Author's Note: This was written in response to a call for fiction for a themed fanzine that never materialized. (I suspect the culprit overextended himself.) Thus, this takes place during the first season of Stargate SG1 - as this is the only season dragon has seen, it's the only one I write in. g

Disclaimer: Technically, Stargate and SG-1 belong to someone else and dragon here and now declares that this is all in fun and absolutely no thoughts of making a profit off of it have crossed her mind.

Time: First Season
Place: Earth
Spoilers: Children of the Gods (series premiere), The Nox.

After The Nox:
Survivor Syndrome

© 1998, dragon

The world was cool and green. They were waiting for Apophis and his guards. Daniel felt the sweat trickle down the side of his face, his hand sweaty on the gun in his hand. He hated Apophis. Hated losing his wife to him, hated losing Ska'ara, hated having to go back to Earth lost and defeated. Apophis had done this to him -

And there was the author of his ills. Apophis of the gilded armor, of the assurance of a god, the evil of a false god. Jack slipped into the pathway as Daniel and Carter fired, Teal'C lending his support as they tried to take out the guards and then, only then, subdue and take Apophis. Jack's quarry.

A force shield? Where had he gotten a force shield? Jack dove for cover as he realized there was nothing he could do against the shield, as Apophis, armed with a blast spear tossed to him by a guard, took aim and fired. Jack was down. Carter, reacting to the apparent loss of her commander, on her feet, moving, but not realistically, not swiftly enough.

Daniel's mind howled in anguish. Nooooooo! He moved to go to them, to succor his - his friends. He felt the heat, the pain, the darkness - gods, the darkness.

His eyes slammed open, sweat drenched his body, his sheets, his hair plastered to his forehead and neck, again. He stared at the dark ceiling above him. What? What had he been dreaming? His breathing slowed to normal, the sweat dried leaving him clammy and sticky feeling. He reached for his glasses, sitting prosaically on the bedside table. He switched on the light and looked at the four walls of his bedroom, blinked owlishly at his clock which registered the time as about 2:10am.

He sighed, shook his head and slid out of bed. He was calm again, barely aware of the nightmare that has awakened him, but he was not sleepy. Tired, but not sleepy. He padded into the bathroom and turned on the water in the sink, splashing it on his face and trying to decide if it was worth it to do the entire shower routine. He stared into his own eyes in the mirror. He saw the hollow, frustrated, hurt that he always saw, but disregarded. A shower it was.

Hot water. Steam roiling out into the cooler confines of the room. He stood under the water, letting it roll down his body, drawing out the tiredness, the anger, the pain. He remembered the dry head of Abydos. He remembered the cool nights and other warmths. For a few moments, he let himself remember his Sha'uri, his beloved, his - hot tears joined the water cascading down his face. Just for now, he let himself really feel his loss.

The phone rang.

His eyes opened and he looked momentarily bewildered. The phone again. He opened the curtain and reached for his towel. A third ring. It wasn't until he was picking up the receiver that he began to wonder who was calling him at nearly 3am in the morning.

"Hello?"

There was an indefinable sound on the other end. Daniel frowned at the phone.

"Hello?" he tried again.

More unidentifiable sounds and a hearty clunk. Even Daniel recognized the sound of a phone hitting the floor. A distant voice mumbled, as someone asleep talking to his dreams. Somehow, he didn't think he was going to get an answer to his attempts at communication. Whoever it was, had apparently fallen asleep while waiting for him to answer. With a shake of his head, he replaced the receiver and went back to turn off the running water.

In a nice house, with a nicely kept up yard and a telescope on the roof, Colonel Jack O'Neill turned over and fell off the couch on which he had fallen asleep. He hit the floor with a flurry of motion as he tried woozily to save himself from the 18 inch drop to the floor.

"Ow," he said irritably as his ribs hit something peculiarly shaped and hard. He fished around under himself for whatever it was and discoverd his phone. He frowned at it. What was the phone doing on the floor anyway?

"If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again. If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again," the familiar prerecorded annoying voice repeated.

Jack made a sound somewhat reminiscent of a beached seal and hung up the phone. Then he looked around curiously. What was he doing on the floor? Hazy memories floated to the surface of his somewhat alcohol impaired mind. Oh, yeah. He had been - uhm - he'd had a beer. That was it.

No. That wasn't it. He'd had a beer, and another, and then a couple of shots of Jack Daniels and - What time was it, anyway?

He got to his feet and managed to attain the kitchen without falling down. The kitchen clock said 3:55. He looked out the window. Dark. No moon. Lots of stars. What was he doing falling off the couch at three in the morning? He shook his head in an attempt to clear the cobwebs that insisted on fogging up everything. No, that wasn't right. Cobwebs didn't make fog. Cold moisture coming into contact with warm air made fog. What did cobwebs do?

