Hell, Remembered pt2

The man on the floor squinted his eyes up at the new arrivals then rubbed his hands over his face. Those people looked 'normal' it couldn't be though, he knew exactly where he was: in a prison in south central Iraq. Was this a dream or some twisted game the Iraqis were playing to gain his confidence?

He remembered being beaten and drugged over and over, never being allowed to wake fully. Now they seemed to be withholding the stuff and he was feeling the early effects of withdrawal. He rubbed his face again; his eyes and nose were watery and he was feeling a little cold. It was normal for him to be restless and fidget but this was something much more. He twitched and moved just for he sake of moving, with no point to it at all. He would have scratched and rubbed even more if his body wasn't so sore all over.

His head ached most of all; he had the absolute mother of all headaches. It felt like a freight train was going around in his head.

One of them noticed him shivering and laid a blanket over his shoulders. He ignored the kind act and did not move until the person was well away from him; then he clutched the blanket around himself tightly still shivering though he wasn't that cold.

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Fraiser stepped back to the table. "Sam, why don't you go get some rest. You, too, Teal'c." She looked back at the Colonel, "We'll be all right."

Sam gladly relinquished her watch duties and made a beeline for the other room taking her bag with her. Teal'c followed her and set himself against the far wall where he could meditate.

The night was spent with no overt actions by O'Neill; he simply sat in his corner and rocked back and forth. By morning he was well on his way into withdrawal.

It was still very early and Daniel was sitting in a chair and reading by the glow of a small lamp. Janet was at the table writing some notes; occasionally glancing over to her patient, still wondering if she was doing the right thing for him. She got up and checked on him just before the end of their watch.

She managed to get close enough to touch him and found he was burning up. "Daniel, I'm going to have to get some IV fluids into him. How soon 'til Sam and Teal'c are up?"

Her question was met by the bass voice of the Jaffa. "Major Carter will join us momentarily. How is O'Neill?"

"Not well, I'm afraid. He's not been violent but he has a fever and I'm still worried about the head injury. He's just not acting right, something's off."

As soon as Sam joined them, Janet made her wishes known to start an IV on O'Neill and give him a bag of fluids and a dose of antibiotic. She was sure it would take all of them and she was right.

As soon as he was approached he knew something was up. He'd anticipated this, they were going to drug him again, he was sure of it; and somewhere he remembered hearing talk of an overdose, enough to kill him. Given there was no open route of escape he held as still as the tremors would allow, letting his enemy underestimate him. In a moment he'd unleash the full measure of his Special Forces training right in their faces.

Teal'c and Daniel planned to lift him over to the bed and hold him on either side while Sam helped Janet place an IV. He let them pick him up and get as far as the side of the bed before he made his move. Without warning he pushed up with his feet and spun around immediately throwing Daniel several feet away; as he turned he swung at the big man before him with an uppercut to his jaw and a knee to his groin at the same time. Teal'c expected the punch but not the knee and he grunted and doubled over at the impact, eyes wide with surprise.

The path to the doorway was open and O'Neill dashed in that direction with Sam and Janet both close on his heels. "Colonel! Stop. You can't go!" Janet was too afraid of what he might do if they got too close but Sam made her mind up he wasn't going anywhere.

She remembered a little of that Special Forces hand to hand combat the Colonel had taught her and she made a move on him, leaping on him from behind and immediately ducking her head for the head butt she knew he'd give her. When he threw his head back and didn't impact anything the added weight on his back threw him balance off and he tumbled to the ground.

By that time Daniel was there and grabbed for any part of the man he could get a hand on. O'Neill began cursing and shouting at them. "No, you can't! I won't go back! No, don't!" His speech changed to broken Arabic and he thrashed every which way. Teal'c joined their efforts and soon they had O'Neill situated still on the floor but tightly in the Jaffa's grip. Teal'c was in a comfortable enough position he could hold him indefinitely.

Daniel and Sam forced out his arm and held it while Janet started the IV. The whole time O'Neill yelled at them and writhed. Sam noticed the blush on Daniel's face and inquired. "Daniel? What's wrong? What's he saying?"

"Oh, you don't want to know, let's just say he knows some very colorful slang."

"But you know what he's saying."

The blush deepened. "Well, I know some colorful sayings myself."

Janet completed her task and commented. "And those sayings shall go unspoken, correct?"

"No problem."

After using much more tape than she'd ever want on her own arm, Janet plugged in the IV tubing and opened the clamp. Might as well let it run wide open, there was no telling how long they'd be able to keep O'Neill subdued. She hung the bag on the corner of a light fixture on the wall.

After checking the drip rate she went to the table she produced a small bottle and drew the yellow-tinged liquid contents up into a syringe. She wished it was a lot more than an antibiotic.

When she approached O'Neill with it he became much more frantic; Daniel had to help Teal'c hold him.

O'Neill watched and yelled as she slowly injected the solution into the flowing IV.

He was amazed he didn't feel giddy or warm or anything remotely like a 'rush.' Whatever drug they used either didn't work or maybe just wasn't what he was expecting. Maybe they weren't going to overdose him; maybe it was a poison of some kind. Whatever it was was in him now. His yelling changed to sobs and he slumped in Teal'c's arms. "O'Neill, it is all right. I have you. All will be well."

Despite his inability to recognize this man O'Neill felt strangely comforted. He let exhaustion claim him and fell asleep.

When he awoke some time later he was flat out on the bed under a light cover. The IV bag was no longer connected but his arm was still securely wrapped where the plastic catheter was still in his skin. He was surprised that he felt a tiny bit better; at least he wasn't so hot.

"How are you feeling, Colonel?" He heard a soft voice coming from beside the bed.

It didn't sway him, he knew he was a Captain, not a Colonel; this was just another part of their mind games. "Better, a little."

"Ah, he talks!" She smiled back at him. "I know you don't understand much of what I say but try, Okay? You have a head injury and were drugged. The combination is a pretty bad one, there's not a lot we can do about your head for now but wait and as far as the drugs, well, your symptoms are just getting started."

