “It takes this vessel as its own, to feed the masters.” It strained against the restraints, ripping and tugging until the right wrist binding snapped.

“Colonel,” the one called Janet warned.

“Call for back up,” the one known as friend commanded. But It was already free of the restraints and dropping to the floor of Its plastic cage. Hitting the floor jarred Its injured ankle enough that It struggled against the other to maintain control.

“Jack, hurry, you don’t have much time,” Daniel implored him; his hands like claws raked the floor. “I can’t –I can’t keep control for long.” He bashed his injured foot on the floor, screaming out as the pain jolted through him. “Just shoot me, God damn it. Shoot me.”

Teal’c appeared at the entrance to the room, went to the seal of the plastic containment tent, a zat gun raised and pointed at him.

“Three.” Daniel ground his teeth then hit his foot against the wheel of the bed. “Three times Teal’c. One will just give it control, kill me and get rid of it.” The effort was too much and Daniel lay down exhaustion taking him.

“God damn it. No!” Jack said and pushed Teal’c hand down.

“You must permit me to comply with Daniel Jackson’s request, O’Neill.”

“No!”

It crawled over to the opening of the plastic, the bloody hands and body leaving a smeared trail along the covering on the floor. “The masters will destroy you first, friend of the other. The weak other will serve as nourishment for our masters.”

The other’s friend, Jack, lashed out and kicked It through the plastic. It moaned but did not lose control. Again, the one most trusted kicked It, beating It over and again. Even though the one known as Jack could not get a direct hit, the strikes were enough for It to recede.

“Let him do it, Jack,” Daniel curled in a fetal ball as he slammed his one foot over and over onto the concrete floor.

“No, Daniel.” Jack crumpled onto the floor outside the plastic wall. “Carter has an idea. I don’t know if it will work but she’s contacted Jacob.”

Daniel turned, strove to see him from his twisted position on the floor. “Jacob?”

“You just have to hold on.”

“I could give you a sedative Daniel,” Janet bent down to gaze upon him. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears.

He shook his head. “No, I’ll lose total control then. Don’t know…don’t know how much longer, longer I have.” He settled onto the floor, banging his head against the hard surface, taking comfort in the bolts of agony streaking through his brain.

“Daniel, please you’ll hurt yourself.” Janet went to open the cage.

“Don’t Janet! Stop her!” Daniel yelled out and Teal’c wrapped his arms around the doctor. He lay back, calming as Teal’c walked Janet out of the room. In his repose though It slithered back to the forefront. “It takes this weak vessel for the masters.”

“Daniel is one of the strongest men I know,” the one known as friend said as he waved over another of the vessels in the room.

“You will watch as It feeds the masters this vile body, as It devours the last of this vessel.” Blood leaked out of the many wounds criss-crossing the frail flesh. It watched as the one known as Jack stepped over to the opening and began to unseal the plastic cage. It began to laugh as it got on its hands and knees. “Stupid creatures, you sympathize when you should kill.”

The one known as Jack nodded, pushed open the plastic sheeting, reached in with one hand into the opening. “Personally, I don’t think a zat gun will do a damned thing to you except give you control over Daniel or kill the both of you.” The one known as friend cocked the berretta in his hand. “I’m sorry Daniel.”

The bullet exploded in his shoulder, mirroring the wound Jack had himself. Daniel collapsed as the pain brought bright flares of light across his vision, as more blood pooled to puddle about him. He gulped for air his mouth working as he stared up at the blurred lights above him. With the barest whisper, he said, “You missed.”

“No Daniel I didn’t.”

“Then you should have killed me.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
We have located It. All that must happen is for It to gain total control over the vessel.

The vessel is weak, much injured and failing quickly.

The vessel still fights for control; this consciousness is stronger than we’ve encountered before. We need to strike out. We need It to pierce into its brain, into Its heart.

Hazards!

Yes, yes, this could disable It as well. Could cause us to loose our fix on It.

We desire It. We hunger for It.

We must instruct It to plunge deeper into the weak vessel’s flesh, tear it apart, only then will we have total control.

