"O'Neill, I do not believe that Daniel Jackson is enjoying this."
Jack O'Neill looked up from where he lay sprawled on the ground and smiled. "I don't hear him complaining."
Teal'c cocked his right eyebrow. "Perhaps if you removed yourself from him and ceased to push his face into the wet dirt, he would be able to voice his displeasure."
Sam Carter, who was standing next to Teal'c, simply laughed.
"Pfft," Jack said, as he pushed himself to his feet. "I'm not pushing his face into the mud. I'm tackling him. There's a difference."
The three standing members of SG1 looked down at the fourth, who had not moved from his position on the ground. Daniel Jackson lay on his stomach, with his arms splayed out to his sides, face-down in the mud.
"Daniel?" Sam stepped forward slightly. "Are you all right?"
A soft moan rose from the man at their feet as he used his right arm to push himself up slowly. He flopped over on his back and draped a mud-covered arm across his eyes.
"I hate this."
The day had dawned gray and damp after a night of heavy rain storms. It was just another drab midwinter Saturday morning in Colorado Springs. The mist still hung in the air, the ground was still wet, and the park was empty except for the four friends.
Daniel had only rejoined the team in an official capacity two weeks earlier, after Janet had declared him fully recovered from his particularly nasty experience with the Goa'uld sarcophagus. Their first mission had been a return to P3R-636. Jack hadn't really wanted to go - in fact, he'd have preferred that they never go back again and let Shyla wither and rot after what she'd done - but Daniel had insisted. And as usual, Daniel had been right. They'd stayed long enough for Daniel to help Shyla through the worst of her withdrawal, and when they'd left it had been a sober and, Jack thought, much more pleasant Shyla who told them goodbye.
They did have a nice new treaty and a small but steady supply of naquadah to show for it, but they'd had to go through hell to get it.
Truth be told, the past two months had been rough all around, for all of them.
First, there was thinking that they'd lost Daniel on Apophis' mothership. That had eventually worked out all right and Daniel had turned up, without a scratch on him, in plenty of time to surprise the other three when they'd returned home, but that didn't erase the hours that he, Sam and Teal'c had spent believing he was dead. Jack didn't think he'd ever forget the look on Daniel's face when he'd realized he was dying or the way he himself had felt when he had realized the same. Nothing could ever take away the memories of how much it had hurt Jack, hurt them all, to walk away and leave Daniel behind to die alone.
Then there had been the possibility and, for a while, the certainty that they'd lost Sam to the Goa'uld. It had been one of Jack's biggest fears since they'd lost Charlie Kawalsky - to think that he could lose a member of his team that way. It had been so difficult for Jack, Daniel and Teal'c to deal with the thought that while Sam wasn't dead, she wasn't alive any more, either. That had also turned out to be not quite as bad as they'd thought. She hadn't been taken as a host by a Goa'uld but by something called a Tok'ra - if there was such a thing as a "good" Goa'uld, then apparently a Tok'ra was it. In the end, it had died to save Sam's life, but then she'd fallen into a depression that Jack had been close to giving up hope of ever lifting. Even Daniel hadn't been able to break through to her. 'Thank God for Cassie,' Jack thought when he remembered how the little girl had been able to pull Sam out of herself and back to her friends, where she belonged.
Next had been their time in the alien prison on Hadante. Jack had come back from that one with rope burns around his throat and Teal'c had been stabbed - both injuries the result of the fight that ensued when they'd tried to save Daniel from being choked to death by a smelly guy named Vishnor. There'd also been a too-close-for-comfort aborted attack on Sam, by the aforementioned "smelly guy," and another near-miss with Daniel that Jack didn't even want to think about. If it hadn't been for Teal'c, Jack wouldn't even have known about it, and apparently, if it hadn't been for Teal'c, it wouldn't have been a near-miss, either. But Teal'c had been there, and nothing had happened, so to Jack, it just wasn't worth thinking about.
After that, they'd been captured by an alien who was determined that their memories - at least Jack's and Daniel's - would be quality entertainment for his people. Jack had been pushed almost to his breaking point, having to watch as one of his best friends died in his arms over and over again. Daniel, according to Sam, had watched his parents die, and had of course been completely powerless to save them, no less than eight times in a row. The scars they'd come back from that one with hadn't been visible, but they'd been no less real.
And then, of course, had been their forced "vacation" on P3R-636 - a stint as slaves in a naquadah mine, another near-death experience for Daniel, and that lovely sarcophagus addiction courtesy of Her Royal "High"ness, Shyla.
After all of the craziness, both literal and figurative, after all of the physical and mental pain, after the constant emotional rollercoaster they'd all been riding together, Jack had decided that his team needed some down-time, some bonding, and some normal. And normal, to Jack, meant good, old-fashioned football in the park.
Which was why Daniel was lying on the wet ground, covered in mud, complaining that he hated it.
Jack smiled. "Suck it up, Daniel," he said teasingly. "It's good for you."
Daniel shifted his arm just far enough to glare up at Jack from under it.
"Oh, come on, Daniel. We're having fun."
"You're having fun," Daniel returned. "I'm not."
Jack glanced across his shoulder at Teal'c. "Well, it's not my fault that your defender isn't defending you."
Teal'c raised his eyebrow once more. "It is difficult to defend Daniel Jackson from you when I am endeavoring to contain Captain Carter without causing her injury," he explained. "I do not understand why I should be defending Daniel Jackson from you at all. Are you not his friend? Should you not refrain from attacking him on your own?"
Jack sighed and turned his head. "I've told you, Teal'c, I'm not attacking him. I'm tackling him. We're playing football; that's how the game is played."
"I do not see the point in playing a game which has as its sole purpose chasing your friends and repeatedly knocking them to the ground."
"Thank you, Teal'c!" Daniel called out.
"Come on, Carter," Jack implored. "Help me out here, will ya?"
Sam shrugged slightly. "I would, sir, but... football is a 'guy' thing. I don't really see the point of it either."
"Mutiny, I tell you," Jack muttered. "Nothing short of mutiny." He sighed and reached out his hand to Daniel. After glaring at him for a few more seconds, Daniel finally gave a slight smile and grasped Jack's offered hand.
As Jack helped him to his feet, Daniel said, "It wouldn't be so bad if I could maybe tackle you, at least just once."
Jack grinned and slapped Daniel on the back good-naturedly. "Okay, I'll tell you what. Me and Carter have possession now, right? So this next play, I'll let you tackle me."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "If you let me, then it doesn't mean anything."
The four of them made their ways back toward their line of scrimmage. Jack glanced around on the ground for the ball, which had flown free of Daniel's hand the last time he'd been tackled. He couldn't see it lying anywhere near.
"Does anyone know where the ball went?"
They all glanced around, and then Daniel looked up. "I think it ended up rolling over by those bushes. I'll go get it."
Jack turned toward Sam and Teal'c as Daniel jogged away. "I think he's starting to have fun," he said.
"Wait until I get to rub your face in the mud, Jack," Daniel called back to them as he slowed his pace and glanced around for the ball. "That's when I'll start having fun." He started pushing branches out of his way and peering between them. He saw the ball lying just a few feet away, on the other side of the bushes. "There you are," he whispered. He'd only taken a few steps when his foot snagged on something and he tripped. He fell forward face-first and put his hands out to stop himself.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I just don't think he's enjoying this very much," Sam was saying.
"I concur, O'Neill."
"No, guys, seriously, I think this is doing him some good," Jack said. "He's smiling, at least. When was the last time you saw him do that?"
It was a scream filled with horror and terror, and the voice was unmistakably Daniel's.
They spun around just in time to see Daniel scrambling backwards from the bushes, pushing himself along the ground frantically, blindly, not caring what was behind him but obviously wanting to get away from something. He didn't stop until he'd backed himself up against a nearby tree, but even then, his feet and hands kept moving.
Suddenly Daniel stopped flailing, grabbed his stomach with one arm and pushed himself to his knees with the other, leaned around the tree, and threw up.
"What the hell...?"
All three ran forward - Jack and Sam toward Daniel and Teal'c toward the bushes. Jack knelt quickly beside Daniel, who was straightening himself back up after having emptied his stomach. Sam stood behind Jack, only a foot away, ready to lend whatever aid he might need. Jack looked Daniel over quickly, checking for signs of injury. Daniel was pale, almost ghostly white, his eyes were wide and panicked and he was shaking all over, but other than that, Jack could see nothing wrong with him.
"Daniel?" he asked as he grabbed Daniel's forearms and shook him slightly. "Daniel! What is it? What's wrong?"
Daniel slowly raised his right arm to point a shaky finger at the bushes. Jack could see his lips moving, but he couldn't hear anything. He leaned forward until he could, and immediately wished he hadn't.
"A girl ... little girl ... she's dead ... Jenny's dead ..."
Daniel apparently going on about a dead little girl in the bushes was bad enough, but the thought that he actually knew her ...
"Daniel? Who's Jenny?"
"She's there," Daniel whispered. "Dead ... Jenny's dead ..."
"O'Neill!" Teal'c called out from the bushes. Jack glanced over and knew immediately that Teal'c had found what had upset Daniel so much.
"Stay here, Daniel," Jack said softly. "I'll be right back." He stood and walked to Sam, then looked back down at Daniel quickly. "Stay with him, Carter," he said.
"But, sir ..." Sam started to protest.
Jack cut her off with a wave of his hand. He knew how Carter was with children and there was a part of him that was still on constant alert for anything that might trigger a return of her depression. If there really was a dead child in that bush and if she saw her ...
"Stay with Daniel," he said again, slowly and clearly. "That's an order, Carter." Jack watched until Sam had settled on her knees next to Daniel and then turned and walked toward Teal'c.
Teal'c looked up as Jack approached. Jack kept his voice low as he asked the first of two questions that he already knew the answers to.
"Little girl, Teal'c?"
Teal'c nodded wordlessly.
Jack let out a heavy breath. "She's dead?"
Teal'c nodded again, solemnly. "It does appear so."
Jack steeled himself for what he knew he had to see and stepped forward. Teal'c pulled the branches aside and gestured toward her, but Jack didn't need any help. The pale skin and blonde hair were immediately obvious against the darkness of the wet ground. Jack looked at her until he felt moisture creeping into his eyes and his vision began to blur. He closed his eyes and turned his head away, whispering a curse to whomever had done this.
"Son of a bitch."
Jack kicked the damp ground again; he hated waiting. First, they'd had to wait while Sam returned to her car to retrieve her cellphone. Then they'd had to wait for the police and paramedics. Then they'd had to wait for the coroner to arrive. Then they'd had to wait for the investigators to get there. Now they were waiting for an FBI agent that the police had called to make his appearance. Through it all, they'd been waiting for Daniel to do or say something, anything, to show them that he was still in there somewhere.
They were still waiting.
The constant shaking from earlier had been replaced by an occasional violent shudder, but that was the only outward sign of his condition improving. Jack couldn't tell if that horrified, terrified expression was still in his eyes or not, because he hadn't opened them in an hour. He had stopped the mantra of 'Dead, Jenny's dead,' for which Jack was grateful, but in its place was an eerie and, coming from Daniel, unnatural silence that had Jack more than a bit unnerved.
The paramedics had looked him over for signs of injury and Daniel, in a most un-Daniel-like way, had let them. He hadn't helped them, that much was certain, but he hadn't hindered them either. He simply sat there, leaning against the tree. When they'd removed his jacket to listen to his heart and take his blood pressure, he hadn't fought them. When they'd checked his pulse and cleaned the scratches on his face, he hadn't pulled away from their touch. He'd let them pull him forward and push him back and move his arms around, unresistingly, looking much like a ragdoll.
And through it all, he hadn't said a word. Not since the last time he'd talked to Jack.
Sam was still sitting on the ground at Daniel's side, rubbing his hand and talking to him softly. She'd been beyond upset when they told her what Daniel had found in the bushes, and though she'd long since stopped crying, her eyes were still slightly red and puffy. She was holding it together better than Jack had imagined she would. Maybe her emotions weren't still as raw as Jack had thought them to be. Or maybe she was just holding herself together for Daniel's sake. Jack really didn't know.
But what the hell was going on with Daniel?
He'd seen dead bodies before. He'd seen dead children before. He'd seen entire planets filled with dead bodies; they'd found Cassandra on a planet like that. She'd been the only survivor and had been living for days surrounded by the thousands of corpses of what had once been her family, her friends, and her people. But even though he'd been upset, every time, he'd never reacted like this before. Never.
If he had, Jack would have grounded him planetside without a moment of hesitation.
There had to be something different about this, about this little girl that Daniel had called Jenny. There was something that Jack was missing, and he was determined to find out.
But he had no idea how.
Asking Daniel was useless. At first, Daniel had responded to Jack's questions, even though his answers hadn't really made much sense. It had been the same thing every time. Jack would say his name and Daniel would look up from under his hair, his eyes wide and terrified. Jack would ask a question and Daniel would answer, his voice barely above a whisper and so filled with pain that it almost broke Jack's heart to hear it. From there, it had progressed to Daniel keeping his eyes closed and only answering yes or no questions with hesitant shakes or nods of his head. For the past fifteen minutes, there hadn't been even that much.
Jack had watched, powerless to stop it, as Daniel had slowly and methodically pulled himself back from the world around him and had succeeded in sealing himself off from it. If Daniel was aware of the park or of the people in it, he gave no sign. He didn't seem to hear any of them, not even Jack. Not any more.
Jack replayed in his mind the last bit of conversation they'd had before Daniel had completely closed himself off.
"I need you to talk to me, Daniel."
Daniel nodded, slowly and awkwardly, before shaking his head hesitantly. "I can't."
Jack sighed. "Look, I don't know what's going on, okay? I don't know what's wrong. You've got to tell me. Do you know that little girl?"
"He doesn't know her," Daniel whispered. "But I do."
"Who doesn't know her?"
"He doesn't remember her, but I can't forget." Daniel's voice was fading, growing softer with every word he said.
"Can't forget what, Daniel? Come on, you've got to tell me what you're talking about here."
"He was there," Daniel said so softly that Jack had to strain to hear him. "He saw it. But he doesn't ... he can't ... remember."
"Who saw what?" Jack demanded, growing even more concerned. "Do you know who killed her? Daniel?"
"Don't remember," Daniel whispered. "Just ... forget."
Daniel had closed his eyes then, and Jack hadn't been able to get him to open them again. The last words he'd said still had Jack's mind reeling, and he needed to know what they meant. Daniel hadn't sounded like he was answering Jack's last question; it had sounded like a directive, like a plea.
He'd been begging.
And the entire conversation – the tone of Daniel's voice, the expression on his face, the raised shoulders and hesitant posture – had left Jack with the vague impression not of talking to Dr. Daniel Jackson, thirty-year-old archaeologist, but of talking to a very little boy.
He'd talked to the paramedics a bit after they'd finished checking Daniel's vitals, and they had reassured him that Daniel was just in shock. They'd also said that it was being complicated by his being wet and muddy and that it should start to wear off once he was warm and dry again. It was starting to look like they'd been wrong about that part.
Jack almost wanted to call them back over, but he'd been the one that insisted that the examination had to be as abbreviated as possible. In Daniel's condition and with him rambling on the way he had been, there was no way anyone could guess what would come out of his mouth next. If he started talking about Sha're or Shyla ... that would be bad. Very bad.
The police and paramedics had both wanted Daniel taken to the nearest hospital for treatment. One of the paramedics had gone so far as to insist that Daniel needed an immediate psychiatric evaluation. Jack had pulled out the national security argument and had stopped them in their tracks. There was no way that Daniel was being treated anywhere other than in the SGC's infirmary, or cared for by anyone other than Janet Fraiser. They'd insisted on confirmation, of course, and a quick phone call to General Hammond had taken care of most of their questions. Jack had told Hammond what had happened, and Janet was already on her way to the park.
Teal'c stepped up beside him, and Jack shook his head slowly. "This day officially sucks, Teal'c."
"I do not disagree, O'Neill."
Jack glanced at Sam and Daniel once more. "He's not doing very well with this."
"I believe that to be a statement of a lesser importance than facts would support."
Jack couldn't help but smile slightly. "An understatement. And yes, Teal'c, you're right. It is. But I don't know how else to describe it. Hell, I can't even explain what's going on with him, let alone understand why it's happening."
"Daniel Jackson is a highly sensitive individual."
Jack nodded in agreement. "Yes, he is. But I think there's more to it than that, Teal'c. Much more."
Teal'c turned toward Daniel then, but he spoke to Jack. "You believe that he was acquainted with this child?"
Jack shrugged. "I don't know, but he sure thinks he was. He seems to know her name, at any rate."
"His silence causes me great concern."
"Yeah, me too," Jack answered. "But I have to tell you, Teal'c, I almost prefer it to what he was saying before."
Teal'c kept his gaze locked on Daniel, and Jack recognized the concern in those brown eyes.
"Never have I known Daniel Jackson to seem so ...'
"Young?" Jack asked.
Teal'c nodded. "Yes, O'Neill. I believe that to be a perfect description."
Jack sighed and rubbed his eyes. "God, I'm getting too old for this crap."
Jack heard another car pull up, but he ignored it. People had been coming and going all morning and he had long since stopped craning his head to monitor every arrival.
Sam was still watching, however, and she saw who had arrived. She raised herself onto her knees, rubbed Daniel's forearm gently, and said to him, "Daniel, Janet's here."
Jack spun around just as Janet reached his side, carrying her black medical bag in her hand.
"Colonel, General Hammond sent me," she said without stopping. Jack fell into step beside her and Teal'c followed them. "What can you tell me, sir? What happened?"
"Well, Doc, to be completely honest ... I have no idea. He tripped into the bush and he found a ... well ... he found this little girl there, dead. And now ..." Jack gestured toward Daniel as they reached his side.
Janet knelt down beside him and opened her bag. "Has he been like this the entire time? Non-responsive?"
Jack shook his head. "Not the whole time, no. He was talking to us at first. Well ... sort of. He didn't make much sense."
"Daniel?" Janet said softly. "Daniel, it's Janet. I'm just going to take a look at you, all right? I need to see if you're hurt." She inspected his face for a moment and then turned to Jack.
"Where'd he get these scratches, Colonel?"
Jack's head snapped up. "Um ... from the bush, I think. He fell."
"Did he hit his head?"
Jack thought for a moment and then shook his head. "I don't know. I didn't see him fall. The paramedics said he was just in shock."
Janet shook her head, half in anger and half in frustration. "No, Colonel, I don't think that's all." She turned her attention back to Daniel again. "Daniel? Can you lean forward for me so I can check the back of your head?"
"Doc, he's not ...," Jack began. "I don't think he can hear you."
The voice was soft, barely above a whisper, but it was definitely Daniel. Jack looked down at him in surprise, and was mildly relieved to see Daniel's face was no longer dominated by the slack, empty expression that it had been wearing for the past half hour. Rather, his forehead was crinkled and his eyes were moving around beneath his eyelids.
"Daniel!" Sam called out. "So you are in there."
"What?" Daniel asked. His eyes opened then, slowly, and he blinked twice. Jack thought he looked confused, but no longer scared, and that had to be a good sign.
Daniel's eyes moved from person to person, Janet and Sam kneeling beside him and Teal'c and Jack standing at his feet, and his eyebrows lowered even further. "What happened?"
Janet finished her cursory examination of the back of Daniel's head, and she pulled her gloves off with a snap. "You hit your head when you fell, Daniel. You've got a rather large knot behind your ear."
Daniel looked up at Jack with a small smile. "Teal'c told you to quit attacking me."
"What?" Janet demanded.
"Hey! I wasn't ... I was tackling him, Doc! We were playing football." Sam giggled and Teal'c inclined his head in amusement. "And besides," Jack continued, "he was fine until he fell into the bushes."
"I fell into the bushes?" Daniel asked. "When did that happen?"
"You tripped while attempting to locate the missing ball," Teal'c explained.
Daniel cocked his head to the side. "I don't ... I don't remember falling."
"What do you remember, Daniel?" Janet asked.
"Um ... Jack tackled me. Again." Daniel shot a disgusted look at Jack, who looked back at him as innocently as he could manage. "He promised to let me tackle him on the next play and then ... nothing. That's it."
"Okay, Daniel. I'm going to have the colonel and Teal'c take you back to the base, all right? I want to run some tests on you, x-rays and possibly a CT scan. Right now, I'm inclined to think that you've just got yourself a concussion, but I want to be safe."
Daniel nodded and leaned back against the tree. "My head hurts," he said.
"I'll bet it does," Janet answered as she stood. "I'll give you something for that when we get to the infirmary. Just stay here with Sam for a minute."
Janet motioned for Jack and Teal'c to follow her, and then she stepped away from Daniel. They stopped after a few feet, and she turned to face them. "If this a head injury, sir, then I'm concerned. The knot behind his ear is proof that he hit his head, but there isn't enough swelling to support this level of confusion and memory loss."
Jack tilted his head in confusion. "So what are you thinking?"
Janet shrugged. "It could be any one of a number of things, sir. What has me the most concerned at the moment is the possibility that the knot is small because he's bleeding intercranially ..."
Jack swallowed. "That doesn't sound good."
Janet shook her head. "It's not, sir. That's why I need him back at the mountain as soon as possible. If he does have a brain bleed, sir, every moment is critical."
"Leave it to us, Doc," Jack said.
"We shall return Daniel Jackson to the SGC immediately."
Janet nodded. "Thank you, sir."
Jack and Teal'c both nodded in acknowledgment and turned to walk back to the tree. Janet turned the other direction and walked over to where the paramedics and police were waiting.
"Upsy-daisy, Daniel," Jack said good-naturedly as he and Teal'c each grabbed one of Daniel's arms. "Back to the mountain with you."
Sam stood and stepped out of the way. Jack and Teal'c pulled Daniel to his feet slowly, and then gave him the few seconds he needed to get steady. Sam stepped up behind him and put her hands on his back, giving him a little extra support as the four of them started walking toward Jack's truck.
"Jack, I don't ... I'm really sorry that I don't ..."
"Don't worry about that right now, Daniel," Jack said. "Let's just get you to the infirmary so the doc can figure out what you've done to that head of yours."
Daniel looked around the park hesitantly. "Hey guys, what ... what are the police doing here?"
Jack and Teal'c looked at each other. Neither of them had thought of what to say to Daniel if he noticed that things weren't quite the way they should be if he'd just hit his head playing football. Sam, however, apparently had thought about it, because she answered him almost immediately.
"That's something completely unrelated to us, Daniel, and you don't need to worry about it at all, okay?"
Daniel looked unsure, but he nodded his head. "I wish I knew why I was so ..."
"So what?" Jack asked.
"I'm just ... I'm dizzy ..."
Anything else that Daniel might have said was cut off by an angry shout from across the park. Jack turned toward the voice and saw Janet having a heated conversation with someone that Jack didn't recognize. Jack tightened his grip on Daniel's arm and moved toward the truck a bit more quickly. Janet's voice, filled with anger, floated over every other sound in the park.
"I know what he is to this investigation, Agent Phillips, but I am responsible for his health. Right now, that takes precedence. He couldn't answer your questions right now anyway, because he doesn't remember anything!"
"Doctor, I understand the gravity of the situation, but certainly you understand that I simply cannot allow ..."
"FBI's here," Jack muttered to Teal'c and Sam. He did his level best to ignore what the man was saying and keep moving, but Daniel had other ideas.
The second he'd heard the FBI agent's voice, he'd stopped dead in his tracks.
"Daniel," Sam said softly. "I told you, you don't need to worry about that right now. We need to get you back to ..."
Without a word, Daniel pulled his arms away from Jack and Teal'c, cut Sam off with a wave of his hand, and started stumbling in the direction of the voice.
"Daniel, what are you doing?" Jack demanded. He ran up to Daniel and grabbed his arm again, stopping his forward progress. "Mountain, Daniel, remember? You hit your head."
"No, Jack, I ..."
"Dr. Daniel Jackson?"
The voice from across the park had obviously gotten past Janet somehow, because the person it belonged to was suddenly standing directly in front of them. Jack watched as all the color drained from Daniel's face. Through his hands on Daniel's arm, he felt the shaking start again. This time was different however, because Daniel's breathing quickened, and he raised his shoulders and lowered his head immediately.
"Dr. Daniel Jackson?" the man said again, a peculiar edge to his voice. "I'm Agent Michael Phillips. I need to see you, Daniel. I need to see you at once."
Jack was not at all happy with the effect this man seemed to be having on Daniel. He started to protest, but he didn't have a chance to even open his mouth before he found his arms full of a suddenly very limp, very unconscious archaeologist.
Daniel had passed out.
The sounds of the park filled his ears, and he lay there, just listening. He was enjoying the solitude, alone with his thoughts and the birds chirping in the trees. Far off in the distance, he could hear children playing. A young girl yelled out, "Olly olly oxen free!" and Daniel smiled to himself.
Someone had won the game.
Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and pushed himself to sitting. He looked around for the others, and was more than mildly surprised that they weren't there. He hadn't been in the park alone, had he? He was almost certain they'd all been playing football together.
"Jack?" he called out as he pushed himself to his knees. "Sam? Teal'c?" He got his feet under him and stood, looking around once more.
No, they weren't there. There was no one in the park at all, aside from himself and the children playing hide-and-seek under the trees at the top of the hill. He could see now that there were two of them, a little boy with dark blond hair and glasses, who looked to be about ten, and a fair-haired girl who seemed a few years older - he guessed she was around thirteen.
Suddenly, he became aware of a dark shadow that was silently creeping toward the little boy.
Daniel opened his mouth to shout a warning, but no sound escaped his lips. He couldn't seem to make himself talk above a whisper, no matter how hard he tried.
The shadow was still moving, and the little boy still didn't realize the danger slinking up behind him.
Daniel shook his head. No, this wasn't happening. This wasn't real.
But when he looked across the park, the shadow was still there.
Knowing that he couldn't warn the little boy in time, Daniel tried running toward him, hoping to pull him out of harm's way before it was too late, but the faster he moved his legs, the slower he moved. Daniel felt his heart racing, pounding in his chest, and he realized that there was nothing he could do.
The shadow was too close to the little boy; Daniel couldn't stop it. Two dark tendrils reached out toward him; one wrapped itself around the little boy's arms, pinning them to his sides. The other snaked across his mouth, keeping him from crying out for help.
Daniel tried to yell again, but managed only a strangled, whispered, "No."
No, it wasn't real. It didn't happen. It wasn't real, had never been real.
He felt a strong arm wrap around him, pinning his arms to his sides and a large hand press against his mouth, silencing his cries for help. He heard a voice in his ear, a frightening voice, whispering evil things about death and beauty that seemed both familiar and terrifying ...
'Wake up, Daniel,' he heard another voice say to him - an older, stronger, safer voice. 'It's just a bad dream. It's not real. Wake up.'
Jack wondered why he'd been concerned that Daniel had looked so young in the park. After all, Daniel had kept his eyes closed most of the time, hadn't he? Just like they were closed now. And his face had been relaxed, almost peaceful, completely unaware of the world around him. Just like it was relaxed and peaceful now. Jack had wondered about this before and he'd never understood it, how someone who'd been through as much as Daniel had could look so at peace, so innocent and youthful, the second he closed his eyes. It made perfect sense to Jack now, the way Daniel had looked in the park, because it was the exact same way he looked in his bed in the infirmary. He certainly didn't look thirty; hell, he didn't even really look twenty.
Daniel looked young when he was sleeping, and he always had.
Jack hadn't come up with a reason for the voice yet - the soft, hesitant, broken and slightly lispy voice - but he knew there had to be one. Since there was a perfectly logical explanation for Daniel looking like a little kid, then there had to be an equally logical explanation for him sounding like one.
Jack had just started to think one up when Janet stepped up beside him.
Jack stood quickly, almost grateful for the interruption. "Doc, hey."
Janet looked around the empty infirmary expectantly. "Where are Sam and Teal'c?"
"The had to go downtown with that FBI guy, Phillips, so he could interview them. They should be getting back soon."
Janet nodded in understanding. "Ah, yes. Agent Phillips. He's already called me, asking when Daniel will be able to answer questions."
Jack tried to read her thoughts from her expression, but he couldn't. "So, what is it? What's the verdict?"
Janet sighed. "Well, all of his scans came back perfectly normal."
Jack started to smile but stopped when he realized that Janet wasn't. "That's a good thing," he said. "Isn't it?"
Janet shrugged and shook her head slightly. "It means that his head injury isn't severe. There is no sign of a brain bleed, no increase in his intercranial pressure, and no skull fracture. It looks like he's just got a mild concussion."
Now Jack was confused. "So why don't you look happy?"
Janet closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair. She stayed that way for a moment before lowering her hand to rub her forehead. "Because, Colonel, it also means that there is no physical explanation for either his collapse or the behavior you described."
Jack simply stared at her, so she continued.
"There is no real reason for any of it, Colonel. Not the confusion, not the memory loss, not the non-responsiveness ..."
A soft moan and the rustle of sheets drew their attention back to Daniel and they put their conversation on hold. Daniel was restless, his head turning back and forth slowly on the pillow, his forehead wrinkled. His lips were moving slightly, but no sound came out.
Jack stepped up to Daniel's right side; Janet walked to the other side and stood directly opposite him.
Daniel's tossing and turning was increasing. His lips moved again, this time accompanied by a strangled, "No!"
"Doc?" Jack looked up in concern.
Janet turned her head to check the monitors at Daniel's side. "His heart rate's increasing," she said, "and his blood pressure's rising. I think he's having a nightmare."
Jack looked across at Janet for confirmation that he was thinking the right thing, and she nodded at him. He stepped forward, perched one hip on the gurney, wrapped his hands around Daniel's arms, and shook him lightly.
Daniel tried to roll back and forth on the bed, tried to pull his arms free, tried to get away. His lips were moving soundlessly again - to Jack, it looked as though he was saying, "Help me, help me," over and over again. Whatever the nightmare was about, it was obviously getting worse.
"Wake up, Daniel!" Jack said forcefully. "It's just a bad dream. It's not real. Wake up!"
Daniel's eyes flew open and he bolted upright in the bed. His face was panic-stricken, his breath came in shallow, ragged gasps, and his heart was beating wildly. He grabbed the first thing he touched, Jack's sleeve, and held it tightly.
Jack gave him a few seconds to regain control of his breathing and focus on his surroundings before speaking again.
Daniel blinked a few times before he turned his head slowly.
"Yeah," Jack answered gently. "You okay?"
"What happened?" Daniel asked.
"You were just having a nightmare," Janet answered. "The colonel woke you up."
Daniel nodded slowly. He let go of Jack's sleeve and laid back on the gurney with a sigh. His eyes were scanning the infirmary, as though he were only just beginning to realize where he was.
"Um ... how did I get here?"
Jack smiled down at him and stood. "You cracked your head pretty good in the park. We were on our way back here when you decided to take a little nap." Jack leaned down slightly and tapped Daniel on the arm. "Next time you want to do that, it might be a good idea to lay down before you pass out."
Daniel nodded up at him. "Yeah, I'll try to remember that."
"How does your head feel, Daniel?" Janet asked.
Daniel shrugged. "I'm fine, just a little headache."
Janet pursed her lips as she considered her next question. "And do you remember ...?"
"Yeah," Daniel said quickly. He closed his eyes and let his head sink into the pillow. "Yeah, I remember. I kind of wish I didn't, though."
Jack nodded his head and briefly squeezed Daniel's arm. "You and me both."
"Daniel!" Sam called cheerfully from the door. "You're awake!"
Jack and Janet turned and watched Sam and Teal'c enter the room. Daniel opened his eyes and smiled at them.
"Hey, guys," he said.
"Daniel Jackson, it is good to see you alert again."
"Thanks, Teal'c," Daniel answered. The color raised in his cheeks and he flushed slightly in embarrassment. "I guess I did sort of zone out on you in the park, huh?" He looked up at Janet. "I don't suppose we know why?"
Janet smiled at him softly. "You hit your head when you fell. You've got a mild concussion, Daniel, that's all. Nothing to worry about. You'll probably have a headache for a while, but other than that, you'll be fine."
Jack looked across at Janet, and she nodded at him. He took that to mean that she'd decided that Daniel's episode had been the direct result of his concussion. His worries about Daniel's health eased, he turned to Sam and Teal'c.
"So, how'd the interviews go?"
Sam shrugged. "There wasn't really much we could tell them, sir," she said. "We didn't see anything and we don't know any more than they do."
"However, Agent Phillips was emphatic in his desire to speak with Daniel Jackson," Teal'c added. "He believes that you may be able to tell him something of value."
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know what that could possibly be. I saw the same thing you did, which is basically nothing."
"They did tell us something that should make you feel better, Daniel," Sam said.
"What's that?" Daniel asked.
"That little girl you thought it was? Jenny? It wasn't her."
Daniel straightened up a bit in the bed and looked back at Sam in confusion. "Who's Jenny?"
Jack exchanged quick glances with Sam and Teal'c before looking down at Daniel. "You kept calling her Jenny. We were worried that you knew her."
Daniel shook his head. "I don't know anyone named Jenny," he said.
Jack, Janet and Sam all shared expressions of confusion. Teal'c tilted his head and said, "Perhaps someone you knew as a child?"
"Not that I remember," Daniel said. He shrugged and then turned to Janet. "So, since it's just a minor concussion, do I have to stay overnight?"
Janet thought for a moment before answering. "In the infirmary? No. On the base? Yes." She patted his arm before turning away. "I'll disconnect the monitors in just a minute. First, let me find some clothes for you to change into so you can shower. You're filthy."
Daniel looked down at himself and for the first time realized that he was still wearing the jeans he'd worn to the park. The mud had long since dried and caked, and there was dried mud all over the sheets. He shook his head and smiled.
"Hey," he said. "You still owe me, Jack."
"Owe you what?" Jack asked.
"I didn't get to tackle you."
