Sensory Overload by JoaG

The body lying on the debris-littered ground was the first thing Jack saw as he entered the bright sunlit room. For a second he saw the blood and he nearly panicked. But then he realized the man wasn’t wearing BDUs, so his heart crept out of his throat and worked quickly to make up for those skipped beats he had scared out of it.

Carter crossed over to the man and carefully turned him over onto his back, her hand going to his throat in a smooth motion. Although she shook her head to indicate there was no sign of life, there was no mistaking that Antol, their guide, was dead; the several bullet holes in his chest were testament to that. Yep, dead as a doornail.


The one word conveyed both fear and alarm as Teal’c pointed out the other form he had just discovered across the ancient room. Carter quickly turned and with a glance at Jack, rushed over to check the BDU-clad body that had been partly hidden behind a piece of broken wall.

“He’s alive,” she breathed, checking his pulse as Jack quickly made his way his lover’s side.

“Daniel?” Jack said tentatively as he saw the blue eyes staring straight ahead. He reached a shaking hand and cupped the man’s cold, clammy cheek, noting Carter was carefully checking the unresponsive man for injuries. Daniel didn’t react to either Carter or Jack’s touch, and Jack’s heart began hammering quickly as he realized something was definitely wrong here.

All they could find was a reddish mark on his right temple which was quickly turning into a bruise. It didn’t seem serious enough to warrant a concussion, and Daniel wasn’t exactly unconscious, but he also wasn’t aware of his surroundings. Jack removed his jacket and covered Daniel’s torso with it, while Carter removed hers and folding it, gently placed it beneath Daniel’s head.

Daniel’s gun was still tightly clutched in his hands, and Jack had to pry his fingers from around the handle. He removed the magazine and counted the bullets, noting that six bullets were missing, matching the number of bullet holes in Antol’s body

“Teal’c,” Jack said, pocketing the gun and avoiding the worry reflected in Carter’s eyes. “Go and get the authorities and then contact the SGC. They need to know what happened here.”

“Sir, why would Daniel have shot Antol?” she asked as Teal’c left the building. “Do you think he tried to kidnap or hurt Daniel?”

“I don’t know,” he answered, looking carefully around the room for clues of any kind. Daniel and his guide Antol had been missing for the past three hours. The government authorities had given SG1 free rein to visit the city while they discussed the trade agreement that Earth was proposing. Having been at loose ends, Daniel had expressed a desire to visit the old ruins at the southern edge of the city of Gaphe. Antol, who had been their guide during the last two visits to P3K 778, had eagerly led Daniel to one of his favorite haunts.

It was only when Daniel hadn’t reported in when he was late in returning to the city had they become worried. The ruins weren’t big and it hadn’t taken them long to find the missing men.

Now with nothing left to do but wait for a medical team to arrive, Jack sat down beside Daniel and began talking to him softly, hoping he’d soon come out of this fugue state or whatever the hell was wrong with him.

- - - - - -

“Well, I’ve run every test I could think of,” Janet Fraiser said as she seated herself before three quarters of SG1, General Hammond and Murdol, Representative of Gaphe. “Doctor Jackson remains in a deep coma, and I can’t find any physical or medical reason why that is.”

Jack thought back to his last glimpse of Daniel lying so still in his infirmary bed, wires and tubes seeming to be attached to every part of his body.

“That is unacceptable,” Murdol declared, hands fisted so tightly that his knuckles were white. Jack had had a very difficult time convincing the Gaphe authorities to allow them to bring Daniel home, where their medical facilities were more sophisticated than those of P3K 778. The only concession was that a representative accompany them to Earth and be permitted to report on their findings. Hence… Murdol.

“Mr. Murdol,” Fraiser said, turning her diminutive fury on the six foot five alien. “Whether or not Doctor Jackson’s medical condition is unacceptable to you is moot. My patient is physically unable to tell us the reason why he shot one of your people, and I’m afraid that until I discover what happened to him, he may never be able to answer your questions.”

Jack closed his eyes at the blunt diagnosis Fraiser blurted out in anger. She had already more or less informed them of her findings before the meeting, but hearing them come out like this nearly tore him in half. He felt a hand on his shoulder and swallowing hard, opened his eyes to look at Teal’c. He saw the worry for their friend reflected in the Jaffa’s eyes. Carter’s bright blue eyes were shiny with unshed tears as she looked across the table at him. The people in this room, except for Murdol, all cared for Daniel, nearly as much as he did. They also knew of his loving relationship with Daniel, and wholeheartedly supported both men in this.

“Doctor Fraiser, is there nothing you can do?” General Hammond asked, giving the doctor all of his attention.

She shook her head regretfully. “Not unless Mr. Murdol comes up with samples of plants, drugs, toxins… anything on P3K 778 that might have caused this illness.”

“I know nothing of these but I will have someone contact our medical personnel with the criteria you want,” Murdol conceded.

“If Daniel had been given something,” Carter supposed, “like you just pointed out, Janet, maybe it caused him to hallucinate, and he shot Antol without meaning to.”

“It’s possible,” Fraiser admitted, “but his blood work showed absolutely nothing suspicious, nothing out of the ordinary. Other than a small contusion on his temple there is nothing physically wrong with Daniel.”

“Except that he’s in a freaking coma,” Jack blurted. He rubbed his hands roughly over his face, apologizing to General Hammond for his outburst.

“Mr. Murdol, if you would be so kind as to get the information Doctor Fraiser requires, maybe we can get to the bottom of this and hopefully resolve this problem between our two worlds.”

Hammond stood up, bringing the meeting to a close. Carter and Teal’c escorted Murdol to the Stargate where he would go gather whatever data the Doc required. Jack, on the other hand, needed to go sit with Daniel and pray he woke up soon.

- - - - - -

The slow beep of the heart monitor told Jack the man lying on the bed before him was still alive. As irritating as the noise was, it was comforting to know some parts of Daniel were still working all by themselves. He was breathing on his own, which also had to be a good thing.

But seeing his lover lying still and unmoving, his eyes half opened, staring unfocused at some distant point in the room, sent frissons down Jack’s back. He’d been sitting with Daniel for the past three hours, talking to him quietly, stroking his arm and holding his hand, praying for the slightest response. The nurses would come by every so often and do a variety of checks, some of which looked painful. Daniel never twitched or reacted to anything they did.

He knew Fraiser was worried about the brain wave patterns exhibited by the EEG, the leads of which dangled from Daniel’s forehead and temple, and onto a display sitting on the table opposite Jack. He could see the unchanging patterns, Fraiser had said something about Daniel not responding to stimuli. Which unequivocally meant he couldn’t hear Jack, and didn’t even know Jack was sitting beside him.

But that didn’t deter Jack in his efforts. Who knew, maybe somewhere, somehow, Daniel was listening to Jack’s voice and was trying to find his way back to him.

A pretty redheaded nurse came to change one of Daniel’s IVs, smiling gently at Jack as he watched her go about her duties. She had been with the SGC from its inception, a regular who had spent many hours caring for both Jack and Daniel and the rest of the team on those occasions they’d been sick or injured.

“Hey Donna,” Jack said in greeting.

“Colonel,” she answered back with a smile. She was about to say something else when he saw her glance at the equipment and monitors. It wasn’t until she spoke that he realized the beeping of Daniel’s heartbeat had begun to speed up.

“Doctor Fraiser,” she called out, her eyes still on the EEG. Jack craned his head to see around her slim body, noting there was more activity now than there had been the whole time Daniel had been hooked up. He turned towards Daniel, noting his lover’s eyes were moving.

- - - - - -

Pain from the device that had been attached to his temple burned through his brain. Sounds, words, light, physical contact, movement… all were combined in a cacophony of sensations and experiences which became too dizzying to follow.

The portion of Daniel’s brain that had been cut off from the outside world found a small fissure, allowing some of these feelings to seep into his brain. At first, events which took place eight hours ago began filtering through, every sensation, every sound, every moment that had occurred to and around Daniel had been stored in unused portions of his brain, waiting for this very moment to come and tell him their story. The small trickle, like a dam that was overflowing, quickly burst through the barrier and within seconds, overwhelmed Daniel’s brain, flooding him with eight hours’ worth of physical sensations that had been put on hold.

It fought to escape the rushing tide of events, not memories, but actual events lost in the melds of his mind, held captive until the doors were finally opened and all at once, allowed to let loose on a vulnerable mind.

Self preservation caused his brain to attempt to swim against the current, but like a giant whirlpool, it was swiftly sucked under.

- - - - - -

At first Daniel became restless, mumbling under his breath. Jack leaned over him, calling his name.

“Come on, Daniel, that’s it, wake up.”

He didn’t react to Jack’s voice, but continued to move around sluggishly. He began to make a low keening sound deep in his throat, and his movements became more violent. Jack finally had to hold him down, feeling Daniel struggling underneath his hands. Two nurses had to hold his legs while Fraiser examined him.

Then Jack realized something bad was happening when Daniel’s back arched and his eyes rolled back in his head. His muscles suddenly began contracting violently, his breath coming out in an odd, gasping sound.

“He’s seizing!” Fraiser called out. “Get me 10 mg Valium.”

The nurses quickly obeyed her orders, and within moments Daniel’s body relaxed as the drug calmed the involuntary contractions. As Daniel lay limp on the bed once more, Fraiser gave another order. “Dilantin, 1 gram IV.” While one nurse whose name Jack couldn’t remember followed her instructions, Donna wiped the saliva that had frothed around his mouth when the seizure had begun. Fraiser was quickly checking the monitors and he saw her staring at the EEG. Jack glanced at that monitor and saw that the squiggles were jumping all over the place.

“Doc,” Jack said worriedly, realizing that although Daniel’s body had calmed, the electrical activity in his brain was still firing haphazardly.

“I know,” she said, looking back at Jack. The monitor continued to show the electrical storm for several long minutes, until finally Daniel’s brain waves smoothed out into more even patterns.

“It’s over,” she confirmed to Jack. “His EEG is showing more normal activity now, although I don’t know what caused the seizure.” She fussed with the sheet, pulling it up to Daniel’s chest. Jack could tell this episode had unnerved her, which began to scare Jack even more.

“Colonel, I’m going to order more tests. The Valium is a sedative so we’ll have to wait for it to wear off before we see if Daniel’s going to wake up. The EEG tech will be here in a few minutes, and the neurologist I requested should be arriving anytime.”

She picked up Daniel’s chart and as she made notations, Jack could see her hands shaking. Adrenaline, he realized. His own body felt shaky and he sat down hard in the chair.

- - - - - -

Daniel’s eyelids fluttered as he slowly fought the sedating effects of the drugs. All four of them, Jack, Carter, Teal’c and Fraiser leaned forward slightly, waiting and hoping for Daniel to wake up and smile fuzzily at them.

Another familiar nurse was standing behind Fraiser, waiting to see if she would be required to assist. Barb, another petite redhead, was diligently studying the monitors as the rest of them kept their eyes fixed on Daniel. Jack wondered what it was with Fraiser and her nurses, they all appeared to be as diminutive as she was, but loud-mouthed marines accorded them the same amount of respect as they did Teal’c when these ladies stood before them with a needle in hand.

Daniel sighed softly, and his movements ceased. Jack leaned back against his chair, running his hands through his hair in exasperation. Fraiser tapped Daniel lightly on the cheek, calling his name.

Daniel’s reaction startled them all when he opened his eyes and screamed loudly. He curled up on the bed, covering his head with his hands. As he was very close to the edge of the mattress, Jack and Teal’c reached out to prevent him from falling off.

“Daniel, it’s okay, it’s just us,” Jack yelled, trying to make his voice heard above the screams coming from Daniel. “Daniel!” he commanded, hoping his military voice would shock the man into silence.

If anything, Daniel screamed more loudly. Jack could feel him shaking and for a moment he thought he was seizing again, until he realized he was trembling violently. He saw Barb inject something into Daniel’s IV and after a minute, the screams softened to soft mewls, although the shivering continued long after Daniel was asleep.

- - - - - -

The tests seemed to take forever as Jack sat in the commissary with Carter and Teal’c. A plate of meatloaf and vegetables sat congealing before him as he toyed with a half-empty coffee cup. Fraiser had suggested he go eat something as it would be a while before Daniel was returned to the infirmary, but Jack had found he had no appetite.

The three sat in companionable silence, each lost in their own thoughts. The chatter from the other tables flowed around them, neither intruding nor distracting. It was only when Donna, the nurse who’d been there with Jack when Daniel had begun seizing, entered the commissary and came to stand beside him, did he look up from his worrisome thoughts.

