The medication made him feel like shit.
It deadened everything, forced him to concentrate intently before he moved or spoke and, at the same time, blurred the boundaries between reality and imagination even more.
Jack was the only one who visited him, his presence a regular disturbance to Daniel’s otherwise routine days. He wasn’t hearing Machello’s voice any longer, or seeing the faces of the Linvris, so he supposed that meant he was getting better. At least he could convince himself of that till Jack visited again, when the expression on his friend’s face would shatter that particular illusion.
He could see Jack hated being here. He wondered why Jack came, if he hated it so much. Sometimes, just sometimes, Daniel wished Jack wouldn’t come, so he could wallow for a while in his fantasy that everything would be fine, that he’d be better soon. That some miracle cure would prove he hadn’t been crazy after all.
What did Jack see, Daniel wondered, when he looked at him now? He’d gone past embarrassment, even if Jack hadn’t seen him almost crazy before on more than one occasion. It was hardly dignified though, to be barefoot and clad in just hospital-issue clothing. At least it was warm here, in the hospital, though Daniel still missed the comforting embrace of his USAF-issue shirts, the warmth of a familiar sweater.
They must have found out the truth by now. About Nick, about the years he’d spent in a hospital very much like this one. Daniel had never spoken of him, of anything much to do with his family, but he’d assumed the security checks he’d submitted to when he first started working for the USAF had covered all that. Except that Janet had never mentioned that particular piece of family history, when he began to hallucinate, when the voices started.
Perhaps he and Nick could manage some kind of reconciliation now? They had more in common than they’d ever done before. Daniel laughed to himself at that realization, then choked it back when Jack looked at him, more for Jack’s sake than his own. He’d apologized before for being crazy, but he couldn’t keep on doing that, could he?
“They treating you okay?”
Jack’s voice seemed to come from somewhere distant, though he couldn’t be more than ten feet away. Sometimes Daniel wasn’t completely sure whether Jack was really there or not, even if he spoke to him, but how could he be sure? Jack always stayed out of reach, as if Daniel’s craziness was somehow infectious.
It was the truth, after all, if you didn’t include the staff’s penchant for sticking needles into him on a regular basis.
“You’ll be out of here soon, anyway,” Jack continued. There was an odd tone in his voice and Daniel tried to focus on Jack’s face. What did he know that Daniel didn’t?
“What … ?” The words drained away. He didn’t know what to ask, didn’t want to hope that things would change for him, didn’t want to close his eyes and discover Jack wasn’t really there after all.
“I’ve got a plan,” Jack said. He didn’t seem to have noticed Daniel’s hesitation, or be aware of his uncertainty. “Hang on in there.”
Daniel closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was alone.
Jack didn’t hesitate as he headed towards Hammond’s office.
“Sir?” he said, having knocked and then pushed the door open. “A moment of your time?” Hammond nodded, looking at the chair, which Jack took - sitting down gave him the opportunity to put his thoughts into order. “It’s about Daniel.”
Hammond closed the file that lay in front of him, steepling his fingers together as he sat back in his chair and looked at Jack.
“If you’ve come to request some kind of consultant status for Dr. Jackson, Colonel, pending his possibly being declared fit for work once more, Dr. Mackenzie’s reports would indicate that’s a little premature.”
So, Hammond knew how Daniel was, and was taking the time to ensure he was kept apprised of that information. In some ways that would probably make this whole conversation easier.
“No, sir,” Jack said. “I’m not going to give up on Daniel, but I know it’s unlikely he’ll ever work for the SGC again.” He paused for a moment, looking intently at Hammond, who said nothing. “I have another request to make.”
“Go ahead,” Hammond said.
“I know you’re aware of Daniel’s progress, or lack of it,” Jack said. “But what if he never gets better? With all due respect, General, you haven’t seen him. That place is killing him.”
How could he describe the lack of life he’d seen in Daniel’s eyes? That spark of curiosity Jack had come to consider so central to his friend had been extinguished, whether by the illness he was suffering or the medication he was taking, he had no idea. All he knew was that soon there wouldn’t be much of Daniel Jackson left, one way or another.
“You said you have a request?” Hammond’s voice, kindly in its tone, pulled him back from his thoughts.