He nodded like he understood her gibberish and noted the layout of the room and who was there. Only the other smaller man was present, sitting at a round table near the door. There was another doorway, leading probably only to another room, but there may be a way out from there. He lurched forward and grabbed the Doctor by the neck forcing her down then jumped over her and ran for the door.

Unfortunately by the time he got there it was blocked. Teal'c was no longer putting up with any nonsense from O'Neill, ill or not, and engulfed him in a bear hug. Carter heard all the commotion and came running from the other room; with Daniel's help they wrestled O'Neill back to the bed.

"Doctor Fraiser," Teal'c offered, "I do not believe talking will be effective in O'Neill's current condition, if you permit I will acquire a Zatnikatel to subdue him."

She shook her head, "No sedation, that mean's no knocking him out, much as I'd like to right now."

She rubbed her sore neck, choked for the second time in as many days, "That man is a menace! If he was in Iraq, I don't know how there's still a country left!" She stalked into the bathroom to see what bruises he'd caused this time. Carter followed her in.

Fraiser looked in the mirror at the reflection of her friend, "It's not bad, really. He just scared me again. You handled him pretty well before though."

"Oh, it wasn't me. He taught me that trick himself. When we get back I could show you."

Fraiser held up her hand to decline. "I'll pass. Fighting, not my forte."

"Okay, self defense?"

"Maybe." She smiled weakly.

Their conversation was interrupted by a groan from the other room.

Daniel and Teal'c were beside the bed but not restraining the Colonel, both looked worried. He was curled up on his side clutching his stomach and grimacing. Fraiser immediately went to him and took him by the wrist to feel his pulse. When she grasped him she noticed how cold and clammy his skin felt.

Carter watched as she assessed him. "It's starting isn't it?"

Fraiser nodded. "It will get a lot worse from here; I doubt if we have to worry much about him trying to run away again."

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He felt as if his skin wasn't attached to his body; it was something foreign, crawling all over him. It wouldn't have been so bad but it was cold, it chilled him to the bone. He was barely aware of his surroundings, he was in a dark room, and he was lying on a mattress; that in itself was astonishing. It must not be a regular part of the prison, maybe they'd run out of room and he'd been moved to some special accommodations for important people who were arrested. Yeah, right, Very Important Prisoner, VIP. He chuckled under his breath at the idea.

That was a mistake, the movement set off a round of abdominal cramps leaving him gasping for breath. He was so sick he could barely move; escape was out of the question now. If some overpaid diplomat somewhere didn't strike a deal to get him out it was over, he couldn't do anything more to help himself.

He was still having frequent flashes of freezing cold to the point where nearly his entire body was covered in 'gooseflesh' followed by episodes of intense heat during which once he'd ripped off his T-shirt and tossed it away. He was having severe abdominal cramps followed by equally intense leg cramps. When the first one hit he thought he'd positively die; it couldn't be worse if they'd amputated his leg without anesthesia. He yelped and rose up out of the bed but didn't even try to go anywhere. His captors came rushing to the bedside but didn't have to worry about him getting away. They stood by and watched him until he settled back down.

A small woman took his wrist again; holding it for a moment then ran a hand across his damp forehead. He didn't know why, but something about her touch was not unfamiliar to him, he allowed her to wipe his face with a wet washcloth, removing some of the salty perspiration that had dried on his skin.

He tried to doze but if the cramps weren't keeping him awake then it was the constant shift from being too hot to too cold. At some point he must have slept because he started to dream.

Sarah. She was there. But how could she be? Of course, the drugs, the delirium, and did someone say 'head injury'?

She was sitting on the side of the bed sponging off his face and chest. He was constantly twitching and thrashing about but he wasn't making any moves to get up so she had stayed by him. He knew it was only a dream but it was so real. He reached out and when he took her arm he could even feel warm skin. "Sarah."

Her hand stopped moving the washcloth and she looked at him. He forced himself to sit up, slowly, up on his elbows first then pushed himself up with both hands, trying to avoid any strain on his stomach muscles. He slouched forward and took a few harsh breaths; his entire chest hurt, you'd think someone had pounded him with brass knuckles.

She turned slightly toward him and switched the washcloth to the other hand and began to move it over his back. "It's all right, you're safe now."

He drank in the words and slipped one arm across her waist and leaned lightly on her shoulder. She continued to wipe his back, stopping occasionally to dip the cloth in a pan of water and squeeze out the excess moisture.

"Sarah, I'm so sorry." He began to speak to his dream. "It'll be better I swear. If I make it back, no more Black Ops, you'll see, just you, me and Charlie." He could feel her body stiffen under him, "I know you don't think I will, but you'll see."

Sam sat still for a moment and blinked back the tears. She knew it was wrong to pretend to be someone she wasn't but she couldn't bear to pull away from him. Ever since Antarctica she knew how much he depended on Sarah. He really truly loved her. Janet appeared in the bathroom doorway and stopped dead in her tracks at the sight before her. Sam caught her eye and brought one finger up to her mouth to ask her to not speak then waved the Doctor in.

Miraculously the IV was still in place and functional so all Janet had to do was hook up the second IV bag. This one contained some vitamins and potassium as well, not much but it might help the leg cramps a little. She silently went about her work trying to not listen to the private one-sided conversation going on.

He felt the manipulation of his arm and the cool sensation of the fluid flowing through his vein and started to yank his arm away. A firm hand restrained him and he relented. He was so tired, and so sore; he had no fight left in him. He leaned more heavily on the soft shoulder and began to sob.

"I'm so sorry Babe, I can't stop them. I'm too tired. Got to find a way out. See you again."

She stopped the washing and pulled up a cover over his bare back and hugged him, gently rocking him. She didn't release him until the IV was done and Janet disconnected it. Together they lay the now sleeping man down and covered him. Even in his sleep he twitched and jerked his legs as the spasms continued, and just washed, he was already breaking out in a cold sweat again. The bed would be soaked in minutes.

