He was burning, his skin searing without a flame. Agonizing pain tore through every inch of his body. Daniel knew what was happening. It was called necrosis; his tissue, the very fabric of his being practically melting with degradation. He couldn’t decide though if it made it any easier to bear. Did knowing that you were irrevocably dying, and being able to name every horrifying stage of the process, make it any less painful or terrifying? Probably not. It was more like the other way around. Knowing the unbearable pain was only going to get worse made him nearly wish he was already dead.
He tried to shift into a marginally more comfortable position, but for some reason he couldn’t move his legs. There was something wrong about that. He couldn’t put his finger on why the two torturous facts didn’t belong together. The pain dulled his usually sharp mind, turning everything to a red hot blazing storm of agony where it was impossible to think a straight thought.
Something pierced through the pain, breaking it like an icebreaker crashing through the frozen waves of the arctic. It was a voice. Jack’s voice.
“Daniel? Daniel, wake up!”
Wait, that wasn’t what he said. Jack’s words were wrong – wrong for Daniel’s deathbed. He knew that. Jack’s words were one of the things he actually remembered from when he lay dying, even if the memory usually came to him wrapped in the agony of nightmares. The incongruity of Jack’s words, the fact that they weren’t the ones he’d said back then, pulled Daniel up towards blessed wakefulness and helped his mind rip itself away from the trap of the deteriorating body in his dream.
He came awake with a gasp, as if breaking the surface after a too long swim under water. Jack was by his side, his worried face cracking into a smile when he met Daniel’s bleary blue eyes.
“My turn, huh?”
At first Daniel couldn’t take in what he had said. Then he made the connection and nodded with a mix of gratitude and embarrassment.
“Thanks,” he said, straightening himself up a bit in the bed and spotting Sam and Teal'c right behind Jack. Their faces matched the look on Jack’s face, startled awake and full of worry and concern.
“Sorry I woke you,” Daniel mumbled and ducked his head down to his chest. In the next breath he snapped it up again and connected with Jack’s eyes. “But thank you for waking me,” he added.
“Well, you did it for me,” Jack said with a non-consequential shrug. His eyes got a sly look as he continued, “Do you want me to fetch you some warm milk and sit with you until you fall asleep again?”
Jack’s words made scarcely any sense to Sam and Teal'c, but to Daniel they were an echo of friendship. He laughed and swatted after Jack’s head but the colonel easily evaded his hand. He fled out of reach, sticking his tongue out in what could well be the most childish gesture Daniel had ever seen from him. And that’s saying a lot.
“Get back here so I can slap you,” he called after him, heaving himself over the edge of the bunk to take up the pursuit around the room with Sam and Teal'c as amused spectators. With not much anywhere for Jack to go but round and round Daniel finally managed to run him down in a corner. Jack made a last desperate leap to get past him, but in a stroke of genius Daniel simply put his leg out and tripped him. The falling colonel grabbed for something to steady him, and pulled Daniel with him into a tangled crash of limbs on the floor.
“I got you this time!” Daniel shouted as he landed on top of Jack, and they both burst out laughing madly.
In the same moment the blast door opened with a rumble and four SFs stormed into the room, their guns guardedly pointed at the pile of colonel and geek. Their alarmed faces had no muting effect on the two friends, who simply laughed even harder at misconstrued threat of the firearms.
“They’re fine, really. They’re just…playing.” Sam rushed forward to diffuse the situation before someone got shot for a silly game of tag. The guards backed off a bit, even if it was in part to keep check on her and Teal'c as well. The situation was still tense and finally it mellowed Jack’s and Daniel’s mirth. They reluctantly pulled themselves together to untangle their limbs and sit up.
“What’s going on here?”
The SFs parted to let their favorite petite doctor through.
“Fraiser!” Jack exclaimed. “We’re fine. Just a little midnight tussle to…” He glanced in Daniel’s direction and received a consenting shrug. “…to shake of a bad dream.”
Janet’s eyes diverted to Daniel, and he gave her as well a shrug accompanied by a sheepish half smile. She knew about his recurring bad dreams; it had been inevitable that she would find out sooner or later with all the mandatory medical checkups he underwent before and after every single mission. The doctor latched on to lack of sleep like a blood hound on a trail, especially when it came to him, but she had been kind enough to keep his issues a secret from everyone else. True to her promise she just held his gaze for a moment before she nodded and ordered the SFs out of the room. After sharing another pregnant look with him she left as well, with a bright “Sleep tight!” as the door closed between them.