“Yes, sir.” Here it was, make or break time. “I think we should allow Daniel to return to Abydos. What’s left of his family is still there, Kasuf would look after him and we could still keep an eye on him. Perhaps the peace and quiet there would help him too, in a way that hospital hasn't.”
“Would they help him?”
“Rothman tells me they’ll think Daniel has an evil spirit, or that this is some sort of punishment from the gods.”
Hammond frowned. “Doesn’t that make it dangerous for Dr. Jackson to return?”
“I doubt there’s anywhere else safer for him to be, regardless of what they think,” Jack said. He’d seen the way the people of Abydos had said goodbye to Daniel, when Sha’re had been taken and they’d left to find her. He couldn't believe they'd treat him any differently now.
Hammond seemed to think for a moment, weighing up the pros and cons of Jack’s plan.
“Get me Dr. Fraiser’s opinion on this, Colonel,” he said, finally. “Dr. Jackson is too good a man to spend the rest of his life locked away if there’s a chance we can help him somehow.”
He had no way of measuring the passage of time. It could have been days or weeks since he’d been moved from the padded room to a more normal-looking one, but there was no way for Daniel to tell. While he appreciated the luxury of bedding, rather than the necessity of sleeping on the floor, he wondered how easily this might all be taken away again.
Another positive aspect was the fact that Jack, when he visited this time round, looked much more at ease. Assuming that was really Jack, that the person he thought came to see him wasn’t just another hallucination.
Not that the ones he’d had in the past had been pleasant. They hadn’t talked to him of inconsequential things, hadn’t seemed to mind when he could barely form a sentence in response, had only stared at him and tried to pull him into the wormhole they’d made. At least, that was what he thought they’d done, though Jack hadn’t seen them, or felt their clutching hands.
There was no way on this planet or any other that Jack could allow this to continue. That decision, made weeks ago, was at the forefront of his mind as he left the hospital, the image of Daniel, what was left of him, as ever, going with him.
It wasn’t that Daniel was being mistreated. Despite his own personal dislike for Dr. Mackenzie and all of his profession, Jack had no reason to distrust him. Daniel looked fine - he also looked vulnerable, miserable, and a million miles away from reality. Jack guessed a lot of that was the medication, as much as whatever it was that was wrong with him. But one thing was clear - Daniel wasn’t getting any better.
Sure, he was calmer. It wasn’t like he had a choice - there was enough haloperidol in his system to stun an ox, let alone one archaeologist, no matter how determined or flaky.
From the first day his unlikely team had stepped into the unknown together, Jack had thought about a moment like this. There was so much danger out there, so many things that could go wrong, he couldn’t avoid the possibility that something might happen to one of them. Something permanent. He’d tried to prepare himself for that eventuality as best he could, remembering the hospital beds he’d sat vigil beside, the military funerals he’d attended, losing count of both in the end.
Somewhere along the way things had changed. Once Jack had been willing to be responsible for those under his command but there had still always been a line between him and them that was never crossed. Now that line just didn’t exist.
It had taken a while for Jack to get all his ducks in a row, with a lot of help from Dr. Fraiser, but he’d known instinctively it was the right thing to do. Hammond’s only condition had been that Jack obtain Dr. Mackenzie’s agreement to it - that piece of paper, duly signed, now rested in Jack’s pocket, the last hurdle to his plan overcome more easily than Jack had expected.
Not that Mackenzie had been willing to admit defeat. It had taken a lot of fancy footwork on Jack’s part before the psychiatrist would agree to sign the release.
Carter was waiting for him when the elevator reached Level 28, her eyes going to his face as soon as the doors opened.
“We have a go,” Jack said, one hand rising to pat the pocket where the release lay. Carter smiled, the first real smile he could remember seeing on her face in weeks - she’d taken this thing with Daniel hard. He knew what that felt like.
“Does he know?”
He didn’t have to ask who Carter meant; there was only one possibility. She hadn’t seen Daniel since he was admitted to the hospital or Jack knew she wouldn’t have asked. And he couldn’t answer her - the expression on Carter’s face when he didn’t speak told Jack he’d frowned and that would have to be answer enough for that particular question.
“So now we go see Kasuf?”
