There was a pause before Daniel's voice bid Jack to enter. The deep pain that flashed in the archeologist's eyes upon seeing Jack made the colonel feel even more like a bastard. Daniel turned away from him, focusing his gaze on his computer screen. His back was stiff, his whole attitude screaming, "Go away!" But Jack wasn't about to listen. Instead, he stepped further into the room and shut the door.
"Daniel, I. . . . Um, look, what I said on the planet, I didn't mean those things. I—"
"Didn't you, Jack?" Daniel interrupted, his voice tight. "You sounded pretty sincere to me."
"No. I was angry, on edge. I don't know why, I just was. I'm sorry I said those things, Daniel. I wish I could take them all back, but I can't. I know you think that I don't respect you, but I do. I don't want you to leave SG-1. We need you on the team. You're too valuable for us to lose."
Daniel finally turned to Jack, and what he saw in the archeologist's eyes made his heart sink like a stone.
Daniel rose to his feet. "Valuable?" he said in a dangerously quiet voice. "Respect? Was it respect you showed me every time you disregarded my input, ignored what I was saying, and told me to be quiet and do what you told me to? All the times you refused to believe me, refused even to consider what I was telling you, was that respect? Was it respect when you dismissed my claim that I'd been to an alternate reality, thinking instead that I was delusional? Were you being respectful when your first reaction to me telling you about the message Sha're sent through the ribbon device was to suggest that I'd imagined the whole thing? What about Reese, Jack? You never once believed that I could talk her into turning off the Replicators. You had no faith in me. All you wanted to do was blow her away. And let's not forget the Enkarans and the Gadmeer. Where was your trust and respect for me when I told you that I thought there was another way to solve the problem other than blowing the entire Gadmeer civilization to hell?! You wouldn't even give me the chance to try! I had to go behind your back and just about let myself get blown up in the process! And then there's that whole situation on Euronda, when you ignored everything I was trying to tell you, not even giving me the common courtesy of allowing me to state my concerns. Instead, you insulted and belittled me repeatedly, humiliating me in front of an entire roomful of people. Is that your idea of respect?!"
Each of Daniel's bitter, angry words were like lashes on Jack's soul, leaving raw, bleeding wounds. The last example cut deepest of all, for he was still ashamed by his actions on that occasion. Not only did he treat Daniel terribly, he also made a colossal error in judgment because he was too stubborn and short-sighted to see past his damned military instincts and look at the situation from Daniel's point of view.
Daniel continued, his voice shaking with repressed tears. "And what about Ma'chello's little Goa'uld killers, Jack? You didn't even try to find out if there was some external force causing my hallucinations. Instead, you just accepted the belief that I was nuts and let McKenzie lock me up in that padded room, abandoning me there, leaving me alone, and scared, and fighting for my sanity. What that respect, Jack? Was that a display of how valuable I am to you?"
Jack almost cried out from the pain caused by the archeologist's statement. Of all the things he'd done to hurt Daniel, leaving his friend in that mental facility had been the worst. For as long as he lived, he would never forgive himself for not pursuing every possible cause for what was happening to his friend and leaving Daniel alone in that awful place. And what made it even worse was the knowledge that, if their positions had been reversed, Daniel would not have rested until he found out what was causing the illness. He would have instantly believed that something unknown and deadly was the cause. And he would never have left Jack alone in that place unless he was going off to find the answers, to help his friend.
"How can you stand there and say that I'm valuable to you when you're rarely willing to accept my advice or recommendations without acting like you're pissed about it?" Daniel raged. "It's become abundantly clear to me that my knowledge and skills are of no value to you except for my ability to kill the enemy. When I try to explain something to you, you turn a deaf ear. When I attempt to reason things out, you have no patience to let me work. You'd rather I be a good, obedient soldier who does nothing but follow orders than a thinking, feeling human being who only wants to do what's right!"
