Rising from the Depths

Author: Neiths Arrow

Email: Season 6

Spoilers: Everything up to Season 6

Pairings: None

Category: Episode Tag, Angst

Rating: PG13

Archive: Jackfic, Heliopolis

Summary: How did Jack O'Neill return to normal after being tortured by Ba'al? My take on it.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. I'm only borrowing them and will return them as soon as you are done reading. No profit is being made on this story; it is for entertainment purposes only.

Author's Note: This story was written over a year ago, but somehow disappeared off the internet. This is a repost. It was written because I was driven to know how Jack recovered from his time with Ba'al. It is unbeta'd, but I've made minor changes to correct punctuation and spelling errors.

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He felt himself fall to the floor as the gravity field was released, but he didn't have the energy to prevent it. Ba'al's words echoed in his mind. ('As you regain the strength to return here, consider this – it will be far worse . . . next time.') He couldn't, no he couldn't go through this again. He had no defenses left. Every assault on his body directly triggered naked nerve endings. When tortured in the past, he had always had the option to let go – to die, but this time . . . this time he had died more times than he could remember. He was beyond hope that he would be rescued from this hell. He was on the brink of insanity from the torturous pain and endless despair. He only had one possible out. A desperate whisper escaped from his mouth. "Daniel."

It barely registered as the two Jaffa easily lifted him and half carried, half dragged him through the route to the sarcophagus. All the previous times, he had not been conscious when placed into the stone box. He struggled to avoid this form of torture but was quickly subdued by the inhumanly strong guards. The remembered words echoed in his head. ('It will be far worse next time.') The bi-fold top closed over him leaving the eerie glow seen only from the inside of the rejuvenating coffin. ('It will be far worse next time.') Now that there was no audience, hopelessness washed over him, and his body gave in to his inner weakness. Yes, there would be a next time and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Daniel was the only one with the power to stop this. But Daniel was gone and had probably never been here in the first place. He lost consciousness as the ancient sarcophagus began healing his body and warping his spirit.

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A bolt of fear ran through Jack as he revived and heard noises. He knew the unwelcome reprieve brought by the sarcophagus was short-lived. Much of his physical strength and energy had been replaced, but his spirit was more drained. As the stone cover of the sarcophagus ground open, he thought 'Oh God! Will I have to go back right away? Oh please, God! I can't go back in there!' He felt his heart race and forced his quick, shallow breathing to slow and deepen. ('It will be far worse . . .') 'How can it get worse? No, don't think about it.' He closed his eyes slowly to calm himself.

The cadenced thump of booted feet caused him to snap his eyes open just in time to see the impassive faces of the two Jaffa peer into his revolving grave. Strong hands grabbed his shoulders and yanked him from his macabre sanctuary. Nothing was said as Jack was escorted back to his cell. The slump of his shoulders spoke of dejection and demoralization. ('It will be far worse . . .') Daniel was probably not going to help him. ('. . . next time.') There is always a plan B. But his plans were now limited to how he could die and stay dead. All he had to do was tell Ba'al why Kanaan came back. His resolve and reasons for keeping this information to himself were beginning to pale in comparison to the pain he was enduring. He wondered if the sarcophagus was affecting his thinking. As the Jaffa activated the artificial gravity field, O'Neill slid down the floor/wall. He remained sitting where he landed. Though his body was healed, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and fear had taken a toll on his spirit. His time in the sarcophagus ensured that he would not die from either hunger or thirst, so Ba'al had not bothered to provide food or water since his capture. His fear-heightened senses made sleep impossible because he imagined that every sound was made by approaching guards. Again, he would not die from lack of sleep.

O'Neill was not used to giving up, but each death he suffered was the ultimate in giving up. That bastard Ba'al was forcing him to give up over and over. Each time robbed his spirit of the inner strength that he had collected each time he had cheated death. Cheating death now only resulted in more pain with no end in sight. He was so tired – so tired. He thought he heard a noise in the hallway and his whole body tensed involuntarily. He almost whimpered aloud. "Oh God! I can't. . ." He swallowed dryly and listened intently. There were no further noises, and he relaxed as much as his hypersensitive nerves would permit. 'It will be far worse for me next time, and I couldn't take it the last time.'

