CONTENT WARNING: Torture, abuse, implied rape, sexual situations, character death. This is not a nice fic. You have been warned.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story was a response to Heliopolis Challenge #1,483, back in 2001. The requirements were: a) Jack becomes the Goa'uld in the Season Three episode 'Into The Fire', b) Hathor makes him kill Daniel and Sam, c) and it has to be S/J!

Good Friend Lost

--- prologue ---

I have taken my host.

He is not young, but he is strong. Healthy and knowledgeable in the ways of the Tau'ri.

I chose well, indeed.

His anger stirs within me, mingled with his fear and his loathing. He has gone from the one who hates to the one who is hated, and he knows what will be the fate of the two with whom he has come here. I will have to be careful of this host, for his mind, like his body, is strong. On the planet of the Tau'ri, he has been trained in the art of battle, and among those trainings are the ways to combat control of the mind.

Even as I rise from the place where I was born, I feel his struggle within me and delight in the emotions he feeds me. Anger, fear, horror, pain. They are pleasure to my senses, a heady draught of power.

Let him struggle against me if he feels the need. When he sees his friends' deaths, he will know despair in full measure.

--- the man who was ---

They flung us into a cell together. There's no privacy, but it's better than being separated and wondering what the hell is happening to the other.

Sam is pacing restlessly – one of Jack's habits that has evidently worn off on her... Oh God, Jack...

Jack is a goa'uld, now.

I sit on the floor, trying to blot out the last sight of Jack: lying on the table as the goa'uld parasite enters his body through the neck. The sudden rigidity of the limbs, the horror on Jack's face and the slow, twisted struggle for dominance by host and parasite...

Other memories flood in.

Meeting Colonel Jack O'Neill for the first time. Watching as the dark eyes travel up and down my form: only a little shorter, but much slighter than he. Seeing his distaste for someone he considers a 'geek'.

Looking across the room at him in Abydos after we defeated Ra. Seeing the dark eyes gleam with a measure of respect. I have been measured to Jack O'Neill's measure and not found wanting.

Going forth to greet him in the temple as he and the others come through. Hearing the sardonic voice declare, "Hello, Daniel."

Exasperation ringing in his voice, we argue about the importance of exploring the Broca Divide. I can see from his eyes that he finds my interest in all things archaeological bewildering, just as he finds Sam's fascination with all things scientific frustrating.

The expression on his face as he left me behind on Apophis' ship. The grin on his face when I greeted him in the gateroom. The rough approval of his voice as he hugged me: "Spacemonkey."

Pity is in his eyes as he surveys me sobbing in the storeroom where I've taken refuge. "Oh God, look at you! I know what this is. I know what it's like. We'll get through it."

He's furious as the General informs us that his orders are to wait until the Salish migrate for the winter, then take the trinium. Sam, Teal'c and myself stand equally angry or horrified, but Jack is the focus of our emotions: frustrated as all hell with the blind idiocy of the orders.

His hands reach for paper, pencil, and ruler and he begins drawing with manic intensity. My questions and Janet's go unanswered except for the note he scribbles: SHUT UP AND GO AWAY. Sam and other SGC personnel are dying on a planet burning up with two suns, and the DHD is broken. Jack's knowledge of the builders of the Stargate – the knowledge only I believe he has in his head – is the only thing that can save them.

"Describe for me the dress your sister wore last week when I took her out." Only Jack. In Machello's aged body, I can't quite manage a smile, but my reply is as much of a laugh as possible: "I don't have a sister, Jack. And if I did, I wouldn't let you near her."

Standing with the look of revulsion on his face as Hathor holds the goa'uld up to his face.

It has chosen its host.

It has taken its host.

"Hello, Dr. Jackson."

The harmonics of the voice crawl through Sam and I and we clamber to our feet and stare at the goa'uld who addresses us from beyond the bars.

The dark eyes of Jack O'Neill look at us, but the being that stares out from behind them is alien beyond words. There is a smile on its face such as we never saw on Jack. Malicious joy.

Without realising it, we've drawn closer together. A united front against the goa'uld. The goa'uld that wears the face of our friend.

"Carter."

There is no contact between us, but I feel her shudder as if it was my own body responding. Prickles of cold skitter down the back of my shoulders and arms.

Nothing will ever be the same.

"This will be so much fun," hisses the goa'uld. "My queen has granted me you two as my personal slaves..."

Nothing.

