The Return - Part 2
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Funny how slowly time went when you were worried. Jack O'Neill glanced at his watch for the hundredth time. Janet had made it quite clear he wasn't to return to the infirmary before nineteen hundred hours. Ten more minutes. Ten more minutes and then he could go check on Daniel.
He leaned back in his chair and gave a frustrated sigh. In one sense he was rather relieved Janet had thrown him out of the infirmary. It had taken far too long for the drugs controlling Daniel's nausea to take effect, and watching the scientist double over time and time again as dry retching gripped him had been torturous. Besides, Janet had been right. They all needed some sleep.
Twenty-four hours, Janet had said. Twenty-four hours and she'd know if the chemical imbalance was sorting itself. Jack didn't want to be uncharitable, but ever since Daniel had returned from P3X886, Janet had seemed to be missing the mark with his healthcare, from telling him it was OK to take Daniel home to shooting the screaming, kicking juvenile delinquent that Daniel had become outside the diner full of a sedative that worked for all of thirty seconds. There was one bright hope though - if she was wrong about other things she just might be wrong about the re-wiring job in Daniel's head. Please God! Let her be wrong about that. Let it be a simple case of shock-induced amnesia.
Then again, she had come up with a pretty plausible theory about why the sedative note hadn't worked. Well, Carter had seemed to think it was plausible. Jack had nodded as the doctor rambled on about neurotransmitters and the impact of adrenalin on the body, plus a dozen other chemical-related arguments. It wasn't that he couldn't follow the discussion, it was that he hadn't needed to, or more truthfully he hadn't wanted to. Like now - he didn't really want to think about what was going on in Daniel's brain, all he wanted, all he needed, was to know it would be sorted.
He pushed the file he was supposedly working on to one side of his desk and stood up. If he walked slowly he could make the journey between his office and the infirmary last ten minutes.
Janet shot him a sharp look as he stepped into the infirmary at 18.52. He smiled sheepishly. OK so walking slowly wasn't his strong point. He braced himself for a lecture as the doctor approached, but the annoyance on her face dissipated as she came within speaking distance.
"Impatient as ever, Colonel," she merely commented.
"How's he doing?" Jack's gaze took in the screening around Daniel's bed. His stomach lurched. That was not a good sign.
Janet however gave a small smile. "Why don't you go see for yourself?"
Jack didn't need to hear that invitation twice. He was across the infirmary and into the screened-off area in seconds.
"Daniel! Well you're looking a whole lot better." Jack smiled as he took in Daniel's appearance. The scientist was propped up in the bed, an archaeology journal in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other. OK, so the cheeks were still too hollow, and dark shadows were still etched beneath his eyes, but at least there was a vestige of normal colouring in the scientist's skin. Most importantly though the sharp edge of pain was gone from Daniel's expression.
"I feel a lot better," Daniel responded. He raised his right hand, almost spilling his coffee as he did so, and indicated the drip attached to the arm. "The wonder of medication."
"We talking drugs or coffee?" Jack asked as he pulled up a chair and made himself comfortable. "So has Janet said how things are going with your…?" Jack grimaced, and pointed vaguely at his own head.
"You mean all this brain chemistry stuff?"
"She seems 'pleased with my progress'." Daniel did a perfect imitation of Janet, eliciting a smile from Jack.
"So what's with the screens?" Jack asked, remembering how his stomach had lurched at the sight.
"Oh that!" Daniel leaned towards him conspiratorially. "It's really weird. Once I started feeling better, the nurses kept giving me these 'looks'."
"Looks?" Jack raised his eyebrows, trying to control the smile that was tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Daniel nodded. "Then one of them started asking me stuff. Personal stuff. About whether I'd ever…" Daniel hesitated and then quickly blurted out. "Jack, they were discussing whether or not I'm a virgin... I mean was a virgin. Oh God, this is so confusing. Not to mention embarrassing."
Jack snorted. "And are you?"
The colonel was unrepentant. "Oh come on, Daniel. Imagine being able to re-live your first time."
Daniel glared at him. "Except for me it won't be re-living it seeing how I don't remember it. Assuming I had one!"
"Ahhh. So you are… I mean were…" Jack stopped, deciding Daniel had probably had enough teasing. He remembered from his own youth, how sensitive this particular subject could be. His expression become serious. "Sorry. Actually this kind of brings us to an important point. You feeling up to a crash course on the history of Dr Daniel Jackson aged 19 to 35?"
Daniel sighed. "I guess so. I just… You know I just feel like… me! I can't get my head around the fact I'm really somebody else. No, not somebody else. That I'm me - only older. I keep catching sight of my reflection and it's like… God! It's awful!"
"Well you could use a haircut and a shave," Jack conceded. "But hey! The nurses seem to like what they see."
Daniel gave a small smile. "So… Daniel Jackson aged 35. Please tell me I'm not a geek."
"Well…" Jack opened his mouth to comment, just as the curtains twitched.
"Sam!" Daniel's whole demeanour changed.
Jack blinked in surprise at the enthusiastic greeting and the huge smile which cut Daniel's face.
The blonde captain smiled back, stepping fully into the screened off area, and making herself comfortable on the edge of Daniel's bed. "Janet said you were up to visitors. Brought you some cookies. You always liked them, so I figured…"
"Thanks!" Daniel took the bag, quickly putting it to one side, his gaze fixed on Sam's face like an adoring puppy. "I was hoping you might visit."
Sam blinked. "You were?"
"Yeah!" Suddenly Daniel coloured, adding quickly, "I wanted to hear more about the Stargate."
Oh-oh! Suddenly Jack registered the real source of Daniel's animation. Oh God! This wasn't happening. Not in his team! No way was he going to cope with a teenage crush.
"Sam." He interrupted before Carter could launch into any science babble. "I was just about to fill Danny-boy here in on some personal history. Why don't you kick off by telling him about Sha're?"
"Sha're?" Sam and Daniel spoke the name in unison, Daniel's tone a curious question, Sam's with more than a hint of horror.
Jack felt a fleeting moment of guilt. Dumping that on the captain's shoulders had been unfair. Almost immediately though he justified the action. Carter was a grown woman, she could handle it. Hell, she was as much Daniel's friend as he was. Why shouldn't she be the one to tell him? Besides, if the news came from her it might just nip this crush thing in the bud.
Sam drew in a long breath. "Sha're. She's your wife, Daniel."
Daniel's eyes widened. "Wife?!"
"Daniel? You OK?"
Daniel blinked and studied Sam face for a long moment before replying. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. It's just… It's a lot to take in. A wife. The goa'uld." His gaze drifted to Teal'c who had joined them mid-way through the conversation. "You really have a worm in your stomach?"
"I would be happy to show you, DanielJackson."
Daniel paled. "No, it's OK. Some other time." He turned towards Jack. "It's not that I don't believe you guys." He gave a soft laugh. "Hell, I've seen the 'Gate. Seen my office. I don't need any more convincing. It's just…" He hesitated, struggling for the words. "… it's like you're talking about somebody else. I'm telling myself I should be feeling something - about Sha're for instance. You say I love her, that I've dedicated my life to finding her, but… I… don't feel anything. Hell, how can I? I don't even know what she looks like." His voice trailed off miserably.