Despite Janet’s discreetness the exchange between her and Daniel wasn’t lost on the rest of SG-1. As much as Daniel wanted and believed his dreams to be a secret, they had all seen him start awake from time to time out on a mission. Hence none of his friends lifted the question of what had assailed his sleep this time. As he and Jack got to their feet however it was clear there was something on Sam’s and Teal'c’s mind.
“What was that about?” Sam asked as she helped Daniel straighten out the beddings that he’d curled into a bunch in the throes of his horrid remembrance-dream.
“What?” he asked, mostly confused on exactly which part of the nightly events she wanted to know about.
“You and Jack. What was that about?”
“Just goofing around.” Daniel waved off the repeated question and Sam didn’t say anything more as they finished making the bed. Sam lent Jack a hand as well, as his sheets had been mussed up too when he rushed up to aid Daniel in his distress. Besides, helping him was an excuse to pitch her question to him as well.
“So, what was that about?”
“What?” Jack perfectly echoed Daniel’s response. Sam decided not to beat around the bush anymore.
“Why were you talking as if this had all happened before, only with some rearranged roles? Does it have to do with Daniel moving in with you?”
Jack sighed and let the sheets drop.
“Alright. I was going to invite you over to tell you guys anyway. Guess we can do some sharing tonight instead, as I’m pretty sure Daniel won’t be very inclined to sleep anyways.” He cast an eye towards the slanting one-way window in the wall.
“Hey!” he called. “Who’s out there?”
The intercom crackled to life and Janet’s voice sounded through the speakers.
“Just me,” she said, “but I can step outside if you would like…say, an hour of privacy?”
Her generous offer took Jack by surprise, and he almost stuttered as he called back.
“Th…Thank you, Fraiser, but you can stay.” His voice got a little sheepish as he finished, “Just don’t really want this to go totally viral all over the base. It’s kind of a private…just family…kind of thing.”
“Thank you, colonel, for including me in that group.”
The four members of SG-1 took their seats around the table. Daniel grabbed his cover from the bed to wrap around himself, making himself really look like a kid that was stubbornly not going back to bed after a nightmare. All sat down and ready to share Jack realized he didn’t know where to start. Sam seemed to realize it too, so she repeated her question from before.
“Why were you talking as if this had all happened before, only with some rearranged roles?”
Daniel exchanged a look with Jack, who nodded to signal that the one of them with superior vocal skills should be the one to take charge of the storytelling.
“Because it did…”
Daniel had woken with a start that night. The room was dark and for a moment he felt disoriented. The bed didn’t feel like it stood where it should; there was no comforting presence of a cold concrete wall at his back. Then he remembered he wasn’t at the SGC, he was in his very own room at Jack’s house. Despite it being almost two weeks since he moved in this was only his third night sleeping there. It was as it should however, a matter of states dictated by the work they did. Many nights were spent off-world, and what remained Daniel still often spent on the base working late and finally crashing in one of the small personnel overnight rooms.
Having figured out where he was, Daniel began to wonder what had woken him. Usually it would be a bad dream that so violently pulled him from his sleep. His subconscious mind certainly had plenty of subjects to choose from and conjure into haunting nightmares. There were even some things, from his time as an ascended, that his conscious mind could not access, but that still sometimes ripped him from a peaceful slumber into agonizing tossing and turning. When those dreams – memories – hit he would wake as now with a start, but his heart would be pounding and he would be bathing in sweat. This night he wasn’t. So what woke me?
His heart and mind now thoroughly concerned he sat up and lit his bedside lamp. Was there a sound? Could someone be in the house? He swung his feet over the side of the bed, the chill of the air sending rivets of goose bumps up his legs. Tiptoeing as quietly as he could he pushed open the door and stepped out into the hallway. All of a sudden he felt naked and vulnerable. Silly, I’ve survived battling Jaffa and facing down numerous would-be gods. I can deal with an intruder. Still on his tippety-toes he sneaked around the corner to the entrance, checking the lock as he passed by the front door. Locked. Proceeding into the dining room he glanced over the low wall into the living room. Empty. Terrace doors closed and locked.