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The reprieve from O'Neill's condition was short-lived. When he woke this time he would not rest again for more than a full day. It started with severe cramps again, this time accompanied by vomiting mostly only spit, and diarrhea. He was thrashing and shaking so badly he had to be carried to the bath again. This time it took both Teal'c and Daniel to relieve him of his clothing and clean him up. The women were left to handle the bedding, which they simply discarded and replaced with some from the Motel linen stores. The innkeeper gave them a plastic sheet in addition to their other needs to save the bed from as much destruction as possible. Janet gave the man some credit, he could have just asked them to leave; Sam was right, this was not a completely unheard of occurrence around here.

They finally got O'Neill settled in bed again but he was completely restless. He'd roll one way then the other, sometimes sobbing, other times cursing, frequently not in English. Because of the bath, the IV was out and Janet didn't even think about trying to put in another one at this point.

The cramps continued and they managed to get him into the bathroom a couple times rather than soil the bed again. The leg cramps and back spasms were another story; there was simply nothing that could be done. He had to suffer through them; when he got to the point he was screaming and begging for relief Daniel decided to try to do something about it.

He sat on the side of the bed where he could rub O'Neill's back and began to speak to him in Arabic. So far he'd only responded minimally to English so it was worth a try even if it did only feed into his delusions.

He started with kind words, which didn't seem to help at all. The response was more cursing and O'Neill shoving his hands away.

Teal'c came over and stood close with his hands clasped behind his back. "Your words do not seem to be having the desired effect, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel shrugged, "No. Guess not."

"Perhaps you should say something else. Often a warrior only overcomes when he is challenged to do so."

"Challenge him? You mean aggravate him on purpose?"

The Jaffa only nodded his head.

Daniel took a deep breath and turned his attention back to O'Neill. He thought for a moment then stood up and began to pace with his arms folded across his chest. Presently he began to speak in Arabic once again. "You stupid American! Look how easily we have subdued you. We will do the same with the rest of your people."

He paused and stole a look at O'Neill. He was turned away from Daniel and was still shaking with the tremors, but his head was turned to the side as if he might have been listening.

"You give in so easily. Look at how you cry like a child! Shall I find a woman to nurse you as well?"

Carter tapped him on the shoulder, "What are you saying?"

He turned to her quickly and whispered in English, "Not now, I'm on a roll!" then continued to O'Neill. "Or a she-goat. Perhaps that would be more to your liking."

He should have known it was coming; O'Neill launched himself off the bed and at Daniel. The two men tumbled to the ground tangled and grabbing at each other. Teal'c allowed them to wrestle for a minute and only stepped in when Daniel looked like he was in dire need of help.

O'Neill crawled away from them and back to his corner drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. He bowed his head with an expression of utter pain but did not let out a sound. He refused to give the bastard the satisfaction anymore. When any one of them came near he kicked and yelled and fought until they left him alone in his misery.

Carter shoved a wisp of hair back from her face, "That was some 'roll', Daniel."

He looked sheepishly back at her then grimaced. If O'Neill hadn't been so ill and the circumstances had been different, it would have been hysterically funny. For now all he'd managed to do was get O'Neill to be quiet. His pain was far from relieved.

When the waves of pain and nausea came O'Neill could think of nothing else, but in the few moments between them he waffled from being angry to severely depressed. He kept thinking of Sarah and how he was letting her down; instead of wallowing in the depression he allowed it to fuel his anger.

He decided he had to make it, for Sarah, for Charlie.

He spent the entire night curled up in the corner waiting for some 'Towel-head' to come aggravate him again. Every time one of them got close he was ready to fight again, but no one bothered him. Toward morning he slept a little but his dreams were far from pleasant.

***

He was hot, extremely hot even though he was in a dark place; it must be shaded somehow he thought. Then he remembered being dragged kicking and cursing across the small courtyard of the prison. They'd come to get him early, before sunrise and with no warning dragged him outside. The guard who was in charge addressed him and told him something about teaching American scum some lessons.

They took him out to a large open area where there were three large wooden boxes painted black. He thought they were large anyway until he realized they were going to put him inside one of them. Even though he'd lost weight due to the meager portions of food they were given, he was still over six feet in height; he would have to literally cram himself into the tiny space to fit.

They shoved and prodded at him until he got the idea, there was no way out of it, he was going in the box. Once situated more or less, lying on one side with his knees pulled up to his chest, they slammed down a lid and bolted it in place. He remembered hearing about the Iraqis doing this as a means of torture, but it usually turned out to be a slow form of execution. All they had to do was forget to come back.

By late morning it was already hot and his muscles were cramping as much with their position as the lack of water and sodium. Funny, how when the body got dehydrated, one of the things it needed was salt. He stretched as best he could but could only wiggle an inch here and there. Toileting was out of the question and he thought hard about a way to recycle the water he was about to lose. When he couldn't hold it anymore he urinated right where he lay, soaking his clothes. It wasn't *the* most degrading thing he'd ever done but it was getting there.

As the day wore one he got hotter and perspired profusely losing more precious water from his body. He felt nauseated but through sheer force of will stopped himself from throwing up. He had to pant to be able to breathe and his left side was going numb from not being able to shift his weight even for a few minutes.

When evening came he barely noticed since there was little change in temperature within the crate. It had to have reached a hundred and twenty outside, which meant it was a hundred and fifty in the box. The black paint had absorbed plenty of that solar energy and was doing its job; keeping the occupant inside nice and warm. He gave them credit for ingenuity; they'd come up with a way to ensure maximum unpleasantness for a minimum of effort on their part.

Through the night the temperature did eventually drop and he was able to sleep a little. By the time the first bit of light showed in the sky he was shaking from the freezing desert night. He didn't complain; at least it wasn't zapping the moisture out of his body and it did make his muscles move even if it hurt like hell to do so.

