"But this is the land of our ancestors," Mawyn exclaimed for the fifth time, the discussion becoming heated the longer it went on.
Jack was losing patience. They'd been at this for hours now and they were going around in circles. "And your village and everything around it is going to get buried under a ton of molten rock if you don't relocate." Even as he said the words, he realized they came out more angrily than he'd meant to. "But you and your people have to go now because that volcano can blow at any time."
"Be't'soa has erupted before, Colonel." Niwyn spoke softly in counterpoint to both her husband's and Jack's outbursts. "The gods have protected our village before, as you can very plainly see."
"I understand." Carter spoke quietly as she glanced out the window at the centuries' year old wall of lava which surrounded the village, almost like a fort. Jack couldn't help but follow her gaze to the rough semicircle encircling the village. "But you've all admitted none of you know how the shield works. You can't hope it'll work by faith alone."
"And why wouldn't we rely on faith?" Tawyn looked at Carter with somewhat akin to horror.
"Tawyn, Major Carter's right." Daniel folded his hands together and rested them on the large table. "It's one thing to believe your gods will save you, but we've seen too many times that the... instruments... the gods have set in place ages ago, have deteriorated without proper upkeep because so many ceremonies and rites have changed throughout the years."
"We still worship to Bast. We have not changed our beliefs."
Jack cleared his throat as the priest looked at them all, affronted. "It's not what you've been doing. It's probably what you haven't been doing." Jack placed his hands flat on the table and all eyes focused on them. "Daniel, what if you were to look into the religious aspect, see if there might be any mention of the technology buried in the tomes, and how the rituals might have changed these past couple of thousand years." He looked at the priest, who stared back at him without expression.
"Jack, their library is extensive. That could take—"
"Daniel, I know." Jack kept his eyes on the priest, who finally blinked and looked at Daniel.
"Perhaps, if what you say is true, then our most ancient scrolls would be what you need to look at. They are stored in our Hall of Meditation. You weren't shown the room... it's... sacred."
Jack's head felt like it was going to explode when he heard the priest's words. They'd been escorted through the church earlier and the one place they probably needed to have gone to, had been too sacred to warrant visiting?
"Tawyn, thank you." Daniel raised an eyebrow in warning at Jack, who clamped his jaw together to avoid an outburst. "I understand, and I'm glad you realize that this is an exceptional circumstance."
When Jack thought he could speak without biting his tongue, he turned to the rest of his team. "Carter, you and Teal'c start looking around, see if you can find any trace of that power source. Talk to people, see if they might know something, however trivial, that might give us a clue. I doubt the control to the..."
"Force field?" Carter supplied.
"Force field," Jack agreed, "is buried beneath the tons of lava out there, so it means access to it would have to be on this side of the wall."
Daniel smiled at Jack as he pushed his chair back from the table. "So, the usual?"
Jack stood slowly, his back stiff from sitting on the hard wooden chairs. He took one step towards the exit when the world tilted noisily.
For a moment Jack thought the volcano had erupted. Immediately he glanced out the window while grabbing for the table, trying to keep his footing. A puff of white smoke erupted from a vent on the side of the volcano even as the world slowly returned to normal.
"It might not blow for days, sir," Carter said softly as she moved next to Jack to watch the steam rise. "Maybe even weeks."
"Or it might erupt in the next ten minutes," Jack countered. "We need to either get these people to evacuate either through the Stargate or downriver, away from that thing, or make sure that force field is functional."
"Yes, sir." She nodded once before retrieving her weapon and backpack, then hurried out the door, followed by Teal'c. Daniel gave Jack a sympathetic glance before motioning to the priest to precede him out the door as he gathered his own gear.
Jack sighed heavily. He hated the fact that their orders were to find the force field that had protected the village from several eruptions throughout the centuries, and see if they could glean anything out of it for Earth's use, rather than focus on evacuating the citizens here. Ever since the UAV had sent footage of the unusual semi-circle surrounding the village which was nestled on the foothills of the volcano, along with confirmation of a low energy reading, the Pentagon had insisted SG-1 go and find the source of whatever it was that had undoubtedly saved the village from the volcano's fury, and clearly, on more than one occasion.
"Maybe this Hall of Meditation is what we're looking for," Daniel said softly as he leaned close to Jack. He used his body to hide his movement and placed a hand flat against the side of Jack's ribs. "I'll let you know as soon as I find something."
"I'll go with you. Someone needs to make sure Niwyn doesn't try and hide anything from us."
Daniel looked at him, wide-eyed, until he grinned. "You mean Tawyn. Niwyn is Mawyn's wife."
"Oy." Jack rolled his eyes and Daniel stepped away. "What's wrong with simple names like Tom, Dick and Mary?" The warmth of Daniel's hand remained imprinted for several seconds longer on the material of his tee shirt. Jack bent down, picked up his P-90 and clipped it on as he followed Daniel to the church.
- - - - - -
The so-called sacred hall was in the basement of the church. Deep underground where access to it actually called for moving a certain sconce on the wall à la secret passage. Part of the wall creaked open and Tawyn, accompanied by two acolytes bearing torches, preceded them down the passage, lighting their way by touching the torches to some kind of oil lamps hanging on the walls.
Daniel couldn't stop from smiling as Jack kept rolling his eyes at him as they made their way down the secret corridor. But Daniel's smile faded as the torchlight caught the myriad of crystals affixed to the walls inside the enormous room.
Energy crystals. Long, elongated rods of varying colors.
The type that power starships and other high-level technology markedly lacking on this planet.
Even as Jack contacted Teal'c and Sam, the acolytes moved some sort of screens aside and a clever series of mirrors reflected sunlight into the room, catching the display of the crystals rods, causing rainbows to dance on the wall, on the floor, on the ceiling.
"The Hall of Meditation." Tawyn stood proudly in the center of the large room. Behind him were low tables and chairs, situated beside a large case that held a multitude of scrolls. Cushions were strewn against the walls, where it was obvious people could sit and... meditate.
Daniel walked to the nearest crystal and touched it with a finger. It was red. The one next to it was blue. But incredibly, the one next to the blue one was black. Burned out. Useless.
Turning quickly, Daniel walked up to Tawyn. "These crystals." He waved his hand at the expanse before them. "Have they always been here?"
Tawyn glanced at the crystal-ensconced wall and shrugged. "They have been here since the day the Hall was built. They are mentioned in our history; how the priests used them to meditate and converse with our god."
"They spoke to Bast here?" They were definitely on the right track; maybe there was some sort of control that would lead them to the Goa'uld's lab. Daniel turned from Tawyn and began walking along the walls.
"They did not speak to her. That was the duty of our village leaders. No, our priests communed with her spirit."
"And you don't speak with her now?"
"Of course we do. On sacred days, we gather here and pray, as our forefathers have always done."
This was it. This was where customs had changed. Daniel felt excitement course through him at the possibility of discovery as he continued to examine the walls. "I need to see your scrolls. Where it was written how your forefathers communed with Bast."
"Can all of this be the control for the shield?" Jack had been walking along the opposite side of the room, matching Daniel step for step.
Daniel stopped and examined one of the crystals more closely. It seemed to be set into the wall with some sort of plastic-like clip. He tugged gently and it popped into his hand. Where the crystal had lain flush against the wall was a long streak of lighter-colored stone, evidence of the centuries it had remained there. The rod lay cool and light in his hand.
"I don't know. The crystals aren't connected to anything." He pressed the crystal back into the plastic-like pins and it popped back into place. He continued walking. "There must be some sort of control here that—"
He stopped talking when he found the writing on the wall. There were about ten small squares, each with some sort of script on each, and a round hole set in the floor, just below the writing.
"Tawyn, can you read this?"
"Read? It's a language?" Tawyn hurried over to Daniel. "We have always believed it to be decorations."
"There's nothing in the old scrolls that look like this?"
"No, I've never seen—"
"It's pretty incredible, huh Sam?" Daniel said, turning to wave her over. "I think I found something here."
Daniel pointed to the hole in the floor when she reached him. "I think this is probably the key to starting up the device. Any suggestion which crystal would open it up?"
"I'd go for the blue ones. They're the least powerful."
At her suggestion, Jack pulled the nearest blue crystal from the wall and handed it to Sam. She squatted and carefully inserted it into the socket. The crystal lit up; it was evident the hole connected to some sort of power source.
The wall in front of Daniel rose smoothly into the ceiling, exposing the entrance into yet another room. From Tawyn's expression, it was obvious he had no idea that there was something behind the wall.
Using their flashlights to illuminate their way, SG-1 cautiously entered the chamber. It was immediately obvious that this was what they had been looking for. Directly in the center of the room was clearly a control panel made of some transparent material. A form lay crumpled on the ground before the control panel and the beam of their flashlights showed it to be a skeleton.
Flanking the control panel, on either side of the room, flush against the walls and encased in a similar transparent material, were dozens of crystal rods set into metal holders. Two more skeletons lay crumpled before each panel. A quick glance showed that many of the rods had burned out. Daniel approached the control panel and shone his light on the bits of writing inside the glass. He glanced at the skeletons and winced, wondering what had killed them.
"I don't know, sir. Some of the technology is definitely Goa'uld in nature—"
"Indeed. Although there are many facets that I do not recognize," Teal'c added.
"I don't recognize them either." Daniel twirled around, shining his flashlight across the room. "But from the number of crystals that need replacing, I doubt there's enough power to protect the village from a rainstorm, let alone an eruption. And the writing..."
"Daniel?" Jack turned to face him.
He waved his flashlight over the console that had nothing but dust and occasional scribbles on it. "It's like the writing that's on the wall. I'm not familiar with it."
Daniel turned to see that Sam had pulled open one of the panels and was fingering a burned crystal. She was looking at Jack but her gaze shifted to both Daniel and Teal'c.
"It's worth a try, sir."
"Can you tell which ones are which?"
"Yes. If you can get me a collection of viable crystals, I can start replacing them."
"You don't think this... killed these guys, do you?" Jack toed one of the skeletons with his boot.
"Probably indirectly, yes, sir. But I think there must have been some kind of overload. Most likely it happened when the volcano last erupted. I don't think we're in any danger."
"Tawyn, are there more of these crystals anywhere?"
"Yes, Daniel, but they are inaccessible."
They all followed Tawyn out of the room to a small niche in the corner of the Hall. Behind another plastic panel were clear boxes full of crystals. There must have been dozens of boxes.
Daniel knelt beside the niche and ran his hands over the wall. "There's no writing."
Jack, obviously frustrated, began fiddling with one of the crystals, scratching at the plastic socket with a fingernail. To everyone's surprise, the crystal, socket and all, shifted sideways and the panel's cover popped open.
Daniel couldn't help but stare in amazement at Jack, who simply shrugged at him.
Teal'c bent down and grabbed a box. He offered it to Sam, who removed a crystal from it and nodded. She hurried back inside and they all followed.