Jack nodded. This wasn’t a conversation he was looking forward to, trying to explain to Kasuf just what the situation was with Daniel - Janet had volunteered to do it, but it felt right that it should be him. He knew Kasuf, after all, even if his grasp of psychiatric mumbo jumbo was anything but comprehensive. He’d take Rothman along with them, make him sit in on the conversation, if Kasuf was okay with that, in case they ran into any cultural snags.
In hindsight, as he headed down to the observation room with Carter following close behind him, Jack thought Daniel would be proud of the thorough preparations he was making.
Like he’d expected, it wasn’t easy to explain things to Kasuf.
He’d been puzzled at first by the arrival of visitors from the SGC - his face had fallen when they’d arrived, since he’d clearly looked for Daniel and found him missing. Jack almost regretted bringing Rothman along when he saw the expression on Kasuf’s face the moment he realized the fourth person of their group wasn’t his son-in-law.
“Danyel is unwell?” Kasuf asked, after the formal greetings had been exchanged and they’d accepted his hospitality.
“Yes.” Kind of. He wasn’t sure how to explain. “He’s been sick for a few weeks. He sees things that aren’t there, he becomes upset…”
“His heart is disturbed.” Kasuf’s voice was calm, calmer than Jack had expected.
“At the continued loss of Sha’re.” It was clearly obvious to Kasuf that it should be so, obvious enough that his tone was one of puzzlement that he should have to explain. “And he would come home now?”
“I think he should.” Jack didn’t want to explain where the subject of their conversation was now, or the reasons why he hadn’t been able to discuss his plan with Daniel, but he’d never considered the possibility that Daniel might refuse.
Kasuf nodded. “We will prepare for his return,” he said. “Danyel has been sorely missed.” With that he turned away, leaving Jack gaping at his exit. That was that, it seemed.
The sensations were different, even dulled by the medication as they were; the brightness of sunlight different from the glare of electric lighting, the freshness of the outside air different from the recycled air of the hospital. His feet hurt, the short space of time since he’d last worn both shoes and socks on a regular basis taking their unexpected toll.
“You okay?” Jack’s voice, his presence forgotten as Daniel watched the world go by through the passenger window, startled him for a moment. “Daniel?”
“I … I’m fine,” he said, feeling that was more the truth than it had been for weeks.
“And you remember what we’re doing?” Jack continued, his voice betraying the emotions his face was trying hard to hide.
Daniel wanted to reassure him, remind him he’d been suffering some kind of breakdown and his brain was still functioning fine otherwise, but he knew he’d just embarrass Jack back into silence. Right now he needed some reminder this was real, even if that reminder was Jack’s uncertain tone.
“Seeing Janet,” he said, digging up a reserve of patience he hadn’t had to use for a while. “Then going to Abydos.”
He’d missed Kasuf, missed all of them more than he could say. Even though every time they returned all he could think of was Sha’re, of how much he missed her and how responsible he felt for the fact she was missing in the first place. And then how angry Jack had got when he’d said that once, the thought of Jack’s vehement attempts at reasoning him out of that point of view making him smile to himself.
He was going home. He didn’t think of the SGC, or his apartment in Colorado Springs, as anything but places he worked and lived. Home was more than that. It meant more than just a place to be, a place to sleep. It was about belonging. Perhaps there he could find some peace.
“Kasuf knows …” He hesitated. There was a half-remembered moment then, something he’d said to Jack when he first visited him at the hospital, words blurted out that he wasn’t sure he’d meant to say out loud. “… that I’m crazy?”
He saw Jack stiffen in his seat, and was suddenly glad that Jack driving meant he couldn’t take his eyes off the road for long. The momentary glance Jack gave him was enough, reminding him how unpopular that kind of statement was, and the likely response from his friend and commanding officer should some unwitting soul voice it within earshot.
“He knows,” Jack said, his voice under stony control, “that you’ve been ill. That you need to keep taking your medication to stay well.”
He hadn’t thought about that part of things. Daniel had been so enthused by the concept of getting out of the hospital that he knew he’d probably have gone along with just about anything Jack had suggested, no matter how ridiculous it seemed.
“Dr. Fraiser has some options she wants to discuss with you, Daniel. At the end of the day, it’s down to what works for you. She said something about depot injections, in case taking pills wasn’t going to work out.”