Jack decided to take stock of his situation. Daniel was no longer in the cell and had not been there the last time either. He realized there was a good probability that Daniel had never been here at all – that he had been an hallucination. O'Neill replayed his options. He could not escape this cell – nor could he overpower the two Jaffa that came to escort him back to 'the room.' He had tried to appeal to Ba'al to let him die. Jack concluded, 'I'm on my own. I've used up all my options. There is no longer any hope of rescue, and I can't go through one more session with the knives and acid or . . . .' ('It will be far worse next time.') O'Neill shuddered. 'I need to end this. No matter how, I need to end this. There is only one way out. My last act in this life will be the act of a coward. My betrayal will mean that Shalen will suffer – yet another person will suffer because of me. I've never met her, but dammit . . . I feel what Kanaan felt for her. Oh God! I'm actually thinking of betraying someone I love.' Another face framed with short, blond hair entered his mind. 'Maybe I can endure it one more time.' ('Remember this, it will be far worse next time.') All thoughts lead back to Ba'al's chamber. His face slackened in disbelief and shock as all fight left him.

His heart went dead. His body stilled; he knew what he had to do. He sat in numb silence as he realized that he had finally been broken. He would tell Ba'al what he wanted to know. Colonel Jonathan O'Neill would be remembered as a coward. There was one last hope that needed to be eliminated before he was taken in to Ba'al.

He looked up toward the only way out of his cell and weakly called out. "Daniel?"

"I'm here Jack."

"You were gone." Jack's voice seemed to convey a childlike hurt, betrayal, and the despair of a man who has finally reached the end of hope.

Daniel was deeply saddened when he saw the state of his friend. "I know, I'm sorry, there was something I had to do, but I'm back now and I promise I'll stay with you 'til this is over."

After a pause, Jack responded despondently, "It'll never be over."

"Jack, you just have to hang in there a little while longer."

"No! I can't, I can't go back in there. If I go back, I swear to God, I'll give Ba'al what he wants. I'll tell him."

Daniel was more saddened than shocked by this revelation; he knew all too well the limitations of the mortal body. Daniel noted that Jack kept his eyes lowered. He knew the proud man must be ashamed, yet so full of despair that he couldn't spare the energy to care. However, Daniel's curiosity got the better of him and he asked, "What?"

"That he loved her." Jack's admission came out as if an admission of his own weakness.

"Kanaan did." Daniel clarified this point.

Jack's face remained expressionless. "He came back for her. He wanted to save her."

"Ba'al doesn't know this."

"If he finds out, he'll do to her what he's doing to me. Daniel, if you don't end this . . . I'll tell him." Jack shook his head in disbelief at his own words. He knew Daniel would understand the depth of his desperation; he was about to embark on a coward's path by allowing another person to suffer in order to end his own pain.

To Daniel, it looked like someone had just punched his former team leader in the gut causing him to expel his soul. It confirmed that Daniel had made the right decision. "You won't have to. It's almost over, Jack."

The stricken man looked at Daniel for the first time with a look that screamed, 'Didn't you hear what I just said?' Instead, he asked, "How?"

"You were right. There's always a way out . . . at least there's always a chance. Your journey's not over Jack. Not yet."

When Daniel didn't back down, Jack asked, "What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything. It was Sam, and Teal'c, . . . and Jonas too."

"What?" A spark of hope ignited in the Colonel.

"They thought of something." Daniel looked smug.

Jack wanted more details. "What?" The deep rumble of an explosion nearby caused Jack to jump to his feet.

Daniel continued. "This is it. All you ever wanted was a fighting chance, Jack. Now you have it. If anyone can make it out of here . . . you can."

As the explosions continued, a voice was heard shouting, "Lord Yu attacks!" The SG1 prisoner looked up hopefully. When he looked back down, Daniel was gone. "Daniel?" The gravity field rotated and Jack was now standing on the proper floor. As he began walking toward the doorway, he looked back into the cell with a dubious expression on his face. 'Why would Lord Yu have attacked the gravity generators – the one thing that could release me? Daniel didn't help, my ass.' He would save these thoughts for later . . . after he had dealt with a couple things and was safely back on Earth.