"I'm going to need more of these. And we need to replace those in the Hall," she said, not looking up.
"T, you can give me a hand with the boxes? Daniel, you're the one used to working with... mummies and stuff." Jack ignored the scathing look Daniel aimed his way, knowing what he was going to ask him to do just as he said it. "You can clear a space out by dragging these guys outside."
Jack brushed past Tawyn and his two acolytes, who were still standing in silence near the chamber's entrance. The priest watched Jack and Teal'c exit the room with eyes wide with shock.
"Um, Tawyn." Daniel walked over to the man, rifling through his pack, looking for disposable gloves. "They're going to take some of the crystals from the Hall of Meditation to replace the ones here that were burned out. I'm pretty sure this is the control room for the shield that will protect your village from Be't'soa when it erupts. But we need to power the machinery up with the crystals, otherwise it probably won't work. Would you, um, help me with this?" Daniel waved at the remains of the person who had probably saved Tawyn's ancestors centuries past.
Tawyn nodded as he silently accompanied Daniel to one of the skeletons. He looked in disdain at the pair of gloves Daniel offered. "Get me some blankets," Tawyn ordered the acolytes. Crouching beside the remains, Daniel flashed his light amongst the bones. Something flashed along the ribcage.
Gingerly, Tawyn removed a gold necklace from which hung a piece of jewelry with the head of a cat etched on it. He turned it over, showing a four-stringed rattle. Tawyn unclasped it with shaking hands. Once he'd freed the necklace, he reached inside his shirt and pulled out a matching symbol. "He was a priest of Bast."
Jack walked past them again, his arms full of colored crystal rods, followed by the acolytes. The boys laid a blanket on the ground and together, Daniel and Tawyn began shifting the skeletal remains onto it, pausing only to remove the necklaces attesting they had all been priests.
By the time they carried the three bodies into the Hall of Meditation, Sam had two piles of darkened crystals next to the panels and had moved into the Hall. Tawyn motioned the acolytes to begin carting the burned out crystals from the room. Daniel wondered whether he should ask them to bring in more torches; their flashlights gave off pretty weak illumination in the room, but he realized there were no places to hang torches or lanterns.
Even as he thought it, the ceiling began to glow softly, illuminating the chamber and making it seem less mysterious. The crystals inside the clear containers twinkled as power slowly returned to whatever device the crystals were powering.
"I think we should inform Mawyn of our discovery," Daniel said as he made a small head movement towards the acolytes who had returned to stand and stare by the doorway.
Tawyn turned to the boys. "Go find Mawyn and bring him here," he ordered one of them. "Deyn and Celyn also," he ordered the other. "The other priests should see this." He turned back to the chamber and whispered. "Who would have thought this was here?"
"Be't'soa has been dormant for the past 700 years. It's understandable that what was taken for granted then became lost when there wasn't any further need for all of this. And maybe the knowledge of this room died with those three men."
"Colonel, I think I know what might have killed those priests." Sam entered the smaller room and held up three crystals, all of them dark with damage. "According to the pattern I've been following, these three are yellow. They should have been blue. There probably was a power surge that blew out the system and the energy blast killed them."
"That's not going to happen this time, is it?"
Daniel frowned at Jack's worried tone. Sam usually knew what she was doing but most likely those dead priests had also, and they had made a mistake that had killed them. He was beginning to have doubts that they should try and turn this thing on before they were sure of what they were doing.
"Not if the pattern is correct, sir. I've followed it exactly." She returned to her work and when she replaced the final crystal, a small thrum of energy ran through the room as a holographic image of the volcano appeared in mid-air above the control panel in the center of the room. Without comment, they all approached and surrounded the display.
"I think we'll need someone who knows the ins and outs of a volcano." Daniel walked around the display, trying to see from all angles.
"Captain Timmons. He's not a vulcanologist but I think he's the most knowledgeable on base," Sam suggested.
"Fine. Daniel, you and Teal'c go inform the SGC of our finds while Carter and I look—"
"Sir, if I may? I'd like to go back myself. I really have no idea what I'm looking at here and I have some equipment in my lab that could help me—"
"Fine. You and Teal'c go back while Daniel and I watch the blinking lights."
Sam grimaced and waggled her eyebrows at Daniel, wishing him luck with his grumpy colonel while she and Teal'c were away. She hurried towards the door, then stopped and turned. "Just don't touch anything. We don't know what—"
"I'm on it," Jack said even as he poked a hand through the hologram. "I'll make sure Daniel keeps his hands in his pockets."
"Oh, um, sir, I meant you." With that, she hurried out the door while Teal'c had an amused expression on his face. Jack gave Daniel a bewildered look.
Daniel bit his lip to hold back his grin and simply shrugged.
His amusement was short lived. The volcano rumbled noisily and the display in front of them changed. There must have been sensors either in and around the volcano itself or in some sort of satellite orbiting above. Although neither of them could read the words scrolling on the clear console, it was clear that pressure was building inside the volcano.
"That can't be good." Jack leaned closer to the console, as if his proximity would allow him to understand the language.
"We have to figure out the controls. There must be an on switch or something." Daniel waved at the console.
"Unless it's automated."
"But do we want to wait until Be't'soa erupts to find that out? It might be a little too late at that point to start pushing buttons. I mean, that red has to mean lava, right?" And the red was surging up close to the top of the volcanic display.
"Buttons? I don't see any buttons to push. Do you see any buttons?"
"I was speaking figuratively, Jack." Daniel bit back further words when the hum in the room began to increase. "Um, okay, now that can't be good," he said, repeating Jack's words.
Daniel began to search the console with his fingers, hoping that though he couldn't see any type of controls, he might be able to feel some key or button by touch. His movements became more frantic when he realized he was squinting; the light in the room was getting brighter. There was pressure building in his head and his chest felt tight, each breath seeming more and more difficult to take. Everything took on an odd aura and the hum disappeared beyond his range of hearing, but somehow made his teeth ache.
Thinking of the skeletons he'd just removed from the room, he opened his mouth to suggest maybe they should leave when he found himself floating in fog. There was a bright light to his right, burning through the miasma. He turned towards it, trying to get his bearings. Jack called his name, the sounds coming to him in extreme slow motion and seeming to come from very far away.
"Jack?" The mist swallowed his voice and as the light flickered, Daniel realized he was lost.
- - - - - -
They were being scanned. The light had surrounded Daniel, then had grown quickly to encompass Tawyn, and now it was currently encircling Jack. The accompanying pressure and high-pitched ringing drove Jack to his knees as he called out Daniel's name. He fought to take a breath, trying to see past the brilliant beam.
The beam disappeared as suddenly as it came. Jack drew a deep, welcomed breath. His body was heavy and it took him a second to recoup. He slowly raised his head to look around. To his horror, both Daniel and Tawyn were on the ground, their bodies caught in violent seizures.
Jack pitched himself forward, never quite coming out of a crouch as he settled beside Daniel. He reached out to place one hand on Daniel's shoulder, realizing belatedly there wasn't much he could do to help him. He reached for the radio, apprehension making his hands slippery with sweat.
"Carter, Teal'c, I need help back here."
He waited a moment, then repeated the call when neither responded. Swearing, he figured they probably hadn't had time yet to go beyond the Hall of Meditation. "Carter!" Jack yelled, foregoing the radio. "Teal'c!"
Pivoting on one knee, Jack stood and looked through the doorway. He could see someone lying on the ground in the middle of the Hall. He stood and hurried to the entrance. He was wrong. There were four of them; the two young acolytes and nearer the exit, Carter and Teal'c. Although they all looked to be unconscious, they didn't appear to be seizing like Daniel and the priest. Jack ran through the door and everything went dark.
- - - - - -
He'd been thrown back a couple of feet. Jack raised his head and groaned when the room spun. He turned onto his side and managed to force himself partway up. He glared at the force field shimmering over the open door as he fumbled for the clips that held his weapon. He put the weapon aside before moving on hands and knees to Daniel's side.
The priest had stopped convulsing. He lay still, foam flecking his mouth and chin. Daniel, however, was still seizing, his breath coming out stridently.
Jack didn't think he'd been knocked unconscious, probably more likely he'd been stunned by the shock of running into the force field blocking the exit to the room. He realized he'd been aware on some level of the priest's breathing easing while Daniel continued to gasp erratically.
Muscles complained as he shrugged out of his jacket. He bundled it up and eased it underneath Daniel's head. Jack brushed the saliva on Daniel's face away with his hand, then wiped his wet hand on his pants. He stood, his muscles stiff, and moved to Tawyn and rolled him onto his side. He used the edge of the man's floppy collar to clean his mouth and chin.
Then to his relief, Jack heard it. The soft sigh and the cessation of Daniel's body striking the ground before Daniel took a strong, deep breath.
He turned back to Daniel and also repositioned him, adjusting his jacket beneath Daniel's head. He placed his fingers on Daniel's sweaty neck; his pulse was fast but steady. Jack took a second to thread fingers through Daniel's hair before standing and facing the control panel.
The hologram was still up; the volcano looking angry and to his inexpert eyes – ready to blow. He approached the console cautiously; something had killed those three men they'd removed from the room – and it was most likely what had knocked out everyone in the surrounding area. He wondered for a moment why he hadn't been incapacitated like the rest. He figured Daniel and Tawyn had been affected because of their proximity to the controls; the others had been knocked out – he hoped – because they were farther away.
Someone had to come looking for them soon.
He pushed away the niggling thought that maybe the whole village had been affected. For all he knew, everyone was dead and he, Daniel and the priest were the only ones alive because of their location.
"Okay, stop it," he told himself out loud. He couldn't do anything for the two men here with him except make sure they were comfortable. He had to believe whatever it was had simply knocked Carter and Teal'c out.
Spotting Daniel's backpack, he rummaged through it until he found a spare shirt, and then wadded it up and placed it beneath Tawyn's head once he checked his pulse and breathing. Then he stood and moved again to the exit.
None of the people lying crumpled in the Hall had moved.
"Teal'c, can you hear me? Carter? Hey, wake up."
He stared for a long moment. When Teal'c sat up in a quick, fluid move, it surprised Jack enough that he took a step backward.
"T, you okay?"
The dark head turned and gazed at him with confusion. Teal'c looked around a moment, obviously trying to get his bearings.
"I am. What has occurred?" Teal'c became aware of Carter lying beside him. He turned onto his knees and began checking her out.
"I'm not sure. Whatever this security device is, it knocked everyone flat on their asses. How's she doing?"
"She is unconscious and unresponsive." Without a further word, Teal'c stood and approached the two young men. "They are also unconscious," he declared after a moment. "Are you and DanielJackson well?"
"Daniel's out, along with the priest. Look, this thing's put up some sort of barrier around the door. Do you think you can try and short circuit it or something?"