Sam closes her eyes beside me – I see the slow lowering of her lids. Usually when she's nervous or uncertain, her eyes go to Jack. It's more than just reassurance or leadership, he's her barometer, measuring the pressure of the situation. He was her barometer.

Not any more.

Personal slaves.

What kind of slavery?

The answer comes a moment later as the guards step into the cell.

We struggle. At least, I try; Sam nearly breaks free.

Nearly.

As her would-be jailers crumple under her blows, she turns to deal with the Jaffa who holds me captive, but finds herself facing the goa'uld. I see the sudden breathless agony in her eyes as she tries to strike, but her heart isn't in it. Even as she aims for the solar plexus in a move that would leave a human gasping, the goa'uld turns and the blow glances across the ribcage. Its hands grasp her shoulder and wrist and it flings her back against the bars with casual ease.

Sam tries to recover, but the goa'uld disables her with a headlock, choking her to insensibility. She folds up, unconscious at its feet. Jack's face looks at me and smiles at my expression of horror. "This host has much knowledge that will prove useful in our fight against the System Lords and the Tau'ri."

Everything Jack knew...in the hands of Hathor. Everything.

From the Air Force military rankings, to GDO codes for the iris across the Earth Stargate; from the address of Sam's house, to the address for the Asgard homeworld.

I'm shaking. I'm shaking so hard that my teeth chatter and my knees give way.

I'm hauled to my feet as the goa'uld barks a command and another jaffa comes to take Sam. His treatment of her is less than gentle, and he receives a snarled reprimand from the goa'uld. We are taken to a room richly decorated in ancient Egyptian style. My eyes flicker over the walls and furniture, but I am given no time to study the design.

They drag me to the wall on the other side of the room, and fasten me into smooth manacles – wrists, ankles, neck. The material is bright as silver, but strong. I tug at the chains, experimentally, and the goa'uld laughs, watching me with dark eyes. Jack's eyes.

Sam is laid down on the bed, and the creature takes up what looks like a needle, and injects the contents into her arm. After a moment, her body shudders in reaction to whatever drug they have given her, and she writhes uneasily on the bed but doesn't awaken. Not yet.

The goa'uld looks at me, and smiles. "He felt attraction for this woman, did he not?" One hand reaches for the buttons along the shoulder of Sam's top. With one powerful fluid movement it rips the material from her, exposing her flesh to his sight. Cream-coloured material is torn away to reveal creamy pale flesh, and the goa'uld looks upon her hungrily.

Understanding of what is about to happen courses through me and my gorge rises in rebellion. I retch wildly, spewing bitter stomach juices to the floor, and the thing laughs at my misery. "Watch, Tau'ri, and remember..."

With that, the goa'uld undresses.

I can close my eyes, but not my ears. And what I hear will never ever leave me.

This time, at least, the goa'uld is not bent on pain, but on pleasure. Sam responds, drugged as she is, to the man she thinks is making love to her.

Dear God, if you're out there, if there's anything merciful in you, please-please-please-please-please don't let her remember this. Let the drugs erase this memory from her mind forever, because I'm not sure that Sam can live with it. I don't know that I can live with it.

It's over at last, and the creaure rises from the bed, throwing a robe over its nakedness – Jack's nakedness. It comes to stand before me, and smiles – Jack's smile.

I have to stop doing this. I know I do. But I can't. I can't look at the body of the man who was my friend – my brother! – and see the thing in him and not think of the man he was. The goa'uld tips my chin up and I look into Jack's eyes, knowing I'm betraying my fear, but unable to hide it.

"Now you know what Hathor expects of you, Tau'ri." It watches as my panic rises. "Serve well," it looks to the bed where Sam lies, "And there will be pleasure beyond imagining. If you fail to please...there are other ways that can be used to torment you."

It flicks its fingers at the emotionless guards, and they step towards me and unchain me. I try to struggle, but the creature grabs me by the throat and holds me against the wall, cutting off my breath. I clutch at the arm, and look into dark eyes that once regarded me with disdain, respect, amusement, mischief, pity, anger, irritation, concern, friendship.

Not any more.

It releases me and I drop gasping to the floor.

If only it was a nightmare and I could wake up!

As they drag me away, the goa'uld turns back to the woman on the bed and smiles.

Jack's smile.

--- the monster who is ---

It's been over two weeks.

Eighteen days.

Forever.