“Colonel, Doctor Fraiser has the results of the tests. She’d like you to please join her and General Hammond in the infirmary.”

Jack pushed his chair back, wincing as the feet grated irritatingly against the linoleum. His heart began beating faster and his palms were sweaty as he followed the petite redhead back to the infirmary. He was aware of Carter beside him and Teal’c behind him, but he kept his eyes on the slim shoulders before him, as if they were his salvation and were leading him back to sanctuary.

Donna led them to Fraiser’s medical lab set just off of the infirmary. General Hammond was already there, standing beside a table where several photographs were laid out. He nodded at his premiere team as they entered. Jack walked up to the table and glanced down at the pictures. They were obviously PETscans taken of Daniel’s brain. He didn’t know how to read these but he thought that they probably boded ill for his friend and lover.

Fraiser looked up at them, her expression serious. As he feared, she picked up the photographs and began pointing out what had been discovered.

“The areas of Daniel’s brain that relates to touch, sound and vision appear to be overly active,” she explained as she pointed to three large red spots set amongst the more muted diagram of a brain. “These pictures show the electrical activity of Daniel’s brain. Something triggered these parts of his brain, probably causing it to overload and short-circuit, which caused the seizure.”

They all dutifully examined the pictures, and Jack finally understood how much of Daniel’s brain was being affected when Fraiser showed him a similar shot taken three months prior when Daniel had been hale and healthy. All the red spots appeared as pinpricks whereas in the new shots, they seemed to have exploded onto the photos.

“Daniel is experiencing sensory overload,” Fraiser explained. “It’s like those parts of his brain are extremely sensitive and anything having to do with touch, sound or sight is causing either extreme discomfort or pain. He’s probably also very confused and isn’t able to make sense out of what he’s seeing, hearing or feeling.”

Jack dropped the picture he was holding onto the table and locking his elbows, leaned forward onto it. With her words he just realized he’d caused Daniel pain. He’d been yelling at Daniel earlier. He’d grasped Daniel tightly to hold him onto the bed and had yelled at him. He’d hurt Daniel. Not intentionally, but they had probably all been part of the cause of Daniel’s panic and withdrawal.

“I’ve sedated him for the moment, but I’m going to have him moved into the Iso room and see if I can lower the amount of sedation till he’s at a point where he can be aware and not be overwhelmed by everything. It’ll mean very minimal contact with people in order to keep the stimulation to the bare minimum.

“I want to be there,” Jack said in a low voice.

“Colonel,” Fraiser began, but Jack interrupted.

“He trusts me. He should have someone who he knows won’t hurt him intentionally. Either me or Carter or Teal’c, but one of us should be in there with him at all times.” He looked towards General Hammond for permission. “I’d like it to be me, Sir.”

The General stared at Jack, and an unspoken message swept between them. “I have no objections, unless Doctor Fraiser…”

She stared at Jack and said, “I’d rather keep it to trained medical personnel, Sir.” “God damnit, Doc!” Jack yelled, losing his temper. “Just tell me what to do. But he shouldn’t be locked up in a room with a bunch of people who he doesn’t know, not when he’s hurting this much.”

“Colonel,” she began, her eyes blazing and her nostrils flaring slightly in her anger. “I understand your concern, but…” She stared intently at Jack, then raised her hands up in resignation. “Fine, you’re right, and it probably won’t hurt to have someone familiar there with him.

- - - - - -

Most of the lights in the Isolation room had been turned off, the main light source being that of the monitors, which had all been carefully turned to face away from Daniel. A soft glow from a lamp with a special bulb set off to the side barely illuminated Daniel’s sleeping form.

Cushioning had been placed underfoot to mute the sounds of footsteps and everything metallic that could or would make noise had been replaced by less noisy substitutes.

Jack had been admonished not to speak, and if he had to, to keep his voice as low as possible. They had begun lowering Daniel’s sedation thirty minutes ago, and Daniel was now beginning to show signs of waking. The buzz of the electrical equipment and the soft tread of the nurses as they went about their duties all seemed too loud in the dark room, making Jack wince as he imagined what it must sound like to Daniel’s overly-sensitive ears.

He glanced up at the observation room, noting both Teal’c and Carter sitting there in the dark, watching intently. Daniel moved sluggishly, trying to kick the blankets aside and turn onto his side. Fraiser immediately went towards the side of the bed where he lay facing, and softly called his name.

Jack saw him flinch, his face screwing up in pain. He curled up once more, bringing his knees to his chest, and Jack realized he was trying to hide from the unfamiliar sensations his brain was experiencing.

Fraiser said his name a second time, and Daniel began making small noises of protest. Jack swore under his breath, realizing that the noise Daniel was producing was going to hurt him even more. He curled himself into a ball, panting and moaning.

Fraiser shook her head and motioned to Barb to administer the sedative. In a moment, Daniel’s body relaxed once more, and Jack got up to help the doc reposition Daniel’s body more comfortably on the bed.

“I don’t know,” she said when Jack raised his eyebrows at her in question. “Maybe it’s just a matter of time. I can keep him sedated for another few hours and we can try again.”

Carter’s voice came from the open door.

“Janet,” she said quietly as she tiptoed towards them. “What about trying to desensitize him?”

“What do you mean?” Jack asked as he turned to look at his Second.

“I mean introduce those things that hurt him, but at a very low level. Something like… I don’t know… music, maybe. Played at a low volume where he can tolerate it and then slowly raise the volume and see if he can get used to it.”

“That’s a great idea, Sam. What kind of music does Daniel like?” Fraiser asked, her eyes lighting up with the idea.

“Anything and everything under the sun,” Jack groused, remembering Daniel’s eclectic tastes and hating many of the selections he chose to listen to. But he realized that he knew the perfect albums to offer.

Sending Carter to his home to search for two particular CDs, ambient music which Daniel often used when he wanted to meditate or relax. They were soothing and monotonous, and probably the best choice for the experiment.

In the meantime, Jack sat down and placed his hand next to Daniel’s, the closest that he could get without actually touching. He ached to take this man in his arms and hold him close, chasing away all the hurts and kissing him better.

Donna caught Jack’s eye and motioned towards the open door. He turned and saw General Hammond standing there. Reluctantly, Jack got up and went out to speak to the General in the hallway. Fraiser came out to join them a moment later.

“Murdol just contacted us,” he said, speaking quietly even though they were out of earshot of anyone in the room, handing a folder over to Fraiser. “It seems that his government has some kind of secret… device, which supposedly can forcibly take information from someone’s brain and transplant it directly into the brain of another.”

“Mind reading?” Jack hazarded a guess, his attention half on the doctor as she read the contents of the folder.

“Something of the kind. Mr. Murdol says it’s all speculation and rumors, there’s nothing official about it, but he did say that the device is purported to having side effects such as Doctor Jackson is experiencing.”

Jack slammed his hand into the wall, refusing to wince as the pain jarred up his arm.

“They fucking couldn’t ask? They lured Daniel away and that bastard of a guide Antol just took whatever information they wanted from Daniel?”

“Colonel,” Hammond said, the steel in his voice quickly causing Jack to straighten up. “We don’t know what happened out there. Mr. Murdol implied that plans to this device may have been stolen by an opposing government, but there are factions in both governments who are accusing us in the supposed theft. Again, neither the device nor its theft are official, but the reports of its side effects are just too coincidental to dismiss.”

“You’re right, Sir,” Fraiser said, closing the folder and clutching it against her chest. “This information states that the victim experiences a shutdown of sorts, where everything he’s exposed to for several hours afterwards is recorded in his brain. Then when the effects wear off, those several hours’ worth are suddenly replayed within a couple of minutes. The patient is so overwhelmed with sensations that he withdraws from the real world.” She swallowed, then looked at Jack. “It says that most don’t recover.”

Jack stared at them in shock, then turned on his heels and returned to the Iso room. He stopped by Daniel’s bed, wondering what information had been so vital that they’d do this to someone. He reached down and stroked Daniel’s forefinger, keeping his eyes on the EEG monitor. Relieved to see that there was no change, he sat down and continued with the gentle touch.

- - - - - -

Teal’c’s CD player had been hooked up to speakers positioned on either side of Daniel’s bed. The music was hardly audible, not even loud enough to mask the cold sounds of the machinery which surrounded the bed. Doctor Fraiser had done some research, and they were waiting once more for Daniel to wake up from the sedation.

As Daniel slowly returned to consciousness, the volume was raised in minute increments until he showed signs of discomfort. The volume was then lowered slightly to what was a comfortable level. The music softly flowed around the bed, gentle and comforting.

Daniel opened his eyes, staring at a distant spot. Fraiser deliberately placed herself into his line of vision to see his reaction, but the movement caused him to jerk back violently and pull away. She then cautioned everyone all to walk slowly around the room, and to make no sudden movements.

After twisting out from beneath the blankets, Daniel began tracking either Fraiser, Barb or Donna as they went about their business. Over the next few hours, his head would follow their cautious walk around the room. Jack caught the nurses’ nervous looks. He realized that Daniel was making them a little edgy, worried that they’d inadvertently cause Daniel to withdraw once more.

Jack felt a little superfluous at the moment. His futile attempts at covering Daniel up with either the sheet or blanket always resulted in Daniel pulling or kicking them off. He wasn’t able to touch or talk to Daniel yet, although he’d been encouraged the few times that Daniel’s gaze had passed over him. The last time Daniel appeared to actually ‘look’ at him for several seconds before his eyes drifted away.

When Daniel dozed off, Fraiser whispered to Jack to meet her outside in the hallway. He was surprised to see Carter meet them there.

“Colonel,” Fraiser said, “I think Daniel would be more comfortable with bedding he’s used to. I know that our supplies aren’t exactly the most luxurious, but the texture is obviously bothering him. I was hoping that Sam wouldn’t mind going back to his apartment and getting something he’d be more comfortable with.”

After describing three of Daniel’s favourite blankets, which he knew would be much softer than the scratchy woolen ones supplied here in the infirmary, Jack handed her his keys once more. He was grateful that both Carter and Fraiser knew about his and Daniel’s relationship; he had no need to explain why Carter was heading off to his house to get the bedding.

As he watched Carter walk down the hallway towards the elevators, he was surprised when Fraiser handed Jack a soft-bristled brush with instructions on what to do the next time Daniel woke. She was pleased with his progress so far, and had decided to lower the level of sedation even more.

An hour later, when Daniel’s muddled blue eyes were open once more, as per Fraiser’s directions Jack began to stroke Daniel’s bare arms with the brush. Softly at first, barely making contact with the skin, then with firmer strokes when the ministrations were not adversely received.

At first Daniel simply lay there, staring off dreamily into the far corner of the room. Jack felt silly doing this, but Jack had wanted to help and this had been the next step on the list of things to try. But after a while Daniel turned his head, his eyes following the slow strokes of the brush as it moved up and down his arm. When Jack stopped, Daniel looked up at him. His heart pounding, he was sure Daniel actually ‘saw’ him for a moment before his eyes lost their focus and shifted over his shoulder.

It was slow going and exhausting. He’d been here with Daniel for nearly eighteen hours straight, and little progress was being made. Daniel was sleeping now and Fraiser suggested Jack go and get something to eat.

Carter returned as he made to stand and leave. Taking the blankets from her, Jack carefully exchanged the ones on the bed with the softest one, covering Daniel’s sleeping form with it. Daniel stirred slightly, sighing softly as he grabbed the edge of the soft covering and pulled it over his shoulder.

As he left the Iso room, Teal’c descended from where he’d been watching and joined Jack and Carter. Both his team mates had spent many hours providing moral support. The harsh lights out in the corridors hurt Jack’s eyes and he felt a headache coming on. Hoping it was simply due to hunger, he followed Fraiser’s suggestion and went to the commissary.

He glanced at his watch, surprised to see that it was the middle of the night. He poured himself a coffee and grabbed a pre-prepared sandwich and piece of pie, eating both without much of an appetite. Teal’c and Carter sat quietly beside him, lending silent support. His headache did disappear, though, so he was grateful to Fraiser for sending him out for nourishment.

He returned to the Iso room, standing in the doorway until his eyes accustomed to the dim lighting. He saw Daniel moving restlessly on the bed, the blanket pulled up so that his bare feet were exposed. Before he could take a step towards him, Fraiser was pulling him back out into the hallway.

“Something’s bothering him,” she said in a soft voice, pulling him away from the open door so Daniel wouldn’t be disturbed by their voices. “He woke up and seemed to be in pain. I just wanted to warn you before you came inside and saw him like that. I hate to put him back under, but we can’t seem to figure out what’s causing this.”