By the time noon arrived he couldn't even remember being cold. That day was turning out to be worse than the day before. First of all, he couldn't believe he had to pee again, how could that be? He hadn't had anything to drink in more than 24 hours. He let it go and immediately turned his head at the strong smell. He only passed a small amount but it seemed his body was trying to rid itself of all the wastes accumulated in a whole day. It burned too, not cross-your-eyes-and-hope-to-die burning, but it hurt, and he had the feeling it would only get worse, whether or not there was any more pee to be had.

That afternoon someone came along and jostled the box. He thought if he kept quiet they might open it to have a look and prepared to make the most of it if they did. He was most displeased they did not seem to want to gloat over the condition they'd put him in; they left without a word. He screamed and pounded on the wall when he realized they were leaving but got no response. The temperature continued to rise back to that 'bake in a slow oven' one hundred and fifty plus.

When nightfall came he was so dry his tongue was getting hard and the corneas of his eyes were being scratched with every blink. His lips were cracked in several places and had swollen to the point he couldn't adequately close his mouth if he'd wanted to. This must be what it's like to be microwaved, he mused. The thought was funny in his electrolyte-unbalanced delirium and he laughed outright. The laugh would have turned to a sob if there'd been one tear left.

He'd passed out and then come to again several times throughout the day but with the abatement of the heat he relaxed enough to actually sleep again. He dreamt of crazy things; being sick with a fever, getting a 'brain freeze' from eating an ice cream too fast, playing on the beach and getting too hot, a hockey match on a frozen lake where he'd fallen in and nearly become a Popsicle, burning his hand on the barrel of a just fired M5 in training. At least there was a theme.

In the morning he barely stirred except for the shivering. His body gave up its last bits of energy to keep his internal organs alive. He really didn't wake up again; just became less unconscious, to the point where he could moan and try to move with short jerking motions; stopped at every attempt by the tight enclosure. As the day wore on and he was literally cooked alive, his body began to give up. Parts were slowly shutting down. His kidneys had long ago stopped trying and now his lungs were cooking from the inside out from breathing the super-heated air. His core temperature was well over one hundred and five, signaling the point at which brain damage would occur. If nature were allowed to take it's course his heart would be the last to go, still trying to pump though his blood would be too thick to force through his veins.

Before that happened providence intervened. Or an angel or a demon, O'Neill didn't care which, all he knew was he'd awakened in an Army Hospital somewhere in the outskirts of Kuwait City.

He now felt himself being a little too cool and forced an eye open. It wasn't an Army Hospital, though he was certain of the memory. He was still in Iraq. For some reason they'd given him a respite from the box.

He was too weak to wonder why or to put up any struggle against what they were doing to him. He was in an average white tub, and strong hands were moving over him in some kind of washing ritual. He wondered if he were being prepared for death. But why would they go to the trouble?

***

Teal'c held the near unconscious man up out of the water to finish the washing. O'Neill had spent several hours in his 'corner' and subsequently vomited and urinated on himself. He was at least not fighting and actually opened his eyes, or one of them anyway.

They got him back in the bed and Janet thought she'd try something a little different since he was being docile. She held out a cup with a few ounces of water to O'Neill, touching his hands with it to let him know where it was. He grabbed for it like a man who'd been in a desert for a week and swallowed it greedily. She smiled at the positive response and took it back when he held it out to her. This time she filled it half full with juice.

He thought he was in heaven. Whatever possessed these enemies to be merciful was welcome. He didn't know what kind of juice it was, only that it was cold and sweet and slightly tart and it was wonderful. If he got home he was going to buy an orange grove. He held out the cup for more but it was taken and no more came.

Janet patted his arm gently, "Can't do too much at once, Sir. It will just make you sick after being empty for so long."

He slept deeply under a light cover and allowed himself to stretch out completely for the first time in it seemed days. He noticed that he was feeling a little better. They must have given him more nourishment then he thought; the effects of the dehydration were already reversing themselves. Even his head was clearer. He'd be able to watch and plan and with a lot of luck, escape.

His caretakers allowed themselves to relax a bit, too. They gathered around the single small table and watched him sleep.

"It's not over yet. There will still be some of the same effects we've seen but I think we're past the most severe phase."

"That's good to hear." Daniel replied. "I don't think any of us could take much more of that."

Carter touched his arm briefly, "You and Teal'c have had it the worst, I think. You've had to do all the cleaning and man-handling."

"It is simply what had to be done; what O'Neill would have done for any of us." Teal'c added.

"We'll he did it for me after that sarcophagus thing. Was I this bad?"

Carter blushed and glanced at Janet. Janet responded, "You were pretty bad, but then we had you in the infirmary and plenty of drugs and back up. I'm still not convinced we're doing the right thing for the Colonel."

"We were correct to not return to the SGC." Teal'c said. "I have been in contact with General Hammond. He tells me he has identified one infiltrator. He requests we continue with our current plans if there is no danger to O'Neill."

Janet nodded. "Well as I said, we're past the worst part. Might as well tough out the rest. However, all of us need rest. Teal'c, you've been awake for more than two days, I'm ordering you to Kel-no-reem, understood?"

He smiled slightly and nodded. He would never give an indication of the exhaustion he was feeling.

"And Daniel, you look like hell, go to bed."

"Well, thanks, was that a medical observation? If you don't mind, I'm starved. I'm going out for a hamburger or something, I'll sleep when I come back, deal?"

"That will leave only Doctor Fraiser and Major Carter to tend to O'Neill. That is not wise."

Carter smiled at Teal'c's worry for them, "Look at him, he's calm, quiet, he'll probably sleep for a day. We'll be fine. Go get some rest."

Teal'c opted for meditation before food and excused himself to the other room as Daniel left. He was going to make a quick run to his apartment while he was out.

They did have an hour of peace and quiet before O'Neill made his presence known again. At first there was some shaking and moaning, but Janet wasn't too concerned until he sat bolt upright in bed clutching his stomach.