Jack squeezed his shoulder sympathetically. "It's OK, Daniel. We don't expect you to suddenly become… 'you'."
"But I am me," Daniel protested. "Just nineteen years old. To me - this is reality." He tapped the side of his head. "What I remember - this is what I am." Jack and Sam exchanged looks, as Daniel sighed heavily. "What if I *never* remember? What will I do then?"
Jack's grip on his shoulder tightened. "We'll figure something out, Daniel. I promise."
Sitting alone in his office, Jack was writing up his weekly report on SG-1. As he glanced over his notes, he realised how easy it had been to slip into a routine during their stand-down. Carter had immersed herself in re-designing the navigation system for a UAV. Teal'c had been assisting SG-9 in their background studies of a recently contacted race. And Daniel… well Daniel had taken to rising late in typical teenage style, submitting himself to Janet's questions and tests with relatively good humour, and then throwing himself into discovering as much as he could about the artefacts in his office, finally falling back into bed at some hour way past midnight.
Knowing Daniel was busy and apparently healthy, with the exception of a 15 year hole in his head, was a welcome break from worrying that the scientist was either dead or about to become so as far as Jack was concerned. By the end of the first week, Daniel was even giving the graduate science officers a run for their money when it came to deciphering glyphs; his early years in Egypt with his parents and his subsequent fascination with language more than making up for their university training. Besides, what he lacked in knowledge and experience he more than made up for in enthusiasm. Books he hadn't touched in years were dusted off and devoured in marathon reading sessions. Research papers were pulled from files and pored over, Daniel frequently chuckling with delight at his own handwritten notes in the margins.
The scientist had still managed to land Jack with two problems however.
The first was the gossip around the SGC that Daniel was enjoying running the gauntlet of Janet's nurses rather too much. Gossip that proved only too accurate when a search for a mysteriously absent Daniel ended in a supply closet where he was engaging in research of a distinctly non-cerebral kind with Nurse Ellen. Fortunately the tongue lashing the pair received from their respective superiors was the talk of the SGC for days which - as if being on the wrong side of Jack O'Neill wasn't sufficient in itself - was deterrent enough for Daniel at least to not want to repeat the experience. Not that Daniel had accepted the dressing down gracefully. Jack's reminder that he was married had been greeted with an angry retort.
"So what! You expect me to be faithful to a woman I've never met?"
The uncharacteristic response brought Jack to the second problem - Daniel simply wasn't 'Daniel'. Enthusiasm and a willingness to learn didn't make up for experience, and while Daniel was proving himself useful around the SGC it was obvious he couldn't simply slot back into the role he had filled before. OK so Jack could re-teach him the basic skills needed to travel through the gate - the crash course in fire-arms, basic self-defence - but he couldn't give him the relational skills Daniel had acquired over the years. Much as Daniel's insistence on talking first worrying about self-preservation later annoyed the hell out Jack, especially when Daniel deliberately stood in his line of sight, he had to admit there were times when Daniel had proven his diplomatic abilities were valuable. Nineteen-year-old Daniel simply didn't have those abilities, and considering how hard it had been to persuade General Hammond to let the adult version through the gate, getting him to agree to the juvenile Daniel being on the team was going to be next to impossible. Hammond might be sympathetic to Daniel's plight, but at the end of the day he would make his decision purely on military logic not on emotion.
Besides, in his heart of hearts Jack knew he didn't want this Daniel on his team. There were too many liabilities - not least the poorly disguised crush on Carter. It would be like taking on a raw recruit. Worse - a raw recruit with attitude. Jack simply didn't have the energy or the patience. Then again, he didn't want to face up to making a decision about Daniel's future either. Right now it was easier to play Janet's wait and see game and hope - perhaps pretend - the problem would sort itself out.
Wait and see. It was a good idea except, as Jack had already observed, Daniel had the annoying habit of putting himself right in the line of fire.
"Jack. We need to talk." An hour after Jack had handed his report to Hammond, Daniel strolled into the technician's lab where the colonel was engrossed in planning a test flight for Carter's UAV.
"Daniel?" Jack glanced at the wallclock "Up before mid-day? I'm impressed." He steered a course to the coffee pot his concentration still on the UAV. "What can I do for you?"
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest. "I was talking to Janet this morning…"
That got Jack's full attention. "Something wrong?"
"No," Daniel replied quickly, then laughed softly. "Well actually yes. Jack, this whole memory thing… It's been two weeks now."
Jack nodded. "I know. I take it the PET scans haven't shown anything new."
"Nope. Although Janet's getting pretty good at matching my moods to them. Can be kinda embarrassing when that really pretty nurse… Never mind!" Daniel took the mug Jack offered him and sipped at the hot black liquid gratefully. "Jack we have to do something about this. *I* have to do something about this."
Jack frowned. "Has Teal'c been talking to you about going back to P3X886 again?"
Daniel nodded. "And he's right, Jack. I know the logic behind Janet wanting us to wait and see if my memory returns. But she's talking weeks. Hell, months even." He pulled a face, his frustration getting the better of him. "I can't wait that long. To be honest, it's driving me crazy already. It's like - everybody I talk to knows more about me than me. And then there's the team…"
"What about the team?" Jack's tone was instantly defensive.
"Come on, Jack. Makepeace told me you were griping about not being active. I'm holding you back. You guys can't do your job properly while I'm confined to the base. We should be out there, Jack. Doing what we did before this happened."
"Makepeace has a big mouth! Daniel, it's not your fault we're on stand-down. And besides, other teams are out there. All that matters is that we give you time to recover."
"And what if I don't? It's been two weeks - we can't keep side-stepping the facts." Daniel's face clouded. "I've been looking at the team profiles - SG-3. SG-9. SG-7. Smart people. Experienced people. I'm not stupid, Jack. I know there isn't a place for me on SG-1 while I'm like this."
Anger flashed into Daniel's eyes. "Don't say it! Don't say we have to wait and see. Just tell me the truth. If I don't get my memory back, I'm off the team, right?"
Jack studied Daniel's face, the intelligent eyes, the pensive expression. Something unwelcome fluttered in Jack's stomach as he asked the inevitable question, already knowing the answer. "So what do you want to do, Daniel?"
A flicker of emotional hurt flew across Daniel's face in response to the fact Jack hadn't denied he would be off the team. Almost immediately though, Jack saw him stamp it down, replacing the pain of rejection with determination.
"We have to go back to P3X886. Janet says I'm well enough to go through the 'Gate."
"We don't know Nem can or will help you," Jack pointed out, hating himself for playing devil's advocate.
"Well he can't if we don't ask," Daniel retorted.
Jack looked away, drew in a long breath, then looked back at Daniel. "I'll talk to Hammond."
Daniel gave a quick lick of the lips, his expression suddenly bashful. "I've already done that."
Irritation flared for a split second before Jack squashed it. The kid was nineteen, he couldn't be expected to understand military protocol. Hell, Daniel hadn't grasped that at thirty-five. He schooled his voice to ask politely, "And?"
"He said I should talk with you. But - if you agree to the mission, we can go."
Jack considered for a long moment, his gaze resting on the man in front of him. "You really want to do this?"
"I have to do this, Jack."
O'Neill nodded. "Then we go."