Jack nodded as he followed her back into the room. He moved to the bedside, carefully skirting the wires and medical paraphernalia. Daniel was lying half on his stomach, half on his side, squirming on the bed. His head was scrunched up into the pillows, his face screwed up in pain. His breathing sounded harsh over the soft music. Jack slowly lowered his head until it was on an even keel with Daniel’s, listening intently. As he moved back up, he realized that from Daniel’s vantage point, the hum of one of the medical machines sounded much louder.

Waving his hand, he pointed the machine out to Barb. Understanding lit her expressive face and she repositioned the machine. Immediately Daniel calmed, his breathing evening out, his body relaxing.

Jack forgot himself and reached out to caress Daniel’s face. For a moment his fingers stroked the soft skin above his stubbly cheek, and Daniel let him. Then Daniel’s eyes snapped open in shock and he jerked away from Jack’s fingers.

“Sorry,” Jack whispered, remembering at least to move his hand slowly away. To his surprise, Daniel grabbed his hand, grasping it like a lifeline.

“Danny?” Jack said softly, ignoring Fraiser’s dark look from across the bed.

“J’ck?” Daniel croaked loudly, then he screwed his eyes shut as the sound of his own voice must have reverberated through his still sensitive brain. His hand squeezed Jack’s for a moment, then relaxed as the hurt eased off.

Stroking the callused skin gently with his thumb, Jack’s heart beat an unsteady rhythm at the knowledge that Daniel had recognized him. He couldn’t help but grin; Daniel was in pain, but he had come out of that pain-riddled world for a few seconds. He allowed Jack the contact for several more seconds before shuddering and pulling his hand away.

The next few hours passed by slowly, with Daniel alternating between sleeping and staring off into space, with an occasionally foray into the real world. Jack found himself dozing on his chair when Fraiser shook him awake.

“I’m going to put Daniel to sleep for a couple of hours so that we can run more tests,” she said. “Now I want you to go to bed and get at least five hours’ worth.” As Jack opened his mouth to complain, she added, “That’s the minimum amount of time this is going to take. He’s going to be asleep and there’s nothing more you can do for him at the moment. I’ll have someone come and wake you when he’s settled back here.”

Jack nodded, and as Donna injected the drugs into Daniel’s IV to put him to sleep, Jack dragged his tired body to his assigned room, falling asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.

- - - - - -

“And so, General Hammond,” Fraiser summarized, “there is no way Daniel will be able to tell us what happened in the very near future. I’m afraid that the Representatives of Gaphe will have to wait until Daniel recovers, however long it will take.”

Jack nervously flicked the edge of the pen he was holding on top of the yellow writing pad in front of him, holding back his ire at the General’s request. Of course, the man’s hands were tied. The trade agreement was an important one between Earth and Gaphe, and their accusations that Daniel had tried to steal this mind swapping device along with Antol’s murder had all but scrapped the negotiations. Now they were demanding retribution and the President had gotten involved. Jack feared that they were going to sacrifice Daniel’s good name in order to make atonement for something Jack was certain Daniel didn’t do.

He was in a crappy mood, having woken up cranky and irritable from too little sleep only to be escorted to this meeting rather than to Daniel’s bedside. Fraiser looked just as exhausted as he felt, and just as angry. Jack had seen the small progress they’d made in the first twenty four hours, and he recalled the information received from Murdol stated that many victims were rumored not to have recovered from the effects of the device.

He listened to the General’s dismissal and saw him push back wearily from the table.

“Doc,” Jack said, stopping her before they all left the room. She looked over at Jack, clearly impatient to either get back to the infirmary or to go to bed.

“The info Murdol gave you, did it say that both people using the device ended up like Daniel, or just those on the giving or receiving end?”

Her expressive brown eyes widened in shock as the realization hit her. But Carter was the one who spoke up.

“The device doesn’t produce a two-way communication,” she confirmed. “It’s those who were on the ‘giving’ end that experienced the type of injury that Daniel’s suffering. Ironically, the person ‘receiving’ the information experiences nothing more than a mild headache. That’s why they scrapped the—”

“Then Daniel didn’t tell them anything!” Fraiser exclaimed. “They wanted something ‘from’ him. They took it directly from his brain. I don’t think that Daniel would be stupid enough to…”

“Daniel’s done some stupid things, but I don’t think he’d willing try an alien gizmo voluntarily, at least not without telling us and our testing it first,” Jack confirmed. He looked at General Hammond. “Sir, I think that this is our proof that Daniel didn’t steal the device. He was on the receiving end, and if he supposedly knew enough about the device to steal it, he wouldn’t foolishly incapacitate himself in trying to test it on himself.”

General Hammond nodded, making a notation in the now open folder before him.

“There still remains the death of Antol,” Teal’c added.

“Maybe he tried to stop whoever had the device from using it on Daniel,” Sam hypothesized.

“But you found the gun in Daniel’s hand,” Fraiser countered.

“Doc, in the condition Daniel was in, he would never have been able to point and shoot a gun, let alone put six bullets in someone. Anyway, Daniel was at the shooting range two days prior to the mission. Forensics evidence shows that he did fire a gun, but the evidence is too inconclusive to prove whether or not he’s the one who shot Antol. Most likely someone else shot him with Daniel’s gun and put it into his hand, making it look like Daniel did it.”

“Of course,” she agreed, massaging her forehead with her fingers.

“Doctor Fraiser,” Hammond called. She looked up at him, squinting through what Jack suspected was a wicked headache. “I believe that Doctor Warner is now on duty.”

She nodded yes.

“Then may I suggest you give both him, Colonel O’Neill and your medical staff any relevant information they may need for the next eight hours, and then hie yourself to bed.”

Fraiser looked at him in surprise, then smiled. “Yes sir, hieing myself off to bed in twenty minutes.”

- - - - - -

As Jack walked into the infirmary, he saw Daniel was just waking up from the sedation. He was still dazed, lying on his side and staring at his hand. Jack knew that he wasn’t to try anything until Daniel was more alert, so he slowly took his seat and closed his eyes, listening to the soothing music.

He must have dozed off because he jumped when a light touch on his thigh woke him. He opened his eyes and saw Daniel’s hand trying to reach for his own, which was lying loosely on his lap. He slowly moved his fingers down his leg so they were just beside Daniel’s. The younger man first tentatively touched his fingers, then his palm, rubbing his fingers lightly over his skin.

As if the sensation was too much for him, Daniel pulled back quickly, tucking his hand between his knees. His shoulders hunched up, and he curled up on himself. Jack’s elation over Daniel’s attempt at contact was short lived when his lover withdrew for the next hour.

When he showed signs of awareness once more, Barb brought Jack the items that Fraiser had requested. Taking the soft brush once more, Jack began to pass it over Daniel’s arms. Daniel sighed, and turned onto his side, giving Jack better access. After several minutes, he concentrated on Daniel’s open palm. With a shaking hand, he traded the brush for his fingers, and began gently stroking the warm skin.

Daniel’s hand trembled slightly at the change of sensation, but he allowed Jack to continue. Jack cast a glance at Daniel’s face and noted that his mouth had relaxed into a slight smile. Encouraged, he moved his hands onto Daniel’s forearms, gently stroking from elbow to wrist, and then back along his palm. Daniel was watching the movements of Jack’s hands with avid interest.

Jack continued playing his fingers down one arm and then the other until Daniel had had enough and he retreated into himself. Jack let him rest, thinking that just this much had been a huge improvement over the past day.

Doctor Warner joined them with the results of Daniel’s latest tests. The PETscans showed a marked improvement. The doctor was encouraged, and told Jack to continue with Fraiser’s suggestions.

Which meant that sound was next. When Daniel began taking interest in the outside world once more, Jack cleared his throat and offered a silent prayer. In a low, controlled voice, he said, “Hey Danny.”

Daniel’s head whipped up and he stared right at Jack. His mouth worked slightly, as if he was going to respond.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Jack continued, keeping his eyes on his lover’s face. He forced a smile, glad that the sound of his voice hadn’t sent Daniel into overload.

“Kind of a strange situation here, huh?” he forced out of a tightening throat. “See what happens when I take my eyes off of you for a few hours. You go off without me and look at some rocks, and you end in the infirmary again.” Jack’s voice broke at this point and he couldn’t go on.

“Ar ti facts,” Daniel said with a grimace. He frowned, and Jack realized that the sound of Daniel’s own voice to him must be louder than Jack’s.

“Sorry, artifacts,” Jack corrected, grinning madly. “Daniel,” he said, waiting to make sure he had Daniel’s whole attention. “Try and speak softly, it won’t hurt as much.”

“Why?” Daniel rasped, his voice sounding a bit softer.

“Why what?” Jack asked, confused. “Why does it hurt?”

Daniel nodded.

“Something happened on P3K 778,” he began, then stopped when Daniel raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“What? You think you’re the only one who can remember planet designations?” Jack said in mock outrage. At Daniel’s low chuckle, then subsequent wince, he sobered.

“Anyway, we don’t know exactly what happened, but you experienced some kind of overload to your brain. Doc says that you’re extremely sensitive to sound, touch and sight. That’s why the lights are low and you’re in the Isolation room.”

“Music… nice,” Daniel said, closing his eyes.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, remaining quiet when Daniel didn’t open his eyes. Jack was exhausted, but elated.

While Daniel slept, Jack slipped out to get a quick shower and something to eat. He missed Teal’c and Carter, whom General Hammond had sent back to the planet along with Major Paul Davis, to try and prove to the Government officials that Daniel had been the victim and not the guilty party. He felt torn between his duties; he wanted to return to P3K 778 and ram the info they had down those sanctimonious idiots who’d accused Daniel of theft, and at the same time the last thing he wanted to do was leave Daniel here alone.

When he returned to the room, Donna was raising Daniel’s bed so that he could sit up, and he was looking much more alert. His eyes lit up in recognition when he saw Jack, and he smiled at him when Jack took his usual seat by the bed.

“Hey,” Jack said in greeting. “You’re looking chipper this morning.”

“Hi,” Daniel replied. “Thirsty.”

Jack glanced at Donna and she nodded before getting Daniel some water.

“We’re going to do this slowly, okay Doctor Jackson?” Donna said as she sat beside him on the bed.

He nodded, watching her curiously. She took the small plastic cup she had brought back and placed his hands around it. She then took his finger and dipped it into the water, letting him feel the liquid. Daniel took his dripping forefinger and brought it to his mouth, sucking on it. She repeated this three more times before taking the plastic cup and dribbling some water onto his lips.

His tongue came out and he licked his lips, savoring the sensation. She then dipped some water into his mouth and they both watched anxiously until Daniel swallowed the mouthful.

Both Jack and Donna were grinning widely when Daniel managed to drink the remaining water by himself.

“Good,” Donna said. “Maybe you’d like to try something to eat?”

Daniel glanced over at Jack a moment before nodding.

Jack smiled, definitely encouraged by the progress that Daniel was making. As Donna got up from the bed, Jack saw Daniel’s bare feet which were perpetually sticking out from beneath the blankets. Knowing that Daniel constantly complained about cold feet, Jack took the edge of the fluffy covering and flicked it over his feet.

Daniel’s reaction surprised both himself and Donna. Kicking at the blanket wildly, Daniel began yelling loudly. The noise he was making startled Daniel further and he nearly toppled off of the bed and into Jack’s arms.

Jack kept a firm grip on him while trying to push Daniel back onto the bed. Daniel struggled in his arms, constantly yelling while Donna attempted to remove the now twisted blanket caught between Daniel’s thrashing legs. Doctor Warner came running into the room, having seen the happenings on a monitor which Jack knew was in the infirmary 24/7.

Jack was afraid to let Daniel go, but he finally managed to heave Daniel onto the mattress and quickly let go of his arms. Daniel began whimpering, curling up into a fetal position.

As Donna prepared an injection as per Warner’s directions, Jack stood back and helplessly watched Daniel regress back into an unresponsive state. Finally, Warner decided against the sedative, deciding to see if Daniel would return to them on his own. As the lights and music were lowered, Jack carefully spread the blanket over Daniel’s shivering form, taking exaggerated care not to touch his feet with it.

After several minutes, Daniel’s hand slowly crept out from beneath the blanket and curled around the edge, his fingers stroking the pilled material.

It took three hours, but little by little, Daniel came out of the cocoon where Jack’s inadvertent faux pas had sent him hiding.

They decided to try the food once more. Barb came in with a tray that held some juice, apple sauce and yogurt. She handed Daniel the juice after having gone through the same process as Donna had done with the water earlier. As he happily sipped the apple juice, Barb took a spoon and some apple sauce from the tray and handed them to Daniel.