My life is simple enough. I wait on Kor'esh, the goa'uld who has taken my friend's body. Hand and foot. He is the master, and I the slave.

I serve well.

I serve very well.

I tried rebelling at first. Small acts of disobedience that were satisfying if not conducive to escape. At first, they beat me, and I lived with the bruises and the aches, and smiled grimly to myself at night.

Then Koresh taught me what would be the future price for my disobedience. It got inventive. Dragged to the 'watching post' in its room, I was forced to watch it play bedgames with Sam.

When I tried to close my eyes against what I was seeing, the creature threatened it would extend the 'punishment'. After they dragged me away, I spent the night trying to blot the memory out and failing miserably.

I'm sorry, Sam!

I serve well.

I serve very well.

Of the two of us, Sam is the more fortunate.

Maybe.

They drug her every evening, just before Kor'esh comes to her. The drug renders her incapable of fighting, but more than capable of response. The goa'uld doesn't enjoy an unresponsive partner.

It must do something to her memory, too, because she no longer recognises me. Blue eyes stare blankly at me when I am called in to serve the goa'uld, and it hurts. It hurts because we are all that is left to each other after the goa'uld took Jack, and they've taken her from me, too.

Jack, Teal'c, and Sam were my family.

They were the most important people to me in the galaxy after Sha'ure.

Sha'ure is still out somewhere among the stars, trapped in her body as Jack is trapped in his.

Teal'c...I don't know what happened to him – only that if he was indeed caught by the goa'uld, he is dead. They would never let the shol'va – the traitor – live.

And Sam spends her day sitting on a silk-covered bed, picking at the sheets like a human vegetable, and her nights in bed with Kor'esh.

I can't run, even if I wanted to.

I can't leave Sam behind.

So I serve. One day at a time.

Forever.

----

Today is different.

Something has happened elsewhere, something involving a great deal of yelling and running. Something that takes attention away from one more slave.

I am unnoticed.

Yesterday, when I saw Sam, I thought I saw the faintest hint of recognition in her eyes before they dragged me away that time. Just a hint. Enough to light the candle of hope.

They drug her during the evening. Just before Kor'esh goes to her. I want to kick myself for not realising it sooner. Stupid Dr. Jackson! Your head in the archaeological clouds and no grip on reality! If they need to re-inject the drug because it wears off, then she would be lucid in the afternoon. The late afternoon.

Now.

Headed towards Kor'esh's private chamber on the ship, nobody gives me a second glance. I move in the shuffle expected of a slave. Too terrified to rebel, too weak to oppose. That's what they think. I won't disabuse them of that notion. Not yet. Not until I find Sam.

The doors open with a smooth hiss, revealing the gold-and-white lighting of the bedroom and the huge bed that dominates the chamber. The woman seated on the bed turns sharply, her body tense, bare arms up in defence mode. She stares at me and I stare at her.

"Daniel?" The name that nobody else has uttered in nearly three weeks is like a blessing.

She recognises me!

I'm up on the bed and hugging her without any recollection of getting there. She flinches at the contact for a moment, then hugs me back tightly. I can feel her desperation as clearly as if it is passed through the thin gauze of her clothing. "Sam."

"Daniel. Oh, God...Daniel." She's crying and so am I. It's been so long since we've had contact – real contact – with each other. It was bad enough when they told us we were the only one of our team left alive and that everyone we knew was dead. Since that day, the loneliness has been a thousand times worse.

She recognises me – but only until they come to give her the drugs. Until Kor'esh comes for her.

Kor'esh.

I don't want to know what it's done to her – I don't. But compassion and friendship and love compel me to ask: "Sam...how bad is it?"

Her voice is a cracked whisper over my shoulder, the thin thread of hysteria winding through it. "I...God, Daniel...it's Jack – his body, his hands... but it's not... and... and... he uses me... and laughs at me as he... and the drugs... I can't resist them... I can't resist him..."

Her body trembles in my arms and I hold her tighter, trying to convey all the sympathy and love I have for her. Do I ask her about what it does to her? Do I make her live through it again, or do I get her to expel it from her soul? She needn't keep secrets from me if they're going to rip her apart in the keeping.

"You don't have to be strong for me, Sam."

"No," she whispers. "I don't. But I have to be strong for myself...or I'll go mad."

She pulls away from me, and as she does so she pulls herself together. For a moment, she is once again the self-possessed Air Force Captain. Then something in her sags a little, and the self-possession rubs away, showing weariness and fear and a haunted look in her eyes. One hand slips into the loose blonde hair and massages her skull gently. "They're giving me drugs of some kind."