Wow! What a rush! Daniel came out of the Stargate a whole lot faster than he went in, his head-over-heels tumble softened by the hot sand of P3X886.
"Shit!" He twisted himself upright and spat sand out of his mouth. Turning to look back at the still active 'Gate he watched as Sam and then Jack casually stepped out of the event horizon. "How'd you do that?" he demanded, climbing to his feet.
"Practice makes perfect," Jack replied smugly, stepping neatly past Daniel.
In response Daniel made a rude gesture which he quickly turned into a swipe at the sand on his pants as Jack turned towards him in response to the 'Gate spitting out a heavily laden FRED, closely followed by Janet and Teal'c.
As Jack moved to check the equipment on the FRED was still secure after its journey, Daniel wrinkled his nose in disgust. "And what's that stink?"
"Daniel, did you paying any attention to my briefing?" Sam asked as she drew level with him.
"Yes!" Daniel said, his tone hurt. "It's sulphur, right? I just didn't expect it to smell this bad."
Sam gave him a small smile. "From what we saw last time, the whole of this area suffers from low level volcanic activity. Remember to watch where you're putting your feet. See there?" She pointed to a rivulet of water running across the sand some distance to their right. "That's probably bubbling up from an underground chamber. Tread too heavily around it and you might end knee deep in super-heated water."
"Yes, Daniel, be careful," Janet said as she joined Jack checking the equipment. "I'm really hoping to be surplus to requirements on this trip."
"Jeez," Daniel complained, moving cautiously away from the 'Gate. "I'm not a kid. Will you two quit with the mother-hen act! So which way do we go?"
Jack pointed off to the left. "On the menu today. Nem's primodial soup. Three miles in that direction."
"Three miles? In this smell?" Daniel pulled a face. "Great."
In fact, Daniel quickly realised, the planet wasn't just smelly, it was hot and smelly. By the time SG-1 reached the shore of the ocean, he was sweating freely, his newly acquired military clothing sticking uncomfortably to his back. Pulling off his helmet he ran a hand through his damp hair, and squinted out at the water, dazzling bright in the sunlight. Despite the heat in the air, he couldn't stop a chill creeping over him. Somewhere out there was Nem.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm his jangling nerves. Right now, knowing he'd met aliens before - that he'd met this alien before - wasn't comforting. According to his memory this was a first, and try as he might, his heart was determined to play a drum solo.
He glanced at Jack who had produced a pair of binoculars and was now scanning the sea. "Anything?" he asked.
Jack shook his head, folded the binoculars away and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Nem! Hello! Anybody home?"
In front of them, the ocean waves lapped gently against the sulphur-rich sand. Oblivious to its audience, the surface barely rippled in the light breeze that blew inland. Definitely no sign of life - alien or otherwise.
Jack tried again.
Daniel wasn't sure whether he was relieved or disappointed.
Standing beside the colonel, Sam removed her helmet, and mimicked Daniel's hand through hair action. "Plan B, Sir?" she asked.
Jack gave one more shout, his face expressionless before turning towards the FRED. "Plan B, Captain."
Daniel drew in a long breath. Plan B was to dive to Nem's underworld home using scuba equipment. According to his file, he'd done this kind of thing before during a marine archaeology course. However, a note in a file was of absolutely no value to him since he couldn't remember the experience. Together with Teal'c, he'd spent the previous day learning how to dive.
Because of the need to keep security tight around Teal'c - a feasible explanation for a goa'uld pouch had yet to be found - the SGC had commandeered the physiotherapy pool at the nearby air force hospital. Daniel had thoroughly enjoyed himself, welcoming not only the chance to get off the base, but the physical activity. Swimming had been a favourite pastime of his parents, and he'd been brought up to be a water baby. Teal'c however had made it clear he considered immersion in water something to be merely tolerated.
The memory of Teal'c informing the instructor he was not going to be anybody's 'buddy' eased the tense knot in Daniel's stomach, and he smiled to himself as he watched the Jaffa glower at the equipment he had retrieved from the FRED.
"I do not see why we must dress in this manner," Teal'c complained as he struggled into a wet suit. "This material is most unpleasant. When Jaffa prepare to enter water, we remove our clothing so we are not impeded."
"You did the scuba course, Teal'c. You know why," Jack replied matter-of-factly as he shucked off his shirt and pulled the top of his wet suit over his shoulders.
Changing behind the FRED, Janet's voice called. "I was stung by a jelly fish once. Trust me, it's an experience to miss."
Teal'c however seemed unconvinced. "My goa'uld larvae would protect me from the sting of any marine animals, Dr Frasier. It will not however protect me from the unpleasant feel of this suit."
Jack shook his head. "Just put it on, Teal'c."
Stepping out from the far side of the FRED already dressed in her wet suit, Sam picked up an air tank. Similarly clad, Janet joined her seconds later, and helped Sam slide the tank harness over her shoulders.
Glancing over at Daniel, Sam frowned in concern. "Daniel? Something wrong?"
Suddenly aware he was staring at the two women open-mouthed, Daniel snapped his jaw up. "No! I'm fine!"
Too late, he realised Jack was watching him. Great! All he needed was another lecture on not noticing certain members of the SGC were female. Like Jack didn't! The man would have to be made of stone to not see… Daniel cut the thought off. Don't think about! He turned his attention to the ocean, suddenly glad of the scorching sun. At least he could blame the colour creeping up the back of his neck on the heat. And with a little bit of luck, the water would be cold. Icy cold.
Daniel kicked downwards, the pressure in his ears building as he moved deeper. The water was at best tepid, but all thoughts of Sam's wet-suit clad figure had vanished from his mind the moment the ocean closed above his head. The tension was back, an unpleasant tightness in his stomach.
In front of him he could see Jack, air bubbles twisting and turning with a leisurely frequency as they rose through his wake. 'Breathe slowly and regularly.' Daniel could hear the instructor's voice in his head, and with sustained effort he slowed his inhalation rate until he was almost matching Jack breath for breath.
Around him there was nothing to see but sand and weed. No clue there might be an underwater complex out here. Not even any marine life to look at. Yet Jack had said he'd surfaced barely a hundred yards from the shore. It had to be here!
They swam on, scanning the seabed carefully as they went. Fifty yards further along the seaweed thickened from individual clumps to a carpet of verdant emerald. Long fronds undulated slowly back and forth in a current too gentle to feel. Daniel caught a glimpse of silver flash through the green - fish. A school of tiny ellipses - no bigger than his little finger - darted forward, did an abrupt about turn and then vanished into the weed. He was so busy looking for them to reappear, he didn't notice Jack was treading water ahead of him, until he almost collided with the colonel.
As Sam, Janet and Teal'c joined them, Jack pointed down at the weed. For a moment Daniel couldn't see what he was indicating, then suddenly he realised. One patch in the middle was not just bending in the direction of the current it was depressed - as though it was being sucked downwards.
Jack kicked towards the weed, with the others close behind him. As they drew closer the depression became even more apparent. Cautiously Daniel reached out a gloved hand and pushed the weed aside. His head jerked up as he revealed a tunnel hidden beneath the delicate fronds.
With a gesture, Jack indicated they should enter, pausing only long enough to turn on the flashlight attached to his wrist.