Teal'c returned to Carter's side and picked up the staff weapon he'd dropped when he'd collapsed.
"That'll do." Jack moved back and crouched beside Daniel, positioning himself so that he'd be shielding him should there be any flying debris. The priest was fine where he was, out of harm's way.
Teal'c armed the staff weapon and Jack turned his head, closing his eyes. The sound of it firing seemed muffled and he tensed, waiting for the impact. There was a momentary glow beyond his closed eyelids. He heard a second shot, and a third, then silence.
He opened his eyes and turned to see the doorway, which had momentarily been glowing brightly, begin to dim. All of the crystals glowed and hummed, and Jack realized all they'd managed to do was give the machine the equivalent of an oil change. If anything, the slight hum of machinery was smoother.
"My efforts appear to be ineffectual." He lowered the staff weapon and took a few steps forward.
"Look, we need help. Take Carter back to the SGC. Get some help down here for the kids. Bring back Timmons before that mountain blows and someone who can figure out this contraption. Maybe Lee and Siler. And Fraiser. Tell her… tell her both Daniel and Tawyn had seizures."
"You were not affected?" Teal'c stopped a few inches away from the door. His gaze flitted over Jack before shifting to encompass Daniel.
"No, I got more of a sting from the door than that thing." Jack glanced at the nearest panel filled with the crystal rods.
"I will endeavor to return quickly." He moved to Carter and picked her up in a fireman's carry.
"I'll be here. Waiting. Not goin' anywhere."
- - - - - -
It took longer than Jack had expected. But then Teal'c's voice, filled with static, finally came through the radio.
"Help is on its way, O'Neill. Several people within the village have collapsed and the citizens were on the verge of panic. Most of the population was stunned momentarily. It is interesting to note that the ones most severely affected were associated with the church. "Tawyn's wife is on her way to you to assist. As is Niwyn."
"They're not gonna be able to do much for us on this side of the barrier. Are you on your way to the Stargate?"
"I am approaching it now."
"How's Carter doing?"
"I can see no significant changes. Hopefully DoctorFraiser will be able to aid her. I am dialing now."
"Understood." Jack felt more alone than he'd had since Daniel had ascended eighteen months ago. He checked both men once again. Neither reacted to his touch, although both had strong vital signs.
It wasn't much longer when the two women appeared in the Hall, arms laden with blankets. The leader's wife went straight for the two unconscious acolytes while Starawyn stood indecisively. She spotted Jack, and hesitantly approached him. She must have spotted Tawyn in the room beside Jack because she began to run towards them.
"Whoa, stop right there." Jack put his hands up in a warding motion. "There's a barrier between you and me, you can't come in."
Starawyn stopped just short of the door, craning her neck to try to see her husband. "I see no barrier."
"It's invisible. See? It's shimmering. And it'll hurt you if you try to cross through."
"How do you know this?" She took another step forward, threatening to walk straight through Jack.
"Okay. Toss one of those blankets to me. But step back first. Just in case," he added when Starawyn looked at him unbelievingly.
Starawyn took one step backwards.
"Farther back." He waited until she'd obeyed. "Now, the blanket."
To Jack's surprise, he got a face full of blanket. He fumbled for it, blinded for a second. And it was during that second that Starawyn disobeyed him and stepped through the doorway, only to land in a heap several feet away.
"Damn." He crushed the soft material in his hands as he waited anxiously for the stunned woman to sit up. Niwyn left the boys and hurried over to Starawyn.
"I'm not hurt." She stood up slowly and shook off Niwyn's help. She began picking up the blankets and various packets she'd dropped without looking at Jack.
"It looks like inanimate matter can come through the barrier. Would you mind tossing me another one of those blankets?"
Starawyn froze a moment, then came closer to the door, wary this time of getting too close. She tossed another blanket to Jack and then watched as Jack covered both men with them.
"How many others outside were hurt?"
"Seven were struck down and have not yet woken. With these four here, it makes eleven."
"Twelve." At her look of confusion, Jack added, "Major Carter. Teal'c took her through the Stargate to see if our people can find out what happened. And to bring back some help."
"I had not realized… Mawyn informed me my husband was ill and that he will send someone to help us... the boys will be brought to the healer and..."
"Did anyone experience seizures? Did they have a fit?" he asked when she shook her head uncomprehendingly.
"No. There was noise. And pain here." She pointed to her head. "Everyone fell, but those who do not wake are the priests and their acoloytes. Deyn and Celyn, the old one Roryn, Chroslyn, Virwyn, Liwyn and Zir as well as my husband and the two poor souls here. Do you think our god is punishing us?"
"No. No, it's nothing like that." Figuring maybe the woman would appreciate some busywork to take her mind off her husband, Jack thought quickly. "Look, can you get a couple of pillows. The ground's a little hard and I'm sure Daniel and Tawyn would appreciate whatever little comfort we can give them."
Starawyn bit her lip, obviously undecided about leaving her husband. Then she nodded. "I won't be long."
- - - - - -
Starawyn was as good as her word. And she didn't only bring pillows, she brought mattresses, more blankets and food and water.
Jack was thankful that objects could move easily through the force field. Although he doubted it was some kind of security device because someone could easily toss a bomb inside and cause as much damage as someone with a P-90. He contemplated the reasoning behind the device as he rolled the two unconscious men onto the mattresses and figured it was probably one of those things they'd never figure out.
He hated SciFi. He more or less lived it every day and it still gave him a headache. Especially when Carter wasn't around to break it down into pieces for him.
As he settled the extra blanket over Tawyn, he glanced up at Starawyn. She smiled weakly at him and Jack took extra care to make sure the man was comfortable before moving to sit beside Daniel. As much as there wasn't anything he could do for Daniel, he was glad he was on this side of the barrier and was able to at least surreptitiously wrap his fingers around Daniel's.
- - - - - -
Daniel walked on mist. His feet took him nowhere, all directions led towards the flaming light. The pressure was building once more, his vision pulsing with the ebb and tide of the growing pain. The mist at times took on the form of molasses, his legs burning with the effort to take even one step forward.
Shivering, his skin prickled with goose bumps while he wiped moisture from his brow. He was cold and hot, both at the same time. Sweat poured down his body, the mist cleansed his skin as it formed and trickled to the ground. It muffled sound - even the harshness of his breath as he strained forth was barely audible.
Despite being lost, somewhere in his mind he knew the light that followed him everywhere was a representation of the volcano on the planet. Somehow he was caught in a dream, unable to escape, unable to be rescued. The worst part was that Daniel felt there was something he should be doing. Something he vaguely recognized but couldn't quite put his finger on it. A remnant, possibly, from his time with Oma, which could explain why he couldn't exactly pinpoint what he needed to do. Then again he could be wrong. The pressure and pain were making thinking difficult.
He stopped walking and stood swaying, panting heavily. Squinting through the miasma around him, he saw that he hadn't gotten any closer to the volcano. Trying a different tactic, Daniel decided to focus his thoughts through the growing pain in his head. He closed his eyes and relaxed.
His breathing eased now that he wasn't moving. He envisaged the times he'd meditated with Teal'c. Bringing forth the image of a candle in his mind's eye, he ran through the exercises, relaxing even more.
As his mind and body became more in tune with the environment, he realized he could hear someone whispering nearby. His fingers of his right hand twitched involuntarily and a warm, gentle pressure rubbed against them gently. His first instinct was to squeeze back.
The whispering ceased. Daniel opened his eyes and saw the mist was fading. He could see the faint reflection of a volcano hovering in mid-air and a myriad of colors blurred in front of him. He blinked, and the blur resolved into a wall of long, rectangular and glowing lights.
Jack's voice was soft and hesitant. Daniel moved his head slowly, his body cumbersome and stiff. He hurt. His found Jack's face, caught his eyes for a moment. Jack looked worried. Had something happened?
"Tired." Just speaking the word was exhausting. His jaw was strangely inflexible, as if he'd spent hours in a dentist's chair with his mouth wide open.
"Then go to sleep." A finger came into view and gently stroked his jaw.
The lure to sleep was tempting, but that nagging pressure was still there. In his head. In his mind. And the vision of the volcano, the holographic one floating behind Jack along with the one still partly shrouded in mist in his head, called to him. There was something he needed to do, and he felt it had to be soon.
Fighting his exhaustion, he pulled the picture of the candle into his mind once again. But before he could continue with the meditative exercises, the ground shook violently and loudly. The room disappeared and Daniel found himself lost once again in the mist.
- - - - - -
"Daniel! No!" Elation at Daniel having woken up was brought up short as Daniel began seizing again. Jack pulled back as Daniel's knee jerked painfully against his thigh. Scrabbling off the mattress where he'd been sitting with Daniel and onto the floor, Jack glanced over at the priest. He still lay quietly, apparently undisturbed by the earthquake they'd just experienced.
Thankfully the seizure was a short one. With shaking hands, Jack resettled the blanket over Daniel.
"Is Bast punishing us?"
"No," he told Starawyn as he shuffled closer to the priest to check his vitals. "I know it must look that way to you because only those affiliated with the church are affected. But it probably has to do with this room here, and they're somehow connected to it."
"Why were you not affected? Like Daniel was. He's not a priest."
"I have no idea." And that was the 64 thousand dollar question. Why was Daniel affected worse than the others? Why hadn't Jack been knocked out – like Carter – hell, even Teal'c had been out for a few moments. Jack had been closer to whatever this thing was than those two and he'd suffered no worse effects than the majority of the villagers had.
His radio crackled and Jack was glad for the diversion. Harriman's voice came through the static.
"We're still here," Jack said, answering the hail. "At least for as long as old Betsy doesn't decide to blow."
"Colonel. What's Daniel's status?"
Jack took a deep breath and released it, getting rid of some of the tension as Fraiser's voice came through.
"He's unconscious, and he's just had another seizure. How's Carter?"
"She's awake, but a little disoriented and confused. I'm assuming there's still an energy barrier preventing you from bringing Daniel back to base?"
"Yeah. Although we've since found out that anything other than people can pass through it."
There was a moment of silence and then Hammond's voice replaced Fraiser's.
"Colonel. I'm sending Teal'c and Doctor Fraiser along with SG-11 and Captain Timmons and Doctor Lee. Do the villagers require any aid?"
Jack looked over at Starawyn, who was kneeling by the door to stay close to her husband. The Hall of Meditation was now empty except for her and a young boy assigned as a gopher.
"I think they have things under control, General, but I'm sure they'd appreciate knowing why all their priests are still unconscious. I'm afraid they might start thinking they're being punished for something they did."
"I understand. Help will be with you in a couple of minutes."
"Yeah, we'll be here."
- - - - - -
Jack stared at the huge needle he held between his gloved fingers, and the tiny blue mapping of veins on the back of Daniel's hands. "Doc, I'm not so sure I can..."