At least this time around he’d be choosing what happened. The indignity of the injections he’d received was something Daniel wasn’t going to forget in a hurry. He’d made the mistake of trying to refuse early on, back when he knew his behavior seemed pretty out of control, and he’d learned from that experience. Maybe pills would be okay, if they could tailor the amounts to the 36-hour Abydos day, and at least that way he could try and wean himself off them.
He had to know, after all. Needed to know if this was going to be the pattern for the rest of his life, the way things were always going to be. It wasn’t a thought that rested easily with Daniel at all.
He barely noticed the looks the airmen on the security checkpoint gave him as he followed Jack towards the elevator. This was so familiar, had been so much a part of his life until recently, that it was as comfortable as putting on an old pair of shoes. Except this time it was different - this time they weren’t heading off-world on yet another mission, this trip was one-way.
He tried to think of something to say, glad that for once the elevator was empty apart from them. Jack had seen the way people looked at Daniel, almost as if they expected him to run screaming through the corridors at the slightest sound. Jack made a mental note of the people who’d crossed the line into openly staring at his friend. He’d deal with them later, make sure they understood just what part Daniel would always play within the SGC, in case they’d forgotten over the weeks he’d been away.
He hoped Daniel didn’t notice, but he knew that was unlikely. He might seem a million miles away, and perhaps he was staring at something nobody else could see, but Jack knew that Daniel was taking it all in. Even with his brain slowed by medication, he was observing everything that went on around him.
“First stop, the infirmary,” he said, more for something to break the silence between them. He didn’t want to talk about Daniel being ill, but he figured ignoring it would make Daniel even more uncomfortable. It was there with them, in the elevator alongside them, almost tangible as a presence. “Dr. Fraiser wants her chance to prod you.”
At least he was responding. That was a step forward, compared to some of the times Jack had visited him in the hospital and discovered Daniel was beyond conversation.
He was more than glad when the elevator doors slid open on Level 28 and the two of them could head for the infirmary.
“Daniel!” Janet’s smile was unfeigned, that much Jack could easily tell, as she crossed to the door to greet them. “You’re looking well.”
Janet’s touch, after the less considerate examinations he’d undergone at the hospital, was almost welcome. She was treating him almost as if he’d shatter at her touch, Daniel realized, but he welcomed her attitude all the same. It made him feel less like an interesting medical case and more like a human being, a feeling he’d sorely missed in the past weeks and months.
When the blood samples and temperature taking was done, he’d followed Janet into her office, sitting beside Jack as if this was just another day at the SGC.
“So,” Jack said, turning to Janet as she sat behind her desk. “What’s the verdict?”
“Daniel, you’re in good shape,” Janet said, addressing her remarks to Daniel, for which he was grateful. “All things considered.” He heard Jack muffle a derisory snort, but didn’t bother to look round - in some ways this was between him and Dr Fraiser, while Jack was just the audience for this all-important performance.
“You’re signing off on this?” Jack asked. Daniel didn’t take his eyes off Janet’s face, didn’t need to - he could see her agreement there. She nodded.
“No more needles, though,” Daniel said. “Please.”
“They’d be easier. Once a month, rather than tablets.”
He had no intention of backing down on this. The idea of ongoing medication was enough, let alone the concept of sticking a needle in himself on a regular basis - how could he ask anyone on the planet to do that for him?
There was silence for a long moment before Janet picked up her pen and signed the paperwork lying on her desk. She pushed it towards Daniel with one hand, as she capped the pen with the other.
“I hope this works, Daniel,” she said, with a smile.
“I’m going home,” Daniel said. “How can that be worse?”
It was just like old times. Standing beside Daniel waiting for the gate to engage. Except this time, for Daniel, this was a one-way trip.
“My things,” Daniel said, as they watched the chevrons light one by one.
“I’ve got plenty of room, Daniel,” Jack said. “Your furniture’s gone into storage, your books are at my place.” In case you ever come back.
“It feels strange,” Daniel said, hefting the bag he carried. “To be here.”
Jack nodded. It had taken all his powers of persuasion to get Teal’c and Carter to allow them to make this journey alone, and even then he’d seen they weren’t happy with him. But this was his plan; he needed to see it through.
“You’ll be fine,” he said. “Kasuf dotes on you, you know that.” He didn’t imagine the small grimace that flickered across Daniel’s face at his words. He couldn’t have. “And we’ll check in on you every so often as well, make sure you’re okay.” Disastrous missions and encounters with Goa’uld who wouldn’t get with the program permitting. “You’ll be fine,” he repeated.