They'd found it! The tunnel plunged down about thirty meters, opening out into a large cavern, one side of which rippled like a transparent version of the Stargate's event horizon. Behind it was a small chamber containing a door.
As they half-stepped, half-stumbled from water to air, Daniel watched as Sam used a small metered instrument to sample the oxygen content. With a thumbs up, she removed her scuba mouthpiece and drew in a lung-full.
"Tastes a bit stale, but it's breathable," she said, addressing Jack.
In response he shucked off his air tanks, mask and flippers. Waiting while the others followed suit, he turned towards the door. "Let's see if anyone's home."
The door was opened by a simple twist of a lever inset to one side. As Daniel followed Jack through he blew out a rush of breath and screwed up his face. "That's worse then the sulphur!"
The air smelled like a fish market at the end of a hot summer's day. Sharp and pungent, but with an underlying aroma of decay.
"I don't think this is good," Sam commented to no one in particular.
"I agree, Captain Carter," Teal'c replied, his dark eyes surveying the scene for danger.
Daniel however stepped around her, taking in the panels on the walls. "Cuneiform," he said, moving closer.
"Daniel!" Jack's call checked him. "We're here to find Nem. You can play translator later."
Throwing one quick look at the nearest panel, Daniel turned away. "Right." He didn't know much cuneiform anyway. That belonged to next year's courses.
Apart from the panels, the room was bare and dimly lit. "Anybody else get the feeling this is emergency lighting?" Jack asked.
Janet nodded. "Feels like a morgue."
"Smells like one too," Jack replied. For a moment the two of them looked at each other, minds clearly thinking the same thought. Behind Jack, Daniel had already picked up the unspoken message.
"You don't think…"
Jack cut him off, pointing towards another door in the right-hand corner of the chamber. "We'll just keep looking, Daniel." He wrinkled his nose. "Maybe we should go back for the scuba gear though."
"We don't have a lot of air left," Sam commented. "We'd have to go back to the FRED for the spare tanks." She glanced at the air monitor she was carrying. "It may smell bad, but according to this there's nothing harmful in it."
Jack pulled a face. "OK. Then let's see what's behind door number two."
Another lever, another pull, and the door slid silently into a recess in the wall. "God!" Jack took a step back as an even fouler stench greeted his nostrils. "Should really have gone back for the gear!" Holding one hand over his nose, he shone his flashlight into the dim interior and let out a long, slow swear word.
"What!" Daniel edged close, peering over Jack's shoulder. The light from O'Neill's flashlight was resting on a figure lying prone on the floor. "Oh shit! Please tell me that's not Nem."
"So… " Jack said, forty minutes later when the team rendezvoused after searching the facility. "Anybody beginning to think it's starting to smell better in here?"
Teal'c cocked his head on one side and sniffed at the air. "You are correct, O'Neill. The air is indeed fresher."
"Good!" Jack said with a cocky smile. "Only I wasn't sure if any of the levers I pulled would actually fix the air."
Sam looked stunned. "You just went around pulling levers in the hope you'd find the right one?"
"It didn't occur to you maybe one of them would be flood us out or be a self-destruct?" Sam said slowly.
Trying not to look uncomfortable, Jack gave a nonchalant shrug. "Hey, I'm not stupid. I didn't pull any red ones. And we have better air, don't we? Not to mention decent lights." He turned to Janet who had carried out a brief examination of Nem's body while the rest of the team were reconnoitring. "Janet?"
"Well bearing in mind I'm dealing with a totally alien physiology here, my best guess is Nem's been dead about a week. And I think it was deliberate," Janet replied.
"Suicide?" Jack asked.
Janet nodded. "As far as I can tell."
Sam's voice was tinged with sadness as she spoke. "Guess after hoping all these years that his mate would one day return, he couldn't handle the fact she was gone for good."
"That would seem likely," Janet replied.
Daniel however clearly had no time for sentiment. He was standing next to a large contraption in the middle of the room, an impatient look on his face. "All of which means," he said with more than a hint of frustration. "We don't know how to use this."
"So let me guess," Jack said. "Nem's mind probe machine."
"You don't remember it, Sir?" Sam asked, circling the machine with a wary expression.
"Trying not to, Captain."
"But Jack," Daniel moved forward, his face agitated. "You have to." He glanced around at the team. "One of you has too. Otherwise how am I going to get my memory back."
"Whoa!" Sam jumped backwards as the machine suddenly sparked into life, several blue lights bathing what looked like the head rest of a chair.
"Captain?" Jack asked urgently.
"I just pushed this lever…"
"You just pushed the lever without knowing what it would do?" Jack threw Carter's earlier sentiment back at her.
"Yes, Sir. Well there is only one lever." She moved back to the machine and pulled the lever back into its upright position. The lights immediately shut off.
Jack gave her a disparaging look, and then turned to Daniel. "So, any chance these wall panels are an instruction booklet."
"Errr… no," Daniel seemed surprised by the question. His gaze wandered to the nearest, one arm gesturing. "This one here is looks like it's some kind of poem. There's a definite rhythm to the words, but I can't.."
"Some things don't change!" Jack complained. "Daniel! If we could stay focused." He raised his eyebrows as Daniel turned back looking hurt. "So has anybody seen anything that remotely looks like an instruction manual."
Four negatives were returned.
It was left to Sam to state what they were no doubt all thinking. "Sir, there probably isn't one. Nem lived here alone. He had no reason to write instructions."
"Hey. I'm the one who does the worst case scenarios," Jack replied testily. He glared at the machine for a long moment, then drew in a breath and glanced over at Daniel. The scientist was studying him, his expression one of anticipation. "Daniel, I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" Daniel peered at him quizzically. "Why?"
Jack waved a hand at the machine. "Without Nem… Without instructions... Look, we'll send a team back. See if they can dismantle it and bring it through the gate to study…"
"What! I don't understand. You mean we're just going to leave."
"But Sam just got it to work," Daniel said quickly. He moved back to the machine. "There's only one lever."
"No, Daniel!" The sharpness in Jack's voice startled them all. "If you're thinking of playing guinea pig with this thing, forget it."
"No!" Jack turned away. "Get your stuff. We're going back."
"Excuse me?" Jack turned round to find an all too familiar version of Daniel facing him. Jaw set. Blue eyes filled with intense determination.
"The machine works. We have to try it. That's why we came here."
"We came here to ask Nem's help." Jack pointed out.
"I'm not going back without at least trying!"
"I said we'll get a team…"
"Sir. With all due respect," Sam said. " We don't know anything about this technology. What power source is it using for example? If we do dismantle it, there's no guarantee we'll ever get it working again."
Jack's angry gaze shifted from Daniel. "So what are you suggesting, Captain? We just let Daniel stick his head in it and cross our fingers it doesn't knock him back another 15 years?"
Sam glanced at Daniel and then back at Jack. "I guess so, Sir. If that's what Daniel wants."
Jack hesitated weighing the situation. "Janet? Got anything to throw into the pot?"
"Given the choice, Colonel, I'd prefer to do this back at the SGC, but like Sam says, we can't guarantee the machine would ever work back there. And we did come here to try this."
"Risks, doctor," Jack demanded. "Tell me the risks."
"To Daniel?" Janet considered a moment. "I don't know. But the FRED is loaded with medical equipment. I'll keep him as safe as I can."