He was a bit clumsy at first with the implement, but he managed to spoon some apple sauce into his mouth. Jack breathed a sigh of relief at seeing Daniel feeding himself, and wearily he leaned back on his chair, closing his eyes in exhaustion.

The sound of Daniel gagging had him leaning forward quickly as Daniel spit out the food. As Daniel wiped his mouth with the back of a shaky hand, Jack took the bowl away, casting an accusatory eye at Barb for bringing something that mustn’t be fresh.

“Sorry,” Daniel said, his head hanging low in shame.

“The food is perfectly fine,” Barb shot back at Jack’s wordless look. As if daring her to be wrong, Jack stuck his finger in the mush and tasted it. He blushed as his taste buds confirmed that the apple sauce was cool and sweet.

“Danny, there’s nothing wrong with this,” Jack said, spooning up a portion and handing it to Daniel.

“I can’t,” Daniel said softly.

“Come on, try it again. You haven’t had anything to eat in nearly two days. It’s not surprising that your stomach isn’t very happy.”

Daniel reluctantly took it and put it into his mouth. Within seconds he began to gag, both the sauce and juice coming back up involuntarily. Jack knew that this reaction wasn’t right because Daniel usually liked applesauce.

“Do you want to try something else, Doctor Jackson?” Barb asked once they’d cleaned off the worst of the mess. She pulled the tab off the container of yogurt before handing it to him, along with the spoon.

At the first signs of retching, Jack took the yogurt from Daniel and held a napkin to his mouth so he could spit it back up. He looked helplessly at Barb, who picked up the food and said she’d be right back.

Daniel looked worried, so Jack took his fingers and slowly stroked them. The small movement seemed to console him.

“It’s okay, Daniel. Not your fault,” Jack said.

“It didn’t feel right,” Daniel said. “I tried, Jack. Really, I tried, but I couldn’t swallow it.”

Doctor Fraiser took that moment to enter the room, smiling at them both. She looked much better than the last time Jack had seen her, the rest having done wonders. Upon seeing her, Daniel smiled.

“Hey Daniel,” she said in greeting as she walked up to the bed. “I hear you’re having a problem with your breakfast?”

Daniel’s smile faded and Jack ached to be able to do something more than just hold his hand. “He tried to eat but he couldn’t even swallow it,” Jack explained.

“Yes, I know. So we’re going to try something with a different texture, okay? Maybe some toast or crackers? Barb’s gone down to the commissary to see what she can bring back. It won’t be too long. In the meantime, do you mind if I have a look at you.”

Jack reluctantly let go of Daniel’s fingers and moved out of Fraiser’s way while she checked Daniel out. With surprisingly little adverse reactions from Daniel, she managed to get her examination done very quickly.

Jack heaved a sigh of relief when Daniel finally managed to chow down two pieces of dry toast with some more juice. While Daniel ate, Jack mentally noted Daniel’s feet and soft foods were taboo for the moment.

He saw that Daniel was tiring and knew he’d be wanting to nap fairly soon. But Fraiser had one more thing she wanted Jack to do before letting Daniel settle down. Helping Daniel remove his soiled top, she had Barb bring some warm water and a cloth.

She handed Daniel a small cup filled with the water, having him put his hands around it and feel its heat. Next, she had him dip his fingers in it, getting used to the sensation of the liquid. A larger basin was brought out and his hand was immersed. Daniel felt around with his fingers, and smiled. With a wicked look in his eyes, he flicked his hand at Jack, spraying the water over his face.

She handed Jack a washcloth and he dipped it into the basin. With slow, gentle movements, he took Daniel’s hand and began wiping his fingers with it. Daniel permitted him to do so, so Jack moved onto his arm. Working his way slowly towards Daniel’s torso, he began to give his lover a bath.

By the time he’d finished, Daniel was half asleep, soothed by the gentle strokes. When Jack reached Daniel’s feet, Jack looked up at Fraiser for direction. She nodded, and Jack took a deep breath before warning Daniel.

“Danny, I’m going to wash your feet, okay?”

Daniel’s only answer was an ‘ummm hmmm’, so Jack moved his hand from where it was resting against his shin, his fingers creeping over Daniel’s ankle. He used both hands, one to wipe with the cloth, the other to support Daniel’s foot. Daniel twitched a time or two, but his eyes remained closed. Finished with one foot, Jack moved onto the other, again moving from his leg down to his ankle after giving Daniel warning of his intentions.

Grinning at Fraiser, they got the sleepy man dressed and covered, allowing him to go to sleep.

- - - - - -

Daniel woke up as usual with a splitting headache. He lay there with his eyes closed, waiting while the sounds surrounding him eventually coalesced into things his aching brain could identify. The music was always the first thing he recognized, and as he concentrated on its soothing rhythms, he was able to eventually perceive the atonal noises on his right as voices. He listened carefully and was pleased to identify Jack’s amongst them.

One was higher sounding, the other deeper. Both were familiar, but the faces matching the voices just wouldn’t come to him. He knew from recent experience that the more he concentrated, the harder it would be so he simply relaxed. The conscious command to let go eased some of the pain in his head, enough so that he felt it was safe to open his eyes.

He did so cautiously, remembering how the light sometimes hurt his eyes. It wasn’t so bad this time, but it took him a few moments before he could find Jack in the room. He tried to follow his voice, and he stared off in the direction he thought it was coming from.

Before he could force his eyes to focus on what he thought was his lover, he heard a feminine voice exclaim, “Daniel!”

He winced at the volume and heard “sorry” expressed in a much softer tone of voice.

“Hey Daniel,” Jack’s familiar voice spoke softly near his ear. He looked at the light-colored blob before him and after a moment it finally coalesced into Jack’s smiling face.

“Hey,” he answered back, wondering if the woman who’d called his name was one of the nurses. She had sounded pleased to see him, and he squinted beyond Jack’s shoulder at the two shapes there. One was very dark, the other very light, the contrasts hurting his eyes. He quickly averted his gaze and concentrated on Jack instead.

“Carter and Teal’c are here,” Jack said as he gently took hold of Daniel’s hand. The sensation of skin on skin felt strange for a moment, then the heat of Jack’s fingers registered and he squeezed Jack’s hand.

“Carter and Teal’c?” Daniel asked, confused? There was something about the words, something he realized he should know.

He heard someone shift as Jack moved back, and a very blond, light skinned woman moved into his view.

“Hi Daniel. It’s me, Sam,” she said in a soft voice. Daniel recognized the voice as being the one who had called out his name earlier. She had an expectant look on her face as she smiled down at him. He looked at her and then memory hit him full force.

“Sam!” he gasped, letting go of Jack’s hand and reaching for her. He saw her hand shaking visibly as she gently grasped his. He pulled her towards him and when she was close enough, he reached out to touch her face. He felt her skin pull into a grin beneath his fingers, and a second later he felt wetness beneath his touch.

He pulled back, alarmed, then he saw she was crying.

“Don’t cry, Sam,” Daniel told her, confused.

“I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “I’m just so happy to see that you’re better.”

“Better? Was I sick?”

“Yeah, Danny,” Jack said quietly. “You were.”

Sam got up from where she was crouching beside his bed, and wiping her face with the back of her hand, said, “Teal’c’s here, too.” She moved away and a large man took her place. It took Daniel a few seconds to make the adjustment from her pale visage to this man’s very dark one, but when he finally managed to focus, he smiled as his memory resurfaced.

“Teal’c,” he said simply, reaching out also to his friend. The man’s large hand took his in surprising gentleness and his voice was very subdued when he spoke.

“We feared you would not recover, DanielJackson. I am very pleased to see our fears were for naught.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said, overcome by the man’s simple words.

Teal’c let go of Daniel’s hand but before Daniel could register the fact, Jack had taken hold of it and had pulled it onto his lap. His thumb gently stroked Daniel’s palm, the sensation both disturbing and welcome.

With his other hand, Daniel pushed himself up, struggling to sit up. Sam quickly moved forward to raise the head of the bed. Her movement made him dizzy and he closed his eyes for a moment. He heard Jack admonish her to not move so fast and she whispered another “sorry” to Daniel.

“It’s okay,” he said, worried that he’d made her feel bad. He opened his eyes and smiled at her, seeing her bright blue eyes open wide in fear for him.

“Doc said we should try having a group picnic,” Jack said. “Feel up to eating something?”

Daniel glanced at his hand and realized that the IV had been taken out. His stomach gurgled, informing him and the others that he was hungry. He laughed lightly, pushing a pillow behind his back as Sam raised the head of the bed and he attempted to make himself more comfortable. He noted a pressure in his body and realized that they’d removed his catheter also.

Jack must have noticed his staring at himself, because he chuckled and said, “Yeah, Doc took those out while they put you to sleep and ran some more tests. She says you’ve healed close to seventy five percent, Danny.”

“Healed what?” he asked, confused.

“Whatever it was that was ailing you before,” Jack replied vaguely.

As much as Daniel wanted to press for details, he realized he really had to go.

“Um, Jack?” he said, blushing. “I have to go pee.”

“Okay, I’ll get the bedpan,” Jack said, looking behind him for the item.

“No!” Daniel exclaimed, embarrassed. The sound of his voice ricocheted in his brain, and he raised his shoulders to his ears, trying to stop the echo. He opened his eyes and saw that everyone was staring at him. He had a feeling he’d lost a few minutes of time somehow, but he determinedly put his legs over the edge of the bed, wanting to go to the bathroom.

“Daniel, I’m sure Fraiser’s not gonna be happy with this,” Jack warned as Daniel put one bare foot onto the cold tile. His feet were chilled already and the feeling was not a very pleasant one.

“So give me a hand already,” Daniel said as he put a second foot on the floor and pushed himself up. The feel of Jack’s hand on his waist was almost as debilitating as the weakness of his body, but he gritted his teeth and told himself that this was Jack. He put his own arm around Jack’s torso and took a step. Then another. But as soon as he was several feet away from his bed, his spatial orientation disappeared and he had to push his face into Jack’s chest and walk blindly. He felt Jack hold him tighter but he was determined to make his way towards his goal.

“Okay, sit,” Jack finally ordered. Daniel gladly bent his legs and felt something hard and cool beneath him. He opened his eyes and saw that they were in the small bathroom off of the infirmary.

Jack pulled Daniel’s pants down and ordered him to pee sitting down. As uncomfortable and strange as it felt, Daniel didn’t think he’d be able to stand up and maintain his aim at the toilet. Finally finished, Jack helped him back up and this time Daniel kept his eyes focused on his bed, ignoring his two friends who stood beside it waiting for them. The concentration helped and he collapsed back into it long before he’d expected to.

Jack disappeared and returned with a washcloth, wiping his face and hands with it as he waited for his muscles to stop shaking.

“Why do you have to be so damned stubborn?” Jack groused as he tousled Daniel’s hair.

“Need to keep you on your toes,” Daniel shot back as Jack sat beside him on the bed.

Sam brought out a tray which had been placed on a table beside the bed. She placed it on the bed before Daniel, letting him pick and choose what he wanted to eat. He opted for some cheese and crackers, with a handful of pretzels. Jack carefully handed him a styrofoam cup that was warm to the touch. When Daniel inhaled the contents, he recognized chicken broth. He took a sip and let the warm liquid sit in his mouth. Savoring the taste he swallowed quickly and took another.

Recalling his earlier experience with eating, Daniel took a careful bite of the crackers. He chewed carefully and swallowed, relieved when he had no problems with that particular food. The cheese was a little more difficult, but he managed to swallow a few bites before having to put it down and change to another type of food. The pretzels were good, and he snacked on those along with the broth.

The others were eating sandwiches and he grabbed a piece of Jack’s. As soon as he’d put it in his mouth, the combination of bread and meat made him gag. He managed to spit it out before losing what he’d eaten and quickly chomped on a piece of pretzel. He was embarrassed, feeling the heat rise along his neck and over his face.

Jack’s hand tentatively touched his back, and Daniel leaned against Jack, wanting to hide his face against Jack’s chest. He knew it wasn’t his fault, but throwing up at a meal wasn’t exactly the most polite thing to do.

“You okay,” Sam asked, worried.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Jack answered for Daniel. “Some foods just don’t quite agree with him yet. Fraiser says it has to do with the sensory deprivation issues. Hopefully these little inconveniences will disappear as Daniel progresses. Hey, one day ago he couldn’t even stand for me to touch him,” Jack said as he moved his hand up Daniel’s back to caress Daniel’s nape. The touch felt great, and he melted against Jack.