Daniel swung his legs over the side of the bed and started to sit up. He closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness washed over him. Jack's hand was on his arm immediately, holding him steady and helping him the rest of the way up.
"Yeah, let's just wait a while on that one, okay? I don't think you're quite up to playing football yet."
Sam stepped forward. "Besides, Daniel, I got the impression that Agent Phillips really wants to talk to you tomorrow."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "He was most insistent."
"Yeah," Daniel answered, almost sadly. "I really wish I could help them. The look on her face ..." He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I can't even begin to imagine how frightened she must have been."
The sounds of the birds chirping in the trees had changed. Daniel couldn't explain how he knew that it was a different sound; he only knew that it was. Perhaps there were fewer birds, or perhaps they were different kinds. He also didn't have enough knowledge of birds to determine if there was any significance to the change, though he could say that it almost made him feel like he was in a different park than he had been in the day before.
He'd wanted to come back here one more time, alone, to see if he could remember something he'd forgotten, something that could help the police and the FBI to find the person who'd killed that poor little girl. His mind told him that it was pointless, that all of the evidence had already been removed, but he couldn't ignore the feeling in the pit of his stomach - the one that told him that he knew more than he was remembering.
He walked toward the bushes carefully, watching the ground beneath him, making certain not to step on anything important. It struck him as slightly odd that there was no yellow crime scene tape strung around the bushes, but he shrugged and continued walking. If the police had decided that they were done with evidence collection at the park, then who was he to tell them that they weren't?
"They've taken their evidence," he said to himself as he reached out with his hand. "There's nothing here any more." His hand stopped in mid-air and his breath hitched in his chest. The last time he'd done this, he'd found a beautiful little girl lying pale and stiff on the muddy ground, her throat cut from ear to ear and her blood pooling in the dirt around her.
He knew she wouldn't be there any more; he had a vague recollection of having watched the coroner take her body away. It was perfectly safe for him to pull that branch aside and look in to the bush.
"Olly olly oxen free!"
He spun his head toward the voice, his hand still suspended above the bush.
The blonde haired girl was looking for the little boy again, calling out his victory to him, telling him that it was time to come out.
Daniel could see the little boy, who he knew with a strange certainty was the girl's brother, still hiding behind the trees at the top of the hill. The little boy was laughing, his eyes shining behind his glasses, at all the fun he was having making his sister keep looking for him. Daniel couldn't help but smile at the happy - and somehow very familiar - scene.
Then he saw the shadow creeping up behind the little boy.
Daniel could remember being here before. He didn't know how, but he knew it - knew that neither yelling nor running would do any good. He wouldn't be able to move; he wouldn't be able to scream. He started thinking that perhaps he could get there in time, if he moved slowly and carefully. He pulled his hand back from the bush and had almost stepped away when he heard the voice behind him.
Daniel stopped and spun, looking for the person the voice belonged to. It was the voice of a girl, a young one, but he couldn't see anyone behind him.
"Olly olly oxen free!"
Daniel turned back toward the girl on the hill. She was growing frantic, her voice tense and her hands cupped around her mouth as she yelled. And the little boy laughed harder, completely ignorant of the danger right behind him.
Daniel tried once more to step away from the bush, wanting to warn the little boy about the shadow, when he heard the voice behind him again.
"Daniel ... Don't let him find me, Daniel ..."
Daniel shook his head in confusion and spun back around. He knew that voice coming from the bushes, knew it just as surely as he knew his own. What was she doing here, in this park, so far from her house, and all by herself? Ignoring the frantic beating of his own heart, he grasped the branches tightly with both hands and pulled them apart.
That same heart stopped when he saw her.
"Cassie," he gasped, horrified. "God, no, Cassie!"
Daniel looked around frantically for Janet, for Jack, for anyone who could help, but there was no one there. There were only the two children playing hide-and-seek on the hill and the shadow. Daniel fell to his knees in the bushes at Cassie's side, praying that someone would find them in time. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the shadow move, saw it lunge forward, saw it pounce on the little boy behind the trees.
And the strong arms were wrapped around him again, pulling him to his feet, pinning his own arms to his sides and keeping him from crying out for help. The arm around his chest squeezed so tightly that Daniel feared that his ribs would break, and the hand across his mouth was so large that it covered both his mouth and nose, leaving him desperate for air. Daniel struggled as hard as he could, trying to get away, trying to run, trying to scream.
The whisper in his ear froze his blood and his body with it.
"Beautiful children, Daniel," the evil voice said. "I love beautiful children."
Daniel's eyes widened in panic and he started struggling again. The evil voice in his ear just laughed, and the shadow arms grew impossibly tighter around him. His lungs screamed for oxygen that he couldn't give them, his ribs felt as though they'd snap in the next second, and his heart pounded so hard that he felt it beating against the inside of his chest. Frantic to escape, Daniel forced himself to concentrate on the best way to make the shadow release him. It didn't take him long to figure out what to do.
Daniel opened his mouth, leaned forward as far as he could, and sank his teeth into the hand that wrapped around his face.
Daniel heard a strong and familiar voice mutter, "Damn it, Daniel!" Then the shadow pressed its hands against his back and shoved him forward, and he was falling, rolling, head-over-heels, down the side of the hill.
Daniel opened his eyes to find himself lying on the floor of the VIP room he'd been assigned, sprawled none-too-gracefully on his stomach beside the bed, and a highly irritated Jack O'Neill standing over him, holding his arm. He blinked quickly and pushed himself up to his knees, then looked up at Jack in confusion.
"Um ... what happened?"
Jack looked down at him through eyes slightly narrowed in more than mild annoyance. "Are you awake now?"
Daniel glanced around the room quickly, as if to assure himself that everything was where it belonged, and then shifted his position until he was sitting on the floor. He leaned back against the side of the bed and pulled his knees up, then looked up at Jack and nodded.
"Good," Jack said, fighting to keep his voice as friendly and non-threatening as possible. "Would you care to tell me why you bit me?"
Daniel's eyes widened in surprise. "Bit you?"
Jack nodded. "Yes, Daniel, bit me. As in your teeth went into my arm." He moved the hand he'd been covering the inside of his left arm with, and held it out for Daniel's inspection. The wound was minor but obvious - two very clear half circles composed of several small lines, already beginning to swell and discolor to a painful-looking purple.
Daniel opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He simply sat there, staring at Jack's arm mutely.
Jack pulled his arm back and covered the bite with his hand again. "Daniel?"
Daniel blinked and shook his head quickly, snapping himself out of his trance. "I ... I did that?"
Jack nodded again. "Yeah, you did."
Jack shook his head this time, and he felt his anger giving way to concern. "That's what I just asked you."
"No, I mean ..." Daniel stared down at his hands, which were fidgeting nervously against his knees. "What was I ...?"
"Dreaming," Jack said. "You were having a nightmare."
"Another one?" Jack hadn't thought it was possible for Daniel's eyes to get any wider, but they did.
Jack nodded once more. "You really must have hit your head pretty hard," he said. "I mean, I know you've had quite a few of them since ..." Jack let the sentence trail off; he saw no need to remind Daniel of the hell of sarcophagus withdrawal yet again. They both had more than enough memories of that time to keep them awake all night as it was. "But it just seems like, you know, two in twenty-four hours?"
Daniel bit his lip and stared straight ahead, his eyes focussed on the wall, apparently lost in concentration. Jack took a deep breath, moved to the bed, and sat down on it. He leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees, and looked down at Daniel on the floor.
"Do you remember what it was about?"
Daniel shook his head slowly. "I have no idea," he answered. He closed his eyes and tilted his head slightly, obviously digging in his memory for some clue as to the elusive nightmare. Coming up completely empty, he shook his head quickly. "Must have been pretty bad, though, huh?"
Jack rubbed his hands back and forth, and he, too, turned to stare at the wall. "When I came in, you were thrashing around on the bed and screaming. I was kind of worried that you were going to fall off and hurt yourself, so I ..."
"You tried to hold me still," Daniel finished for him.
"And I bit you."
"And I don't remember any of it."
Jack shrugged and not having an answer for that, didn't even try to give one.
Daniel sighed and leaned his head back against the bed, turning his eyes to look up at Jack beside him. "That can't be good, can it?"
Jack forced himself to smile down at Daniel. "Hey, you hit your head, right? Doc said that's probably what caused the one in the infirmary. Actually, she said that you've got a concussion, and that's what's causing everything." Jack kept the full extent of Janet's statement, especially the part about the head injury alone apparently not being sufficient cause for all of Daniel's troubles, to himself. "You'll be fine in a few days."
Daniel gave Jack a half-hearted smile and dropped his head to his chest. "Oh, that's just great."
Jack tapped Daniel on the arm lightly before standing. "Come on," he said, tilting his head toward the door. "Let's go."
"Police station," Jack answered, holding his good arm out to Daniel to help him to his feet. "We have to go give that FBI guy our statements about yesterday. Remember?"
"Oh, yeah," Daniel said in understanding. "Agent Michael Phillips."
"That's the guy," Jack said as he turned toward the door. "He's waiting for us, I guess, though I don't know why. We can't tell him anything more than Carter and Teal'c already did."
Daniel nodded wordlessly and followed Jack out into the corridor. He could hear Jack talking, saying something about FBI agents and tape recorders, but he wasn't really listening. Ever since he'd said the name out loud, he'd been repeating it over and over to himself in his head.
Agent Michael Phillips.
Why did that name seem so familiar?
Jack led Daniel down the corridor by the arm, mentally kicking himself in the head with every step they took. Why he'd thought that Daniel was recovered enough - from whatever he'd managed to do to himself the day before - to withstand questioning by an FBI agent of Michael Phillips' obvious experience was completely beyond him. Why Janet had ever agreed to let him go was even further beyond him, and he had half a mind to go down to the infirmary and give her a piece of it.
Daniel had seemed fine ... well, okay, mostly fine ... on the drive to the police station. He'd been quiet, but having what was obviously a doozy of a nightmare immediately before leaving the base could probably account for that. They'd talked a bit while they were waiting to be called into Phillips' temporary office, and Daniel had seemed to be coming back around. They were both still confused as to why the man wanted to question him so badly, and neither of them could come up with a single good reason why. Daniel had found the body, true, but he didn't know anything more than the rest of them did and, truth be told, because of his condition afterward, he probably remembered less.
Then Jack had been called in for his interview.
It had been short, fifteen minutes at the most. It consisted mainly of Phillips asking a bunch of questions that Jack didn't know the answers to, and Jack answering them with, "I don't know." It had been overly uninformative and ultimately pointless, as far as the gathering of facts went.
It did last long enough for Jack to decide that he didn't think he liked Agent Michael Phillips.
He couldn't put his finger on just what it was that he disliked, but something about the man raised the hairs on the back of his neck and set his teeth on edge. For one thing, the man seemed far too interested in Daniel, and that never set well with Jack. When people were interested in Daniel, bad things had a tendency to happen to him. A theory that he'd been kicking around on his own - without mentioning it to Daniel - was that they might be looking at Daniel as a suspect. Jack couldn't imagine much worse than an FBI agent getting it in his head that Daniel was capable of doing what had been done to that little girl in the park.
Except for what would happen to Daniel if said FBI agent actually told him that he thought that.
Phillips had walked Jack out to where Daniel was waiting, intent on collecting Daniel himself, and that struck Jack as odd. Why not send the secretary, liked he'd done with Jack? He was still mulling it over when Daniel had stood from his chair, turned almost completely white, and promptly fell back into it.
"Hey!" Jack had called to him, walking quickly to his side and placing a steadying hand on his arm. "You okay?"
"What?" Daniel blinked and looked up at Jack in confusion.
Jack sighed and rolled his eyes. "Are you okay?" he asked slowly.
Daniel blinked again and shook his head. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just ... I just stood up too fast. Just a head-rush, that's all."
Jack looked at him closely, trying to decide if Daniel was telling the truth or not. Given the events of the past twenty-four hours, he was inclined to think not. "Are you sure?" he pressed. "Because if you're not, if your head is hurting again, we are so ..."
The voice came from behind him, and Jack turned his head toward it. Phillips was overstepping his bounds by calling Daniel by his first name, Jack thought. He was opening his mouth to tell him so when he felt Daniel's hand grip the sleeve of his jacket tightly. He turned back around to see Daniel staring at the man, his eyes wide and what little color had been left in his cheeks gone.
"I only need to see you for a moment, Daniel. That's all."
Scratch the 'didn't think' part - Jack did not like Michael Phillips. At all.
"Hey," Jack said softly. He waited for Daniel to turn his head and focus his eyes on him before continuing. "Are you okay?" he repeated gently.
Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, they were clear and lucid again, and he flashed Jack a quick smile. "Yeah," he said. "Just a bit of vertigo. I'm fine."
Daniel removed his hand from Jack's sleeve and pushed himself to his feet again. Jack stood smoothly beside him. Just as Daniel started to step away, Jack touched his arm again. Daniel turned toward him once more, giving Jack one more look into his very alert eyes, and smiled again.
Jack nodded his head and sat down in the chair Daniel had just vacated. He watched the two men walk back toward Phillips' office, but as soon as they were out of sight he closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall behind him. Jack was beginning to think that there was something seriously wrong with Daniel's head, something much more dangerous than a mild concussion, and he had a sick feeling in his stomach that things were only going to get worse.
When Phillips had brought him back forty-five minutes later, in the middle of a full-blown panic attack, Jack had jumped to his feet, grabbed Daniel by the arm, and led him straight to the door.
Jack had no real way of knowing what the agent had said, and Daniel wasn't saying anything about anything right now, but the "Don't let him leave town!" that Phillips had shouted after them had made Jack's blood boil. He wasn't really a betting man, but he'd give dollars to donuts that his theory had been correct. He was also willing to wager that Phillips, in his oh-so-infinite wisdom, had actually told Daniel that he was a suspect.
This day just kept getting better and better.
So now he was leading a nearly catatonic Daniel, one that hadn't said a single word since they'd left the police station, down the corridor toward the room he'd been assigned to until Janet released him.
They were attracting more than their fair share of attention from the personnel they passed, and Jack was grateful when they finally reached the door. He opened the door and led Daniel inside quickly, kicking it closed behind him. He turned Daniel around, pushed him backwards until he sat on the bed, and then stood, looking down at him.
Daniel sat limply on the bed, his shoulders slightly raised and his arms wrapped around his middle, and stared straight at the wall, unblinking.
The silence was beginning to make Jack nervous, so he decided to fill it.
"There we go, Daniel. All done." Jack ran his hand through his hair and turned away. "So now, I think you should probably just take your jacket off, and your boots, and go back to ..."
"I don't like my dreams."
The voice was quiet, barely above a whisper, and sounded so young that Jack thought he'd imagined it. He turned back toward Daniel slowly. Daniel hadn't moved; his blank expression was still firmly affixed to the wall. Jack was seriously beginning to think he'd imagined the quiet declaration.
"Did you say something?"
Daniel didn't answer, and Jack sighed. "You know, Daniel, if you don't start talking soon I'm going to have to go get ..."
"It isn't real."
Jack tilted his head and took a few steps forward. He turned one of the chairs to face the bed and sat down in it.
"What isn't real?" he asked, though he had a suspicion that Daniel might not actually be hearing him.
Daniel shrugged and turned his head slowly, until he was looking directly into Jack's eyes. Oh, Daniel was hearing him, all right. But from the look in those eyes, Jack did doubt that this was any Daniel that he knew. If the small voice and hesitant posture hadn't given it away already, the wide, frightened, far-too-innocent eyes staring back at him would have.
"What isn't real, Daniel?" Jack asked again, keeping his voice as soothing as possible. He debated with himself over whether to go get Fraiser or not, but he couldn't think of anything she could possibly do to help. Physically, there was nothing wrong with Daniel but a minor concussion.
"It's just a stupid dream. Jenny's told me that I shouldn't be afraid of dreams, because they're not real."
"Who's Jenny?" Jack hoped that the question sounded more curious to Daniel's ears than it did to his own.
Daniel simply shrugged again and turned away. "If it's just a dream, then it's not real," he explained. "And it can't be real, because if it's real, then that means it really happened."
Every alarm that could sound in Jack's head did so after that statement. He wanted to grab Daniel by the shoulders and shake him until he explained exactly what that meant, but he forced himself to settle for sitting farther forward on the chair.
"And what did happen, Daniel?"
Daniel shook his head, but didn't turn back toward Jack again. Keeping his eyes locked on the wall, Daniel whispered, "Nothing. Because it's all just a dream. Because it's not real. Because if it really happened, then I should have saved her."
Jack closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He was in way over his head with this one, but he was hesitant to involve anyone else. If there was one thing that Jack knew about Daniel it was that he was as leery of mental health professionals as Jack himself was, and if Mackenzie heard Daniel talking like he was right now ... No, Jack would do everything he could to keep things from going that far. He had a head injury, right? He was just confused, lost in some memories from his nightmare, and it was all because of that concussion.
It had to be.
Jack took a deep breath and tried once more. "Daniel, I still don't know what you're talking about. You really need to tell me."
Daniel blinked twice in rapid succession and turned his head slowly.
Jack started in surprise and leaned farther forward. "There you are," he said with a small smile.
Daniel blinked again, and though his confusion was evident, Jack was glad to see that his posture had returned to one he'd expect to see on a thirty-year-old man.
"What?" Daniel asked. "Where was ... where am ... how did we get here?"
Jack stood and walked to the bed. "Wanna try one question at a time?" he asked as he sat down at Daniel's side.
Daniel closed his eyes and leaned forward, rubbing his forehead with his hand. "I'm really beginning to hate this waking up not knowing what's going on thing," he said.
"Waking up?" Jack asked. "Daniel, I hate to tell you this, buddy, but you weren't asleep."
"Yes, I was," Daniel argued. He opened his eyes, dropped his hands to his lap and turned his head slightly. "I fell asleep in the car. And now you wake me up, and we're in the mountain, in my room, and I don't remember how we got here."
"Um ... we walked," Jack said. "I'm telling you, you weren't asleep."
Daniel closed his eyes once more and let his head fall back. "Sleepwalking," he said simply. "God, I haven't done that since I was a little kid."
A little voice in the back of Jack's mind piped up, 'And when you do it, you act like one.', but he ignored it.
"Sleepwalking?" Jack asked. "When you were a kid?"
Daniel nodded. "Yeah. I woke up once in the middle of the street at three in the morning."
"How old were you?"
"Um ... ten, maybe? I don't remember what happened, or what I was dreaming about. I just remember waking up standing in the middle of the street."
Daniel yawned, and Jack took that as a cue to stand up.
"You know what, Daniel?" he said as he walked toward the door. "You've had a really rough couple of days. Why don't you go ahead and lay down and get some real sleep?"
Daniel lay back against the pillows and stretched out. "What for?" he asked. "So I can have another nightmare? Bite someone else? Or maybe wake up in the middle of the parking lot?"
Jack pulled the blanket up from the foot of the bed and draped it across Daniel's legs. "I can't do anything about the dreams, Daniel, but I do guarantee you that those last two things will not happen."
Daniel nodded and rolled onto his side, burying his head deeply in the pillow. Just as Jack reached for the doorknob, Daniel called out softly.
Jack turned slightly. "Yeah?"
"What is wrong with me?"
"You hit your head, Daniel," Jack answered without hesitation. "You just hit you head."
Jack opened the door and stepped into the hallway. As he set out to find Teal'c - to make certain that no one went into Daniel's room while he was sleeping and that Daniel didn't come out until he was completely awake - he knew that his last statement had been a lie.
Something was going on with Daniel, something that had nothing to do with the bump on his head, and Jack had every intention of finding out just exactly what that something was.
If he could only figure out where to start looking.
"Tell me something, Carter," Jack said as he walked into Sam's office unannounced.
Sam looked up from her computer screen. Jack pretended not to notice that she minimized whatever it was she'd been looking at.
"Hypothetical situation, Carter. Say you know this guy - smart guy - who finds a dead little g ... dog in the park. All of a sudden, this guy develops this habit of kind of zoning out. And when he zones out, he keeps acting like a little kid and talking about another little g ... dog that he says is dead. And when he zones back in, he says he doesn't know any other dead dogs. Hypothetically, what would most likely be wrong with him?"
Sam blinked at him a few times. "Purely hypothetical, sir?" she asked.
Jack nodded quickly. "Yeah, hypothetical situation."
Sam smiled sadly and leaned forward, crossing her arms on her desk. "Hypothetically, sir, I'd say you should probably ask Janet."
Jack shook his head. "No, hypothetically, I don't want to ask Fraiser. Not yet, anyway." Jack sighed and leaned forward against the desk himself, lowering his voice. "We need facts, Carter. But right now, I don't think we even know what kind of facts we need. I do know that I don't want Fraiser, or anyone else for that matter, poking around in Daniel's brain until we know just exactly what they're going to find in there. We need somewhere to start looking, though, and I thought that maybe you might ..."
"Repressed memories, sir," Sam said suddenly.
Jack straightened back up and stared at her in surprise. "What?"
Sam looked down at her keyboard and scratched her forehead absently with her index finger. "Um ... repressed memories. I've been ..." Sam paused, reached for her mouse, and pulled the screen she'd been looking at when Jack entered back up. She gestured at it distractedly. "... reading up on it. It's what happens when ..."
Jack glanced at the computer screen briefly and nodded his head. "When someone sees something they don't want to remember, so they make themselves forget. Yeah, I know what it is."
Sam looked up and Jack leaned his elbows on her desk again.
"Now tell me what you think that has to do with Daniel."
Sam cleared her throat softly. "I, um ... I think I've seen him do this before, sir."
Jack's eyebrows shot up in surprise, but he kept his voice steady. "When?"
"On P7J-9899, sir, the Gamekeeper's planet. In the recreation Daniel and I were stuck in, when his ..."
Jack cut her off with a wave of his hand. "I know what happened, Carter. What I still don't understand is what that has to do with this."
Sam leaned away from the desk and sat up straighter in her chair. "When we first arrived, when we were walking around, Daniel said that he knew where we were, that he'd been there many times, but he didn't seem the least bit worried about being there then. And then when we saw his ... his parents, and he walked toward them ... he kept saying 'no,' that it couldn't be real, that it wasn't real ..."
"Oh, that sounds familiar."
Jack shook his head as he remembered the conversation he'd had just before leaving Daniel under Teal'c's watchful eye.
"If it's just a dream, it's not real. If it's not a dream, then that means it really happened."
Sam tilted her head slightly, still obviously confused, but when it appeared that Jack was going no further with his explanation, she resumed hers. "He said that he used to play it over and over again in his head, thinking of how he could have saved them. But the way he said it, sir, it was almost like he was surprised he'd done that. Or like he was surprised that he remembered doing it."
"And if it really happened, then he should have saved her," Jack whispered.
Sam's eyes widened. "Saved who, sir? His mother?"
Jack shook his head slowly. "No, Carter. Jenny. Daniel thinks he should have saved Jenny."
"But, sir, who is Jenny?"
"That's what you're going to find out, Carter."
The trees in the park were becoming frightening, looking more like monsters from a child's nightmare than a beautiful creation of nature. No longer did he see the sun, but only faded stars in a moonless sky. The birds that chirped above him, the far-off sounds of anonymous people in the distance and the closer voices of the children playing hide-and-seek at the top of the hill no longer brought a nostalgic smile to his face, but instead filled his heart with dread.
What was in this park that kept drawing him back to it? What did he hope to find?
Or was something in this park trying to find him?
Daniel watched them from the bottom of the hill, those children up above, but stayed close enough to the old grey oak tree that he could duck behind it when the shadow approached. They were out without permission, having snuck out the window after their parents had gone to bed. He knew that the little boy's heart was beating as much with the joy and freedom of their game as from the fear of what their father would do if he found them alone in the park at night.
Daniel tilted his head slightly and smiled softly despite his fear. The little boy's smile was a beam of sunshine in the darkness, a blissfully happy expression on a face that had seen so much pain and sorrow in his young life that he'd thought he'd never smile again. The blue eyes shone with joy behind the oversized glasses, beneath the shaggy mousy brown bangs.
Daniel sighed deeply, almost painfully. This little boy's life was so close to being "normal" again; he was so close to having a family – a real family – with a mother and father that loved him and a big sister to look out for him.
But the shadow would be coming soon, to wrap itself around his chest and take it all away in a matter of seconds, and it would never be replaced.
Just as Daniel had known would happen, the shadow appeared at the bottom of the hill and started climbing toward the little boy – the little boy with the big blue eyes and the shaggy hair who was still so innocently unaware that his life was about to end for the second time in as many years.
He didn't try to run to them this time. He knew that it would do no good, and he feared the arms that would wrap themselves around him, the hot breath that would brush against his neck, and the evil words that would whisper themselves in his ear. Crying out a warning that they wouldn't hear would serve no purpose other than to alert the shadow to his presence. So he did what a coward would do, what a ten-year-old boy should have done, and hid behind the tree.
It was when the little boy started screaming that Daniel fell to his knees with his eyes closed tightly and his hands pressed again his ears.
"Not real," he whispered to himself. "Not real, not real, not real."
And suddenly he was falling, tumbling, head-over-heels and out of control; the world was spinning and whirling around him before he felt a sharp pain behind his ear and it all went black.
The little boy's screams stopped, and then there was a strange thumping noise on the other side of the oak tree.
The girl had started yelling now, but there was defiance and hatred in her voice, not the fear that had been in the little boy's. Daniel dropped his hands from his ears, opened his eyes, and pushed himself to his feet slowly. He had to see what was happening, what had happened. He walked around the tree warily, both afraid and strangely certain of what he would find on the other side.
The little boy was lying on his right side at Daniel's feet, his small body bent around the tree and his left arm draped across himself. His glasses were cracked, and blood streamed from a gash behind his left ear, staining his long hair an angry crimson. Another dark stain spread out across the front of his upper left arm, a deep, jagged wound visible at its center. The speed of his body rolling down the hill while his arms flailed bonelessly had pulled some of the blood down his arm, under his shirt, and out across the back of his small hand. Tiny rivers of blood ran between his knuckles and dripped onto the ground beneath him. A smaller stream of red came from a mark on his neck and trickled down the inside of his collar bone to pool in the hollow at the base of his throat. He wasn't moving and his breathing seemed off somehow, but he was alive. He shouldn't have been alive, Daniel thought. He shouldn't have lived through this.
"Someone help us!"
Daniel heard Jenny screaming for help that he knew would never come, and he closed his eyes again. He wanted to stand up, to run to her, to save her… but his head hurt so badly and his arm felt funny and it was so hard to breathe. He pressed his hands against the ground and tried to stand – Jenny needed him and he had to get up.
He just needed to ignore the pain and get up.
To hear Jenny screaming his name like that, to hear the terror and desperation in her voice, was enough to get him to his feet. There was a strange sound from above, a sound he had never heard before and was certain he didn't ever want to hear again, and Jenny's screams fell silent. With his heart pounding in his chest, he spun toward the hill, steeling himself for the climb up, but found himself face to face with the shadow.
In his nightmares, he'd always imagined that the shadow was a disguise for a monster, a demon, with claws and fangs ready to rip him to shreds at the first opportunity, but the reality was much different than his imagination. He supposed he should be grateful not to be staring at a living, breathing Satan on the hunt for blood, but he wasn't. He was terrified by what he saw – more terrified than he'd been in years.
He was staring into the eyes of a perfectly average human, a man – a man with cold, black, evil eyes. It was a man who had already tried to kill him once, a man who held a knife that dripped Jenny's blood, a man who had haunted countless unremembered nightmares for two decades.
It was a man he knew, and he was staring right back at Daniel with those eyes and raising that knife again.
The screams of a terrified ten-year-old boy were still ringing in Daniel's ears when his own screams woke him. He found himself sitting straight up on a bed he didn't immediately recognize, blankets tangled around his feet, his heart hammering in his ears and his breath coming in quick, almost painful, gasps. He looked around the room frantically, trying to remember where he was and how he'd gotten there.
Daniel spun his head toward the voice and saw the vaguely familiar shape stepping out of the shadows. Still disoriented from his sudden waking, he could only recall that he knew this man… but he'd known the man in his nightmare, as well. Should he trust this man just because his mind was telling him that he knew him, or should he fear him for that very reason? He scrambled back on the bed, pushing himself as far against the headboard as he could go, and closed his eyes, trying to force the overwhelming feeling of terror that still filled him away.
A hand touched his face lightly, and Daniel's eyes shot open.
Daniel bit back the scream that perched on the edge of his tongue and took a deep breath. ‘Teal'c,' his mind told him as the nightmare finally released him from its grasp.
"Teal'c," he said out loud, his voice broken and shaky. He blinked hard, and when he looked at Teal'c again, he truly saw him for the first time since he'd awoken.
The memory of the face in his dream, and the feeling of having known the man that haunted him, faded away.
"You are safe, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said gently.
Daniel nodded his head quickly and swallowed. "I know," he whispered. "Wasn't real… just a dream."
His heartbeat was returning to normal, and he'd managed to get his breathing somewhat under control. He took another deep breath and forced his muscles to relax, so that his back was leaning against the headboard rather than trying to become part of it. He reached up with his right hand to wipe away the beads of sweat he felt running down his face, only to find that he was shaking. He balled his hands into fists and tucked them under his legs, hoping that Teal'c hadn't seen it.
He should have known that Teal'c would notice, though. He realized that when Teal'c sat down on the edge of the bed carefully and wrapped his hand around Daniel's upper arm. "You are safe," he repeated.
Daniel looked down at the strong hand that circled his arm and opened his mouth to answer, but his voice was stolen by a gasp. At some point during his nightmare, or during the panic that had followed, the sleeve of his black T-shirt had ridden up slightly, and though Teal'c's hand was covering most of it, the very bottom of a scar was visible, a slightly-raised, jagged white line against his skin.
Without a word, Daniel yanked his arm away and pulled his sleeve down. He wrapped his own right hand around it, rubbing at the slight imperfection through the fabric, tracing the raised surface of it with his fingertips. He'd had the scar as long as he could remember; he didn't know where it had come from, and it had never bothered him. He couldn't explain why he was suddenly worried about Teal'c seeing it; he only knew that he had to hide it. And though he couldn't remember the injury that had caused it, it suddenly hurt in a way that he could only describe as badly, but muted as though by the years, throbbing – a phantom pain laced with fear that set his heart pounding again.
Teal'c raised his eyebrows slightly in confusion at the odd reaction. He lowered his hand to rest in his own lap and looked at Daniel in concern.
"Is your arm injured? Do you wish me to summon Dr. Fraiser?"
"No!" Daniel answered too quickly. He closed his eyes and tilted his head, digging through the rapidly vanishing memories of his nightmare. He knew that he wasn't supposed to talk to the doctor about his arm, felt very strongly that he wasn't allowed to do that, but he couldn't remember why.
Daniel opened his eyes, saw the expression on Teal'c's face, and forced himself to smile. He was being ridiculous; after all, it was only a nightmare. It was far from the first one Teal'c had ever seen him have, and Daniel was certain it was far from the last, but he could see the concern on his friend's face. He was worrying Teal'c, and he really shouldn't be doing that.
When people worried, they asked questions, and Daniel wasn't allowed to answer questions about his arm.
"I'm fine, Teal'c," he said, his voice much calmer than it had been only seconds before. "I'm just still trying to get my bearings here. I really don't need Dr. Fraiser."
"Actually, Dr. Jackson, you do need to see her," said a voice from across the room.
Teal'c and Daniel both turned toward the slowly opening door just in time to see Janet walk through it. She stopped just inside the room and looked back at them. The expression on her face made it clear that she knew she'd just walked in on something; the undercurrent of anxiety in the room was palpable. Daniel felt his muscles starting to tense again and forced himself to relax.
"Am I interrupting?" Janet asked.
"No," Daniel answered with a shake of his head. "I just woke up. Everything's fine."
Teal'c spun back to face Daniel, who pointedly ignored the look of incredulity of the other man's face. To Teal'c's credit, he said nothing to dispute Daniel's seriously abbreviated version of the past several minutes.
Janet didn't look like she completely believed him either, but she said nothing about it. "Well, I do need you to come to the infirmary. That's why I'm here. You've got a follow-up with me for that head injury."
Daniel reached up with his left hand and felt the bump on his head. It was behind and just slightly above his left ear, and it was still tender when he touched it. When he moved his hand back down he stared at his fingers, strangely surprised that they were clean. He had a vague memory of there being blood, a lot of blood, in his hair and on his hand… but that wasn't right. He'd fallen in the park and hit his head on a rock, but it hadn't bled at all.
He shook his head slightly, chasing the obviously false memory from his mind, and looked up at Janet again. "Yeah," he said, quietly. "Yeah, I'm coming."
Daniel untangled his feet from the blankets, and Teal'c stood and crossed the room to Janet's side. As Daniel bent over to retrieve his boots from the floor and slip his feet into them, Janet motioned Teal'c closer.
"He seems a little… off," she whispered. "Is everything all right?"
Teal'c looked at Daniel, who glanced up from tying his boot. Blue eyes stared back at him, almost begging him to keep quiet, to keep his behavior after waking a secret. Teal'c inclined his head ever-so-slightly, and Daniel returned a quick expression of gratitude before turning back to his boots.
"Daniel Jackson has only just awakened," Teal'c replied evenly. It might not have been the whole truth, but it wasn't a lie.
Janet looked confused. "Wait, Teal'c… why are you here?"
Daniel's eyes widened – he didn't think it would be the greatest idea to tell Janet that Teal'c had been assigned to keep Daniel from waking up halfway down the mountain. His mind clicked through all the different excuses he could give her, but Teal'c was faster.
"O'Neill's presence was required elsewhere," he answered smoothly.
Before Janet could ask why that mattered, Daniel stood, straightened his shirt, and crossed the room.
"Why don't you go find Jack, Teal'c?" he said. He touched Teal'c's arm briefly, both relieving him of his responsibility and thanking him for not telling Janet exactly what condition he'd woken up in. "I'll just be in the infirmary with Janet."
