Heir To A Legacy : The Inheritance
Heir To A Legacy : The Inheritance Written by Yum@
Comments? Write to me at YuMaDesign@aol.com

On April 12th of 1991, right after I returned from Iraq, I visited Steve Trebek of the 27th division in the Mental Ward of the Veterans Hospital near the base in Germany. He was…rescued after six months in a Middle East prison, two months before my incarceration.

He…he didn't look good.

Half-glazed blue eyes stared at me like I was some sort of stranger, not a person who had been through twelve missions with him in the past three years. He said my name like as if it was a new word and then rubbed his head against the soft padding of the walls.

Then he started crying, rocking slightly as he hugged himself, apologizing for being this way, begging for help, begging me to make the screaming stop. I couldn't stand there and watch someone who attended my wedding with Sara bang his head on the wall. I could almost see the scars of prison on him as clearly as I could see mine each morning when I try not to look at the mirror. So I went over there, went down on my knees in front of him and said his name quietly.

Steve grabbed me, arms around me and clutched at me like I was some lifesaver tossed over to him in the surge of a storm.

I knelt there stiffly, but didn't want to yell for help because I knew he wouldn't hurt me. This was Steve. This was the guy I always placed hockey bets with, even though the guy lost each time. It was tradition and Steve went right along with it.

So I sat there, Steve squeezing the air out of me, thinking to myself that there should be something more that I could do. I've been there. Right? I of all people should know what it's liked to wake up hearing the dead screaming your name.

Steve whispered thank you and all I could do was awkwardly pat him on the back.

I didn't realize he took my pen from my jacket pocket and stabbed himself three times with it until I felt the warm blood staining the front of my shirt.

So on April 13, 1991, on an unseasonably warm day, I stood in the Arlington cemetery, in my dress uniform, saluting as Steve's coffin went by me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Everything checks out okay, Colonel." Doctor Warner said as he pulled off his gloves with a snap. I sat there on that gurney, watching as Doctor Fraiser opened her mouth to a medic and making comments as he took her blood pressure.

Even being a patient herself, she's still giving out orders. Once a Doc…always a Doc.

"Sir?"

Carter. I grinned as I saw her walk in. "Well, Major. How's our walking cure doing?"

She flushed. You know, I think that's the first time I've actually seen her blush. Then she waved her hands toward Fraiser, who was still going on about the blood count as the medic stuck a needle in her arm.

"How's the checkup going?" Carter asked.

"Fine." I said curtly. "I think Warner here has a crush on me. Man does not want me to leave here."

The Major just grinned. "Well, we've got to check on the blood count, see if there's any remains of the-"

"I know, I know." I was getting annoyed. I could see the twin bandage on her arm, indicating that she was done already. "How's Teal'c doing?"

"He's improving. They're keeping him here overnight to be on the safe side. His larvae is looking good."

I made a face. Larvae? Looking good? It's like saying Maybourne was a saint. Some words just don't go together. But Junior's what's keeping the big guy alive so as long as I don't have to keep that slimy thing in my back pocket, then I'm okay with it.

Just don't ask me to pet it.

"Well, you're free to go, Colonel O'Neill." Warner never got to finish as I jumped off the gurney and grabbed for my fatigues. When he coughed, I looked up finally.

Carter was looking around anywhere but me and that's when I realized that in my haste, I was going to get dressed right in front of her.

"Do you mind?" I raised an eyebrow towards her.

Carter grinned, the cheeky little…I ought to…

Wait a minute.

"Carter!"

"I'm not helping you dress, sir." Carter quipped as she stopped midway from leaving the infirmary.

Ha ha, Major. Very funny.

"Where's Daniel?" Last time I saw him was at the observation booth, sealed away from us, riveted to the scene in front of him of us succumbing to the madness that had taken him before. I remember seeing his blue eyes looking like saucer plates as he stared through the glass, leaning so close to it, I thought he was going to jump through to help us. And then he was with us, anxiously waiting for Teal'c to wake up, watching as Fraiser injected the stuff Carter whipped up, literally, in the lab.

But now…he was nowhere in sight.

Carter frowned. "That's funny. He was with me as I got my checkup in the other room and then said he was going to go back to see Teal'c. But he never returned."

I shrugged. "Probably still with Teal'c then. I'm going to go over there, too."

"With or without clothes…sir?"

I glared at her. "What do you think…Major?"

Carter lazily waved a hand at me. "I think I'll be in the labs, sir." And she left before I could run after her bellowing, which probably wouldn't be good since I didn't have my pants on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After getting dressed, I stuck my feet into my boots, not bothering to tie them up. Now if it were Danny boy, I would have told him to tie them up, triple lace them and then staple the ends to his boots. Man has always managed to find a way to make even a paper cut into a full-scale trip to the ICU.

I nodded to a half dozen people I knew but couldn't remember their names at the moment as I strolled down to the room where Teal'c was. At first glance, I was glad to see the oxygen tent taken down and the big guy sitting up in the bed.

With the weirdest look on his face.

I first thought maybe we'd miscounted and he still had one of those…things swimming around in his brain doing the back flip when he turned towards me and nodded.

"O'Neill."

"Teal'c." I grinned as I checked out the room. "Came to see how you were doing, buddy."

He nodded again. "I thank you, O'Neill. I was gratified to hear that although yourself, Major Carter, and Doctor Fraiser were infected, you were able to rid yourselves of the infection before it was too late."

Huh?

I think my face must have shown that I was having trouble following what he said after the word "I", because then he summarized it into one short sentence.

"I am glad you are well."

Okay. That I could understand. I grinned wider. "Well I'm glad you are well, too."

"I was most relieved when it was revealed that Daniel Jackson was not truly in mental distress."

Speaking of which…

I looked around but all I saw were machines and chairs…oh…and one Jaafa on a bed. But no eyeglass wearing anthropologist.

"Uh…Carter was saying that Daniel was here."

There's that weird look again. It looked like a cross between Teal'c trying to smile and a sneeze.

"What?"

"Daniel Jackson was indeed here before."

"And?" I looked around again. Maybe he's sleeping in one of those chairs and I didn't see him.

"Most peculiar."

"What?" This was getting ridiculous, like playing twenty questions here.

"Daniel Jackson told me he was relieved that I was now well and then…" Teal'c paused as if he was trying to find the words for it. "He apologized quite profusely to me."

Huh?
"Apologize? For what?"

"He did not say." Teal'c frowned and he tilted his head thinking. "Perhaps he feels responsible for infecting me."

I groaned to myself. Teal'c may have hit it right on the nail. Daniel may be a genius, know how to say hello in twenty-three different languages, but the man does not know how to deal with guilt. The kid seems to pile it on his plate like one of those all you can eat buffets. He must have a degree in guilty consciences along with the others.

"Did you see where Daniel went?" I'm going to have to have a talk with that guy.

"Doctor Mackenzie asked to speak with him and he-"

"What?" That exploded out of me, interrupting Teal'c. "What did he want with Daniel?"

Teal'c looked confused. Probably wondering why I was as red as a beet right now. "He mentioned he wanted to discuss with Daniel Jackson about aftereffects."

"Oh really?" That came out between my teeth grinding together in my mouth.

"Yes." Now Teal'c was looking unhappy about that. "I do not like the man."

Whoa. Now Teal'c usually reserved the words "like" and "dislike" for people like Apophis or Maybourne. Labeling Mackenzie as a person he did not "like" basically put the head doctor in line of sight of a zat gun.

Not that I…disagree with Teal'c here.

"Did they say where they were going?"

"They were going to speak in Daniel Jackson's office."

So that's where I'm going next.

"You stay put, Teal'c." I patted his shoulder absently as I turned to leave.

"I am not allowed to go anywhere, O'Neill."

"Yeah. Just rest, okay." I am going to go and find me an anthropologist. I started for the door.

"O'Neill."

I turned around again, almost barking out that he was stopping me here.

"What is a sponge…bath?"

Huh? "Why you ask?"

"The nurse here told me I was to have one in a few hours." Teal'c tilted his head, looking puzzled, like when he encounters one of our cliches. "I am acquainted with the showers, however, I am unfamiliar with the term…sponge."

I could feel the muscle in my jaw twitch. "Well…uh…it is a bath…using a sponge."

"I see." No he doesn't.

My grin was threatening to bust out now. "Assisted by one of the…nurses." Don't laugh. Don't laugh, O'Neill.

Teal'c's eyebrow went up. "Assisted?"

"Uh…yeah…assisted."

"Can this be…unassisted?"

You wish, big guy. "Oh noooo…it's a tradition! Must be assisted. Yup…definitely assisted."