But the pain this will bring, we will lose control.

The pain will come, yes. But we will let this pass and as the vessel lies dying, we will translocate to the vessel and satiate our hunger.

Send the directions to It. Time for the kill.

The killing blow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

He lie dying, the abstraction of pain seemed distant and cool like the touch of snow on frostbitten fingers. These lands of pain and punishment followed him. Sinking, through the coldness of death marred his past and his present. There would be no future for him.

He witnessed the gun blast, felt the heat of pain surge through him. Burns erupted and welted his body. Scabs broke open and bleed freely, stinging and weeping his fluids over the gurney. He heard low voices close to him. He thought to call out and warn them but the energy to do so was too much. He could not muster it. So he lay quietly, reviewing the last moments of life, listening to his friends as they wept by his bedside.

The pain radiated outward as it paradoxically seeped into his bones hollowing out the marrow, eating the very essence of his blood. They thought to give him relief, to try and heal him. But it failed and he vomited blood and bile. There was nothing else in his stomach to dreg up. He was destroyed within and his organs were necrotic and blackened. He murmured words but no one heard him.

He heard their words and they slowly came to pay their last respects. He listened to hesitant words of comfort, to beautiful words of love, to soft tender words of friendship. He wanted to give them solace, to make them understand that this was acceptable. He needed to move onward, he had to move onward. This was his decision.

It wasn’t right.

He realized it, fleetingly.  Oma never appeared. No higher being interfered, swooped down and released him the burden of death and oblivion. Though he mourned this fact, he empathized more for his friends. He wanted to ensure their safety and their comfort. How could he do so without ascension? Had Oma abandon him? Had he made such an egregious error that she had turned her face from his needs, his potential? He mourned that he would not be able to safe guard his friends as they had protected and loved him in life.

They tried a second time to heal him. Voices penetrated the fog of agony he experienced, the halting beat of his heart, the drag of his fluid filled lungs. He heard Jacob, heard voices ring out as machines complained. Janet cried out to Jack.

He died then, quickly, smoothly and completely.

But it was wrong.

Wrong.

It started again. The pain, the punishment, the torture of death by radiation poisoning. Desperate he fought it, he did not want to review it again, did not want to feel the puncture and insidious method of death once again. But it continued. He felt it again and again. Cycling to never end. Bleeding, drowning, suffocating in his own body.

Dying. Dying again and again.

He died.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Something snapped off his temple and he flinched against the pinprick. Squinting he opened his eyes to gaze upon Janet’s wide smile. “Janet?”

“You’re with us?” She lightly touched his cheek and he yanked his face away from her then realized she was not properly dressed in biohazard clothing. Glancing around he noted he was no longer in a containment plastic tent.

“What?” he mumbled and shifted as a groan escaped his lips.

She patted his arm. “Shhh, don’t move. You have a gun shot wound to your right shoulder, severe lacerations over your torso, arms and legs. Some residual bruising along your right flank. You also have three broken ribs, a cracked sternum and a broken foot – eight bones are broken in your foot.” She adjusted the iv line hooked to his left arm. “Additionally, you have a concussion but I’m not sure if that is from your little stunt on the floor or if those vines did it. You don’t have a skull fracture, thank God for small favors.”

“Janet?”

Jack appeared in his line of vision, flipping something over and over in his right hand. He held up the small coin sized disk.

“A Tok’ra memory device?” Daniel blinked a few times and then Sam stepped up to the bed. She slipped his glasses on without a word. “Thank you. What’s going on?” He stared down at his marred arms and chest. Wounds laced his torso and arms but no hint of the vines appeared anywhere.

“Quickly, I want to give him something for the pain,” Janet said and nodded to Jack.

“No!”

“Daniel Jackson, it is acceptable for you to receive relieve from that pain at this time.” Teal’c stood by the foot of the bed.

Jack smiled and nodded to the two older men entering the infirmary. The General and Jacob greeted him. “Can someone tell me what’s going on?”

“I had an idea Daniel when we figured out that pain allowed you to have control over your body,” Sam said.