Teal'c nodded deeply, silently, and stepped out the door.
Daniel turned to Janet, his best imitation of a carefree smile on his face. "After you, Doctor," he said, motioning toward the door.
Janet nodded, though it was plain from her face that she still wasn't completely certain of what had just happened, and stepped into the corridor.
Daniel followed close behind her, closing the door as he went.
Jack stood close to Sam's back, watching over her shoulder as she typed in her search terms, narrowing their search down with every search she did. If she made a mistake, which he had to admit wasn't often, he stepped in to help her.
"You've got the wrong city, Carter," he said. "We're to 1977, right? In 1977, Daniel was living in New York state. Searching in Chicago won't do any good."
Sam nodded and adjusted her search terms, replacing Illinois with New York, and pressed enter.
"And this will find it?" Jack asked for the third time.
Sam smiled almost indulgently at him. "Like I already explained, sir, I'm searching newspaper articles for deaths involving girls named Jenny in 1977. If there was ever an article written about her, we'll find it."
"How long will it take?"
"It shouldn't be long, sir."
"O'Neill," Teal'c said from the door.
"Hey, Teal'c," Jack greeted, looking up. He straightened his back and walked toward him, glancing into the hallway to see if anyone was with him. "Daniel awake?"
"He is," Teal'c answered. He paused, and it looked to Jack like he was almost uncertain of what to say next, or of how to say it. The lab was silent, except for the clicking of Sam's mouse and the occasional tap of her fingers against her keyboard.
"Something wrong, Teal'c?"
"I am unsure," Teal'c answered. "Upon waking, Daniel Jackson seemed…" His voice trailed off.
Jack tilted his head, waiting for Teal'c to continue.
"Fearful," he finally said. "He was afraid, O'Neill."
"Of what?" Jack asked.
Jack's eyes widened and he shook his head quickly. "No, Teal'c, that can't be right. Daniel would never be afraid of…"
"Oh my God! Sir!"
Jack and Teal'c both spun toward Sam's nearly frantic summons. She was staring intently at her computer screen, an expression of near-horror on her face.
"Carter?" Jack asked.
Sam glanced up at them and then back down at the monitor. "I found her, sir," she announced. "I found Jenny."
Teal'c and Jack crossed the room quickly, taking up positions behind Sam's back and reading the screen across over her shoulder.
"Jenny Miller," she said, summarizing for them the article she had already read in its entirety. "Thirteen years old, from Albany. She was murdered, sir, in the park. According to the article, she was playing hide-and-seek with her younger brother when she was attacked. Her throat was cut."
"And her brother saw the whole thing," Jack muttered. "Damn." He bit his lip as he read through the article for himself, looking for mention of a second witness. "Are you sure it's her, Carter? It only talks about her brother…"
Sam nodded. "I'm almost positive, sir. This is the only article that came up as a full match on all the terms. The year is right, sir… and her brother was ten."
Jack shook his head. "How does her brother's age matter, Carter?" he asked. "Daniel's an only child."
"Look at the picture, sir."
Jack put his hand on the desk and leaned around Sam's shoulder, getting close enough to the monitor to clearly see the picture that accompanied the article. It was a standard newspaper photo, black and white, grainy, and obviously taken at the scene. In the foreground, a stretcher bearing a small black body bag was being loaded into an ambulance. In the background, surrounded by policemen, was a little boy – a little boy covered in dark splotches that had to have been blood, a little boy with long light-colored hair and glasses, a little boy with the same shell-shocked expression Jack had seen a dozen times in the past two years.
Jack squinted and leaned even closer, hoping he was wrong, but he already knew who he was looking at. The little boy's face hadn't changed much as he'd aged, and Sam and Teal'c saw it, too. Jack's heart was pounding in his ears, Sam's hand was gripping his sleeve tightly, and Teal'c's posture had stiffened considerably behind him.
"Oh, holy hell," Jack whispered as his eyes fell closed. A sudden thought occurred to him, and he pushed himself upright, spinning to face Teal'c.
"Where is he?" he demanded. "Where's Daniel?"
"Daniel Jackson is in the infirmary," Teal'c answered. "Dr. Fraiser collected him for a follow-up appointment concerning the injury he received in the park."
Jack breathed a sigh of relief and nodded slowly. "Okay, good. I think we can all agree that the last thing we want him doing is wandering in here and seeing this."
Teal'c's confusion was evident. "You believe that he will be upset if he knows what we have learned about his childhood?" he asked.
"It's more than that," Jack began.
"He doesn't remember it, Teal'c," Sam said, her words spilling out on top of Jack's. She looked up at him sheepishly. "Sorry, sir."
Jack brushed her concern off with a wave of his hand. "No, Carter, you tell him. I need a minute to digest this."
Jack turned away from the computer and walked around the room aimlessly. He closed his eyes, hoping that the darkness and the absence of the picture would remove the memory of the image he'd just seen, but found that it only burned deeper. He'd seen Daniel injured before, seriously injured… hell, he'd seen Daniel dead! But this… this was different. This was a child, covered in blood, watching his dead sister be loaded into an ambulance just minutes after watching her be murdered.
Jack knew this little boy, had seen him and talked to him. This was the little boy who'd talked to Jack in the park – the little boy with the slight lisp, the wide eyes and the hesitant posture. He'd surfaced every time Daniel had zoned out, every time Daniel had struggled to deal with memories he didn't remember having, for the past thirty-six hours.
This was the little boy who couldn't forget what he'd seen but somehow kept Daniel from remembering any of it.
"But how is it possible that Daniel Jackson would not remember these events?" he heard Teal'c asking Sam. "Even now, he bears the scars."
"Of course he does," Jack answered. He sighed deeply, opened his eyes and walked back toward them. "But he could hide them from everyone, even himself, because they're the kinds of scars you can't see."
"You are incorrect, O'Neill," Teal'c said as he turned to face him. "The scars are very visible."
Jack and Sam exchanged questioning glances. Was Teal'c speaking figuratively, or had he actually seen something?
Teal'c returned to the computer monitor and isolated the photograph on the screen. With a few clicks of the mouse, he zoomed in on Daniel – specifically, he zoomed in on Daniel's left arm. He straightened up again and pointed, stepping back so Jack and Sam could lean in to see what he was showing them.
"This blood on Daniel Jackson's sleeve," Teal'c began, "corresponds with a scar that I have only recently seen on his arm."
"He has a scar on his arm?" Sam asked. She stood straight and turned to Teal'c, while Jack remained hunched over the picture. "I've never seen a scar, Teal'c. Where is it, exactly? What does it look like?"
"It is on his upper left arm," he replied, "in the exact same location as the large patch of blood in the picture. It appears to be one to two inches long and it is jagged and slightly raised."
Jack heard Teal'c's and Sam's voices behind him, continuing their discussion about Daniel's scar, but he tuned them out. He sat down at the desk and stared intently at the picture, studying the blood not just on Daniel's sleeve, but on the rest of him. There was so much of it, on his shirt, his face, his hands – and it hadn't all been Jenny's. They'd been in the park together, playing hide-and-seek. It wasn't all that difficult to believe that if Daniel had been close enough to be a witness, he'd been close enough to be a second victim. Besides, if Daniel at ten had been anything like Daniel at thirty, there was no way he would have just stood there and watched. He'd have gotten involved, tried to protect her at the very least, and he'd have gotten hurt himself. Jack wondered just exactly how much of that blood was Daniel's.
Why the hell hadn't this shown up in his background check?
That question stopped Jack cold and made him really wonder about it. Why hadn't it shown up? True, most of the story about his parents had been omitted – actually it had been edited down to "Orphaned at the age of 8" – but even though Daniel had witnessed their deaths, they hadn't been murdered and he hadn't been injured. Something like this, though, something that would have resulted in Daniel being called to testify in court, in a murder trial? Jack would have thought that something like this would have shown up.
The more Jack thought about it, the less sense it made. And there was something about the article that wasn't sitting right with him, but he couldn't put his finger on what it was. He hit the back button and returned to the article, reading through it again and again, trying to figure out what was missing… and then it hit him. Nothing was missing, but something had been reported wrong.
Jack pushed away from the computer and stood up. He pointed back at the screen animatedly. "It says he wasn't hurt," he said.
Sam started in surprise at the colonel's sudden interruption, and Teal'c turned his head toward him. When they saw Jack gesturing toward the monitor, they both leaned forward to see what he was trying to show them. "So they didn't outline his injuries, sir. That's fairly common. Newspapers and the police both hold information back, so they don't risk compromising an active investigation."
"No, Carter, that's not what they did!" Jack's voice was rising in volume, and he fought to keep it down. They couldn't afford to be overheard right now. Realizing that he was far too upset to keep his voice under control, he crossed quickly to the door and closed it, turning back around immediately to continue.
"It's not that they didn't list his injuries, Carter, it's that they said he didn't have any. Now, I don't know about you, but I would say a ten-year-old with a stab wound is pretty damn injured. And that's if you believe that's the only wound he had."
"Is this piece of reporting inaccurate?" Teal'c asked.
"Looks like it," Jack answered quickly. "And if they're wrong about his injuries, then what else are they wrong about?"
Sam sat down in the chair and read through the article once more before answering. "We have no way of knowing. But if this isn't accurate, sir…"
"We must dig deeper," Teal'c said.
Jack snapped his fingers and nodded. "Bingo!" He crossed the room again, and stopped only when he was standing behind Sam's chair. He reached down and pointed at one line on the screen, wanting to make certain that Carter saw it.
"It says that the FBI investigated it," Jack said.
"That's assuming that the article is correct in reporting that," Carter pointed out.
"We're going to assume that it is." Jack looked across at Teal'c and then put both hands on Carter's shoulders. "How current is your FBI archive clearance, Carter?"
Sam smiled slyly and started typing. "As current as you need it to be, sir."
Daniel shook his head carefully, not wanting to give the pounding behind his eyes any reason to get worse.
Daniel almost laughed, but settled for an ironic smile. "No, I have no trouble falling asleep."
'Staying that way is a different matter.' He didn't see any reason to volunteer that information, though, so he didn't. He didn't think he'd tell her that even if she asked him directly.
"I haven't thrown up since yesterday," he answered honestly. He didn't mention the fact that he knew his stomach would rebel violently if he tried to eat anything.
Janet nodded her head and finished writing down his answers in his chart. "Okay, Daniel."
He couldn't tell if she actually believed him or not, but he hadn't lied to her once. Well, maybe once… possibly twice… but no more than that. Lies of omission weren't really lies, were they?
Janet closed the folder and placed it on the gurney beside him, then took one step back and slipped her hands into the pockets of her white lab coat.
"Now tell me the truth."
Daniel froze and looked up at her. She looked back at him, not smiling at all. She was completely serious, and she knew. Damn the woman for being as good as she was – she knew.
Daniel let his eyes fall closed and sighed.
"Okay, I have a headache, but it's not bad. And I haven't thrown up, but I have been a little nauseous."
Then she smiled, just a little.
"And sleeping?" she asked, noticing immediately that he hadn't revised his story on that.
"No, that was true. I really don't have trouble falling asleep." He shrugged slightly. "Actually, it seems like that's all I've been doing."
Janet nodded knowingly. "That's perfectly normal with a concussion," she said. The smile fell from her face before she continued. "And what about the nightmares?"
Daniel felt the blood draining from his face and hoped that he didn't look as pale as he suddenly felt. "Nightmares?" he asked. He heard his voice break on the word and mentally kicked himself.
Janet nodded. "Yes, nightmares. You had one while you were here yesterday, a rather bad one from the looks of it." She stepped forward and leaned a bit closer to him. "Have you had any more like that one?"
Daniel shook his head quickly, very glad that she'd worded that question the way she had. "No," he said softly. "I haven't had any more like that one."
'They're worse, Janet. They're getting worse every time and I can't remember them and they're starting to scare me. And I wake up terrified of something, and shaking, and I feel so helpless, and I can't remember why.'
"No more like that one," he whispered. He looked down at the floor, wanting to avoid her eyes, not wanting to see if she believed him or not. He was telling the truth – that one had been nothing compared to the one he'd just woken up from.
Janet sighed and bent slightly, putting herself back in his line of vision. "So do you want to tell me what happened before I walked in?"
Daniel blinked, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat. "What do you mean?"
She straightened back up and Daniel lifted his head again, watching her with eyes slightly narrowed in suspicion. Janet turned and pulled the curtain closed, cutting them off from the prying eyes and ears of the infirmary, insuring that only she and Daniel would be part of the conversation.
She turned around and walked back to resume her place by the side of the gurney. "I know something was going on, Daniel. You were white as a ghost and Teal'c looked like he wanted to say more than he did. So why don't you just tell me?"
Daniel opened his mouth to answer her, but he couldn't think of what to say. The headache was making it hard for him to think. He knew that he couldn't tell her… no, he couldn't tell her. He couldn't talk about his arm, and he wasn't even supposed to talk about his head. He wasn't allowed to talk to doctors – he knew that. "Um… no, nothing…"
"Daniel…," Janet began.
At that exact moment, alarm klaxons blared throughout the base and a voice came over the PA system. "Medical team to the gate room! Medical team to the gate room!"
Janet looked up at the summons and then back down at Daniel. He could see in her eyes that she was torn; she wanted to stay until he answered her, but she couldn't. He could hear the rest of her response team scrambling around already, gathering equipment.
"I'm fine, Janet," he said softly. "Really."
She didn't believe him, that much was obvious, but she didn't have much of a choice.
"Dr. Fraiser!" a voice called from behind the privacy curtain. "Dr. Fraiser, we have to go!"
Janet nodded her head quickly as she made the only decision she could. "All right, Daniel. I'm going to have a nurse release you. But if you have any more problems..."
"You'll be the first to know," he said.
Janet looked at him once more before turning on her heel and pulling the curtain open. She jogged over to her assembled team and led them out into the corridor. He heard her shouting to one of the nurses as she left, giving orders that Daniel was to be released from all medical restrictions and allowed to leave.
Daniel sighed as he relaxed, slumping forward slightly on the bed. As he lowered his head he caught sight of the scar sticking out from the edge of his sleeve once more, and he jumped. He pulled his sleeve down quickly and wrapped his hand around it again, trying to ease the throbbing with his fingertips. He was very glad that Janet hadn't asked him about the scar, because he couldn’t have answered her.
Daniel wasn't allowed to talk to doctors.
The nurse was slower than Daniel thought she had to be when it came to finalizing his release. He’d been hoping to be gone from the infirmary long before Janet returned from whatever emergency had summoned her to the gate room, but it wasn’t to be. He was still sitting on the gurney, waiting for his walking papers, when the first nurse came back in, supporting the weight of the limping commander of SG-8. Two more members of the beaten and bedraggled looking team followed, with three more nurses. Behind them were Janet, two other nurses, and a gurney bearing the fourth team member.
Daniel couldn’t help but flinch when he saw them; SG-1 had returned home in that exact same condition more times than he cared to count.
Janet glanced around the infirmary quickly, saw Daniel still sitting on the gurney against the wall, and frowned. She barked some instructions to the nurses with her around the gurney, and moved off quickly to find Debra, the nurse she had charged with Daniel’s release. A few heated words and gestures in his directions later, and Debra – Daniel’s favorite day-shift nurse – was walking toward him.
"I’m sorry for your wait, Dr. Jackson." She held a clipboard in one hand and made rapid notes on it with the other. "Let’s get you out of here, okay?"
Daniel nodded, his eyes riveted to the team on the other side of the room. "Are they going to be all right?"
Debra glanced over her shoulder and then turned back to him with a tight smile. "They should be. Captain Williams is the worst; he’ll be going in for surgery just as soon as Dr. Fraiser can get him prepped."
Daniel gulped. Oh, yes… a very familiar scenario. There was a reason he knew Debra, after all.
Debra didn’t notice his response as she turned back to her clipboard and continued making notes on it. "I wish I could stay and help them," she said quietly.
Daniel tipped his head and turned his head to look directly at her. "Why can’t you?"
Debra shrugged. "Dr. Fraiser needs me to go pick her daughter up. I guess her babysitter made it very clear that she had plans tonight and that Cassie absolutely had to be picked up by 5:00."
Daniel glanced up at the clock. It was already 4:30; just going into town would take half an hour. If she had to finish his discharge, and change, and sign out… she was never going to make it. And it was obvious that she really wanted to stay and do her job.
Daniel smiled as a thought occurred to him. He wanted to get out of the mountain as quickly as possible; Debra wanted to stay. He was medically cleared from the concussion, all restrictions lifted Janet had said, so he could drive. All he had to do was walk to the surface, sign out, and head into town. And he thought it would be a relaxing way to spend his evening – hanging out at Janet’s house, watching television with Cassie.
"Why don’t I pick her up?"
Debra looked up in surprise, a smile on her face. "Really?"
Daniel shrugged. "Sure. I don’t have anything else to do tonight, and besides, I enjoy spending time with Cassie. That way, you can stay here and help SG-8, and Cassie gets picked up on time."
Debra smiled and nodded. "Let me just write down the babysitter’s address?"
Debra scribbled something else down on his discharge papers, then pulled them free and handed them to him.
"Thank you so much, Dr. Jackson. I really appreciate it."
"It’s no problem at all," Daniel said as he hopped down off the gurney and started for the door, holding the papers in his fist. "I think it’ll be fun."
"How can there possibly be no record of the case?" Jack demanded.
Sam shook her head and leaned back in her chair. "I have no idea, sir. If the FBI investigated Jenny’s death, I should be able to find some record of them having done so. Actually, I should be able to find the entire casefile."
"And there’s nothing?" Jack asked again.
"No, sir, nothing."
"Perhaps the newspaper was incorrect in their reporting of this as well," Teal’c said.
Jack shook his head. "No, they were there," he insisted.
"But, sir," Carter began, "the archives…"
"The archives don’t know everything," Jack said as he reached for the phone. "But I know someone who does."
Daniel stopped by the locker room just long enough to change out of his blue uniform in what had to be record time. He hoped that the temperature hadn’t fallen much in the past few hours, because he didn’t have a jacket with him. He’d been wearing one when he’d gone to play football, but it had ended up so coated with mud that he’d let Janet throw it away rather than try to wash it. He reached into his locker one last time, grabbed his cell phone, and slipped it into his pants pocket.
He showed his ID at the gate and walked across the parking lot, disappointed to realize that the temperature had dropped considerably since he’d gone to the police station with Jack that morning. He was already shivering slightly by the time he reached his car. He opened the door, got in, and started it up. The first thing he did was turn the heater up, chasing most of the chill from his skin.
As Daniel pulled out of the parking lot and on to the street, he felt as though a massive weight had lifted from his shoulders. He hoped that leaving the mountain would leave behind the nightmares that had plagued him for the past day and a half, and he knew that hanging out with Cassie and watching silly movies all night long would go a long way toward easing his mind. He still couldn’t help but rub his arm once more though, absently, as he drove down the street.
He pulled up to the stoplight, glancing in his rearview mirror just long enough to make certain that the car behind him was stopping as well, and picked up the discharge papers to double-check the address that Debra had given him. It wasn’t that far, really. He checked the clock on his dashboard – 4:43. He should be there in plenty of time.
The light turned green while he was checking the clock, and the car behind him honked to let him know it was time to move. Daniel raised his hand and waved slightly out the back window as he pulled away.
"Come on, Doug," Jack said to the man on the other end of the phone line. "You know I wouldn’t be asking you to do this if it weren’t important."
Agent Doug Baker sighed. "I know that, Jack. I just don’t know if I should be doing this."
"You owe me, Doug," Jack reminded him, not a hint of threat in his voice. "And it’s not my fault that the archives are missing the very casefile I need, now is it?"
"Yeah, about that," Doug said. "How exactly did you get into the archives in the first place?"
Jack cleared his throat. "I’ve got a higher security clearance than you do, Doug. Do you really think the FBI case archives are off-limits to me?"
If he answered it with "yes" then Jack was in serious trouble.
Instead, Doug’s answer was another sigh. "Okay, Jack. What is it you want me to look for?"
"Jenny Miller," Jack answered quickly. "Thirteen years old, murdered in Albany, New York in 1977."
Jack could hear Doug typing through the phone, and he turned to give Sam and Teal’c a quick thumbs up to let them know that things were going according to plan.
"Jenny Miller," Doug said as he typed. "Yeah, I remember her. I’d just joined up and really hoped I’d get assigned to her case, since I was from New York."
"You didn’t work it?" Jack asked, passing the time as Doug continued to type.
"No, not me. That case was Mike Phillips’ baby from the get-go. He wouldn’t let anyone else near it."
Daniel smiled as he turned toward Janet’s house. Cassie was chattering away in the seat beside him, telling him all about school and her friends and the boys she liked… everything that had happened in the month since he’d seen her, actually. He would nod every now and then, say, "Yeah," at all the right times, but for the most part, he just let her talk. Hearing her voice, so young and innocent and relaxed, was putting him more and more at ease as the drive went on.
He glanced into the rearview mirror once more and saw a car turn onto the street behind them. A slight sense of déjà vu came over him – wasn’t that the same car that had been behind him at the street light?
Before he could think any more on it, Cassie had moved on to telling him about the snowman she and Janet had built the weekend before, and Daniel looked back down at her with a smile. It might have seemed like an odd conversation to have with a child who’d watched her entire planet be murdered less than a year before, but Daniel knew better. Daniel knew better than anyone just how quickly children could readjust to life after having lost everything that mattered to them.
"Your first snowman?" he asked. "Tell me all about it."
Jack and Teal’c were barreling down the corridor toward the infirmary, neither one of them noticing or caring about the people that had to jump out of their way.
Jack had left Doug on the phone with Sam with the instructions that he fax over absolutely everything he’d found so Sam could start briefing General Hammond on the new developments. And Doug had found the information that was missing from the archives; he’d found it in Michael Phillips personal files.
Damn it, Jack had known there was something wrong about that man, had known it from the moment Daniel had passed out after just seeing his face.
But now they had proof – proof that Phillips had known Daniel all along and hadn’t bothered to let anyone in on that little fact. The questions he had for Agent Michael Phillips were piling up in Jack’s head but for now, they could wait. For now, he and Teal’c were just going to get Daniel back into the VIP room where they would know he was safe.
They didn’t stop running until they were in the infirmary, until they noticed a distinct lack of Daniel.
"Colonel!" Janet called out in surprise. She walked toward him from where she had been busy settling Colonel Hutchens of SG-8, anger written clearly on her face. "Colonel O’Neill, you should know by now that you can’t just barge into my infirmary like a…!"
Jack didn’t have time for the dressing down, though he was sure she believed he deserved it. "Where is he?" he demanded of her. "Did you release him? Where’d he go?"
"Who?" she asked, confused.
"What is the location of Daniel Jackson?" Teal’c asked calmly.
"I released him, sir," she answered tersely. "Almost an hour ago. Debra…" Janet glanced around the infirmary, stopping when she realized that Debra was still there, attending to another member of SG-8. "Debra, what are you doing here? I thought I asked you to go get Cassie for me."
Debra looked up from the cast she was applying to Lieutenant Anderson’s arm. "Dr. Jackson volunteered to get her, ma’am. You’d cleared him for driving and I know he’s watched her before, so I didn’t think…"
Janet turned back to Jack, a question clear in her eyes, but Jack didn’t have time to answer it. He had to get Daniel back into the mountain, back where he was safe, and he had to do it now.
He left Teal’c to explain things to Janet while he pulled out his cell phone and started dialing.
Daniel felt good as he pulled into the driveway of Janet’s home. The sun had set but the last of its light had yet to fade from the sky, and the sunset he saw over the mountain somehow calmed away the last of his tension. Janet’s house sat at the end of a quiet little cul de sac, not entirely secluded but more than peaceful enough for Daniel. He turned the car off, leaned back against the seat, and breathed deeply.
"Daniel?" Cassie said from the seat beside him.
He sat up and smiled at her, the first real smile he’d felt on his face in more than a day. "You go inside; I’ll get the groceries."
Cassie smiled as she hopped out of the car and walked toward the front door, her keys already jangling in her hand.
Daniel got out, too, and headed for the trunk. He knew that Janet would most likely give him a lecture about the proper way to feed a growing young girl, but Cassie had begged him to stop at the grocery store. They’d gone in together, bought pizza and cheesesticks and soda. Daniel frowned when he thought of the car that had been parked beside him when they came out of the store. Was that the same car… no, it couldn’t be. It was just a dark four-door sedan; they weren’t exactly uncommon.
His arm had started throbbing again, badly, and he rubbed at it again. He’d have to ask Cassie where Janet kept the Tylenol; he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his time with Cassie if he was constantly focusing on an old scar that for some reason had decided to start hurting. He shrugged and looked down at the keys in his hand, searching through them to find the one that would open the trunk.
Without warning, the keys flew from his hand as he felt something large and powerful slam into his back. He fell forward against the trunk, all the air knocked from his lungs. A large hand wrapped around his left wrist and pushed it toward his shoulder blades, twisting his elbow painfully, and another large hand pinned his right shoulder against the car.
He turned his head, trying to see who was behind him. His eyes widened in shock and fear and his breath caught in his throat - he recognized the man immediately.
"Hello, Daniel," a frighteningly familiar voice whispered in his ear.
Before either man could say anything further, Daniel’s cell phone started to ring.
Jack paced the corridor as he waited for Daniel to answer. After the fourth ring, he heard the other end of the line pick up. "Hello, this is Daniel…"
"Daniel! Where are you? Are you all right? Have you got Cassie with you? Listen, I need you to come back to the mountain…"
"… unavailable. If you’ll leave your name and number..."
Jack pressed the disconnect button quickly and angrily. Now was most definitely not a good time for Daniel to decide not to answer his cellphone. Hoping that Daniel just hadn't had time to answer before his call got diverted to voice mail, Jack dialed again.
"Hello, this is Daniel..."
"Damn it!" Jack had to stop himself from throwing the phone across the hallway. Whatever reason Daniel had for not answering his phone, it had better be a damned good one.
Janet's voice was much softer than it had been before, and the look in her eyes told Jack that Teal'c had finished explaining what they'd learned about Michael Phillips. She'd obviously been able to put Jack's concerns about Phillips together with the fact that Daniel was supposed to have Cassie with him and, further fueled by his reaction to being unable to reach Daniel by phone, had drawn her own conclusions. His distress was feeding her own, and it showed plainly in her expression.
Jack forced a tight smile, the best he could do to comfort her under the circumstances. "He's picked a lousy time to stop answering his phone." He tried to make his tone light and unconcerned, but he knew he failed miserably.
Janet took what small measure of comfort she could from his attempt. "There are some dead zones near my house, Colonel. It's possible they're just in one of those."
Jack nodded in response, not really believing the answer was as innocent as that but trying his best to give Janet as much hope as possible. "Yeah," he said. "That might be it."
Before he could say any more, Sam's voice came over the base-wide intercom. "Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c to the Briefing Room, please. Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c to the Briefing Room."
Jack looked across the corridor to where Teal'c was standing near the door to the infirmary and motioned with his head for Teal'c to start walking. As Teal'c began to walk toward the Briefing Room, Jack turned back to Janet one last time.
"Maybe you should try them at the house?" he suggested to her as he backed down the hallway. "Maybe he just put his phone down somewhere and he can't hear it."
"You may be right, Colonel," Janet said, turning toward her office. "I'll call the babysitter, too, and see what time he picked her up."
The 'if he ever did' portion of the sentence remained unspoken, though they both knew that it was a very real possibility.
Daniel could absolutely not believe his eyes when he turned his head and saw exactly who it was that had pinned him to the trunk of his car. His first thought – his only thought – was that the FBI agent had decided to make Daniel an actual suspect in the murder of the little girl in the park and arrest him. Faced with the prospect of being jailed for something he knew he didn't do, and unable to even move, Daniel did the one thing he did best. He started talking.
"No, Agent Phillips, I told you the truth. I don't know anything about that little girl. I don't even know who she is."
Daniel wished he could get a hand free to get his phone out of his pocket. The first call he'd gotten had gone to voice mail after four rings, and now it was ringing again. Persistence like that could only mean that it was Jack calling. If he could only answer the phone and tell Jack what was going on, then he'd be a lot closer to getting out of this.
"I know you're telling the truth, Daniel," Phillips answered. "And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Michael?"
Daniel nodded quickly, eager to cooperate in any way he could. "Okay, Agent... Michael. Michael." He didn't understand quite what Phillips was talking about, because he'd never told him to call him Michael, but it was obvious that it was important to him, for some reason. He took a deep breath and continued. "Okay, Michael. You know I didn't kill her?"
"Of course I do," Phillips said, his voice full of annoyance. "But I also know that you of all people should know who did."
Daniel blinked in confusion. So Phillips didn't think he'd killed the little girl himself, but thought he knew who did? How was he supposed to know that? He hadn't seen her be killed, he hadn't seen whomever had taken her to the park. He'd only found her body long after the horrible event had taken place. How could he possibly know who killed her?
"Come on, Daniel," Phillips said, growing more and more annoyed as the conversation went on. "Just think about it."
Daniel's phone stopped ringing again, and the small bit of hope he'd been holding on to that he'd be able to talk to Jack evaporated. He shook his head in response to Phillips' insistent words. "No," he said. "I have no idea who..."
Phillips leaned down over Daniel, pressing his elbow into Daniel's wrenched shoulder. "You'd better tell me what you know, boy, or this is going to get very messy."
Daniel gasped and turned his head, wanting to see Phillips' face. The hard, dark eyes that stared back at him chilled him to the core and he almost regretted having turned. "I swear to you, I don't know anything about her. I don't know who killed her," he said, fighting to keep his mounting fear out of his voice. Why hadn't anyone come out to see what was going on? He knew that Janet lived in a quiet neighborhood, but this was ridiculous.
Phillips looked surprised and leaned back slightly. Daniel took his first deep breath since the entire incident had started, relieved to feel the pressure on his aching shoulder ease slightly. Phillips cocked his head to the side slightly and looked down at him. "You're not acting, are you?"
Daniel shook his head quickly, hoping that Phillips was truly starting to believe him. Maybe this whole thing was almost over.
"Do you remember me, Daniel?"
Daniel was confused by the sudden turn Phillips questions had taken.
"Of course," Daniel answered honestly. "You're Agent Michael Phillips of the FBI. I met you in the park two days ago."
"Two days ago?" Phillips asked, and Daniel nodded again. "You met me two days ago?"
Phillips smiled then, and Daniel almost wished he'd start glaring again. As frightening as the man had been angry, when he smiled he was almost terrifying.
"Oh, Daniel," Phillips said softly, his smile growing wider. "You've been such a good boy, haven't you? You did exactly what I told you to do."
Daniel shuddered at the tone of voice; Phillips was sounding less and less like an FBI agent as the moments dragged by. A terror that Daniel couldn't explain began to rise in his throat, but even that was not enough to push down the questions that swirled in his mind. He was beginning to get the feeling that this wasn't about the little girl in the park any more, and he had to try to understand what was really going on.
"What did I do?" he asked.
"You forgot me," Phillips answered. "These past few days, I've thought you were lying. I've thought you knew exactly who I was and that you'd told your friends all about me. Especially your Colonel O'Neill. But you haven't told them anything, have you, Daniel? You haven't told them anything, because you don't remember."
Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head as his confusion grew.
"I knew that I'd have to get you away from them, somehow, but I should have realized they didn't know. If they knew, Daniel, if you'd told them... they wouldn't have let you out of their sight. I thought you knew, Daniel. I thought you knew who killed that little girl, and I thought you knew why. But I was wrong."
"Wait, so..." Daniel couldn't even begin to form the thoughts swirling around in his head into a single, cohesive thought. "Who killed her?"
Phillips leaned back down, pressing his forearm hard against Daniel's upper back, immobilizing him once more. He moved slowly, gradually increasing the pressure until Daniel found it almost impossible to breath, leaning so close that Daniel could feel hot breath against the back of his neck.
"I did," Phillips whispered.
The small amount of air that Daniel had managed to pull into his lungs froze there. His eyes widened and fear bubbled up from his stomach, mixing with the sudden bile that had risen into his throat. Oh, God... Phillips was a child killer. Phillips had killed a beautiful little girl, who couldn't have been more than twelve, had cut her throat from ear to ear and left her lying in the park. And now he had Daniel pinned to a car, and Cassie was in the house alone...
'Oh, God!' Daniel thought. 'Cassie!'
Daniel had to keep Phillips talking. If he could keep him talking it might distract Phillips from thinking about Cassie, and it would buy him some time. Time for... what? For Jack to get so upset that Daniel wasn't answering his phone that he came charging to the rescue? Jack had no idea that anything was wrong. No one had any idea that anything was wrong.
Besides, Daniel really needed to know, needed to understand. What could possess anyone to do what Phillips had done to that innocent little girl?
"Why?" he asked, almost afraid of what the answer would be but knowing that he really needed to hear it. "Why did you kill her?"
"The same reason I killed all the others," Phillips whispered.
There were others? Daniel couldn't believe what he was hearing. This couldn't be real, could it? A wave of nausea that washed over him was very real, however, and he swallowed as hard as the unrelenting pressure on his back would allow. He was really being held down by a man who had just admitted to murdering children. How many little girls had this man killed? How long had he been doing this? Why was he doing this?
"What... what's that?" Daniel forced himself to ask.
"Because they weren't you."
Jack stared at the papers spread out on the Briefing Room table with a growing mix of anger and hatred. Doug had really come through for him, and he was grateful for that, but at the same time, he wanted to call him up and scream at him for not having noticed the discrepancies in Phillips' official report on Jenny Miller's murder. Especially because every single one of those discrepancies involved Daniel.
The official report echoed the words of the newspaper article, listing Daniel as an uninjured witness after-the-fact.