"Just follow my instructions, Colonel. Daniel needs fluids and this is the easiest way to administer the anti-seizure medication."
"Easy, my—" Jack bit off the retort and took a deep breath. With oddly steady hands, Jack inserted the IV bore as per Fraiser's instructions, feeling almost detached, as if some stranger were poking a sharp piece of metal into his lover's body. Once he'd fiddled with the tubing and Fraiser was happy with his handiwork, Jack removed his gloves, picked up the discarded alcohol wipe and slipped all the garbage into one of the gloves. He tossed everything into a corner of the box of medical supplies that Fraiser had shoved into the room.
Timmons was working closely with Lee, both of them taking turns poring over a laptop and examining the hologram through a pair of field glasses. Jack glanced at them through the shimmering doorway as he walked over to Tawyn with a glass of water. The priest was waking up out of his stupor. He was still groggy but he could be roused enough to drink.
Aware of Fraiser and Starawyn's eyes on him, Jack gently woke the priest and helped him sit and drink. He was going to draw the line in helping the guy pee, though, when the two glasses of water he'd had so far worked their way out of his system.
He'd just laid Tawyn back down when the volcano grumbled. He ignored Lee's excited yells about going outside to see what was happening while Timmons recorded the hologram, and went to crouch beside Daniel. He feared another seizure. Somehow he began to suspect that Daniel and the volcano were linked.
Even as the growing pressure within the earth rumbled and shook the land, the inner storm within Daniel's brain erupted, causing similar symptoms to the body. Fraiser yelled at him over the noise to give Daniel the medication she'd pre-measured earlier. But even as Jack reached for the syringe, Daniel's seizure stopped.
"Into the port, inject the medication into the port," Fraiser cried out. "It'll hopefully prevent him from seizing again."
Gritting his teeth, Jack picked up the syringe and injected the drug into Daniel's IV.
- - - - - -
It was too much. The pain, the exhaustion, the growing fear that he'd never find his way back to Jack, the knowledge that people were going to die if he couldn't overcome the physical discomforts of his body.
Which was ironic, when he thought about it. He knew, on some level, that all of this was in his mind. Those few seconds when he'd woken up, realized what was happening, and then had been pulled back into this virtual nightmare either meant he was going crazy, or he was caught up in some weird alien encounter. He was betting for the latter; he'd gone crazy already and he really hadn't enjoyed the experience.
He also knew this was going to be his last chance to try. The fog was still out there, lightning strikes blinded him, oddly silent in the inner storm of his mind. His imagination provided the scent of sulfur, the fog provided the dampness. He could feel the heat from the magma, feel the mounting pressure as the disturbance deep within the planet's crust began bubbling up.
Time was of the essence. He could sense, somehow, that the volcano was going to erupt any moment now. His experiences with SG-1 helped him push away the fear the knowledge brought on as he tried to focus on how to fix it.
It shouldn't have been this difficult. Had he still been ascended, he knew, somehow, that a simple thought would have triggered the device, securing the safety of the village and surrounding area. Better yet, he could have put the volcano to rest, easing the cataclysm going on deep within the bowels of the planet. It was his physical body that was preventing him from connecting with the device.
No, it was all in his head. He laughed softly; if it was in his head, then why was he hurting so much?
He changed tactics. Instead of standing, he lowered himself to the ground and sat. Okay, this was easier. He closed his eyes against the surrounding fog and focused on the twin flame of the candle/volcano. He breathed deeply, trying to disassociate himself from his discomfort.
Instead of the candles in Teal'c's room, Daniel went back to his time on Kheb. The time he'd spent alone with the monk was the closest he could remember to being ascended. He recalled the serenity of the temple, the monk's voice as he coaxed Daniel to light the flame. The pain inside his head receded, his breathing eased.
The shield's schematics suddenly imprinted in his brain. Something was happening with his body, allowing his mind to finally seize on what he'd needed. He knew, somehow, how to save these people. He knew how the device operated. And why nobody had been able to get it to work.
Just as suddenly as he'd fallen into the fog, Daniel was back in his body. He opened his eyes and caught Jack's frightened eyes gazing down at him. He glanced around, relieved to find he was still in the room with the hologram. He knew what he had to do.
First he had to stand and get to the control panel.
Daniel's mind was clear, but his body was definitely having problems.
His jaw felt like it had been fused together. He tried again. "He'p. Up." Raising a hand that felt like it weight 20 pounds, he waited for Jack to bring him to his feet.
"Daniel, there's nowhere to go. We're both trapped inside this room."
Right, the door. In his mind, Daniel threw a switch, and the force field came down.
"Safe. In." Bad enough he could barely form the words, his voice sounded weaker than a newborn kitten's.
"Door. Safe." If Jack wasn't going to help him, maybe someone else would. He forced a body that felt like it had been severely abused to stand. Or rather, he tried to stand. There was a roaring in his ears that he couldn't shake. He didn't get much farther than rolling from his side onto his back. At first he thought it was him, but he realized everything was shaking.
Be't'soa was blowing her top.
"He says the door's safe to come through. Teal'c, wait, don't—"
"Up," Daniel grated out through clenched teeth, thankful his voice seemed slightly stronger.
"I believe DanielJackson wishes to leave. We may still have time to reach the Stargate."
"No. Fix..." He waved a hand towards the control panel. He couldn't do it from here. He needed to physically touch the control panel for what needed to be done. "Hur-ry." His hold on the knowledge was becoming tenuous, the strain of holding the visions in his head despite the meditative trance he'd put himself in were warring with the physical demands of his body.
He felt hands under his arms pull him onto his feet. His weight taken and held. He didn't have the strength to raise his head but he could see the floor move as he was half dragged, half carried to the control panel.
Daniel strained an arm forward, without success. "Touch."
The hold changed, his body weight shifted and he was leaning forward. His hands were placed on the clear plastic of the table and the coolness sent a shiver through the burning heat of the volcano which felt as if it were coursing through him.
"Need... t'stay... contact... whi'... pa-nel."
Without knowing where the knowledge actually came from, Daniel mentally tripped the device just as the pyroclastic flow roared down the mountain's side minutes ahead of the lava.
Daniel held the force field over several kilometers, body and mind straining with the effort. He felt the heat of the cloud hit and the shock would have sent him to his knees if Jack and Teal'c weren't already holding him up. He clenched his teeth and dug his mental feet in, realizing belatedly that this was a two- or three-man job.
A part of his mind acknowledged the skeletons that they'd found in this room. These people had succeeded in saving the village 700 years ago, but they had failed to survive the strain as the device had surged.
There was no way Daniel was going to die again. He had an advantage. He'd died and ascended – the knowledge he'd gained, even though the other Ancients had been blocked it, was still there, inside of him. And he'd fight to keep these folks safe until he had nothing left to fight with.
He steeled himself as the Be't'soa surged again, sending down thick, molten rock towards him. He had to calibrate the controls so they'd continue protecting the area before his body gave out.
- - - - - -
Whatever Daniel was doing, it was working. Concentrating on keeping Daniel connected to the panel, Jack half-listened to the radio chatter. Timmons was confirming that the volcano had erupted and that something was keeping a cloud full of superheated gas, ash and rock from engulfing the village. He'd worry about the lava when it got here. Right now, Daniel was a dead weight and Jack wasn't even sure he was conscious.
Jack felt tremors coursing through Daniel. For a moment he thought it was another seizure. But when the trembling didn't worsen, he realized Daniel was undergoing some sort of extreme physical reaction from the device.
They'd managed to get Daniel to the control panel without dislodging the IV. Fraiser had just finished taking Daniel's pressure.
"Sir, whatever he's doing, he needs to stop. His pulse is racing and his breathing's labored. His pressure's through the roof and he's working his way to either a stroke or heart attack."
"Doc, we have to let him finish this—"
"It's going to kill him."
"If we don't let Daniel finish, that volcano out there will kill us all," Lee said, surprising Jack. He'd forgotten the scientist was in the room with them. "I've never seen anything like this. It's a mixture of Ancient and Goa'uld technology, but I have no idea how it works. There's no controls anywhere that I can see. I have no idea how Daniel's working the thing."
"He's right," Jack told Fraiser. "Daniel's the only one right now keeping this thing going. We can't stop it. We don't know what'll happen."
"We don't have a choice, doc." Jack closed his eyes, knowing he may well be sacrificing the man he loved in order to save themselves, and the people they'd come to help.
"And if Daniel dies in the next couple of minutes, this whole discussion is moot."
"I know." Jack tightened his grip as Daniel began to gasp for air, his body shaking as his lungs labored to gather oxygen. Feeling Daniel's ribcage straining as he held him close against him, Jack turned to Fraiser, highly aware that they were all helpless to do anything for Daniel. Moving quickly, she brought a portable oxygen tank and mask and slipped it over Daniel's mouth.
The oxygen appeared to help; the straining eased but the trembling continued to worsen. Glancing at the hologram, Jack realized that the lava was engulfing the village. He could see the angry-looking red streaks on the hologram spread around the small dot that was the village.
Daniel's arms had moved with his struggles, his hands were sliding off the control panel. Jack shifted his weight and reached out to hold Daniel's palms flat against the plastic. In doing so, his fingers touched the cool edges of the table as well as Daniel's chilled digits.
"We need to end this now! He's seizing."
Jack felt a small burst of static electricity flow through his hands, up his arms and into his head. Double vision filled him – he could see the room and the hologram. A misty scenario overlay the smoking volcano off in the background and dozens of energy balls which he took to be the crystals powering the device. It was like a web of energy, linked and extended around them. Jack could even see how they extended for kilometers, protecting not only the people and their homes, but the surrounding fields and countryside.
And over all of this was Daniel's essence. Daniel's strength. Daniel's determination to hold the energy web together.
He shivered slightly; this was all too eerily reminiscent of the time just before Daniel had ascended. Somehow the device had pulled them into some sort of virtual world, linking them on a level beyond the physical.
For a moment, Jack understood exactly what Daniel was doing. The crystal rods each keyed into a portion of the energy barrier; Daniel was weaving their energy signatures together so they all worked in tandem with one another, while at the same time he was trying to keep the shield working at full force. Jack sensed that Daniel had sent the shield farther than its original design, but the manner in which he'd linked the crystals created an energy-efficient design which would run on less power than the original setup.
Jack could feel the strain Daniel was under, how he was barely maintaining control over every nuance of power, every woven energy beam, holding everything in place to prevent the deadly atmosphere outside from filtering in.
In a split second, Jack knew he would never have been able to do what Daniel was doing, knew there was no way he could help take some of the unyielding pressure off Daniel. He had only one other option. Working purely out of instinct, Jack reached out and enveloped Daniel with his essence, giving of himself where parts of Daniel were unraveling and failing.