After Jack saw the Jaffa round the corner, he quickly dispatched the guard and took his weapon. The escaping prisoner located the woman, Shalen and took her with him; he could not leave her behind or this would have all been for nothing. He had one more task to do before attempting to leave this godforsaken place. O'Neill knew the path to the room well since he had traveled it so often. Just as he thought, during the chaos of the sudden attack most of the Jaffa were called away to defend the outpost. This was confirmed when he heard the distinct sounds of overhead battle. O'Neill and Shalen continued cautiously down the hallways. 'Good, the room isn't guarded.' He pulled Shalen into the room and saw her eyes round with fear. He raised his weapon and fired at the sarcophagus twice. He didn't want to chance coming back if they were captured. He could endure one final death and reasoned that Shalen would not have to endure being tortured to death more than once as well. Jack breathed a deep sigh of relief. As far as he was concerned, the torture was over.

The building rumbled deeply signaling to the Air Force Colonel that Ba'al's mother ship had departed. He gestured toward the door. "We have to get out of here." Shalen guided their path out of the building. Jack felt the adrenalin rush as they stealthily navigated the corridors and made it safely outside. The fortress was relatively abandoned, but he could see death gliders and other spacecraft battling in the sky. The planet was continually bombarded as they made their way to the nearby Stargate. As they traveled, Jack formulated his plan to gate to the interim emergency site. He did not want to gate to the Alpha site directly from Ba'al's planet. As they approached the DHD, he shuddered at the memory of pain in his back from a staff weapon. Looking warily to the sky and behind them, he dialed one of the uninhabited planets known to all SGC personnel as a contingency for base personnel without a GDO. As the last chevron cleared and the 'whoosh' died down, he grabbed Shalen's hand and ran through the circle.

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Due to the force of their entrance into the wormhole, the escaping pair were forcefully expelled out of the stone circle onto the new planet. This is similar to when exiting a moving sidewalk while running – the pedestrian stops abruptly onto the stationary sidewalk, but the forward momentum of the body continues. O'Neill rolled down the steps of the interim planet skillfully. Shalen was apparently not such a skilled gate traveler; she tripped and fell flat in a stunned heap at the base of the gate. O'Neill helped her up. As she realized they were no longer on Ba'al's planet, she gave a great shuddering sigh and wrapped her arms around her rescuer. He grasped her hand and pulled her down to the DHD. "Come on, we're not done yet." He dialed the Alpha site and they again made their way through the great ring, but this time they walked through the gate.

This trip was more gentle, and they smoothly walked out onto the platform at the top of the ramp. They were quickly surrounded by armed Jaffa and SGC personnel. O'Neill turned to calm Shalen as she screamed in fear. Major Ferretti shouted out, "Hold your fire!" He took in the appearance of the two figures before him and asked incredulously, "Colonel O'Neill? Are you OK, sir?"

Jack had already begun to feel the artificial strength of the sarcophagus fail while still imprisoned; his escape had been accomplished by riding on adrenalin. Each minute depleted his stores of this stimulant, and he quickly found he was no longer up to the task of doing much more than walking and standing. His legs were starting to shake with exertion. He responded to Ferretti's question simply. "We need to get to the SGC, but I don't have a GDO."

Ferretti kept his eyes on the recently arrived pair and made a decision to trust his former CO. "Stand down. Get a medic here on the double." He looked at Jack's shirt and his glazed eyes. "Sir, you've been missing for over a week. We're really glad to see you. What happened?"

Jack raised hooded eyes and smiled weakly. "Lou, I really don't have the energy to tell this story twice. Could you just dial us home?"

Ferretti nodded once and gave the order to dial the SGC. He noticed that Colonel O'Neill was getting weaker by the minute. He thought the symbiote would have helped him, but the injuries revealed by the shirt had probably drained the unwelcome hitchhiker. "Sir, I'll give them an advanced warning to have a medical team waiting for you when you arrive. Can you walk?"

O'Neill's response was to give a weak smile and a nod, "If you hurry."

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At the SGC, the intercom announced "Unscheduled offworld activation." General Hammond hurried to the control room. Major Carter, Teal'c, and Jonas also made their way in the hopes that they would have news of their leader. They were not disappointed. As they entered the room, they heard the General yell, "Medical team to the gateroom." Hammond was surprised when Dr. Frasier appeared at his elbow almost immediately along with the remainder of SG1.

The General explained, "It's the Alpha site. Colonel O'Neill just gated there a few minutes ago." He turned to the doctor. "He's injured, but they don't know how badly." Hammond took his hand off the microphone and shouted, "Escort Colonel O'Neill through."

"Uhhh! Sir? There's a woman with him." Ferretti warned through the speaker.