Now his eyebrow went higher, to a point I thought it was going to disappear at the top of his head. I had to chuckle before I busted my gut holding it in.

"Have fun, Teal'c." I waved at him and got out of there fast before I humiliated myself by rolling on the floor laughing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last time I ran out of Teal'c's room that fast was when General Hammond told me there was a change in Daniel's…condition. Thank God I wasn't stopped for speeding; I might have punched each and every person who stopped me from getting there fast enough. It was weird. It was like I knew that if I didn't get there in time…he would change back.

Dammit. He's not crazy. He never was.

We made him that way.

The aide opened the door and Doctor Mackenzie let us in.

"Don't expect much. If he becomes agitated, call one of the aides." And then he left us alone.

I was about to retort "Daniel? Agitated?" Man wouldn't even deliberately hurt a fly…well…unless they were those big buggers that got Teal'c one time. Man…those were big…big bugs.

Before I could make one of my oh so witty remarks, I saw Daniel.

My God.

For a moment, I thought I was pulled back into some weird time thing, like with the Keeper, and was sent back to April 12, 1991. Daniel wasn't sitting there with no shoes on, shivering in white cotton clothes.

It was Steve Trebek.

"Ja'k?"

I had to close my eyes, push away that awful sense of déjà vu.

"It's us, Daniel. Can't you see us?" Carter picked up the ball when I didn't respond. I was too…I don't know what I was doing. I was rooted to the spot.

"I was just making sure you…" Daniel swallowed as if he was thirsty. Had they been taking care of him at all? "…weren't just a figment of my imag… mind. They took away my glasses in case… I broke the lenses… and tried to… ah… hurt myself…" He smiled a little as if the idea was ridiculous.

Steve didn't need glasses. He had my goddamn pen. He had my goddamn…pen.

And then Carter made some weird noise as if she was going to cry, while I felt like hitting something.

"They treating you okay?" Oh, that's real good, O'Neill. Real conversationalist.

Daniel gave that funny little smile again. "Yeah…" And then…and then…

He started crying.

I should have done something at that point. Watching him breakdown and start crying, sobbing as he hugged himself like as if he was cold, I just wanted to go over there and do something. Grab him and just hold him there like back in the storage room when he was suffering through the agonizing pain of withdrawal from that damned sarcophagus. Or shake him, demand…no…order him to snap out of it and return to being the same Doctor Daniel Jackson that I'll have to pop aspirins over after each mission. But all I could do was stand there. All I could do was think of that pen I have in my jacket pocket.

I have a pen in my jacket pocket.

Why the hell didn't I leave that by the door?

Steve…

He's not like Steve. He isn't Steve. Steve was different. Steve was crying in front of me, dressed in whites, looking like a total stranger…

Dammit…he's not Steve. He isn't.

I have a pen in my jacket pocket.

"I'm s-sorry!" Daniel mumbled between sobs.

"For what?" I asked. Nothing else came to mind. All the niceties and reassurances I had thought up during the drive over there was gone and all I could think of was "It's okay."

What a bunch of crock.

"For being such a head case!"

Danny.

I stood there like a stick of wood, watching a man who could pluck ideas off the top of his head, rambling on about cities once there, taken down to disjointed words and hiccuped sentences. And my tongue felt like it expanded and stuck in my throat.

We tried. We tried calming him down, remind him of the mission past, and of him feeling something brush by him, but he slowly slipped away from us, seeing stuff no one else saw. It was like I could really see him getting smaller and smaller, like some invisible hand pulling him away from us.

God, Daniel.

All I could think of saying was to tell him to stay with us, forcing my voice to be hard, making it an order, but as usual, Jackson never listened.

And he slipped away.

I stood there, watching Daniel point to nothing, rush Teal'c as soon as Carter turned around to get some help and then have the aides wrestle him to the floor. I had this urge to go over there, throw everyone off of my friend, get their brutal hands off him. But all I could think of was that he was going for my pen. He was going to thank me and then…and then…

He's not Steve.

So why did I feel like screaming at myself as we left the room?

I stopped in my tracks, suddenly finding myself by the so-called VIP room. They stuck Daniel in there, playing the waiting game and I stayed with him, playing chess until he finally went over the edge. And all I could do was put him down on the floor and make the call that put him in that goddamn room.

We didn't make him crazy.

I did.

I'm his CO, for crying out loud. There should have been something I could have done. I mean, how many times did I find him knocking at my door, looking lost- drowning in the darkness that should have only come with being military, not from being an academic? How many times did I see the uncertainty in his eyes seep away after a night of talking or…a cup of coffee? I was the one he would ask hesitantly during nights when we're out there on missions, knowing full well despite my complaints, I would be more than happy to lend a listening ear. Or at least, I would like to think so. There must have been something I could have done. That I should have done.

Instead…I made the call.

So much for my calming effect on stressed out people.

"Colonel O'Neill?"

I looked up and found Doctor Fraiser out here now, back in her white lab coat. She looked worried, probably wondering why the hell I was gawking at their VIP room.

"Totally sane, Doc." I waved my hand towards her. "No need to give me a special invitation for this place." I winced inwardly. That sounded so…sharp, sharper than I had intended to make it.

She flinched. "I guess I deserved that, Colonel." Doc looked at the room with a sigh. "I don't expect you to ever understand our actions here and-"

"You basically told the guy he was crazy and locked him up before he could even absorb it!" I snapped. Doc took a step back.

"His d-"

"I don't need to hear crap about some brain juice level going up!" I was really on a roll here. "This was Daniel, for God's sake!"

"I know that it must look harsh from your point of view-"

"Damn it, Doc!" I couldn't get myself to stop at this point. It felt like watching myself from a distance, turning redder, angrier with each word that came spewing out like brimstone from hell. "How could you have let them take him to that place? He trusted you!" He trusted me.

"Did you think I enjoyed making that recommendation? Enjoyed making that diagnosis?" Her eyes looked huge and if I didn't know better, I could have sworn I saw tears in them. She blinked furiously at me and when I realized that there were tears, my fists unclenched all by themselves. Fraiser stood up straighter and I think she would have made a fist at me if she didn't have to worry about patching me up later on. "I had to face the facts as I see them, Colonel! I would have been more than happy to just write it off as stress as you did and let him sleep it off!"

That's right. I did just call it stress, didn't I? Never bothered to really listen to Daniel about that mission, about his feeling of something brushing by him. I didn't want to consider the possibility that our stomping around the corners of the universe had finally destroyed the thing that made Daniel Daniel. Damn.

"Look," Doc must have realized that I wasn't really into pinning the blame on her any more. "I'm a doctor. I have to go by the book when it comes to-"

I waved off her explanation. "No need, Doc. It's okay. I get it."

She looked at me funny. "None of us could have imagined that it was Machello's work behind all this."

"Yeah. I know." I looked back at the room. I could still see Daniel on the floor, curled up like a scared kid, and me too freaked out to do anything more than tell him to put his head down and run for the phone.

"None of us…Jack."

Turning around, I saw her looking at me worriedly. What? Why is everyone looking at me all of the sudden? I wasn't the one locked up in a padded room all day here!

"And how are you feeling?"

Oh great, now it's my turn under the microscope. I grinned at her, hoping to throw her off my scent. "Great. Headache, but feeling okay."

"It's safe enough to take some aspirin for that, Colonel."

"What? Aren't you going to put me through tests and see if it's Stargate related?" That came out before I could stop myself. "Sorry, that was really shit-"

Fraiser smiled. She didn't look bothered by my remark. "Maybe I should just put up a sign at the bottom of the Stargate."

I laughed awkwardly. "Yeah…maybe you should get the Surgeon General to put out the warning."

She chuckled and I think she was going to say something else when one of the medics called out to her from down the hall. So she excused herself and left. And I was back to where I started.

Looking for Daniel.

Finding his office was easy enough. I don't know how many times I walked this same hallway to this room to find Danny boy face down on a book, gazing at his rocks with this oh-my-God-will-you-look-at-that-look on his face and not realize that I had been standing there for the past ten minutes. Or find him muttering to himself as he researched something off the internet. Or the many times I had to come in here, drag him down to the cafeteria and get him to eat something before he forgot again. So I half expected to find him there, with Doctor Mackenzie, talking or having done the talk, and be back to burying his nose in dusty old things that would just make him sneeze over and over again.

Nada. Empty.

Okay. This isn't good.

Teal'c said they were going to have a…talk in here. So where the hell are they? Daniel's not here and neither is-

Mackenzie.

No.

He wouldn't.