Jack took a really long look at the area of his mind that seemed to be producing this idiocy and told it to behave. It snapped to attention with an appropriate "yes, sir" and then skittered sideways giggling. Jack ignored it and headed for bed.

He pulled up the covers, turned off the lights and laid back to relax into sleep. Annoyingly, his eyes no longer seemed in step with the rest of his body. They were insisting on staying wide open to stare into the darkness above his bed. He turned onto his side and settled in again. No luck. Great. Here he was, tired, relaxed and ready to get the three hours of sleep he really needed and his eyes were in open rebellion. Something about that thought made him smile. Then he realized it was a pun and frowned.

He turned over onto his stomach and buried his face in his pillow. Minutes ticked past. He could see one of those stupid cartoon clocks with a face ticking off each annoying second. He gave up and fell asleep.

Dreams. Ska'ara and the lighter. Daniel on Abydos, enthralled with the writing on the wall. Daniel dying and reviving in Ra's ship. Sam's rapture on Abydos after her first trip through the gate. Ska'ara on Chulac after the choosing. Apophis, always the face of Apophis, laughing at him. Pain, fire, darkness. Daniel and Sam, worried faces, relieved faces, and those funny little birdy people who turned out not to be so funny. Or so birdy.

"The young do not always listen." He could hear that one voice, so clearly, so gentle and yet so annoyed with him. Almost, he wanted to apologize. Almost. The dreams slid into comforting darkness as the first streaks of dawn slid into the beginnings of day break.

Samantha Carter turned over for the umpteenth time and tried to find a comfortable way to lay in her bed. She leaned up and punched her pillow to make it more conformable to her head. She plopped her head back down onto the pillow and snuggled under her thick comforter and closed her eyes.

After about five minutes, Sam finally concluded that she was not going to convince herself to go to sleep just now. She turned the light back on and plumped up her pillows so she could sit and read the copy of a treatise on wormholes she'd pulled off the 'net. She was curious about what the scientific community was thinking since she spent part of her time traveling through something only a handful of scientists were inclined to consider as real.

Her stomach growled about halfway through the first page. Maybe that was the problem. She was hungry. She folded back the comforter, slid her feet into a pair of old, very comfortable deerskin slippers and pulled on an equally venerable quilted robe. Once it had been plush velvety velour on the outside. Now it was just soft and comfortable, an old friend.

She walked into the kitchen and rummaged through her unhelpful refrigerator. Her cupboards seemed equally unhelpful. She was just closing one with a frown when a horrible screechy-scratchy noise made her jump. She whirled to face the outside door, scrabbling for the sidearm she wasn't wearing. The sound stopped. Through the lightweight curtain, she could see a strange outline. She stepped over to the door and pulled back the curtain. The red phosphorescing eyes threw her for a moment. Then she saw the rest of the seal point face just as the cat from next door started his paw scrabbling, scratch at the window routine again.

"Stop that!" she said sharply.

He peered at her from between his paws, but stopped. She unlatched the upper half of the Dutch door and frowned at the cat. He sat on the ledge of the lower portion of the door and looked at her. With a "Mrowp" sort of a sound, he jumped down to the floor and began winding around her ankles. She looked out to see if anyone was looking for the cat. Silence.

She closed and latched the top half of the door. She started to step back and discovered that the cat had fallen over on his side and was madly nuzzling her slippers, his front paws clutching her foot.

"Shadow, you nut." She disentangled herself from the cat and walked over to the refrigerator again. Leftovers? He usually accepted almost anything.

Pat. She looked down at where her toes had just been assaulted. Shadow was attached to the hem of her robe now, alternately patting at the flapping corner of the opening and at her toes.

"Oh, no. Not this time." She disentangled herself again and looked around for something safer for him to play with. Paper. Swiftly she wadded up a couple of note pad sheets into a loose ball and tossed it under his velvety nose. Oh, yes.

For the next few minutes, Sam, safely seated on top of her kitchen table, tried not to fall off the table laughing. The huge seal point and cream pseudo Himalayan proceeded to have a wonderful war with the paper ball, chasing it back and forth across the floor with a single mindedness of purpose that led to some wild contortions. Sam managed not to laugh out loud until the cat, dashing after the "fleeing" wad of paper full tilt, lost traction on the vinyl floor and skidded into a most undignified position in the corner. Head on the floor, tail in the air and paws waving madly in the air as he tried to figure out where the floor went, Sam lost it completely and laughed until her sides hurt.

The cat, now aware that he had been watched, ceased his gyrations, righted himself, stalked over to about halfway between table and corner, sat down and began the time honored dignity restoration ceremony known to all cats. He sat on the base of his spine, stretched one hind leg into the air and washed himself.

Sam, well aware of this ceremony, managed to compose herself and slid off the table to see if she could locate some small token of apology for having been so amused at the cat's expense.