"Daniel, that's not true! I—"
"Shut up! Just shut up!" Daniel screamed, his chest heaving. "When was the last time you told me that I'd done a good job? When was the last time you really appreciated my abilities as an archeologist and a linguist? And when, Jack, when did you ever tell me that you valued my friendship, that you actually gave a damn about me? Where was that so called friendship every time you hurt me with your words, with your lack of respect, and trust, and faith in me? I died, Jack! I was lying there, dying, and you couldn't even tell me how you felt about me. Instead, you called me a pain in the ass, then oh so grudgingly admitted that maybe, possibly, you might have admired me just a little. Well, thank you so very much, Jack. Those are just the words that a man dying in agony wants to hear!"
Jack staggered back as if Daniel had physically struck him, certain that, if he looked down at his chest, he'd see a knife sticking out of his heart. Daniel's last words had cut past every last one of his defenses and pierced straight into his soul. He felt like the worst kind of slime. Daniel was right. He wasn't a friend. Nobody would hurt a friend like he'd hurt Daniel.
Daniel glared at Jack, seeing the man's face turn white, anguish filling his eyes. He knew that he was being unfair, that Jack didn't deserve many of the things he was saying, but the rage had taken control of him, and he didn't know how to stop it. Years of pain and repressed anger had risen to the surface and were boiling over uncontrollably. The physical pain in his head was now almost blinding, and his chest felt like it was on fire, every breath sending spears of agony through him. A terrible weakness was creeping through his body, making him feel light-headed and shaky. Daniel ignored it all as he continued to let his rage overflow.
"I've had it, Jack. I've had enough. I'm tired of being verbally beaten up, of being ignored, ridiculed, insulted and made to feel like I'm worthless. So, just get the hell out of my office and out of my life!"
Jack felt his heart shatter into a million pieces as he realized that no amount of words were going to fix what he had done. He had destroyed his friendship with Daniel. Overwhelmed by the grief and guilt of that realization, Jack began to turn away. But, in the next instant, those feelings were supplanted by fear and horror as a terrible cry of pain tore from Daniel's throat. He staggered, his hands going to his head. Then, before Jack could reach him, he crumpled into a boneless heap on the floor.
"Daniel!" Jack fell to his knees beside the archeologist, alarmed at the parlor of his friend's skin. Pressing his fingers against the younger man's carotid artery, he felt Daniel's pulse beating with a weak, rapid and erratic cadence. Jack rushed to the phone and called for a medical team. Then he returned to Daniel's side, gathering his fallen friend into his arms.
"Hang on, Daniel. Just hang on," he pleaded. "God, don't you do this to me. Don't you dare even think of dying! I'm not going to let you leave again. I let you go once, but not again, never again."
Janet and the medical team soon came hurrying into the room. "What happened?" she demanded to know, kneeling at Daniel's side to check is vitals.
"I don't know," Jack replied. "We were . . . we were arguing, then he just suddenly cried out like he was in pain and collapsed. He grabbed his head before he fell."
Janet was checking Daniel's pupils. "Okay, we need to get him to the infirmary, find out what's going on."
Daniel was loaded onto a gurney and quickly wheeled to the infirmary with Jack hot on the heels of the medical team. Moments later, Sam and Teal'c came rushing in.
"What happened?" Sam asked, fear in her voice.
"Daniel collapsed," Jack told her. "He acted like he was in terrible pain. One second, he was standing there, and, the next, he was down."
The three members of SG-1 waited for some news on their fallen comrade. They had all been ushered out of the infirmary and were now waiting just outside.
Another hour and a half passed before the doctor appeared. Jack, Sam and Teal'c moved toward her.
"What's wrong with him?" the colonel asked, the strain in his voice apparent. He'd been pacing like a caged tiger for the past forty-five minutes.
"I wish I knew," the doctor replied with a sigh. "I have no explanation for what's happening. Daniel's tests indicate the first stages of massive organ failure. His heart, lungs, kidneys and every other major organ in his body seem to be weakening. There's also inflamation in the brain tissue."
"Oh my God," Sam whispered. "You have no idea what's causing it?"
Janet shook her head. "There are still tests that I need to run, and all the results of the ones I ordered have not come back yet, but, so far, I can find no sign of any kind of toxin, bacteria or virus. I'll know more when all the tests are complete. I don't understand it. There was no sign of any problem when I did the post-mission physical."