But on the table in front of Jack, in front of all of them, was a medical report – retrieved from deep inside Phillips' personal files – that said something completely different. Daniel had been treated at the local hospital for a stab wound – a two-inch deep, three-inch long stab wound – to his upper left arm, a four-inch long shallow cut on his neck, two broken ribs, and a concussion. It was a rather impressive collection of wounds for anyone to have, let alone a ten-year-old boy. For that child to then be categorized as "uninjured" and for no one to have questioned it... the thought of exactly how much effort went into what was clearly a cover-up made Jack's blood boil.
"He wasn't a witness," Jack muttered, neither knowing nor caring if anyone else was listening.
"No, sir," Carter replied.
"He was as much a victim as the young girl," Teal'c said.
Jack nodded. "Yeah. The only difference is that he didn't die." Jack found himself wondering if it would have seemed better to Daniel, at the time, if he actually had. No child should ever have to think that, but Jack knew with a strange certainty that Daniel had.
The hatred for Michael Phillips surged through his veins again, and Jack slammed his fist into the surface of the table, causing both the papers and the three other people in the room to jump.
"Why would he lie?" Sam asked the question that dominated the minds of everyone seated around the table. "He's an FBI agent. He should have been searching for evidence everywhere, trying to find out who attacked them. Why would he falsify the official report and hide what little evidence he had?"
Jack glanced first at Teal'c and then at General Hammond before giving voice to his own thoughts on the matter.
"Maybe he didn't need evidence," he said with a heated shrug. "Maybe he knew exactly who it was."
"Colonel," General Hammond said, making Jack envy his control. "I understand what you're feeling right now, Jack, but there's no evidence that Agent Phillips was involved in the attack."
"Oh, come on, General! It's right there!" Jack jumped to his feet, startling Sam. She flinched away from the table. Teal'c was equally as surprised by Jack's sudden outburst, and cocked an eyebrow at him. Hammond watched him from the end of the table, intent on the papers that Jack had started rifling through. Jack finally stood away from the table, having found the two sets of papers he was looking for. He waved them in the air to punctuate his words as he spoke.
"This is the official report," Jack said, holding up the folder in his right hand. He raised the stapled papers he held in his left hand as he said, "This is the medical chart we found in Phillips' personal files. This one..." He waved the official report again. "This one says that Daniel wasn't injured. This one..." He held up the medical report. "Says that he damn near died. Someone stabbed him and tried to slit his throat. This one says that he found her body. This one says that he told the doctor he saw who killed her. This one says that Daniel refused to give any statements to anyone. This one says that Daniel was talking to the doctor, answering every question he asked, until Michael Phillips 'interviewed' him. This one says that Daniel was combative and confrontational. This one says that Daniel was scared out of his mind!"
"There aren't any interviews with Jenny's parents," Sam added. "No reports of anyone being interviewed at all, aside from Daniel."
"That's because Daniel was the only one who knew anything," Jack said. "Someone shut him up. And I'll give you ten to one that we all know exactly who that 'someone' is." He threw the papers back down on the table in disgust.
"Colonel...," Hammond began again. He was interrupted by Janet who, in a manner very unlike her, had just bolted up the stairs from the Control Room.
"Colonel!" she cried out as she burst into the room. "Colonel, something's wrong at the house!"
Jack turned toward her, as surprised as everyone else by her sudden and uncharacteristically frantic appearance. "Doc?"
"I called the house, sir, like you said. Cassie answered. I told her not to go outside, but she was crying, and screaming, and she dropped the phone and went anyway."
Sam pushed herself to her feet. "Cassie?" she said. "What happened? What did she say?"
Janet took a deep breath, gulping down the fear that showed so plainly on her face. "She said someone was there, in the driveway. She kept saying that he was hurting Daniel, someone was hurting Daniel. I told her to stay in the house, but she wouldn't..."
Jack bolted toward the stairs before Janet had a chance to finish what she was saying. He was halfway to the elevator before he realized that Teal'c was following him. They burst into the opening elevator side-by-side, neither sparing a glance at the very startled technician who was trying to exit. The doors slid closed, and the first few seconds of their trip went by in silence.
"If he's hurt a hair on either of their heads, Teal'c, I swear to God..."
Teal'c nodded solemnly. "I am in agreement, O'Neill."
"It sucks that we can't kill him."
"On Chulak, we would not be prohibited from doing so. We hold our children most dear to us. A man who would harm a child as this man did to Daniel Jackson, who would kill a child as he did to Jenny Miller, would not be allowed to live."
Jack shook his head in anger as the elevator opened. "We're not on Chulak, Teal'c."
As they ran toward the checkpoint at full speed, Jack found himself wishing that they were.
"I should thank you, Daniel." Phillips' voice veritably dripped with evil. "All these years, I've been looking for you, thinking of you, trying to find you. And now, you've saved me the trouble by coming to me. And you brought such a lovely little girl with you."
"No!" Daniel cried out, kicking his legs and trying to pull away from the car. His own fear was completely forgotten in the face of a very real threat to Cassie. "You leave her alone!"
Phillips' response was immediate and painful. He grabbed a handful of Daniel's hair, pulled back, and slammed Daniel's face into the trunk. "We've had this discussion before, Daniel. You know how much I hate it when you talk back to me."
Daniel took a deep breath, riding out the wave of pain and dizziness that crashed over him. He blinked away the blood that now dripped into his left eye and tried another approach. Keeping his voice as calm as possible, he said, "You said this was all about me, right? All this time, all the... " He paused to swallow the bile that rose in his throat. "All the others, you killed them because they weren't... because they weren't me." Daniel didn't even want to think about what that meant, but he had to keep Phillips talking. "Here I am, Michael. You've got me. You don't need Cassie."
Phillips leaned down, pressing hard against Daniel's twisted arm as he did so, and whispered in his ear. "You know it was an accident, don't you?"
Daniel turned his head as far as he could; he couldn't possibly answer Phillips' questions when he didn't have any idea what he was talking about. But still, the man had seemed almost happy that Daniel had "forgotten" whatever it was that Phillips thought he should remember. Maybe it would reassure him if Daniel asked for clarification. "What?"
Phillips pressed down harder with his body, pinning Daniel so hard against the car that the edge of the trunk dug in under his ribs. "Jenny!" he spat as he pulled Daniel's arm up even higher.
"Yes!" Daniel gasped out the first thing that popped into his head, his voice cracking with pain. His lower ribs felt as though they might snap at any second, if they hadn't already, and his shoulder felt like it was about to be ripped from its socket. "Yes, I know. I know, Agen… Michael. Jenny was an accident."
Jenny was the name that Jack had been asking him about for two days, the name that Jack had told him he kept repeating when he was asleep. He'd thought Jack had just misunderstood something he'd said, because he didn't know anyone named Jenny. But to hear Phillips say the name now, Daniel was quickly coming to the conclusion that there was a Jenny in his past somewhere. Now if he could just remember who the hell she was and what she had to do with Phillips.
"I wanted you."
Daniel tried not to shudder, tried not to show any fear, but this man - his voice and his face both eerily familiar in a nightmarish way - was terrifying. He closed his eyes and breathed as deeply as his tightly compressed lungs would allow. If he only had some idea of what was going on; if he could only get some sort of control over the situation.
But no matter how hard Daniel tried, none of this was making any sense. Daniel had only met him two days before, and Phillips was talking about things that had to have happened over years.
Phillips leaned down until his lips almost touched Daniel's ear, and whispered, "You were supposed to die. Not her."
Daniel's eyes opened wide and he swallowed hard; that was not what he was expecting to hear. "Oh."
Phillips didn't answer. Daniel realized that this was the best chance he was going to get to ensure Cassie's safety, and he forced himself speak again.
"I'm here now, Michael. If you want to kill me so badly, then do it. I won't stop you."
At that, Phillips smiled. It was truly the most evil thing Daniel thought he had ever seen.
He drew in another breath. "But... but Cassie, Michael. I know that Jenny was an accident, I know that, but you don't want... you don't want to have another one, do you?"
Phillips' grip was like a vise on Daniel's wrist - so tight that he felt his bones grinding together, feeling like they could break at any second. Phillips pushed forward once more, wrenching Daniel's shoulder hard, pushing the muscles and ligaments to the edge of their limits. Daniel clenched his teeth, hissing at the sudden pain, so lost in the fog that he almost didn't realize Phillips was speaking again.
"I'm better now than I was then. I've had practice. I don't make mistakes, and I don't have accidents. This is my game, Daniel – my game, played by my rules. I decide who lives and who dies. Not you. Is that clear?"
Daniel nodded his head quickly. Any doubt he'd had that Phillips wasn't completely and totally insane had dissolved entirely. There was no way that the man would ever let Cassie go, which meant that Daniel would have to find a way to get her out of this. It would be difficult enough to do with his left arm as damaged as he knew it was.
It would be impossible if he were dead.
"Yes!" he cried out again. "Yes, I understand. I understand, Michael, and I'm ... I'm sorry. I didn't mean ..."
Daniel's apology was cut short by Phillips turning his head quickly toward the side of the car and snapping out, "What the hell do you want?"
Daniel opened his eyes and focused immediately on Cassie's frightened, tear-stained face. She'd come back to the car at some point in the past few minutes, and was standing beside them, staring directly at Daniel.
"Get in my car, Cassandra!" Phillips ordered.
Cassie took a hesitant step back, but went no further. "D-Daniel?" she stuttered, her shoulders shaking with sobs. "He's... he's hurting you."
Daniel opened his mouth to try to reassure her that he was all right, but Phillips had other ideas. He shifted his weight on Daniel's back and pressed his elbow directly into Daniel's ravaged shoulder. What began as words of reassurance became a scream that continued until it dissolved into a wracking cough.
"Stop," Cassie begged as fresh tears streaked down her face. "Please, stop hurting him."
"You love Daniel, don't you, Cassie?"
Daniel wanted to stop that voice, wanted to tell Phillips to leave her alone and concentrate on him, but his throat was too hoarse from screaming. All he could do was press his forehead against the car and pray that the pain would go away.
"Yes," Cassie answered softly.
"You want me to stop hurting him?"
"Yes." The answer was much quicker this time.
When the elbow dug into his shoulder this time, Daniel's head came up with the force of the scream that ripped itself from him and tears flowed freely down his face.
"Then get in the damn car! Now!"
The small part of Daniel’s brain that was still functioning screamed at him not to let Cassie get in the car, but it didn’t seem to be communicating with his mouth very well, because he couldn’t make himself tell her to stop. If his shoulder hadn’t been enough to make him dizzy, the lack of oxygen in his tightly compressed lungs would have been. Together, however, they were making it almost impossible for him to concentrate on anything other than how much pain he was in.
He didn’t understand why no one was coming to investigate what was happening, especially after his screams, but he still held out hope that someone might. And even though he’d never seen who’d been calling his cellphone, he was convinced it had been Jack. There had to be an end to this – somehow – and hopefully it wouldn’t be with him and Cassie both dead.
Thinking of Cassie brought him back to the fact that he needed to keep her out of Phillips’ car, and he wondered how much longer he had to warn her.
Phillips abruptly stood up, pulling Daniel with him. The movement allowed Daniel to gasp a much needed breath of air, but his freedom was still limited. Phillips’ right arm was wrapped around his chest, pinning his right arm at his side and his left arm, still twisted, between them. With his left hand, Phillips seemed to be digging through his own pockets, though what he was looking for Daniel couldn’t even begin to imagine.
Phillips turned Daniel around roughly, facing him toward the street, and Daniel saw two things that simultaneously caused his heart to plummet. The first was that Cassie was already in the car, sitting in the front seat and staring out at him with red-rimmed eyes through the windshield. The second was that there was a red light on top of the car, spinning and flashing a warning to anyone who might venture too close.
Now he knew why no one was coming out to find out what was going on. And he knew that no one would.
His mind vaguely registered the fact that the arm was gone from around his chest and his left arm had fallen free, sending fresh tendrils of pain shooting from his shoulder all the way to his fingertips. He wondered if it might be possible to get away. But he knew that even if he could, there was no way he could get to Cassie and get her out of the car in time, and he wouldn’t go anywhere without her.
In all of the enemies he'd faced down over the past two years, in all of the battles he and SG1 had won against all odds, he had never felt so utterly hopeless. When Phillips’ hand wrapped around his right wrist, followed by the tightening of a plastic cuff, he closed his eyes in defeat. He couldn’t even summon the energy to sigh.
Phillips looped the other cuff around Daniel’s left wrist and pulled it tight, cuffing Daniel's hands securely behind his back before grabbing him by the shoulders and pushing him toward the car. Daniel went along, hoping that he’d be able to reassure Cassie from the back seat without Phillips noticing that he was doing it. He was not entirely surprised when Phillips bypassed the back door entirely and instead steered him toward the rear of the car.
Daniel’s struggles were weak, a token protest only. He knew he had no hope of actually preventing Phillips from doing whatever he wanted, but he really didn’t want to get in that trunk. He’d be isolated, cut off from what was happening in the car, and Cassie would be alone with the man. He couldn't let that happen - he couldn't leave her alone.
“Don’t you worry about her, Daniel,” Phillips whispered in his ear. The suddenly Daniel was spun forcibly around to stand face-to-face with Phillips, his back toward the open trunk. “I won’t lay a hand on her. She’s only here because it’s her turn to watch you die.”
Again the voice seemed familiar, haunting, as though he'd been hearing this voice in his mind for years but didn't actually remember having heard it before. Faded memories of nightmares long forgotten started swirling around in his mind, shadows of childhood fears mixed with a clear and present danger, and he froze in terror. An evil laugh filled his ears, and an unseen fist landed, spinning him back around and sending his glasses flying from his face. Then the shadow pressed its hands against his back and shoved him forward, and he was falling, rolling, head-over-heels, down the side of the hill...
He landed in the trunk of a large black car, and the lid was slammed shut before he had time to figure out what the hell had just happened.
Jack slammed the car into park and exploded out the door before it had stopped moving completely. The engine was still running, and his door stood open, forgotten in the rush to find out what had happened to Daniel and Cassie. Jack was already jogging up the driveway, heading straight for Daniel's car, when he heard Teal'c close his door behind him.
"Daniel?" Jack called out hopefully. "Cassie? Daniel?"
Jack turned his head toward Teal'c's summons.
"The front door appears to be open."
Jack's hand automatically dropped to his hip and came to rest on the gun there. He slowly pulled it out of the holster, glad that he'd ordered the guard at the checkpoint to give him his weapon. He and Teal'c made their way carefully toward the door, giving Daniel's car only a passing glance, to make certain that no one was in it. A hundred thoughts flashed through Jack's mind, chief among them the possibility, however remote, that Daniel had managed to ward off his attacker and had taken refuge inside the house with Cassie.
Jack shook his head as he climbed the stairs to the door, his gun at the ready. If Daniel had taken Cassie and gone to hide in the house, he'd never have left the door standing wide open.
He nodded at Teal'c as they topped the stairs, and he stepped through the door with Teal'c right behind him. The house was silent - eerily so.
"Daniel?" Jack kept his gun up and level as he walked through the living room. "Cassie?"
Teal'c moved toward the back of the house, through the kitchen and the bedrooms, while Jack continued his visual assessment of the living room. He saw the phone on the end table and followed the cord with his eyes to where the receiver lay on the floor. Janet said that Cassie had dropped the phone to go outside because something was happening in the driveway.
Jack took a few steps forward and bent his knees, crouching down until his eyes were approximately where Cassie's would have been as she looked out the window from the living room. He could clearly see the back of Daniel's car where it sat in the driveway. If Cassie had been standing where he was, and if someone had approached Daniel in the driveway, she would have seen exactly who it was.
Teal'c returned from his exploration of the rest of the house and announced, "There is no one present."
Jack nodded his head as he stood slowly, ignoring the popping in his knees as they straightened. "Yeah, I know. They're not here."
Jack looked back down at the phone receiver and considered picking it up and hanging it back up, but he decided against it. There would be an investigation team here soon, he knew, and he didn't want to contaminate any evidence that might lead to, at the very least, a kidnapping conviction for whomever had done this. His gut was still telling him that it was Michael Phillips, but he knew there was absolutely no proof of that.
"For what reason did Cassandra Fraiser exit the house against the wishes of her mother?" Teal'c asked.
Jack pointed out the window. "Because she saw what was happening outside. And because she's twelve years old, and twelve year olds don't always listen to their mothers."
Teal'c stepped up beside him and looked out the window for himself. "Why would she not remain inside and hide?"
Jack shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe she thought she could help him. Maybe she thought Daniel could protect her. Maybe she was just so scared she wasn't really thinking straight. There's only one thing I do know for sure."
"What is that?"
Jack tilted his chin toward the window and the driveway beyond. "The guy never made it past the driveway; he didn't need to. Daniel was already out there, and apparently, Cassie came right to him. So any evidence we're going to find as to what happened is going to be out there."
Teal'c nodded once before turning silently on his heel and walking out the door. Jack sighed as he followed him out, returning his gun to his holster and glancing around the empty house one last time.
They walked to the car in silence, neither one wanting to say what they each knew the other was thinking. Something shining in the grass at the side of the driveway caught Jack's eye and he changed direction to investigate. Teal'c continued on to the car.
Jack recognized Daniel's car keys from a few feet away. He walked closer to them before crouching down and scanning the ground for some clue as to how they'd ended up there. His eyes fell on a pair of glasses lying just a few feet away, near the road, and he had to force himself not to walk over and pick them up. Neither of these things belonged here, lying discarded in the grass like unimportant bits of trash. It wasn't right - none of this was right.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said softly. "I have found something."
"Yeah," Jack answered has he stood. "Me too."
He walked toward the car slowly, glancing back at his discoveries, almost as though he were afraid that he'd lose them if he looked away, lose them like he'd obviously lost the rest of Daniel.
"Daniel's car keys and his glasses," he said, burying his hands in his pockets as he stopped beside the car. "Over in the grass. What have you got?"
Jack saw it then, on the trunk of Daniel's car - a darkening red smear against the light gray paint. It wasn't a large amount, most certainly not a fatal amount, but it didn't belong where it was. Jack didn't need any fancy scientific tests to tell him who it had belonged to, either; the location of Daniel's keys, combined with the blood, really left no doubt in Jack's mind as to what had happened in the driveway, what had sent Cassie running out the door of the house and straight into a missing person's report.
"He ambushed him," Jack said.
Teal'c nodded in agreement.
Jack pulled his cellphone from his pocket and started dialing. "I'm having Hammond call in an investigation team right now," Jack explained, backing away from the car and motioning for Teal'c to do the same. "Don't touch anything. We'll need every scrap of evidence they can find to nail this bastard."
The phone had barely started ringing when it was picked up and Jack heard, "Hammond," in his ear.
"Jack, I was just about to call you." Hammond's voice wasn't frantic or rushed, but the fact that he had interrupted before Jack had told him why he was calling spoke volumes.
"What's wrong, sir?"
"Your FBI friend contacted Captain Carter with some information he found in other files on Michael Phillips' computer. They've been working together since then, and they've both discovered quite a bit of information that, to put it mildly, disturbs me greatly."
"But you're not going to tell me what it is over the phone, are you?"
"No, Jack, I'm not."
Jack sighed and rolled his eyes. "Of course not."
"Plus, Colorado Springs PD just called Dr. Fraiser. Apparently, they received a phoned-in report of, and I quote, 'extreme police brutality' in her driveway."
Jack stopped in the middle of the driveway and turned slowly, letting his eyes take in everything. So Cassie hadn't been the only one who saw what happened to Daniel; one of Janet's neighbors had, too. Jack closed his eyes and let his mind imagine the scene - Daniel standing behind his car, maybe walking around to get Cassie or maybe going to the trunk to get something. Someone running up behind him, pushing him against the trunk or hitting him hard enough to draw blood. That same someone putting both Cassie and Daniel in...
Jack opened his eyes and walked to the end of the driveway, to where Daniel's glasses still lay. He looked down at the glasses and then back up at Daniel's car; they were too far apart. The only way his glasses could have gotten where they were was if Daniel had been very close to where Jack was standing now when they got knocked off. The three of them obviously hadn't walked away from the house, either, which meant only one thing.
"Jack? Are you still there?"
"Sir, we need to contact CSPD again and find out what kind of car Phillips has been driving since he's been in town."
"General." It was Jack's turn to interrupt. "There's blood all over the trunk of Daniel's car. The front door was standing wide-open when we got here, Daniel's keys and glasses are on the ground, and they're both gone, sir. Daniel and Cassie are gone. We need to get the cops to put an APB out on that car before he hurts either one of them."
Jack didn't feel the need to actually say what he was thinking - that Phillips intended to kill them both.
"There's already an APB out on Agent Phillips' car, Jack," Hammond answered softly. "I had them issue one immediately after Dr. Fraiser told me that someone apparently forced a young man into the trunk of an unmarked black police car at the end of her driveway."
Jack closed his eyes. He opened them again and looked straight into Teal'c's questioning eyes, and he just shook his head in response.
"There's a crime scene unit already on the way to Janet's house to secure the scene, Jack." Even as Hammond said the words, Jack heard the distant sirens as the police made their way to the scene. "Your FBI man is on his way here. There's a lot of information coming to light about this Agent Michael Phillips, and I need you and Teal'c back in the mountain, now."
"Yes, sir," Jack answered. Hammond had already hung up when Jack punched the disconnect button. He looked up at Teal'c again, but found that he still didn't have to words to express to him just exactly what he'd found out.
The wailing sirens were closer now, and the first of the cars had just turned the corner into the previously quiet cul-de-sac. Somewhere out there, Daniel and Cassie were alone with a psychopath, one who had already tried to kill Daniel once, one who had killed a thirteen-year-old girl while Daniel watched. Daniel was bleeding, his vision was questionable, and to top it all off, he was probably in the guy's trunk.
More police cars turned on to the street, screeching to a halt in front of Janet's house. Jack watched the first two arrived before tipping his head back to stare at the sky, wishing it could tell him where Daniel and Cassie were before it was too late.
"Damn it, Daniel."
Daniel pulled at the plastic cuffs again, though he knew he'd have no more success at breaking them than he'd had the last three times he'd tried. At least the new pain in his wrists had somewhat served to take his mind off of his shoulder. Truth be told, though, it still hurt like hell. He supposed the fact that he'd ended up lying on his left side, with his shoulder trapped awkwardly beneath him, really wasn't helping it any.
He let out a frustrated sigh and relaxed his arms, letting his head slump back to the trunk floor. His hands were wet now, and sticky. He knew without having to see them that he'd torn the backs of his wrists up pretty badly in his futile attempts to get loose.
What had he been thinking anyway? Even if he did manage to get the cuffs off, what exactly did he intend to do? He was locked in the trunk of a moving car, with a psychopath behind the wheel and Cassie in the front seat.
He rolled forward as far as he could and pressed his forehead against the gray carpet, hoping that it would give him some comfort and possibly, in some strange way, warmth. It had been chilly in the trunk when they'd started out, but now he was freezing. He'd started shivering, and it was getting colder with each moment that passed.
How had he let this happen? How could have been so stupid?
He'd known this car had been following him since he'd left the base. He'd seen it in his rearview mirror, parked beside him at the grocery store, turning onto Janet's street behind him. He'd just dismissed it. He'd let himself get so preoccupied with that stupid scar on his arm that he hadn't even seen Phillips coming.
What was worse, he'd let Cassie get pulled into this nightmare with him. She would have been safe if she'd stayed in the house, but she'd come outside – because of him. She could have run away, but she didn't – because of him. He'd let himself be used against her.
Now, Cassie was alone with a man who'd confessed to killing… how many other girls her age? Daniel didn't think he'd given a number; he just said that there'd been ‘others,' and that they'd all died because they weren't him.
All those little girls had died because of Daniel, and now Cassie was going to join them.
Daniel's breath hitched in his throat and he didn't know if the shiver that ran through him was entirely due to how cold he was. Cold, hurt and frustrated, he wanted to cry, to scream… but he didn't.
What he did was pull against the cuffs again, harder than before. The cramped confines of his vehicular prison, combined with the thoughts swirling through his mind, were starting to get to him. His breathing was speeding up and his heart was starting to pound in his chest. He had to get free. Cassie...
"Break, damn you!" he yelled at the cuffs as he yanked against them. "Let me go!"
He yelped when he felt the pain in the side of his hand. He could feel fresh blood running across the palm of his hand, and he stopped his struggles. That hadn't been the cuffs; it felt like he'd cut himself on something. He closed his eyes and felt around carefully behind him.
"Ow!" He gasped and jumped when he pricked his finger on something sharp, and he traced its outline blindly with his fingers. It was an edge, a sharp edge on the underside of the trunk latch. For the briefest of moments, hope swelled in his chest. Maybe if he moved the cuffs back and forth across it he could…
Could what? Could be stuck in a freezing trunk with his hands in front of him instead of behind him?
He slumped back to the floor again just as his cellphone beeped in his pocket, reminding him that he had missed calls. His eyes widened. How had he not noticed that he still had his cellphone? If he could get his hands free, he could call for help.
He could call Jack!
He ignored everything; he almost didn't even feel the cold any more. He pushed himself back with his knees, getting his hands as close to the latch as he could, and started sawing the cuffs back and forth across the sharp edge. If he could get loose, if he could call Jack, he could get Cassie out of this.
A phantom thought danced at the edge of his consciousness, but he forced it from his mind to be dealt with later, just as he'd done with the image of a shadow pushing him down a hill. He had no time to be wondering where these strange thoughts were coming from, or what they meant.
If he could only get his hands free, Cassie would be safe.
If he could just ignore the pain and stand up, he could save her…
"Twelve?!" Jack leaned forward in his chair and yelled at the phone on the table in front of him. "That little girl in the park…"
"Rachel Anderson," Sam interjected.
"She makes twelve?!"
"Calm down, Colonel," Hammond said tiredly.
Three-fourths of SG1, along with General Hammond, were seated around the table in the Briefing Room. Doug Baker and Sam were filling them in on the information they'd gathered. Doug was briefing them via the speakerphone from aboard an FBI jet, en route to Colorado Springs. The last time he'd made mention of where he was, he'd been somewhere over Kansas.
So far, they'd learned that Roland and Judy Miller, Jenny's parents, had been foster parents before their daughter was killed. Specifically, they'd been Daniel's foster parents. That explained why the newspaper article had described Daniel as her brother.
They'd been through Daniel's medical report again, but there'd been very little new information gleaned from it. There were statements from three doctors, all claiming that Daniel had been injured after Jenny's death. Jack didn't understand why Phillips had felt the need to document that one little fact so heavily, especially since he'd kept those same reports out of the casefile.
Now they were discussing just how many children Phillips had killed in the past twenty years. The official estimate was at least twelve.
Hammond had ordered Dr. Fraiser to remain in the infirmary until he summoned her, and he'd refused to be swayed by her protestations that she should be involved in the search for her missing daughter. No matter how ready she thought she was for this information, no matter how detached she believed her medical training would allow her to be, she was still Cassie's mother. It would do her no good to hear the things that they were discussing.
'It's not doing me any good, either,' Hammond thought as he rubbed his forehead with his thumb, trying to push the headache away. 'Not any of us.'
"But, General, how… damn it, Doug, how did you not see this was going on?"
"We did see it, Jack," Doug answered. Jack thought he sounded upset, but he wondered if he were more upset that his agency had been caught in incompetence or that Daniel and Cassie had been kidnapped by a man they now knew had killed at least a dozen children across the country. "We thought we were dealing with a serial killer."
"We were trying to find him…"
"He was standing right beside you!"
"Jack, it was Mike's case. We don't go around just sticking our noses in other agent's cases."
"Well, maybe you should. Maybe you'd find two or three more serial killers on the payroll."
"Colonel, that's enough."
Jack pushed himself up from his chair and spun angrily to stand behind it. He leaned down toward the phone and spoke again. "He was chasing himself across the country, Doug. He was killing little girls and pretending to try to catch himself, and none of you noticed."
"Jack, we had…"
"Your heads up your asses!"
Jack closed his eyes and lowered his head. "Sorry, General, I just…"
"I warned you that what they'd learned was disturbing, Colonel. Do you understand now why I wouldn't tell you over the phone?"
Jack lifted his head. "Yes, sir."
"Yes, it is upsetting information, Colonel, but it is information that we didn't have two hours ago. And yelling at the FBI agent who's actually helping us is not going to make matters any better. Is that clear?"
Jack nodded and took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. Resting his elbows on the back of the chair and leaning toward the phone again, he asked, "Have you had the profilers take a crack at him yet?"
"Actually," Doug answered, "Mike called them in himself, about ten years ago, right after the third killing."
"Why would he do that?" Jack asked.
Sam leaned forward in her seat. "We think Phillips wanted them to profile his 'serial killer' so he could avoid being caught. If he knew exactly what kind of person they thought they were looking for, he could then avoid being that person."
"And it didn't matter anyway," Doug added. "They never would have caught anyone based on the profile they worked up for him."
"Why not?" Jack asked. "I thought those guys were supposed to be good."
"They're very good," Doug replied. "But the perp... Mike… Phillips..." It was obvious to Jack that even though Doug knew Phillips was their man, he was still having a hard time admitting it to himself. "Phillips was smarter. The evidence that he left generated a disconnected profile that made no sense. Nothing matched with what they've been trained to look for. He didn't fit any of the patterns of predictability that he should have."
"What patterns?" Hammond asked.
Doug sighed on the other end of the phone. "Well, for one thing... there's the ten year gap between Jenny Miller and Elizabeth Rollins, the second victim. In our experience, that almost always means that the perp has been in prison."
"But he hadn't been," Sam added. "Agent Baker and I have been talking about this, and while we don't know why he waited ten years before killing again, he obviously hadn't been in prison."
"Second, they thought they were dealing with a preferential offender."
"He always killed the same type of girl," Jack said.
"Exactly. All of the victims are twelve or thirteen years old, with either dark blonde or light brown hair and blue eyes."
"They looked like Jenny Miller," Teal'c put in.
"And Cassie," Sam added softly.
"They did," Doug agreed. "So it seemed pretty simple at first - a preferential serial killer who wanted to relive his first kill over and over again. But then it got complicated."
"Complicated how?" Jack asked.
"Complicated because there was absolutely no sexual aspect to his crimes. He just killed them. And preferential offenders are almost always, without exception, sexual sadists."
Even the air in the Briefing Room seemed to stop with Doug's pronouncement. Teal'c became stone-faced and his eyes hardened; Sam's eyes widened and her mouth opened in a soundless gasp; Hammond looked as though he wanted to break someone in half. Jack simply gripped the back of the chair so tight that his fingers dug into the black leather, closed his eyes and dropped his head forward. None of them had wanted to hear the words that Doug had just spoken. It was bad enough to have Daniel and Cassie both missing, presumably at the hands of a serial killer. To hear that said serial killer was a sexual sadist just made their situation a thousand times worse.
Doug obviously caught on to the reactions, or at least to the deafening silence, because he continued quickly. "He should be a sexual sadist, but he's not. That's the confusing part. If he's trying to recreate his first victim, or targeting a certain type of victim because he's drawn to them, there should be some sexual aspect to the killings. But there isn't, and there never has been."
Jack let the conversation carry on around him; discussing sexual sadists and preferential predators just wasn't something he wanted to be doing. He decided to think it out on his own before he said anything else. He turned and walked away from the table, eventually stopping to lean against the wall that separated the Briefing Room from the general's office. He found one of Doug's statements repeating itself over and over again in his mind.
If he's trying to recreate his first victim...
That would be Jenny Miller, wouldn't it? She was the first girl he killed, but something about Doug's scenario didn't make sense. If Phillips had killed Jenny while Daniel watched, then how did he keep Daniel from interfering? Even at ten years old, there's no way that Daniel would have just stood there and watched someone kill his foster sister. So why hadn't Daniel tried to stop him? If he hadn't been injured until after Jenny was killed, like the doctors claimed he was, there would have been nothing keeping him from getting right in the middle of things, especially if Daniel at ten had been anything like Daniel at thirty.
Jack knew Daniel well, and he knew with certainty that the only thing that would have kept Daniel from doing anything he could to protect his sister was being physically incapable of getting between them. The injuries he'd ended up with would most certainly have kept a ten year old down for a rather substantial amount of time, even a ten year old as stubborn as Daniel most certainly had been.
That had to be the explanation then - Daniel had been injured before Jenny was killed. But why would Phillips have attacked Daniel first if he'd been there to kill Jenny?
The answer was simple – he wouldn't have. There was only one reason Phillips wouldn't have attacked Jenny first.
He'd been there to kill Daniel.
"Your profile doesn't work because you've got your primary target backwards."
The conversation that had been carrying on around him came to a screeching halt for the second time in almost as many minutes. Jack was still leaning against the wall, but after he spoke he pushed away from it and walked back toward the table.
"Our what?" Doug asked.
"Your primary target, your order of attack…" Jack opened his eyes and looked from person to person around the table, fumbling for the right words to make them understand what he was saying. "Who he attacked when and why…"
"Victimology?" Sam volunteered.
"Yeah, sure." Jack waved his hand dismissively. "Victimology. You've got that backwards."
"What do you mean it's ‘backwards'?" Doug asked.
"I mean it's backwards!" Jack growled. "You've been going on the assumption that he was there for Jenny and Daniel got in the way. It's the other way around."
"I don't…" Doug began.
"Take your ‘sexual sadist preferred victim' thing and apply it to a man who's killing little girls, but actually has a thing for little boys, Doug – little boys with blond hair and blue eyes." No one spoke; no one answered him. Thinking they didn't understand, Jack spelled it out for them. "Daniel. He was there for Daniel."
Silence descended once more. Jack looked around, taking in the shell-shocked expressions on the faces of the three people seated around the table. He faintly heard, through the phone's speaker, Doug tapping away at the keys of his laptop on an airplane somewhere over Kansas. Teal'c hadn't moved at all since Jack had spoken, while Sam had leaned back against the headrest of her chair and closed her eyes.
"How do you know that, Colonel?" It was Hammond who broke the silence, asking the question that all of them wanted an answer to. "According to all of the…"
"I watched it happen, General," Jack answered.