In the sudden silence, she heard a voice outside.

"Shadow Warrior. Shadow Warrior. Hey, stupid! Where are you?"

The cat's owner had noticed he was missing. Sam opened the door again and waved at her neighbor who correctly interpreted the wave to mean "he's over here." She walked over and nodded at Sam.

"Hi. Didn't think you were up. Idiot's over here?"

"Shadow came to visit." Sam didn't point out that the cat apparently couldn't distinguish between back doors.

His owner peered down at him through bifocals that seemed intent on residing at the wrong end of her nose. "Hi, stupid. Ready to come in?"

"Merowp." The cat walked over to her and sat down, staring up with his slightly crossed, Siamese blue-blue eyes.

"Why "stupid"?" Sam was curious because she knew the cat's name and also knew he was hardly ever called by it.

The woman grinned. "'Cause he's beautiful and apparently believes that beauty is its own excuse for existence. He's used up all 18 half-lives, plus some in ways you probably wouldn't believe." She picked up the cat who immediately moved onto her shoulders where he lay down, tail draped over one side and nose busily nuzzling her ear on the other. She pushed the nose away and scrubbed the top of his head for him.

"Trouble sleeping?" she asked. Something in the friendly eyes behind the glasses prompted Sam to nod instead of demur.

"Well, I've got about a ton of popcorn and half a bottle of champagne if you'd like some company."

"Oh, I couldn't -" Sam blurted out, aware of her state of semi-dress and the lateness of the hour.

"Sure you could. I'm celebrating."

"Celebrating what?"

"Retrieving the cat? No, seriously," she ended with a laugh. "I just got my very first acceptance for a book I wrote. The kids are asleep. I'm unwinding. And you look like you could use some unwinding, too. I've got other food and other drink, as well."

"All right," Sam found herself saying. She closed the door behind her and walked across the cool grass with her neighbor, realizing that aside from the cat, she didn't have a clue what the names of her neighbors were.

Her hostess solved that problem as she fed Shadow and made Sam a wonderful sandwich. Her name was Sophia Ellerbee. Sam introduced herself. They sat at a kitchen table that looked like it was probably several hundred years old. It was. Besides the newly carved initials of her eldest child, there were a lot of other memories carved into the massive table top.

Sandwich finished, two glasses of champagne drunk, Sam moved to take her leave. She really needed to get some sleep.

"So what's bothering you?" Sophia asked softly.

"Bothering me? Nothing."

Sophia nodded sagely. "Right." She consulted her watch. "It's nearly 3:30am. I'm normally up this time of night, 'cause I'm a nightowl and I write. When you're home, you're lights are generally out by midnight." She left the implications to be surmised.

"Oh. Well. I - uh - " Something in Sophia's face made her want to talk to her, to talk about the dreams that had been haunting her since they came back without Apophis. She sat down again. "I guess - I mean- I - think - I had what they call a "near death" experience."

Sophia looked interested. "White lights, voices, loved ones -"

"Well. No."

"No?"

"No. I mean, I knew I was dead. But -"

"No lights, no voices, no loved ones, no possible angels?"

"No."

"So, maybe you weren't dead."

"But, I was. I mean, I know -" She met the other's steady gaze and frowned. Then again, maybe she didn't know. She'd been hit. It was in a vital spot. But, maybe the shock was what killed. Mabye she hadn't actually been dead, yet.

But the Nox - Well, there was dead by their standards and dead by Nox standards and she really didn't want to go there just now. "Maybe not," she agreed, nodding her head. "Maybe not."

"So, stop feeling deprived."

"Deprived?" Sam sounded like she couldn't believe her ears.

"Yeah. Deprived. So much has been written and said about the experience a lot of people feel deprived when they think they've been dead, but they don't get the beautiful experience."

Sam thought about this for a moment and then smiled and nodded again. She felt a great deal more at peace than she had for a while. Like since they got back from the home world of the Nox. She didn't really think her problem was having been deprived of the near death experience, but being dead had bothered her. Now that she had an alternate explanation, it didn't. She smiled at her hostess, scritched Shadow Warrior under the chin, and went home.

Her bed seemed to have gotten more comfortable while she was gone. Her head hit the pillow in the darkness and she went peacefully to sleep.

Several seconds later, the alarm clock woke her up. She growled something indistinct at the thing and buried her head under the pillows again. The annoying noise did not go away. Finally, she reached over and turned it off. The sun was streaking the sky outside with gold and pink. It was pretty. It was too early.

Sam slid out of bed with a groan and proceeded to get ready for the day.

Somehow, Captain Samantha Carter was not too surprised to see that her companions in SG-1 were looking somewhat less than refreshed from their day off. Both the Col. and Daniel considered resenting how refreshed and perky the Captain looked this morning. Instead, both Jack and Daniel nursed their cups of coffee in silence, leaving Teal'C to greet the Captain.