"What are his chances?" Jack asked, feeling a bone-deep fear creep through him.
"I can't say yet, not until I know more about what is causing this, but. . . ."
"If we can't stop what's happening, Daniel will die."
The doctor's words sent a brief moment of panic through Jack. 'No! This is not happening! Daniel is not gonna die!' He looked at the doctor. "Can we see him?"
"For a while. He needs rest. I've given him something for the pain, but he's still hurting."
They entered the infirmary, all of them except Janet heading over to Daniel's bed. Jack hung back as Sam and Teal'c stepped up to their friend. There was a frown of pain on the archeologist's pale face, and his eyes were closed.
"Daniel?" Sam said, her voice shaking only slightly.
Daniel's eyes fluttered open. "Hey, Sam. Looks like I just can't stay out of this infirmary, huh."
Sam gave him a gentle smile. "Yeah, you do seem to be attached to this place. Got something going on with one of the nurses?"
Daniel chuckled and smiled weakly. "Ah, you figured out my secret. Lieutenant Parker and I have been dating for a few months now."
The comment brought a wider smile to Sam's lips. Lieutenant John Parker was one of the orderlies, and rumor had it that he liked Daniel a whole lot more than any man in the U.S. Military should like another man. When Daniel first found out about the rumor, he'd been terribly embarrassed and uncomfortable and had tended to avoid the lieutenant whenever possible. Jack had had a lot of fun teasing the poor archeologist about the whole thing . . . that is until he found out that there were also rumors that he and Daniel were secretly lovers. Then it hadn't been so funny.
Sam's face grew serious. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess, all things considered." Daniel looked into Sam's eyes, his gaze telling her that he knew how serious his condition was. "Being here again shouldn't really surprise me. It seems like most of my time off work is spent here. Maybe Jack's right. I really do need to get a life outside the SGC."
"Well, as soon as you're out of here, we'll have to do something about that," Sam told him in a falsely cheerful voice. All pretense of cheerfulness then vanished. "You're going to be okay, Daniel," she assured him, trying to convince herself as much as him. "Janet will figure out what's causing this and find a cure."
"Indeed. If a cure can be found, I have confidence that Doctor Fraiser will discover it. She is an excellent physician," Teal'c stated.
The archeologist nodded. His eyes flickered toward Jack then quickly looked away, but even that brief look had been filled with emotional pain. "I'm, uh, pretty tired. Maybe I should get some sleep," he said, addressing his remark to Sam and Teal'c. "I'll see you later?"
"We will return when you are more rested, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c replied.
Sam leaned over and pressed a kiss to her friend's forehead. "Get some rest. We'll be back in a couple of hours."
Not looking at Jack again, Daniel closed his eyes. As she passed her commanding officer, Sam met his gaze for a long moment, then continued on by. Teal'c also looked at O'Neill, the disapproval evident in his eyes. Jack said nothing. He stood there in silence for several moments, watching Daniel, then he turned on his heel and left the infirmary. He went straight to General Hammond's office. Janet was there, giving the general a report on Daniel's condition.
"So, you believe there is a chance that Doctor Jackson was exposed to something on SG-1's last mission?" Hammond asked her.
"Yes, sir," she replied. "Daniel admitted that he hasn't been feeling well since shortly after returning from the planet."
'Damn. Why didn't he say something?' Jack cursed.
"Come in, Colonel," Hammond said upon seeing Jack lingering outside. "Doctor Fraiser has updated me on Doctor Jackson's condition. She thinks it's possible that he was exposed to something on P7Y-359."
"How are you feeling, Colonel?" Janet asked. "Headache, tightness in the chest, weakness or any other symptoms?"
"No, I'm fine."
"All the same, I think that I should run some tests on you, Sam and Teal'c, just to make sure."
Jack turned to the general. "Sir, if Daniel was exposed to something on that planet, then I think we should go back there and see if we can figure out what it was."
"Well, let's wait to see what your test results turn up."
Jack was ushered back to the infirmary, along with Sam and Teal'c. What seemed like a quart of blood was drawn from each of them, then they were run through a bunch of tests and poked and prodded incessantly.