"What?" Sam asked, opening her eyes and sitting forward again.
Jack shook his head. "No, I mean… I wasn't there when it happened, but I've been watching Daniel live through it, repeatedly, for the past two days." He rubbed at the back of his neck before waving his hand quickly through the air. "It's in his damn nightmares, and he talks in his sleep. I know what he said to Phillips that night, and I know when he said it. I know who he attacked first, and it wasn't Jenny. I know that Daniel bit him…"
"Wait a second," Doug interrupted. "That's in the medical reports. Phillips was treated for a bite wound on his right hand. He told the responding officers that Daniel was hysterical when he found them, screaming and crying, and that when Phillips went to check him for injuries, Daniel bit him."
Jack shrugged slightly and raised his eyebrows. "He was trying to get away from him," he said. "And he did. Because Daniel bit him, or whatever, for some reason… Phillips let go of him."
"Jenny Miller arrived," Teal'c interjected. "Agent Phillips killed her. Daniel Jackson was injured but attempted to save her."
Jack turned his head slowly. Sam and General Hammond gave the Jaffa similar expressions of stunned disbelief.
"If we are to believe what Daniel Jackson said during his nightmares, O'Neill, then this is what transpired."
"So… if he's a preferential offender," Sam said, "and he's not been killing his actual preferred victim…"
"The killings wouldn't match the profile," Doug said. "It fits, Jack. All of the contradictions in the profile make sense if your friend was his intended victim."
"So he hasn't been killing these girls to relive killing Jenny Miller," Hammond said.
"No," Doug answered. "He's been killing them in an attempt to recreate that first event. He was prevented from doing what he intended to do, and he's trying to get it right. All these years, he's been killing these girls because he's been trying to find Daniel."
"But Daniel's not a little boy any more," Sam said. "He's a grown man. Why would Phillips want him now?"
"Because he can't move forward," Doug answered. "His whole identity is wrapped up in Daniel, in the fact that he survived. It's not a question of preference for a certain type of victim any more. It's become an obsession with one specific person."
Jack closed his eyes again and sighed. "And now he's got him. And Cassie."
Jack felt sick to his stomach. It had taken five people two hours to figure out what the FBI had been ignoring for twenty years. And in that time, Phillips had gone from being a grudge-bearing kidnapper, to a serial killer with a preference for young girls, to a sexual sadist who was obsessed with Daniel.
Even though he'd been the one warning Teal'c against killing Phillips only three hours earlier, he most certainly no longer saw a reason to hold him back now.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said from the other side of the table. "Your cellular phone is ringing."
Jack had been so preoccupied with his thoughts that he hadn't even heard his phone. He pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open angrily, not bothering to check the display to see who was calling, figuring it to be just another status report from one of the search teams they'd deployed around the city.
"O'Neill," he barked.
A few seconds of silence passed, and the three other people in the room watched all of the color drain from Jack's face. They could have sworn they actually saw his hands start shaking as he gripped the phone tighter.
"Daniel! Where the hell are you?"
Daniel didn't know how many times he'd actually pushed the speed-dial button for Jack's phone. He checked the screen again, only to see that the bars were still gone and the tiny words still said, "No Signal." At least, he thought that's what it said. The lines were all starting to blur together, but since there was no blur where the bars were supposed to be, then it had to say "No Signal."
He sighed and shifted onto his back on the floor – hadn't there been bars when he'd started? Why would he have started dialing if there weren't any bars? Why was he dialing in the first place? Why was this room so small and why was it so cold and loud and smelly in here? Oh... yeah. That's why he was dialing.
He pushed the button again.
His shoulder hurt more than he wanted it to, but less than it had when his arms had been trapped behind him. His hands were so cold that his fingers were stiff, and they ached when he moved them. The constant roar of the tires on the road and the muffler beneath him had gotten much louder since they'd been traveling, and the air in the trunk was starting to reek heavily of gas fumes. His hair was sticky with the blood that had run down from the gash above his left eyebrow. His head, which had been hurting when Phillips had shoved him in here, had begun to throb incessantly. He'd had headaches before and could usually work through them, but this one was making it almost impossible for him to think.
Where'd those bars go now? Why did he keep pushing that silly button? Without the bars, nothing was going to happen.
No matter how hard Daniel tried, he couldn't even begin to understand what was going on. Phillips said they'd known each other for years, but Daniel just couldn't understand how that could be possible when he'd only met the man two days ago. He knew Phillips was telling the truth about the little girl in the park, and doubted that he was lying about the 'others,' but that still didn't explain anything. It didn't explain Phillips claiming that he'd killed those little girls because they weren't Daniel. Or thinking that Daniel should have known he'd done it. Or what this Jenny person he didn't even know had to do with it.
Or what any of it had to do with him.
He was starting to think there was something wrong with him, but he couldn't afford worry about it. What exactly could he do about it, anyway? He was locked in a trunk; Cassie was in the front seat with a psychopath. He was hurting and cold and tired... so tired.
His ears had started ringing a while ago, but they seemed to be getting worse. It definitely seemed like the ringing was getting louder, but only every now and then, almost like they were ringing in some sort of sequence.
He held the phone up in front of him to push the disconnect button and was surprised to see a blur that vaguely resembled the word "Connected." That couldn't possibly be right, could it? He squinted at his phone, trying to see if the blurred bars had returned, but the screen had gone dark and he was afraid to push any buttons for fear of hanging up.
The voice was muffled, but it did sound like Jack. Daniel didn't care if it was real or not, though he doubted it was. He had no signal here, wherever 'here' was. He shrugged one shoulder and decided to talk to the voice anyway, if only to keep himself awake. If he were hallucinating, then so be it.
"Jack?" he mumbled. "Jack, I... I think I need your help."
"Daniel!" Daniel flinched at the tone of voice; Jack sounded angry. Or rather, he imagined that Jack would sound angry if he ever managed to get a call through, since he was imagining this entire conversation. "Where the hell are you?"
It was General Hammond who had spoken. Jack glanced back over his shoulder, not entirely surprised to see the man on his feet and walking toward him.
Jack took a few steps back toward the table and shouted in the direction of the speakerphone. "Doug, Daniel's on the phone. Can you trace a call coming into my cell?"
"I might need a little help on your end, if you can access the FBI's system from there."
Jack almost smiled; Doug knew very well they could do that. After all, they'd already done it once – that's why Doug was on that plane.
"Carter?" he said.
"I'm on it, sir." Sam jumped out of her chair and headed for the computer in the corner. She quickly logged onto the system, picked up the phone at the terminal, and patched it into the call with the FBI agent.
"Give him anything he needs, Captain," Hammond said. "The Colonel's phone number, Dr. Jackson's... everything he asks for. If it applies to this situation, he gets it."
Jack glanced across at Teal'c, who looked very much like he'd rather be doing anything other than what he was doing at that moment, which was nothing. Jack nodded his head in understanding and went back to the phone.
"Okay, Daniel, tell me where you are."
"Tell me where you are."
That sounded a lot more like the Jack he knew, Daniel thought. His imagination was getting better.
"I have no idea," he answered.
"Daniel, where are you?"
Daniel closed his eyes and sighed; his imaginary Jack didn't listen to him any better than the real one did. "I told you, I don't know where I am," he whispered. "I don't know if Cassie's still here... but we haven't stopped since we started, so she probably is." He could feel himself starting to drift off to sleep, and he had to force himself to get the words out at all.
"Are you hurt, Daniel?"
Daniel nodded his head but didn't speak. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard a woman's voice saying, 'He can't hear you nod your head, dear.' For some reason, it struck him as funny, and he giggled.
"My mom always told me..." he said softly, but he stopped himself and shook his head. That wasn't his mom's voice he'd heard, was it? "I know her, though. Heard her before... Wait, what was I talking about?"
Jack's voice jerked him back to wakefulness, and his eyes flew open. "Am I what?" Daniel asked, suddenly awake again.
"Damn it, Daniel!"
"What the hell is wrong with him?" Jack asked the air in front of him.
An answering question came from behind him, in Carter's voice. "What's he saying, sir?"
"A lot of nothing! He's not making any sense."
"It is possible that Daniel Jackson is injured," Teal'c said. "If that is the case, he might not be aware that what he says is confusing."
"And he is in the trunk of a car," Sam added. "I hate to be the one to suggest it, sir, but if the exhaust is leaking even the tiniest amount, after three hours? He might be starting to show signs of carbon monoxide poisoning."
Jack hated hearing the words as much as she hated saying them, but he had to admit that he'd been starting to wonder about that himself. He nodded at both Sam and Teal'c, took a deep breath, and refocused himself.
"Let's start this again, Daniel. Are you with someone?"
"Hm?" came the groggy response.
"Wake up, Daniel," Jack ordered gently. "You've got to stay awake."
He heard Daniel clearing his throat and shifting around in the trunk. There was a loud bump, as though the phone had been dropped.
"Awake," Daniel answered, though from the sound of his voice it didn't seem likely that he'd be staying that way for very long. "I'm awake."
"Okay, so tell me... are you with someone?"
"No, I'm alone in here."
"Not here," Daniel said, as though that explained everything. "She's with him. I think..."
"Who's 'him,' Daniel?"
"Hit my head, on my car. I'm sorry..."
"Daniel!" Jack wasn't shouting in anger, but to get Daniel's attention, because apparently Daniel couldn't concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time. Something was wrong, and though they didn't know exactly what it was, Jack knew that it was more serious than busting his head open on the trunk of his car.
"Who is 'he'?"
"What? Oh, Agent Ph... no, Michael. Supposed to call him Michael. Gets mad if I don't."
"So it was Phillips that attacked you in the driveway? You're in Phillips' car right now?" Silence was the only response. "Daniel?"
"Jack?" There was a sudden clarity in Daniel's voice, along with a healthy dose of confusion.
"Jack, is it... are you real?"
Jack closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
"Yes, Daniel, I'm real. You hear my voice, don't you?"
"Yeah... yeah. I just thought I... I'm so tired. Keep falling asleep."
Jack glanced at Sam in the corner. She looked up from her conversation with Doug long enough to give him a quick nod, her way of saying, 'He's working on it, sir.'
"Well, that makes sense, Daniel," Jack said into the phone. "You haven't really slept the past two days. Just keep talking to me, okay?"
"I tried to call you... my phone isn't working."
Jack dropped his head in frustration - so much for the moment of clarity.
"Your phone's fine, Daniel. You're talking to me, aren't you?"
"The little bars went away. It's too dark to see if they came back."
"They came back, Daniel. Your phone's working just fine." Jack covered the mouthpiece with his hand and turned his head toward Sam. "He had no signal for a while. So wherever he is, there aren't many phone towers."
"I really need... need... something..."
Daniel's voice was growing softer; he was drifting off.
"What you need is to talk to me, Daniel. You can't go to sleep. Why don't you tell me about the..." Jack thought quickly, trying to come up with something that might get Daniel interested enough to pay attention. "... post-dynastic kingdoms of ancient northeastern Egypt?"
"Is no such thing."
Jack waited for Daniel to launch into one of his lectures, but apparently he'd said all he had to say on the matter. If any doubt had remained that Daniel wasn't unwell, that one simple fact would have eliminated it.
"Daniel?" he said, hoping to prompt at least a few more words out of him.
"I don't feel..." Daniel's voice faded away, and Jack's heart jumped into his throat. He opened his mouth to call Daniel's name, but closed it when Daniel started speaking again. "Jack... can you help me? I think I need help."
"We're trying, Daniel."
"I don't... Jack, I can't... God, why is it so hard to... think straight?"
"Hang in there, Daniel."
"Tired," Daniel mumbled. Jack could see him in his mind, his eyes drifting a bit further closed with every word. "Cold... so cold..."
"Just stay with me," Jack said. He spun back toward Sam, impatience and frustration evident in his voice. "Does he have it yet?" he demanded.
Sam looked up at him again, this time with an apology in her eyes. "We've found the signal, sir. We just have to follow it back to the towers it's hitting."
"Head hurts," Daniel said, though it was so soft that Jack had to strain to hear it.
"I know, Daniel. You told me you hit your head on your car." Again to Sam, Jack said, "Tell him to hurry the hell up! Something's wrong; Daniel's sick or something."
Daniel had gone silent; the only sound coming through the phone was the roar of the car's tires as it drove down the road, carrying Daniel and Cassie even further away. Daniel had finally succumbed to his body's demands, and had fallen asleep.
"Daniel, wake up."
"I don't like the dark."
The voice was small, frightened, and had a slight lisp. Jack had heard this voice so many times in the past two days that he recognized it immediately. Sleepwalking, Daniel had said. He talked like this when he was sleepwalking.
"Come on, Daniel."
"Too many shadows... can't hide... he's gonna find me..."
"Please, Daniel," Jack heard himself saying as he closed his eyes. "You can't do this right now."
"I don't like it here!" Daniel cried out suddenly. "I wanna go home. Jenny's gone, and there's so much blood..."
"Oh, God, Daniel." Jack opened his eyes and looked at the worried faces that surrounded him. Everyone else in the Briefing Room had frozen in place and was looking to him for an explanation. "Those repressed memories of his?" he asked. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, and then shrugged. "Yeah, not so repressed any more."
"Daniel Jackson is remembering?" Teal'c asked.
Jack shook his head quickly. "Not exactly."
"Let me out! God, please, let me out!"
Jack felt his breathing speed up and his heart start to pound in his chest. Daniel was pounding on the lid of the trunk and screaming for help that Jack couldn't give, caught in the throes of a waking nightmare that he'd been running from for twenty years. Jack was powerless to help, and he hated knowing that his ability to act was totally dependant on someone else's ability to do their job. And all he could hear on the other end of the phone was Daniel's frantic pleas for help, though they were beginning to abate...
Wait... all he could hear?
"Daniel?" he asked hesitantly. "Are you still moving?"
"Spinning," was the shaky, breathless response. "Falling..."
"No, Daniel, you're not. Now concentrate."
"Jack?" The clarity seemed to be back, at least for a few seconds. Jack was grateful for that much, because he really needed Daniel to be lucid right now.
"Daniel, is the car still moving?"
A few seconds of silence passed, and Daniel didn't really need to answer. "No... no, it's not."
Jack gripped the phone tightly and exploded from his chair. "Hide the phone! Hide it now! Daniel!"
It took Daniel far too long to process what Jack had told him to do. By the time the command had traveled from his unfocused brain to his frozen fingers, the trunk was already open. He turned his head toward the sudden burst of fresh cold air, looking around the phone that he held to his right ear. Looming over him in the night, illuminated by the red of the taillights, glowing like a vision from hell itself, stood Michael Phillips.
"Ag... M... Michael," Daniel breathed. He dropped the phone, but he knew it was too late. His only connection to the rest of the world, the only hope he had of getting help for himself and Cassie, was about to be severed.
"Who are you talking to, Daniel?"
"N... no one," Daniel stammered as he pulled away, trying his best to sink into the trunk. "I swear."
"Don't you lie to me!" Phillips roared as he reached into the trunk.
Daniel ducked his head and threw his arms over his face. "No, please..."
Phillips grabbed Daniel's hair with one hand and his shoulder with the other. Still roaring, he pulled Daniel from the trunk in one motion. Daniel felt the sharp edge of the latch digging into his back. "No!" he cried out, wrapping his hands around Phillips' wrists and trying to break free of his grip.
Then the hands were gone, and he was flying through the air. The momentum flipped him over, and he landed face-down in the rocks on the side of the road. He lay there for a moment, trying to clear his head enough to grasp what had just happened. Fresh blood dripped into his left eye, and he blinked it away.
He turned his head slowly and looked back over his shoulder, not surprised to see Phillips standing between him and the car. He was surprised, however, to see Phillips holding a phone that looked painfully familiar.
Who was he calling?
The ringing in his ears finally died down enough for him to hear what Phillips was saying, and then it dawned on him, slowly, why the phone in Phillips' hand was so recognizable. He knew with absolute certainty who the man was talking to.
"So, Colonel, how badly do you want to hear the boy's voice?"
Jack froze in place when he heard Phillips on the other end of the line. Teal'c and Hammond stepped closer to him. He heard the distant sound of fingers clicking rapidly on a computer keyboard. That had to mean that Sam and Doug were in the system together, and he could only hope they were making progress.
Though in light of the recent development, he found himself beginning to doubt that their efforts would do any good at all.
"What about Cassandra? Would you like to talk to her, too?"
"You son of a bitch," Jack growled. "Let them go."
Daniel flinched when Phillips yelled, closing his eyes and ducking his head. He heard a car door opening, very slowly, and he dared to look up. Cassie was walking down the side of the car toward him. The brightness of the moon allowed him to see her clearly, reflecting from the tear stains on her face and the fresh tears in her eyes.
Daniel shook his head as he tried to push himself up on one arm that refused to cooperate and another that suddenly seemed too weak to support his weight. "No," he gasped out. "Cassie, don't..."
A foot impacted with his ribs with enough force to lift him up before he fell back to the ground again. He felt the rocks cutting into his palms as he tried to catch himself, and he couldn't suppress a shout of pain.
He heard Phillips' voice, almost more terrifying in its sudden false sweetness than it was in anger. "Cassandra, I need your help. Colonel O'Neill is on the phone, and you see, he really wants to speak to Daniel. But Daniel's busy and can't talk right now. So why don't you talk to the Colonel instead? You can tell him how busy Daniel is." He pushed the phone into her hand before turning toward Daniel. "Tell him what you see."
Daniel heard Phillips' feet crunching in the gravel as he approached, and he tried to pull himself away. Phillips stopped his movement quite effectively by stepping on his lower right leg, grinding his ankle painfully into the loose rocks.
Daniel shouted in pain and tried to pull his foot away, but it was a useless gesture.
"Tell him what you see, Cassandra!" Phillips commanded. He punctuated the order by kicking Daniel in the ribs again.
Jack could hear Cassie crying, and he wanted nothing more than to reach through the phone and cause serious damage to the man who was making her. He was beyond angry, frustrated, scared and – above all else – helpless, and he hated it. He wanted to shoot someone, punch something, do anything... but all he could do was pace, concentrate on the phone call, and force himself to speak gently.
"Cassie?" Jack heard the sudden intake of breath from Sam's location, and he heard Hammond order Teal'c to go get Janet from the infirmary. He couldn't allow himself to be distracted by them. This was obviously going to be their only chance to get information directly; he had to get as much information from Cassie as he could. "Cass?"
"Cass, honey, are you all right? Are you hurt?"
"N... no," came the hesitant answer. "I'm okay." She was whimpering even as she talked, trying to be brave but still just a very young girl who should never have had to go through this. Jack tried to focus all of his attention on her, tried to ignore Daniel's shouts in the background... but failed miserably.
"Cassie, what's going on? Where's Daniel?"
"On the road. Daniel's in the road." Cassie stopped and swallowed hard. "He... he wants me to..."
"Tell him what you see, Cassandra!" Jack heard Phillips yell at her. "Tell him!"
"He... he's hurting him again..." Cassie's voice was broken with sobs, and Jack's heart broke for her. This was nothing but a game to Phillips – a sick, twisted game – and he was forcing them all to play by his rules. "He's kicking him... kicking Daniel..." Her words faded away again, and for several seconds all Jack heard through the phone were grunts of pain.
"I don't like this!" Cassie shouted suddenly. "I won't do this any more!"
"Damn it, Cassandra!" he heard Phillips shout.
"Cassie, listen to me!" Jack said hurriedly. He could imagine Phillips storming toward her to snatch the phone from her hand. He didn't have long to tell her what she needed to hear. "We're looking for you, do you understand? We're looking for you, and we're going to find you, and you're going to be okay. Daniel will be, too. Do you hear me? Cassie?"
"Yes," Cassie said softly.
Jack heard a rustling noise and a muttered curse.
"So, Colonel, you didn't answer me. Just how badly do you want to hear his voice?"
"Do you want to hear him badly enough that you would listen to him scream, Colonel? Do you want to hear him scream my name?"
Daniel rolled onto his back slowly, fighting down the wave of nausea that the movement caused. His ribs were throbbing, and his head was pounding, but at least he was awake now. He wrapped his right arm around his mid-section and kept his left arm pressed tightly to his side. The kicks had hurt, there was no denying that, but Daniel knew that they could have, and probably should have, been worse.
The man had hauled him out of the trunk and thrown him at least six feet without even breathing hard. If he'd used his full power when he'd kicked him, Daniel doubted that he'd have any ribs left at all. As it was, though his ribs were most definitely painful, and though he was certain he'd be covered in bruises soon, he didn't think he'd broken any.
Daniel heard Phillips talking over by the car, he heard Cassie crying, and he turned his head carefully. Cassie was looking right at him with tears streaming down her face. He ached for her, for the position she found herself in. He knew exactly what she was going through, to be as young as she was and to have to stand by while someone she loved was hurting.
He smiled at her, hoping to reassure her that, for the time being at least, he was all right. She didn't smile back, not that he'd actually expected her too. He closed his eyes with the smile still on his face.
They snapped back open when he heard Phillips' approaching him again, still talking to Jack.
"Do you want to hear him scream my name?"
Daniel shook his head soundlessly and tried to push himself away. He didn't know what was coming but from the sound of Phillips' voice, he knew it was going to be bad.
"Now, you may not be able to hear this very well, Colonel. It might not be loud enough for you to hear through the phone, but I'll do my best."
"No..." Daniel protested.
He was still trying to move away, but his muscles weren't cooperating at all. When Phillips lifted his left foot up from the ground, Daniel braced himself for another blow to his ribs. It was only at the very last second that he realized that the foot was going the wrong direction, and it was far closer to his shoulder than it was to his ribs.
He knew it was coming, and he tried to prepare himself for it. But when Phillips' foot came down on his collarbone, when the man's heel dug into his ravaged shoulder, when Phillips leaned down and held the cellphone right in front of his mouth, the scream that ripped itself from his throat didn't even sound human.
All other activity in the Briefing Room stopped at Jack's outburst; even Doug was silent on the speakerphone. Jack had gone deathly pale, his eyes were wild, and he was visibly shaking. He was standing in front of them, gripping the table for support, and saying nothing. None of them could even begin to imagine what he was hearing, and he had no desire to describe it to them.
'God, how much longer can he scream like that?' Jack thought. What the hell was Phillips doing to him? It was all Jack could hear – it filled his ears and his mind and blocked everything else out.
As hard as this was for Jack to listen to, how hard did it have to be for Daniel to go through it? Daniel was lying on the cold, hard ground somewhere, in pain, alone, save for a twelve year old girl who was being forced to stand witness to it all.
There was nothing Jack could do about what was happening, but maybe he could make it so Daniel didn't feel so alone. He knew Phillips was holding the phone close to Daniel, because he wanted Jack to hear every last scream, but Jack knew how to use that to his advantage. And maybe, just maybe, if he could get Daniel to focus on him, he could take back at least some small measure of control.
"Daniel!" Jack yelled again. "Daniel, listen to me!"
Daniel's throat was raw and sore, and his shoulder hurt more than he could ever have imagined it would. Tears rolled down his cheeks unchecked and his back arched up from the ground. He struggled weakly against the man above him, pressing his right hand weakly against the foot that held him pinned to the ground.
He didn't know how much more of this he could take.
He was so wrapped up in the pain that he almost didn't hear the other voice. It was a small sound, tinny and distant, and it didn't sound at all like it should have. This voice should be strong and defiant, not frantic and desperate. All the same, he forced himself to focus on it. This voice he knew – this voice was safe.
"Daniel, listen to me!"
He knew that he had to obey that voice. Jack... Jack had given him an order, and he had to follow it.
It took everything Daniel had to force the name past his lips, for his mind to take control of his voice and say something real.
The second he said it, the pressure on – and the pain in – his shoulder nearly doubled. He couldn't breathe; he couldn't think. All he could do was bat his right hand uselessly against Phillips' leg as his body tried to pull away from the agony.
He heard Phillips angry voice above him. "No, Daniel. You scream my name. Beg me to stop, Daniel. Scream for me!"
Daniel shook his head and refused to obey. He wouldn't take orders from this man.
"Jack! Help me!"
"I'm trying!" Jack answered desperately. "Believe me, Daniel, I'm trying."
Daniel's screams were starting to fade, but whether it was because Phillips had stopped whatever he was doing or because Daniel just couldn't scream any more, Jack didn't know. He hoped it was the former, but for some reason, he doubted it. Was Daniel giving up?
Jack wouldn't – couldn't – let that happen.
"Listen to me, Daniel! I will find you! No matter what happens, you keep fighting and you stay alive, and I will find you. I swear!"
"Do you hear me, Daniel? Do you understand?"
Jack was coming. Whatever happened between now and then didn't matter, because Jack was coming.
This was going to end, but it wasn't going to end here, and it wasn't going to end like this.
Whether it was a surge of adrenaline, or anger, or protectiveness of Cassie, Daniel couldn't say, but something made him stop trying to crawl away. Something made him stare up at Phillips with hatred in his eyes instead of fear. Something made his right hand grab Phillips' left ankle and knock it sideways.
"Get off of me!"
Phillips was completely unprepared for the possibility that Daniel might actually fight back. The sudden shift in balance threw all of his weight onto his right leg so fast that his knee buckled. Before he had even realized he was falling, he was hitting the ground.
Daniel used the last of his momentum to roll to his stomach. His left arm dangled uselessly at his side, and pain shot from his shoulder all the way to his fingers and down his back, as he pushed himself up from the ground. He rose to his knees, grabbed his shoulder with his right hand, and was just starting to raise his head when he felt Phillips standing over him again.
"That was stupid, Daniel."
Daniel saw the phone lying on the ground in front of him, but he didn't hear anything coming from it. Hoping that it hadn't gotten disconnected when Phillips dropped it, Daniel pulled the last of his remaining strength together and used it to reach out to his lifeline one last time.
Daniel did see the fist coming this time, but after it hit, he didn't see anything at all.
Jack heard Daniel shout his name one last time, followed by a grunt, and then nothing. He hated not being able to see what was going on, hated not knowing what had just happened.
"Daniel?" he asked hopefully, though he seriously doubted that it would be Daniel's voice answering him.
"I'm sorry, Colonel. Daniel can't come to the phone right now."
"Have you ever noticed how beautiful the boy is when he's sleeping?"
The question came seemingly from nowhere, but Jack knew that Phillips had intended it to cause a panicked response. Unfortunately for Phillips, though, it had quite the opposite effect. Jack wasn't shaking any more, and the color had returned to his cheeks. He'd banished the desperation from his mind and replaced it with determination and hatred. For Daniel's sake, and Cassie's, Jack had to return to doing what it was that he did best, and he had no compunction about it.
"I am going to kill you," Jack said evenly. "You know that, don't you?"
Phillips actually laughed, and Jack's blood boiled. "Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Colonel, but that phone trace you're doing?" Jack's back straightened; of course Phillips would know they were tracing the call. Whatever else he was, the man was an FBI agent, and he knew the technology that they had at their disposal. "It won't work. We are still far from our final destination, my friends and I, and you will never find him in time."
Jack didn't want to give the man any more power than he already held, but he couldn't stop himself from asking the question. "Wait... just him?"
"You don't need to worry about little Cassie at all, Colonel. She'll be home in a few days, and she'll be just fine."
"Then why did you take her?"
"It's a circle, Colonel. Daniel watched Jenny die in his place. Cassie will watch Daniel die in hers."
Jack was actually stunned into silence.
"He really is so beautiful," Phillips continued. The wistful tone of his voice made Jack grit his teeth so hard that his jaws hurt. "But then, he always has been. Oh, if you could only see him the way I do, Colonel. If you'd seen him when he was a child..."
"You sick son of a bitch! He was a little boy!"
"Yes, he was," Phillips answered. "He was an amazingly beautiful child. That was the point."
Jack couldn't even begin to think of an appropriate response to that.
"I'll be going now, Colonel."
There was a loud thump, followed by a high-pitched squeal, and then the phone went dead.
"God damn it!" Jack shouted. He hurled the phone across the room as hard as he could, turning away before it impacted with the wall and fell to the floor.
"Find them!" he ordered, spinning around to point his finger at Sam. "Find them now!"
Jack stormed out of the room, only pausing to slam his fist into the wall before pushing his way past the returning Teal'c and a frantic Janet Fraiser.
Thirty minutes. Half an hour. Eighteen hundred seconds.
That's how long Jack had been in his office. That's how long it had been since he'd slammed the door and decided that he wasn't nearly finished reacting to what he'd heard on the phone.
He'd spent the first five of those minutes clearing first his shelves and then his desk of everything they held – in a spectacularly violent fashion. He'd spent the next ten picking everything back up. He'd spent the last fifteen alternating between storming around the small room in a rage, fidgeting in his chair impatiently, and checking his phone to make certain it was still working. No matter how busy he was doing those three things, he always made time to check the clock.
Tick. Thirty minutes plus one.
Count the minutes as they went by. Watch the second hand sweep around the face of the clock, marking the passage of another. Mentally calculate the miles that could be covered in that amount of time. Think about how much further Daniel and Cassie were being taken from him. Bounce a pencil on his desk. Stare at the phone and will it to ring. Pick it up and check it again.
Tock. Thirty minutes plus two.
Imagine all the ways he could kill Phillips when he found them. A gunshot would be quick, but it would lack finesse and for some reason, Jack just didn't want it to be that easy. Lean back from his desk and run his hands through his hair.
A knife, then – slit the bastard's throat like he'd done to Jenny, and Elizabeth, and Rachel, and nine other little girls whose names he didn't know yet. Drum his fingers on his desk and tap his feet on the floor.
Then again, there was something to be said for plain, ordinary hand-to-hand combat. He didn't imagine that it would be at all difficult for him to beat the man to a bloody pulp before breaking his damn neck. Maybe he'd even let Teal'c help him.
Smile at the thought. No more need to pretend; no more need to hide it. Know that killing Michael Phillips would give him enormous satisfaction.
Tick. Thirty minutes plus three.
The door to his office burst open, and a breathless Sam Carter appeared behind it. She opened her mouth.
He was already on his feet.
"Sir, we found them!"
He was already across the room.
"There's a car waiting for us on the surface, sir. I'll brief you on the way."
He was already at the door.
"Why didn't you just call me?" he asked.
Blue eyes looked from him to his desk and back to him again. "Your phone was off the hook, sir."
Jack glanced back at his phone in disbelief. He'd just checked it, hadn't he? He remembered picking it up, holding it to his ear, then glancing at the clock, and… how many times had he done that? How many of the past thirty-three minutes had he spent listening to the dial tone? How long had he had that phone off the hook?
Obviously too long.
He didn't have time to dwell on the stupid mistake his distraction had caused, or the number of seconds it had cost him. With steely calm, he closed the door behind him and walked resolutely down the corridor, with Sam right at his heel. He was a man on a mission, quite literally, and he focused every motion, every thought, every breath, on the task at hand. Daniel and Cassie were counting on him to find them; their very lives depended on him. He would not let them down.
He didn't have another thirty-four minutes to waste.
It was dark outside, but he wasn't scared. The moon shone brightly in the sky above him, hanging low in the late August sky and giving him more than enough light to see by. They were young and happy and free. Everything was perfect.
His sister was nearby, and he feared nothing while she was there. Jenny protected him from everything and everyone that tried to hurt him. She never teased him for being different, and she had sent more than one schoolyard bully running away with a bloody nose when they did. She never hesitated to climb into his bed and chase away his bad dreams, or to hold him when he missed his real parents and hug away his tears. She taught him to ride a bicycle, and she cleaned the rocks out of his knee every time he fell.
Things at home weren't bad by any means, but they were hectic. They were getting the house ready for a huge party; childhood games had been put on hold for a few days while they cleaned and cooked. Daniel liked his new parents' parties, and he knew he'd like this one in particular, especially since he was to be the guest of honor. In little more than a week, Daniel would become a full-fledged member of the Miller family. He'd have real parents again, and Jenny would be his sister – completely and totally and forever.
They'd been sitting on his bed talking, and Jenny had mentioned that they hadn't had a chance to play like they normally did. They both wanted to do something, even though it was long past their bedtimes and they knew they'd get in trouble if they got caught. Playing hide-and-seek outside had been Jenny's idea; going to the park had been Daniel's.
They'd played three games already, and Jenny had won them all. She'd looked up at the sky and the ever-higher moon and told him that it was getting too late, that they should go home, but he hadn't wanted to. It was so nice outside, and they were having so much fun and besides, he hadn't won yet. So he'd talked her into playing just one more game before they went home.
His persistence had paid off, and he knew it. He was crouched down behind the first row in a stand of bushes at the edge of the hill they were playing on, and Jenny was looking for him way over on the other side. She wasn't going to find him, and he was going to win.
"Olly olly oxen free!"
He smiled to himself when he heard her admit his victory. He really should have stood up and shown her where he was, but instead, he giggled and stayed behind the bushes. He hardly ever won a game of hide-and-seek, and he wanted to enjoy it. He heard a sound from behind him, like a stick breaking, and he turned around. It was dark at the bottom of the hill, and he couldn't see anything.
"Olly olly oxen free! Daniel, I give up! Come out!"
He turned back around, the sound behind him forgotten. He could hear a little bit of worry in her voice, and he sighed. The sigh became a yawn, and he had to admit to himself that he was tired. It was time to go home and go to sleep. He started to stand up and opened his mouth to call out to her.
Something strong wrapped around his arms from behind, pinning them to his sides. He drew in a breath to scream, but something covered his mouth and nose. He struggled, tried to pull away, but felt himself being pulled back deeper into the bushes. Something breathed against his neck. He wanted to pull away, but he couldn't. He couldn't move, couldn't think, could barely breathe, and he'd never been more scared in his life.
"Hello, Daniel," a voice whispered in his ear.
Daniel's heart felt like it was going to beat right out of his body. A man was whispering in his ear, the same man who was holding him so tightly, keeping him from crying out for help, and pulling him even further into the bushes, away from Jenny. That same man held a knife in his right hand, a knife that Daniel only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye as the moon reflected from the blade.