Daniel's surprise and then appreciative mental sigh filled Jack with a sense of smugness. He'd managed to amaze his lover in one swoop. Sensing that Daniel was bringing everything in for a final push, Jack mentally locked his knees and held on tight.
The thrum of energy inside the room changed, the pitch rising in frequency and loudness. The crystals blinked individually for several seconds, looking a lot like Christmas tree lights, and for a moment Jack thought they were going to disconnect. Then Daniel brought everything together, releasing the energy he'd meshed and had held in tight control, fusing it together with willpower more than anything else.
Everything fell into place. The whole immediate area was now shielded and Jack could sense its solidity. The thrumming eased, leaving a quiet purring as background noise as Daniel pulled away from the energy crystals.
Daniel's mental signature began to fade even as his body trembled violently in Jack's grip. Pushing forward, Jack tried to grab onto Daniel. He felt Daniel try to mentally hold on, but he'd given everything he had to the shield. Jack felt Daniel's love for him as his lover's mind disappeared from his consciousness.
"Down, put him down now!"
Fraiser's cry pulled Jack away from the inner image of Daniel dying, and threw him back into the physical here and now. Fraiser whipped off the oxygen mask even as Jack and Teal'c lay Daniel down. She felt for a pulse, straightened his body and began rescue breathing.
With the connection gone, Jack could only see and hear with his normal senses. And they all told him Daniel was dying. Slightly disoriented, he held onto Daniel's arm, his body shaking with reaction.
After several long seconds, Daniel gasped weakly.
"We need to get him to the infirmary now. No arguments," Fraiser ordered as she replaced the oxygen mask.
Without a word, Jack helped lift Daniel so that Teal'c could get him over one shoulder. He grabbed his radio. "Colonel Edwards. We have a medical emergency and we're heading for the 'gate."
"Roger that. We'll have the 'gate dialed and ready to go by the time you get here."
"What's the status of the village?"
Moving at a fast jog, the trio hurried through the Hall of Meditation and out of the church.
"Whatever you guys are doing, it's working. The lava's being diverted away from the village and surrounding areas."
They hurried outside and for a moment Jack thought that night had descended. Then he realized that the dust cloud spewing from the volcano had blocked the sun. The glow of lava as it surrounded the old lava wall just beyond the shield's edge gave off an eerie illumination.
The whole village, it seemed, had stepped outside, everyone looking around in wonder. There was fear on some faces, wonderment on many. Even as they hurried past the people, Mawyn came running up to them.
"You've done it. You've saved the village."
"Not me. This is all Daniel's doing," Jack answered shortly.
"Then Bast has blessed us by sending you to us," Mawyn huffed, out of breath. "We will be sure to offer prayers on your behalf. Or rather, we will as soon as our clergy have recovered enough to do so."
"Yeah, look, can we talk about this a little later?" Jack could see the blue glow of the puddle just around the corner.
"You will return? We must celebrate—"
"Yeah, yeah, we'll be back. Look, I gotta go." Jack put on a burst of speed, hurrying away from the leader and running towards the Stargate.
"You're good to go," Edwards said, standing next to the DHD.
Jack paused just short of the wormhole and turned to Edwards as Teal'c hurried on without pausing, disappearing into the wormhole, Fraiser two steps behind him. "The shield should hold. Daniel... I'm pretty confident but it wouldn't hurt to bring the people closer to the Stargate, just in case it..."
"We have a planetary designation for just this occurrence, Colonel. Are Lee and Timmons still in the church?"
"I'll start with them. Don't worry, I've got this covered."
Jack nodded then turned and ran through the wormhole.
- - - - - -
The heat from the coffee cup Jack held cradled in his hands was welcome. He was chilled, the cold lethargy enveloping him both physically and mentally. He stared morosely into the depths of the dark liquid, contemplating Frasier's words as she delivered her diagnosis to General Hammond.
"… Signs of total exhaustion. I'm hoping by the time Daniel's body recovers in a day or two, he'll start coming out of the coma."
"What about brain damage?" Hammond asked.
Jack could feel everyone's eyes on him, particularly the general's, but he kept his eyes glued to the coffee. He wondered why he'd even poured it. He hadn't put any cream or sugar in it; he liked it just the way Daniel did: one cream, two sugars. He hated drinking it naked.
"It's too early to tell, sir. The seizures could very likely have caused some damage, considering they were more severe than what the priest experienced. Honestly, I won't know until he wakes up."
"The seizures didn't cause any damage," Jack mumbled, letting his right thumb dangle into the wet warmth of the coffee. Why was he so tired? "He just overextended himself setting up the shield."
"Colonel, are you sure you weren't hallucinating?" Fraiser's words were soft, reminding Jack they'd gone over all of this earlier in the infirmary. He recalled she'd been gentle then as well, whereas Jack had totally lost it. That argument had drained the last of his energy and he realized he'd been going on adrenaline up until then. At this point in time, all he wanted was to lie down somewhere private and take Daniel in his arms and let the world just revolve around them until Daniel woke up.
"No. I'm sure of what I felt. Daniel was fine."
"Sir…" Fraiser's voice became firmer. "What you're describing is impossible. There's no way Daniel could have been conscious after experiencing several grand mal seizures. There's always a recovery period afterwards… his brain would be physically unable to function the way it normally does."
"That's the whole point, isn't it? Daniel's brain wasn't functioning the way it normally does." Jack refrained from reminding them all that his own brain hadn't been working the way nature had intended to either. His outburst seemed to have sapped more energy from him.
"Daniel was unconscious for most of the... incident. In my personal opinion, he was seizing even then."
Jack opened his mouth to argue, but shut it with a snap. He knew what he'd felt; he was just too tired to explain it.
"Colonel, why didn't anyone else experience this?"
Jack simply shook his head wearily.
"Maybe it's the colonel's DNA."
Jack blinked and looked up at Carter, his brain not making the connection. He resented how perky and energetic she appeared compared to the last image he'd seen of Daniel, lying in the infirmary bed, barely breathing on his own.
"Both Teal'c and you were holding onto Daniel, right? Both of you touched the control panel?"
"No, I don't think Teal'c—"
"I did indeed come into contact with the control panel. It was necessary to maintain DanielJackson's physical contact with it."
Jack closed his eyes, remembering how hard Daniel had been shaking near the end. Not quite as bad as when he'd been convulsing but enough to lose his grip of the tabletop. Jack didn't remember doing more than placing his hands over Daniel's. Everything had happened too fast. If Daniel's hands had slipped past his own, Teal'c could have copied Jack's movement and held him flat against the plastic.
"I did not experience anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps MajorCarter is right. This would be the second time you spoke with DanielJackson in a plane other than the physical, would it not?"
"Third," Jack muttered as he lowered his gaze back to the cooling coffee. "But who's counting?"
"Perhaps as MajorCarter has said, it was the combination of your own original physical makeup as well as DanielJackson's experience as an Ascended being. We know he has not lost all his memories of that year; Rya'c and Bra'tac live thanks to his recollections."
"What about the other people on the planet who were also affected by this device?"
"Everyone has fully recovered, as well as Major Carter. Even the priest who'd been with Daniel is up and about. Whatever that device did to them, it seemed to have concentrated its effects on Daniel."
"And the shield is holding up?"
"As far as we can tell, yes, it is." Lee finally spoke up, shuffling nervously through several sheets of paper on the table before him. "Whatever Daniel did, it looks like not only is the village and several kilometers of land around it protected from the volcano's damage, but it's somehow allowing the sunlight to filter through. The land outside the shield will experience an early winter; crops will die until the ash filters its way through the atmosphere. If the power holds up the way it is now, these people and their land have nothing to worry about."
"And what about the technology? Will you be able to get anything from all of this?"
"There's a problem, sir."
Jack knew what Carter was going to say even before she spoke the words. The technology was too complicated to retro-engineer. It was the Ancients' part of it that had made it possible for Daniel to access it, as well as for Jack to give him support while he finished the job. He doubted even the Asgard could take it apart and put it back together, at least not for a couple of hundred more years. Or maybe even thousands.
He blocked out Carter's words and leaned his head back against the chair.
Opening his eyes, Jack realized the briefing was over. Everyone was standing and staring at him; Fraiser was leaning over him.
"Are you all right?"
He should have been embarrassed. Instead he pushed his chair back and stood, only to be struck by a wave of dizziness that forced him to lean forward and hold onto the table for support.
"Okay, I'm a little tir- dizzy," he quickly amended at Fraiser's arched brow.
"Infirmary, now." She pushed the chair towards him. "I'll call for a wheelchair."
"No, I'm okay." The dizziness was easing somewhat. "I just stood too fast." To prove he was better, he let go of the table and straightened slowly. He felt sweat break out but he was determined not to show weakness.
"Fine, you can walk to the infirmary, but if you fall on your ass, I'm calling for that chair."
Not bothering to argue, Jack walked slowly out of the briefing room. The infirmary was his goal, in any case. Giving Hammond a tight grimace as he passed him, Jack headed for the elevator, followed closely by Fraiser.
"How long have you felt this way?"
"What way?" Jack leaned against the wall as they waited for elevator, trying to make it look nonchalant about it and that he actually didn't really need the support.
"Like you're going to fall flat on your face any second."
"I'm just a little tired." He weighed the odds about lying to Fraiser, and decided to go for the truth. "I guess, maybe, that device took a little more out of me than I thought."
"I thought you said it didn't knock you out like it did the others."
"It didn't. I meant when I tried to help Daniel just before he collapsed."
"When you what?"
The elevator doors opened and Jack pushed off the wall and shuffled inside. Fraiser took several sharp steps to stand beside him. She swiped her access card through the reader and punched 21.
"He couldn't hold everything together and do what he needed to do so I..." Damn, this was going to sound so out there. "... gave him some of myself."
Fraiser didn't say a word but continued to stare at him.
"Look, I tried to explain it to you before... it was just such a surreal thing. I knew what Daniel was doing just like when I had the Ancients' repository downloaded into my brain. I can't explain it. I wouldn't even know where to start. I knew Daniel was in trouble and so I reached out and helped him. I guess it just wasn't... enough."
The elevators doors opened and Jack staggered out. He could hear Fraiser following and he was pretty sure she was mentally running a battery of tests to perform on him. He went straight to the critical care section where Daniel was, and entered the room. Fraiser caught the door before it could close and stood in the entrance.
"Ten minutes, Colonel. Then your ass is mine." Fraiser stared at Jack until he nodded, her gaze sweeping over Daniel before leaving the two of them alone.
Jack pulled a chair away from the wall and rolled it close to the bed. He sat and leaned his forearms onto the mattress so that he was close to Daniel.
"Hey, it's me," he said softly. He listened carefully to the faint sound of Daniel's breathing, barely audible over the extremely slow beat of the heart monitor. Maybe it was his imagination, but his breathing seemed a little stronger. Fraiser had been worried about his oxygen levels and had said that intubation was a possibility. They'd returned four hours ago; maybe Daniel was starting to get stronger.