"Well, other than some mild chemical imbalances, which I could attribute to other factors, you all seem to be fine," Janet announced a while later. "Most of the bloodwork's not back yet, but, from what I can see, you're all healthy."
"So, if Daniel's illness was caused by something on the planet, then it's something that only he was exposed to," Sam reasoned.
"Daniel Jackson was the only one among us who entered the temple," Teal'c pointed out.
"Yeah, and, knowing Daniel, he probably touched everything in that place," Jack added.
"Well, as soon as he wakes up, I'll ask him," Janet said.
"I'm awake," came a voice from across the room.
The others went over to him.
"You should be sleeping, Daniel," Janet told him gently.
"Do you need me to increase your pain medication?"
Daniel shook his head. "It's okay. It's not the pain that's keeping me awake."
Sam studied her friend. He looked even paler than he had before. He also appeared to be having some difficulty breathing. Janet was looking at the monitor beside his bed, a frown on her face.
"Your O2 Sat is down," she announced. "We're going to have to put a cannula on you. How hard is it getting for you to breathe?"
"Not too bad yet, harder than a while ago." He attempted to draw in a deeper breath. "Can I sit up? It's easier when I'm upright."
The back of Daniel's bed was raised until he was in a half-reclining position. A nurse put a nasal cannula on him, and Janet increased his pain medication, despite what he'd said about not needing it.
"Daniel, is it possible that you were exposed to something in that temple?" Sam asked.
"I guess it's possible, though, despite what Jack thinks, I didn't touch anything. I felt too . . ." his eyes darted Jack's way, "too uncomfortable in there."
"Uncomfortable?" Janet enquired.
Yet again, Daniel's eyes shifted toward Jack, then away.
"Daniel Jackson told us that the temple gave him an uneasy feeling," Teal'c said when it appeared that the archeologist was not going to respond.
"Uneasy feeling?" Janet looked at her patient. "How so?"
Daniel's gaze was focused on his hands, which were folded in his lap. "It was probably nothing, just my overactive imagination. That's what Jack thought." None of them missed the faint hint of anger in the linguist's voice.
"Well, maybe I was wrong," Jack said, holding out the proverbial olive branch. "Maybe you did sense something. It wouldn't be the first time that you were right and I was wrong."
Surprised, Daniel met the colonel's eyes for a moment. Then his gaze dropped back to his clasped hands. "There was this . . . this feeling of wrongness. It made my skin crawl," he admitted in a low voice. "It got worse the closer we got to the temple. It was really bad in the temple itself, like there was a dark presence all around me, something evil. I was jumping at my own shadow."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Sam asked, alarmed at what her friend had revealed.
Daniel hesitated for a several seconds. "I didn't want you to think I was going crazy again," he murmured almost inaudibly.
Sam's eyes closed briefly at the terrible memory of Daniel's time in the mental facility. "Oh, Daniel. We wouldn't have thought that."
"Maybe you wouldn't have, but. . . ." Daniel didn't finish the statement.
'But I would have,' Jack silently finished for him. He gave an equally silent curse. "Well, we're listening now, Daniel, and no one here is going to think that you're crazy," he stated aloud. "Did anything happen in the temple?"
"I, um, thought I heard a voice," Daniel admitted reluctantly. "It sounded angry. I couldn't understand what it was saying. I felt something touch me, something cold and . . . and malevolent."
"You should have told us of this experience, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c stated. "It is possible that some form of life that we cannot see was residing in the temple and may have been angered by your presence."
Daniel's head finally lifted, and he looked at them. "So, why was I the only one who could feel it?"
"Well, it's possible that you were the only one sensitive to its presence," Sam deduced. "Perhaps only a few people are capable of sensing it."
"So, what does this mean, that the temple is haunted or something?" Jack asked, not liking the sound of any of this.
"I don't know, sir. We are all very well aware that there are lifeforms out there that are invisible to us. The Reetou are a perfect example, and the Nox can make themselves and others invisible."
"The Ancients are invisible as well, unless they choose to show themselves," Teal'c added, looking at Daniel meaningfully.