"Daniel, this isn't funny any more! Where are you?"
"Do you know what I think, Daniel?" the voice in his ear continued. "I think that you and I are going to get along very well."
Daniel tried to shake his head, but it was little more than a twitch. He tried to shout out in protest, but it was nothing more than a muffled grunt. He didn't want to get along with this man; he wanted to get away from this man.
"You are such a beautiful little boy. Has anyone ever told you that?"
Oh, God, he couldn't move.
"I love beautiful children."
He couldn't breathe!
"I didn't know until now; I thought they were all monsters. But now I know."
He had to do something!
"You and I, Daniel, are going to have a lot of fun. I can't even begin to tell you."
He didn't understand what was happening; he didn't understand why it was happening. They'd just been playing, that was all. It was just a game! This man's words made no sense to him, but they frightened him more than anything he'd ever heard. No matter what else happened, he just knew that he couldn't go with this man.
He had to get away, had to do something, so he did the only thing he could think of.
He leaned forward and sank his teeth into the hand that covered his mouth.
"You little shit!" The whisper became a shout.
"Help me!" Daniel's silence became a scream.
"Daniel!" Jenny's search ended in horror.
Free of the hand that had kept him silent, Daniel threw his head back and stomped down on the man's foot, pulling away with every ounce of strength he had left. He felt a sudden pain on the side of his neck, but he ignored it and kept fighting. He had to get this man's hands off of him!
Jenny was suddenly right there with him, throwing herself at the man whose face Daniel still hadn't seen, pushing him away from her brother. There was a second when Daniel thought that he and Jenny would win, that they'd both get away and run home to where Mom and Dad could protect them. Then there was a burning pain in his left arm. He looked down and saw the knife, the handle still in the man's hand but the blade buried deeply in his arm, halfway between his shoulder and his elbow.
Daniel screamed again, this time in pain, and spun away. He felt the knife ripped from his flesh and he saw the man's hands reaching for him again. Daniel saw Jenny jump forward and grab the man's arm, trying to stop him. Instead of latching on to Daniel again, the man's hands landed flat against his back and shoved him forward, and he was falling, rolling, head-over-heels, down the side of the hill.
"Someone help us!"
Jenny's voice was the last thing he heard before he felt a sharp pain behind his left ear, and the world went black.
"There are only a few cell phone towers up here, one in Balltown and two in Leadville. The reason he was having trouble getting through was the storm, but once we picked up Daniel's signal and traced it to the towers, all we had to do was calculate the distance from each tower based on the ping time..."
Jack was only half-listening to what Carter was saying, but he didn't suppose it really mattered. He'd heard the important part; they'd managed to pinpoint Daniel's exact location when he'd made that phone call to within just a few feet. There was only one road they could have been on, and it was a dead end. According to the satellite images Carter had shown him in the elevator, there was a cabin there, five miles from Balltown.
Daniel and Cassie were in that cabin; Jack was positive of it. Now all he had to do was get there.
Doug's plane had landed not long after Jack had destroyed his office, and he'd wasted no time in rounding up enough field agents from the Colorado Springs office to organize a search team. Jack assumed that Doug was briefing his team just as Carter was briefing them, giving them the information that Jack hadn't wanted to wait at the mountain to hear.
His first thought had been to get a chopper from Cheyenne Mountain AFB and fly up, but the massive snow storm that had settled over the Rockies had made the base commander ground all flights to the west, no exceptions. So instead, they'd grabbed two SUVs and were heading up in them. What should have been a three hour drive to Balltown had been done in two, flying snow notwithstanding, as the two black vehicles flew down Highway 24 at speeds far too high to be safe. The FBI vehicle, with its flashing red lights, had been left behind long ago, and Jack actually pitied the state cop that tried to pull him over.
Teal'c sat in the passenger seat at Jack's side, his posture rigid and all of his attention seemingly focused on the road ahead of them, though Jack knew he was listening closely to Carter's explanation. The Jaffa's eyes were harder and colder than Jack thought he'd ever seen them, and he wondered briefly what his own looked like. With all of the anger and hatred that was swirling around in his mind, he knew he couldn't possibly look any more approachable than Teal'c did.
Carter was behind Teal'c, still talking. Now she was saying something about parts per million of carbon dioxide, and when Janet's voice joined in, explaining the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, Jack forced himself to pay attention and relate what she was saying to the way Daniel had been acting on the phone. Dizziness – check. Fatigue and headache – check and check. Irregular breathing – check.
Jack was actually hoping against hope that Phillips had taken Daniel out of the trunk and into the cabin, if only because it meant that Daniel would be breathing normal oxygen again. Daniel and Cassie being alone in an isolated cabin with a mad man who wanted at least one of them dead was in no way a good situation, but he supposed it was better than Daniel suffocating to death in the trunk of a car. At least if they were in the cabin, there was still a chance to save them.
Janet was moving on to treatment scenarios now, so Jack tuned her out slightly.
Janet's addition to their impromptu search and rescue team had been one that Jack had initially thought was a very bad idea, but once he'd seen her face, he'd known that there'd be no arguing her out of it. It hadn't stopped him from trying, though, and his protests had been met with a response that was both calm and incredibly logical.
"When you find them, Colonel, they're both going to need me. Cassie will need her mother, yes, but Daniel is most definitely going to need a doctor. Would you honestly want that doctor to be anyone but me?"
From Teal'c, Jack had learned that General Hammond had likewise protested Janet's inclusion, and he had actually gone so far as to order her to stay in the mountain. Janet had looked him straight in the eye and told him in no uncertain terms that she was fully prepared to resign her commission on the spot, if necessary, but that no one was going to stop her from going with them.
Jack allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction at Janet's persistence. Yes, unfortunately it seemed that Daniel was going to need a doctor and no, there was no one else that Jack would rather have along for that purpose. Knowing that Daniel would agree with that put Jack's mind even more at ease.
He turned off of the highway at the road Carter indicated, taking the turn so fast that he was almost certain at least one of the tires lost its grasp on the road. The only sound of protest he heard was a slight gasp from Janet, who quickly recovered and simply continued with her discussion with Carter. They'd moved on to hypothermia now, it seemed, and they'd managed to explain Daniel's constant complaints about being cold, his confusion, slurred speech, and strange behavior.
Jack shook his head as they sped past the last few scattered houses on the small county road. How odd was it that with everything going on, the medical problems that they knew Daniel was already facing had so little to do with the danger he was in, and everything to do with where he was?
Teal'c's summons snapped Jack's attention fully back to the road ahead, and he slammed on the brakes.
Jack opened the door and jumped out of the SUV, slamming it shut behind him forcefully when his feet his the pavement.
"No!" he screamed at the sudden obstruction in front of him. "God damn it, no!"
Teal'c, Sam and Janet exited the vehicle behind him and walked up to stand at his side. They all stood silently, staring at what was directly ahead of them, until Jack spoke again.
"We're so damned close," he muttered. "This cannot be happening. We're too damn close!"
The snowstorm had obviously done more than create hazardous driving conditions on the roads at the top of the mountain. In fact, it appeared that the storm had actually caused a small avalanche, because directly in front of their SUV was a pile of snow fifteen feet high, and who knew how wide, that stretched as far as any of them could see.
Jack turned on his heel and stalked toward the back of the SUV with Teal'c right on his heels. Sam and Janet followed behind them silently.
Only four miles away, the limp body of Daniel Jackson hit the floor of an isolated cabin with such violence that the boards creaked.
Chapter-specific warning: Daniel remembers exactly what happened to him and Jenny in this chapter. This includes a mildly graphic description of her death through ten-yeaer-old Daniel's eyes.
He was suddenly awake, but he didn't remember falling asleep.
He was suddenly at the bottom of the hill, but he didn't remember walking down it.
All he really knew was that it was dark where he was; he wanted to go back to sleep. His head felt sticky behind his ear, and it hurt. The side of his neck stung like it had the day he'd tried to shave with Dad's razor and cut himself, and the top of his arm burned and throbbed unlike anything he'd ever felt before. There was something weird about his chest, too; it hurt to breathe and he could hear little squeaking noises every time he did.
He wasn't laying in the most comfortable of places, bent around the tree like he was, but at the moment he didn't really see any reason to get up. He thought he remembered that something bad had happened, but he couldn't quite recall what it was. But it was dark outside, which meant it was late, and he was tired and hurting... so he tried to curl up a bit closer to the tree and go back to sleep.
Jenny's voice sounded funny to his ears, distant and panicked. He opened his eyes and looked at his surroundings once more, trying his best to remember how he'd gotten there.
"Help! Somebody help!" she cried.
Jenny was at the top of the hill, fighting to get away from the monster that had grabbed him. It had to be a monster, didn't it? Real people didn't go around grabbing little boys like that, did they? And he hadn't had a face, and he'd been whispering scary things that Daniel hadn't understood.
None of this could be real, which meant it had to be a bad dream. This really couldn't be happening, could it?
No, it was real. It hurt too much not to be real. It was happening, and Jenny needed him. He had to get up, he had to save her... but his head hurt so badly and his arm felt funny and it was so hard to breathe. He pressed his hands against the ground and tried to stand – Jenny needed him and he had to get up.
He just needed to ignore the pain and get up.
He managed to get back on his feet, and he stumbled up the hill. He could hear sounds from above that he couldn't identify but that reminded him of the sound of Mom making meatloaf, slapping the meat into the pan. He climbed as fast as he could, but found himself slipping back down more than once. It was harder to walk than it should have been, and he really couldn't move his left arm at all, which was making balance difficult. Breathing was becoming harder with every step he took.
By the time he reached the top of the hill, it was all he could do to stay on his feet, and if it weren't for the one thought that occupied his mind, he wouldn't have bothered to try.
He had to find Jenny; they had to go home. At home, they'd be safe. At home, they could go to sleep and wake up to find that this entire night was nothing more than a bad dream.
He leaned against a tree to steady himself, and he looked across the top of the hill to where he knew he'd been before he'd fallen. Jenny was still there, fighting with the monster whose face Daniel still couldn't see. She managed to push the monster away from her, and it slid down the hill just as Daniel had done. She turned away quickly, spinning around until she saw Daniel, and she ran toward him. She was bleeding now, just a little bit from her arms and nose.
Daniel pushed himself away from the tree. He didn't notice that he was stumbling more with every step – all that mattered was that he was moving forward, getting closer to Jenny with every second. It was almost over; this nightmare would be ending soon. Jenny was reaching for his hand, and she was going to take him home and then everything would be okay.
The monster reappeared from nowhere. He was right behind Jenny, moving toward her with more speed than Daniel thought should be possible. He was so close to her, and Jenny didn't know he was there, didn't realize the danger that she was in. The monster was reaching for her again, and Daniel saw the moon flash brightly from the blade of the knife.
"Behind you!" He thought he yelled it, but it was only a whisper to his ears.
She screamed when the monster grabbed her, exactly as he'd grabbed Daniel, pinning her arms to her sides. The monster lifted the knife up in front of her, showing her the blade before pressing it against the side of her neck.
But he didn't run.
He couldn't move; he couldn't breathe. All he could do was stand and watch, somehow knowing what he was seeing but at the same not believing that it could be real. He saw the knife and the blood – so much blood – and watched in slow motion as his sister collapsed lifelessly to the ground like a broken doll.
He still didn't run.
He stood there staring at Jenny, watching the blood seep out of her body and soak into the ground. He felt the tears rolling down his cheeks and heard himself screaming her name, but he couldn't feel his body any more. His arm, his head, his chest; he felt none of them. He was numb, completely and totally numb.
The monster looked directly at him, and Daniel saw its face for the first time, and the reality of what he saw was more terrifying than the nightmare. It wasn't a monster, but a man – a man just like any other, except for the knife he held in his hand, the knife that had just stolen his sister from him and still dripped with her blood. Daniel stood, transfixed, as the man looked at him and smiled.
Daniel stared straight into his eyes; the evil he saw there burned into his mind in a way he knew he would never forget.
He woke up screaming, but he didn't remember falling asleep.
He woke up in a cabin, but he didn't remember walking into it.
His hair was sticky with blood and his left arm hurt like hell, but that was where the similarity to his nightmare ended.
The night Jenny died it had been warm, late in August, and he'd been wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Now, he was cold and his jeans and long-sleeved shirt were soaking wet with patches of unmelted snow still clinging to them. The night Jenny died it had been his fear that had paralyzed him even as the arms wrapped around his chest had kept him from running away. Now, it was rope around his wrists that kept his hands behind his back and rope around his ankles that kept him from running. The night Jenny died he'd had to lean against a tree at the top of the hill to keep from falling over because it was so hard to breathe. Now, he was propped up in the corner of a living room, shivering from the cold, and he knew that those walls were the only things holding him upright.
The night Jenny died, Daniel had stared straight into eyes so evil that he thought he'd never forget them and screamed.
Now, Daniel stared straight into those same eyes, glared at the monster that had stepped out of his nightmares, and imagined what it would feel like to kill the bastard.
"Colonel, you can't!"
"Do you really want to try and stop me, Carter?"
Sam huffed her exasperation and tilted her head back to stare at the stars above her.
Colonel O'Neill had wasted no time in contacting Agent Baker to tell him about the road conditions on the mountain. He'd told him to stop in Balltown and grab as many road plows and county workers as he could find at 2AM so they could get the road cleared as quickly as possible. An hour later, Baker called back to tell them that he was underway again, with one plow and three workers. He'd also told them that with the avalanche the colonel had described, it would be 6AM at the earliest before they'd be underway again.
The colonel had been less than thrilled with the news.
That was why he and Teal'c were standing behind the SUV, suiting up in heavy coats and snowshoes and preparing to venture out into the snow on foot.
"Daniel Jackson requires immediate assistance," Teal'c said evenly as he fastened the last buckle on one of his snowshoes. "There is no time to waste."
"We're four miles away, Carter," Jack added. "And it's gonna take three hours to clear this road enough to drive on it. That's if there's not another avalanche further up. If we walk, we can be there in two."
"But, Colonel, it's not safe," Sam persisted. "There's already been one avalanche, sir, which increases the odds of another..."
"So we'll walk quietly," Jack interrupted as he finished fastening up his heavy coat.
"But it's twenty-eight degrees out here!"
Jack held up one finger and raised his voice so that he could be heard from where Janet sat inside the SUV. "Hey, Doc?"
Janet rolled down her window and leaned out slightly. She'd been sitting in the SUV since they'd first come across the avalanche. Sam couldn't decide if she was worrying herself over Cassie's situation or trying to ignore it. "Yes, Colonel?"
"How long do you figure someone without a coat could last in this weather?"
"Before severe hypothermia set in, sir?
"Preferably," Jack muttered.
Janet considered the question only a moment before answering. "I wouldn't want him out in this any more than an hour, sir, at the absolute maximum."
Sam looked back and forth between them, watching the conversation in confusion.
Jack turned back to her with an unhappy smile on his face. "Let me tell you something about Daniel, Carter. He's not the type to just sit there and wait for rescue; you know that."
Sam nodded. "Yes, sir."
"So, the first chance he gets, he's going to grab Cassie and make a run for it."
Sam nodded again; she still didn't understand the point of his questions to Janet, though. "So you think he won't take the time to put his coat on?"
Jack shook his head. "Not at all, Carter. He's not stupid. He'd put a coat on before he went anywhere." Jack paused and looked out across the mountain. "If he had one."
Sam's eyes widened in shock. "He doesn't have a coat?" She shook her head, still slightly confused. "But, sir, how do you know that?"
"Fraiser told me," he answered simply, hooking a thumb in the direction of the SUV.
"Janet?" Sam said as she turned toward the open window.
"He had me throw it away, Sam, after he hit his head. He said there was too much mud on it to ever wash out, and he'd just buy a new one." Janet shook her head sadly. "He never got a chance."
"Surveillance video at the gate shows him leaving the mountain in a pair of jeans and a white shirt, Carter," Jack added. "His shirt has long sleeves, but even so... without a coat, in all this snow? And as you pointed out, it's only twenty-eight degrees out here..."
"He'll freeze to death," Sam whispered.
"He will not," Teal'c answered. Everyone turned their heads to look at him. "We will find him before the cold becomes an issue." Teal'c glanced at Janet, who was obviously trying to hide her deep concern but was failing miserably at it. "Daniel Jackson will protect Cassandra Fraiser until we arrive, and we will find them both alive and well."
Jack nodded at Janet. "Absolutely, Teal'c."
Jack reached into the back of the SUV one last time and pulled out two shotguns. He handed one to Teal'c and kept one for himself. Teal'c gave the weapon a look of mild distaste, and Jack shrugged.
"We're on Earth, Teal'c. There'll be civvie law enforcement all over this mountain in a few hours, and I don't think zatting an FBI agent is the best of ideas right now."
Teal'c nodded once in acknowledgement.
"Colonel, I think we should come with you," Sam said suddenly, as she stepped toward the back of the SUV. "Daniel's already sick and hurting; he's going to need Janet. That's why you wanted her to come."
Jack couldn't help the small smile that crossed his face. Of course Sam was going to fight against them going without her – Daniel and Cassie were in these mountains somewhere, and they were in trouble. She loved them both, and she wanted to be there when they were found. And it was just like Sam to use logic against him – and manage to make it seem like something he'd argued against had actually been his idea – to do it.
The door of the SUV opened and Janet climbed out. "Plus, we don't know about Cassie. If she's hurt, Colonel..."
She didn't have to finish her sentence for Jack to know what she was saying. She was a mother; she'd move Heaven and Hell to get to her child. He'd have done the same, if he'd had the chance. Add to that her doctor's instinct to help someone she knew was injured, and she was a more formidable force than normal.
But understanding her thinking, and Carter's, didn't mean that Jack was about to let them come. There was the very real possibility – even though he was denying it with everything he had in him – that they'd be too late, that Daniel and Cassie would already be dead by the time they reached them. In that instance, Teal'c was the only one he could count on to not only to not grow over-emotional himself, but also to pull Jack back from wherever his mind would go if he found them like that.
There was no way Jack could tell them that, though. Luckily, he didn't have to, because there was a perfectly reasonable reason why they couldn't go. Sam wasn't the only one who had the ability to use logic to convince people to do what she wanted, after all.
"Doc, how much medical equipment do you have in this truck?"
Janet nodded her head slightly. "A lot, sir. I brought warming blankets, hot water bottles, oxygen, my bag..."
"Can you possibly carry all of it across a mountain?"
Janet shook her head.
"Are you willing to leave any of it behind?"
Again she shook her head, but much more slowly, as she came to understand what he was saying. "No, sir. There's no way of knowing exactly what I'll need, without knowing how badly hurt or sick they are."
Jack nodded as he closed the back hatch of the SUV and stepped away. He gave Carter a small smile of understanding as he slung the strap of his shotgun across his shoulder. "Stay with the truck, Carter. Wait for Doug. We'll keep them safe until you get there."
"We'll find them, Carter," Jack said. "I promise."
With that, he turned and walked out across the snow, Teal'c at his side.
Sam and Janet stood beside the SUV and watched until Jack and Teal'c disappeared over a snow bank, then turned and climbed back into the truck. Janet pulled her coat a bit tighter around her, and Sam turned the heater up a notch. A few minutes passed in silence before Janet spoke.
"Sam, if they don't make it in time..."
"They'll find them, Janet," Sam interrupted. She refused to admit that it might be possible that they might not succeed. She had to believe that Daniel and Cassie would be found, and that they'd be not only alive, but just fine. If she stopped believing that... no. She couldn't even think about it.
"They'll find them, and they'll be fine. The colonel promised."
Daniel wished he had his hands free, if only so he could wipe the blood out of his eyes.
He was tired and sore and beaten in more ways than one, but he was still alive and as far as he knew, so was Cassie. He hadn't seen her since he'd come to in the cabin, and he'd been trying to get Phillips to tell him where she was, but so far Phillips was refusing – violently. Every time Daniel would ask, Phillips would hit him and continue talking about whatever he wanted.
At the moment, Phillips wanted to talk about the night Jenny died. He'd been going on about it for some time now, though exactly how long Daniel had no way of knowing. Daniel had tried listening at first, paying attention to see if Phillips would say something that Daniel could use against him, but it had been too hard. The memories that had just resurfaced made it seem, to Daniel, like Jenny had died twenty minutes ago instead of twenty years. He was still in shock, he supposed, but he knew that he couldn't deal with it right now. Dealing with Jenny's death had waited for two decades; he guessed it could wait another few hours.
Finding out where Cassie was couldn't wait, though. If they had any hope of getting out of this alive, he had to know where she was.
"Where's Cassie?" he asked again.
The response was expected now. Daniel saw Phillips' hand draw back, and he flinched involuntarily against the blow he knew was coming.
It never landed, which was surprising enough. When Phillips hand cupped the side of his face instead, his eyes shot open and he tried to pull away. The look in Phillips' eyes made him shudder. Instead of angry, he looked almost... protective? Fond? Paternal?
"I wish you wouldn't make me hit you so much, Daniel," Phillips said softly. "You can be a good boy, can't you? It would be so easy, Daniel. Just stop talking. When the doctor comes back, don't talk to him any more. Don't tell him how you got hurt, and I won't have to hit you again."
"You can't tell anyone what happened, Daniel, not even your parents. Do you understand me? You don't want me to hit you again, do you?"
Daniel shook his head slowly, completely speechless. Phillips had completely lost touch with reality. When he looked at Daniel now he didn't see a thirty year old archeologist tied up on the floor of a cabin in the mountains; he saw a ten year old boy bleeding on a hospital bed in Albany. Asking about Cassie again was pointless, because Phillips didn't even remember that she was there.
Daniel remembered the words Phillips was saying to him, remembered having heard them before. This was the "conversation" they'd had in the hospital the night Jenny died, when Phillips had chased the doctor out of the room to "question" the witness. This was how Phillips had gotten him to forget what had happened.
"I'm not allowed to talk to doctors," Daniel whispered.
"That's my good boy," Phillips said.
The tone of voice Phillips used and the way he was now caressing Daniel's cheek with his thumb made Daniel's skin crawl, and he pulled away.
"Don't touch me," he said softly. "Please."
The anger flashed in Phillips' eyes once more, and he pulled his hand away quickly. "Oh, I'll do more than touch you, boy!"
It was more than one fist this time, and when Phillips was done, Daniel was left curled into a ball on the floor, whimpering softly.
"I own you!" Phillips punctuated the declaration with a final kick to Daniel's chest.
Then he knelt down beside Daniel, wrapped his fingers in his hair and pulled his head up from the floor, forcing Daniel to look at him.
"And don't you ever forget it."
He released his grip and let Daniel fall to the floor one final time, then turned and walked out of the cabin, into the darkness of the pre-dawn hours.
Daniel coughed harshly and wondered if he should try righting himself back against the wall, but quickly decided against it. There wasn't a place on him that didn't hurt, and he was fairly certain he'd felt something snap in his chest with Phillips' last kick. The blood that ran down his face was coming not just from his forehead, but from his mouth and nose as well. Breathing was a difficult proposition at best, and having his hands tied behind his back wasn't helping anything.
He pressed his forehead against the floor and allowed himself a moment of hopelessness. He let the silent tears fall down his face, as much in sorrow for the rawness of his sister's death as for his and Cassie's current situation. Phillips was completely and totally insane now, and he knew that he wouldn't survive another encounter with him.
"I'm still alive, Jack," he whispered, as the darkness started to grow at the edges of his vision. Spitting the blood out of his mouth brought on another round of coughing, which made the darkness stronger. He felt his body go completely limp, and he let unconsciousness come with one final thought.
"But you'd better hurry."
The touch of a hand against his face brought him back to sudden wakefulness, and he jerked away from it instinctively without opening his eyes. He raised his hand to ward off the coming blow, and was surprised when his arm actually responded. But the knowledge that he'd been untied did little to comfort him, and the pain of moving pulled an involuntary moan from his lips.
The hand touched him again, hesitant but gentle, first on his shoulder and then again on his face.
The fog of unconsciousness began to lift from his mind, and he realized that not only was this voice not one he feared, this hand was far too small to belong to Phillips.
"Daniel... can you hear me?"
She was frightened; he could hear the tears in her voice. He was scaring her.
"Please wake up, Daniel. Please."
She was shaking him now, gently, but still enough to hurt. She was scared, but she wasn't scared of him.
She was scared for him.
"Daniel, please!" she begged in a whisper. "I need you!"
He had to get up. Just like before, he had to ignore the pain and get up.
He had to save her.
Daniel opened his eyes and looked directly at her tear-stained face, at her red nose and puffy eyes, and smiled.
"Cassie," he whispered. "You're okay."
She nodded quickly and glanced around the room nervously. "You're hurt."
He almost laughed at that, both because of the power of her understatement and because of the denial that he knew he was about to offer.
"I'll be fine, Cassie," he said. He didn't know if it was really true, but it was obviously what she needed to hear, because she smiled back at him before glancing across her shoulder again.
"Where is he?" Daniel asked.
Cassie shook her head. "I don't know. Not here. He left after he..." She swallowed hard, unable to verbalize what he'd done.
"Did you see what he did?"
"No," she whispered. "He put me in the closet. But I heard it. I thought he killed you, Daniel. I was so scared."
Daniel forced himself to smile for her again. "It'll be all right, Cassie. I promise."
He pushed against the floor with his right arm – his left still hung at his side – and slowly pulled his knees up. It took far longer, and far more support from Cassie, than it should have for him to get to his feet, and once he was there he honestly didn't know how long he was going to be able to stay on them. He leaned his right shoulder heavily against the wall and waved Cassie off for a second as he took stock of the situation.
Saying that his head hurt was another massive understatement; in truth, it pounded so badly that he was surprised it hadn't exploded yet. His face hurt so much that he didn't think he wanted to know what it looked like. He'd been having trouble breathing even before Phillips had kicked him and broken whatever it was that he'd felt snap, and it had definitely gotten harder to fill his lungs since then. He ached and throbbed all over, the result of what he imagined were a thousand different bruises. Then there was the small matter of a completely useless left arm that hurt like a son of a bitch.
But none of it mattered. He'd done this before, and he could do it again. He could ignore it all and get Cassie so far away from this place that Phillips would never find her.
He had to.
He pushed away from the wall slowly and took an uneven step forward. Cassie rushed to his side and grabbed his arm to balance him before he landed back on the floor, and he shook his head. Okay, so add difficulty walking in a straight line to that list.
"Stop, Daniel," Cassie pleaded with him. "You can't do this. You're too hurt."
"We have to go, Cassie."
"But Jack said he was coming," she argued. "He'll find us; I know he will. We just have to wait for him and..."
"Cassie, listen to me." He really didn't want to do this; he didn't want her to know the evil that existed on her adopted home planet, but he didn't have a choice. She'd already seen and heard enough to know what Phillips was capable of, and she deserved to know what was coming.
"We can't stay here. He will come back, and when he does, Cassie... he will kill me." She drew in a sharp breath, and he kept going. "I have to get you out of here, okay? I know Jack is coming, but he's not here yet. We've got a chance to help ourselves, and we have to take it. Do you understand?"
It only took her a second to process everything and nod in silent agreement. "Good..." He stopped himself before he finished, and the memory of Phillips' voice saying 'Good boy' sent a shudder of revulsion through him.
"That's good, Cass." He looked at the cabin door, which suddenly seemed much farther away than it should have been.
"Can you walk?" Cassie asked him.
He looked down at her and it occurred to him to wonder just who was saving who. He made a promise to himself to tell Janet what an amazing child she had, and he smiled.
"I can if you'll help me," he answered.
As they made their way toward the door, with Cassie pressed against Daniel's right side to keep him steady, she asked him one more question.
"Where do we go, Daniel?"
They made it through the door and out into the thick snow and pink-tinged dawn before he answered her.
"Away from here."
The pink of dawn was giving way to reds and oranges that filled the sky above them as the sun rose above the mountains. Light snow had been falling off and on the entire time they'd been walking, but the clouds were moving away now, promising a bright and clear day. Jack wondered if he'd have enjoyed this sunrise if it weren't for the mission they were on.
They'd been walking in silence for almost two hours now, and Jack knew the cabin was close. He'd been purposely avoiding the subject of what they'd find when they got there, and he was grateful that Teal'c seemed to understand that. But as the hours went by and they moved closer and closer to their destination, as they each became more and more aware of how much time had passed, the conversation became more and more inevitable.
It was Teal'c who finally broke the silence.
"We'll find them, Teal'c," Jack answered sharply. "We'll find them and they'll be just fine."
He saw Teal'c nod his head once out of the corner of his eye. "That we will find them, I have no doubt," he answered. "That they will be unharmed, I am less certain."
Jack had to agree with that statement, had to admit to himself that he knew at least one of them had already been harmed before the rest of them had even known anything was wrong.
"Yeah, Teal'c, I know."
"It is Michael Phillips that dominates my thoughts at this moment, however."
Jack jumped down the snow bank they'd been walking along the top of and waited for Teal'c to join him.
"What do you mean?"
"When we have located Daniel Jackson and Cassandra Fraiser, what are we to do with Michael Phillips?"
"Do with him?" The smug smile returned to Jack's face as his thoughts went back to his office, to the different scenarios he'd envisioned while waiting for Carter to trace Daniel's call.
"Do you remember what I said yesterday, about us not being on Chulak?"
Teal'c finished descending the massive drift and turned to face Jack. "I do."
"Well... forget I said it."
Teal'c nodded once in acknowledgement of the unspoken agreement.
Jack turned back toward the sun, pulled his hat down a bit lower over his face, and started walking again. They'd only traveled for a few more minutes when Teal'c saw it on the horizon.
"O'Neill!" he called out. "The cabin!"
Jack jerked his head up, and he saw it, too. Without another word both bolted forward, running toward the small building with as much speed as their awkward snowshoes would allow. As they neared the cabin, they saw a large, dark sedan parked beside it. They checked the car first, looking between the seats and in the open trunk before declaring it cleared.
Only a few short moments later, they were standing on either side of the front door, their guns at the ready. A quick hand motion from Jack, and they moved into the cabin as one.
Teal'c moved off to check behind the two interior doors – finding a closet and an empty bedroom – and Jack walked straight to the corner of the living room. He closed his eyes against what he found on the floor there, and prayed to whatever God might be listening that he was wrong, and that he wasn't too late.
"There is no one present," Teal'c announced as he returned from the bedroom.
Jack swallowed hard and motioned at the floor. "Yeah, but there was."
Teal'c stepped forward and finally saw what Jack had seen as soon as he'd walked through the door. Two pieces of rope, one bearing dark red splotches, lay discarded on the floor. Not far from them, pooled on the hardwood and seeping into cracks between the boards, were several more dark stains that were most definitely blood.
Teal'c looked up at Jack, his eyes hard. "One of them was tortured in this location."
Jack shook his head slowly. "Should I give the odds on which one?"
"It is not necessary," Teal'c answered darkly. "The other was kept in the closet. The door bears the marks of having been forcibly opened from the inside."
Jack closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "She had to listen to this?"
"It would appear to be so."
Jack opened his eyes, ripped his hat from his head and slammed it against his leg. "So where are they?!"
Teal'c turned wordlessly and walked toward the door. As he walked out of the cabin, Jack looked back down at the floor. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, wishing that doing so could remove the bitter taste that had risen from his throat. He put his hat back on angrily and turned his back on the offending sight, following Teal'c outside.
Teal'c was crouched down a few feet from the door, staring intently at the snow.
"What have you got, Teal'c?"
"Footprints," he answered.
Jack walked toward him until he could see them, too. There were two sets of very clear prints leading away from the cabin; one set belonged to an adult, and the other was much smaller.
"Daniel and Cassie?" Jack asked.
Teal'c nodded. "I believe so. The prints of Daniel Jackson are uneven and unsteady. The prints of Cassandra Fraiser are straighter, but deeper than they should be for her size, as though she carries a great weight."
Jack looked back down at the tracks and noticed for the first time how close they were. Two people walking side-by-side wouldn't leave tracks so close. But if one of those people was injured, bleeding, walking unsteadily...
"She's holding him up," Jack said.
Jack looked in the direction the tracks led, into the trees and further up the mountain. "They're running."
"No, O'Neill. Cassandra Fraiser is walking; Daniel Jackson is stumbling."
Jack turned back around, intending to chastise Teal'c for stating something so obvious, but stopped himself when he noticed the other man looking down at a different location in the snow. He stepped forward to investigate, and was not at all surprised to see a third set of tracks, headed in the same direction as the other two but slightly to the left of them.
"Michael Phillips is running."
"Then so are we," Jack said, and he turned to do just that. He'd only taken a few steps when he realized that the snowshoes which had been so necessary for them to walk across the drifted snow would never allow him to run as quickly as he needed to now, and he bent down to unbuckle them quickly.
"How far ahead of us are they?"
"The tracks of Daniel Jackson and Cassandra Fraiser are dusted by the light snow that fell for ten minutes, thirty minutes ago," Teal'c answered as he removed his own snowshoes. "The tracks of Michael Phillips are not."
Jack nodded his head as he pulled his feet free of the straps and stepped into the snow, sinking slightly into it.
"They're moving slow," he said with a glance over his shoulder at the Jaffa. "We'll catch up."
Teal'c nodded once and stepped down into the snow.
Together, they ran, following the tracks into the trees.
The sing-songy voice, sickeningly sweet and falsely cheerful, echoed in the trees around them, and he knew they couldn't stop.
Every breath was torture now; his lungs spasmed with every inhale, he could hear his lungs gurgling with every exhale, and the pressure against his chest was approaching unbearable. Staying on his feet was becoming almost impossible, and he was stumbling more with every step he took. His head pounded, his mind whirled, and the world around him was beginning to spin.