He wouldn't take him back there…would he? I mean…there was no reason to…

Got to find Daniel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I checked the locker room, his bunk room where he sometimes crashed if he was too wiped out to drive home, and even the meeting room where I sometimes caught him looking at the idle Stargate. I checked every goddamn lab that was here.

Nothing.

WHERE THE HELL IS HE?

As I walked down the halls, looking at every corner, I bumped into Mackenzie.

Literally.

In my haste, my elbow met his shoulder, my knee at his knee, my chin slammed into something hard probably his skull and suddenly we were two cymbals in a band.

It even included the ringing in my ears.

"Colonel O'Neill." Mackenzie wheezed as he picked himself up from the floor. I got up fast and made use of my height to stand over him.

"What did you talk to Daniel about?" I was hissing like a kettle of hot water, just beyond boiling. It's so tempting to just lift my boot up and stomp it down on his face. It was like seeing a sign on top of his head that said pin all blame here.

Mackenzie had the nerve to look insulted. "Colonel O'Neill, that's privileged information between a doctor and his patient-"

"He's not a patient of yours any more!" I was about to take a bite out of his stubborn skull. "He's not crazy!"

The shrink took a step back and I came forward again. "Colonel O'Neill-"

"What…did…you…talk…about?" It was easier to be mad at Mackenzie than it was towards Doc. She at least gave a damn about Daniel. I've seen it in the way she takes care of him when he comes visiting her infirmary…horizontally. Everything she had done was out of her concern. But him…

Mackenzie was just some quack looking for a bunch of figures.

"I…I came to apologize."

What?

"Colonel O'Neill?"

I had to blink first to gather my brain up again. "What? Apologize?" Geez, I sound like a parrot. Next thing you'll know, I'll be wanting a cracker.

"About the conduct of my aides. I assured him that those two would never be working at this ward again and such a incident was regrettable-"

"What incident?" I roared. I could feel the vein on my temple throbbing like a rock band.

Mackenzie flinched. Oh man, I just know I'm not going to like the answer.

"I'm surprised Doctor Jackson," Oh it's back to Doctor Jackson now, huh? Before back in the ward, it was Daniel this and Daniel that in that goddamn patronizing voice. "Hadn't told you about the incident when you came to pick him up. I was under the impression that you two were very close."

Close? Yeah. I guess total reliance on whatever you say, dependence on the other to protect you, and reliance on you to bring him back from hell could be called close. But we didn't really talk much after I got him out.

I took back my pen from the desk clerk as I waited for Daniel to change into the clothes he had before, the black T-shirt and blue khaki jacket. He shuffled out of the room, I guess those meds they pumped into him were still going strong, and stood before me like as if he was waiting for inspection.

"Ready to go?" I asked as I slipped the pen back into my jacket. I stopped midway. The pen felt very sharp, very heavy in my pocket so I pulled it out again. "Here, writes pretty good. Keep it." I shrugged at the puzzled look on the clerk's face and when I turned to Daniel; he had the same look.

"Jack?" He was slurring a bit and blinking his eyes rapidly.

"Nothing, Danny." I grinned to show him that it was okay, when I knew it wasn't. "Let's go."

Daniel stood where he was, looking very uncertain, doing his usual biting of the lower lip and putting hair behind his ear. All he needed now what to push his glasses up his nose and-

Hold on a sec.

"Where's his glasses?" I demanded to the desk clerk. The man shook his head.

"I don't know. They were taken from him when he was admitted. It's standard procedure for mental patients being admitted."

I caught the cringe in Daniel's shoulders out of the corner of my eye. So I decided to drop the subject. Neither one of us wanted to stay here any longer than we had to.

"Never mind." I waved Daniel to follow me. "Come on. We got a few extra pairs back home for you."

Daniel paused. I was kind of surprised. I would have expected him to go flying out of the room, turbo charged on mach three. But instead, he was walking real slow, looking back down the hallway he came from, before coming up directly behind me.

I got the feeling he was hiding.

I felt the lump in my throat as I felt rather than saw him come in step with me. Left right left right. It was like a march and Danny boy was one of my soldiers, following into tune.

Straight to hell.

Now where did that come from?

My jeep was out front waiting. I hadn't bothered parking when I first got here. My main concern was to get here fast. So we both got in the car real quick. Doors slammed, seatbelts fastened with a click, the engine purred when I turned the ignition, the tires screeched as I made the turn fast and then-

Silence.

It was a two-hour drive. You would have thought that I would have found something to say. Or Daniel would start rambling on about this theory he had about Teal'c and why he went…nuts.

But the first ten minutes was spent with me staring at the highway and Daniel with his head pressed against the glass.

"I'm not crazy." Daniel suddenly said and it took me for such a loop that I nearly lost control of my car, veering for the other lane.

He's not crazy.

It sounded so believable here. He had said it before. Why didn't I believe him then and done something?

"I know, Daniel." I murmured. It was small comfort to a guy who spent the last 48 hours drugged to the gills, sleeping in a padded room. I spared a glance over to Daniel. The kid was blinking rapidly and I could have sworn I saw tears in his eyes. "Danny?"

"Sorry." He murmured. For a moment, I thought he was going to apologize for being a headcase again.

"For what?" I asked, keeping my eyes on the road, but I was so tempted to look back, to check. I wanted to see those eyes blinking in recognition, in thought, not half drugged out of his mind.

Daniel didn't answer and I thought that maybe he had fell asleep. So I reached over with one hand and shook his shoulder.

He hissed, jerking back, but there wasn't far to go with his back against the passenger door. Thank God the door was locked, otherwise he would have literally pressed himself so hard against it that the door might have flew open with the sheer force of it and he would have tumbled out onto the highway.

"Sorry." For a lot of things. "I didn't mean to startle you."

"S'kay." He mumbled, rubbing his shoulder, his head still pressed up against the glass as he stared vacantly out to the highway.

"Uh…we're almost there." I offered as conversation, but he just blinked then nodded, still just rubbing his shoulder.

I almost cheered when I saw the Cheyenne complex's barriers come to view. And while I had hoped all this time that I would be driving Daniel back home, through these barriers, it didn't seem like a victory right now.

"…And they will be reprimanded for their actions…" Mackenzie was still going. I can't believe I let myself drift off like that. I must have looked strange, eyes blank; standing there as Mackenzie rambled on. Anyone on base knows that I have limited patience when it comes to lectures and scientists. Barely can listen for more then a minute before I start demanding for a translation.

"But his injuries weren't too severe, although his shoulder may still be sore and…"

Wait a minute. What did he say?

"Doctor Jackson refused to press charges but I'll file the charges myself for assault and-"

"What?" Why was my mind in la la land? Injuries? Shoulder? Charges? "What are you trying to say?"

Mackenzie looked a bit nonplussed. I guess he's not used to sane people drifting off on him like some of his patients. "Like I was saying before, Doctor Jackson was detained by two aides when he was first admitted to my ward. He was a bit agitated and the staff had to subdue him, but I wasn't aware of how rough they treated him until after you left and I saw the security tapes and- urk!"

I grabbed him by his precious white lab coat; half tempted to fling him against the wall. "They hurt him?"

"Colonel O'Neill!" Mackenzie practically squeaked before I set him down. Luckily, everyone passing by was giving the head shrink a dirty look so I wasn't too concerned about some gung-ho soldier tackling me at the moment.

"What did they do to him?" I demanded. "Tell me!"

"From what I saw of the tapes, they pinned him to the floor as they tried to give him his meds. Doctor Jackson got upset by the physical contact and tried to fight them so one of the aides twisted his arm back, which might have injured his shoulder and the other stepped on his ankles to stop him from moving. They-"

Son of a bitch. SON OF A BITCH!

"I want their names." I hissed. "I want to see them off that place right now! You can be damn sure General Hammond is going to find out about this and there will be hell to pay for messing with a member of my team!"

Mackenzie stammered something about how he understood, he didn't condole this sort of thing, blah, blah, blah, but I wasn't listening any more at that point. Any thoughts of smashing his irritating face to the wall were gone. I had bigger priorities.

I had to find Daniel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I watched Daniel pace back and forth nervously, his eyes half closed as if he was trying very hard not to sleep. He kept waving his hands around like he used to, when he would talk about some artifact he found, except there was no antique standing around here for him to study.

Just me.

I feel as old as one right now, though. Does that count?

"You don't…ah…you don't need to walk on eggshells anymore…I'm…uh…I'm better!" Daniel then smiled.

He looked so nervous, so unsure, almost like the Daniel I knew and not the crying huddled form from before that I jumped too quickly to believe him. "So I hear! Ah…it's not that I doubt you, but why do you think it happened all of a sudden?"