Jack's gaze moved to Teal'c, who returned the look calmly before speaking in his characteristically measured tone.
"I believe this decision must be made by Daniel Jackson. It is his memory that has been lost."
Finally Jack allowed himself to look at Daniel. The expression on the scientist's face hadn't changed, but as their eyes locked, raw appeal flashed in Daniel's.
"I can't live like this, Jack! I know what I'm doing."
Jack gave him a searching look. "I hope you do, Daniel. I hope you do."
Jack stood to the rear of the room, Teal'c at his side, watching as Janet made some final adjustments to the portable equipment now stacked around the mind probe. Daniel was seated within the contraption, his wet suit rolled down to his waist so Janet could attach various probes to him - heart, blood, lungs. A myriad of small LEDs blinked and flickered, showing Daniel was fit and healthy, although more than a bit anxious. She smiled at him now, one hand squeezing his fingers reassuringly.
"I'll be watching everything very carefully," she said, her tone encouraging.
"Thank you." His voice was soft.
Sam moved closer to his left side, her hand reaching towards the as yet unused transparent restraints. "Do you think these are necessary?" she asked.
As Janet hesitated, an unpleasant memory skittered across Jack's mind, disappearing before he could pin it down. Disturbed, he went with the gut reaction it left behind. "No! Don't restrain him." He shrugged as the two women turned towards him.
"They could be for safety," Janet commented.
Jack acknowledged that with a humorless smile. "Sure. But I'd just like to know he can get out of that thing if he wants to."
Sam nodded, her own face momentarily clouding. She moved away again, circling behind Daniel to stand on his right, close to the control lever.
Janet straightened up, apparently satisfied with her monitors at last. "I guess we're ready."
Daniel drew in a breath, licking his lips nervously. "Okay."
"So Daniel," Janet continued. "Remember what we discussed. Last time you were here Nem was trying to make you remember your studies of Babylon. This time try to remember the day you prepared for this mission. It was Sergeant Siler's birthday - a bit different to the run-of-the-mill days."
Daniel nodded. "Sergeant Siler's birthday." He frowned. "I do know Sergeant Siler, don't I?
Janet smiled. "Yes, Daniel. It'll come back to you." With a quick glance at Jack and Teal'c, Janet nodded to Sam. "OK. Turn it on."
As carefully as she could, Sam pushed the lever. Blue light leapt from the machine, engulfing Daniel's head. Almost immediately he grimaced.
"Daniel!" Jack was across the room and at Daniel's side immediately.
"I'm okay!" Daniel sucked in a breath between clenched teeth.
"Like hell you are," Jack retorted, his gaze going to Carter's hand on the lever.
"I'm okay!" Daniel insisted.
"Daniel," Sam said, her own gaze on the colonel. "Try to remember."
"I know! Sergeant Siler's birthday," Daniel intoned. "Sergeant Siler's… Wait, I remember…"
"Yes?" Sam said eagerly.
"I remember… no. That was my birthday. When I was eight. Shit!"
Jack couldn't hold back any longer. "Come on Daniel. Siler had a cake. It made you laugh…"
Daniel shook his head. "No. I don't remember anything."
Sam bit at her lip nervously. "We could try turning it up a little."
"Captain." Jack's voice was low, a warning rumble.
"It's okay, Jack," Daniel said. "Do it, Sam."
"Janet?" Sam appealed to the doctor.
"He's doing fine," Janet replied. "I think we can risk it."
Clearly trying to control her shaking fingers, Sam depressed the lever.
Daniel let out a long low moan.
"Daniel you don't have to do this!" Jack said.
"Yes, I do! I'm alright." This time, Daniel ground the words out. "Siler. Siler." His breath came out in a rush of pain. "Cake." He screwed his eyes shut. "Why can't I remember? Damn it. I have to remember this. Turn it up!"
Sam's fingers tightened on the lever, her eyes on Janet. As the doctor nodded her consent, Sam applied the required pressure.
"Oh God!" Daniel's cry of pain cut through the air.
"OK. That's enough," Jack ordered, his eyes riveted on Daniel's contorted face. "Turn it off!"
"Sir?" Carter's hand hesitated, as Daniel ground out a negative.
"I…" Daniel gasped for air, the muscles of his neck corded. "I… Oh God. It hurts."
"Carter! Turn the damn thing OFF!" Jack spat the words.
"No…" Daniel half-sobbed the word. "Wait…"
"NOW!" Jack demanded. Stepping forward, he slammed his hand over Carter's and pulled the lever forward.
As the lights snapped off, Daniel slumped back in the seat, his face still screwed with pain as he dragged ragged breaths into his lungs. Almost immediately Janet was at his side.
"Try to breath evenly, Daniel," she said, her voice soothing. "You'll hyperventilate. Breathe with me. In." She drew in a long breath. "Out."
As Daniel brought his breathing under control, he opened his eyes and fixed Jack with an unforgiving look. "You had no right…" A fit of coughing cut off his words, making him slump weakly back into the seat, eyes closed.
Without a word, Jack did an about turn and left the room.
"God damn him!" Daniel was still livid ten minutes after O'Neill had left the room, closely followed by Teal'c. Fed up with Janet fussing over him, he pushed her hand away from his chest as she tried to adjust one of the monitors. Stripping all the various wires from his skin, he leapt from the seat, only to realise that was a mistake the moment he was vertical. "Shit!" He clutched wildly at Janet's arm.
"Make up your mind, Daniel!" she snapped. "Either you want my help or you don't."
"Dizzy," he complained, the anger driven away by the difficulty of staying upright.
"Well there's a surprise," Janet retorted unsympathetically, helping him to sit down on the floor in what resembled a vaguely controlled manner. "Just take it easy for a minute or two, while I check your vitals the old-fashioned way."
Daniel closed his eyes, tilted his head back and drew in a slow breath. As he opened his mouth to speak, Janet placed a finger to his lips.
"No talking until I'm done!" she said firmly.
"O'Neill!" Teal'c found the missing colonel seated on the floor of one of the small antechambers, his back against the wall. He looked as though he was staring at the inscribed panels decorating the room, but as Teal'c approached he could see the colonel's gaze was actually much more distant.
Teal'c stopped a respectful distance away, and waited until O'Neill looked up at him.
Jack's gaze held Teal'c's face for a moment, as though seeking a clue to the inevitable question. "Is he alright?"
"Daniel Jackson is well." As Jack nodded, Teal'c continued. "However, I am concerned for you."
"Really," Jack said wearily. "That's nice."
Oblivious to Jack's sarcasm, Teal'c continued. "Colonel O'Neill, you must return to the chamber and put things right with Daniel Jackson."
"Put things right? And exactly how am I supposed to do that?"
"By assisting him in his desire to continue with this course of action. You are his friend. He requires your support."
"Does he now!" Jack climbed to his feet. "Well that's too bad because it'll be a cold day in hell before I help Daniel destroy what little is left of his brain."
Teal'c fixed him with a stern look. "Daniel Jackson was correct when he said you had no right to interfere."
"Is that so! Well, Teal'c when I last checked Daniel was still under my command. I'm the one responsible for his safety!"