“Let’s go, then,” Daniel said, swinging the bag onto his shoulder as the wormhole settled back from its eruption. Jack saw him wince a little at the clanging of his boots on the metal ramp, then followed close behind.
They stepped into the coolness of the temple, the familiar columns and flickering torchlight. No welcoming committee, but he’d expected none, even though they’d known of his and Jack’s arrival.
“Good son,” a voice said, as the wormhole disengaged behind them, the light level dropping considerably. Daniel turned towards the voice, smiling a little as Kasuf stepped from behind a pillar to come and greet them.
“Good father,” he said, dropping his bag without a second thought.
Daniel crossed the floor to Kasuf. He heard the muted clunk of the medicine container Janet had insisted on as it hit the stone steps, but didn’t pause. He was halfway to his knees before Kasuf before he felt the old man’s hands on his arms, pulling him up to stand once more.
“O’Neill tells us you have sickness of the heart,” Kasuf said, peering intently at him. Daniel forced himself to stay still under the examination, though every instinct screamed at him to look away. “We will care for you, perhaps cure you of this, if the gods are willing.”
“The gods?” That was Jack, close beside them. “I thought you didn’t believe in the gods now, Kasuf.”
Kasuf’s attention was pulled away from him at those words, those perceptive dark eyes turning to Jack now, and for that Daniel was extremely glad.
“You would deny there is anything in the universe, O’Neill?” Kasuf began.
“We killed your god,” Jack interrupted. “Remember?”
“Enough,” Daniel said, and was oddly heartened by the fact that both of them looked to him when he spoke. “Please don’t argue.” He heard Jack snort, distinctly, and Kasuf made a similar derogatory noise. “Perhaps you can help me, Kasuf,” he continued, looking a warning at Jack, who just shook his head and looked at his boots. “But for now I’d like to rest.”
Daniel was always with them. At least that was how it felt to Jack, and he could tell from the expressions on Carter and Teal’c’s face that he wasn’t alone in that. No one else had been assigned to SG-1 on a permanent basis - that position was unfilled, which was the way Jack liked it.
Not that he ever really expected Daniel to return, but there wasn’t anyone else on the scientific staff at the SGC who fit as well as Daniel had. Most of them lived down to the stereotypes he’d long held regarding scientists and Hammond hadn’t got around to ordering them to tolerate someone full-time.
It probably wouldn’t last, Jack knew that, but in many ways the loss of Daniel was still an open wound. Walking away from Daniel for a second time, leaving him on Abydos again, had been even more painful than the first time round. Back then he’d hardly known Daniel, had more regretted that he wouldn’t get to know him better, but this time it was a more personal loss.
Carter had lost a friend, someone of similar scientific bent, someone who could translate her technobabble for Jack when it all became too much. Someone who kidded her out of being all-too-scientific and reminded her she was still a human being.
Teal’c said little, as was his way, but Jack could tell he missed Daniel terribly. He’d tried to take up the slack, spending more free time with the Jaffa than before, but there were things he couldn’t replace. Teal’c had no-one to speak with in his own language, no one who understood his culture and rituals, and Jack could tell he felt that loss.
He could feel the side of his face beginning to swell, still taste his own blood where he’d bitten his lip when the Serpent Guard had struck him. Daniel’s head still rang with the blow, which had sent him flying, had left him measuring his full length in the Abydos sand.
Where was Kasuf?
The guards were herding the other Abydonians along, Daniel was forced to go with them or risk another blow, his eyes scouring the small group for the familiar figure of his father-in-law. They had to have come looking for the child, there was no other possible reason for the Jaffa to be there. But there was no sign of either Kasuf or the baby.
The voice came from nearby, making Daniel turn to observe the Jaffa who had spoken, the words in heavily-accented Goa’uld all too easy to interpret. The voices in his head began to call out then, their familiar tones echoing, just when he had thought himself free at last.
Daniel closed his eyes, screwing them tightly shut for a long moment, hoping without hope that he wouldn’t see the hallucinations when he opened them once more. It had been a while since he’d stopped taking the medication, relishing the lucidity that change brought about. What Jack didn’t know was that Dr. Fraiser had taught him techniques for dealing with the hallucinations and they seemed to work for the most part. Not that he told Kasuf when they didn’t, though the perceptive elder seemed to know when Daniel wasn’t telling him everything.
