By Nomad
May 2008

Spoilers: Set during season six. Big spoilers for Abyss; medium big for Cold Lazarus and Meridian; minor for A Matter of Time.
Disclaimer: The Stargate franchise belongs to many people, none of whom are me. Characters, settings and concepts borrowed for fun, not profit.
Warnings: This story addresses dark themes that some people would prefer to be specifically warned about. However, said dark themes are at the core of the story's mystery element and I'd really rather not spoil that. So, uh, consider this a non-specific warning for "stuff that would ordinarily merit a specific warning", and tread carefully if you know you might need to.

Part I


Oh, it's too early for this.


What day is it? Did he set the alarm wrong by accident?


He must have done, because there's no way this is an ordinary hour of the morning. His eyelids are gummed down like stamps.


Somebody's speaking. Dammit. Fell asleep with the TV on again. That's sad, Jack. Real get a life territory.

A life. Had one of those, didn't he? Had a wife and kid. That didn't end up so well.


...Sounds a lot like the Doc, actually.

Hey, Doc. Are you sure you should be in my bedroom? People might talk.


While you're here, could you turn off that alarm? It's getting annoying. And that drill. Yeah, the one that's right behind my head. Thanks.


I'll be up in five minutes. I swear.


Ah, the infirmary ceiling. His old nemesis.

Jack gave it a baleful glare. He'd gotten to see entirely too much of it during his lengthy stay after his happy fun time at chez Baal.

The thing was, he'd also gotten out. He distinctly remembered a trip to Minnesota that was not so much relaxing as twitchy, and his subsequent return to duty. Mostly achieved, admittedly, by the fine art of lying his ass off, but he considered that preemptive rather than deceptive. He would be fine, eventually, and that would be best achieved by getting back into the old routine, so what was the point in muddying the waters?

So. What was he doing back here?

He polled his brain for details of whatever mishap had put him back in the infirmary, and came up with a bigger blank than usual. PX-something, trees, a temple building, Carter babbling about energy signals... They could be mission memories, but they could equally well be SG-1's greatest hits. Nothing specific was swimming to the forefront.

Okay. Time for the body to check in. Item the first: honking great headache. Item the second: catheter. Yay. Item the third: knees? Jack tested them, and found no worse than the usual lingering ache.

Nothing else was ringing the alarm bells, so the smart money went down on head injury. Again.

And here came the lovely Janet Fraiser to present him with his prize.

"Colonel." The Doc seemed oddly terse and formal, and he wondered what he'd done to piss her off this time. Probably just landed back in her infirmary too soon after the last time.

"Doc. Just couldn't get enough of my smiling face?"

He never learned, did he?

The Doc didn't crack a smile, not that he'd truly expected her to. "How are you feeling?"

Funny. Most days she didn't bother asking him to volunteer his state, just tortured him into submission. They'd come to a tacit agreement during his lengthy post-Baal incarceration that if she didn't bother to ask, he wouldn't bother to lie, and they'd both be much happier.

"Oh, you know, same old, same old... why am I here?"

She met his eyes for the first time, a brief and startled flash of brown. "You don't remember anything?"

Her gaze skittered away again almost immediately, and that set off the warning bells. Fraiser was nothing if not direct. Jack struggled to sit up. "What happened?"

"It's probably an aftereffect of the trauma," she said, instead of answering him. "You need to rest, Colonel. Don't try and get up."

As a calming statement, it had the opposite effect. A strangling panic dropped over him. "What happened to my team?" He craned around trying to see the other beds, but he was in his own little private section here and he couldn't tell if anyone else was bed-bound.

"What?" She seemed momentarily flustered by the question.

"Where's Carter? Teal'c-?" He faltered with his lips around the sound of the D. "What happened to the rest of SG-1?"

Fraiser's confusion cleared, and she stepped forward to press him back down to the bed. "Sir, SG-1 are fine. You weren't injured off-world."

There was an odd look in her eye, something uncomfortably like pity, and his instinct was to shrink away from it. "What-?" he began feebly, but she shushed him.

"Get some rest, Colonel," she said, leaning over him, a note of command in the words.

Jack closed his eyes because it was easier than trying to figure out the alternatives.


Gravity, a vast, snatching hand, slamming him hard against the web.

Pinned, helpless, acid burning...

"You're not really here, Jack." The glow that clings to Daniel isn't light, but something else. "None of this is real."

"I'm here." But is he lying on the floor looking up, or lying on the ceiling looking down? "I'm real. You're not."

Daniel's eyes are the only blue in the whole brown world. "You're real. But you're not the man they think you are."

There's only one answer to that. "I'm who I've always been."

And Daniel smiles, like he's cracked the code of life, the world and everything. "Yes."

When he touches the web, it crumbles away into sparks, and then Jack's falling, falling, falling, once again.

He awoke in the infirmary. There was somebody sitting silent beside him, and he thought Carter before he'd even turned his head.

Jack was going to have to go with ESP on that one, because ascribing it to sense of smell was kind of creepy.

He watched her undetected a few moments, a guilty pleasure. Not in an inappropriate way - although looking at Carter was never exactly a hardship - it was just that he'd developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with seeing and hearing his teammates breathe. Breathing was good. Breathing was thoroughly encouraged. And not breathing was kinda panic-inducing. The least said about that time he'd accidentally-on-purpose tripped over Teal'c during a particularly deep kelno'reem session, the better.