“Sammy contacted me and I got here as soon as I could,” Jacob added.

“The idea?”

Sam bowed her head as if she was ashamed of the words she spoke.  She never looked him in the eye. “I thought it might be worth a try to fake the pain.” She looked up but met Jack’s gaze not his own. “With a Tok’ra memory device and some tweaking on our part, we could direct the device to force you to relieve the worst physical pain you’ve ever been in.”

“Radiation poisoning,” Jack said, his tone low and respectful.

“We were able to attach the device after the Colonel shot you,” Sam explained. “Whatever It was, It was in too much pain to stop us and Janet gave you a stimulant so that the pain was enhanced.”

“Like torturing my patient,” Janet cursed under her breath.

“We set the Tok’ra memory device to replay the events of your death over and over until we could remove it.”

“Seven days,” Jack answered his unspoken question.

“Seven days?”

He nodded. “The vines started to wilt and decay within two days but your body was infiltrated with their root work. In order to kill the roots we needed to keep you hooked up.”

“Thankfully during that time, we were able to treat your wounds,” Janet said.

Before anyone else was able to speak, General Hammond asked, “How are you feeling son?”

He swallowed. The visions and feelings of dying still a bitter taste on his tongue. Shaking his head, Daniel said, “I don’t know. I’m tired though.”

Jack smiled as the others laughed. “Why don’t you get some sleep?”

Daniel grimaced. “Not sure I want to close my eyes.”

“You’re safe,” Jack said. “We’re here.”

Resting back into the pillow, Daniel closed his eyes and attempted to shut away the images, the feelings of dying.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
It was three days before she came back to see him. Daniel had been informed that it would take at least another two weeks before he was ambulatory and possibly another week before Janet would even consider releasing him from her care. He had some liver and kidney damage though it was not serious enough to prevent him from continued gate travel once he recuperated. As long as he followed the doctor’s instructions, the organ damage would be minimal. His foot required physical therapy and he would retain some scarring over his chest, arms, legs and a small scar on his cheek.

Nightmares had jolted him awake and he opened his eyes to find Sam standing near the bed silently watching him. He groaned a bit as the movements jarred his shoulder. She poured him a cold glass of water and held it as he sipped from the straw.

“Sam, good to see you.”

“Is it?”

He furrowed his brow and said, “Why wouldn’t it be?”

She dropped onto the bed next to his. He had been moved into the infirmary from the isolation room. She stared down at her hands folded in her lap. “If there had been any other way, we would have tried it. I asked Dad about a healing device but that wouldn’t work because it took too much of the pain away and that thing could take control again.”

“Sam I don’t blame you.”

She glared at him. “How can you not? I’m the one that thought of the idea. Let’s torture Daniel with memories of his death!” She swore, “Fuck, I’m the one that figured out how to put the Tok’ra memory device on continuous loop.” Standing, she took to pacing back and forth near the side of his bed. “For seven days, you went through a day of hell over and over again. Seven days and I did it to you. Me!” She was hitting her chest with her one hand and the other was on her forehead.

“You look like a drama queen,” he commented.

She stopped. “What? What did you just say?”

 He shrugged, only lightly upsetting the tissues of his injured shoulder. “Look at yourself Sam, you look like a drama queen.”

She sniffled and put her hands on her hips. “I am not a drama queen.”

“Well then stop acting like one.” He reached for her and she closed the gap between then and clasped his hand. “You saved my life. The method doesn’t matter. Do you think I wanted to be eaten alive by that thing? Lose myself to it?”

She shook her head, tears brimming in her eyes.

“You did the right thing.”

“Thank you Daniel,” she murmured and leaned over him to give him a tender hug.

“Of course I am going to have to request the surveillance tape of your performance. That was pretty good,”

“Don’t you dare,” Sam laughed.

“Give me a reason not to.”

“I brought chocolate.” She turned and grabbed the bag sitting on the tray. “Chocolate walnut cookies, mocha favored chocolate cookies. Shh, don’t tell Janet.”