He reached for Daniel's hand and held it between his own. Careful of the IV, he rubbed small circles in the area around Daniel's thumb. Knowing it was ridiculous, he wished that his touch would be what would bring Daniel back to him and he pushed aside the memory of Fraiser pressing her knuckles into Daniel's breastbone to get any kind of reaction from him.
Weary beyond belief, Jack lowered his head so his forehead was lying on the mattress, still not letting go of Daniel's hand. He closed his eyes, feeling his exhaustion swoop down on him.
The next thing he knew, someone was shaking him and pulling him upright.
"Come on, Colonel. Let's get you to bed."
Jack blinked blearily, not sure where he was. Then he saw Daniel lying in the bed. He looked at the hand he still had captured in his. Fraiser's smaller hands gently disentangled his fingers from Daniel's and placed Daniel's hand on the bed. "Come get some sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up."
"I can't... Daniel."
"You're no good to him in this condition, sir. You admitted it yourself; you tired yourself out helping him. Now you have to help yourself before you can help him again."
He walked blindly through the infirmary, collapsed onto a bed and the last thing he knew was someone loosening his pants and taking off his boots.
- - - - - -
It was the need to pee that finally got him to leave the warm, comfortable sanctuary of his bed. Jack sat up, his whole body stiff and sore and he stumbled, still half-asleep, towards the bathroom. He waved off an approaching nurse. Through the sleep-fog that still enveloped him, he realized he'd already made this trek a couple of times, actually having needed someone's help to guide him and make it there and back to his bed.
As he peed, he had vague images of waking up just enough to eat a few bites, drink some water, go to the bathroom along with an overpowering need to sleep. As he washed his hands, he wondered when he'd gotten into a pair of scrubs. He didn't even remember going to bed in the first place. His memory was vague; he recalled being extremely tired and reluctant to attend a briefing because he'd wanted to stay with Daniel.
He left the bathroom, feeling the rumble of hunger pangs. He tottered on stiff legs back to the bed, only to find Fraiser waiting for him with a smile on her face.
"I see we're a little more alert this morning. How are you feeling?"
"I'm awake. How's Daniel."
"His vitals are much stronger..."
"But?" Jack asked when Fraiser hesitated.
"He's still in a coma. There's been no change." She pursed her lips together. "I'm sorry."
Jack remained standing beside the bed and stretched slowly. "Can I see him?"
She nodded "Once you've had something to eat and showered. Now, tell me how you feel."
"A little tired, but I don't think I want to change my name to Rip Van Winkle just yet. How long was I asleep?"
"Two and a half days, give or take a few hours."
Jack began to smile, thinking Fraiser was pulling his leg. But her expression turned serious and Jack realized that could account for the stiffness of body and fuzziness of head.
"Are you hungry?"
His stomach rumbled. "I could eat," he replied as he sat on the bed and yawned.
"Good. I'll have something brought up."
Jack yawned again.
"How about trying to stay awake long enough to eat your meal this time?" She smiled and Jack had vague recollections of someone waking him up while sticking bacon and eggs under his nose. The overpowering need to sleep was gone but he knew if he closed his eyes, he would probably drift off.
- - - - - -
Food, shower and a shave had finally chased away the last of the fog in Jack's head. The stiffness was fading as he walked although he still found himself yawning uncontrollably.
He stopped by the door to the critical care section, listening to Carter's voice as it ebbed and flowed softly. He pushed the door open and watched as, seated beside the bed, she spoke slowly to Daniel.
The oxygen mask was gone, replaced by a nasogastric tube to give him nourishment. The heart monitor was still connected but the blips appeared to be oscillating at a normal rate as opposed to the extremely slow heartbeat Daniel had had when they'd brought him home.
All in all, if not for the medical paraphernalia connected to Daniel, he looked like he was sleeping peacefully. Jack tried not to be too worried; if he'd slept all this time, then maybe the coma was Daniel's way of recovering.
He must have made some noise because Carter looked up, startled.
"Colonel. I'm glad to see you're awake." She smiled at him and looked down at Daniel's hand, lying lax and nestled between her own smaller ones. "Janet said we should try and talk to him." She looked a little self-conscious as Jack entered all the way into the room. She put Daniel's hand onto the mattress and rubbed her palms on her thighs as she stood.
"Yeah, I heard that sometimes they can hear us."
"I'll, uh, I'll leave you two alone."
"Don't run on my account."
"No, I was just taking a break – I need to get back and join Doctor Lee in writing up our report on the…"
"Did you figure that thing out?"
"No. Even if we disconnected it and took it apart, the technology is too far advanced. I can't even begin to figure out how Daniel made it work."
"Telepathy. Mind over matter. That Ascension-thing he's forgotten."
"Then I guess that would explain it," she answered, smiling. "I guess I'd need to ascend in order to learn Ancient 101."
"Ack, don't even go there." Jack smiled back at her. "One of you guys going that particular route is more than enough."
She stared down at Daniel a moment, her face suddenly serious. Jack wondered if she was remembering the last time Daniel had lain in this room, covered from head to foot in bandages.
"I, um… if you need anything, sir—"
"I'm good, but thanks."
Taking her vacated seat, he waited until she left the room before he took Daniel's hand in his.
"Hey, it's me," he said softly, settling himself in the chair for a long wait.
- - - - - -
"You're moving him where?"
Jack took two angry steps towards Fraiser before he realized he'd done so. To her credit, she stood her ground and stared right back at him.
"I'm having Daniel moved to the Academy Hospital. You know we're just not equipped for long-term care and Daniel will be better off there in the long run."
"Long run? I thought you said he was getting better?"
"He is, physically, his body is recovering from whatever drained him so badly. But he's still in a coma and hasn't made any significant improvements in the past three days."
"Give him time. He just needs to recover some more."
"Sir, I understand. And that's why the Academy Hospital is the best place for him," she repeated.
Fraiser's gentle tone stopped Jack a moment, making him think. Jack was still recovering; Fraiser had only released him a few hours ago because he'd still a tendency to fall asleep at odd moments. But he was going home today. And it had been easy, so easy, to have Daniel just a couple of rooms away. Carter and Teal'c had been spending time with Daniel whenever they could. Ferretti, Lee, Siler, Hammond and several others had stopped in a couple times over the past days.
Jack realized he was afraid that if the moved Daniel to the hospital, nobody would care enough to stop by and visit. But then Jack realized the longer Daniel stayed unconscious, the less interest people would have to come and spend time. Talking to a sleeping person wasn't exactly the most entertaining way to spend an hour.
"General, I'd like to take some time off."
"I've put you on sick leave for a week, Colonel."
He nodded at Fraiser.
"I may need to take a week after that."
"Let me know if you need it, son."
"Thanks. I will." He turned to leave Hammond's office.
Jack stopped and looked back at Fraiser.
"I know you'll want to spend time with Daniel, but you also need to get some rest. He'll be moved to the Hospital this afternoon. Go home, get settled, get some rest, and go see him in the morning."
Jack sighed, then nodded acquiescence.
"I can send Cassie over to help you if you need groceries..."
"I think I can manage. But thanks."
- - - - - -
Jack slowly entered the sunlight-dappled hospital room and looked around. The brightness contrasted immensely with the underground infirmary; walls that weren't cement-hued and the morning sunshine made it seem more relaxing and inviting. Even the chairs looked comfortable, and Jack immediately pulled one up close to the bed.
"Wow, you should see this place," Jack said with wonder as he grabbed the edge of the privacy curtain and pulled it partway past the bed so that the room's occupants were hidden from a random glance through the door's window.
"The sky's bright blue and if you turn your head just a little, you could see right out the window." Jack leaned close to the head of the bed, speaking softly. For the first time since they'd brought Daniel back, Jack was alone with him and he was going to take advantage of the fact. Bringing his hand to cup Daniel's freshly-shaven cheek, Jack turned Daniel's head so it was facing the window.
"Now, you just need to open your eyes and look."
To his surprise, Daniel opened his eyes. His gaze was unfocused as he stared towards the window. Jack's heart began to pound in his chest as Daniel's eyes closed again after a moment, but Jack was certain he'd heard his words. He smiled as his heartbeat slowed, some of the fear gripping his soul eased slightly. Daniel was going to wake up, of that he was certain. Jack had sensed what Daniel had gone through and he knew Daniel was just biding his time until he was recovered enough to wake up.
Leaning down, he planted a kiss on Daniel's exposed temple before rubbing his fingers against Daniel's cheek.
"I love ya," he whispered against Daniel's ear, "and missed ya last night."
Daniel mumbled something unintelligible and moved his head so that his temple was again beneath Jack's lips. His mouth puckered, as if he was waiting for a kiss. Jack jumped when Daniel's leg jerked. Daniel made a few more sounds and Jack stroked his cheek, hoping to calm him before he shifted. Mindful of the nasogastric tube running into Daniel's nostril, he gave Daniel a gentle kiss on the lips. Daniel sighed and made a few more awkward movements with his arms and legs before quieting again.
Straightening, Jack pulled the privacy curtain back and sat down in the chair, rubbing his fingers over his mouth. He'd seen Daniel make the odd movement or sound, most of them occurring whenever Fraiser or attending physician would re-evaluate him. Daniel had opened his eyes and had tried to move his arm when Warner had pinched his skin. But apparently that was a common reaction to pain for someone in the level of coma Daniel was in.
But what had just transpired had to be more than coincidence, hadn't it? He was afraid to try again, afraid that this was either a coincidence or a one-time occurrence.
"I was gonna bring a book and read to ya like Carter does, but I'm afraid I'd put myself to sleep. I guess you'll have to listen to me yammering on about nothing."
- - - - - -
Daniel floated in his mist-enshrouded world, listening to Jack's voice. The words glided over him; it was the tone and inflection that he paid attention to, leaving him with a feeling of security and love. His struggle to overcome the layers of fog between him and Jack had exhausted him but he was satisfied he'd torn the first one down.
This sanctuary he'd fled to when the pain of nearly burning himself out with the shield had also become his prison. At first he'd stayed here, not venturing out, afraid of getting hurt again, but as his body slowly healed, he became more and more cognizant of the outside world.
He wanted out now, but his body wasn't quite ready. But as long as Jack was willing to wait for him, Daniel would continue to fight to return to him.
- - - - - -
Jack hated being forced home to nap, but he had to admit that he felt better after sleeping for three hours. He just hoped he recovered from this sleeping thing fast because it was going to cost him a fortune in cab fare.
He entered Daniel's room only to find a therapist working with him. The privacy curtain was pulled partway closed and Jack poked his head around the corner.
"Hi, I hope I'm not interrupting."