“Hey,” Jack said as Daniel smiled up at him. “Don’t go to sleep there.”

“Not sleepy,” Daniel said. “I just missed this,” he admitted in a low voice.

“Well hopefully Fraiser will let you go home soon,” Jack said. Daniel looked at Jack and hoped that soon meant tomorrow and not in a week’s time.

He continued to lean against Jack, comfortable amongst his friends. For the first time in what had been a very confused time, he felt almost normal.

- - - - - -

“I know this must be very difficult, Doctor Jackson,” General Hammond said to him from across the table, “but if there’s anything at all that you remember, it may help Major Carter and Mr. Murdol in solving the riddle of Mr. Antol’s death.”

Daniel squinted in the bright lights, the reflection of the table adding to the glare. He was sorry now that he’d talked Janet into allowing him to go to this briefing. The walk along the corridor hadn’t been too bad if Daniel kept his eyes on the stone floor. He’d needed to stop only twice in order to try and get his equilibrium, the movement of the personnel around him causing disorientation and dizziness. Jack’s firm grip on his arm had been his lifeline, and with his guidance he had finally made it to the General’s briefing room.

He had been able to force his feet into slippers for the long walk to the briefing room, but as soon as he’d sat down he had kicked them off. Now his feet were freezing, and he wished he could tuck them up underneath his legs to warm them up.

Yesterday Janet had deemed him well enough to be told what had happened, how he’d been found in a coma with his gun in his hand, and their guide dead with Daniel’s bullets in him. But he had no recollection of what had happened. His last clear memory had been a very stimulating discussion with Antol about the possible age of the ruins. Everything after that was a juxtaposition of feelings, colors, sounds and smells which if he even tried to think about, was enough to make him go cower in a corner.

Unable to keep his eyes on the General due to the painful reflection of the lights, Daniel tried to keep his focus on his hands which were tightly folded before him. He could hear his breathing, which sounded loud in his ears. Murdol had an annoying habit of sniffing loudly through his nose, and every time he did it Daniel jumped. He felt Jack’s hand on his arm and he pulled away, the sensation too raw on his already overly-sensitive nerves.

He badly wanted to tell the General what had happened, he wanted to apologize to Jack for pulling away and he wanted to tell Murdol to go get a tissue. Instead, he said in a quiet voice, “I’m sorry, Sir. I can’t remember anything about what happened on Gaphe. The last thing I remember is talking with Antol, and then waking up in the Iso room.”

He knew they were disappointed, he could almost feel their frustration as a weight falling over him. He hunched his shoulders, instinctively trying to protect himself.

“But surely there must be something you remember,” Murdol insisted. “Did you and Antol argue?”

“No,” Daniel answered, but not 100% sure what might have happened after his memory went blank.

“Was there anyone else at the ruins with you?”

“I don’t know.”

“One, two, three persons?” Murdol’s voice was beginning to grate on Daniel’s nerves, along with the incessant sniffing punctuating each question.

“I don’t know.”

“There were footprints we cannot account for, did you know that?”

“No.” Jack hadn’t mentioned that detail to him. He glanced at him, but Jack’s face remained expressionless as he stared at Murdol.

“Why did you feel compelled to shoot Antol?”

“I didn’t shoot him,” Daniel answered, his voice beginning to sound like a whining child even to his own ears.

“How can you be sure you didn’t shoot him if you can’t remember anything?”

“Murdol, that’s enough!” Jack ordered. Relief surged through Daniel, only to be pushed aside as Murdol ignored Jack’s directive and his voice grated on.

“My dear Doctor Jackson, did do know that Antol was the son of one of the leading citizens of Gaphe? His father is seeking retribution, and that means not only is the trade agreement between Gaphe and Earth no longer under negotiation, but there are people requesting that your government pay for his death. It is only in your own best interests that I—”

“I don’t know!” Daniel shouted, bringing his hands up to his ears and squeezing his eyes shut as his voice began to echo through his brain. He heard himself moan, and quickly bit down on his tongue to prevent any more sounds from escaping.

“Daniel?” he heard Jack question beside him. Not daring to open his eyes and suffer the pain of the now overly-bright lights, he felt himself shiver as Murdol sniffed once more.

“Okay, he’s had enough,” Jack said a little too loudly. “Sir, with your permission…” The words began floating over Daniel’s head as he blindly searched for a place to escape from the pain and confusion ripping through his head. He nearly tripped over chairs and legs, noting their differences in the far corner of his mind as the hard metallic pieces bounced more painfully against his shin than did flesh and bones. He found a corner and shoved his shoulder and face into it, hiding from the noises and the lights and the fears that began flooding through him once more.

After what might have been five minutes or five hours, he became aware of soft music surrounding him. The familiar melody began sweeping over him, calming him, grounding him. He turned his head and opened his eyes, the unfamiliar room illuminated only by the light seeping beneath the closed door. He could see table and chair legs, but it took him a minute to realize that the angle was all weird because he was sitting on the floor.

He could hear someone breathing beside him, and he called out to the one he hoped was there with him.


“I’m right here,” Jack’s voice sounded beside him.

Daniel put his hand out and touched the soft sensation of cotton. Jack’s body heat filtered through the material and onto his skin, and a sudden need to be held and reassured overwhelmed him. He launched himself from where he had been cowering in the corner and into his lover’s arms.

Daniel heard the ‘oomph’ as his weight caught Jack by surprise. But Daniel hung onto Jack, needing to feel him against his body.

“Hey, it’s okay,” he said to Daniel as Daniel blindly nestled his face against Jack’s neck. Jack held him tightly, his hands coming up to stroke soft circles on his back. “It’s okay, shhhh,” the words softly spoken in Daniel’s ears helping ease his fears.

“I screwed up, didn’t I?” Daniel asked after a few minutes, realizing that he’d panicked in the middle of a meeting.

“No, you just got a little overwhelmed when that bastard began pushing you,” Jack explained. He felt Jack’s lips on his temple and he sighed at the sensation.

“I don’t remember anything, Jack. Antol’s dead and it’s my fault and I can’t even begin to start explaining why I killed him.”

“Danny, we don’t even know if you’re the one who pulled the trigger. Anything could have happened to the both of you. Someone hurt you and hurt you badly, and they most probably are the same bastards who killed Antol. Murdol pushed, and that was wrong of him, but he’s also got his government breathing down his neck as well as our own.”

“But why did they kill Antol? What did they want from me?” Daniel had been told that most likely an alien device had been used on him, but no one had had been willing to tell him what the device had been used for.

“If the rumors Murdol heard are true, then someone tried sucking information out of your head.”

Daniel processed what Jack had just told him, and he pushed away in horror.

“Jack! They could have taken information about the SGC! Earth! The Iris! Our codes!”

“Shhh, I know, and it’s been taken care of. We’ve changed our codes and Hammond’s taking extra precautions when he’s sending out teams, we’ve warned our allies, there’s nothing more to worry about. But who’s to say what they really wanted, huh? Maybe they just wanted to know about the mating practices of those Amazon women we met last year.”

Daniel frowned at Jack’s attempt at a joke, feeling sick that he’d not only caused the death of a good man, but might have put his world in danger.

Jack pulled away, standing up slowly, and Daniel felt bereft of his presence.

“Just going to open the door and let Teal’c know you’re back, okay?” Jack said as he walked the length of the room. As he opened the door, the room came into better focus, and he realized that he was still in the briefing room, sitting in the far corner. He heard Jack talking to someone and then Teal’c poked his head around the door.

“Hey Teal’c,” Daniel said as the man stepped into the room, pushing something before him.

“DanielJackson,” he replied softly in greeting.

Jack returned to Daniel and knelt down beside him. “Think you’re ready to leave this place?”

Daniel really didn’t want to go out there where he could see the lights were bright and blazing, but he nodded gamely. With Jack’s help, he stood up and walked towards the exit. He was surprised to see Teal’c standing with his hands resting on the back of a wheelchair.

“Your chauffeur awaits,” Jack said with a grin, nodding at Teal’c. Embarrassing as this felt, he had been dreading the long walk back to the infirmary. This way he could just sit and grip the edges of the chair and ride it out with his eyes closed. He sat down gingerly, and when he placed his feet on the metal rungs, the cold burned his bare feet.

He heard the music stop playing and saw Jack pick up the CD player. Teal’c slowly pushed him out of the room and into the brightly lit corridor. Jack picked up the pace and positioned himself just ahead of Daniel and to the side, for which Daniel was grateful. He kept his eyes on Jack’s slim back, his silver hair standing out like a beacon, instead of the dizzying length of the hallway.

“Doctor Jackson, Colonel O’Neill!” the General’s voice echoed down the hallway. Daniel stiffened his back in the chair and forced his eyes off Jack’s body and looked at General Hammond, who was striding down the hallway towards them. The General looked at Daniel with a strangely gentle expression before he said, “I’m glad to see you’re looking better, son.” Daniel managed to stutter a ‘thank you, Sir’ before the stocky man turned to Jack, asking if he could take a moment of his time.

As Jack handed something to Teal’c, he said to the Jaffa, “Here’s the key. You two go on ahead, I’ll catch up.”

The wheel chair was propelled forward again and this time without Jack before him to break the vertigo-inducing motion, Daniel was forced to close his eyes. He was breathing hard by the time Teal’c stopped by the elevator doors. The man’s comforting hand on his shoulder helped ground him a bit.

Before the elevator doors could open, the klaxons went off and the hallway was flooded with strobing red lights. The suddenness of the alarms startled Daniel and he instinctively flinched, his hands going up to cover his ears as he squeezed his eyes tightly squeezed shut. He felt himself pulled forward against a strong chest and he desperately leaned into it, burying his face in the folds of an Air Force issue jacket which helped block out the constant flashes burning through his eyelids. He brought his hands down from his ears and his arms encircled the wide body, holding on for dear life.

Large, strong hands held his head and shoulders securely against the muscular body, and Daniel tried to focus on the steady heartbeat beneath his ear instead of the loud booming voice announcing ‘offworld activation’. The heartbeat was drowned out momentarily by the announcement, but returned when the voice faded away. He was engulfed in sights and sounds, and he clung desperately to the little bit of awareness that he had, refusing to be pulled into the maelstrom of his overloaded senses.

He felt another hand cupping his head and another on his shoulder. He drew a shaky breath and realized that the noise had finally stopped. He cautiously pulled away, and saw that he was being held tightly against Teal’c’s chest. At his movement, Teal’c let him go and he straightened up, realizing he’d come out of the chair and they were kneeling on the hard ground. Jack was also there beside them, his hand still on his shoulder. He could see people’s legs as they skirted around them and he realized that they were blocking the hallway.

Damn, he’d lost it again. He ducked his head, unable to meet their gazes.

Teal’c’s large hand cupped his chin, forcing his head up.

“You did well, my friend,” Teal’c said gently. “There is no shame in this. If you are able, we will continue.”

“He’s right,” Jack said. “Look, the alarms caught you by surprise. But you stayed with us throughout. That’s a really huge accomplishment.”

Daniel realized that they were right. As difficult as it had been, Daniel had maintained some kind of awareness and he didn’t think he’d lost any sense of time. He pushed himself off his bruised knees and carefully sat back in the chair.

With Jack before him once again, the trip was easier. It was only when they’d left the elevator and had gone several feet down the hallway that he realized they weren’t on either levels 21 or 22 which housed the infirmary or the Iso rooms. The distinct antiseptic odor of the infirmary, on either levels, permeated every nook and cranny on that floor. He squinted at a door as they passed by, realizing that they were on level 25.

“This isn’t the way to the infirmary,” Daniel began tentatively.

“Yeah, well, you just graduated out of the infirmary and into a VIP room,” Jack said, looking at him over his shoulder with a grin.

They stopped before a door and Jack took a keycard from Teal’c, which he used to open it. Entering the room, Jack quickly snapped the overhead lights off and turned the small decorative lamps that sat on either side of the large double bed. A smaller cot had been placed in the far corner. Daniel frowned at that before he got up off the wheel chair and walked the few steps to the bed.

He was tired. The briefing, then the two last episodes or whatever the hell they were, had taken a lot out of him, and these days he always felt he hadn’t much energy to start with. Jack waved the CD player at him, raising an eyebrow. Realizing that he felt good and grounded at the moment, Daniel shook his head and Jack put the player on the table by the bed.

“Are you hungry, DanielJackson, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked solicitously. “I am certain I can find something edible for you if you so wish.”

“I wouldn’t mind a sandwich and coffee,” Jack said. “Danny, it’s past suppertime, you must be hungry?”