"I've seen them do it. I'm sorry I can't ..."

One hand touches my arm, and she shakes her head. "I know the drugs to do something to my will, but I think they also do something to my memory." Her voice still hasn't risen above the husky whisper. Is it just a need for secrecy, or does Kor'esh require her silence along with her submission? "I...I have these gaps in my day. Like something happened but I can't remember what." There's frustration in her voice. Sam Carter, sharp as a razor blade, isn't used to these kind of lapses. A bitter smile crosses her face and the haunted look slips back in, "Unfortunately the parts I want to forget aren't the things I'm forgetting."

No prizes for guessing exactly what she wants to forget.

But there's something else gnawing at her.

"What is it?"

For a moment, I'm not sure she'll share it with me. Then: "Martouf told me once... with the Tok'ra, what one feels, the other feels. He and Lantash, and Jolinar and Rosha, they couldn't distinguish who felt what. Body chemistry influences the mind – and the body chemistry of the host will affect the goa'uld..."

Suddenly I realise where she's going. "You're afraid Jack...uh...desired you...and that made the goa'uld..." I trail off. What a mess!

I always knew there was chemistry between those two. You'd have to be blind not to see it. The jokes, the smiles, the teasing, the concern. But they're both strong-willed people, professionals who wouldn't let personal issues get caught up in their teamwork. It was both a blessing and a curse.

My hand reaches out and catches hers. "Kor'esh would have taken you no matter who his host was." I grip her fingers tightly and receive a similarly fierce grip in return. "If it'd been me..." I wince.

"I'd still be doing bedroom duty," she says with a ghost of her own humour again. Then she casts away her own worries and fears and nightmares and looks at me. "Daniel... has Hathor... tried anything on you?"

I try to pull my fingers from hers, and she won't let me. Her grip is firm, but not harsh, and her eyes are understanding. It would be much easier if she was revolted by what had happened. "How are you?"

Breathe deeply, stay calm, don't think of... Oh God. I can't look her in the eyes and say it, but I have to tell her. She was honest with me, this honesty is owed her in return. "About as together as any person who's been raped." The words are hard and bitter to say.

It's a warning to her. She can hide it all she likes, but there are dark and horrible things I know she's hiding from me – the same way I'm hiding those things from her. And, friend though I am, it is a relief to know I don't have to live with the extended knowledge of what the goa'uld does to her each night.

In return for that mercy, I won't burden her with any more than the knowledge that my fate hasn't been much better than hers. At least Hathor doesn't keep me chained to the bed. It's horrible enough to be taken against your will... Don't think of it, Daniel! Guilt and horror and anger and shame writhe through me, smearing darkness through my soul.

At least, in the SGC, that time, it was my own drugged choice. I was enchanted, she was beautiful to my misted eyes and so... Revulsion came only after I woke from the haze of her spell.

No such haze cushions me now.

It's Sam's turn to take me into her arms and hold me. Perhaps I should panic at the touch – the intimacy of it. Hathor's touch has scarred me as Kor'esh's has scarred her. The only thing between us is the thin material of her robe and it hides nothing but the texture of the skin beneath. But this isn't a sexual hug, or even a sensual one. It's comfort and therapy from a friend who happens to be female. And the tactile contact is a reminder that we are still here and whole in body if not sound of mind, and we are here for each other.

"How are we going to get out of here?"

"I don't know that we are, Sam."

She nods. No Stargate, no pilots to fly Death Gliders, not even the knowledge of where we are in the galaxy. "Then we blow the ship."

It's not our choice of life, but it's our choice of death.

"Ummm... I don't suppose you've noticed that we're a little short on C4?"

Her smile is faint, and she gives me a look similar to the ones she used to give Jack when he asked a stupid question. "Daniel, anything that creates energy can be made to explode just by shutting off the output. A nuclear reactor forms the basis of a nuclear bomb. A naquadah reactor would be no different." Her teeth gently massage her lower lip, "What's the layout of the ship?"

I try to explain to her what I've seen of the ship, drawing diagrams as best I can on the bedsheets linen. It's convoluted, and definitely not to scale, but we recognise a certain similarity from Apophis' ship a year ago. Makes sense. The goa'uld are not inventors. They steal, adapt, and destroy, but they don't create – unless it's havoc, mayhem, pain, and cruelty.