No, not at all. I'm nearly done." The man smiled at Jack over his shoulder as he covered Daniel's legs with a blanket and moved to pick up Daniel's arm. He slowly moved the limb in a range of motion. Jack backed up and leaned a shoulder against the wall, watching.
The man moved on to Daniel's hand, grasping his wrist to stretch out his fingers. But Daniel gave a small gasp and pulled his hand away from the therapist's grasp, letting his hand fall heavily onto the bed.
"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" The therapist grasped the hand again and turned it over, exposing a livid bruise on Daniel's forearm. "Okay, sorry chum, I missed that one. That had to hurt." He began kneading Daniel's fingers again. "I'll be careful, okay?"
Daniel mumbled something and moved restlessly.
"Yeah, I know, you're a bundle of bruises. Not making my job any easier, you know," he said in a teasing voice. "Okay, we're done here." He put Daniel's arm back down and nodded at Jack as he pushed back the privacy curtain. "You've got a visitor, by the way. I'll see you tomorrow."
Jack waited till he was alone before tugging the privacy curtain again to hide him from prying eyes. "Hey, Danny." He leaned over and kissed Daniel's cheek, then stayed in that position, waiting expectantly.
Daniel smacked his lips, moaned and turned his head. He opened his eyes and for a second Jack swore he actually focused on him. Daniel's lips turned up slightly and he smacked them together before puckering them again. Laughing softly, Jack complied with the silent request.
Daniel's lips were slack beneath his but he took his time, ignoring the stench of sour breath. "I hope you really know it's me in that noggin' of yours, 'cause Teal'c and Carter are so not gonna appreciate you asking them for a kiss," he said against Daniel's mouth.
He straightened and gently stroked Daniel's cheek with his thumb before sighing loudly when he didn't get another response. Daniel's eyes were closed and he lay quietly again.
- - - - - -
"Hi, Daniel. Colonel."
Jack opened one eye and saw Carter and Teal'c standing over Daniel's bed. Annoyed at getting caught napping and woken up from his impromptu snooze, Jack lowered the chair's legs to the floor and cleared his throat.
Carter smiled at Jack, seemingly willing to overlook the fact that she suspected he'd spent the whole morning at the hospital with Daniel despite Fraiser's orders that he stay no longer than a few hours a day. He'd cheated and had spent the last three days of his sick leave so far here, naps and all.
"I believed you had sufficiently recovered," Teal'c said to Jack, obviously not so willing to overlook Jack's disregard of Fraiser's directives.
"I am. I was just resting my eyes." He stretched his neck to the side, trying to work out a kink.
"Resting does not usually include snoring."
Carter giggled at Teal'c's statement and Jack sent her a scathing look, which she ignored as she continued smiling while walking around the bed. She stopped and gasped, a look of surprise on her face. "Sir – Daniel."
Jack quickly glanced down at the bed and wasn't surprised to see Daniel watching him. Jack couldn't help smiling as he leaned forward to take Daniel's hand. "Hey, there."
Daniel continued to track Jack's movements with his eyes, seeming oblivious of the others in the room. But as Carter continued to round the bed, he caught her movement as he turned his head slightly to look at her.
"Daniel." Carter's voice wavered slightly. "Can you hear me?"
There was no reaction except a slight frown.
"It is possible he hears you but is unable to process your words as yet." Teal'c moved so that he was in Daniel's line of sight, causing Daniel to shift his eyes to look at him also.
"Sir, should we get the doctor?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Jack reached for the call button hanging near Daniel's bed. "But he usually doesn't stay aware long enough for the nurses or doctors to do anything by the time they get here."
"You mean this isn't the first time he's woken up?"
"DanielJackson is not yet awake, MajorCarter. He is still in a coma, but is slowly emerging from it."
"Didja hear Teal'c, Daniel?" Jack teased when Daniel continued to track the person speaking. He deliberately slowed his speech, giving Daniel a chance to understand his words. "When did you get to be such an expert?"
"I asked DoctorFraiser and she explained what we may expect in DanielJackson's recovery."
Jack raised his eyebrows at Teal'c, impressed. He'd spoken to some of the medical personnel and they had told him the same thing.
"And yes, Carter, Daniel's been showing signs of waking up, although I admit this is the first time he's been aware for so long." He smiled at Daniel and his smile widened when Daniel smiled back at him. He just hoped Daniel didn't ask for a kiss, and he pressed his lips together in mirth at the thought of Carter's face if that scenario played out.
Daniel scrunched his face and began to wrinkle his nose. He tugged the hand that Jack was holding, nearly pulling it from Jack's grasp. Startled, he looked at his hand, then at Jack, apparently processing what was going on. Then before anyone could stop him, with his other hand, he reached for the nasogastric tube and began pulling.
"No, don't." Jack made a grab for the hand, but not before Daniel had gotten a good grasp on the tube and began to tug, dislodging the tape holding the tube affixed to his nostril and pulling it out several inches. With his jaw set, Daniel yanked harder against Jack's grip and seeing the damage was already done, Jack allowed him to pull the tube the rest of the way.
"They're just gonna stick that right back in," Jack said as Daniel let go of the tube and awkwardly swiped at his nose with the back of his hand. Then seeming satisfied, he sighed and closed his eyes just as a nurse entered the room.
Jack picked up the tube with two fingers, displaying what Daniel had done.
"Getting a little feisty, is he?" she replied with a smile as she picked up the discarded tubing. "I'll inform Doctor Chung and I'll be back with another NG tube." Leaning over Daniel and called his name. When he didn't react, she called again, this time more loudly. "Daniel, can you hear me?" They all watched expectantly but Daniel didn't move. She reached for his hand and pinched the webbing between his fingers.
"Don't." Daniel pushed her hand away but didn't open his eyes.
"Daniel, can you show me two fingers?"
She made a notation on his chart when Daniel didn't react to her request. The happy mood in the room remained, though. Daniel might have slipped back into himself, but the hope remained.
- - - - - -
Daniel could hear them talking, their voices coming to him, muffled, as if from behind a wall. Still, he'd pulled down one more layer of fog between him and Jack, although the effort had exhausted him. He struggled to go back to them but he was too weak. He'd need to rest and try again when he could.
- - - - - -
Jack stopped in the hallway and turned to face Doctor Chung, who was hurrying after him. Immediately Jack's heart skipped a beat and he felt his pulse begin to race.
"Doctor Jackson is fine," Chung said as he fell into step beside Jack. "I just wanted to warn you that he's been agitated all morning."
Jack glanced at his watch. It was just past noon. He'd had an appointment with Fraiser at the mountain this morning and hadn't been able to get to the hospital until now. The good news was, she'd cleared him for driving; the bad news was, she'd heard he'd been spending his days at the hospital and had threatened to restrict his visits if he didn't go home and rest.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get here earlier. Is he okay?"
"Yes, yes. He's been semi-awake most of the time. I suspect he's been waiting for you to arrive. He's managed to pull both his IV and the NG tube out again. If he calms down at your arrival, we'll try to see if he'll be able to eat. Otherwise we'll have to restrain him in order to keep the tube and IV in."
"Is that really necessary?"
"Ordinarily, no. But until he wakes up enough to know not to pull out what's needed to keep him alive, we may have to for a couple of days."
"He's not going to like that."
Jack stopped in the doorway to Daniel's room and watched as Daniel moved restlessly in the bed. The blankets were askew, the sheet hanging half off the bed. The nurses were efficient and attentive so Jack could see the degree of restlessness Daniel was under.
"Hey, you trying to give everyone a hard time today?"
Daniel stilled upon hearing Jack's voice, then to everyone's surprise, managed to turn onto his side so that he was looking at Jack.
Doctor Chung followed Jack in and went to Daniel, who followed both of them with his eyes. "Doctor Jackson, I'm not sure you remember me. I'm Doctor Chung. I'd like to ask you a few questions."
Daniel glanced at Jack, a frown on his face.
"Doctor Jackson, do you know where you are?"
Daniel looked around, as if suddenly realizing he wasn't in his home. But he didn't speak and his attention returned to Jack. Jack felt happiness begin to bubble through him. This was the most awareness Daniel had shown yet.
"Can you tell me what month it is?"
The frown deepened as he looked at the doctor. "Uh... green?"
"Can you raise your right hand?"
Daniel blinked, then slowly obeyed. Doctor Chung grasped Daniel's hand and squeezed it before putting it back down. "Very good." He smiled at both Jack and Daniel. "There's quite a marked improvement since yesterday. I'm very pleased. I'll have a nurse come in with some food; we'll see if you can eat."
Jack pulled the chair closer, aware of Daniel's constant gaze on him. He picked up the hand that Chung had just put down. "Hey, look at you," Jack exclaimed in a happy voice.
The hand he was holding was pulled out of his grasp. Daniel flexed his wrist and buried his fingers underneath his chin, a move that very pointedly said Jack shouldn't touch him. Daniel's jaw hardened and his eyes, which had looked at him with a slight anxious cast earlier, narrowed into a glare.
"You're angry at me," Jack said with a grin. He tried to school his features, not wanting to have Daniel think he was making fun of him.
Daniel kept glaring so Jack leaned forward, placing a hand near Daniel's, not quite touching as it was obvious Daniel didn't want the intimacy.
"I know, it's just dumb luck I had an appointment to see Fraiser today, just when you decide to start waking up. I'd have been here a lot sooner otherwise. But you know how it is – Fraiser was busy so I had to wait." He wasn't about to mention that one member of SG-13 had died and two were critically injured. "Then Hammond found out I was still there and wanted to see me. Then a few folks wanted to know how you were doing. Siler, Lou, Lee, half your department – they were all waiting for me when I got out of the General's office. So it took a while for me to tell them how much better you were."
Jack wasn't sure if Daniel understood him, but after a moment, the glare faded and Daniel's fingers inched out and touched Jack's hand. Waiting until Daniel looked at him again, Jack brought two fingers to his lips and held them there a moment, then brought the kissed fingers to Daniel's lips. He was rewarded with a slight smile.
"Sweater?" Daniel asked as a nurse entered the room.
"What? Are you cold?"
"Okay, either you've just insulted me or your brains are more scrambled than we suspected." Jack kept his voice light. The doctors had told Jack that Daniel might be a little disoriented when he woke, and that his speech might be confused. He didn't like what he was hearing but at least Daniel was making an effort at communicating.
"Don't listen to him, Doctor Jackson." The nurse placed a bowl of applesauce on the rollaway table and pushed it closer to the bed. "Colonel O'Neill's just jealous that you're getting a treat." She smiled at Daniel as she reached for the bed's controls. "I'm just going to raise your bed a little and let's see if you can swallow some of this, okay?"
She helped make Daniel comfortable on his back before sitting on the bed beside him. Slowly she spooned a bit of sauce into Daniel's mouth and Jack blinked back tears when he saw Daniel slowly move his tongue around, lick his lower lip to grab a bit of sauce that had remained there, and swallow. Daniel smiled.