The first few moments outside had actually helped, as the bitter cold had served to wake him fully and keep him alert, though he'd shivered almost uncontrollably. But as time had gone by, even that small advantage had been lost to him. His whole body was becoming numb – he'd long since lost the feeling in his fingers, and he could barely feel his feet.
His eyes kept trying to close and he was tired, so tired, and really wanted nothing more than to just lie down in the snow and go to sleep. The only thing keeping him going was Cassie, knowing that if he stopped, she'd die on this mountain.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
And to make matters worse, Phillips had obviously discovered their escape from the cabin and was right behind them.
Daniel had to get Cassie away from here, but he was finally willing to admit to himself that he wasn't going to be able to help her much longer. The best he could hope for was to be able to take advantage of Phillips' delusions and pray that the other man's mind still existed in a time when Daniel Jackson was ten years old and Cassandra Fraiser didn't exist. If Phillips didn't expect Cassie to be here, then drawing him away from her would be easy.
He just had to find a place to hide her while he did it.
He looked around, and his eyes finally came to rest on a bank of snow that had drifted against the base of a tree. He motioned with his head for Cassie to walk toward it, which she did without argument. Once they were behind the tree, Daniel gently pushed Cassie away from him, toward the back side of the drift. She looked up at him in confusion, and he leaned down as far as he could without falling over.
"You're going to stay... stay here... until you hear Phillips... go past you. Then... I want you to run... run back down the mountain... toward the cabin. Jack... Jack should be there by now." He gave her a weak, tired smile and touched the top of her head fondly. "You'll be... safe there."
"But... what about you?"
"I'm going to... to lead Phillips away."
"No!" she protested, grabbing his arm and almost pulling him down to the ground. "He'll kill you!"
"He'll have to... find me first," he answered with a smile. He knew there was more to it than that, but he wouldn't tell her any of it. He didn't know everything that was wrong with him, but he was aware that the shivering had all but stopped now, and he knew that was not a good thing. He could barely stand, hardly walk, struggled to talk, and fought to breathe. But he would get Cassie off this mountain, if it was the last thing he did.
And it very well might be.
"Daniel, I won't leave you!"
"Yes... you will," he answered. "It's me... me he's after, Cass. He doesn't even... doesn't remember that you... you're even here. You need to go... go find Jack. Jack can... Jack..." He had to shake his head to clear the confusion so he could continue. He had to hold it together long enough to convince her to run to safety. "Jack... help me... okay?"
Cassie stared at him in silence for a few seconds before finally nodding her head in understanding.
"Good... you run... get Jack... be safe." His voice was beginning to sound slurred now, and he knew he had to go. Phillips hadn't been far behind them to begin with, and staying in one place for as long as he had only allowed him to get closer.
"Get Jack," he said again, and he turned away from her.
He heard her whimpering behind him, but he didn't look back. He stumbled away, moving further up the mountain, veritably bouncing from tree to tree as he went. He knew he'd have to leave the cover of the trees if he was going to lead Phillips away from Cassie, and he'd have to think of a way to get his attention.
The thought that Cassie would be safe seemed to warm him, because he found himself hardly feeling the cold at all. Knowing that Jack would find her and return her to Janet was enough for him; once he knew that Phillips was following him and had forgotten about her, he'd let himself stop and lie down.
Jack was coming, and Cassie would be fine.
With that thought in mind, Daniel pushed away from the last of the trees and headed out into the open mountainside.
"O'Neill, someone approaches."
Jack motioned for Teal'c to crouch down, and he did so. They both raised their weapons in the direction of the disturbance coming from the trees; whoever was running toward them was doing so with no thought of stealth. It was only a few seconds before they could see who it was, and only a few seconds more before Jack's arms were full of hysterical twelve year old girl.
"Cassie! Oh, thank God! Are you okay?" Jack held her at arm's length and looked her over for any obvious injuries.
"Are you injured, Cassandra Fraiser?"
Cassie shook her head quickly, trying to catch her breath from running, her voice breaking with tears she wasn't allowing to fall. "No, I'm not hurt. But Daniel...!"
"Where is he, Cass?" Jack asked urgently.
"He's hurt bad." She was starting to shake in Jack's hands, but he didn't know if it was from emotion or cold, or a combination of the two. "He's bleeding, and he can't walk very well, and he can't move his arm..."
"Where is he?"
"Up there," she said quickly, pointing in the direction she'd come from. "He told me to run back to the cabin, that you'd be here and that Michael would follow him up the mountain..."
"Daniel Jackson led Michael Phillips away from you?"
Cassie nodded again, and the tears she'd been holding back began rolling down her cheeks.
"He's going to kill him!" she cried. "He's going to kill him, and Daniel knows! He sent me away!"
Jack pulled Cassie against him, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tightly while he thought through the difficult decision he was now facing.
Their mission had been so straight-forward and simple: find Daniel and Cassie. They'd found one of them, but even though Cassie was physically unharmed, the emotional scars from what she'd been through would run deep. Daniel was still unaccounted for, further up the mountain, in the sub-freezing temperatures with no coat, injured, and hunted by a mad man.
Jack's first thought was to keep going, keep Cassie with them, and go find Daniel. But what if Phillips found him before they did? What if Daniel was dead or dying when they reached him? What if they did manage to find him in time, only to have Phillips kill him in front of them? What damage would it do to Cassie to see Daniel in any of those situations, especially after everything they'd been through together in the past twelve hours?
Protecting Cassie from that possibility would mean taking her back to the cabin and staying there with her until Carter and Fraiser arrived, comforting her and giving her assurance that Daniel would be fine, all the while knowing that he probably wouldn't be. Every moment they spent with her in the cabin would be another moment not spent searching for Daniel, another moment he was being left alone with Phillips. And Cassie, being as smart as she was, would realize sooner or later that they'd stayed with her instead of saving Daniel.
There was a third option, and it was the one he was most seriously considering. They could send Cassie back to the cabin alone and continue up the mountain in search of Daniel. It bore some risk, that was undeniable, but it was obvious that Daniel believed Phillips would follow him and ignore Cassie, and Jack agreed with that. Besides, even if Phillips did decide to head back to the cabin, he'd have to get through him and Teal'c to get there and neither one of them would let that happen.
Jack glanced down at his watch and did a quick mental calculation. It was almost 6AM. If Doug had been right about the amount of time they'd need to clear the road, they'd either already be underway or getting close to it. With the road conditions being what they were, Jack estimated it would take them twenty minutes to reach the cabin once they finished clearing the avalanche. It would take Cassie at least fifteen minutes to get back to it herself, and Jack knew that she wouldn't be alone long once she got there. It would give Carter and Fraiser the time they would need to reassure themselves that the child they loved was unhurt, and give the doc the privacy she would want to make absolutely certain of it.
He was going to ask Teal'c's opinion on the matter, but it was Daniel himself who made the decision for him.
"Olly olly oxen free!"
"What the hell...?" Jack's head jerked up in the direction of the voice. It was weak and shaky, but it was unmistakably Daniel shouting with everything he had left. "What's he doing?"
"He is drawing attention to himself," Teal'c answered. His gaze was locked in the same direction as Jack's, his expression one of deep concern. "Michael Phillips will certainly find him now."
"How far away is he?"
Teal'c shook his head. "Not far, O'Neill. Perhaps two hundred yards; no more than that."
Jack looked down at Cassie quickly. "Cass, do you...?"
"I know where the cabin is," she said. "I'll go and wait for Janet and Sam."
"That's a brave girl, Cassie," Jack said. He laid his hand on the top of her head gently, and then motioned down the mountain.
"He said you'd help him," she said softly.
"We're going to, Cass."
Cassie nodded and moved off without another word.
"Olly olly oxen free!"
Jack started running toward the voice, Teal'c at his side. As they ran, they both pulled their shotguns from their shoulders and held them in front of them, prepared for anything. They stayed in the trees, knowing that Daniel would be luring Phillips out into the open and hoping that they reached him in time. A random question popped into Jack's mind, and he wondered about it for only a second before he concentrated his full attention on the situation at hand.
Of all the things Daniel could have done to get Phillips attention, why had he chosen hide and seek?
"Olly olly oxen free..."
The last shout wasn't nearly as strong as the first two – more a whisper than a shout really – but he hoped that the others had gotten Phillips' attention. He knew that Phillips would respond; it had to have been Jenny's calls that had drawn the man's attention to them in the park that night.
The shouts had taken more air from him than he'd expected, and he was having serious trouble drawing in enough to fill his lungs back up. He heard something moving toward him and he turned toward the sound, but the sudden movement of his head was more than his body could handle. The mountain did a back flip, his legs buckled, and Daniel fell to his knees in the snow.
He sat back on his heels, struggling for breath, as he watched Phillips walk toward him. The knife was already in the man's hand, and Daniel found himself fascinated by the way the sun reflected from the blade as it swung at his side. Neither of them spoke – at this point, there was nothing to say.
Phillips drew up in front of him and smiled down. Daniel let his head fall back and stared up at him through barely open eyelids, neither realizing nor caring just how exposed his throat was in that position. It was over anyway; what was the point in fighting it?
Jack hadn't made it up the mountain in time, but somehow Daniel knew that Cassie was fine. She was away from this, safe from Phillips, and warm, somewhere she wouldn't have to watch what was about to happen. If she'd had to watch him die like this, she'd never have recovered from it.
He certainly never had.
Phillips raised the knife and held it slightly to the left, prepared to slice across Daniel's neck with it, ending the bizarre dance they'd been doing with each other for twenty years, most of which had taken place without Daniel even realizing it was happening.
Only one of them was leaving this mountain.
"Just tell... tell me why..." Daniel whispered.
"Because you're too beautiful for this world, Daniel," Phillips answered just as softly. "And because death is the most amazingly beautiful thing I've ever seen."
Daniel closed his eyes as he felt the last of the fight leave him. He expected it to be over quickly; any second Phillips would bring the knife down across his throat. He didn't want the last thing he saw to be the smug, satisfied smile on the bastard's face.
Phillips didn't strike quickly, though. Daniel felt the knife pressing against his neck slowly, only the tip piercing the skin on his neck just below his jaw, but he didn't flinch. His body was past caring, too exhausted to even try to resist.
"Stop right there, you son of a bitch, or I'll blow your God damned head off!"
Jack did not like what he was seeing.
They'd spotted Daniel while he was still alone, out in the open, on his knees in the snow. Jack's first impulse had been to run out to him and get him the hell out of there, but they didn't know where Phillips was or what kind of weapons he might have. There was a very real possibility that Daniel was out there as bait, and that as soon as they moved toward him Phillips would open fire from the trees on the opposite side of the clearing.
So they moved through the trees silently, keeping low and using the snow for cover. They were going to keep moving until they were parallel to Daniel, close enough to him to ask him what was going on and if approaching was safe.
They'd almost reached him when they saw Michael Phillips step out of the trees almost directly across from them. Jack saw the knife in the man's hand, its large blade glinting in the early morning sun, and he started to push up from the ground. Teal'c's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Teal'c, what are you doing?" Jack demanded in a whisper. "It's a knife. We can take him."
"And if he has a secondary weapon, O'Neill? If he has a firearm?"
"I don't give a damn!" Jack's words were coming out from behind clenched teeth now. They were wasting valuable time that they – and Daniel – did not have.
"We cannot save Daniel Jackson if we are dead, O'Neill."
"We can't save him if he is, either!"
Jack saw movement out of the corner of his eye and he turned his attention to it. Phillips was standing way too close to Daniel right now, holding the knife way too close to his neck. Daniel's head was back, his skin grey, his face mottled with bruises, his white shirt stained with his own blood, his eyes barely open and his arms limp at his sides.
Jack knew that Daniel had been pushed far beyond his limits in the past twelve hours, but did he really have to offer his throat to the man so easily?
"Teal'c?" Jack whispered urgently.
Phillips leaned forward and pressed the knife against Daniel's neck, and Jack stiffened.
When Jack saw the blood running down the side of Daniel's neck, he stopped waiting for Teal'c. He jumped to his feet, sighted down the barrel of the shotgun he had aimed directly at Phillips' head, and rushed forward.
"Stop right there, you son of a bitch, or I'll blow your God damned head off!"
The world upended on him again, but this time he couldn't fall over. Instead, he was pulled to his feet and held there by Phillips, who had somehow ended up behind him. The man's left arm was wrapped around his chest, which he supposed should have hurt had his body not been so numb from the cold, and his right hand held the blade of the knife so tightly against Daniel's throat that it pushed his head back against Phillips' shoulder.
"Let him go, Phillips!" he heard Jack shout. "It's over!"
"It's not over, O'Neill. He is still mine."
"No!" Jack's voice had an edge to it that he didn't immediately recognize – harder, angrier than normal. "He's not yours! Damn it, Phillips, let him go and you might get off this mountain alive!"
Jack's voice ...
No. No, that wasn't right. Jack was with Cassie. He had sent Cassie down the mountain to Jack. But Jack was here. Jack was here, and Cassie wasn't ... so where was she?
He felt Phillips move behind him, lower his head so that his mouth was right next to Daniel's ear. "What was that, Daniel?"
"I said ... where's ... Cassie?!"
"And if I told you that you'd killed another one, Daniel, what could you do about it?"
Daniel froze in horror ... oh, no. No, no, no! Cassie ... he was supposed to protect her. He was supposed to save her! But he hadn't; he'd gotten her killed. Just like Jenny, just like the little girl in the park, just like the "others".
Jenny was dead. Cassie was dead.
Blind rage replaced the complacency of acceptance, and adrenaline and hatred fueled a body long since empty of all reserves.
Daniel smashed the back of his head into Phillips' face, grabbed the hand that held the knife to his throat, and showed the bastard exactly what he could do.
"It's not over, O'Neill. He is still mine."
"No!" Jack glanced quickly to where Teal'c crept silently out from the trees several yards up from where Jack had emerged, moving around to approach Phillips from behind. "He's not yours! Damn it, Phillips, let him go and you might get off this mountain alive!"
Several seconds went by with no response from Phillips, and Jack saw Daniel's lips move. He couldn't hear what he'd said, or what Phillips whispered into his ear in response.
"I said ... where's ... Cassie?!"
Daniel's voice was loud enough this time that Jack heard what he said, but he didn't understand why Daniel was asking. Daniel knew where Cassie was, because he'd sent her there himself.
Phillips was whispering in Daniel's ear again. Jack couldn't hear what was being said, but from the way Daniel's eyes widened, from the way his entire body stiffened, he knew it couldn't have been good. When the look in Daniel's eyes changed from fear to hatred and when his body began to shake from tension instead of cold, Jack was willing to admit that it had probably been bad – very, very bad.
When Daniel's right hand started to move toward the knife at his throat, Jack knew it was about to get worse. He shot a frantic glance in Teal'c's direction, seeing immediately that the Jaffa was as aware as he of the sudden volatility of the situation.
When Daniel smashed the back of his head into Phillips' face, breaking the other man's hold on him, Jack saw the chance he needed to take control.
"Daniel Jackson!" Teal'c yelled.
"Daniel, drop!" Jack's shout mixed with Teal'c's.
Whether Daniel simply didn't hear them or was beyond hearing them, Jack didn't know. What he did know was that by the time the words had left their lips, Daniel had spun on his captor. He twisted Phillips' wrist hard enough and fast enough to make him lose his grip on the knife, but not before earning himself a rather nasty gash across his left arm. Then the struggle was over, and the handle was firmly in Daniel's right hand.
Jack and Teal'c kept their guns aimed and burst forward as one, their momentum seriously impeded by the knee-deep snow.
"Down!" Jack screamed. "Daniel, get down!"
But Daniel was too fast. With a cry of rage and pain, Daniel swung the knife upwards and across in front of him, slicing it through the air and across Phillips unprotected throat in one violent arc. The blood that sprayed out from the gaping wound, splattering Daniel's face, chest and arms, didn't seem to register with him at all. With one last burst of strength, Daniel pressed both hands against Phillips' chest and shoved the still-standing body away from him, to fall in the snow three feet away.
Even from Jack's position, he could see that Phillips' open but lifeless eyes were locked on Daniel's face, shock and pain and betrayal clearly written in them. Daniel stared back into those eyes, the knife still in his hand at his side, and spoke with a vehemence that Jack didn't know the man possessed.
"How beautiful is it now, you sick son of a bitch?"
Jack and Teal'c stopped their advance entirely.
"Daniel?" Jack said gently.
Daniel's head fell back as his shoulders heaved with every breath he drew. He was shaking, though whether it was from pain or horror or cold or the adrenaline let-down, Jack wasn't sure. He couldn't see Daniel's face from where he was standing, but he could see the blood that covered his arms.
"It's all right, Daniel." Jack took a carefully measured step forward. "It's over."
He was amazed that Daniel was even on his feet, let alone fairly steadily so. He knew that medical attention for Daniel was required, even as he knew that medical attention for Phillips was pointless, but he was leery of approaching him until he knew for absolute certain that Daniel would recognize them. He was slowly edging his way forward, drawing up beside Daniel without moving any closer to him.
"Put the knife down, buddy. Just ... put the knife down, and let's go home."
This time, Daniel heard him. He turned his head slowly, and Jack was shocked at what he saw. Daniel's eyes were an incredibly bright blue, made even brighter by the dark red mask of blood that covered his face. The shaking became more pronounced even as his breathing slowed and shallowed. The knife slipped from his fingers and tumbled to the ground, sinking through the blood spattered surface snow and leaving a bright red smear on the pure white underneath.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice was shaking, his eyes wide, confused and terrified. "I think I need ... your help ...”
Jack took one step forward before Daniel's eyes rolled back in his head and he pitched forward. He landed face-down in the snow, only feet from Phillips outstretched arm, and Jack and Teal'c were running again.
Motioning for Teal'c to check on Phillips – even though there was no doubt of his fate – Jack fell to his knees at Daniel's side. The cold and wet of the snow seeped through his fatigue pants immediately, chilling his legs from ankle to hip as he sank into the whiteness. He reached out with his right hand, grabbed Daniel's arm, and slowly and gently rolled him onto his back.
"Daniel?" he asked as he began brushing snow from Daniel's battered face, wiping as much of the gore away with it as he could. There was no response to either his voice or his touch. "Daniel!"
"Michael Phillips is dead," Teal'c announced. He went to one knee across from Jack, standing his shotgun upright in the snow like a staff weapon. "What is the condition of Daniel Jackson?"
"Alive," Jack answered shortly. "But not for much longer if we don't get him the hell out of here."
"How are we to move him?" Teal'c asked. "We have no equipment."
Jack unzipped his heavy coat and pulled the right sleeve down, shrugging out of it quickly. "We wrap him in our coats and we carry him to the cabin. Doc'll be there; we get him to her and she'll do the rest."
Teal'c removed his own coat, as Jack had done, and reached down to help him move Daniel into a sitting position long enough for them to cover him with them.
"Careful of his shoulder, Teal'c," Jack warned as he finished draping his coat across Daniel and zipping it up. "Cassie said he couldn't move his arm, and he definitely wasn't using it when he ..."
Jack froze for only a second, his eyes locked on Daniel's still form as Teal'c wrapped his coat around Jack's. Despite the quick clean-up Jack had attempted, Daniel's face was still smeared with streaks of Phillips' blood. It covered his hair, and Jack knew that beneath the heavy green coat, the front of his white shirt was beyond saturated with it. He looked like he'd just stepped out of a bad horror film.
But this horror was very, very real.
The sound of Teal'c zipping his coat up around Daniel brought Jack back to his senses quickly, as did the sounds of people running up the mountain toward them, breaking through the tree line.
Jack didn't have to look back to know who it was.
"He's dead, Doug," Jack said. "Teal'c checked to make sure, but other than that, we haven't touched anything. The knife's somewhere in the snow."
Doug stopped beside Jack and looked down; Jack ignored him, moving around Daniel to take up position next to Teal'c so they could lift him up from the ground.
"Jack, what happened here?"
"No idea," Jack lied. He crouched down next to Daniel and slid his arms under the unconscious man's knees. "We found them like this. We're taking Daniel down to the doc."
Doug nodded and walked away, his eyes focused on Phillips' body. "She's in the cabin."
Jack nodded at Teal'c, who had positioned his arms behind Daniel's back, and together they stood, lifting Daniel easily between them. They started back down the mountain without another word, leaving the grisly scene behind them, leaving the FBI to try and figure out what had happened.
They'd entered the trees before either one of them spoke again.
"O'Neill, why did you lie to Agent Baker?"
"Phillips is dead, Teal'c and with any luck, Daniel won't remember how." He glanced at the Jaffa quickly before returning his attention to the footprints they were following back to the cabin. "That means you and I are the only ones who know what really happened back there. I just ... I'd like it to stay that way."
"As you wish, O'Neill."
Jack sincerely hoped that Daniel never remembered what had happened in that clearing. Something terrible had happened to him; something inside his mind had snapped. Jack doubted that he'd ever know what Phillips had said to set it off, but he wasn't all that certain that he wanted to know anyway. It was a fitting punishment for Phillips – certainly no more than he deserved – but Jack wasn't entirely sure that Daniel would see it that way.
Hopefully, between the concussion Jack knew he had and the confusion that hypothermia tended to cause, Daniel would lose enough of his memory naturally that Jack would never have to find out exactly how Daniel would see it. He wasn't completely certain that he was prepared to lie to Daniel about it, but Jack saw nothing wrong with refusing to fill in any missing details for him.
"Daniel Jackson did only what needed to be done."
"That he did, Teal'c," Jack agreed softly. "That he did."
Jack and Teal'c quickly stepped through the door that Carter had opened for them.
"On the bed, Colonel," Janet ordered as she jumped up from the chair she'd been sitting in and rushed through the bedroom door ahead of them.
Janet moving gave Cassie a clear view of Daniel as they carried him through the room. Jack watched her face react to what she was seeing, and suddenly wished he'd had more time to clean Daniel up before they'd brought him in. The last thing Cassie needed was to see Daniel like this – wasn't that why he'd sent her back to the cabin in the first place?
"Daniel!" Cassie jumped to her feet and ran toward him, her hand covering her mouth in horror and tears streaming down her face. "No! Daniel! Daniel!!"
Sam intervened quickly, moving to intercept Cassie before she reached them. She knelt down on the floor in front of her, took Cassie's face in her hands, and spoke as calmly as she could. "Cassie, honey, look at me. Look at me."
Cassie forced herself to do as she was told, focusing her red-rimmed eyes on Sam's face.
"Daniel needs your mom right now, sweetie, okay?"
"No ... he's dead." Cassie was shaking violently, her body wracked with sobs. "I know he is. He's dead!"
"No, no, honey," Sam consoled her, pulling the child to her in a tight hug. "Daniel's not dead, Cassie. He's hurt and he's sick, but he's not dead. I swear."
"Is he gonna be okay?"
Sam wanted so badly to say that he would be, but she couldn't even convince herself that Daniel could survive what had happened. She hadn't seen much as the Colonel and Teal'c rushed past her, but what she did see ... there was so much blood ...
"He saved me, Sam."
"I know he did, honey." Sam buried her face in Cassie's hair and wrapped her arms even more tightly around her. "I know he did."
Jack and Teal'c had Daniel laid on the bed and were already removing their coats from him when they heard Janet close the door behind them.
"I need him out of those wet clothes, Colonel, and I need him ..."
Jack finished pulling his coat out from under Daniel, and Teal'c gently laid him back on the mattress.
"What, Doc?" Jack turned his head only to find Janet frozen in place near the door, her eyes fixated on Daniel. Jack glanced back down at the shirt that Teal'c was quickly unbuttoning, and he understood immediately what she was reacting to.
"It's not his, Janet. Not all of it."
"Should I ask ... whose it is?"
Janet nodded her head quickly and jumped into action. Her first order of business, going by the bluish color of Daniel's skin, was to find out just exactly how cold he was. Jack and Teal'c finished removing his wet clothes while she did that, and then began wrapping him in the blankets Janet had piled at the foot of the bed.
"Temperature's only eighty-nine," she announced. "Go tell Sam that I need those hot water bottles, STAT."
Jack turned toward the door.
He started to turn back around when a heavy blanket hit him in the side of the head.
"Unless you want to end up on this bed next to Daniel, you'll get out of that wet uniform and go sit in front of the fireplace."
"No 'buts,' Colonel. Go. Teal'c, you too. Go get warmed up, the both of you. That's an order."
Teal'c nodded once, walked past Jack and opened the door. Jack followed him, but turned back around to look at Daniel one more time before he left the room.
"Keep fighting, Danny," he whispered. "You stay alive."
He stepped into the living room and pulled the door closed behind him.
Jack had decided that compromise was the order of the day.
He left his uniform on, but he did wrap the blanket around himself. He stayed near the fire, but he paced instead of sitting. He was grateful to see that someone, he guessed it was probably Carter, had thrown some sort of rug across the bloodstains in the corner. Part of him wanted to walk over and see if she'd picked the ropes up or if they were still there, but the rest of him didn't want to take the chance of seeing them again.
The voice was soft, hesitant, and still slightly shaky. Jack smiled down at her fondly and accepted the cup of hot coffee she was holding out to him. "Thank you, Cassie."
"Jack, where's ..." He knew what was coming, and he'd already decided how he was going to answer her. She, more than any other conscious person in the cabin, deserved to know. "Where's Michael?"
"Michael is gone, Cassie," he said softly. "He'll never hurt anyone again."
She looked up at him through her tousled and slightly tangled hair. She understood the meaning behind the words he'd just said, that much was obvious. "Should I be sad about that?"
Jack shook his head. "Not if you don't want to be."
"Is it wrong if I'm happy?"
Jack smiled softly. "Is it wrong for you to be happy that you're safe? That you're not hurt? That Daniel's alive, and safe, and that Michael Phillips will never hurt him, or you, ever again?" Jack shook his head once more. "No, Cassie. That's not wrong."
"Then I am," she said softly.
Jack put his coffee on the table, leaned down slightly, and pulled her into a tight hug.
The bedroom door burst open, and Janet and Sam ran out from it. Jack looked up, and Teal'c, who had been sitting against the wall and meditating, opened his eyes.
"Colonel," Sam said, her voice frantic. "We have to get Daniel off the mountain."
Jack stood straight, keeping his hand on Cassie's shoulder until he'd passed her, and stepped forward.
"The helicopter's coming," he answered in confusion. "It should be here in about fifteen minutes."
"No, Colonel, we can't use a helicopter," Janet answered quickly. "He can't go up any higher than he is right now. He has to go down, immediately."
Teal'c climbed to his feet gracefully; Jack looked quickly between him and the two women in front of him.
"What's going on?"
"It's not just hypothermia, Colonel, it's altitude sickness. His lungs are filling with fluid," Janet explained. "He's drowning."
It only took them five minutes to get ready to leave, and Jack was glad he'd left his uniform on. It was mostly dry now – just a little dampness remained at the seams – and though he hadn't completely managed to shake the chill from his bones, he was much warmer than he had been. He and Teal'c ran out to the SUV that Sam had driven up the mountain, opened the hatch and laid the back seat flat, then ran back inside.
They lifted Daniel from the bed gently and carried him out of the cabin exactly as they'd carried him in, excepting that this time he wrapped in a half dozen heavy blankets with hot water bottles resting against all of his major pulse points. Janet climbed in ahead of them, guiding them as they lifted Daniel up into the vehicle. They laid him across the seat, propping his chest and head up with the pillows that they had grabbed from the bed, and Janet settled an oxygen mask into place over his mouth and nose. Jack and Teal'c slammed the hatch shut together, and jogged around to the front.
Sam and Cassie were climbing into the middle seat, and Sam tossed Jack the keys as he ran past her. Teal'c climbed into the passenger seat; Jack jumped behind the wheel, turned the ignition, and stepped on the gas.
The rush back down the mountain was even more frantic than the rush up it, if such a thing were possible. Jack mentally crossed his fingers and prayed that there would be no more avalanches as he pushed down on the accelerator, sending the SUV flying down the twisted mountain roads at speeds that he was prepared to admit weren't exactly safe. Fraiser had said that they had to descend at least 1000 feet before they could even think about stopping. By Carter's calculations, that would put them just north of Balltown, and Janet said the hospital there would be a perfect place to stop.
Jack glanced in the rearview mirror, at Daniel's far too pale and far too bruised face beneath the oxygen mask, and he had to agree. Any hospital would be a perfect place to stop. Portable oxygen tanks in the back seat of a speeding SUV was better than nothing, and Jack knew that Janet was doing everything she possibly could to keep Daniel stable until they reached their destination, but he knew that he couldn't even think about breathing easily until they had Daniel safely tucked away in a hospital bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses and way more machines than Jack really wanted to think about.
He also knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep until they had Daniel – awake and coherent and healing – back at the SGC.
Cassie hadn't been able to wait that long for sleep. When they'd started out, she'd been sitting up in her seat next to Sam, staring out the window at the scenery she couldn't see as they flew past it. But after about ten minutes, the adrenaline finally ran out, and her body shut down. She was curled up against Sam on the bench seat, the blanket Jack had shed tucked up against her chin, her head resting on Sam's lap while Sam absently stroked her hair.
Teal'c sat straight and stiff in the seat next to Jack, again pretending that his entire focus was on the road ahead, but Jack had seen him shoot more than one glance in the rearview mirror. Jack was dealing with what had happened by ignoring it, because he knew that there were far too many unanswered questions for him to dwell on while he was driving.
For Teal'c, the events of the morning were easier. Michael Phillips had killed children, had been the monster in Daniel's nightmares for two decades, had tortured Daniel – and to a lesser extent Cassie – for hours, and had tried to kill him twice. Michael Phillips had deserved to die, and that Daniel had been the one to mete out that punishment was simply poetic justice.
The more Jack thought about it, the more he realized that maybe it really was just that easy. Michael Phillips had deserved to die, and he had. How it had happened, and who had done it, really didn't matter.
As they turned from the county road back on to the highway, Jack glanced in the mirror again. Janet was on her knees at Daniel's side, tenderly wiping Daniel's face with a damp, sterile wash cloth. She'd gotten most of the blood cleaned off of his face and neck and was moving on to trying to remove the gory mess that had caked and crusted in his hair. True to her word at the cabin, she hadn't asked exactly whose blood Daniel was covered in, or how it had gotten there. Jack guessed that she probably never would.
She was talking to Daniel, Jack knew. He couldn't hear every word she said, because she was keeping her voice low and comforting, but he could hear enough to know that she was both soothing him and explaining what she was doing. Jack was pretty sure that he heard her say, "Thank you," at least once, and he smiled.
Daniel really was the hero in all of this. He'd kept Cassie, and himself, alive against impossible odds. He'd willingly sacrificed himself to make certain that Cassie survived. And he had taken full responsibility for ridding the world of Michael Phillips' particular brand of evil forever.
Jack smiled once more and turned his full attention back to the road. Yes, Daniel was the hero of this story. And that's exactly how it would be written into history.
The SUV tore into the hospital parking lot with a screech of tires and the slamming of doors. Sam ran into the emergency room in search of a gurney while Jack and Teal'c ran to the back hatch again, threw it open, and reached for Daniel. The gurney, accompanied by a doctor and two nurses, appeared in the parking lot behind them before Janet had finished removing the oxygen mask.
Jack and Teal'c lifted Daniel out of the truck and laid him on the gurney as carefully as they could. While the nurses secured Daniel to it, Jack had time to rest his hand on the top of Daniel's head one last time, to whisper to him, "You stay alive, Danny. Don't you dare let him win."
And then he was gone, whisked through the doors of the emergency room by the nurses.
Jack ran after them, with Teal'c, Sam and Cassie right on his heels. Janet was at Daniel's side, yelling about core temperatures and blood pressures, respirations and pulmonary something-or-others, oxygen levels, blood tests, and something called ICP. They disappeared into one of the rooms, and Jack followed them. He was just in time to watch them move Daniel from the gurney onto the bed. He saw one of Daniel's hands fall out of the blankets to dangle at his side, saw the deep, scabbed over wounds that circled his wrist, and he froze where he was. Then the door was closed in his face.
There was nothing he could do now but wait.
Jack hated waiting.
Two hours earlier, when he'd pulled the SUV to a stop outside the emergency room, it had seemed like the world was running in fast-forward. Everything had been hectic, frantic, barely controlled chaos ... but at least he'd had something to do. The second that door had closed in his face, it felt like someone had pushed the pause button and he'd become a less than necessary character in the story, standing in the wings, not even allowed to watch the truly pivotal scene, and he hated it.
So he was pacing.
Sam was sitting on the couch under the large window, her legs stretched out across it and a sleeping Cassie Fraiser in her lap. Sam's head was laid down against the back of the couch, and he could see that she'd finally drifted off. He wasn't going to begrudge her any rest she managed to get. They'd all been up for more than twenty-four hours, and the last fourteen of them had been completely and totally draining, to say the very least.
Teal'c sat on the floor in front of that same couch, not far from Sam's feet, with his legs crossed and his arms folded in his lap. He was meditating again, and Jack almost wished he could join him. The expression on Teal'c's face, which had been hard and dark since they'd first discovered Daniel and Cassie were missing, had relaxed considerably.
As for himself, Jack knew that he was at least as tired as the rest of them, but just too stubborn to go sleep. He didn't want to run the risk of missing anything that might happen. He didn't realize exactly how tired he was until someone managed to walk up behind him without him knowing anyone was there. The first he knew of the person's presence was the soft voice right behind his ear.
"How's our boy, Jack?"
Jack spun around quickly, trying to hide his surprise. "General!" he exclaimed softly. "What brings you up here?"
General Hammond didn't answer the question, simply gave Jack one of those looks that made it perfectly clear that he wasn't in the mood for levity.
"Sorry, sir," Jack said softly. He stepped out into the hallway, not wanting to disturb Carter and Cassie. Teal'c was probably already very aware that the general was there – actually, he'd probably known about him before Jack did. But he'd made no move to approach them, so Jack took that to mean that he was perfectly fine staying where he was.
"Seriously, Jack, how are they?"