He stood helpless as his friends, what was left of his extended family, were herded into a stockade, many of them turning eyes devoid of hope on Daniel where he stood. He wished he could give them some kind of comfort, reassure them that this would be different from when Ra was in control, but he wasn’t prepared to lie. There was silence between them.
A gesture from a staff weapon, swinging perilously close to Daniel’s head, made him move in the direction indicated by the one who wielded it. He began to trudge away from the stockade, not daring to look back for what might be the last glimpse he had of his friends, heading for an ornately-decorated tent that stood some distance away.
Somehow Daniel knew he wasn’t going to like what he found there.
Every so often, as they traveled towards the tent, a sharp shove from the staff weapon would rouse Daniel from his contemplations of just who he might find at the end of his journey. And with each jolt, the voices grew louder, more determined, more demanding.
“So,” a voice said, as Daniel reached the doorway of the tent, “my host was correct. How entertaining.”
He knew that voice, knew the voice it had once been before the Goa’uld took it hostage.
“Sha’re,” he said, hardly hearing the word over the clamor in his head. The voices were screaming now, a cacophony of sound that meant he could barely hear the individual words.
“Come forward, husband,” Amonet said, her voice full of cruel humor. “Will you not greet me?”
Daniel took a step forward, then another, almost unwillingly. Everything began to change around them, the walls of the tent twisting as if a strong wind took them, then as if they were melting under an intense heat, the billowing draperies inside the tent twisting like snakes. He closed his eyes momentarily and opened them again to see nothing had changed.
“Now,” a voice said inside his head, a voice he recognized immediately as that of Ma’chello. Daniel lunged forward across the short space between them, as if given permission at last to move, one hand wrapping around Amonet’s wrist even as her other hand brought up the hand device and began to systematically try to destroy him.
Three small somethings moved, slithering under his skin, slipping from his hand to Amonet’s wrist and then away under the skin of her arm upwards, always upwards, until they disappeared out of sight. And then pain took him, the searing fire of the hand device, so familiar and never forgotten. It drove Daniel to his knees, one hand still gripping Amonet’s other wrist for a moment before falling away.
The voices were gone, the world had stilled around him - all that remained was pain.
Then it stopped, though it took Daniel a moment to realize it, to open his eyes, look up and see the face of the woman he loved staring down at him.
Amonet’s control blazed once more in her eyes, turning them fiery gold momentarily, then was gone, humanity and shame replacing them.
“Danyel?” He nodded, hardly able to believe this was real. Perhaps it was a hallucination, a cruel trick his mind played, perhaps he wasn’t really even here in this tent, with Sha’re. “I heard a voice.”
What could he say to that? How could Daniel explain what he had experienced, though at this moment it seemed a lifetime away.
“Amonet?” he asked, as he watched Sha’re remove the hand device, before she threw it from her across the tent.
“She is no longer with me,” Sha’re said. “The voice said that the Goa’uld was no more.”
From outside, Daniel heard the sound of gunfire, even as he reached for Sha’re and gathered her into his arms. It was a familiar sound, the rattle of automatic weaponry telling him that his friends, the rest of his family had arrived, and not before time. Somehow Kasuf must have got a message to the SGC, warning them of what was happening on Abydos, and now his friends were staging a rescue attempt.
“What of the child?” he asked.
“Taken,” Sha’re said, her voice muffled against Daniel’s shoulder. She clung to him as he did to her, as if they would be torn apart once more. “To Kheb.”
“We’ll find him,” Daniel said.
They were still locked in a fierce embrace when Teal’c entered the tent moments later.
Jack’s head snapped round in the direction of the tent as Teal’c emerged from it. They’d managed to rescue the Abydonians, releasing them from the stockade in which they’d been imprisoned, and Kasuf had told them that Daniel was in the tent which stood some distance apart. Jack had sent Teal’c, feeling that cold uncertain feeling take residence in his stomach - whatever Goa’uld commanded these Jaffa was probably torturing his friend right now, but he had other lives he was responsible.
“Lay down your weapons!” Teal’c’s voice, resonant with his years of command, rang across the battlefield and all eyes turned to where he stood.