The members of SG1 looked at each other and smiled . . . Teal'c nodded his head in appreciation of their deductive powers. Hammond looked at SG1 and queried, "Major?"

"Sir, it should be Ba'al's lotar . . . uhhh . . . slave." Her voice lilted at the end to prompt the General to remember that they had already discussed the slave previously in the briefing room.

Hammond nodded then shouted to the technician who was two feet away. "Open the iris." As the iris parted, he turned to the microphone. "Escort them both Major Ferretti. We have a medical team standing by." He turned away from the microphone to the technician and stated in a lower voice. "As soon as they're through, notify the Tok'ra that we have Kanaan and Colonel O'Neill here at the SGC."

"Yes sir."

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O'Neill's senses were still on heightened alert as he stepped through the Stargate into the SGC. He had unwillingly given up his zat and felt defenseless without it. He saw Ferretti offer his hand in assistance, but O'Neill ignored it. Instead, he held an alert, wide-based stance with his weight distributed toward the balls of his feet, ready to spring if needed. He kept his back toward the now disengaged gate and shifted his eyes alertly to the large number of people in the gateroom. Upon entering the room, he had immediately taken note of the SF's with their guns pointed toward him and Shalen. When General Hammond gave the order to stand down, his body relaxed somewhat, but he remained on heightened alert, moving his head sharply when one of the guards made a sound to his right. He unconsciously tightened his grip on Shalen's hand causing her to protest. He looked at her quickly and saw fear and alertness fighting for control over her features. He attempted a gentle smile and said, "It's alright. They won't hurt you."

O'Neill started when he saw a small figure disengage from the crowd and walk toward him. He swayed slightly on his feet and acknowledged Dr. Fraiser with a nod of recognition.

"Sir, you're home."

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After the iris opened, SGC personnel braced themselves for the unfamiliar site of O'Neill as a Tok'ra. Unfortunately, an injured O'Neill was not such an unfamiliar site. Dr. Frasier hoped the symbiote was able to repair whatever physical damage had occurred. Carter was poised in anticipation in the control booth. She and General Hammond knew the danger a returned captive from the Goa'uld presented and they were ready to take defensive action if necessary. Fears of Goauld possession were minimal, however, since O'Neill already had a symbiote. In the gateroom, a team of SF's warily stood at full alert with guns drawn. Teal'c waited at the base of the Stargate with Dr. Frasier and her gloved and ready medical team. Teal'c was ready to defend the SGC if necessary, while also being available to assist O'Neill. They all looked expectantly toward the gate. Ferretti appeared first. He stepped to the right side and turned back toward the wormhole. He looked ready to physically assist whomever walked through the gate next.

The tall figure of Colonel O'Neill broke cleanly through the shimmering puddle. There were audible gasps as the onlookers took in the appearance of his bloodied shirt. General Hammond took a moment to assess Jack and the woman next to him. He noted O'Neill's battle ready stance, but also observed the instability of his stance. He saw no immediate danger. "Stand down people."

Sam Carter noted O'Neill's hyper-alert state. She had seen this stance many times in battle situations, but she also noted his deep fatigue. His rapidly shifting eyes gave some hint as to the tensions he had endured. She saw him start at a noise to his side, but he quickly recovered. He turned to the woman at his side and she saw what must be Kanaan give her a reassuring smile . . . except it was the Colonel's face. She shuddered.

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From the base of the ramp, Janet Frasier watched O'Neill closely. She had already dismissed the woman at his side as she did not appear to be injured. She asked a nearby nurse to examine the woman to make sure she didn't need medical attention. As Frasier walked up the ramp, she used her observation skills to take note of O'Neill's condition before she touched him. It was a good sign that he refused the physical support offered by Ferretti. However, his stance was unsteady and his posture, though alert, lacked its usual energy. His eyes shifted constantly like a person under considerable stress; this was confirmed when he jumped at an unexpected sound. She made a note to move slowly and speak softly to him. His smile to the woman at his side reassured the doctor that his injuries were not too severe. "Colonel, you're home now." He did not appear to hear her, so she moved closer. He focused his eyes on her quickly and she held his gaze. "Sir, you're home." He nodded his acknowledgement and visibly relaxed. He swayed slightly and Shalen held his arm to steady him.