"That is not so, O'Neill. Your decision to stop the mind probe has removed him from the team. He is no longer under your command. The decision to continue is now his and his alone."
"What?!" Jack looked at Teal'c as though he'd gone mad. "Just how do you figure that?"
Teal'c's expression remained unchanged. "Is it not true Daniel Jackson will no longer be a part of SG-1 if his memory does not return?"
Jack gave Teal'c an appraising glance. "Is it that obvious?"
"It is the decision I would make if I were in command."
"He isn't off the team yet."
"That is incorrect, O'Neill. You have taken both the action and the decision to ensure this is the case. You simply have not informed Daniel Jackson of his new status. To wait until we return to the SGC to do so would be unfair to him."
Jack rubbed irritably at his temples. "Damn it, Teal'c. Quit with the convoluted logic. You're splitting hairs, and you know it."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I do not have any hair to split."
Jack sighed. "It's just a saying, Teal'c."
The two men stood in silence for a long moment. Finally O'Neill turned away. He gestured towards the panels. "See these. I bet last time Daniel was here he could translate then easily." He turned back towards Teal'c. "He has a chance to be like that again. He can re-learn things. He still has a life in front of him. Can you guarantee me that if I let him get back in that damn machine?"
Teal'c didn't even blink. "Daniel Jackson is not Major Kawalsky."
"What?! What the hell does that mean?" Jack demanded.
"Your friend suffered a great deal during the attempts to remove the goa'uld from him. And to no avail. But Daniel Jackson is not Major Kawalsky. You yourself told me, history does not always repeat itself."
"Yeah, right!" Jack was angry now. "Let me tell you something else, Teal'c, attending memorial services is not a hobby of mine. I did it for Kawalsky. And, in case you've forgotten, I've already done it once for Daniel. I will not do it again!"
Unphased by Jack's hostility, Teal'c's voice remained as calm as ever. "You may save Daniel Jackson's life, O'Neill. But in exchange you condemn him to an existence that is but a shadow of what it could be."
"He'll get used to it," Jack said coldly.
"Maybe," Teal'c conceded. "But will he get over the fact you took away a decision that was his to make."
Jack glared at Teal'c. "You just don't give up, do you?"
"Not when I am right."
The statement was uttered so baldly Jack couldn't help but give a snort of outraged laughter. "Damn you, Teal'c. You sound like my father." Almost immediately his expression sobered again. "How did you know I was thinking of Kawalsky?"
"When you watched Daniel Jackson in pain, the look in your eyes was the same as when you lost your friend."
"Observant bugger, aren't you," Jack said without malice.
Teal'c ignored the comment, sensing he was winning O'Neill round. "You must allow Daniel Jackson to decide his own fate."
"What fate Daniel Jackson?" Jack said quietly looking around at the inscribed walls.
"What fate… that was what Nem said to him concerning Sha're, was it not?" Teal'c said, remembering the conversation on the beach when Daniel had suddenly appeared from the ocean.
"Yes." Jack breathed out a long sigh. "And you're right. Much as I hate admitting it. This is Daniel's decision. So I guess we're going to find out - what fate Daniel Jackson."
A good ten minutes passed before Janet allowed Daniel to speak. When he did it was obvious his mind was still on Jack. "He shouldn't have done that! He had no right to interfere like that."
Sam's voice sounded from his right. "He was worried, Daniel. You looked like you were in a lot of pain."
"Sam's right, Daniel," Janet said. "It was easy for any of us to see what you were going through."
His glance took in both women, the anger still clear in his face. "I was handling it!"
Sam returned his look with a stubborn one of her own. "Even if the colonel hadn't ordered the machine off, I would've done it anyway. You were hurting."
"It was beginning to work!" Daniel said crisply.
"Really?" Sam's voice lightened. "How could you tell?"
Daniel closed his eyes again, wrinkling his forehead in concentration. "It was like… I don't know. Like an image was there in my mind only I couldn't see it. You know how it is when you're searching for a word. You know you know it, but the harder you try to remember the more it eludes you. Then suddenly bang, it's right there in your mind. It was like that… only I never got to the bang, thanks to Jack." Daniel turned towards the machine. "I have to try again. And you have to help me."
"Daniel…" Sam began. "I can't. We can't." She gestured to include Janet. "The Colonel's orders…"
"Sam! This is *my* life on the line here."
Sam turned away. When she turned back there were unshed tears in her eyes. "Daniel even if I agreed to, I can't promise to see it through. You don't know what it's like to have your hand on that lever - to know you're the one inflicting the pain."
A voice from the doorway startled Sam. "It won't be necessary for you to do it, Captain."
"Sir!" She swung round, automatically coming to attention, a guilty expression on her face.
"At ease," Jack said softly moving into the room. "Daniel…"
"I'm not going back without trying again!"
Jack nodded. "I know. I'm here to help."
And so it began again. Sam stood to one side of Daniel, his left hand held in her right. As she folded her fingers around his, he smiled, but now there was no hint of adolescent crush in his look, merely the gratitude of a friend in need of support.
Hovering around Daniel was Janet, flitting from one monitor to another, checking and double checking the calibrations, her gaze deliberately keeping away from the array of emergency equipment she had earlier moved as surreptitiously as possible behind Daniel.
In front of Daniel, Teal'c also hovered - or at least as near as a six-foot-tall Jaffa could get to hovering. A twitch of one eyebrow, an occasional tremor along the muscle of his jaw. The signs were subtle, but nevertheless present.
And finally Jack, his face as grim as a medieval executioner. His gaze never wavered from Daniel's face, the expression telegraphing support despite the narrowed lips and furrowed brow.
"We're ready, Colonel." Janet looked up from her monitor.
"Daniel?" Jack asked.
The high-pitched hum of the machine filled the room. Daniel flinched, squeezed his eyes shut and then began his chant. "Sergeant Siler. Sergeant Siler."
A nod to Jack and the machine notched up a tone. "Sergeant Siler. Sergeant Siler. Ahhhh!"
"Don't try to hide the pain, Daniel." Janet's voice was low, authoritative. "I need to know what you're feeling.
"'Kay. Siler. Must remember." Another nod to Jack. The tone rose.
"This is where you thought you were beginning to remember," Sam said the strain clear in her voice. "Daniel?"
"No. It's not…" He sucked in a breath, tried but failed to swallow a groan. "…not there yet. Jack!"
O'Neill's jaw tensed at the request.
"Jack! Please! Now!"
Jack wiped the palm of his hand against one leg of his wetsuit, leaving a sweat-dark steak against the smooth material. His fingers folded around the lever. One quick glance at Janet.
Daniel groaned as the machine sang ever higher.
Janet's voice was warning as she spoke. "Blood pressure increasing. Heart rate up to 210."
Sam swiped away a treacherous tear. "Come on, Daniel! You have to remember. Siler's party. The cake. Anything!"
"Si…ler. Ahhhh. Cake. Wait! The cake. I can… Like… Almost! It's almost… Oh God. I can't! I can't!"
"Yes you can, Daniel!" It was Jack's voice - tight with emotion and determination. "Don't back out now."
"God, no! Jack, please. I can't!"
A fleck of blood appeared on Jack's bottom lip as he took in the sweat-covered face of his team-mate. A flicker of indecision raced across his features, then the grim mask was back in place and with it a sharp edge of determination.