Daniel felt too tired to eat but he simply nodded. He knew Jack would nag him if he didn’t eat so he’d just nibble at whatever Teal’c brought. He raised his hand to remove his glasses and massage the start of a headache, and caught a whiff of himself.

“Jack, do you think I could take a shower?” Just the thought now that he smelled made him feel filthy.

“I don’t think Fraiser would permit it,” Jack said with a frown. As Daniel opened his mouth to ask for the alternative, Jack raised his forefinger and stopped him. “That goes double for a bath. We don’t know yet what kind of reaction you’ll get with water. You’ve had a pretty rough day, you don’t want to push it.”

“Jack, I stink, my muscles hurt and I just want to relax under a nice hot shower.” Ignoring Jack’s dark look, Daniel grabbed a pair of sweats that had been neatly placed on the bed and made his way to the bathroom.

“Daniel,” Jack warned.

“Jack, I’m taking a shower,” Daniel said with finality.

He turned on the shower, stiffening as the sound of the water reverberated loudly in the small room. He hesitated a moment, thinking that maybe Jack was right, but when Jack came to stand in the doorway, watching, he decided he could do this. He stripped as quickly as his shaking body would permit and then stuck his hand in under the stream, testing the water.

The stinging sensation surprised him and he quickly pulled back. It wasn’t that the water was too hot, he just had forgotten how the pulsating drops could feel against sensitive skin. He fiddled first with the showerhead then with the volume of water, hoping he could find a balance that was a little less disturbing. All this time he was aware of Jack standing there, watching him silently.

Feeling like an idiot, he pulled the shower curtain back and stepped in. The second the water hit him, he knew it was a mistake. The noise of the water hitting his body and bouncing onto the walled tiles combined with the pounding water on his still sensitive skin paralyzed him. He wanted to get out but couldn’t move his muscles. The water poured down his face, blinding him. He gasped for air, breathing in water particles and nearly choking. He knew all he needed do was step back and he’d be out of the stream but he couldn’t get his legs to move. Or take one step forward and turn the water off, but that one step in either direction seemed like a mile.

“Daniel?” Jack’s voice sounded faintly over the cascade of water coming out of the showerhead.

He wanted to yell for help, cry for help, plead for help, but nothing came out of his mouth except a few sputtering sounds.

He felt a rush of cool air as the shower curtain was pulled aside and suddenly the flood was over. The welcome silence permeated the bathroom as the heat from the steam quickly dissipated from around Daniel’s body. Shock and cooler air had him shivering in moments and a large, fluffy towel quickly covered his body.

He nearly fell out of the tub as he was stepping out, but Jack’s strong arms held him until he caught his balance. Seating him on the lowered toilet seat cover, Jack began to vigorously towel Daniel off.

“Damnit!” Daniel yelled suddenly, his anger at his helplessness suddenly overcoming him.

He grabbed the towel from Jack and began to dry himself off with hard, viscous wipes.

“I’m not a damn baby, I can do this!” he yelled. “I can’t take a fucking shower but I can at least dry myself.” The rough treatment incited his anger more, and he found himself shouting again. “I can’t walk down a hallway without panicking, I can’t talk to people without finding myself cowering in a corner, I can’t even eat most things without throwing up.” Daniel threw the towel down in disgust and picking up the sweats, angrily thrust his legs into them and pulled them up over his hips.

He stomped into the bedroom, still holding the jersey top in one hand. He threw it onto the bed and began pacing the room.

“Someone I know gets killed and I’m blamed for his death. I can’t even tell anyone WHY he was murdered because if I try to remember, I become a gibbering idiot. Everyone walks around me like I was made of glass, and why shouldn’t they? They look at me the wrong way and I go running in the other direction. Well, you know what? I’m sick of it!” Daniel punctuated this last outburst with a hard thrust in the air with his fist.

He stood there panting angrily, staring at Jack, daring him to say Daniel was wrong. Jack’s reaction, however, shocked Daniel when he began laughing out loud.

He stood there watching Jack as tears began running down his face. Jack took the few steps separating them and threw his arms around Daniel.

Daniel pushed Jack away irritably, upset that Jack was making fun of him.

“It’s not bloody funny,” Daniel said through clenched teeth when Jack wouldn’t let go, hitting him on the shoulder with the palm of his hand.

“Oh Daniel, look at you,” Jack said, still chuckling and trying to pull Daniel closer. “You’re yelling, you’re actually yelling… and you haven’t lost control.”

“What?” Daniel asked, confused. Of course he was yelling. He was angry. He didn’t want to be dependent on everyone around him. He wanted to be able to do the things he used to do, without having to worry about whether they’d upset him or not. He wanted to… yell? He’d been shouting. Making loud noises. He was making noise and it hadn’t bothered him!

He smiled back at Jack and this time let Jack crush him in a hug. He could feel his lover’s hands on his bare back, and suddenly he wanted nothing more than to get closer to Jack. He turned his head to face Jack, nibbling at his mouth, feeling the stubble on his face catch on Jack’s.

Jack suddenly pulled away, leaving Daniel yearning for him. He felt confused, bereft, but Jack’s hand came up to caress Daniel’s cheek and lips.

“Not yet, Danny. I think these sensations might be just a bit too powerful yet,” Jack said in a strangely gentle voice. Recalling his reaction in the shower, Daniel acquiesced and sat back down on the bed. Jack sat beside him and pulled him into a one armed hug, kissing the top of his wet hair.

“Thanks,” Daniel said softly, realizing that as hard as this was on Daniel, it must have been hell for Jack also. He leaned into Jack a moment, simply reveling in the pleasure of feeling his lover’s body against his.

A knock sounded on the door and Jack let him go. He opened the door, revealing Teal’c bearing a tray laden with several covered plates. The aromas were tantalizing and reminded Daniel that he actually was hungry. Still tired but feeling much better about himself, he put his sweatshirt on as he got up to go see what Teal’c had brought to eat.

He nibbled through a variety of dishes, still finding he was having problems with soft foods. He wouldn’t let it worry him now. He smiled to himself. He’d yelled! A few days ago he could barely whisper without the sound of his voice doing weird things to him.

Janet showed up near the end of his meal and he put his plate down to allow her to perform a quick physical. She ruffled his hair, smiling widely when Jack told her what had happened, although Daniel noted that he omitted telling her about Daniel’s shower.

She was pleased with Daniel’s progress. Admonishing both men to get some rest, she handed something to Jack as she left, whispering something that left him smiling. Teal’c left them soon after, returning their dirty dishes to the commissary.

Daniel yawned, and lay back on the bed, stretching.

“Fraiser suggested we try something else,” Jack said as he sat down beside Daniel. He looked up at Jack, he just wanted to snuggle up to Jack and go to sleep. They finally had privacy, they could do more than just hold hands now. He glanced at the camera mounted in the corner, noting that the red light was off indicating that it wasn’t active.

“Can’t we just go to bed?”

“Yeah, but this won’t take long and I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. Come on, sit up a minute and take your top off.”

He glanced at Jack through his lashes for a moment, then grinned and did as Jack asked.

“On your stomach,” Jack ordered. As Daniel turned around and lay down on the bed, he heard Jack fiddling with something. He heard the wet farting sound as something was squeezed out of a bottle, then squelching sounds followed as Jack rubbed his hands together in the liquid.

“I’m going to put my hands on your back,” Jack warned.

Daniel jumped, not because the hands on his back surprised him, but because they were cold and wet.

“Sorry,” Jack said as he began gently rubbing a creamy substance over his skin. The aroma of almonds wafted up to him, pleasant and soothing. Jack began putting more pressure in his movements, turning the caress into a massage.

“Mmmm,” Daniel moaned as Jack’s fingers worked on muscles that had been tight with tension. Daniel felt himself relaxing right into the bed, wondering how he was going to manage to move to get himself under the covers when Jack finished.

He dozed off because Jack was shaking his shoulder. He sat up reluctantly, and with Jack’s help, put his top back on. Jack pulled the blankets back and he stood up to make room.

Sliding under the covers, he waited for Jack to join him. When Jack moved towards the cot, he realized he was going to be sleeping alone. The feeling of wellbeing suddenly drained from him.

“Jack, couldn’t you…?” he began, but realizing that they couldn’t take the chance here on base.

When Jack stopped to look at him in surprise, Daniel ducked his head, biting his lower lip. Stupid! He’d asked Jack to compromise himself in a military establishment. There was no privacy here, even though the door was locked, anyone with clearance could just walk in.

“Never mind,” he whispered into the blankets as he turned his back on Jack, hiding his embarrassment.

“Daniel, you know we can’t…”

“Yeah, I forgot for a second. Don’t mind me,” he said in way of apology. “I’m just the geek who had his brains scrambled, remember? I tend to forget things…”

As soon as the words came out Daniel realized that they sounded like those of a five year old trying to make his parent feel sorry for him. And he was supposed to be a linguist? Damn, couldn’t he say or do anything right anymore?

He felt Jack’s hand on his shoulder, then the whispered words, “move over.”

Swallowing, he shifted over, making space in the bed. He felt the covers lift and then Jack’s warm, hard body was there curled up behind him. Strong arms encircled him and Daniel turned over to face his lover.

“Just for a little while, okay?” Jack whispered as his hand came to rest comfortably on Daniel’s hip. Daniel reached up and pulled Jack’s head onto his shoulder, knowing that Jack had been through a rough time too. There were dark circles under his eyes, and his beloved face was haggard.

Words weren’t necessary between them. Daniel kissed Jack’s temple before he settled back on his pillow. He insinuated his leg between Jack’s, his cold foot nestled against Jack’s warmer ones. For the first time in days, his feet began to warm up.

- - - - - -

Jack watched as Daniel’s visibly nervous body relaxed into a deep hypnotic trance under Doctor Peterson’s directions. Daniel’s hands had finally stopped fidgeting, lying limp on his lap. The frown lines on his forehead were less noticeable, his lips slightly parted, his eyelashes dark smudges against his still too pale face. Fraiser had given him some Ativan earlier to try and calm him down. It had to a certain degree, at least enough so Peterson could get Daniel to concentrate long enough to put him in a hypnotic trance.

Jack had totally been against the hypnosis, but Daniel had been adamant. He wanted to get behind the mystery that was locked in his brain, and when Fraiser had suggested hypnosis yesterday, Daniel had jumped at the opportunity.

In the twenty hours since the arrangements had been made, Daniel had shown recurring signs of stress that had all but disappeared in the five days since he’d been released from the infirmary. Nine days had passed since Jack had brought Daniel’s unresponsive body back from P3K 778, his near-miraculous recovery one that Jack didn’t want to chance causing a setback.

The previous day, Daniel had eaten ice cream, something that had become unpalatable since the sensory overload. The same morning he had eaten applesauce, just because he could. He had no problems wearing shoes or socks, or having anything touch his feet. Loud noises and lights no longer sent him running into a corner seeking shelter. Two days ago Jack had knocked over a pot into its brethren and the resulting clamor had simply had Daniel look up from the book he was reading in irritation. Just over a week ago Daniel could barely focus on Jack’s face, let alone concentrate long enough to read his own name!

And all this progress could be so easily obliterated with a simple misspoken word. Jack had no true confidence in hypnosis. Sure, he’d seen how it had helped Carter years ago regain her memories over fish-face’s fake ones and that had prompted them to return to the planet to rescue Daniel. But this was different. These had really hurt Daniel and there was still the chance that Daniel might go through all that pain once again.

When it came right down to it, Jack just didn’t trust psychologists. He had had some passing experience with Peterson, who had replaced Mackenzie at Fraiser’s request. Not that Mackenzie was off the roster, it was just that SG1 had preferred to speak with someone else after Mackenzie’s fiasco dealing with Machello’s little Goa’uld killing device.

Daniel seemed so peaceful right now, and Peterson was permitting him time to adjust, allowing his body to relax before giving those possibly damning suggestions to go back in time and remember what had occurred. Jack knew how easily Daniel could regress, just the thought yesterday of going through what he was now going through had Daniel vomiting when he took a mouthful of chocolate pudding. A car horn blaring outside Jack’s house had startled Daniel, causing him to drop a steaming cup full of coffee, shattering the cup and splattering the hot contents all over his bare feet.

Bare feet... Daniel hadn’t been able to tolerate any coverings on his feet since Fraiser’s phone call yesterday afternoon and Daniel’s decision to go through with the hypnosis. He’d slept tightly curled in Jack’s arms last night, his feet lying on top of the blankets. Jack had raised the temperature in the bedroom, his attempt at trying to nestle Daniel’s feet between his own resulting in the man tossing and twisting restlessly.