"So, we need to go back to that planet, find this whatever it is, and find out if it did something to Daniel," Jack said.
"No," Daniel said. "You can't go back there, not ever."
"Daniel, we have to find out what made you sick," Sam told him.
The archeologist shook his head. "It's too dangerous. You could get sick, too, especially if you go in the temple."
"You let us worry about that," Jack told him.
"No! I don't want any of you getting sick. It's bad enough that—" His voice broke off abruptly as he gasped for breath. His face turned ashen, hands clutching at his chest. An alarm sounded on the life signs monitor.
Janet leapt forward. "What's happening, Daniel? What do you feel?"
"Chest hurts," Daniel gasped. "Feels heavy, like weight sitting on it. Heart feels like it's being squeezed. Hard to breathe."
"Shh. Calm down. You're experiencing a severe episode of atrial fibrillation. Your heart is skipping beats, having a hard time maintaining a steady rhythm. Your lungs are also struggling to pull in enough air. Just relax. Try to take slow, deep breaths."
Daniel attempted to do as Janet said and managed to draw in a deeper breath, then another one as he pushed past the alarming feeling in his chest. Slowly, his heart rate stabilized and his breathing grew easier.
"Good, that's good, Daniel. Okay, you need to rest. I'm going to lower the bed, but only partway. Please try to get some sleep." Janet lowered the back of the bed about a foot, then she shooed everyone out of the infirmary.
"Janet?" Sam said, seeing the expression of deep concern on the physician's face.
"It's not good," Janet admitted. "Daniel's oxygen saturation levels are dropping. As you can see, he's having difficulty breathing, and his heart is having a progressively harder time doing its job. I'm afraid that he's going to have more bad episodes like that as time goes on. If the functioning of his kidneys is decreasing at the same rate as his heart and lungs, we'll have to put him on dialysis soon. And then there are the effects to his liver to worry about. I'm concerned by the marked decrease in his condition after so short a time. Whatever is causing this, it's moving fast."
"We must return to P7Y-359 to determine what has caused Daniel Jackson's illness," Teal'c stated, looking as if he was going to insist on it.
"I agree," Jack said. "If some invisible . . . thing did this to him, then I'm damn well going to find out why and how it can be reversed."
"As Chief Medical Officer, I cannot condone your return to that planet," Janet said. "Daniel is right. You would be putting yourselves at risk by going there."
"So, we're supposed to just sit back and do nothing as Daniel slowly dies?" Jack asked angrily. "I don't think so."
"If we're right about this, Daniel got sick because he went into the temple. As long as we don't go in there, we should be okay," Sam reasoned. "Maybe if something is there, we could talk to it, attempt to reason with it. We have to try."
"Let's go talk to Hammond," Jack said.
The SG-1 teammates went to the general's office.
"Sir, request permission to go back to P7Y-359," Jack immediately said.
General Hammond looked at the expressions on the faces of the people in his office, seeing both worry and determination there. "Have you determined that the cause of Doctor Jackson's illness is on the planet?"
"We think that the area wasn't as abandoned as we originally believed," the colonel told him.
"Daniel admitted that he felt a presence in the temple," Sam explained.
The general's eyebrows rose. "A presence?"
Jack nodded shortly. "Yeah, and we want to find out what it was and if it's what made him sick."
"What does Doctor Fraiser think about this?"
"She doesn't know what to think, General. She has no answer for what's happening to Daniel. We don't have an answer either, but there's a good chance that, if we go back to P7Y-359, we'll find one." Jack met Hammond's eyes. "Please, sir. Daniel is running out of time."
Hammond gave a quiet sigh. "All right, you have a go. But I want you to take every precaution to avoid being exposed to the same thing that Doctor Jackson was. To be on the safe side, wear Hazmat suits, and do not under any circumstances touch anything without proper protection."
A short while later, the three healthy members of SG-1 were suited up and waiting for the gate to engage. They had with them containers used for transporting hazardous materials just in case they found something that they wanted to take back to Earth.
As SG-1 walked through the gate to P7Y-359, they all shared a single desire, that something they found would save their friend and teammate.