"Ooh, spoke too soon, did I?" She went to his side and put a hand behind his shoulder for support.

"Should I wake Teal'c?"

"Not, yet. He was exhausted. Let's see how it goes, shall we?"

Carter fetched a basin and a damp washcloth and sat on the opposite side of the bed. Between the two of them they were able to keep him upright while he retched and brought up most of the juice he'd drank. They thought they were in the clear when they both noticed a familiar odor.

Carter looked at Janet who looked back with a glare. "No, you will *not* bother Teal'c with this. He's had to deal with it a lot more than we have. You've just been drafted as my nurse, and part of any nurses job is cleaning up poop."

Carter grimaced and let her head fall back. Nononono. No. No way, no how, not gonna-

Janet grabbed her hand and gave it a hard shake. "Yes, you will. We will. Come on." She let go of Sam and grasped the Colonel's near arm, pulling and pushing until she'd gotten it out of his shirt and then the shirt over his head. "Get his socks, would you?" Carter complied then came around the bed and as the Doctor swung O'Neill's legs out, she caught his arm and hoisted it over her shoulder. Fraiser got his other arm as they stood him up. The differences in their heights made it awkward but they did get him into the bathroom and standing in the tub.

"It will be easier if he can stay standing. Can you get a hold of his pants?"

The look on Carter's face was priceless and Fraiser let out a giggle in spite of the situation. "Okay, okay. You hold him up, I'll get the pants."

Carter had to stand in the tub with him to do it and as soon as she was set Fraiser disrobed him. All he was wearing were the hospital issue scrub pants she'd thought to bring along. Luckily she'd brought several pairs.

As Fraiser turned on the spray and got to work O'Neill slumped more heavily on Carter. She was painfully aware she was standing front to front with and hugging her buck-naked CO. As he leaned on her she realized it would be more efficient to hold him lower down but she absolutely refused to move her hands. She was *so* glad there'd be no mission report to write on this one.

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He knew what they were doing, these Iraqi women, they were cleaning him up to not 'offend' some higher official who would be seeing to his execution. He let them do as they wished. No point in taking out his anger on a couple of innocent women. He even assisted them to get him dressed when they were done. A simple pullover shirt and tie up pants like he'd worn in the infirmary back home.

He let them walk him to the bed. They gave him something hot to drink sweetened with a little honey. He sipped it slowly then handed the still half full cup back to them. They didn't insist he drink more so he was relatively sure it wasn't poisoned. The one with short blonde hair helped him lie down and pulled up a sheet to cover him. She didn't leave right away but sat on the edge of the bed for a few minutes looking at him rather sadly, he thought. He wondered if she did really look a little familiar to him or if he was just imagining it. She did have blonde hair like Sarah after all. He took her hand and quietly thanked her in Arabic.

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"No, Janet, I'm telling you he is still having flashbacks or something. He spoke in Arabic again. The drugs might be working out of his system but something else is wrong." Carter stood her ground. The two women were outside conversing while Teal'c stood guard. He had completed his meditations and already eaten the fruit Daniel brought for him.

"The only other thing it could be is the head injury. Maybe he's got a kind of amnesia. It's possible he's forgotten everything that's happened since Iraq."

"Wow, that's a lot to forget! You mean about the SGC and everything?"

"Unfortunately, yes. That would explain at least some of the way he's acted, if his memory is gone."

"So how does he get it back?"

"There are lots of treatment options, but it is really dependent on the amount of damage that is there. Truthfully, he either will remember or he won't. We can help a little by providing him with things that might jostle his memory, but it will still be up to him."

Carter lowered her head until her chin was resting in her hand, "Little things, huh. Okay."

Daniel had been let in on Fraiser's assessment of what may be going on with Jack and was now sitting quietly reading while Jack slept. He immediately lifted his head when he heard the soft snoring stop. Every time O'Neill awoke it had been an adventure; he was still sorry he missed the shower scene with Carter and Fraiser, if there ever was a Kodak moment that was it. He could have blackmailed Jack for a decade with it.

He smiled to his own thoughts and walked over to the bed, sitting down beside his friend. He knew he was awake though the Colonel gave no real indication of it.

"Jack. It's Daniel. I know you're awake but if you don't want to talk it's Okay. You've been through hell the past few days; but if you don't mind I'll talk to you. We've been friends a long time, want to hear about it?" With that Daniel proceeded to tell Jack about the first Abydos mission. He condensed it severely for the sake of time and to not bore the Colonel but he did make sure to dwell on the parts he knew had made an impression on Jack. He talked about Skaara and the Abydosian people and the first time they met up with the Jaffa.

At this point he noticed O'Neill was watching him intently. Every now and then it seemed a flicker of recognition would cross his face, but it didn't last. O'Neill was only partially listening to the tale, he was still shivering and his legs would twitch involuntarily. When he rolled over and hunched his arms around his stomach Daniel thought maybe it was enough for now. Janet had said small steps, one thing at a time, don't push too hard.

When O'Neill woke again he was alone in the room with Carter. She was sitting at the small table typing on her laptop. She noticed him sit up and nodded to him but didn't get up or stop what she was doing. He had a vague memory he'd seen this many times before and slowly got up and made his way over to her. He was very wobbly on his feet but finally made it and sat in a chair facing her.

She looked at him but didn't say a word. She stopped typing and smiled at him then slid an object across the table in his direction. He looked at it thoughtfully. It was blue and round and flattened, like a pulley. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands several times. He liked it. Something about it made him wonder if he'd done this before. He glanced up at Carter and then back at the 'doohickey' and smiled. Yeah, he *had* done this before. He knew it. This woman typing, and him toying with some object, it felt right.

He nodded to her and staggered back to the bed, his yo-yo in hand.

He didn't go back to sleep but lay down and curled up facing the wall. He had to figure this thing out. He was still sure he was in Iraq but nothing tracked anymore. This room for one thing, it was unfamiliar but he knew there should have been bars and chains, and no soft bed like this, if he got a blanket on the floor he was lucky.