"Yes, I know, it's pretty good, isn't it? Let's see if you can eat some more."
Jack released his breath as Daniel opened his mouth in anticipation of the food. Before long, the nurse scraped the bowl and gave Daniel the last of the applesauce. "You're not quite ready for a T-bone steak but we'll try a little something more nourishing in a little while, all right, Doctor Jackson? How about some water before I go?"
She poured some water from a jug on a table and popped a straw in it. Daniel sucked on it the moment it was in his mouth and drained most of the water before releasing the straw.
"You sure were thirsty, weren't you? I'll be back in about an hour with more food, okay?"
"So," Jack said, "does that mean he doesn't need the tube thingie anymore?" Jack pointed to his nose.
"If Doctor Jackson can eat proper meals, then no, he won't need to be supplemented with the NG tube."
- - - - - -
Another layer had disintegrated between himself and Jack. Memories had begun flooding in; volcano, villagers in the path of the Be't'soa's destruction, having control of the shield and doing everything he could to save the village, and his team.
Frustrated, he'd realized he couldn't communicate properly yet. He wanted to know what had happened to the villagers – had his efforts been in vain?
He knew he was asking the questions but what was in his head apparently wasn't coming out of his mouth. And said mouth seemed to work fine, by the way, he'd been woken up twice already to be fed today since Jack had arrived.
Nearly afraid to open his eyes, never knowing where he'd be when he did, Daniel tried to listen carefully. He couldn't make out any sounds and he began to fear he was back in that dream twilight where he'd escape to in order to recuperate.
With a sigh, he opened his eyes, only to find he was back in the hospital, not in that surreal landscape.
It was dark; the late afternoon sunshine which had shone brightly in his eyes earlier, until Jack had pulled a curtain, was gone. The only illumination came from a small bedside lamp and through a small window in the room's door. Jack was leaning against the wall, staring outside. Daniel could see only Jack's profile and he appeared sad. Or worried.
The change in Jack was instantaneous. His eyes brightened as he smiled at Daniel. Hurrying towards the bed, Jack leaned over him, his eyes searching for something.
"Hey, I should be asking you that." Jack's smile turned into a wide grin.
"Um..." Daniel shifted, turning very stiff and heavy muscles so he was on his side, facing Jack. "How long...?"
"Seven days since we brought you back home. You've been in a coma..."
Daniel shook his head. It felt like maybe a day had passed, two at the most. "Seven? What about Be't'soa? What happened?"
"It blew. You saved the village and the people. And the land. Despite everything, you managed to protect a huge section of land."
"I don't... it's all hazy. I remember thinking I couldn't hold it and then... Sam? Teal'c? Tawyn and the others, are they okay?"
"They're fine. They're all fine. The volcano is dormant and Timmons thinks it'll stay that way for a while. At least that's how he's interpreting the device's readings. And the priests seem to have all had a vision during their... spell, when the device went off. They're all practicing some old forgotten form of meditation that'll let 'em work the shield next time the old gal blows her top."
Daniel nodded. "The art was lost over the centuries when the three priests died during the blast." He coughed slightly and cleared his throat. It was dry and scratchy and his mouth felt pasty.
"I'll get you some water."
As Jack moved away, Daniel turned onto his back, watching him. Jack looked tired and haggard, and the small lamp seemed to accentuate dark circles under his eyes. "What about you?" Daniel asked as Jack poured water from a jug. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Jack looked over at him, seeming surprised. "I'm fine. Why?"
"I don't know. I seem to remember you being here almost every time I... woke up."
Jack shrugged as he put down the jug. "I took some leave."
"You said you had an appointment with Janet. Why would she want to examine you?" Daniel was tempted to clamp his teeth together to avoid the straw Jack held to his mouth until Jack answered truthfully, but he really was thirsty. He began to sip the water while Jack helped him hold the glass.
"I was there, with you, at the last moment before the volcano erupted. Do you remember?"
That Daniel had thought to be a dream. He remembered feeling Jack there, sensing his love, his protectiveness, his sacrificing himself to help Daniel without a second thought. Then he realized he would never have succeeded in setting the device without outside help without killing himself in the process. That he was here, still alive, was proof that Jack really had been there.
"I remember," he said around the straw.
"The side effect to all of that was a touch of exhaustion."
Daniel raised an eyebrow in disbelief as he spat out the straw.
"Okay, so it sent you into a coma. Me, I just slept a lot."
"And you're okay? Now?"
"Yeah, Fraiser said I was pretty much recovered. And speaking of which, I guess I should go tell somebody you're awake. But first..." Jack put the glass down and turned the lamp off, leaving the room in darkness.
Daniel heard the rustling of clothing as Jack approached the bed. The mattress dipped as Jack leaned his hands on either side of him.
"But first, I want to welcome you back properly," Jack breathed softly. Then Jack's lips were on his, and Daniel returned the kiss to show Jack he appreciated the welcome.
- - - - - -
Daniel stood at the entrance of the Hall of Meditation and watched with something akin to pride at the priests who knelt before the rainbow display of sun-lit crystals, deep in meditative trances. There was a peace in the room that went beyond the physical, tugging at Daniel's psyche, as if something recognized kinship with him. He and Jack walked silently between the kneeling men, following Mawyn into the once-hidden chamber. Sam and Teal'c trailed behind, bringing up the rear.
There was a sense of purpose in the room and a feeling of a job well done. He felt something akin to a cat purring in contentment. Daniel wondered if there was an aspect of the shield that could actually be sentient.
Overlaying everything was the memory of Jack's essence, unselfishly giving of himself while Daniel had struggled to hold on by the skin of his teeth. Now, more than ever, Daniel could feel Jack's love for him. He smiled to himself. He'd known Jack loved him but it was an incredible feeling to actually experience that emotion.
Daniel glanced at the hologram of Be't'soa. He nodded, satisfied that the volcano was now dormant. Again, that affinity he'd had with the shield somehow conveyed that the danger was past, and wouldn't arise for many years. The connection the priests now had with the shield would ensure that they would relearn a times-old ritual.
"So..." Jack was standing behind Daniel, his shoulder touching Daniel's shoulder blade.
"The shield's working fine." Daniel turned to glance at Jack, then did a double take when Jack's face seemed to pale.
"You're—" Jack made a circling motion with his finger then pointed at the wall of glowing crystals.
Daniel smiled. "No, I can't sense anything except just a feeling that everything's running smoothly."
"Okay. For a second there I thought..."
"Are you okay?" Daniel realized belatedly that Jack's memories of this room weren't exactly pleasant.
"Yeah. I'm good." Jack turned away and moved to one of the panels. Daniel could tell Jack was pretending interest in it.
"Just get this over and done with, okay?" Jack snapped.
Daniel ignored Jack's temper and surveyed the room once more and, satisfied with what he saw and sensed, he turned to the village's chief elder. "Mawyn, your people are going to be fine. All we ask is that you allow us to return occasionally to follow the progress of the priests and to study the device."
"You and your people are always welcome here, Daniel. We cannot begin to thank you for what you have done."
"Thank you. We'll be sending a team in a few days to take reading on the volcano and compare them with the hologram."
"We look forward to working with them."
"Mawyn?" Sam stepped forward and waved the sensor she'd brought with her. "Would you mind if I take a few readings?"
"Of course not. Please, feel free to do what you must."
As Sam moved forward with her instrument, Daniel glanced at Jack. He was surprised to see that Jack appeared nervous despite his efforts at hiding his anxiety. Daniel made a motion towards the exit, and Jack quickly took him up on it. They left Sam and Teal'c in the room while the two of them went upstairs to sit in the privacy of the church.
"What is it?" Daniel asked as he sat down on one of the pews.
"Nothing." Jack leaned his butt against the edge of the pew in front of Daniel.
"You weren't comfortable down there." There had been no bad memories for Daniel. Just the opposite. The harmony of the shield's web had felt soothing to him. It still did, even here, but he'd felt it more strongly near the crystals, where they were anchored to the energy source.
Jack shrugged. "I can't help but see that room and remember you having... never mind. It's over."
Daniel leaned his elbows on his thighs and leaned forward. "What I felt when I went down there was you. I think that part of the shield is alive, Jack. And it remembered you as well as me. It's an incredible feeling and I'm sorry I can't share it with you."
"Sentient at least. On some level."
"So it remembered me?" Jack had relaxed and now looked like a little kid looking for a treat.
"Think it can do that mild melding thing again?"
Daniel raised his eyebrows in puzzlement. "Mind melding?"
"No, no, I don't think it can..." Daniel made a motion with his index finger between the two of them. "Not unless I sit down and meditate and—" Daniel realized he hadn't attained that meditative state by himself. "It helped me. It pulled me in – that must be why I – it must have sensed I was an Ancient, even though technically I'm really not one anymore – but it helped me contact it and take control of the energy and—"
"So the seizures—"
"My body wasn't ready for it. That's why the priests need to learn the techniques to attain a proper meditative trance to link with the shield."
"It could have killed you."
"It was trying to save us."
"It could have killed you," Jack repeated.
"It didn't – that's why it linked with you."
"It did that?
"Well I certainly didn't."
"Then how did it know to—"
The church and the bench Daniel was sitting on disappeared. Both he and Jack materialized in a fog-enshrouded world that was uneasily familiar to Daniel. Before he could say anything, he felt Jack there with him. There was anger and uneasiness and alarm, but as Daniel began to realize what was happening, his emotions must have reached Jack because he quickly calmed down.
Again the feelings of love were there, almost overpowering in their intensity. He met Jack's gaze, the brown eyes sparkling with emotion. Without a word, Jack leaned forward and touched his lips to Daniel's. The passion was intoxicating, overwhelming. They both gasped at the shock of it, one breath mist-enshrouded, the next incense-laden as they were returned to their physical bodies.
Jack, still leaning precariously against the back of the pew, looked like he was about to fall. He leaned forward and twisting, sat down beside Daniel. "Wow," Jack said, still looking and sounding shell-shocked.
Daniel wasn't sure if he looked any better. "I know."
"So... we done here?"
"Just about." Daniel blinked hard, trying to bring his thoughts and his libido in focus. He could feel Jack's body heat and it was disconcerting. "I guess as soon as Sam's done..."
"Good." Jack inched closer so that their thighs were touching. "Daniel, I..."
"I know." Somehow words couldn't even begin to express his feelings.
"So I don't have to tell you..."
"No. I mean, yes. I'm expecting you to show me later tonight." Oh God, the sex was going to be incredible. Daniel clasped his hands and squeezed hard, trying not to think of his dick.
Jack leaned back against the pew, adjusting his pants in the process. "So, it remembered me, huh?"
Author's Comments: A birthday giftie for devra (and babs). Many thanks to Sallye for looking this monstrosity over so I could keep it as a surprise.
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