Then he heard it. A low whining moan, coming from the other end of the house – Jack’s room. Hurrying his steps Daniel headed for the sound. The door was ajar and Daniel carefully pushed it open. The curtains were drawn and the cold light of the moon shone in through the window, lighting the room a silvery gray. Nothing seemed amiss; Jack was alone and in his bed. Daniel let out a relieved sigh – no intruder, but no explanation either. As Daniel stood bewildered in the door Jack let out another wailing cry, his body suddenly contorting as in pain. Daniel rushed to his side, his very soul connecting with the other man’s angst as Jack writhed in a tangle of sweat soaked sheets. Kneeling down beside the bed he placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, and giving it a decisive shake he whispered:
The colonel came awake with a jerk, just as Daniel had expected he would – just as Daniel always did when he finally managed to tear himself from the sleeping abyss of despair. Jack stared at Daniel for a drawn-out moment, not recognizing him at first. The specters of his dream slowly faded and his breathing stilled as he took in the face of his best friend at his side.
“Daniel?” The question encompassed the entirety of his confusion as his eyes went back and forth between Daniel’s face and the hand on his shoulder.
“You had a nightmare,” Daniel said, attempting to answer the questions in Jack’s eyes. “I heard you, so I came to wake you up.” He didn’t mention his first suspicion of why he woke. Silly paranoia.
“Thanks.” Jack smiled weakly.
“Wanna talk about it?” Daniel prodded carefully; aware that talking was neither something Jack was good at or particularly comfortable with.
Jack didn’t respond at once, just sat silently staring at the silver shafts of light falling in through the window. Now and then his eyes darted to the shadows it produced, crouching in the corners of the room like wild animals waiting to attack their prey. Then, so imperceptibly that Daniel almost missed it, he nodded. When he still didn’t speak, Daniel decided to lead with a question.
“What was it about?”
“Ba’al… his fortress… when I was there, he…tortured me. He killed me.”
Daniel nodded. He had read the report that Jack had written, but even in doing so he had suspected there was more to it than the letters described. Jack’s words had been short and to the point, stating he had been tortured and killed, and subsequently healed in a sarcophagus so Ba’al could do it all over again. There had been no emotion in the report, but Daniel knew by bitter own experience that an ordeal like that left wounds that to some extent never healed. The things he had suffered at the hands of Goa’uld’s still haunted his own dreams.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked on a sudden impulse, a vague recollection of something he’d read in psychology that putting the insubstantial phantoms of the mind into words made them more tangible, more manageable and thereby less worthy of fear. Jack stared into thin air once more and searched for words.
“He had this gravity thing,” he began and tried to keep from shuddering at the thought of it. “A net in the wall. Felt like I was a fly in a spider’s web. Couldn’t move an inch. He used the gravity to kind of throw things at me too, or rather drop them – ‘cept horizontally. It was weird. First time it was knives. Then there was some kind of acid. Burned like hell. And then there was the combination of the two.” He gave a sardonic scoff. “I think he really liked the acid; he used that one several times.”
“How many times did he do this to you?”
“I lost count. Would have lost a whole lot more if it wasn’t for you.”
“Me?” Daniel questioned confused.
“Yeah, you got me through it.” For the first time since Daniel woke him up the shadow of a smile touched Jack’s face.
“That wasn’t in the report.”
“Nah. At the time I wasn’t even sure it really happened, or if it was just a hallucination. I think I did hallucinate too you know, about the girl – Shallan.”
“Yeah. I kept seeing her, and then she’d disappear. Kind of similar to what you did, so I figured you might not have been real either.”
“What changed your mind?” Daniel was intrigued now.
“For sure? When you showed up in the elevator asking for help with the whole Eye of Ra-business. And then Teal'c told us you’d visited him too, and that helped convincing me none of it was hallucinations.”
“But how did I help you in Ba’al’s fortess? What did I do?”
“You showed up to begin with, you kept me company – and you tried to be my Oma.” Jack’s smile widened with the last comment.
“Be your Oma?”
“Yeah, you tried to get me to ascend. You said Ba’al wouldn’t stop reviving and torture me until the sarcophagus stopped me being me. You tried to save me the only way you knew how. The only way the ascended rules would allow. I wasn’t very grateful at the time, I’m afraid.” His voice turned apologetic. “Sort of thought you should use all that almighty power and bust me out instead, but I understand it now. After Abydos when you just disappeared and we found you on Vis Uban…well I guess ‘the others’ really do frown on using that power.”