"Good morning, Capt. Carter."

"Good morning, Teal'C."

"God. Perky."

In spite of himself, Daniel almost choked on his coffee at Jack's remark.

Sam sat down and smiled at them.

Jack and Daniel exchanged one of those "What is she up to?" looks and looked at Sam, who continued to grin. Jack and Daniel exchanged an "Okay, who asks?" look. Neither one was inclined to want to take up the gauntlet.

Finally, Teal'C, who was trying to figure out what was going on, asked.

Sam's grin got broader. "I think I got an answer last night to a question I was afraid to ask."

"Oh, well -" came Daniel's response with a nod indicative of not much.

"Right," Jack agreed with a comparable nod. "Are you through being cryptic, or are you just gonna sit there and grin at us in that annoying manner?"

That elicited a chuckle. Jack and Daniel both frowned at her. Teal'C, regarding all three of them curiously, remained relatively expressionless as he pondered the meaning of what was being said and not said.

"Okay. I'm sorry," Sam finally said. "I - I guess I hadn't really come to grips with what happened while we were on the world of the Nox."

"Oh. Is that all." Daniel tried for insousiant. He missed.

"Daniel - Look. We all died. There. We said it while we were there. We dealt with surviving. We dealt with the Nox healing and bringing us back. And a couple of other people. And then we came back here. No bringing back invisibility. No Apophis. And we haven't really said anything since we got back. I don't know about you, but I have not been sleeping well."

She met the men's gazes squarely. Daniel kept the look locked longer than Jack did. Then they both looked back at her. She could read the question in their gazes. Different phrasing, but definitely the same question.

"It's not exactly obvious, but I think I got the answer last night. We didn't die."

The announcement didn't seem to be as startlingly revelational to the two of them as it had been to her. "OK. Try this. By our standards, we should have been dead. We're agreed on that?" They nodded, slowly, but following. "Right. Well. Obviously, just as we have pushed the definition of death back over the last hundred years, the Nox have changed the definition even farther." Daniel was still looking blank. Jack was beginning to follow her reasoning.

"So - although we were dead, by our standards, we weren't really dead because our friends use a different definition?"

"Yes!"

The Colonel wasn't certain he agreed with her enthusiastic acceptance of this explanation. But, it was an option. "So, why do you think we weren't dead?"

"Well, not, not dead - just not exact - This is getting tangled. Look, most people who have died and come back have some sort of memory of the time when they were dead. You are aware of this theory?"

Both men nodded. Teal'C concentrated on the information he was obtaining.

"OK. Briefly, I have no memories of the period between getting shot and regaining consciousness in the Nox village. No lights. No relatives. No angels. Nothing. Just like - like being under anesthesia. No memories at all."

Daniel frowned and considered this. Not that he believed in near death experiences, but - oh, my. There was that wonderful word. "But". If there was some sort of afterlife, and here he let a slow smile curve his lips as he recalled his words to his companions about expecting "heaven to be a little more upscale", then while they might have been dieing by normal, Earth human standards, they hadn't actually been dead, yet. He examined this hypothesis for flaws. Well, there were a lot of them. But, he had to admit, that it made accepting being alive after having been dead, a little easier. He looked at Jack to see how he was taking it.

Jack was scowling at his coffee. It might have been because the last mouthful of coffee he'd taken was cold. Then again, it might have been because he was working through what Sam was saying. His gut wasn't accepting it. But, then, his gut had been saying some very annoying things lately. He looked at his coffee, he looked at Sam and Teal'C, he finally looked at Daniel who was looking happier with life than he had for several days.

"You accept this?"

Daniel took a breath and let it out. He frowned at a point somewhere between here and infinity and then looked around the table at his friends. "I dunno. It's simplistic. It's almost too easy. But, for the Nox, it was easy. I think that's what kept bothering me. It was so easy. And nothing in my experience makes survival like that as simple as they make it. But, as Sam says, that's my experience. It's limited. I think it's easier to accept that I wasn't dead, that we all weren't dead, than it is to keep coming back to the "I was dead." scenario. I think I'm OK with this."

"So, we were - what?"

"Perhaps it is not what you were there that is important," Teal'C's deep voice cut in. "Perhaps it is what you are here."

All three of them were looking at the big, dark skinned man. Sam's eyes crinkled around the edges as she smiled. Daniel found himself responding to that smile for the first time in several days. Jack set his cup down and leaned back in his chair. If the explanation was satisfactory for his companions, then he supposed he was just going to have to accept it as well. He'd have to have a long talk with his gut tonight. Slowly, he found himself smiling also.

Dr. Frasier looked in, wondered what all the grinning was about and found herself responding to it. "Well, that's the happiest I've seen you since you got back from P-whatever it was." Now what had she said to make them all laugh like that?

Fin