"Yes you can Daniel!"
The machine hit the top note, a high-pitched whine that scraped across tense nerves like fingers across a chalkboard.
Janet whirled to face Jack as Daniel gave full voice to the increased pain. Shouting above the noise of the machine and Daniel's agonised scream, she hurled her question at O'Neill. "What the hell are you doing?"
Jack raised his free hand as though to fend her off. "What he wanted me to do!" His attention snapped back to Daniel. "Think Daniel! Think, damnit! Siler's cake!"
"No! Jack! Oh God! Please! Stop it!"
"Remember the goddamn cake!"
"I… Safety goggles! It was a pair of safety goggles!"
"I can see it. Safety goggles… only… the frames were Stargates. Two Stargates! God! Siler! Yes! Siler! I remember!"
"Yes!" Jack yanked at the control lever, snapping the machine off. Reaching Daniel's side, he grabbed the scientist's free hand with his left hand, his other one patting Daniel's cheek in affectionate approval. "Yes!"
"Jack! I remember everything. The cake. SG2 singing some awful song they'd made up. You shouting everyone a beer, then borrowing the money off me to pay for it. Which by the way - you still… owe…" Daniel blinked, panic washing over his face. "Jack? Feel…" His eyelids fluttered.
"No!" Jack's anguished negative ricocheted around the room as Daniel's hand went limp.
"Out of the way, Colonel!" One hundred pounds of wet-suit clad doctor shoved Jack to one side. She swore as she saw Daniel's body jerk. "He's seizing! We need to get him out of this seat."
Janet might have only just made the air force's height requirements, but she was strong and well-trained. Stripping the monitors from Daniel, she wrapped her arms around his torso, bent her legs and lifted him from the seat, puffing out her breath as she took his weight. Nodding her gratitude to Sam and Teal'c as they moved to assist, she manoeuvred Daniel to an open space of floor, easing him gently onto his side. As Daniel jerked and twitched in the grip of the seizure, she rocked back on her heels.
"Airways are clear and he can't hurt himself here."
Behind her Jack's voice was heavy with self-loathing. "I shouldn't have pushed him."
"You can't blame yourself for this, Colonel," Janet said, still watching over Daniel.
"Indeed not," Teal'c agreed. "You did what Daniel Jackson wished you to do."
Jack shot him a cold look. "He was begging me to stop!"
Sam settled herself wearily on the floor as close to Daniel as she dared. "That was the pain talking. Daniel wanted to see this through. And he did remember! Hopefully when this is over…"
Her words drew everyone's attention back to the unconscious scientist.
Apparently finding little consolation in his team's words, Jack's voice was still bitter. "What's going on, Janet? The last seizure was hours after he lost his memory. Why's he having one now?"
Janet shook her head. "I can only guess the repeated use of the machine over such a short space of time…"
"That's not comforting," Jack said.
"Sorry. But if it helps any, I was expecting a repeat of his earlier symptoms - the headaches, the nausea. And I hadn't ruled out a seizure. I had hoped though we'd be back at the SGC before any of it started." She nodded towards the pile of equipment. "Fortunately I brought along a PDC."
"I am not familiar with this term," Teal'c commented.
"Portable Decompression Chamber. If we have to, we can get Daniel back to the surface without worrying about him being able to use scuba."
Jack gave a humorless smile. Sometimes Janet could out do even him for coming up with worst case scenarios. He was grateful for her foresight though. Being stuck in this underwater tomb several light years from a complete range of medical technology would not have helped Daniel's chances. "So what now?" he asked, his gaze once more on Daniel's waxen features.
"Now," Janet said positioning herself on the opposite side of Daniel to Sam. "We wait for this to stop."
A couple of minutes later the final tremor dissipated from Daniel's body. As Janet began to check him over he groaned softly.
"It's alright, Daniel," she soothed. "How are you feeling?"
There was a long silence during which Janet wondered if Daniel had lapsed back into unconsciousness. A flutter of eyelashes told her he hadn't, but when he finally spoke his voice was little more than a whisper.
Janet gave his bare shoulder a reassuring squeeze. She glanced up at Sam. "You'll find a blanket in that crate."
While Sam hurried to the crate, Janet gently brushed the strands of sweat-dampened hair from Daniel's face. As he opened his eyes to look blearily up at her she smiled sympathetically. "Anything else?"
"I'm sorry," Janet said softly. "But I can't give you anything for that right now." Her eyes locked with Sam's as the captain brought the blanket over and began to tuck it around Daniel's shoulders. Janet knew the question in Sam's eyes was the one they all wanted an answer to. "Daniel, do you remember what happened to you?"
Daniel hesitated for a long moment. "Jack?"
"He's right here, Daniel."
"Tell Jack…" He paused, his eyelids fluttering.
"Daniel, try to stay with me," Janet urged. "Tell Jack what?"
"Tell him… " Daniel's lips twitched almost imperceptibly. "He still owes me fifty-four dollars."
As smiles broke out on the faces of SG-1, Daniel sighed. "Tired. Very tired."
"I know, Daniel," Janet said. "But just try to stay with me for a few more minutes. We need to get you back to the SGC and I want to explain to you about the pressure unit I'm going to put you in. Okay?"
Jack glanced at his wall clock and muttered something rude about Janet Frasier under his breath. There was still a whole twenty-five minutes to go before he dared go anywhere near the infirmary. He yawned and rubbed irritably at his sleep-deprived eyes. Fifteen hours had gone by since he and Teal'c had carried Daniel Jackson through the Stargate in the PDC. He grimaced at the thought - damn thing looked far to much like a coffin in his opinion. General Hammond would no doubt agree - the man had gone as white as a sheet as they come down the ramp.
Still Janet had been right in predicting Daniel wouldn't be able to use the scuba equipment to get back to the SGC. From what they could tell, he had simply gone to sleep once Janet had ensured he was comfortably strapped into the unit. Jack was almost envious - the in-water decompression time he and the rest of the team had endured on their way to the surface had passed with an agonising slowness. Not to mention they'd cut it pretty fine with their oxygen supply, even with spare tanks.
Fifteen hours. Jack recalled some of Janet's earlier conversations. That was how long it took for the neural pathways to firmly establish. Please. Let him wake up normal. Well, as normal as Daniel ever was anyway.
He spent another ten minutes pretending to read the latest report from SG-9, before pushing it away in irritation. Fifteen minutes. This time he really would walk slowly.
"Colonel!" Janet looked pointedly at her watch as she greeted him.
"Sorry," he replied. "How's he doing?"
"He's asleep at the moment. He's been conscious but other than telling me his pain meds weren't working very well - that's the edited version by the way - he hasn't said a lot."
"The edited version." Jack felt what little optimism he had scraped together on his way to the infirmary take a nosedive, memories of Daniel's recently colorful language leaping unwelcome to his mind. "So you can't tell if he's… you know."
"Thirty-five?" Janet shook her head. "Not yet. You can sit with him for a while if you want."
"Thanks. I'll do that." Instead of heading straight to Daniel's bed, however, Jack hesitated.
"Something on your mind, Colonel?"
He glanced round the infirmary, his gaze taking in the racks of neatly stored equipment. "How do you it, Janet?"