"I don't completely understand it myself, but I saw something come out of me and go into Teal'c, and I heard Machello's voice."

Damn. I was wrong I guess. I kept the smile on my face but I think it must have been too obvious because he picked up the pace, his words firing out faster than bullets. I stood there listening to him theorize, slap together an idea, making guesses as he paced around in a small circle, hands constantly moving to keep himself awake.

The Teal'c theory as I'm gonna call it, was threadbare at best and I could see the holes in it like a moth eaten shirt. But there was something about his voice that wasn't there before, like back in the infirmary where he unblinkingly told me there were ghosts hiding in his closet. I heard the lilt again. I was sure it wasn't wishful thinking on my part. I could hear the lilt that said "I know what I'm talking about." Daniel gets that way about everything he does, while still looking at us unsure as if we were going to laugh him off some figurative stage.

It was there and that unsure look in his eyes with a mixture of fear as he looked around his prison nervously.

And that made my decision.

I am not leaving him here. I am not visiting him here again.

He is leaving this hellhole right now.

I skidded to a halt at my thoughts. Rubbing my face with my hands, feeling like some beast had chewed me up and spit me out, I almost didn't hear the noise coming from inside the storage room.

I stood there until I heard it again. It sounded like someone bumping into the shelves. Opening the door carefully, I peeked inside and saw a dim shadow of someone huddled up against the rows of shelves, head resting on knees. It left me a bad taste in my mouth.

"Daniel?" I whispered. I half expected to see a gun in his hands, hear the alarms going off all around me, and I tensed as I waited for the sound of gunfire to shatter the light above me.

Damn it. Isn't there any place else he could have gone to instead of here?

I can still taste the blood from my cut lip when we had fought here last time. Him half crazed with pain from withdrawal, determined to return to that woman and her sarcophagus and me just half crazed with desperation to get him back as the Daniel we all knew and exasperated over.

It was the first time I had seen him actually point a gun at me.

The endless possibilities of what-ifs and what-could-have-happened, had left me with some pretty bad sleeping habits for the next few nights.

"Go away."

For a second there, I thought memory had become vocalized when I realized that Daniel really spoke.

"What are you doing here, Danny?" I kept my voice soft, the sense of déjà vu growing more and more acute to a point I had to pause and wonder if I wasn't just dreaming this after all.

"Thinking." Daniel mumbled. He didn't look up at me, but he didn't bolt either when I sat down on the floor next to him. In fact, he shuffled over a bit to make room for me. So I sat down beside him and pretended it was one of those usual nights during a mission, us sitting somewhere staring at an alien sky in hopes for exorcism of our unspoken demons.

"Ah…Couldn't you think in a more comfortable place?" I smiled slightly to show I was kidding, but he still wasn't looking up.

"No closets here…"

Ah hell, Daniel.

I didn't dare touch him yet so I leaned into the shelves, hoping they weren't going to pile on top of me. "Yeah," I said casually enough. "No closets. I get it."

"No you don't."

"Then tell me."

"It's stupid." Daniel murmured. It sounded like he thought I would believe it to be stupid.

I waited silently; watching Daniel hunched tighter within himself, hissing softly as his shoulder probably gave him problems. The sight of his body tensing in pain made me want to go back to that place, find those two and beat them to the ground.

"I kept thinking…" Daniel finally spoke up. "That…what if I hear the Stargate again? In my closet?" He laughed a little. It sounded strange.

"You're not crazy, Daniel. It was those things. Like you said. You were right." I did touch his arm now and I was glad to see Daniel look up. His eyes were puffy and red.

"I'm not crazy?"

"Hell, Daniel. Of course not. You've said it all along."

Suddenly, Daniel blinked. "I'm tired."

"Come on." I stood up, my hand out towards him. "Let's get you back to your room and you can get some sleep."

"No." Daniel shook his head and he pressed himself against the wall. "No sleep."

"Daniel, you said you were tired." I tried again.

"No…no sleep." He blinked again. I don't think he can really see me. Where's his glasses? I could have sworn he had them on before. I still remember how those things looked like they were glowing, although that could be because I had those slimy guppies swimming inside me at the time.

"You still got a body full of those meds in you, Daniel. You're barely awake as it is."

Daniel just shook his head at me. "Can't sleep there. Closets…"

Shit. I forgot about that. What to do? What to do?

"You want to go back to my place?" I said finally. "You could crash in the guestroom again like you use to. No closets there." I kept my hand out, trying very hard to not give in to temptation to just grab him and haul him out.

Daniel looked at my hand for a moment, blinking rapidly. I forgot. He didn't have glasses on and with those meds, my hand probably looks like a furry paw right now.

Tentatively, he reached out and his fingers touched my palm before he jerked his hand back.

Come on, Danny.

He looked up, at my face and I got the eerie sense of him...dissecting me, examining me like one of his pottery shards or clay figurines. I tried to look...well...I was trying to look non-threatening but the moment I realized that was what I was doing, I immediately knew it wasn't going to work. I had been trained half my life to look mean, be mean, feel mean and here I was trying to counter all that.

For some reason though, he seemed to have found none of my in-trained meanness, the sharp edges I had honed myself over the years and placed his hand on my palm, like a little boy, waiting for his fath-

I don't like where that was leading me. In fact, I don't like how these past few days had led me to one bad memory trip after the other.

I smiled at Daniel, who tried to smile back but I could see he wanted to yawn. Pretending not to notice, I pulled him up and nearly had to catch him again when he faltered. He stumbled back a step, blinked his eyes a lot, then yanked his hand back, looking embarrassed that he needed my help to do something as simple as standing up.

"You're welcome." I said quietly as I motioned him to follow me like I did when I went to pick him up. And Daniel shuffled a bit slowly, so I waited until he caught up and we walked out of there, each footstep matched with each other.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I thought it would have been easy enough.

I mean, grab his jacket and get him out of here.

I should have learned by now that nothing is ever easy here in SGC. No mission ever ends right at the moment you step onto the metal ramp. No planet is ever just peaceful. And the simple idea of going home was never simple.

"Daniel? Where are you going?" Doc cornered us getting into his office. "We were looking all over for you. We had a bed set up in the infirmary for you to rest and let the medications wear off from your system."

He flinched as it must have struck a nerve or something. "Going out." Daniel mumbled and he shifted slightly behind me, trying to slip into his office to get his coat. I didn't even realize that I moved to shield him until Doc's eyes were turned to me instead.

"Was this your idea, Colonel?"

"What if it was?" It came out a bit more defensive than it should have. But it really ate at me how she kept looking at him as if he was some sample under one of those microscopes.

"Daniel really should be resting-"

"He will." I grinned, trying to show I had everything under control even though it felt like I hadn't gotten off the roller coaster yet. "At my place. Right, Dan-" I turned around to ask him but he wasn't there. The door opened a crack and I could see him sitting on a chair, his back towards us and the door, his shoulders slumped.

He looked so…small.

As if he was waiting for some bad news.

"I don't think-" Doc tried again.

Suddenly, I found no reason to smile. I reached out and grabbed her firmly by the arm and dragged her over to the crack of the door. "Look, do you want to tell him that he can't leave here? That he's going back?" I hissed in her ear.

She paled a bit and swallowed hard, but I felt no sympathy for her. My anger was returning. I can't let them have him again. I don't want Daniel to wake up in some white room, even if it is the usual infirmary. No. No way in hell.

Over my dead body.

"He's not going back to the Mental-"

"Do you think there's really a difference at this point?" I snapped a bit too loudly. I saw Daniel's shoulders move a bit and his head actually seemed to go lower.

Ah dammit, Daniel.

Doc looked at me. There's that microscope feeling again. I could close my eyes and still feel eyes raking at me, as if they could find my faults, expose my guilt here.

I can do that on my own, thank you very much.

She looked back into the office. Her eyes on his back, she whispered.

"He needs to sleep."

"He will."

"And there are foods he needs to avoid until those drugs are flushed out of his system."

"I'll spoon-feed him nothing but oatmeal if I have to." I vowed too quickly. That got me a glare from her so I promptly shut up before she changed her mind about this.

"Fine." She said shortly and quickly told me what I needed to know. I just nodded over and over again until it felt like my head was going to fall off. After a few minutes and one more worried look over to the office, she left.

I sighed a breath of relief and pushed the door open wider.

"Daniel…let's go."

The back straightened and he turned around hesitantly. I could see the question in his eyes and I nodded.

"Let's get out of here." I said softly and handed him the jacket hanging on the rack.