Jack winced as a poorly-aimed staff weapon blast sent sand into the air in front of him, then looked again at where Teal’c was standing. His staff weapon was in his hands, the end of it almost pressed to the head of Amonet - she stood, oddly passive, beside Teal’c, looking out at the devastation her Jaffa had wrought.
“Now, or she dies!” Teal’c continued, his hand triggering the device so that the end opened. This time she reacted, turning her head away from Teal'c to look back into the darkness of the doorway, to someone who stood there.
Jack felt some other emotion grow inside him, a warmth whose tendrils replaced the cold fear he’d felt concerning Daniel’s fate. Was it possible?
“Hold your fire!” he yelled, glancing across at where Carter crouched with a bazooka. She shrugged, her eyes still watchful, focused on where Teal’c and Amonet stood.
The random firing stopped. The only sound then was that of staff weapons hitting the ground, then a brief silence before the cheers of the Abydonians began.
“Carter,” he said, knowing his 2IC would understand.
“On it, sir.”
Jack got up cautiously from where he’d been crouched, weapon still at the ready, his eyes on Teal’c. He had let the staff weapon move a little, the end closing once more, and Amonet had half turned away from him. Behind him, Jack could hear Carter snapping out orders, sending the airmen who had accompanied them to cover the Jaffa, before herding the prisoners into the stockade where they had formerly kept the Abydonians.
As he neared the tent, Amonet moved, taking a couple of steps towards the doorway, her hand outstretched. There was no glint of a hand device on it, and Jack’s eyes followed her movement. He felt himself smile as Daniel emerged from the shadows.
He was close enough to hear Daniel speak as he took Sha’re’s hand, though the words were unfamiliar. The expression on Daniel’s face wasn’t, though - Jack had seen it in the firelight on Abydos what seemed like a lifetime ago, that mixture of love and awe he’d never expected to have the chance to see on Daniel’s face again.
“Sha’re?” Jack said, as he reached where the three of them were standing. He looked inquiringly at Teal’c, who nodded.
“It would appear so,” he said.
Sha’re smiled at him and nodded, tightening her grip on Daniel’s hand as she moved a little closer to her husband’s side.
“Jack.” Daniel’s face was all smiles. “I wasn’t crazy after all, it was Machello.”
“Ma’chello?” He couldn’t stop staring at Sha’re, even when she looked down at her feet and Jack knew he’d embarrassed her. He forced himself to look at Daniel then. “What are you talking about?”
“Something was inside me, a number of somethings from the Linvris chamber,” Daniel continued. They began to walk down towards where the Abydonians were, Daniel pulling Sha’re along with him as if they’d never been parted. “They went into Sha’re and I heard his voice. Ma’chello’s voice, telling me he would destroy the Goa’uld.”
“So that’s who made those things,” Jack said. Daniel looked at him, his expression questioning. “Carter will explain when we get home - she had a close encounter with the rest of them. They didn't seem to like her much, though” He paused. “You are coming home, aren’t you?”
He’d assumed that would be the case, assumed so much about Daniel and what he wanted. After all, Jack remembered Daniel talking so often about getting Sha’re back - at first, anyway, before the momentous size of their undertaking had sunk in and muted that initial belief that rescue was possible. There was always the chance Daniel would want to stay, here on Abydos with Sha’re, if what he was talking about was true and she was no longer a host.
“For a while, anyway,” Daniel said. “I want to get Sha’re checked out, make sure she’s really free. And then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”
“Daughter!” Kasuf’s voice carried on the desert wind as he hurried towards them, arms outstretched. “Good son!” Jack stepped back as the elder rushed to his son-in-law, his long-missing child, and embraced them both.
“Let’s see about the Jaffa, Teal’c,” Jack said, with a sharp jerk of his head in the direction of the stockade.
“Do you not believe Captain Carter will have dealt with that matter?” Teal’c asked, as they walked away from where Kasuf was still embracing what was left of his small family.
“Teal’c! You know Carter is more than capable of whatever she puts her mind to.” Jack scowled at Teal’c, even as he recognized the question for what it was - an attempt to distract him from the possibility that Daniel would not be returning to the SGC on a permanent basis.
“It is good to know that Daniel Jackson is well once more,” Teal’c said, as they reached where Carter was standing, talking to one of the airmen guarding the stockade.