"How do you… cope? What I did to Daniel… I keep telling myself it was the right thing. That it was what he wanted. But…" He let out a soft breath and shot her the tiniest of smiles. "Being cruel to be kind. Sucks if you ask me."
"I know, Colonel. There are days when I go home and wish I could forget what I've had to do. But you know what. At the end of the day, most people thank me." Her gaze moved to the sleeping scientist. "Trust me. If he remembers, he'll thank you."
"If he remembers," Jack echoed.
He moved to Daniel's bedside, pulling up the nearby plastic chair. Making himself as comfortable as possible in the definitely not ergonomically designed seat, he studied Daniel's face, wondering idly if the scientist always slept with his mouth open. He should've brought grapes and got in a little hoop practice while he was waiting.
At least it would've taken his mind off the uncertainty. Surely Daniel hadn't gone through all that for nothing. Come on, Jack, he berated himself. Stop it with the worst case thing. Daniel remembered the party while that machine was doing the light show on his brain. He'll remember it now. He has to remember it!
Exactly on the hour, the infirmary door opened and Sam and Teal'c walked in. They headed immediately for the colonel.
"How is he?" Sam asked, scanning Daniel's face for some sign of his well-being.
"Sleeping." Jack leaned back in his chair and tried to appear unconcerned. "Snoring. Oh and about every forty-five seconds he makes this strange little brrr-ing noise."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Jack's description. "Have you not spoken with him?"
Jack shook his head. "Nope. Sleeping Beauty hasn't treated me to his presence yet." He drew in a breath. "And to tell you the truth all this waiting around is killing me." His gaze fell on the water jug. "What do you say we encourage him a little…"
"Colonel!" Sam's tone was horrified as Jack picked up the water jug.
"Don't worry, Captain. I'm not that cruel." Jack dipped his fingers into the water. Carefully he leaned over Daniel and let a large drip fall into the scientist's mouth. "Oh Daniel. Wakey, wakey."
The cool water had the desired effect. Swallowing reflexively, Daniel stirred, rolling his head towards his audience with a soft moan. Very slowly he opened his eyes. "Jack?"
Daniel blinked, his expression confused. "Where am I?"
Uh-oh! Jack felt his stomach lurch. He hesitated a moment, giving Carter the chance to speak.
"You're in the infirmary, Daniel."
Blue eyes focused unsteadily on her for a long moment. "Oh, yeah."
"Oh yeah?" Jack repeated. "What does that mean?"
Daniel looked back at him, clearly having difficulty concentrating.
Carter nodded towards the IV. "Sir, he's on meds. You can't expect much..."
"I know that," Jack said trying not to sound too impatient. "But what I need to know…" Damnit, enough with the eggshells. He was going to ask. Get it over and done with. "Daniel, what year is it?"
"What… year?" Daniel screwed his eyes tight for a moment and then opened them again. He licked his lips.
Jack sucked in an exasperated breath. "It's not a difficult question, Daniel. What year is it?"
Daniel's gaze moved from Jack to Sam to Teal'c and then back to Jack. His expression wary he slowly answered. "1998. Why?"
Jack assumed a nonchalant pose that totally failed to hide his relief. "No reason. Just… asking."
Daniel however looked even more confused. "Jack?"
"Why am I in the infirmary?"
Three days later, Daniel was chafing to escape the infirmary. He peered unhappily at the IV still attached to his right hand. Janet's experience from the first time round had paid dividends, the drugs she'd pumped in to him had kept the nausea and the worst of the headaches at bay. She'd promised him if he went pain-free for eight hours without drugs she'd release him. Until then though the IV stayed put - just in case.
Not that he could remember the first time. His last coherent memory before waking in the infirmary was of Sergeant Siler's party. How many days ago had that been? Still, losing a couple of days had to be preferable to losing 15 years. He was still having a hard time believing the account Sam and Jack had given him of all that had happened. Nineteen? He shivered at the thought. It wasn't an age he would've chosen to relive.
What had bothered him more though was the sense they weren't telling him everything. There'd been a look in Jack's eyes that he couldn't quite pin down, but after wheedling at Janet for two days he'd finally discovered the truth. He smiled at the thought of Jack's discomfort when he'd confronted him, and the relief and embarrassment on the colonel's face when he'd thanked him. Hell, what had Jack thought? That he was going to hate him for helping him get his memory back.
The sound of the infirmary door opening cut across Daniel's musing as the object of his thoughts stuck his head around the door.
"Daniel. I hear Janet's thinking of letting you out early for good behaviour." Jack dropped himself on the chair next to Daniel's bed.
Daniel smiled. "I still can't believe I used all that foul language."
Jack grinned. "Oh you'll believe it soon enough. Accounts are sending your next pay check straight to the swear-box charity."
"Speaking of money," Daniel said. "Are you ever going to pay me back for that beer at Siler's party?"
"You know, Daniel," Jack said slowly. "I kinda of preferred you without the memory."
"Don't you believe him, Daniel." Sam walked into the infirmary just in time to hear the comment. She grinned cheekily. "Mind you, I thought you had a certain… charm."
"Charm?" Jack snorted. "He had a crush on you for crying out loud!"
"Jack!" Daniel protested. There were some things he would've preferred not to have been told. As his face flushed he attempted to change the subject by gesturing towards a bag on his bedside table. "Thanks for the cookies, Sam. I presume you left them here."
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "You were sleeping and I didn't want to disturb you. So… I hear Janet's letting you out."
"Yes, thank goodness."
Jack gave him a quizzical look.
Daniel leaned towards him his voice low. "You know normally when I'm in here, I get too much attention. The nurses - they're always falling over themselves to do things for me. But this time… I swear they're out to get me."
Jack's eyebrows raised. "Out to get you?"
"Yes!" Daniel's face became animated. "I'm sure Nurse Clark deliberately put salt in my coffee this morning."
"Salt?" Jack grimaced.
"And Nurse Judy said Janet had ordered her to give me an enema, when she hadn't. Not that I found that out until after she'd…" Daniel stopped as Sam barely disguised a smirk. "What?!"
"Sounds like the nursing staff are closing ranks," Sam explained.
"Why would they do that?" Daniel demanded. An unpleasant feeling crept into the pit of his stomach.
"Well…!" Sam and Jack breathed the word out in stereo.
"I think you should tell him, Sir," Sam said.
"Tell him what?"
"About Nurse Ellen being temporarily re-assigned."
Daniel's eyes widened. "What?"
Jack shrugged. "Actually I hear Alaska is very nice at this time of year." He glanced at his watch. "You know, I've got a report to finish. Can we do this later?" He stood up before Daniel could protest. "Glad you're feeling better, Daniel."
Sam moved to follow him. "Didn't I promise you some data for that report, Sir?" She smiled at Daniel. "Catch you later!"
"Jack? Sam? Wait!" Daniel's pulled a face as his two team-mates hurried from the infirmary. Leaning back in his pillows he sighed. Nurse Ellen? Alaska? Damn. He'd just have to ask Janet…
A strange clinking sound sneaked into his awareness. That sounded remarkably like… ice? Daniel's eyes shot open. Standing around his bed was the entire SGC nursing staff.
"Bed bath, Dr Jackson?" they chorused.
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