Whatever the drugs do to her will and her memory, they haven't destroyed the scientist in her yet. She analyses the layout of the ship, compares it with her memory of Apophis' ship, and comes up with an area that probably holds at least one set of reactors – possibly for the power of the ship.

"This isn't going to happen tomorrow, Daniel," she says a moment after determining the most likely point for sabotage. "I...well I can't go anywhere on the ship. You're going to have to be my eyes and ears and hands in this."

My smile is grim, "We have time. Kor'esh enjoys holding onto the knowledge Hathor wants of the Tau'ri and the System Lords. She needs him, so he gets special treatment, and he doles out the information like a miser."

"Maybe Jack's trying to frustrate the goa'uld," she suggests. "Ska'ara could prevent Klor'el from activating the ribbon device on you in Apophis' ship, and Sha'ure blinded Amonet on Abydos..."

It's something that Jack would try to do, of course.

Whether he's actually doing it, or Kor'esh is just a contrary bastard, we don't know. But we'll take all the help we can get.

"I'd better go," I tell her. "Something happened this afternoon and I was able to slip away..."

"...but you don't know how long before they'll miss you." She nods, but I can see she's reluctant to let me go.

Truthfully, I'm reluctant to leave her. We're alone on a goa'uld ship, imprisoned, enslaved, abused, and suicidal. It doesn't get a whole lot worse than this.

"Go," she tells me after an uncomfortable moment. "See if you can get here tomorrow. I'll..." she looks down and swallows. "I'll still be here."

Our arms go around each other like a pair of frightened children and I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I'll be back tomorrow.

I'm just about to let go, when the voice comes quietly from the doorway: "Take your hands from her, Daniel."

I freeze, and so does Sam. We've tried to tell ourselves it's not Jack speaking – it's not our friend. But this voice carries no harmonic overtones and after nearly a month of hearing only the goa'uld voice, it shocks us.

I turn, and he's standing there in the doorway, lean and angry. "Jack?" The word escapes my lips before I can stop it. It's not Jack, I know. Jack might be in there somewhere, but he's not the one doing the speaking, thinking or moving for this body.

"Take your hands from Sam, Danny-boy." The threat is ugly and dangerous. I've heard the note in his voice directed at me once before – when he was infected by the virus from the Land of the Dark. Then, as now, I showed basic concern for Sam, and found myself facing a creature in a jealous rage.

The danger is now I don't know who I'm facing. Jack, or the creature in his body. Worse still, the creature in Jack's body influenced by Jack's feeling for Sam, but without his restraints.

Sam and I look at each other, fear leaping high in our eyes, but refuse to let go.

Closer comes the goa'uld, and closer.

It reaches the edge of the bed and the eyes flash gold as it reaches in and seizes my throat in a grip of iron. I am torn from Sam's grasp and flung off the bed. Ouch. New bruises on top of the old. I have time to wonder what my punishment will be, when the creature turns to Sam.

She's trembling, fear paralysing her as it runs a finger lightly inside her collar. "I will enjoy your punishment, little slave." The harmonics of the goa'uld voice have returned as long fingers stroke down her throat and over her collarbone and she jerks away, revulsion all over her features. It's hand fists in the front of her gown as I launch myself at the goa'uld, pushing ineffectually.

It catches my arm, letting go of Sam's. It takes two steps away from the bed, and twists it behind my back, forcing me to my knees. "Do you think to best me, Tau'ri? To touch what is mine?" There is rage in the voice as it hisses. "To take what belongs to your master?" Strong hands crush my arm as I let out a hissing groan of pain. In a minute, if it keeps twisting, I'm gonna have a dislocated shoulder...

"Stop!" Sam's voice cuts through the agony, cracking in her desperation. "Kor'esh, please!"

"You dare to beg for him?" Her intervention only enrages the goa'uld further. With a single command, he orders the guards in, and I am dragged away, my head turning to meet Sam's terrified gaze until the wall breaks into our line of sight.

They chain me up in a cell, arms apart, over my head, my legs trailing on the floor. Not the most comfortable position to be in, but this isn't about comfort.

A moment later, the door slides back and a struggling Sam is hauled in by Kor'esh. I catch her eye, and suddenly know what is going to happen. I'm going to be tortured and Sam's going to watch. It's a reverse of what happened when Kor'esh first came to gloat over us in Jack's body.