Daniel reached out and snatched it quickly from me as if the offer was only good for a few seconds. Clutching the jacket, he followed me out again, still walking behind me until I slowed down and waited for him to catch up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You know, I'm really beginning to hate this...non-talking shit.

The ride up the elevator was quiet. The drive back to my place was quiet. Now here we were, sitting in my living room, me with my beer, him with his juice because he's on a strict diet of no coffee and alcohol until those meds are out of his system. We're seated in our usual spots- me in the couch with my feet on the coffee table and Daniel in the armchair, closest to the fireplace.

And still not talking.

"This is such a...stimulating conversation, Doctor Jackson." I drawled, trying to get some rise out of him. But all he did was look up, smile, and then looked back down again. It was like he was afraid to say anything that might make me jump up and call for the paddy wagon again.

"You think," I had to get the noise back into this room. "You think there's more of those...landmines out there?"

Daniel shrugged, then winced. I could feel my fist clench around the bottle at the sight. I don't know how I am going to even bring up the subject about that. I can't exactly go "Oh by the way, I heard you got into a fight with the loony bin crew back there." No. That wouldn't help the situation.

"Machello..." Daniel rubbed his eyes and then he pulled his hand away and stared at it. I wonder what it is he's seeing. "He really hated the Go'uald. He might have planted a lot of them everywhere." He paused as if it just occurred to him. "This could happen again."

I didn't have to ask what he meant by what happening again. "No it won't, because we will know next time." Next time. Why the hell didn't we figure it out this time, before he was placed in there?

"But...but what if...next time, it's for real?"

What?

"Daniel, are you hearing what you're saying here?" I demanded. Why was this guy doing this to himself? Thinking of all the morbid what-ifs as if life right now wasn't rotten enough.

"I'm just saying-"

"Don't." I stuck out my hand, stopping this before it got any further in the bad scale. "It's not going to happen, Daniel. Do you hear me?"

"You sound so sure." His voice was so soft. I barely heard him.

"Because I am."

He looked up at me and blinked. I tried to arrange my face to some sort of reassuring one but I don't think it worked because he looked down and sighed.

"What?" I watched him rub his shoulder again.

"I should have realized it sooner. Maybe I wouldn't have infected Teal'c then or you guys."

"Stop right there." I ordered. "I don't like the way that sentence sounds."

"It is what it is, Jack." Daniel looked at the fireplace, staring at the empty space. I wonder if he's cold. He's been shivering every so often in front of me, not realizing that I noticed.

"I am sorry, Jack."

"For what?" I snapped before I realized it. I was getting sick and tired of all the apologies I'm hearing here. Sorry about your friend. Sorry we had to stick him in that room. Sorry about your so-

"There's nothing to be sorry about, Daniel. For crying out loud, not everything that happens is your fault!"

Daniel shrugged, as if it never occurred to him that it was, but I saw the slump on the shoulders and he was still rubbing his damn shoulder.

I sighed, feeling my neck and back going into knots the size of Texas. "And if anyone should be saying sorry, it should be me."

That got his attention.

"What? You? What on Earth for?" He looked shocked.

My turn to shrug. "Shouldn't have been so quick to believe that you were off the deep end, Daniel." I scowled, remembering how fast I was to pick up the phone. "You shouldn't have been in there at all."

Daniel shivered and this time, he couldn't cover it from me. "I thought I really was…going crazy, that is."

"No you weren't…you were pretty damn insistent about the alien inside of you angle." I reminded him. Daniel laughed.

"Ever heard of grasping at straws, Jack?"

I stopped midway from bringing my beer close to my lips, my mouth half opened. Grasping at straws? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

"It wasn't the first time people thought I was crazy." He kept rubbing his arms up and down. I wonder if he's still cold.

"Senator Kinsley thought I was…off the deep end."

"Senator Kinsley," I snorted as I took a long gulp of my beer. For the first time in my life, this stuff was not helping me. Instead of feeling the world erode away, it was coming in even sharper now. Damn. "Was a jerk, Daniel. He was a paper pushing, budget conscious asshole who wouldn't know the meaning of common sense even if it came up to him and zat him in the ass."

The usual laugh I might have got with that wasn't there. He turned his head back to the fire. I could see the flames dancing in his eyes like as if he was burning, on fire, screaming for me to help him-

Whoa, O'Neill. Get a grip here.

That was another time where some alien decided to play hockey with my friend's mind here. Although Jackson gave Nem the go ahead, a stunt I still have unspoken rights to yell the living daylights out of him for years to come, he still got his head scrambled up like a bad runny egg. Then there was that damn Keeper, screwing with his head just so his residents could have more channels in their pay-per-view.

And now this.

Any time now. I would like to see where it said on his contract that all shit must be targeted to him. Goddamn sick sense of humor up there, painting the invisible bull eyes on his back, with a sign that says stomp here.

Damn it. Damn it!

"Jack?"

I looked up and suddenly realized that my beer bottle was shaking in my hands, the once cold brew dripping down my fist like spilt blood. Quickly, I set it down on my coffee table, but it was too late. It caught the eyes of Doctor Daniel Jackson.

"What is it?" He leaned forward, looking like a baby owl I once found on my backyard. Cha…we found it on the ground after a summer rain. This scraggily brown lump, wet from the night's storm, shaking from terror, yet not having enough sense to fear the big, bad humans as it huddled in my kid's small hands, looking at him with those huge eyes that seemed to take up its entire face.

Seems like I found myself another owl.

"Jack?"

I shook myself out of my thoughts and looked back at him. I wish he would stop doing that. Looking at me as if I had all the answers when he was the one who had the fancy diplomas and the title Doctor. I was just an old military guy, who was feeling older and older by the minute.

"I…" Why do I always feel like I have to explain myself to this guy? "I just wished we had gone about this whole mess a little better, that's all."

"And that's why you're on your second beer?" Daniel asked carefully as he pointed to the bottle in my hand.

Huh?

I looked down at my fist. Sure enough. It was a twin of the empty one that sat right on top of the table, leaning against my crossed ankles. How did that happen?

"It's been a long day." I just said as I took a long gulp. I made a face. Damn. Beer had gotten warm. I must have been clutching the thing for a while.

"Yeah." He murmured as he leaned back into the armchair, still rubbing his damn shoulder. His eyes looked beyond me and I was half tempted to turn around to see what he was looking at, but I was worried that I might find out it was nothing at all and it was just all in his head.

Stop it.

Goddamn it! He's not crazy!

"Stop looking at me like that!"

I blinked, suddenly it occurred to me that Daniel was looking a bit angry. With a flash, it came as a surprise when I realized that anger was directed at me. But then, why wouldn't he be angry? Probably furious at me for not stopping those guys from sticking him in there, not there to stop them from beating him.

"Stop it…Please…" His voice dropped to a whisper. He looked sad all of the sudden. "Stop looking at me like I'm going to…break or something."

Huh?

"What are you talking about?"

"This whole time…" Daniel picked on the arm of the chair he was sitting on. "Even back…there…you kept looking at me like…" He shrugged one shoulder. "Like you were afraid if you came over, if you talked to me, I would…" Daniel waved his hands apart to illustrate his point.

"Shatter."

"Don't be ridiculous." I snapped as I took another drink. One swallow and the thing was empty. Shit.

"You looked like you wanted to ask me something." Daniel barked back and I was taken back. I hadn't really seen Daniel Jackson angry before. No…wait…there was that time after P3R-636, but he was under that damn sarcophagus' hunger so that shouldn't count. There was that other time in PJ2-455, but that was because of those weird plants.

No. I haven't really seen him angry before.

"You looked like you wanted to ask me something, but you didn't." He repeated, the anger evaporating from him like smoke and it seemed to have leeched away his posture too because he slumped forward in his seat. He looked down at the mug he set on the carpet, the juice he never finished even though I know he was thirsty.

"I really hate this." Daniel moaned and he dropped his head into his hands.

Nodding sympathetically, I pretended that last outburst hadn't happen. It was probably those drugs Mackenzie had pumped him with. Doc said they probably would be in him for another day or so.

"I know this wasn't one of our best missions." It really wasn't. There was no one to point the gun at. No enemy here except for a dead alien who had enough hate to spread his traps out all across the universe before he died.

"I just hate the fact that this mission is…taking me down one peg with you, Jack."

"What?" I blurted out before I could even stop myself. What the hell was that supposed to mean?

Daniel looked at me with those eyes, looking like he was dissecting me again. What in God's name was he looking for?

"I didn't…" He took a deep breath. "I didn't like that place, Jack."

I didn't either.

"But I didn't like how you avoided me like I was some sort of plague even more, Jack."