Carter was staring into space. So far as Jack could tell she wasn't injured, but she was looking a little frazzled. She'd either changed her hair or slept in it, although it would take a braver man than him to risk inquiring which. And... had she lost weight?

It was craning his head to try and get a better viewing angle that brought his wakefulness to her attention. She jumped, pulling her hand out from under her chin. "Colonel!"

Jeez, what was it, formal address day? Maybe Hammond had sent out a memo. Jack spared her a small but genuine quirked smile. "Hey, Carter."

"Sir. It's good to see you awake." The smile she gave him in return was oddly tentative, a world away from the usual dazzling beam. Not that he'd seen that one a lot this year. And yes, dammit, she had lost weight. She looked decidedly gaunt, dark smudges under her eyes.

He hoped she hadn't been worrying about him. They'd all gotten a little clingy since Daniel had... gone. Although a clingy Teal'c was something it took a very discerning eye to see.

He was not, however, seeing it at this moment.

"Where's Teal'c?"

A flicker more hesitation than he liked to see in his 2IC. "He's off-world."

Jack's eyebrows lowered. "Without us?"

"Something came up," she said evasively. He trusted that this was just the usual 'let's keep Jack out of the loop while he's recovering' BS, and let it go.

"And D- Jonas?" He covered quickly, but maybe not quick enough. He couldn't tell if Carter's eyebrow scrunch was because of the slip, or surprise that he was even asking about Jonas.

"He's with Teal'c."

"Of course he is."

Jack hadn't exactly wanted a visit from him anyway. It wasn't that he didn't like the guy...

Well, okay, it was. But he was man enough to admit that it was an entirely irrational dislike, born out of the way he had the nerve to always be hanging around and grinning and being agreeable and not being Daniel.

After they'd exhausted the small talk, the rather limp conversation dried up. Carter's expression, on the other hand, was looking decidedly damp. A fact that he viewed with some alarm. If she cried he was probably going to have to hug her or pat her on the back or something, and that couldn't end well for either of them.

"What the hell happened to me, Carter?" he asked.

He didn't expect that example of his usual subtlety to be the trigger that set her off. Her eyes pooled with suppressed tears as she forced a weak smile. "You were in an accident, sir."

Not good enough. Not coupled with that expression. "What kind of accident?" he demanded sharply.

Carter drew back, as if physical distance would make the question easier to evade. "Sir, I'm really not sure-"

"Carter." Kid glove time was over, and dammit, he wanted answers. "Tell me."

Unlike the Doc, Carter obeyed him far too readily to be able to look away from the 'that's an order' stare. But she held silent past the usual breaking point, and that wasn't good. Only two things trumped the CO card, and those were orders from higher up the food chain or, worse, the 'it's for your own good' defence.

Jack really hated it when it was for his own good.

"Carter?" he prompted, with the last of his flagging patience. She looked like she was finally about to speak-

And then the Doc bustled in, breaking the moment. "Colonel. Time for your neurological check."

Round two over. Still no score to Jack.

His third visitor, Jack didn't know at all. Which didn't preclude him forming an opinion.

First strike against him: guy was wearing a suit. Not a crime out in the wider world, but suspicious down here. Second, he was plastered with the kind of neutral smile that made Jack itch to punch it away. Third strike, he had a goatee. Jack hadn't always subscribed to the facial hair-based method of classifying evilness, but ever since Baal, he'd been leaning that way.

"Ah, Colonel. Good to see you awake at last."

Jack wasn't sure he liked the implication of having been seen... un-awake. He glowered. "I'd say it's a pleasure, but we haven't been introduced."

"Of course." Annoyingly, the smile didn't flicker. "I'm Doctor Andrews."

And 'doctor' minus scrubs and or uniform equals...

"You're a shrink," he said flatly.

"I'm a psychiatrist," the man agreed pleasantly, and took a seat by the bed. Uninvited, Jack might add.

"That's nice for you. And you're here because...?"

Andrews ignored the tone, scooting his chair closer to the bed. "I thought we should have a little talk before you were released."

"Oh, you did, did you?" What the hell was this crap? Hammond knew how he felt about ambush therapy sessions.

Andrews' plastic smile faded into a more solemn expression. "Jack... why do you think that you're here?"

Why did he think that was a leading question? "In the great scheme of things, or-?" No reaction. He tensed up a little. "I had an accident." The words came out a little more tentative than he wanted, not yet bolstered by any returning memory.

"If that's what you want to call it, then yes, you did."

What the hell was that supposed to mean? Jack scowled, losing what little patience he'd had. He struggled to sit up.

"Look, Andrews, I don't know why the hell you're here-"

"Colonel." Andrews' tone was soft, but enough to shut him up. "Doctor Fraiser informs me that you don't remember anything. Now, I don't know if that's really true - maybe it is. Certainly, with the trauma that you suffered, it's a possibility. But the fact that you don't remember the incident doesn't erase the state of mind that led up to it."

His pale grey eyes met Jack's head on. "You're not here because of any accident, Jack. You're here because you tried to kill yourself."