The one thing that had surprised Jack was that no nightmares had resulted from those locked memories. Maybe they weren’t there. Maybe Daniel’s brain hadn’t retained them. Jack had mentioned that to the doctors before the session, but they had insisted that the brain never forgot anything, but simply repressed the memories.

Jack pulled his attention back to the present. He looked around the Iso room, his pulse speeding up at the sight of a crash cart that had been pushed into a corner. Both Donna and Barb were seated in the back of the room, on call, ready for disaster. Carter caught his gaze from across Daniel’s bed and from her wide eyed look, knew she was thinking the same thing as he was. Anything could happen and Fraiser had taken every single precaution she could think of. Somehow it wasn’t making Jack feel much better about the situation.

General Hammond was seated beside Carter, while Jack sat beside Peterson. Both Fraiser and Peterson were at Daniel’s head, one on either side of the bed. Teal’c was in the observation booth with Murdol.

If Jack had any say in the matter, he would call the whole thing off right now, this very second. But it had been Daniel’s choice, his decision to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. Daniel himself knew first hand how much things would hurt if this session backfired. He’d already apologized to Jack this morning before they left for the SGC, and damn if the man hadn’t tried to make Jack feel better about everything.

Then, even with his eyes tightly closed against the nauseating effects during the drive back to the SGC, with his hand desperately clutching Jack’s thigh, Daniel had calmly tried to tell Jack how much he loved him and for Jack to not blame himself if anything went wrong.

“You do know that I need to find out what happened once and for all,” Daniel had said in an almost normal voice shortly after they’d left the house.

“No, you don’t,” Jack had argued. “Nobody’s forcing you to do this.”

“I know that, but I don’t think I can live with myself without knowing why I mmmurdered someone.” Daniel’s stuttering had indicated to Jack that he wasn’t quite as calm as the picture he’d been portraying. That plus the slight tightening of his fingers on Jack’s thigh.

Jack glanced over at Daniel. He’d paled when Jack had pulled out of the driveway and began the long drive to the mountain, and had had to clench his eyes tightly shut. Jack had handed Daniel his sunglasses, which he’d gladly put on in place of his glasses. He could see the muscles around Daniel’s eyes were bunched, indicating his eyes were still tightly closed beneath the dark spectacles. His other hand tightly clenched his prescription glasses.

“I still don’t like the idea of Peterson hypnotizing you,” Jack had said for the umpteenth time. “Why can’t we go to the Tok’ra and use their memory recalling device?”

“Because Janet said that there’s no way to soften the recollection, not like with hypnosis,” Daniel had replied with long suffering patience. They’d gone over and over this the day before, until Jack had finally dropped the subject when he’d realized that their arguing was making Daniel’s symptoms worse.

“I need to know why they used that thing on me, what information they deemed so important that they had to take it from me.” His voice had quivered with the words, his fear for himself fought against his sense of duty.

“You don’t need to do this right now, Daniel. We can wait a little longer. When you’re stronger, when you’re not so… vulnerable.”

Daniel laughed harshly, the sound ending with what seemed close to a sob. Jack took his eyes off the traffic in front of him and checked on the man sitting next to him. He was breathing quickly, fine tremors going through his body. At the sound of a car horn outside his hand quickly came up and pressed against his ear.

“I’ll always be afraid of this, Jack,” Daniel continued, the stress beginning to show in his voice. “Just the thought of going through the past week again scares me to death. And not just what it might do to me, because I know how hard this has been on you. You know how much you mean to me, don’t you? Because if anything bad happens, I want you to promise me you won’t blame yourself, okay?” “Daniel!” Jack had snapped, knowing where the words were leading and not wanting to hear them.

“No, listen to me.” Daniel took his hand down from his ear and pressed it against the side of the door. “If something does happen, I want you to promise me that you’ll go on living. I need to know you’ll be okay, that you’ll be able to cope when all of this is over and done with. I don’t want to go in there knowing that I might be sentencing you to a sure death. I want to be able to concentrate solely on solving this problem without worrying about what I’m doing to you.”

“Jesus, Daniel, you know I can’t… I can’t do that,” Jack had answered in a soft voice. His hands had gripped the steering wheel so hard until he could feel the bumps and nicks in the hard plastic imbed themselves in his skin.

“It’s okay,” Daniel had replied quickly. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. I… I just wanted… I mean, I love you, Jack. I wish I didn’t have to do this, didn’t have to do this to you. I—”

His voice had broken and Jack had felt the shivers running through him and into his leg. He’d realized that Daniel was just as afraid for himself as he was for Jack. Jack couldn’t bear the thought of Daniel ending up brain damaged, and he realized that Daniel was deathly afraid of that himself. And Daniel had just told Jack that he was scared he would become the suicidal hard assed maniac he’d met soon after Charlie’s death.

Daniel’s request had so shaken him that he didn’t see the car brake in front of him until the last second, having to jam the brakes before he crashed into it. Daniel’s grip tightened on his leg, his other hand grabbing at the dash as they were pushed forward into their seat belts.

He’d looked for the first break in traffic and had pulled over, stopped the engine and had grabbed Daniel and hugged him hard.

“I love you, Daniel Jackson,” Jack had murmured against the trembling body in his arms. “You know that whatever you decide, I’m there for you. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it if and when it does. We’ll get to the bottom of this shit and then get on with our lives.”

Daniel had hugged Jack harder, needing this physical contact even though Jack had thought that his instincts were crying for him to pull away.

“I won’t do anything stupid. I promise you, okay? You can go in there with a clear conscience. Whatever happens, we’ll deal. I’ll deal. You think of yourself and only of yourself and come back to me. Do you hear me, Daniel? You make sure you come back to me!”

Daniel had nodded, his breath coming in little gasps. Jack had been shaking almost as bad as Daniel, and not trusting his voice anymore, had simply buried his face in his lover’s hair, waiting for them to both calm down enough to let go of one another.

It had been a good ten minutes later when Jack himself had stopped trembling enough so he could drive them safely to the mountain without crashing his Avalanche.

“All right, Daniel, I want you to listen to my voice,” Peterson’s monotonic voice instructed the man on the bed, pulling Jack from his reverie.

Jack took a deep breath. The fun was about to begin.

- - - - - -

Sights, sounds, pain, voices, memories… all conveniently bundled into one immense maelstrom… the threads of which needed to be pulled apart, separated, lengthened, and examined individually. Daniel took a deep breath, reached a hand inside himself, pulling the first thread of those missing six hours, and looked.

// A loud noise from the entrance to the ruins startled Daniel, causing him to pause in mid-speech as he was explaining the difference to Antol between the carving on the wall and similar ones he’d seen on Earth. As he looked up towards the sound, a searing pain in his right temple froze him in his tracks. He fell forward from his already kneeling position, barely able to hold himself up on shaking hands.

Eyes watering from the pain, he saw three strangers in the room, two near the entrance each holding a weapon of some kind trained on both himself and Antol. The third was standing behind Daniel, in the process of adjusting some kind of metallic band which hugged his forehead. It had thin, stiff metallic strips arching from it over his head into a kind of umbrella-like cap.

Daniel’s temple burned and he thought that a similar thing was attached to him there. He could feel there was something running along his forehead, causing the fire burning on the side of his face. He tried to open his mouth to ask why they were doing this, what were they doing to him, but no sound was forthcoming.

He squinted at the man. Somehow he had had sneaked up behind him through one of the large windows of the ruins and had incapacitated him by slapping that thing on his head.

Daniel tried to reach for it, only to find that his already precarious balance wasn’t that solid. Removing one hand from the ground caused him to fall onto his right hip. One of the men laughed, a loud barking sound similar to a hyena. Lowering his gun while the other kept his trained on Daniel’s guide, Laughing Man went over to join the Sneaking Man with the metal cap.

Laughing Man took some wires and connected them to something cold that lay across Daniel’s forehead. He took a few seconds to fiddle with it, his hands passing through Daniel’s hair as he worked. The pain was debilitating, Daniel could do nothing but lie there and watch.

Laughing Man then took a small box from Sneaking Man, fiddling with the controls on it. The pain in Daniel’s head intensified, his eyes felt like they were going to burst right out of their sockets. He couldn’t breathe, and he felt his back arch, his muscles stiffening in shock as he felt himself losing consciousness. //

“Daniel, listen to my voice. This is only a memory, it does not hurt. You’re watching a video, you can view everything without emotion, without pain, without fear. You are outside yourself and are seeing everything play on a movie screen.”

// The sudden cessation of pain was nearly as excruciating as its sudden onset. There were angry voices buzzing all around him, Antol’s the loudest. Someone was kneeling beside Daniel, his hands at his throat, then lifting his eyelids and grey eyes peered intently at him. Daniel wasn’t able to move, but he could still see, hear and feel what was happening around him.

Daniel saw Sneaking Man blink and sway. He reached up to remove the device from his head, having to nearly pry it from his temple where it was attached.

“He’s not from here,” he told the other two as he frantically tried to free the device from himself. He rubbed his forehead once he’d removed it and swore softly under his breath.

“He’s not from Gaphe?” Laughing Man asked, fiddling with whatever had been placed on Daniel’s head. Daniel felt a searing pain as something was ripped from his temple.

“No, I mean he’s not from this world!” Sneaking Man corrected. “His people came through the Chap’pai. The old stories were true,” he said as he looked down at Daniel with awe. Daniel could hear Antol demanding to know what they’d done to him. He wished Antol would keep quiet, he was just putting himself in more danger by irritating them.

“That’s impossible,” Guarding Man said to them, still standing by the door. “He probably likes reading those old stories and you just picked that information up. Couldn’t you find out what country he’s from?”

“No!” Sneaking Man replied excitedly, impatiently handing his device to Laughing Man, who packed it away in a cloth bag. “I experienced his travels through it. It’s incredible!” He grinned wildly, his hands gesturing wildly in his exuberance. “There are people out there, amongst the stars! There are so many stars, so many wonders!” He turned excitedly to the others. “Gaphe is negotiating a trade agreement with aliens! We were wrong, it’s not another country Gaphe is trying to make an alliance with, it’s another world! And these people have medicines and technology we’ve never even dreamed of! He has seen so much, and I only gleaned a very very small portion.” He turned to Laughing man, still gesturing broadly. “If we can get them to trade with Lozoth instead of with Gaphe, then imagine the wealth we could amass!”

“Well, it’s a little hard to negotiate with someone in his condition, don’t you think?” Laughing man stated beside Daniel, barking that irritating laugh once more. “We sort of ruined our chances with this one.” Daniel felt hands on his thigh, and after a moment he realized that they had removed his gun from its holster. //

Step back, Daniel. Listen to my voice. There is no pain, there is no fear. You are totally disassociated with the events, and are able to watch them as if you were watching a movie. Look at the screen, and step outside of yourself.

// “What are you doing?” Sneaking Man demanded.

“Well, he’s not from Gaphe so he might just recover from the effects of your little machine there,” he said, waving the gun at the metallic cap still lying on the ground where he’d tossed it after removing it from Daniel. “I guess we better make sure he doesn’t tell anyone what we did, and how we wanted to sabotage the trade agreement.”

“But…” Sneaking Man walked over to them and knelt beside Daniel. He peered at him for a moment before getting up with the discarded device in his hand. “He probably won’t recover anyway,” Sneaking Man said sadly. “They haven’t been able to perfect this thing yet.”

“Then better to put him out of his misery, eh?” Daniel saw the gun come up and its barrel pointed at him. He wished he was able to at least talk to the man and tell him that this wasn’t necessary. Earth had wanted to negotiate with all the major governments on this planet, not just Gaphe’s. Daniel saw the man’s finger tighten on the trigger, and he couldn’t even close his eyes to stop himself from witnessing his coming death. He could feel his heart beating wildly, his pulse pounding painfully in his head. Everything slowed, his breaths coming in sharp, little gasps.


”No!” Antol screamed.

For a second Daniel felt his heart skip a beat when he realized that the safety hadn’t been released. Laughing Man looked at the gun and to Daniel’s horror, found the safety and turned it off. Daniel heard a scuffle and several loud bangs reverberated in the stone room. //

You can’t feel any pain, Daniel. See yourself as if you were watching a movie screen. No sensations, no pain, no discomfort. Listen only to my voice.

// “By Goldon’s Hells!” Laughing Man exclaimed. “They’ll have heard that to the far ends of Gaphe. For someone with sophisticated weapons, they could have silenced them a bit more.”