These people didn't fit either; for one thing none of them were middle-eastern looking. Even the big black guy looked like the only way he'd fit into the scenario was as the Genie in Aladdin's lamp. All of them were familiar in some way. He looked down at the object in his hand and grimaced as he fought off a stomach cramp. He absent-mindedly began to massage his right knee where it ached from all the spasms he'd gone through.

Fraiser entered the room and was glad to see him awake, though not interacting. She sat lightly on the edge of the bed and touched his shoulder. "Colonel."

That was something else, why did it sound so comfortable for them to call him that; was he a Captain or not? He turned over and looked up at her. When she offered him a cup he sat up and accepted it, next she held out her hand with two Tylenol. "These will help the sore muscles and won't be too hard on your stomach." He hesitated a moment, vaguely wondering about being drugged but took them anyway and swallowed them with a sip of juice.

He slowly finished the juice and thanked her for it. She grinned when he spoke in English.

"I was wondering when you'd finally let us know what you were saying. You know the only one of us who speaks Arabic is Daniel, and you had him blushing."

O'Neill raised an eyebrow at her, he did remember using some rather strong language of late.

"Sir, I'd really like to check your wounds, lets start with your head." She gently touched a very sore sport on his head and mumbled to herself. "Good. No infection. Looks pretty clean, in a couple days I'll be able to take the sutures out." She lowered her gaze to his eyes, "Can you lie down for me? I'd like to check that graze on your side."

He did as she asked and she pulled up his shirt to get a better look. She ran her fingers around the area. "It would have been better if we'd been able to keep a bandage on it, but that didn't work did it?"

She actually winked at him! He was amazed she was being so informal. Her hands slid across his chest and pressed lightly over one of the still dark bruises making him jerk and grimace at the pain it evoked. "Hmm, just as I thought."

"Doc?" The word was out of his mouth before he could think about it.

She smiled at the hint of recognition. "It was broken, I'm sure of it. We should have had your chest wrapped now for over a week. I'm so sorry. The pain must have been unbearable whenever we moved you or you had a cramp. You're going to have a healthy knot there for a while."

He nodded. She was right; he'd been in misery, that's for sure.

Daniel had slipped in the room and was sitting at the table with Carter and now approached the bed, hands in his pockets.

"So, any time off for good behavior?"

Fraiser eyed him carefully, "Somewhere you need to go?"

"Oh, not me. I meant Jack. How about a walk outside?"

Janet glanced at the door and then back to O'Neill. "Okay, outside it is, but Colonel, don't go too far. You'll be surprised at how tired you'll get."

O'Neill's eyes brightened at the prospect of a change of scenery, that and the opportunity to determine once and for all in his mind whether he was in fact still in Iraq. He fully expected to see the sand colored stone walls and arched doorways so common to Middle Eastern culture. Even if they were in the center of a large city the architecture would be largely the same. The ground would be hard packed clay and if there was any pavement it would be stone.

He stood astonished only three steps outside the door. The buildings were brick or wood-sided, no stone, adobe or stucco, and there was plenty of gray concrete; the walkway, a small narrow parking lot, and the street with cracked sidewalks on either side with bits of grass and weeds poking through anywhere they could.

Across the street was an abandoned building. Every window had been broken out and the once well-manicured landscape plants had gone wild and overgrown to the point where parts of the building were completely obscured.

No sand, no rocks, no overwhelming lack of any color except beige or tan. It was the middle of the day and yet the air was cool. Perhaps the most amazing thing to him were the trees. There were a few scraggly uncared for deciduous ones but the vast majority were conifers of every size and shape. Well known for being long-lived and able to survive adverse conditions; they were thriving even with the lack of human attention. That was one thing he didn't expect to see; fir and pine trees.'

He considered he might be in a far northern province but quickly changed his mind. No, he wasn't in Iraq anymore. He suddenly felt the need to see as much as he could and took off walking at what he thought was a brisk pace, until he stumbled and had to make a grab for Daniel's arm to keep from falling. With an encouraging look from his friend he continued to walk at a substantially reduced pace still clutching Daniel's arm.

After fifteen minutes he was exhausted, luckily Daniel had already turned them back toward the room several minutes ago. Sam joined them at the end of the walkway and took O'Neill's arm opposite the one Daniel had so they supported him between them.

Once back in the room he took the opportunity for an un-chaperoned bathroom break. When he was done he took a look in the adjoining room.

It was dark, lit only by several candles but he could easily see the cross-legged figure against the far wall.

Teal'c was aware of the intrusion and opened his eyes. He spoke with an incredible softness in his voice, "It is god to se you, Colonel O'Neill. You are much improved."

He stepped forward into the room a short distance, not willing to venture in too far. "I've been better."

"You may join me if you wish. You have performed Kel-no-reem before, do you not remember?"

At once O'Neill had a flash of actually being *in* the massive body before him. He backed up against the wall. "I, uh, I'll pass on that."

He turned and quickly fled into the bathroom and flattened himself against the wall trying to slow his breathing. His mind was full of images and feelings; candles, warmth, relaxation, healing from within, from-

He clutched the center of his stomach with both hands. A Goa'uld! In him? No, it was in the other man, but he had been in the other man as well. He distinctly recalled the sensation of something alive writhing around in his gut. Once he composed himself he moved his hands and lifted the shirt to inspect the area still half expecting to see the crosshatched pouch opening of a Jaffa.

He broke out in a sweat at the relief it was not there and allowed himself to slide down the wall to the floor.

When he didn't return Daniel went looking for him and found him sitting in the dark on the bathroom floor. "Jack? What are- Are you all right?"

O'Neill raised his eyes to the now familiar face; he paused then raised his hand asking for a hand up. As soon as their hands clasped each other's forearms he felt the strength and surety of the younger man infuse him. When he was on his feet again he squeezed the younger man's arm and spoke his name for the first time. "Daniel."