"Cassie's fine, sir," he answered with a gesture toward the waiting room.
"Are we absolutely positive of that, Colonel?" Hammond looked worried; Jack didn't blame him. He imagined he looked rather worried himself.
Jack nodded his head. "Yeah. Fraiser checked her out at the cabin, and Carter had the doctors here take a look at her, too. She's upset and exhausted, but she doesn't have a scratch on her."
Hammond allowed himself a small smile of relief at the good news. "And Dr. Jackson?"
Jack sighed deeply and ran his hands through his hair. "Last I knew? Unconscious, unresponsive, sick as a dog and beaten all to hell. Sir."
"Are those medical terms, Colonel?"
"No, sir," Jack answered with a shake of his head. "But they're my terms for it. I can't think of any other words that would be any more accurate."
"And we don't know his current status?"
"Other than that he's still alive? No. But the second I know more than that, you'll be the first to know."
Hammond took a second to process the information before asking his next question. "Agent Phillips?"
That had been all the answer that Jack had wanted to give, but Hammond's expression made it clear that he expected more. Jack had to be careful with that he said, though. If lying to Daniel about what happened might be difficult, lying to the general about it was absolutely impossible.
"I don't know exactly what happened, sir. The FBI is out there, and I'm sure Doug'll come up with an answer. All I really know is that Phillips is dead, and Daniel isn't. However that might have happened, sir ... I can't say that I have a problem with it."
"Neither can I, Colonel."
Jack took heart from Hammond's response. The reality was that the FBI was investigating, and the truth of what had happened in that clearing just might come out. Jack thought it best to at least lay the groundwork for that possibility. He ran his hand through his hair once more and leaned closer to Hammond, lowering his voice to avoid being overheard by anyone.
"General, there's a chance – a really, really small one, but it's there – that Daniel ..."
"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond interrupted calmly. "Any measures that Dr. Jackson may or may not have taken in the process of defending himself and protecting that little girl, I would consider to be appropriate. Though I have a feeling that the doctors at this fine facility, once Dr. Fraiser has explained the situation to them, will find that Dr. Jackson would have been lucky to even be able to stand up under his power in his current condition, let alone injure anyone else."
Jack stared at the general in open amazement. That speech had been practiced, every word carefully chosen to give exactly the right answers to questions that Jack hadn't even had to ask. That meant that Hammond had known Phillips' fate, and Daniel's condition, before he'd even walked through those doors. Hell, he'd probably known before he'd even left the SGC.
Hammond knew exactly what Daniel had done on that mountain, and he was making it perfectly clear that it made no difference to him at all.
"Yes, sir," Jack said softly, and he gave the general a smile that was quickly returned.
Jack turned around, both surprised and not to see Doug walking toward him through the doors. Jack took one step toward him and raised his finger in the air; he wasn't going to allow Doug to go any further until he answered one question.
"You'd better not have brought his body here, Doug. If you did, and if Cassie or Daniel sees him, I swear to God ..."
Doug shook his head. "No, Jack. Mike's ... Mike's body is already on the way back to Washington. Everything we need to do, we can do there. I'm just here to see how your friend and Cassie are."
"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond said from behind him. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go check on Cassie for myself."
"Of course, sir." Jack nodded at the general as he walked back into the waiting room, leaving Jack and Doug alone in the hallway.
"Cassie's fine," Jack said, turning back to face the agent. "Daniel, we still don't know."
A few moments of silence passed between the two men, each lost in thoughts of fallen friends. The only real difference between them was that one was mourning a man who'd turned into a monster, and the other was praying he wouldn't have to mourn the man who'd stopped it.
It was Jack who broke the silence first.
"You find anything ... up there? Anything that tells you what happened?"
Doug shrugged. "Not much, no. Mike's throat was cut, but you already knew that."
Jack nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, Daniel's was, too, just not as much."
Doug looked down at his feet, almost as though he was afraid to look Jack in the eye. "If I could change it, Jack, go back in time and make it so none of this had ever happened, I would. And I wish I could give you an answer to exactly what happened out there this morning, but I've got orders from the top to stop the investigation."
Jack took a step forward, surprised at the news. "What?"
Doug shook his head and finally looked up. "No one wants to admit what he was, Jack. Not me, not anyone who ever worked with him, and definitely not the higher ups. They've already decided how it's going to be reported in the news, in all the official reports, everything. No one cares how he died, and I think they're actually happy that no one knows."
Jack swallowed, almost afraid to ask the next question. If they were going to cover this up, like Phillips had covered up Daniel's true role in what had happened in Albany twenty years ago, then it was going to be designed from the ground up to spare the agency any embarrassment. He was so certain of what was coming next that a sick feeling was already forming in the pit of his stomach.
"What are they going to say, Doug?"
Doug sighed and leaned back against the wall. "Agent Michael Phillips was killed in the pursuit of a serial child killer that he'd been tracking for twenty years." He took a deep breath; he didn't like what he was about to say either. "And his death not only brought about the death of the killer, but saved the lives of his next intended victim and an archeologist whose presence and involvement are unexplained at this time."
"Son of a bitch!"
"Jack, I ..."
"No!" Jack hissed. He grabbed Doug by the arm and dragged him out the doors and into the parking lot. "Damn it, Doug, it cannot go down like that!"
Doug only had time to shrug before Jack was yelling again.
"Let's ignore the fact that it completely negates the fact that he was the serial killer he'd been tracking, because I guess that's to be expected. And let's even ignore the fact that the way that is worded comes really damned close to making it sound like it was Daniel. But to make him a hero? To make it out that he saved Cassie and Daniel's lives? No way in hell!"
"Jack, please ..."
"God damn it, Doug, he didn't save their lives. He is the reason Cassie could have died, and he is the reason why Daniel still might!"
"I don't like it either, Jack, believe me. I can't stand it. But I have my orders, and besides ... is any of it not true? Isn't Mike's death the reason your friend survived at all?"
"Yes!" Jack agreed vehemently. "Yes, of course it is. But you damn well know the explanation for Daniel's presence and involvement. You’re turning the bad guy into the hero, and turning the real hero into a footnote!"
"They don't know what else to do, Jack. They're never going to admit that we had a serial killer on the payroll for twenty years. They're never going to admit that the great and mighty FBI was so taken in by this guy that no one ever suspected what he really was. He had a wife, Jack, and a son ..."
"How old?" Jack interrupted.
"How old is his son?"
"What's his name?" Jack knew what the answer was going to be even before he asked it. When Doug shook his head and turned away, his suspicions were confirmed. "What's his name, Doug? Tell me!"
"Daniel," Doug whispered. "Mike named his son Daniel."
Jack shook his head, too angry to speak, and stormed back into the hospital. He heard the doors open behind him a few seconds later and knew that Doug had followed him. Jack was beyond angry, and he knew that he might very well be taking it out on the wrong person, but he really didn't care. Doug might have been well and truly in denial for twenty years, but Jack would never believe that no one in the entire agency had ever suspected Phillips' secret.
He'd named his son – who'd been born after Jenny Miller's murder – Daniel.
Daniel had been right about him; Michael Phillips had been one truly sick son of a bitch.
Jack's steps quickened when he saw Janet walking down the hallway toward him, wearing a set of scrubs she'd obviously borrowed from someone at least six inches taller than her. She wasn't exactly smiling, but she wasn't upset either, and that had to be a good sign.
"Doc?" he asked as he neared her, picking up his pace to almost a jog. "Daniel?"
"Stable and responding to treatment, Colonel." Now she smiled.
"Yes!" Jack closed his eyes, let his head fall back, and took his first easy breath in more than twenty-four hours. "When can we take him home?"
"If everything goes well, and if he keeps responding the way he has been, I'd say we can probably fly him out in the morning. I'm ready to give a full briefing, Colonel, if you'd ..."
"Um ... yeah. Hammond's in the ... the waiting room there, with everybody else. But if you don't mind, Doc, I think I'd like to ... can I ...?" He was motioning down the hallway in the direction she'd come from, and the meaning behind his half-sentences was perfectly clear to her.
"Yes, Colonel, you can. He's not conscious and he won't be for quite a while yet, but yes, you can see him."
"Thank you," Jack said sincerely.
Janet smiled and moved toward the waiting room quickly. Jack thought that she was probably even more anxious to see Cassie than he was to see Daniel. The sound of a throat clearing behind him pulled him out of his thoughts, and he turned around to see Doug still standing there, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
"Jack, tell your friend ... tell Daniel that I'm sorry."
Jack nodded slowly, and watched as Doug turned away. A thought suddenly occurred to him, and he called after the agent.
"You'll be notifying the victims' families?"
Doug looked back across his shoulder and nodded. "Yeah. We'll start just as soon as we get back to Washington."
Jack hesitated for a moment before speaking his request out loud, worried that he might be interfering but at the same time wanting something positive to come from all of this.
"I want Roland Miller's phone number."
Doug shook his head. "I thought we agreed that we were square, Jack."
"Oh, you don't owe me any more. But you do owe Daniel – big time. I want Roland Miller's phone number, and I want your word that no one from the FBI will ever call him about this. Are we clear?"
Doug nodded slowly. "Crystal. You'll have it by the end of the day."
Jack turned and started back down the hallway toward the room he'd seen them wheel Daniel into when they'd arrived. He heard the sound of Doug's footsteps fading away in the opposite direction behind him; he heard soft sounds of relief coming from the waiting room. He kept walking until he found himself standing directly in front of the now-open door to Daniel's room. He entered the room slowly, giving himself time to absorb Daniel's appearance before he got close to him.
Daniel's left arm was in a sling, and there were three strips of material holding his upper arm immobilized against the side of his chest. He had bandages wrapped around his left bicep, circling both wrists, and taped to both the side of his neck and the left side of his forehead. Jack couldn't see the stitches under those bandages, but he knew they were there. His face was almost a solid mass of bruising, as was his bare chest – including one rather spectacular large black one right in the center. He had one IV running into his right arm and another under his collarbone, cardiac leads taped to his chest, and a large tube coming out from between his ribs that seemed to be draining a rather alarming amount of what looked like blood. An oxygen mask covered his mouth and nose, fogging up slightly every time he exhaled.
But the machines were beeping in perfect rhythm with the lines that scrolled across them, and no alarms were going off anywhere. Daniel's skin, where it wasn't hidden by bruises, was a healthy looking pink rather than bluish grey, and when Jack brushed his fingers against Daniel's forehead he felt warm, but not feverish, to the touch.
He picked up the chair that he was absolutely certain Janet had asked the staff to put in the room for him and moved it closer to the bed. Before he sat down in it, he leaned forward slightly and placed his hand against the right side of Daniel's face.
"You beat him, Danny," he whispered. "You won."
Daniel's 'triumphant' return to Cheyenne Mountain had been most memorable for the fact that absolutely nothing changed.
Daniel had been unconscious when they'd loaded him into the helicopter that he was finally stable enough to fly in. He'd been unconscious when they'd taken him out of it at the Air Force base and put him in an ambulance for the trip to the SGC. He'd been unconscious when they'd put him in a bed in the back corner of the infirmary. He'd been unconscious when Jack had arrived two hours later, after having had to drive back from Balltown because Janet hadn't let him ride in the helicopter with them.
Now, more than twenty-four hours after that, he was still unconscious.
Jack stood at the foot of Daniel's bed, his arms crossed, hoping that Daniel would open his eyes – or at least twitch a finger – and give him some sign that he'd be waking up soon. Jack had been willing to give him all the time he needed to heal before he started insisting that he wake up and talk to him, but his patience was wearing thin. Daniel had been out cold for more than two days; it was well past time for him to be coherent again. Janet had told him that there was no underlying physical reason for Daniel's continued unconsciousness, which to Jack implied that the reason was either mental or emotional.
This to Jack meant that every minute that passed was a minute that Daniel was trapped in another nightmare, kept away from the people he needed – the people who needed him.
It also meant that Daniel was doing it to himself.
"Really need you to wake up now, buddy," Jack said. Of course he got no response; he knew that he really hadn't been expecting one. "Come on, Daniel. Don't make me beg."
Jack looked Daniel over with a critical eye, although he knew every bruise, every bandage, every wound by heart. They all had names now, and Jack knew them almost as well as he knew his own. He hadn't decided yet if knowing exactly what was wrong with Daniel made his condition easier to accept ... or harder to deal with.
The bandage on Daniel's head covered the stitches that had been used to close a four inch long gash above his left eyebrow – the result of having his head slammed into the trunk of his own car and the cause of what had originally been, Janet had said, a mild concussion. Phillips had made sure that it hadn't stayed minor, though. Cassie said it had looked to her like Daniel's head had actually bounced off of the pavement when Phillips had pulled him out of the trunk and thrown him bodily into the middle of the road. And then, if the bruises on Daniel's face were anything to go by – and Jack knew they were – the man had also developed quite a taste for punching Daniel in the face, repeatedly and often. Jack knew that at least one of those punches had knocked Daniel out cold, and what had started as a minor concussion had escalated to, according to Janet, a Grade Three.
The sling and the immobilizer were supporting a separated shoulder. Cassie had told them that when Phillips had first attacked Daniel in the driveway, he'd twisted Daniel's arm behind him badly enough that it had made Daniel scream. Janet said that was probably where the initial damage had come from, and it had most likely started out as a pulled ligament. But like most of what was wrong with Daniel, the original injury had been aggravated by things that came after. Daniel had spent most of the night with his hands tied behind his back, pulling against his restraints hard enough to make mincemeat of his own wrists. The constant pressure on the joint, combined with Daniel's struggles, had stretched the tendons to their limit and torn the ligament, leaving Daniel with a shoulder that was badly swollen, horribly bruised, and completely useless.
The spectacular black bruise in the middle of Daniel's chest was a fractured sternum. Cassie didn't think she'd seen it happen, so they couldn't be positive what had caused it, but Jack was certain that the darker parts of the bruising formed the outline of the sole of a boot. The sternum hadn't broken alone, though; it had taken three ribs with it. Something – Jack guessed it was stumbling up the mountain and bouncing off of trees – had shifted those around enough to tear something. He'd been bleeding into his chest when they'd gotten him to the hospital. The tube that had drained the blood away from his lungs had already been removed, and in its place Daniel was sporting another bandage along his ribcage.
The two other injuries Daniel had received – a knife wound to his upper left arm and another to the right side of his neck – were the only two that hadn't complicated themselves. Jack thought it ironic that these two, duplicates of the injuries Daniel had received from Phillips as a child, were the most minor.
Poetic justice indeed.
As far as illnesses went, Daniel had managed to get himself one hell of a case of pneumonia. Severe hypothermia combined with altitude sickness would do that to a guy, Jack figured. But the antibiotics had done their job well, and the mask that Daniel had worn for the first two days was gone, replaced by a tube that fed oxygen directly into his nose. Janet had told him that she expected to be able to remove that by the end of the day, if the amount of oxygen in his blood kept climbing like it was.
Daniel had still had minute traces of carbon monoxide in his blood when they'd gotten to Balltown, so Sam had been right about that. Most of it was gone by the time they'd arrive at the hospital, and all of it was gone now, but it had done more than enough damage while it had been there. According to Janet, it had compromised his respiratory system badly enough to make him highly sensitive to the atmospheric conditions at the cabin, and the hypothermia had weakened his entire body even further. Apparently, this was how a man who lived on a mountain could end up with the worst case of altitude sickness that Jack had ever seen.
The sound of shoes clicking on the floor announced the arrival of Janet's half-hourly check of Daniel's vitals. Jack nodded at her from his position at the foot of the bed.
"Doc. How's Cassie doing?"
Janet glanced up and smiled at him, but it was a sad smile. "She's doing better. She's sleeping a lot." She checked the display on one of the machines and made a note on the clipboard she was holding. "She's in one of the VIP rooms right now. Sam's with her."
"Has she said anything else about ...?"
"No," Janet answered, shaking her head. "I think she talked herself out yesterday. Twelve is a little young to go through a ... debriefing."
"I know that had to be hard for her," Jack said softly. "But she did really good. She's a brave little girl."
Janet nodded as she made another note on Daniel's chart. "Yes, she is. And as upset and exhausted as it left her, I think it helped."
"Talking about it always does, " Jack whispered, looking again at Daniel's still form and wondering if he'd want to talk about what happened when he woke up. Knowing Daniel as well as he did, he doubted it. He also had to admit to himself that there was at least one thing that he really didn't want Daniel to talk about – ever.
"I agree, sir. I talked to Dr. MacKenzie, and he gave me the name of a child trauma specialist in town, one with high enough clearance, just in case the subject of her parents comes up. Her first appointment's on Friday."
Janet turned toward him and smiled. "I'll tell her you asked about her."
Jack nodded slowly and opened his mouth to ask the same question he'd asked her every half hour for the past day.
"He just needs time, Colonel. He'll wake up when he's ready."
As Janet walked away, Jack wondered how different things would have turned out if Daniel had been able to see a trauma specialist after what happened to him. He shook his head sadly as he thought back over the conversation he'd had with Roland Miller that day and remembered just how close Daniel had actually come to getting the help he needed.
Jenny Miller's father was a remarkable man, Jack had decided, and his wife, Judy, had been an amazing woman. They'd taken Daniel in as a foster child within weeks of his parents' deaths, and he'd stayed with them for almost two years. He'd been their first foster child, and Roland said that he'd completed their family in a way that neither he nor his wife had ever expected. Jack hadn't been the least bit surprised by that. Completing families was something Daniel did incredibly well, even if he wasn't aware he was doing it.
Jack had come away from the conversation knowing two things for absolute certain: Roland and Judy Miller had loved Daniel very, very much and had considered him their son. And Roland Miller still did.
He'd called Roland because he'd felt that he owed it to Daniel to make sure that Jenny's father knew the truth about who killed his daughter, and that justice had been done. He'd wanted very badly to tell him that his son had been the one to dole it out, but he'd stopped himself. The FBI's official position was that the "serial killer" had killed Phillips, and the inference being drawn by the majority of SGC personnel was that he'd killed himself. A few thought that Jack had killed him, and some thought that Teal'c had. No one, aside from Hammond, had so much as hinted about suspecting that it was Daniel.
Jack was going to do everything he could to make sure it stayed that way.
Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something move, and he dropped his arms to his sides. He watched Daniel closely, hoping that it had been him and waiting for whatever it was to move again. He'd almost given up hope when he saw it again – Daniel's fingers on his right hand were moving.
"Doc!" he called out as he walked around the bed quickly, going to Daniel's side. "I think he's waking up!"
Jack placed one hand on Daniel's twitching fingers carefully and the other on his uninjured shoulder. "That's it, buddy," he said softly. "You're almost here."
Daniel was moving his head now, turning it slightly from left to right. His lips were moving, too, accompanied by a soft moan.
"Colonel?" Janet asked as she rounded the foot of the bed and came to stand on the opposite side.
"He's moving," Jack answered her. "His fingers and his head. Look!"
The moan was louder and mingled with the occasional whimper. His lips were moving faster and his head was rolling further from side to side. Jack saw the words Daniel was saying before he heard them, but when they became audible Jack knew that this was not going to be an easy awakening, and he almost wished that he could stop it.
"Jack ... Cassie ..."
"I'm here, Daniel," Jack said to him, glancing at Janet across the bed. The expression on her face was one of deep concern; she didn't like where this was going either. "Cassie's fine."
"No ... no ... Cassie ..."
"Cassie's fine," Jack repeated. "It's over, Daniel."
"You're in the infirmary at the SGC, Daniel," Janet put in. "Cassie's safe."
"So are you," Jack added.
"Jack ... Cassie ... Jack!"
Daniel's eyes flew open as Jack's name crossed his lips, accompanied by a movement that Jack knew would have left Daniel sitting straight up in the bed if not for the fact that his body just refused to move that fast. The terror in those eyes – the sheer unadulterated terror – chilled Jack to the bone. At the least, it made him wish that Phillips were still alive so he could kill him all over again, slowly this time, with his bare hands.
His fear-filled gaze darted around the room, though he obviously had no idea where he was. Jack squeezed his hand in an attempt to ground him and spoke to him.
"I'm right here, Daniel. Look at me."
Daniel turned toward the sound of his voice and focused on the face that went with it. Recognition finally dawned, followed immediately by even more fear.
"No, Jack, you can't be here!"
"What?" Jack looked across at Janet and shrugged in response to the silent question in her eyes.
"Cassie ... you were supposed to save Cassie! You have to find her! Where's Cassie?"
The question sent Jack's mind back to the top of the mountain, and it was his turn to recognize what was right in front of his face. Daniel was picking up right where he'd left off, as though the past two days hadn't happened at all and he was still on that mountain. "Daniel, she's fine. Cassie's here, at the SGC. So are you."
Daniel was squirming on the bed, weakly trying to pull his hand away from Jack, trying to push up off the bed, and his breath was speeding up at an alarming rate.
"You have to leave me and go find her!"
"I hate to do this, Colonel," Janet said.
Jack looked up at her and saw the syringe in her hand, already inserted into Daniel's IV. "No, do it."
"He's going to hurt himself if he doesn't calm down."
"He killed her!"
The pain in Daniel's voice was so real, and Jack suddenly knew exactly what Phillips had said to Daniel that had caused him to snap. Desperate to keep it from happening again, Jack put his hands on either side of Daniel's face and forced him to look at him.
"Daniel, look at me. Look at me! Cassie is fine, do you hear me? She's fine. Phillips didn't kill her, he didn't touch her. You protected her, Daniel, you kept her safe. She's asleep upstairs and she's just fine because you saved her."
Daniel stopped struggling, and it looked to Jack like he'd finally gotten through. "Cassie's safe?" Daniel asked breathlessly.
Jack nodded. "Yes, she is. So are you."
Daniel's eyes darted around, though not with the same speed as before. Whatever Janet had given him was already taking effect.
"Michael," Jack spoke the name with hatred, "is gone, Daniel."
"Gone where?" Daniel was having a hard time keeping his eyes open, but he was still looking around the room. "He'll come back. He won't stop ... he'll never stop."
"He's dead, Daniel."
"Dead?" Daniel asked, locking his sleepy gaze on Jack's eyes.
"Very dead," Jack answered.
Daniel was searching Jack's face with his eyes now, wanting to see the truth in what he was saying, though every blink lasted just a bit longer than the one before. He obviously needed the reassurance, though, and he wasn't going to let himself succumb to the drugs until he had it.
"Michael's ... dead?"
"Dead and burning in Hell." Jack let the satisfaction that saying those words gave him show on his face.
Daniel sank back into his pillow, and Jack felt the muscles under his hands relax. As his eyes fell closed, a ghost of a smile pulled at the sides of Daniel's mouth.
It was amazing what a difference six hours could make.
Daniel's second awakening had been much easier than his first. He'd moaned again, but not nearly as much, and Jack was willing to admit that he'd probably be moaning, too, if he'd been through anything even remotely close to what Daniel had. His eyelids had fluttered a few times, and his fingers were twitching again. But this time, when Jack had wrapped his hand around them, Daniel hadn't pulled away from him.
"Nice and easy, Daniel," Jack had whispered. "You're safe, and Cassie's fine." He'd squeezed Daniel's hand and felt a slight pressure on his fingers as Daniel returned it. Jack had smiled then, the first real smile that had crossed his face in days. "Good job, big guy."
When Daniel had opened his eyes this time, he'd done so without screaming anyone's name. And there was no fear in them, just confusion which had passed as soon as he saw Jack and Janet standing above him. He took a breath and locked eyes with Jack.
"He's really dead?" he'd asked softly.
Jack nodded. "Yes, he is. It's over, Daniel. It's over." He'd squeezed Daniel's hand once more and started to pull away, intending to get out of Janet's way while she examined him. He'd been surprised when Daniel had tightened his grip on Jack's hand, and he'd looked into Daniel's eyes. They were clear and lucid, and they expressed the same wish that Daniel's tightening hand had, one that Jack knew he'd probably never hear Daniel use his voice to ask for.
Jack had nodded at him and stayed.
Now, Janet was finished with her exam and she'd pronounced Daniel awake and healing, even though Jack hadn't needed her to say it. All the proof he needed of that was lying in the bed in front of him, still holding tightly to his hand. Jack smiled to himself as he watched Janet walk away, and when he turned back around the first thing he noticed was the silent tear rolling down Daniel's cheek.
"Hey," he said softly. He leaned down and put his other hand on Daniel's forehead, brushing a few stray stands of hair away from his eyes. "You hurting? You need me to get Janet to ...?"
Daniel shook his head slowly but didn't speak or open his eyes.
"Look at me," Jack ordered gently. When Daniel didn't, Jack squeezed his hand again. "Daniel."
Daniel finally opened his eyes again, and Jack almost had to step back. As much as he had hated the terror in Daniel's eyes six hours before, the raw pain that filled them now was almost worse.
Daniel shrugged – at least Jack thought it would have been a shrug, if one of his shoulders hadn't been completely immobile.
"What's going on?" Jack knew that the answer to that was incredibly open-ended. There was so much going on in Daniel's head right now that it could easily have been any one of a thousand things ... really bad things. Jack thought he had an idea what it was that was in the front of Daniel's thoughts, though, because he was crying. Daniel didn't cry easily – he wouldn't cry for himself, there was no reason to cry for Cassie, and he'd better not be crying for Phillips. That only left one other person.
"I ... I'm having a hard time getting it all ... sorted out in here."
Jack backed up a few steps, turned his body slightly, and sat carefully on the bed at Daniel's right hip. He never let go of Daniel's hand and he never stopped looking at him. "Tell me about her."
Daniel took as deep a breath as his still-healing lungs would allow. "Jenny was ... everything I always thought a big sister should be. She was sweet, and funny, and smart, and ..."
"You loved her."
"Yeah." Daniel's voice changed; Jack heard the self-recrimination already creeping in. "I loved her so much that I forgot she ever existed."
"Hey," Jack chastised softly. "The way I understand it, you didn't have much of a choice about that." Daniel shook his head, and Jack kept going. "You were ten years old, Daniel. You were a little kid. And you were hurt, and scared, and vulnerable." Jack took a deep breath as he remembered what Cassie had told them about some of the things she'd heard Phillips saying to Daniel. Things like, 'Don't make me hit you again,' 'Do as you're told and it'll all go away,' and 'I'll kill your parents next.'
"He brainwashed you, Daniel."
Daniel closed his eyes, and Jack watched another tear slide down his face. "It's weird. I remember knowing what happened, and I remember forgetting it. I remember not knowing it, and I remember ... remembering it all." Jack didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything. "She's been dead for twenty years, and I know I should be past it, but it ... it feels like ..."
"She died yesterday," Jack whispered.
"Yeah. It's like I'm still me, and I'm still a grown man, but ... I'm still this little ten year old kid who just ... just watched ..." Daniel opened his eyes, shook his head, and laughed – an ironic, bitter laugh that held no humor. "God, I am so messed up."
Jack squeezed his hand a little tighter, pulling Daniel's attention back to him and away from the dark place Jack knew his thoughts were turning to. "Hey, anyone would be."
"Did you know he killed others? Besides ... besides Jenny and the little girl in the park?"
"Her name was Rachel," Jack said softly. "And yeah ... yeah, we found out about them while you were gone." He wondered briefly how Daniel had found out about them, but he was pretty sure he knew the answer already.
"Rachel." As Daniel repeated the name, Jack watched a darkness fall across his face. "I killed her, too." Jack's jaw dropped, not only at the words but at the way Daniel said them, so matter-of-factly. "I killed them all."
"No," Jack said, shaking his head vehemently. "Daniel, you didn't kill those girls. Phillips did."
"Because they weren't me."
Jack closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest. He'd been expecting this – the guilt – waiting for it even. But he'd never imagined just how much of it Daniel would be willing to accept. "Daniel ..."
"I could have stopped him." Daniel was just talking now, either ignoring Jack's presence or no longer aware of it. The last thing Daniel needed was to start thinking he was alone right now, so Jack wrapped his other hand around his arm and squeezed.
"How?" he asked. "You were a kid, Daniel, just a little kid. I've read your medical report – the real one, not the one Phillips put in the casefile. You were damn lucky to survive at all. How could you possibly have stopped him?"
Daniel looked down at his hands, but Jack saw the sad, defeated smile on his face. "Jenny, Rachel, all the other little girls he said are out there somewhere ... they'd all still be alive if I'd just done one simple little thing."
Jack swallowed hard. He really didn't like where Daniel was going with this. "What's that?"
"Kept my mouth shut and died, like I was supposed to."
"Hey!" Jack tightened his grip on Daniel's arm and leaned down closer to him. He expected Daniel to flinch away from him; it surprised Jack when he didn't. "I do not ever – ever – want to hear you say that again, do you hear me?"
"I could have given him what he wanted ..." Daniel's eyes were closed again, and the tears were rolling unchecked down his face.
"And if he'd killed you that night, Daniel, who'd have saved Cassie from him?"
"She never would have been in danger if I ..."
"Stop it!" Jack hissed. This time, Daniel did flinch away. Jack stood up and moved his left hand from Daniel's arm to the side of this face. "You did not do this. Don't you dare blame yourself for what that son of a bitch did, Daniel. Don't you dare."
Daniel opened his eyes and looked directly into Jack's; the rawness of his pain was only too evident. "What he did to them ..."
"What about what he did to you?" Jack insisted softly. "He tried to kill you; he did kill your sister. He beat the living shit out of you, more than once." Jack took a deep breath as 'Don't make me hit you again,' repeated over and over again in his mind. There was a whole other world of hurt there, a whole other conversation that he'd have to have with Daniel one day soon. "He brainwashed you. He stole your family. He stole your life. He kidnapped you, tortured you, and then he tried to kill you again. And he damn near did it."
Daniel tried to turn away, but Jack's hand against the side of the face prevented him from doing so. There was no way that Jack was going to let him look away, let him spend any more time alone with the thoughts that Phillips had filled his head with. He'd had some experience with deprogramming, after all. It was going to take some time, and a whole lot of tears, but he wasn't going to let Daniel carry this around with him.
"You survived, Daniel. And I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and watch you let him win."
"He'll never be gone," Daniel whispered. "It'll never be over."
"Yes, it will," Jack insisted. "He's dead, Daniel. Dead. He's never coming back. The only power he has over you now is the power that you give him. Let the bastard rot."
Daniel took a quivering breath. "Do my par ... Jenny's parents know?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I called Roland Miller myself."
"They're good people," Daniel said. He'd obviously had enough of the previous conversation and so was changing the subject. Jack let him – for now. "They were good to me. Jenny's death ... it destroyed them. They deserve to know the truth." Daniel flashed Jack a small, soft smile. "I'm glad it was you who told them. Thank you."
"I wish I'd remembered them, all these years. I loved them ... so much ..."
"They loved you, too."
Daniel looked away quickly. Obviously, this was another subject that he wasn't ready to discuss yet.
"Did Michael have a fam ..."
"Not that you need to know about, Daniel," Jack interrupted. Daniel was in a bad enough place as it was – no way did he need to know about Phillips' son. "He deserved to die and he's dead. Just leave it at that."
"Is someone mourning ...?"
"Daniel, you listen to me, because I'm only going to say this once. You are not allowed to feel bad that Phillips is dead. He was a son of a bitch, and he had it coming."
"He was sick ..." Daniel's voice was getting weaker; Jack knew that he'd be asleep again soon. Even if the medication in his system and the generally lousy condition of his body hadn't been exhausting enough, the emotions he'd gone through in the past five minutes would have.
"He was a monster."
"Did you ...?"
"No," Jack answered honestly, shaking his head even as he brushed the hair out of Daniel's eyes again. "No, I didn't. I wanted to, though, and I would have."
"Did I ...?" The question was soft, so quiet that Jack barely heard it.
The ease of the lie surprised him. He told himself that it was true, though – that hadn't been Daniel on the mountain. Phillips had been killed by something that he alone had been responsible for, something that had been growing deep inside Daniel's mind for twenty years. Phillips had created it, fed it with two decades' worth of unremembered nightmares, and had unleashed it on himself on that mountain. Daniel's hand might have been the instrument of Phillips' destruction, but it hadn't been Daniel.
"He killed himself."
"What if ...?"
"Go to sleep, Daniel," Jack ordered gently. "Go to sleep, and don't dream about him. Let him die."
Daniel nodded his head, closed his eyes, and did as he was told.
Jack let out a deep sigh and settled back into the chair he'd been sitting in until Daniel had started to stir. Daniel's hand was warm in his, and Jack gave it one last squeeze. There were so many things they'd have to talk about, so many things that Daniel wouldn't want to admit that Jack would have to force him to. At least he wasn't inexperienced at that, Jack thought. The past two months had been nothing if not an exercise in getting Daniel to deal with things that he didn't even want to think about.
At least one of the conversations would have a happy ending, Jack knew, as he thought back over his phone conversation with Roland Miller. He thought about the piece of paper he had in his pocket, the one that he had wanted to show Daniel so badly. He'd only stopped himself from doing so when he'd realized just how much Daniel was already dealing with. Finding out that Judy Miller had died a year before he and Daniel had gone to Abydos would have been too painful, too much to process right now.
It was the last line of her obituary that Jack knew would give Daniel some sort of peace, eventually. And just as soon as he thought Daniel was up to it, he would show it to him. Maybe the events surrounding Jenny's death were still too fresh in Daniel's mind, too raw for him to see that sentence for what it was. But one day soon, Jack knew, Daniel would know.
Whatever lies Phillips had told him about the adoption being cancelled would be refuted. No matter how many times Phillips had told him that the Millers had blamed him for his sister's death, that they had resented him for surviving, that they had thrown him away because they couldn't stand to look at him ... Daniel would know the truth. He would know how much the Millers had loved him, and how much Roland still did.
Jack smiled softly as he leaned forward in the chair, his elbow on the bed and Daniel's hand still in his.
Jack would tell him. Soon.
Daniel would know that even though Judy Miller had been preceded in death by her daughter, Jennifer, she been survived by her husband and her son.