Kor'esh lets her go, and she takes two steps towards me and slams into a force-shield between us. I see the shock on her face and then the terror that overtakes her as Kor'esh comes up behind her and traces a finger down her back. "So you see, little slave. You cannot help him."

His hands close over her upper arms and he pulls her back from the force field. Within seconds, a man comes in and the torture begins.

It begins as purely physical pain. Outside torment that wears me down until I can't keep the silence I swore to keep and find myself screaming until my vocal chords are raw.

It only makes it worse to watch Sam through the force field. She's bitten through her lip, blood staining her mouth, and her fingernails are digging crescents into her palm. Over her shoulder, the face of my friend is visible, watching in unguarded glee as the torture takes it's slow toll on me. I keep telling myself it's his face, not him, but as the pain progresses, I can no longer tell the difference.

First beatings, then a whipping. At first I take the weight of my body on my feet, but as time passes and blood trickles down my legs, I begin to hang from my arms. It puts strain on my shoulders, but I'm beyond caring. Everything hurts. Even my gasps for air, futile as a fish out of water, hurt the lacerated muscles of my back.

Sam stands there, her arms held behind her back, flinching at each lash, at each blow. Our eyes meet, and I see in them the apology for her helplessness, her guilt at not being strong enough to overcome the goa'uld who laughs over her shoulder.

The lashes stop, and I close my eyes at the brief respite knowing without being told that more is coming and that it will be worse.

Something cold touches my spine, and I discover how much worse it is.

Whatever it is rips through my nerves like a saw through silk. Cancerous pain sears through my muscles and into my raw nerve-endings. It tears through my body, spreading out from the point of contact like a flower: electrifying agony – like a prolonged jolt from a cattle prod.

The Goa'uld are the masters of pain. How to cause it, how to inflict it. They can peel back the layers of sanity with breathtaking care, leaving the soft, fleshy suffering ripe for their consumption. And my pain is sweet to the creature who wears the body of my friend like a mask.

Time passes and the roaring agony in my body is echoed in the screams that I can't hold in any longer. Still, clear as a snatch of music in a quiet, dark room; I can hear Sam's sobs and the goa'uld's laughter in counterpoint to my cries.

At last the torture stops, and I hang limply from the manacles. It's an effort to raise my head and look at the creature who put me here, and the woman he possesses jealously.

Sam is fighting the creature again, not the combat fighting of a trained Air Force Captain, but the fists and knees and fingernails of a desperate woman. The goa'uld has her trapped against the wall, and backhands her viciously at the same time as she manages to get her knee hard in its groin.

As she goes down, hitting her head on the floor and lying there stunned, the goa'uld rises. It is evidently in pain, for the expression on Jack's face is a stiff grimace, and there is a deadly resolution in the eyes as it brings down the shield and comes to stand before me. A gesture and a sharp barked command sends the torturer away.

I let my head hang again, unwilling to see the face of my friend causing such pain.

Its finger touches my chin, and the creature says quietly: "I'm sorry, Daniel."

Sorry? I almost choke with laughter. The damned goa'uld is sorry?

Then it hits me. The words aren't in the goa'uld's voice. With effort, I raise my head, convinced this is a new trick. A new hallucination brought on by tiredness and pain.

Then I feel the faint twinge in my chest and stare down at the tide of red pouring from the wound in my chest.

Sam screams my name, her voice raw with emotion.

I look up into Jack's eyes.

Jack's eyes.

Grief and guilt and horror and anguish...emotions the goa'uld has never known – only inflicted. But behind them, the determination not to let me suffer any longer. Mercy.

Sam screams for me again, her voice trailing into a sob of despair, and Jack's head jerks up with horror spilling across the rugged features as he turns. "God, Carter!"

But before he can go to her, his eyes flash bright gold as the creature takes back the body stolen from it – the body it stole eighteen days ago.

Fury blossoms forth across its expression – fury that its host managed to overcome it, however briefly. Fury because its enjoyment was muted and cut short.

Sam is still sobbing, and Kor'esh strides to her and takes her head in its hands. It looks from her face to mine, and as darkness spreads to my mind, I see the creature bare its teeth in a hiss of malevolence. It twists Sam's head brutally.

Her neck snaps like a twig and her head lolls on her shoulder in an unnatural pose.

I gather enough energy to breathe her name, a benediction of agony in my lungs as my strength ebbs from me.

"Sam..."

Then darkness claims me like a lover.

- fin -