"Avoided you?" I never heard anything so ridiculous in my entire life. "What the hell do you mean I avoided you? I came to keep you company at that VIP room. And I came to see you-"

"Yes, you came to see me, but…" Daniel paused…almost as if he was afraid to say it. I had never seen him afraid to tell me anything before. Hell, when he came to in the infirmary, he had no qualms about telling me there be monsters in his closet.

"It was like you weren't there, Jack."

I had no words to counter that. What could I possibly say that would argue it out?

Especially when you suspect that there may be some truth in it.

"You were like…staying back." Daniel ran a hand through his hair. "I know I was…out of it with whatever they gave me…but I saw how you were…keeping back…as if you were afraid…"

"We were told not to upset you, Daniel." I said, but even that sounded like a load of crap to me now.

Daniel laughed weirdly. He got up and began pacing. It was like an eerie rerun. He did the same thing back in that room, after he asked for me to come over there.

"I…this is just…God!" Daniel threw up his hands in the air. "I can't seem to explain this right!"

"It's the drugs." I reminded him. "You're tired, pumped with those meds. They said you need to sleep them off-"

"I don't need to sleep anything off!"

I blinked. I was considering to myself whether I should wrestle him to the ground and tie him to a bed to make him get some sleep, when he sighed.

"Damn…I'm sorry…I'm just…I don't like how everyone's just…looking at me differently."

Huh?

He must have read what was on my face because he went on without waiting for me to speak. "Everyone was like…when you guys were taking your tests…they were like…how you're doing, Daniel? How are you feeling, Daniel? Is everything okay, Daniel?" He snorted. "I just had to get out of there, you know? It was like…my going crazy wasn't because of those…things…it was because I really just went crazy! That I deserved going into that mental ward!"

"You're not crazy, Daniel." I said sharply as I tracked him pacing back and forth, keeping himself awake with his endless motion. "You never should have been in that place to begin with!"

"I didn't want to see any closets." Daniel went on as if I didn't say anything. "I was sitting in the locker room and kept thinking what if I hear something in those lockers…what if my…theory was wrong…that I was really having a breakdown…they were going to send me back to the ward and-"

"Dammit, Daniel! You're not going back to that place!" I roared, slamming my beer bottle down with a hard blow. The bottles on the table rattled as I shot up to my feet.

Daniel froze, his mouth slightly open, as he was about to ramble on about the biggest load of shit I had ever heard.

"Oh my God." He said and his hands dropped down to his sides. "That's it, isn't it, Jack?"

I picked up the bottles and stalked over to the kitchen, having heard enough of this crap. I don't know why I was angry with him. None of this was really his fault, but my hands were shaking, just begging to bunch into fists.

Daniel, as usual, didn't know when to quit. He followed me right in.

"You didn't just see me in that room, did you, Jack?" He went on as some new theory came to be in his head. "You didn't like being in that room."

Rubbish. Total rubbish.

"Who in their right mind would like that place, Jackson?" I snapped at him as I shoved the glass bottles in the recyclable bin.

"That's just it. Place." Daniel started picking up the pace. Like a hungry dog after a rabbit, he just wouldn't let it go. "You've been calling it everything but what it is."

Shut up, Daniel.

"You keep calling it a place, that place, there, that, but never what it is."

I said shut up, Jackson.

"Whatever happened to that humor of yours? I would have thought you would have called it loony bin, mental room, nuthouse, crazy farm-"

"I SAID SHUT THE HELL UP, JACKSON!" Before I even realized it, I spun around and grabbed him by the collar and shoved him up against the wall, his feet dangling inches off the floor. Everything turned red and purple for me. What did he think he was doing? Calling it all those names? A place where souls shrink and die, leaving an empty husk behind or worst-

A corpse.

Something snapped when I grabbed Daniel. His eyes turned into huge circles and he whipped his arms up, trying to knock mine's off.

"Don't touch me! Leave me alone!" He shouted and began to flail about, fighting my grip. He began swinging punches at me and one caught me in the side of my neck. Stunned more by his actions and mine than by the actual injury, I dropped him abruptly and he fell on his rear at the edge of the three steps that bordered my kitchen and living room. Not the steadiest place to land, he slid back and fell hard into my living room, his head dropping to the floor with a big bang.

Oh shit. OhshitshitshitshitSHIT!

I dropped my fists. What the hell was I thinking lashing out to him like that? Especially that last move. Brilliant, O'Neill. Just positively Nobel Prize material there! He probably flashed back and thought I was one of those hoodlum aides in that place.

"Daniel!" I dropped to my knees and shook his shoulder.

Bam!

His fist swung out and this time I got it square on the chin.

Now that hurt. Who knew Jackson had quite a punch?

I fell back against the wall, massaging my jaw with a wince.

Okay, I guess that means he's okay. I, for the other hand, think I lost a tooth in there. I swear I hear something rattling inside.

Daniel groaned, one hand went up to the back of his head. He had his eyes shut tight, probably because his head hurt thanks to my wonderful reaction. Then, they flew open.

"Jack?" He turned his head a bit and saw me doing the hustle with my chin. He got up on his elbow.

"Oh my God! I'm sorry…I…I don't know what came over me…I…I'm so sorry, Jack!"

It's all right. I probably deserved that. I probably deserved a whole lot more.

"It's okay…I…shouldn't have done that either." I waved towards the kitchen. "Didn't mean to remind you about them."

Daniel's face seemed to suddenly drain of all its color. "Them?"

Oops.

"Who's…them?" He asked tightly.

Cat out of the bag and now running around screeching in my house.

I shrugged, trying to make it sound like no big deal. "Um…I had a talk with Mackenzie. He mentioned something about charges against those two who…roughed you up."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Daniel responded stiffly.

Hey, wasn't that my line?

"So that's all in your head then?" I snarled, pointing to his hand, which had started rubbing that sore shoulder again in its own accord.

Daniel dropped his hand guiltily.

"Why didn't you say anything?" I asked quietly.

He snorted as if that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. "Why? You wouldn't tell me why you were more freaked out about that place than I was!"

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Well then, we're back to where we started from now, aren't we?" Daniel snapped. He got up, brushing away my offer to help and he stalked out of the living room. A few seconds later, I heard the guestroom door bang shut.

I sat there, in the silence, staring at the spot where he was before.

Well…I got him to go to sleep, at least.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The white room almost blended Daniel in if it weren't for his blue eyes blinking rapidly as he tried to focus on me.

"They treating you okay?"

Daniel gave me a funny little smile. "Yeah…"

He started crying.

I went over there and pulled him into my arms, rubbing his back like I did back then when he went through the agonizing pains of withdrawal.

"It's okay, Danny." I shushed him, rocking him slightly as I tried to calm him down. "It's okay. Everything's going to be all right."

"I know." Daniel whispered.

I pulled back a bit, thinking he was collected now and reeled back in horror when I saw the gun in his hands. I forgot to check my weapon at the door.

"Thank you…Jack."

No. No! Danny, no!

The gun fired.

"DON'T!"

I shot out of my bed so high, I might as well be flying. It took me a few seconds, staring at the darkness before I realized that it was all a dream.

Ah damn. I can hear my heart doing the hundred-yard dash.

I dropped my face into my hands, feeling the headache of two beers on an empty stomach finally taking its toll on my head. The pounding behind my eyes reminded me of when I was trapped in that room with Carter and Doc-

It's the beer, O'Neill. It's the beer. Nothing more. There are no dark faces here. No one is screaming your name. You're perfectly fine.

Before I could lie back down and pretend to go back to sleep, I heard something in the room next door.

Daniel.

I wasn't that sleepy anyway.

Swinging my legs down to the floor, I grabbed my robe and left my bedroom and went straight for his. There, at the door, I stopped, remembering how we had parted words before.

But then I heard that noise again. It sounded like a whimper.

Hell, I own this house anyway.

Not even bothering to knock, I walked right into Daniel's wrestling match with his blanket.

It looked his blanket was winning.

"No…don't…leave me alone…" Daniel mumbled and it was enough to paint me a picture of what night demons had come a knocking.

"Ja'k…don't let them…not crazy…no jacket…no…can't think…Ja'k…"

His voice went louder and louder and he began to sound more and more scared. I went over, sat down on the edge of his bed and cautiously touched his shoulder, remembering the last time I did that, got me this lovely purple spot on my jaw.

"No…"

Damn, he must still think I'm one of those bastards.

"Ja'k…help…"

I'm here, Daniel. I'm here. I wish I could say better late than never.

"Daniel." I said it out loud, hoping both my touch and my voice would pull him out of it. "Come on…wake up…you're having a bad dream."