“Looks like Sha’re isn’t a Host,” Jack said, enjoying the look of surprise that hit Carter’s face at his words. “Oh, and Daniel’s not crazy any more. Well, no crazier than usual.”
“Sir,” Carter began, “you don’t know how long I’ve waited for someone to say those words.”
She smiled, glancing back up the hill to where Kasuf, Daniel and Sha’re doubtless still stood. Jack turned and looked at them for a moment - he couldn’t begrudge them their reconciliation. If they’d been somewhere more private he might well have indulged himself with similar gestures of relief regarding Daniel.
“Looks like those doohickeys were made by Ma’chello,” he said, turning back to Carter.
“Ma’chello?” He could almost see the lights come on behind Carter’s eyes as she considered the possibility. “I knew I recognized that voice. They didn't make me...” She paused, knowing her audience was adding the word 'crazy' to what she'd already said."They must have passed from Daniel to Sha're, killing Amonet in the process."
“It’s a good thing there were only a couple of them and that both of them made a beeline for you, Carter, otherwise who knows what might have happened?”
Jack shuddered. He didn’t like to think what Daniel had gone through, all the time not crazy at all but the subject of some bizarre alien weapon to kill the Goa’uld. He’d done the right thing, it seemed, even if he hadn’t been able to make himself believe that things would be all right for Daniel in the end.
“Well, that explains why they died when they infected me,” Carter said. “I’d already lost my symbiote, so there was nothing for them to kill. Maybe there was something about the Goa’uld protein marker in my blood that meant I didn’t hallucinate like Daniel did?”
“It’s a theory,” Jack said. “One you’re going to get plenty of chance to discuss over coffee with Daniel some time soon.” Carter’s smile widened at the idea. “If you don’t mind sharing him with Sha’re.”
“Not at all,” Carter said. “I’ve been looking forward to really getting to know her.” She looked away, her eyes focusing on where the two Abydonians and their adopted kin were heading towards them. “After all, we have a lot in common.”
In the few short weeks that had passed, Sha’re had become so much a part of the SGC that it seemed as though she’d always been there. If she missed the wide open spaces of Abydos, she gave no sign of it, and would only smile and say she preferred the guest quarters there to the palace she had sometimes shared with Apophis.
As for the other things she had shared, all unwilling, Daniel did not ask. The child, the Harcesis, was evidence enough that Sha’re had suffered, her pampered existence as Amonet’s Host a prison regardless. Perhaps, in time, she would speak of it to Sam, who shared an understanding of what it was like to be a host, or to Dr. Fraiser.
When she had been examined in the infirmary to see if she was still a host, Janet’s calmness had helped to center her, to balance the echoing emptiness inside where once another voice had lived. Sha’re had been disbelieving at first, overwhelmed by her unexpected freedom, all her emotions out of control. The sight of Teal’c, even his dark presence nearby as he visited Daniel, had sent Sha’re into paroxysms of terror.
She was still wary of him, Daniel knew, and that was something Teal’c seemed to take in his stride. Almost as if it was an expected response - for much of his adult life it probably had been.
They’d talked about returning to Abydos, had even visited there to prove that Daniel had kept his word, but Sha’re had insisted her place was beside Daniel. And that his place was at the SGC, in search of her child and all his potential to defeat the Goa’uld.
Of course, regaining his place on SG-1 had taken more than a little persuasion on his part, backed up by Janet’s close observations of his behavior - it had left Daniel feeling on edge, but he’d accepted it as part and parcel of reassuring his friends. He didn’t miss the medication, didn’t miss anything of what he’d experienced, but now at least he had an explanation for his apparent schizophrenia.
Ma’chello’s last parting gift for the Goa’uld, a deadly weapon against them, one they had squandered in many ways but one that had also done what Ma’chello himself had failed to do. Ma’chello had lost all those he cared for, while his weapon had given Daniel back someone with whom he’d never really dared believe he’d be reunited. He thought the old man would be pleased.
Daniel looked up at the control room window as the gate erupted into life once more - Sha’re’s small wave gave him permission to go and he felt her watching him as he walked up the ramp.
This time he had something to come home for, someone who would wait for him, as well as someone out there he needed to find. Daniel could still feel the weight of Sha’re’s gaze on him as he reached the event horizon, as he allowed the wormhole to pull him into his next adventure.