Oh God, Oh God… they shot Antol! Daniel knew from the sounds of the scuffle that he had tried to throw himself at his captors, but he’d had no chance against a gun.

“We should leave,” Guarding Man said nervously. “Someone might have heard, we can’t afford to be found here.”

“Just as well,” Laughing Man said, bending down beside Daniel. Something warm and metallic was placed in Daniel’s right hand, his fingers carefully positioned so that they held the object securely. “If we can’t form an agreement with his people, then let’s make sure that Gaphe won’t either.”

Three sets of footsteps quickly walked towards the exit, threatening to leave him alone.

Daniel wanted to move, he wanted to shout, he wanted to scream. The pain that had left him earlier began creeping back, his head impossibly pounding in rhythm with the silence. He floated for what felt like forever, small, settling noises in the room seeming like loud claps of thunder; the breeze outside sounding like a hurricane.

Then came footsteps, and the oh so familiar voice of Teal’c. “O’Neill.”

- - - - - -

Jack had watched Daniel go from being totally relaxed to squirming in discomfort to panting in pain and then back to relaxation again. Jack had to admit that Doctor Peterson always seemed one step ahead of Daniel, managing to ease him back away from the painful memories and into a state of restful comfort whenever they threatened to overwhelm the restful nature of the hypnotic trance.

As Daniel’s story began to unfold, Jack had cast a glance at Murdol. He was now leaning forward, nose almost against the glass, hands clenched in what Jack supposed was anger. Jack wasn’t that happy himself. He’d assumed that the other Governments on P3K 778 had known of their dealings with Gaphe, it had been one of the items Hammond insisted upon when they had begun their discussions.

Daniel moaned slightly, twisting in remembered pain once more. Peterson calmly talked him through, letting Daniel rest quietly for a bit while Fraiser checked his blood pressure and pulse.

“His pressure’s climbing,” Fraiser said as she wiped the sweat from Daniel’s face. They had stopped the session earlier, and permitted Daniel to sleep for a bit when it had all gotten too much for him. They were close to the end now, and as much as Jack wanted this nightmare to end, he didn’t want Daniel to have to go through it all once again if they missed something vital.

Peterson talked Daniel into continuing, and Jack heard him say in that soft, dreamy voice, “Teal’c. Sam. Jack. Help me, please.”

Jack stood up and put out a hand to both Fraiser and Peterson. “Okay, he’s had enough. This is where we found him at the ruins.” He looked at General Hammond, almost pleading.

“I think we’ve heard enough,” Hammond said, standing up also. “Doctor Fraiser, will Doctor Jackson have any residual effects from this session?”

Peterson spoke up. “No, I’ll have him remember the events without the actual pain of memory. I think that Doctor Fraiser will want to monitor him for a while, his body has been under quite a bit of stress the past two hours, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Jack glanced at Fraiser, who had nodded at his words. He watched while Peterson talked Daniel out of the hypnotic trance and urged him to sleep. Daniel looked pale beneath the harsh lights, and a pulse spot on his neck was jumping rapidly, belying the calm appearance his slumber portrayed.

- - - - - -

Jack was standing near the doorway, listening to Murdol’s apologies and promises to get down to the bottom of all of this. General Hammond looked irritated and tired, and Jack unobtrusively motioned to Teal’c to get the man out of here and back to the Stargate. He glanced back towards the bed, where Carter was sitting alone with Daniel. He hadn’t moved in the past fifteen minutes; Jack wondered how much longer he’d be sleeping.

Peterson and Fraiser were standing off to the side talking with the two nurses. He’d have to thank those two personally later, maybe some chocolates or a cutsie stuffed animal or something. They’d been a huge help with Daniel’s recovery, and belatedly he realized that the nursing staff were often overlooked in a patient’s long road to health.

Jack listened with half an ear as he heard Carter’s soft voice talking to Daniel. Good, he was waking up. Jack gritted his teeth as Murdol kept up a monologue, wishing the man would hurry his farewells so he could go back to see Daniel.

“Janet,” Carter called out. The worried tone of her voice sent shivers down Jack’s spine as he turned towards the bed. Daniel had his eyes open but like the day they found him on Gaphe, his blue eyes stared unfocused at a far corner of the room.

They all rushed to the bedside, Jack having to elbow Murdol out of his way. Peterson and Fraiser were giving Daniel a once over, Peterson muttering to Fraiser that this wasn’t possible.

“It’s alien technology, so never count anything out,” Fraiser remanded him quietly.

Jack saw Fraiser motion Barb over and whisper something to her. The redhead quickly made her way to the group and quietly asked everyone to please leave the chamber. Jack felt Teal’c’s hand in gentle sympathy on his shoulder before the Jaffa left. He only had eyes for Daniel and was only distantly aware as the room was cleared. The medical paraphernalia was quickly reconnected to Daniel’s unresponding body, the silence of the staff seemingly eerie in the large room.

He nearly shook off the hand on his arm, stopping himself from doing so when he saw the concerned green eyes looking up at him. Donna tugged him back, her expressive eyes urging him towards the door.

“Doctor Fraiser is trying to keep the amount of noise at the lowest possible level, seeing as what happened to him earlier,” Donna explained quickly in a low voice, her New York accent seeming strange to Jack’s ears in her rush to explain herself. “When he’s settled, she wants you to try talking to him and see if he’ll respond. She says that since his last remembered thought in the hypnosis session was his calling out for help, he might respond more readily to you.”

Jack nodded, understanding what Fraiser wanted him to do. He slowly and quietly made his way to Daniel, taking a seat beside the bed. When Fraiser finally nodded to him, Jack took Daniel’s lax hand in his.

“Daniel, hey. Are you trying to make my hair go white now that you’ve managed to make me grey?” Jack said in a quiet and even voice. He looked at Daniel’s light brown hair, appearing darker in the dimmed lights. “It’s a wonder your own isn’t turning grey, considering all the hot spots you manage to get yourself into, huh?”

He examined the hand lying still, cupped between his palms. The long expressive fingers were cool to his touch, and he gently massaged them, careful of the oximeter attached to his forefinger.

“Daniel,” Jack started, but having to stop when his voice broke. He took one hand way and reached over and stroked Daniel’s face.

“I love you, Danny,” he whispered, “come back to me.”

Jack heard the small gasp and realized that Daniel was in pain. A few alarms began sounding, Barb moving quickly to turn them off before they could grate on Daniel’s sensitive nerves. He began breathing quickly, twisting in pain on the bed. Jack recalled his seizure the previous time and when Daniel’s hand painfully gripped his own, he thought at first Daniel was convulsing once more. He was shivering uncontrollably, but he definitely wasn’t seizing. Daniel’s mouth was working, making soft ‘tch’ sounds.

“Oh, God.” Jack realized Daniel was trying to say his name. He quickly transferred from the chair to the bed, leaning over Daniel so he was right in his face. The man’s eyes tracked Jack’s movement with difficulty, almost crossing as he attempted to follow Jack’s progress.

“Danny, I’m here, I’m right here.” He placed his hand tenderly on Daniel’s cheek, and Daniel closed his eyes. Jack could feel the bed shaking with Daniel’s trembling.

“Doc?” he whispered, pleading with Fraiser.

He saw her go to the nurses and whisper to them, then followed them to the door, shutting it quietly behind them. A moment later, Jack saw the door to the observation room close. Fraiser pulled a privacy curtain around the bed, hiding them from the security camera. Hoping he was doing the right thing, he lay down beside his lover and rolled Daniel so he was lying against him.

He tenderly laid his free hand against the back of Daniel’s nape, turning his face so that it was lying against the hollow of his neck. He could feel Daniel’s panting breath against his skin, the softly spoken ‘Jack’ so low he would have missed it had Daniel’s mouth not been so close to his ear.

“I’m here, Daniel. It’s all right, I’ve got you. You’re safe, try to relax. You’re fine, you’re fine.”

Fraiser tucked a blanket around the two of them, small hands moving between both their bodies to adjust the few wires and leads that Jack had dislodged while moving Daniel. He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder and he chanced a look up, seeing Fraiser smiling encouraging down at him. She nodded, and Jack realized that Daniel was responding.

“You come back to me now, Daniel. You hear me?” Jack said into the soft warm hair of his lover. “You make sure I don’t have to say ‘I told you so’. Don’t make me say it, Daniel. You prove to me that you made the right decision. You found the truth to what happened back on that planet. You weren’t to blame for that guy’s death. Now you stop blaming yourself, and don’t make me start feeling guilty for not stopping that hocus pocus hypnosis stuff.”

“I was right.” Daniel’s voice was hoarse as he said the three words. Jack pulled back and saw his alert, blue eyes looking at him. Jack grinned, and Daniel smiled back tiredly. Jack squeezed him tightly in a hug.

“Welcome back,” he said.

“Where did I go?” Daniel asked in a confused voice when Jack loosened his hold on him.

“I don’t know, but never go there again, okay?” He felt Daniel shrug, then settle back down in Jack’s arm. In a minute Jack knew Daniel was asleep by his deep, rhythmic breathing.

- - - - - -

Feelings of safety and contentment quickly chased residual threads of fear, pain and confusion as he felt strong arms holding him tightly. He could hear the heavy thud of Jack’s heartbeat beneath his ear, his deep breathing slowly lifting his head up and down with each breath.

He sighed softly, rubbing his hand against the warm cotton of Jack’s tee shirt. He heard the rustle of movement beside him and he jerked his head up, squinting. Janet’s smiling brown eyes were looking down at him with happiness.

“How are you feeling, Daniel?” she asked, speaking in a low voice.

“Fine,” he answered cautiously, trying to figure out why he was lying in Jack’s arms in the middle of the infirmary. Oh God, don’t tell me he had crawled into bed with Jack sometime during a vigil.

“Is Jack okay?” he asked worriedly, pulling back and looking for signs of injury on Jack’s body. Jack was dressed in green fatigues and black tee shirt, if Janet hadn’t put him in scrubs, he couldn’t be badly off, could he?

“He’s fine, Daniel. You’re the one we were worried about.”

“Me?” he squeaked. He quickly assessed his body, and apart from a slight headache, he couldn’t find anything that hurt.

“I’m fine, I think.” He pushed away from Jack and sat up carefully, careful not to disturb the sleeping man. “Um, not that I don’t appreciate it, but why were we… you know…” He waved at the bed, taking in the privacy curtains, closed door and the dark observation room.

“Do you remember the hypnosis?” Janet asked.

Daniel swung his legs over the side of the bed. Jack coughed and curled up around their pillow. Daniel shifted the blanket over Jack’s shoulders before looking at Janet.

“I think so,” he answered, trying to bring his somewhat fuzzy memories into line. What he remembered most clearly was the sound of Jack’s voice leading him out of a fog of confusion. He looked down at the sleeping man lying beside him, his hand grasping Jack’s shoulder gently where he still kept hold of the blanket’s edge.

“I was attacked at the ruins, something to do with stopping the negotiations.” He let go of the blanket and rubbed his forehead, lowering his head. He straightened up and looked across the room. “It was all for nothing, wasn’t it? They lied to us from the start. We should have been dealing with all the planet’s main governments, instead Gaphe wanted to keep us for themselves.”

“The truth would have come out eventually,” she consoled. “Look on the bright side, Daniel,” she said. “You’re alive, and you’ve been cleared of murder charges.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed. Something was nagging at him, and after a moment he realized what it was. “Why did I recover? They said that no one recovers?”

“Well, I could say it’s because we have better medical facilities…” she replied, looking thoughtful. But she smiled brightly at Daniel after a moment. “But personally, I think very often recovery of this nature happens due to perseverance and love. And sometimes it’s simply called a miracle.”

He smiled shyly before turning back to look at Jack sleeping peacefully beside him. “Are you sure Jack’s okay? He looks a little pale.”

“Nothing that a few more hours of sleep won’t fix,” she said kindly. “You gave us another scare, you know. Now, how about you let me have a look at you and if my instruments tell me what my eyes see, I’ll let you go home soon.”

Twenty minutes later, Daniel had the all clear to leave. As Janet left the Iso room, Daniel turned to Jack and placed a gentle hand on his chest. He could feel his heart beating strongly beneath his hand. He leaned against the bed and watched his lover sleep for a couple of minutes before moving his hand to Jack’s shoulder. He leaned over him and shook him gently. Sleepy brown eyes cracked open and looked at Daniel.

“Wakey wakey,” Daniel said with a smile. With a quick glance the still empty doorway, Daniel whispered to Jack, “I love you too, big guy. How about taking me home?”  


Author's Comments: Thanks to devra, babs, DebA, and Darcy for their continued support and suggestions.


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