Janet's visual scan continued. She counted numerous fatal injuries on the shirt he was wearing; some of the bloodstains looked fairly recent. The whiteness of his face was consistent with considerable blood loss, but she knew even a Tok'ra could not heal so many injuries within such a short time span. She looked into his eyes to observe his pupils; she did not like the pain she saw there. "Colonel, where are you injured?"

He responded with a shake of his head, "I'm not."

She smiled, "You let me be the judge of that, sir." She grasped his arm. Together, she and Shalen walked him to the base of the ramp. When the nurse led Shalen to the side, O'Neill gave the former slave a reassuring nod. He was assisted to sit on a gurney. Janet carefully lifted his shirt and was surprised by the lack of wounds on his skin. She came to a quick conclusion, "Sir, you know better than to wear a shirt with someone else's blood on it." She made a mental note to provide a refresher course on Universal Precautions.

She was puzzled by his next words. "It's mine."

"The shirt? But all these holes . . . ?"

"It's mine."

"I don't understand!"

He looked into her eyes briefly and mumbled, "Sarcophagus."

As the horror of what the shirt represented became clear, Janet looked up open mouthed and outraged toward the General in the glass booth. She could tell that he had heard as well. She saw Sam mouth, "Oh my God!" Their eyes met briefly in shared dismay before both returned to their work.

Janet composed herself and turned back toward her patient who was swaying on the gurney. "Colonel, can you walk or do you want a ride to the infirmary?"

O'Neill nodded and slid off the gurney onto his feet. Teal'c appeared suddenly at his side to lend support as they walked to the infirmary.

So softly that she had to strain to hear, Jack requested, "Janet? I'd like a shower first."

She responded doubtfully, "Sir, I don't think . . ."

The naked request in his eyes as he turned toward her stopped her protest. The lack of confidence in that look spoke volumes about the loss of control he had endured. Teal'c's softly spoken support reassured the doctor that no harm would come to the returned soldier. "I will accompany him."

Dr. Frasier rethought her doubts. After all, the Colonel did have a Tok'ra symbiote to help him. She nodded her head with only a little reluctance. "OK, sir, but the next stop you and Kanaan make will be my examination room."

Jack hesitated briefly before nodding once. He realized that Dr. Frasier thought he still carried a symbiote. If he told her the truth now, he risked losing his shower. He made eye contact with Teal'c and O'Neill knew the Jaffa would not reveal that he sensed no symbiote.

Janet insisted on being present as Jack disrobed in the infirmary shower. He noticed the wrinkled noses of those present. He internally shrugged, but did not have the energy to respond that one tends to lose bodily functions when one dies, and dies, and dies. Janet observed his body for wounds and appeared satisfied when none materialized. He caught her looking closely at the holes in the shirt, but she didn't say anything more. He showered as thoroughly as his limited energy allowed – the comforting heat increased his fatigue. He was almost asleep on his feet when he found himself thinking, 'I would feel better if I could only spend a little time in the …' He caught himself short. He had been about to say 'sarcophagus.' 'Oiyy!' He toweled himself dry while sitting down and obediently donned the hospital gown and pants he was provided.

By the time they were half way to the examination room, O'Neill had stumbled twice. After the second time, Dr Frasier placed him into the wheelchair that had been following them since they left the gateroom. Dr. Frasier observed that O'Neill did not protest – that was a bad sign.

They found General Hammond in the examination room. He and Frasier battled with their eyes. Her mouth pursed with determination. The General raised his hand to Dr. Frasier's imminent protest. "I need to inform the Tok'ra about Kanaan's health."

"Please keep it short, sir."

The General nodded curtly to the acknowledged head of this particular domain. He turned back to O'Neill. "I'm sorry Jack, could I speak with Kanaan?"

After a brief hesitation, O'Neill responded. "Kanaan is dead, sir. He's been dead for . . . what's the date? How long has it been since I left Antarctica?" O'Neill realized that his last fully conscious memory before this ordeal had occurred on the cold continent.

There was stunned silence in the room. General Hammond broke the silence by telling Jack the date and filling him in on when he had left the SGC. "Son, why don't we let Dr. Frasier examine you and then we'll ask questions."

"With all due respect, sir, I won't last that long." He looked at their shocked faces and rephrased, "I won't stay awake that long, sir."

Hammond looked at Dr. Frasier. "Could we do both simultaneously doctor?"

With her curiosity warring over her medical concern, Dr. Frasier responded, "Yes, but I don't want anyone interfering with my staff as they conduct their tests."

"Agreed."

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