He was met with a broad-faced grin and got a bear hug to boot. He was feeling better about this whole affair. Now if he could just finish putting the pieces back together.

That evening the whole group pow-wowed over Chinese take-out. Janet swore if she ever told Cassie about it she'd be in trouble for letting her miss out on a 'slumber-party'.

Teal'c took a spot on the floor and sat in his usual cross-legged pose. The bed had been shoved against the wall and Daniel and O'Neill were sitting crossways on it backs against the wall and legs stretched out, and the girls were seated at the table. Daniel and Teal'c had chosen the fare, which was mostly seafood and vegetables. Janet insisted O'Neill go easy on the food and fixed him a plate of only rice and a bit of sautéed chicken.

He complained loudly that he would never get his strength back if he couldn't *eat*, but she wouldn't relent. In teasing she wondered aloud if the Chinese weren't the inventors of Jell-O. He glared at her but got the meaning, it was this or nothing. He secretly knew he probably wouldn't finish the little bit she'd given him.

As the evening passed in quiet talking and reminiscing, O'Neill was remembering more and more, but he felt there was something missing, some gaps that weren't being filled in and he said so.

Sam refilled her cup of hot tea and poured another and handed it to O'Neill. She crawled onto the foot of the bed and scooted so she was seated beside O'Neill and stretched out her legs along side his. "So, what do you want to know?"

"Everything."

Janet grinned. "You think you could narrow that down a bit? We've been talking for an hour already."

He frowned. "Okay. Tell me about the last time we saw Hathor."

Daniel raised his eyebrows and gestured in Carter's direction. Her eyes fell. She knew what O'Neill was asking. Had he ever been 'blended'?

They spent another two hours recounting events of the past few years; O'Neill was able to remember more and more and soon was adding in pieces of his own.

"Wild horses. I said, 'wild horses, Teal'c' and then I realized you'd made a joke. Was that the first joke I ever heard you tell? I wanted to laugh, to slap you on the back or something but I couldn't move."

Teal'c nodded his head and smiled, "Indeed, I discerned your appreciation."

"You didn't leave me."

"I did not."

The two warriors held each other's gaze for several moments, exchanging once again a measure of brotherly fondness for each other.

After a while O'Neill's eyelids were getting heavy; it had been another long day of recovery for him. Teal'c excused himself to the other room and Sam made herself comfortable curled up in an upholstered chair while O'Neill stretched out on the bed to sleep.

Janet had finally decided it was safe to give O'Neill a bit of slack in their constant attention since he now seemed to be well on his way to full recovery. He was almost back to his old self except for being more quiet than normal. Considering all he was dealing with it was understandable. She and Daniel went out to a tiny café down the street for some very early morning coffee and something sweet.

***

The cell was hot, not unusual since the only movement of air came through one tiny window and the space under the heavy wooden door. He'd been relieved of his shirt and boots some time ago but the exposed skin only seemed to be even more affected by the dry air. They gave him a small scrap of cloth they referred to he thought 'loosely' as a blanket and he used it more as a barrier between himself and the dirt floor than as a cover.

He tried to sleep but was restless; whether it was from his own injuries or from hearing the others on the receiving end of their own, he didn't know.

Just after midday the heavy sound of booted feet stopped just beyond his door. As it opened he squinted at the sudden exposure to bright light. Two men entered and grabbed his upper arms and dragged him out, making no allowance for him to get to his feet and walk, they simply dragged him, twisting and flailing still trying to get up.

He was taken to a much larger room, bare except for the chains suspended from the ceiling. They shackled him in then forced him to stand on a chair. Once there the chain was pulled until his arms were tight above his head. He knew what was coming next. One of the men gave the chair a firm kick and it flew out from under him. He was now dangling like a fish on a hook.

Being held up and stretched out his pants seemed suddenly very loose; he wondered if they even might slide off, he'd lost so much weight while here. Should have cinched up the belt a little tighter.

A moment later it was a moot point. One of the guards undid his belt and the buttons on his BDU's and yanked them down and off along with his underwear. He knew they only wanted better access to any part of him they wished to torture, but it was quite unnerving even just to be left to hang, naked.

They did leave him alone for what seemed like hours. Every now and then he'd pull himself up to take a little pressure off his sore shoulders but it wasn't enough, and soon his arms were too numb to do it anymore. The sun went down and as the chill of the desert air filled the room through a large open window he began to shiver.

Some time well into the night his keepers returned. They turned on the dim single bulb overhead and wheeled a cart into the room. He grimaced as he realized what it was; several large batteries cabled together and an assortment of wires and clamps.

The first shock wasn't of electricity; it was from being doused with a bucket of cold water. His shivering reached painful proportions as they set up the equipment and prepared for the main event. "Bastards." He cursed at them under his breath as they began.

Sam was jostled from her sleep by the gasping breaths coming from the bed. She ran immediately to the Colonel's side to see what was wrong. He was shaking horribly and his skin was ice cold to her touch. She grabbed for the blanket he'd thrown off and tried to wrap him in it most unsuccessfully. He flailed and kicked and shoved at her effectively tangling himself up in the coverings.

As he became more entangled and she held on to him tighter, he fought back more, thrashing and rolling from side to side. She grabbed his face in her hands, "Colonel! Wake up!"

His eyes momentarily opened then rolled back in his head. He gasped and cried out in an increasing volume, becoming more frantic by the moment. He shook loose from her but she captured his head again. "Sir! It's Carter!"

When he pulled away from her again she held on with one hand and with the other gave him a hard slap across the cheek. When he stilled for a second, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a tight hug.

By this time Teal'c was standing at the doorway prepared to do whatever was necessary to assist. The Major held up one hand to him and leaned her head back to look at O'Neill. He was blinking, trying to wake up, and though he was still shaking, he wasn't fighting, just hugging her in return with all his strength.