It wasn't working so I leaned forward and grabbed him firmly on both shoulders.

Big mistake.

"No!" Daniel shouted and he arched in his bed, trying to throw me off. He began kicking, twisting as he tried to escape, shouting for me to keep my hands off of him, to stay away. I shook him as hard as I could, yelling his name but it wasn't working. Those meds got him way under but I'll be damn if I'm going to let him stay in whatever hell his mind placed him in.

So…it was the hardest thing I had to do…I slapped him.

It was like throwing the off switch.

Everything…stopped. Arms stopped flailing, legs stopped kicking and he stopped calling out my name in that desperate voice, wondering why I wasn't helping him.

"Ja'k?"

There you go.

I smiled slightly and moved my hands back on his shoulders, keeping him still on the bed.

"H'ppened?"

"Bad dream."

Daniel groaned and his hand went up to his cheek. "Ow."

"Sorry about that. I kept calling you, but you didn't seem to hear."

He lay there, hand covering his eyes, his breathing sounding like a dying animal. I could still feel the tremors under my palms. I kept my hands there, my fingers squeezing gently one shoulder, to remind him that it was only a bad dream.

Too bad I couldn't say that for the past few days.

Daniel smacked his lips as if they were dry and spoke up.

"I kept trying to tell them…that I wasn't crazy…but…no one would listen…" Daniel stuttered as he moved his hand up to cover his eyes. "They came after me…with those needles…couldn't think…straight any more…couldn't talk right…every time I tried to tell them…kept sticking me with more needles…"

My mouth went dry. "Hell of a dream, Daniel."

"That…wasn't the dream…Ja'k."

It felt like my heart slammed itself against my ribcage. "What?"

"It was…" Daniel swallowed, showing me what this confession cost him. "…So scary…I suddenly…wasn't sure if everything I knew was real…that maybe…it was all…lies…they kept saying…I was…sc…crazy…having a breakdown…but I felt fine. I thought I was fine…but I kept seeing that…corpse and I got…" He swallowed again and I heard his voice break.

"I got scared, Jack."

I closed my eyes, pulling away my hands. I didn't want to hear this.

"I was never more…scared than that point when I thought…I had really…" Daniel didn't finish, but I can add one and one together.

"And now…everything's different…"

"What do you mean?"

Daniel sat up shakily, pushing away my hands as he did when I tried to help.

"Everyone's going to be treating me different now, Jack." His voice sounded clearer as he woke up a bit more. "I…everything's gone…"

"I don't get what you mean."

He looked at me and I read utter disappointment in his eyes, even in the dark.

"You're doing it, too, Jack." He sighed as if he had expected this. "I…I worked so hard…to get everyone's respect here…I was always fighting back then…before the Stargate, trying to convince everyone that I wasn't a …coot…some weird nutty professor who obviously didn't have enough time to grow up before going to college." Daniel began rubbing his shoulder again. All that bouncing and twisting around on his bed hadn't help things. "I…here…you guys…I'm really…really listened to…" He interrupted whatever smart remark I was going to say to that. "I know I come off…too yappy at times for you, Jack, but I know I can count on you in not laughing me off SGC."

Never, Danny.

"But…all that's gone…everyone's seen me…cracked open…like…" He bowed his head, biting his lower lip.

"I should have fought harder…realized what was happening sooner…none of this would have happened then…"

Daniel.

"I…just wish…you at least…would stop looking at me like that…"

You got it all wrong. I…

"Shoulder still hurts?" I asked all of the sudden when I noticed his hand was still there, rubbing it.

Daniel paused, then nodded, finally admitting to me the bruises that were probably there.

"Be right back." I said and got off the bed. Daniel didn't move an inch as I walked out of the room and headed straight for the bathroom. I didn't go straight for the medicine cabinet yet, though. Instead, I turned on the sink, twisted the faucet until the water was at its coldest, and let it collect in the basin.

Then…I stuck my head completely in it.

After a few seconds, I came back up again, feeling no more awake than I did before. Bowing my head, I stared at my reflection off the water. Better than looking into the mirror. Sometimes…I see another face…one clouded with ghosts behind the eyes.

I told Daniel I didn't believe in ghosts.

I lied.

I see them all the time.

To the point…

Where's that Ben Gay?

I swung open the cabinet and ran my hands through its contents until I found a new tube. I should buy stock in that company. I average a tube a week on that shit. My team and me were always coming back with one bruise or another.

I almost forgot to turn off the water before I went back to his room with the stuff. Daniel was still sitting there, shoulders slumped as if he was tired, but his eyes were open.

"What's that?" He asked warily.

I silently showed him the tube and he balked.

"No way! That stuff smells terrible. I'll never be able to sleep with that stuff on!"

Oh, like I'm gonna believe you'll get right back to bed after this, Jackson.

"Where?" I wasn't budging an inch on this. I knew those aches were going to hurt like a bitch tomorrow.

Daniel sighed. He knows when he's going to lose an argument. He's been with us long enough to know better.

"Left shoulder." He said softly and stuck his hand out for the Ben Gay.

I stayed where I was, scowling at him. "Front or back?"

He sighed again. Turning around, he tugged his shirt off and sat there, waiting for my reaction.

Shit.

I am going over there tomorrow and I am going to rip their guts out with a spoon.

"Christ, Daniel." I breathed as I sat down on the bed. His back was blotched with bruises, some of them a horrible purple imprint of what looked like a heel. I'm beginning to wonder if I should just take him back to SGC and to Doc. "Why the hell didn't you say something before?"

He kept quiet.

Fine, if he was going to be hard-nosed about it.

I opened the tube, my eyes wandering around his back, wondering what was bad enough for Doc to check out. The more I counted, the tighter my hand around the stuff got and suddenly I squeezed too hard and a whole mess of it went all over my hands.

Daniel turned his head a bit and frowned. "Isn't that too much, Jack?"

I rolled my eyes, tossed the crushed thing onto the end table and smeared some on his left shoulder blade.

"I think you sprained a muscle, Daniel." Actually, they sprained it. I'm going to kill them.

"You think…ow!" He cried out when I pressed the heel of my hand down on the space between the blade and the back. Daniel twisted around a bit and glared at me. "Jack!"

"Will you stop moving around?" I complained as I tried to get some of that stuff…damn he was right…this stuff smells terrible…on his shoulder. "I have to work it in for it to help."

"This is…ow!" He shuffled away a bit. "Helping?"

I snorted as I rubbed the stiff muscle on his shoulder. "Or I could drive you back to Doc instead."

Daniel fell silent.

I was left to my task, only interrupted every so often with a hiss when I pressed down too hard on one spot. His head down, I saw only the top of his head on the reflection at the window across from me. But I knew he wasn't asleep.

"It's…not what you think…" What am I doing?

Daniel lifted his head a bit to show me he was listening.

"You…didn't lose anything in front of us…" I stopped what I was doing, dropping my hands to my lap. Daniel pulled his shirt back down but didn't turn around as he waited.

"I…you were right…I don't like that place…but it wasn't…it wasn't just you I saw in there, okay?"

Daniel nodded slowly.

"I…had a friend…" Stop, O'Neill. Go no further. "He…he ended up in one of those places and it didn't work out too…well for him there."

"What happened?" He whispered, still not turning around.

"He killed himself." With my pen.

Daniel turned around, his eyes glued to my face. "God, I'm sorry, Jack."

So am I.

He knew enough about my past…missions before the Stargate so I didn't even have to mention specifics as I went on.

"There was a lot of stuff back then, Daniel." I snagged a tissue from the bedside table and began wiping off the smelly salve from my hands. "Stuff better not to remember, better to forget."

"It doesn't always work that way, Jack." He said those words as if he knew what I was talking about. I looked up and saw clouded blue eyes, sorrowful eyes, eyes I hadn't seen since I got sent to that virtual reality world Daniel was experiencing thanks to that Keeper.

Yeah…he knew what I was talking about. He really knew.

"I know." I shrugged as I wiped my fingers off one by one, not looking at him. "I was that close to being where my friend was…sitting in some room somewhere…"

"Jack-"

"But I got better." I interrupted him, not wanting to hear what sympathy he had for me. "I got better…and…and he didn't."

There. Enough said. Now leave it alone.

"I'm sorry, Jack."

So am I, Daniel.

"He…must have been a good friend."

Leave it alone, Daniel.

"I don't know much about a lot of your past and I understand if you don't want to…talk about it…it must have been…bad…"

Leave it alone. Just leave it in its grave, Daniel.

"To see someone in a place like that…" Daniel's voice hitched. "Oh God, it must have been hell for you three to see me there and me acting like…like…"

"You're all right, Daniel." I said harshly.