He stretched out his uninjured arm for the bag.

“Well?”

“Well what? Give me the damned cookies, I’ve been stuck here for days with nothing but uninteresting food to eat.”

“As it should be Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c walked into the infirmary with Jack close on his heels. “Are you tempting Daniel Jackson with prohibited fare Major Carter.”

She giggled. “Well not exactly prohibited since Janet never said anything about chocolate, just no coffee.” She handed him the bag and put a finger to her lips, mouthing, no drama queen, right?

He only nodded as he dug into the bag. His team closed ranks about him, talking about their daily routine, trying to forget what had happened. Daniel listened quietly, made comments in all the right places, laughed when appropriate and tooled himself to stop when everyone else did. The fit though was uncomfortable like a too tight jacket. Sam and Teal’c  both noted his discomfiture and softly left him with tender goodbyes to tell him to rest. They knew it would take time for him to realize himself again, to feel comfortable as a family again.

Jack stayed.

“What you got there?” He raised a scarred eyebrow to the bag Daniel clutched.

“Get your own.” Daniel closed up the bag and put it next to his bed on the far side from Jack. He sighed, the strain of staying awake, the stress of the nightmare figments, the pressure of knowing pure evil existed in this universe overwhelmed him. “You shut out the address right?”

“Immediately,” Jack said, his hands hanging slack in his lap. “We think whatever it was needed the vine work for invasion. Since the vines are gone, we don’t think whatever or whoever ‘the masters’ are will be able to find us.”

“Good,” Daniel said and closed his eyes. A shudder passed over him as he remembered the whispers of It, as he thought of how It relished the feeling of devouring him.

“You okay? I could get Janet?”

He shook his head. “Fine. I’m fine.”

 Jack settled into the chair, pulling out of his back pocket a fishing magazine.

“You don’t have to sit with me.”

Jack never looked up from the pages of the magazine, just grumbled and said, “Yes I do. Now shut up and go to sleep.”

“Nice.”

“Yep, that’s what they call me Mister Nice.” He flicked the pages and leaned back in the chair.

After a few solitary minutes, Daniel said, “I would.”

 Peering over the top of the magazine, Jack asked, “Would what?”

 “I would call you Mister Nice.”

 He scowled at Daniel and closed the magazine. “Now here I am about to learn how to catch some of the biggest bass this side of the Rockies and you’re calling me names.”

 He laughed a bit but knew it did not touch his eyes. “I read what you wrote.”

 “What I wrote?”

 “Yeah, I found the journal and I read what you wrote.” Daniel indicated his office with a quick hand gesture.

 “You’ve lost me.”

 “Back when we came back from..”

 “Planet Little Shop of Horrors?”

 Daniel snickered. “Yeah, I was in my office and found the last journal I had before Kelowna. I found your entry.”

 Jack looked away, physically turned away in the chair and stared at the wall for a minute. Swiveling back in the chair, he met Daniel’s gaze. “You must think I’m a son of a bitch.”

 “Well yes, but not because of what you wrote.”

 “Daniel, I wrote that I hated you for leaving us.” Jack gripped the magazine, rolling it into a tube and twisting it.

 “No, you wrote how much I meant to you.”

 “No, I didn’t I wrote that I hated you,” Jack said as the magazine was mutilated in his hands.

 “Yes Jack, you did actually write that you hated me.” Daniel smiled and kept his eyes clear and focused on his friend. This time he felt the smile glimmer in his eyes. He would be able to heal, to find a way back to his friends. “You wrote you hated that I did what I did, you wrote you hated how it made you feel, you wrote that you hated the thought of me gone.”

 “Yeah,” was Jack’s only word as he dropped his head and stared at the ripped magazine in his hands.

 “Yeah,” Daniel agreed. He rested back, the tension easing out of him.

 Jack looked up at him, a glint in his eye. “We gonna have a hallmark moment?”

 “God I hope not.” Daniel shifted under the covers of the bed and reached for the cookies. “You want a cookie?”

 Jack smiled. “What kind you got?”

THE END.

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