She turned back to Teal'c and waved her hand at him and nodded at him. He nodded back to her once and after some hesitation departed to the other room. He would not meditate again tonight.

As the Colonel woke his breaths became more even and quiet. Sam stroked the back of his head with one hand. "It was a nightmare. A flashback. Janet said to expect them. It's Okay, it's over now. It's over."

He relaxed against her shoulder and let her words sink in. So real. It was so very real. He could feel every single shock he'd been given. He took in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. He was struck by the sudden intrusion of another memory, a waking one. One Carter had left out of the story she'd related about the death of Hathor.

He was cold and sitting on the floor hugging Carter, almost exactly like this. "Carter?"

"Sir? Are you all right now?"

He paused before answering. "I'm me. I'm me."

She felt the corners of her mouth rise up. "Yes, Sir. You are." She recalled the first time he spoke those words and figured he must have dreamt about being taken as a host. At least it wasn't Iraq again.

She leaned back, "Think you can go back to sleep?"

He looked down and shook his head. "Doubt it."

"You're exhausted. Come on, lie down." She grasped his shoulder and firmly guided him down to the bed. When she saw he was avoiding looking at her she continued, "There's no reason to be embarrassed, we've been through worse before."

She heard her own words as she spoke them. They *had* been through worse before, was *she* too self-conscious to offer him support now when he needed it? She shook her head and pressed her lips together tightly. Certainly she could handle this.

She lay down beside him and slipped her arm under his neck so she could pull him closer. "Come here. If you can't sleep, just rest. I'll be here."

"Carter, I don't want to put you in this position."

"I know." She nodded then looked deep into his eyes. "Just rest, for a little while."

He let the moment of their eye contact hold for several seconds before relaxing his head against her and allowing one arm to drape across her waist. He was asleep almost as soon as his eyes closed.

As he slept she watched him for a while, then with a sigh and an uncanny feeling this was one of those *so* bad ideas, she scooted down a little to make her head more comfortable and allowed herself to doze off.

When Janet and Daniel returned they opened the door and crept in to not disturb the Colonel. Daniel halted suddenly several steps into the room and threw his arm out to stop Janet from moving forward.

"Shh! Look!" He whispered and pointed at the bed.

She looked at the two asleep in the bed and grinned. Daniel grinned back, "Come on, let's see if Teal'c knows." He took her shoulder and pointed to the connecting bathroom doorway.

The next morning everyone was much refreshed. Janet made a quick assessment of O'Neill's condition and removed the stitches from his head wound. "As far as I'm concerned Colonel, its time we got back to the SGC. It's been over a week and you're remembering more all the time. You haven't had any relapses or shakes for two days except that last nightmare. There's no reason to stay out here anymore."

"What about the NID and their moles?" Daniel asked.

"There will always be some compromise of base security. They *are* working under our own government you know." Carter told him. "As long as there *is* an SGC there will be some dangers from within our own ranks. We just need to remember that. I spoke with General Hammond this morning and he believes the base is as secure as it can be."

They all gathered up their things and O'Neill dressed in the clothing Daniel had provided, finally feeling completely like himself in his own garments. He knew Fraiser would keep him off duty for another week or so, but for all intentions he was back. When he emerged from the bathroom Carter was just zipping up her bag on the bed. He moved over close to her.

"Carter, about last night-"

She stiffened then stood up and faced him, "Yes, Sir?"

He tried not to wince at the formality. "Just thank you- for everything." He paused and added "Major."

She felt a touch of moisture behind her eyes and lowered them for a moment. She really was glad he was getting better; he was once again the image of her CO. When she looked up he hadn't moved; he was still looking at her with a gentle but sad expression on his face. She managed to smile, just a little, and he responded with a nod and blink of his eyes. "Time to go."

Epilogue

Fraiser met with General Hammond early the next morning, she'd insisted O'Neill remain in the infirmary overnight but was now ready to send him home for a week to get his bearings and recuperate.

"You understand this is going to be a long-term recovery. Colonel O'Neill will be fit for duty soon but this is not something he will just 'get over'. He's had a serious relapse of the PTSD he had when he first got back from Iraq. He will continue to have nightmares and possibly momentary flashbacks for some time yet. I'm recommending weekly psych evals for a month, then we'll go to monthly for awhile if he's handling it Okay."

"With Mackenzie? If you think that's best. Colonel O'Neill will not be pleased."

"Actually I thought he might have an initial assessment by Doctor Mackenzie and then I could do the follow up. It's not directly related to work here at the SGC and it *is* just follow up. If there were any problems, of course I'd defer to Mackenzie."

"Doctor Mackenzie would agree to this?"

"Given the-" She paused, "somewhat adversarial relationship between them, yes, I think he would."

Hammond leaned back in his chair, he knew how much O'Neill hated psychiatric care but he wanted the best for his 2IC. He leaned forward and steepled his fingers on the desk. "Doctor, you're certain this is best for O'Neill?"

"Sir, I have seen some amazing things over the past ten days. I've seen a man so drugged, disoriented and broken he didn't know which way was up being cared for on a minute-to-minute basis by people who are much more than friends. Not once was there a refusal to help or even a lack of patience on their part. And believe me there were times it was warranted. There may have been a tiny bit of hesitation occasionally, but they came through for him. I'd say with the continued interaction with his team Colonel O'Neill has an excellent prognosis. I doubt he really even needs the week off but for his physical injuries. And, I am prescribing he is frequently visited by his team while at home. They've already decided what to use as an 'excuse'. They're going to tell him I won't let him back on duty until he's gained his weight back and they're intent on 'fattening' him up."

Hammond was grinning so she continued on a slightly more serious note. "General, support is probably the most key ingredient to recovery other than personal resolve and the Colonel has the strongest support system I've ever seen- SG-1."

Hammond nodded and dismissed her with his approval. He stood at his window overlooking the Stargate and clasped his hands behind his back. It would be good to have SG-1 back in the fold, all of them.

~fin

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