"I'm all right." He repeated numbly.

Yes. You're all right. You didn't succumb to whatever demons may lurk. You didn't give up and thank me before taking your own li-

"I didn't recognize him." I said suddenly. "I knew him all that time and I didn't see any of what I knew in that man. He…" I couldn't finish. I just couldn't.

"You kept seeing yourself in him, didn't you, Jack?"

I whipped my head towards him. Since when did he become a mind reader?

"Sorry." He ducked his head. "That was out of line for me-"

"You're right." I laughed bitterly. "I did. God damn me, but it's true. I saw me sitting there…doing the same thing to myself. It was like walking on tightrope…either side would have landed me in that room. Drinking myself to a stupor ninety percent of my time kept me out, but…" I swallowed. "It came pretty damn close." Too close. To the point I almost saw my face instead of Daniel's in that goddamn place.

We didn't say anything after that. There's not much you could say after something like that. But it would have been weird to walk out of the room after that, too.

For what felt like forever, I kept looking up at him, at him sitting there all scrunched up in a ball, looking like he was deep in thought and I would keep looking back down again. When he did speak, it startled me. He whispered, but in the silence that had hung over us before, it sounded like he was screaming.

"It wasn't the first time people thought I was…you know…" I looked up and saw Daniel waved one hand up in the air in a circle. "Not all there. The kinder word was…eccentric."

I think I've used that word on him once or twice.

He laughed as he remembered, but it didn't sound to me like it was a good memory.

"I was spouting out my theory on the pyramids long before Katherine found me and offered me the Stargate right in my lap. Since I was in college." He rubbed his shoulder, gave his fingers an experimental sniff, and glared at me before continuing. "There was this one dean…she…one time she called me into the office and introduced me to a…doctor." Daniel spat that last word out and I knew what kind of doctor that was.

"Started asking me questions, pretending to be interested in my…theory on the pyramids and asked if he could talk to me some more later on about it. I was…I was excited. I thought, here was finally someone who may agree with me that those pyramids are not what they seem. So I agreed so quickly that I didn't even bother to think of why his office wasn't on the university campus."

"What did you do?"

Daniel sighed. He pulled up his knees, rested his chin on top of them and wrapped his arms around them. Tilting his head slightly, he gazed out, his eyes half open like slits. He was trying very hard to stay awake.

"I went by his office and saw the title on the door. I…I went back to my dean, tore up his business card in front of her…and…" He blinked, smiling a bit as he recalled the next part. "Asked for a new dean."

I grinned. Way to go, Danny.

"But it hurt."

My smile faded as I nodded.

"She didn't say it outright. I guess she didn't know how to ask, but she didn't even bother to ask me herself and…" Daniel looked away from me. "It was like she gave up on me and just shoved me off to anyone who was willing to deal with it."

Just like us.

"You really think…everything's going to stay the same, Jack?"

He turned back to me, looking like that damn owl again, expecting me to have all the answers.

"Or…is everything going to just be…okay?"

I winced. I was about to say that, actually. Guess it wouldn't have helped him much. It sounded too…generic.

"Or am I going to have to watch what I say…for the rest of my life now?"

"I guess…" I don't know how he was going to take it. "I guess you better get ready to start ripping more business cards again."

Daniel started and stared at me for the longest time. Oh shit. I guess it was the wrong thing to say after all. I opened my mouth to apologize when he…laughed.

"Thanks a lot, Jack." He shook his head. "Rip up more business cards…ha ha…"

I grinned back at him. "And you know how I am, Jackson."

"You'll treat me as I was crazy anyway." Daniel put in.

I shrugged. "What can I say? I'm just an outgoing kind of guy."

Daniel laughed softly again and rubbed his face tiredly. Poor kid must be whipped right now. He had his eyes half closed most of the time.

"Go to bed, Jackson."

"I already am, Jack."

I snorted and swatted him on the head. "I meant to sleep, kid."

Daniel sobered, looking up at me as he did. "I just can't, Jack. Not yet." He squinted at the clock by the bed. "It's three in the morning, Jack."

"Precisely. All the more reason to-"

"I…" He chewed his lip, looking unsure if he could say it. I nodded, telling him to go on. "I just want to stay awake, until the next day comes. Just until the past day is completely over with." He looked at me and when he saw my blank look, he went on.

"I just want to be sure that this is not all a dream…that I'm really out of that place."

"Daniel-"

"Please, Jack. I'll sleep when the sun comes up…I'll know then when I wake up…that it would be here."

We've been a team long enough that I know when I wasn't going to win an argument. "Come on." I got up, waved him to get up and we padded out to the kitchen.

Turning the kitchen light on, I had to squint a few times before adjusting to its brightness. Motioning towards a seat, I told him to sit down as I set out to make some coffee. As the coffeemaker went put-put as it brewed, I went rummaging in my fridge. Hell, since we're up, we might as well eat. I just remembered we never had any dinner.

"Just a little sugar in mine, Jack."

Nice try, Jackson.

I looked up from behind the fridge door and glared at him. He had the nerve to look like he was saying "Who me?"

"No coffee. No beer. For at least a few days. I know Doctor Fraiser told you that."

"Jaack."

"Don't you Jaack me! Here. Have some milk." I placed the quart carton in front of him. He frowned at the box. "I could warm some up if you like."

"Jack, I said I wanted to stay awake, not go into a coma here!"

"Fine." I placed the milk back. "Here. Have some juice then."

"Oh…joy."

I pulled out some of that leftover chocolate cake my neighbor Mrs. Davis made for me a while back. I gave it a poke and grunted. Looks good. Ain't talking back to me or nothing. That went on the table. I pulled up some cold cuts and tossed that on the table, too. I yanked out the half jar of pickles. Might as well finish that. There were only two left in there. Why not. Daniel sighed behind me.

"Jack, are you trying to keep me awake or are you trying to get me fatten up for slaughter?"

I just shot him another look. He finally took the hint and shut up.

Few minutes later, we were chewing on my sandwiches, him with his juice and me with my coffee.

Daniel kept looking at the time. Probably wondering when the sun was gonna come up. I just sat there, chewing on the pickle I should have tossed out weeks ago, watching him rub his shoulder again once more. I felt my anger return with the sight of that.

"When were you going to tell me about that?" I asked quietly as I nodded towards his hand and he dropped it again onto his lap.

"Um…like…maybe…never." He looked down at his half-eaten sandwich and poked at it.

What?

He looked embarrassed. "I…it wasn't anything worth mentioning."

Wasn't worth mentioning?

"I…was giving them problems when I was first taken there…tried to talk to them…but I must have been…agitated and so they-"

"Daniel," I interrupted, my voice sounded so tight you could have snapped it with a little pluck. "No one should have treated you like that. No one."

He had the nerve to look as if he didn't know what I was talking about.

"First thing in the morning, I'm going over there and give them a taste of that." I snarled, getting angry all over again.

"I was so s-sure…" That tremor was back in his voice again. God, I hated that. "That it was me…I couldn't really remember what actually happened but…"

"I'm pressing charges, Daniel." I interrupted him before he could pin the blame on himself. "And I think you should too."

Daniel sat there nodding, absently rubbing his shoulder again.

"You're the only one…I told…about this…no one else really…knows…"

I suspected he wasn't just talking about the bruises. It made me uncomfortable to realize that he just told me stuff he hadn't told another soul to. It was like slicing a wrist open in front of me, letting himself bleed before me.

Coughing awkwardly, I tried to answer as gracefully as possible but what came out was "I know." Oh that was real smooth, O'Neill. You could stop wars with your words.

"I…never told anyone about my friend either, Daniel."

Daniel looked up, his mouth opened to a "Oh."

"Are we okay with all of this?" I asked, sipping my coffee. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to know the answer. I felt a weight on my shoulders from his confession, although something in my chest seemed to loosen from mine.

"If you are, Jack."

I tilted my head back to give it some thought. It didn't take long because I immediately knew the answer.

"Yeah…" I was a bit surprised. "I am…"

Daniel smiled a little.

I sat there, watching him, watching him struggle to stay awake to ensure this wasn't all a dream and suddenly realized that I had forgotten to say something to him. I can't believe I never said it to him.

"It's good to have you back, Daniel."

He looked up, mouth slightly opened, blinking rapidly at me. The he closed his mouth and curved it into a contented smile.

"It feels good to be back, Jack."

I grinned, lifted my mug at him in salute and took a sip.

"One question though."

Huh?

Daniel looked at me funny.

"Back at the infirmary…What were you going to do with that IV bag?"

The End

© December 15, 1999 The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

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