Daniel nodded. He had gathered as much as well from the manner of his forced descension even if he didn’t remember anything about the so called ‘other’ ascended.
“So you refused to ascend and held on until Sam, Teal'c and Jonas came up with a plan instead?”
“Pretty much. And they did just in time too. I had almost given up, and even asked you to make sure I died once and for all. Got real pissed with you too when I woke up in the cell again. But I didn’t have the strength for that kind of a feeling so I practically begged you to kill me instead. But you wouldn’t.” Jack paused for a moment, his eyes unreadable. “Then you said I’d been right. Don’t hear that very often,” he added with a mischievous smirk.
“What were you right about?”
“That the guys back home would come up with something and that all I needed was a chance to break out. You gave me the heads-up, though. Don’t know if I’d gotten out if you hadn’t told me it was coming. Got me started so to speak.”
“You got out on your own, Jack.”
Jack gave neither affirmation nor refusal to his quiet statement, so Daniel cautiously steered the conversation back to its origin.
“But you still dream about it?” he asked. Jack nodded mutely and diverted his eyes.
“Is that why you said you needed the company?”
Another nod, that Daniel mirrored with one of his own.
Jack glanced up at him in a way that, just like that day he had come to ask Daniel to move in, reminded him of himself in his most insecure moments.
“You know, I have nightmares too,” he hinted; gauging Jack’s reaction as to whether this was a good path to go. When Jack continually met his eyes with a spark of curiosity he continued. “I don’t really like the idea of people knowing it either, but to be honest we both have plenty that justifies it. Come to think of it there’s so much we could, or even should, have bad dreams about that one would be surprised that we sleep at all.”
Jack gave a small huff of amusement.
“Yeah, except you hardly do,” he said teasingly.
“Fair enough. It is actually in part because I need to be really exhausted to not dream,” Daniel confessed. “Point is; I think the whole living together might be a good idea for both of us. Even if it was you who originally wanted me to be your babysitter and come wake you up if you have bad dream…”
He bent backwards to avoid Jack’s hand that came flying towards his head in a swat, a playful giggle erupting from his lips as he tipped on his heels and fell over. Jack pursued him onto the floor to wrestle him down, but Daniel evaded by wriggling out of his grasping hands. Scrambling to his feet Daniel retreated around the bed, attempting to keep it between him and Jack.
“Do you want me to fetch you some warm milk? Sit with you until you fall asleep?” he called tauntingly across the room, making Jack hurl himself over the bed to attack anew.
This time he got a better grip and Daniel’s wriggling only resulted in the archaeologist taking his own breath away.
“Got you! Give up?” he hissed in Daniel’s ear.
“So there you go,” Jack finished with an embarrassed half shrug. “I needed someone in my house to help me sleep better.”
“Have you talked to Fraiser about it?” Sam asked with no judging in her concerned voice. Jack shook his head violently.
“No, that’s the reason I wanted no one to know about it.” He glanced up and met his own eyes in the mirror window. “I guess I have now though, and she’ll probably want me to talk to MacKenzie or some other head shrink to work on my ‘issues’. I really don’t need that,” he pleaded to the image of his own face substituting the doctor hidden behind it.
Having his eyes fixed on his reflection he missed the look on Sam’s face that said she disagreed. She held her tongue however, and instead Teal'c spoke up.
“We will keep your secret O’Neill. I am glad you decided to share it with us.”
Jack tore his eyes from the attempt to pierce through the glass to Janet.
“Thanks, Teal'c. By the way, Carter, are those rumors really as bad as you said?”
“Well…not quite,” she admitted, “but people are definitely talking. Especially with us not having any answers to give.”
“Will you help me put a lid on it?”
“Of course, sir. Like Teal'c said, your secret is safe…”
She was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. They all turned to see Janet step inside with a kind expression on her face directed at Jack.
“Colonel,” she chided. “You should have told me about your dreams.”
“You heard me, I had my reasons not to,” he defended but obeyed when she held up a hand to silence him.
“You were right; I want you to talk to someone. But I’m sure we can find an arrangement your comfortable with. Maybe you could talk to me?”
Her offer came as a surprise to him, so he became silent for a long time while he considered it. Finally he nodded reluctantly.
“I guess it’s better than MacKenzie,” he allowed.
“Besides, I’m good at keeping these kinds of secrets,” she added with a wink to Daniel. “So, what’s the official story?”
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