From behind the shield of the privacy curtain, Janet sorrowfully and with great care removed the leads, IV's and other medical paraphernalia from Daniel's body. As she did so, she let her hands brush his hair, touch his skin, feel the warmth that she knew would soon be gone. So many times she had treated Daniel as he lay sick or injured, often wondering if it would be for the last time. Nearly a year and a half ago, she had really believed that it was for the last time. It had been so hard watching him die from the radiation poisoning, knowing that there was absolutely nothing she could do to save him. But this time was much worse. This time, she felt as if she had failed Daniel, that there might have been some way to save him if only she had known how.
Janet stroked her friend's cheek, gazing at his still face. "I'm so sorry, Daniel," she whispered. "I'm so sorry I couldn't save you." Feeling herself losing control, she pushed back the curtain and quickly went to the privacy of her office, passing by the place where Teal'c still held a sobbing Sam.
"He's gone, Teal'c. He's really gone," Sam said. "Oh, God. Why? Why did this have to happen? Why Daniel?"
"I do not know, Samantha," Teal'c replied in a shattered voice, calling her by her given name for the first time. "I would do all that is within my power to make it not so. I would gladly give my life a hundred times over if it would bring him back. He was the best of all of us, and he deserved far more than this."
The Jaffa looked over at his friend's lifeless body, feeling his grief welling up within him. This was not right. It was wrong that a man like Daniel Jackson should die so pointlessly. If there was a true god, then Teal'c wished that he could ask Him why.
As Teal'c's gaze remained upon Daniel, a frown suddenly marred his face. He watched more closely and saw a repeat of what he had thought he just witnessed. His body tensed, and he continued to watch, needing to make certain of what he believed he was seeing.
"Major Carter," he finally said, wonder in his voice. There was no reply. "Major Carter, something is happening."
"Look at Daniel Jackson."
Reluctantly, Sam lifted her head from Teal's chest and turned to Daniel. She looked at him and saw. . . . "Oh my God." She pulled out of Teal's arms and quickly stepped up to Daniel's bed, hardly able to believe what she was seeing. "Janet!" she yelled. The doctor came rushing out of her office. Sam looked at her with eyes that were now filled with hope. "He's alive."
"What? Sam, he can't be. He's. . . ." Janet's voice trailed off as she looked at the man she had declared dead twenty minutes ago and saw what they had. Daniel was breathing. "Dear God."
Janet instantly grabbed her stethoscope and placed the end upon Daniel's chest. "This can't be happening. I've got a strong, steady heartbeat." She shone her penlight into his eyes. "Pupils are equal and reactive." She grabbed a blood pressure cuff and put it on the archeologist's arm. "Pressures . . . one seventeen over seventy-two. Perfect." Janet looked at Daniel more closely and saw that the jaundice of his skin was fading and the blue in his lips was all but gone. "This is . . . this is impossible. He was dead. His body had shut down, and, now, he's coming back. Everything is coming back."
Janet called for a nurse. Blood was quickly drawn and sent off to the lab with an order that the results were needed yesterday. Daniel was then hooked back up to the life signs monitor. They all smiled at seeing the steady rhythm of Daniel's heartbeat showing on the screen.
"What's going on, Janet?" Sam asked, wiping away the tears on her face. "How could Daniel just suddenly come back to life like that?"
"He couldn't. It is medically impossible, not after this much time had passed."
"Yet, that is precisely what Daniel Jackson has done," Teal'c stated.
Daniel was hooked up to an EEG. Janet shook her head as she looked at the results. "He's showing a normal brainwave pattern for a person in a deep state of sleep. I need to do an MRI, get a urine analysis, take—" She broke off abruptly as Daniel drew in a deep breath and began stirring. Everyone's gaze fixed upon his face as his eyes slowly opened.
"D-Daniel?" Sam whispered, her voice shaking.
"Sam?" Daniel's brow knit in confusion. "What's going on?" He lifted his hands and looked at them as if they were a strange alien device. "I'm not dead?"
"No, Daniel, you are very much alive, though I have absolutely no idea how that's possible," Janet told him with a smile. "How do you feel?"
"I feel . . . I feel great, not sick at all." He gazed at his friends. "What happened?"
"You died, Daniel," Sam replied. "You were dead. Then you just suddenly came back to life."
"Um . . . okay. How?"
"You tell me," Janet said. "You were dead for twenty minutes, Daniel. I didn't attempt to resuscitate you when your heart stopped because I knew there was no point to it. What's happened here should have been impossible. And what's even more impossible to believe is that you appear to be completely healed. There's not a thing wrong with you, from what I can see. It's like a spontaneous, instantaneous remission."
Daniel looked about. "Where's Jack?"
"He ran out of here after you . . . you died," Sam told him. "I don't know where he is."
"We need to find him."
"We will," Janet assured him. "I'll page him. I also need to tell the general what's happened." She returned to her office.
Daniel's eyes went to Sam and Teal'c, who were both smiling at him. Sam grabbed his hand in both of hers, laughing in delight. Then she was suddenly hugging him like she was never going to let go.
"I can't believe you're alive," she murmured, drawing away to touch his face. "I'm afraid that I'm dreaming and I'll wake up."
"This is not a dream, Major Carter," Teal'c said happily. "Daniel Jackson is, indeed, alive. And I am also quite pleased that he is."
"No more than I am, Teal'c," Daniel said with a laugh.
With a sad sigh, General Hammond sat down at his desk. He suddenly felt very old and weary. Too many times he'd lost men under his command. Too many times he'd had to write letters of condolence to grieving relatives. It was a sad and necessary part of being a military commander. But, this time, the weight of his grief seemed to be especially heavy. Daniel Jackson had been a very special man, unlike anyone Hammond had ever known. His gentle nature, his unfailing courage and strength, his deeply noble spirit had earned him a place in the general's heart. He was the kind of man Hammond would have been proud to have for a son.
When the general first met Daniel, he didn't think much of him and had resisted the idea of letting the young archeologist be a part of SG-1. Yet, in the years that had passed since then, that young man had proven to be an invaluable asset to both SG-1 and the SGC. Time and again it had been his knowledge and skills that had averted disaster, helped them when no one else could. If he had been a member of the military, he'd have earned himself a chest full of metals. It was so unfair that all the good he had done, all the ways in which he had served humankind and helped save the Earth, would go unknown and unrecognized by all but a handful of people. Maybe someday, in the distant future, the world would finally be told how much it owed to Doctor Daniel Jackson. Until then, he would remain an unsung hero who gave his life for the greatest endeavor in human history.
What also saddened Hammond was that there were no loved ones for him to write to about Daniel's sacrifice. The archeologist had been alone in the world, his parents, his wife, his adopted family all gone. They did not know what had become of Daniel's only living relative, his grandfather, Nicholas Ballard. Doctor Ballard had not been heard from since choosing to stay with the aliens on P7X-377. A few months after leaving the elderly man there, Daniel went through the gate to check up on him, but there had been no sign of him. Daniel left a G.D.O. for his grandfather, along with a note written in Mayan giving the gate coordinates to Earth and explaining how the G.D.O. worked. In that way, if and when Nick was ready to come home, all he'd have to do was dial up the gate and send the signal. That had been well over three years ago.
The only real family Daniel had in the end was his team. Hammond knew that O'Neill, Major Carter and Teal'c all loved Daniel dearly and that the young man had loved them as well. Hammond just hoped that his number one team would be able to recover from this devastating loss. He knew it was going to take them a long time.
Hammond was especially worried about Jack. He had seen the look in the eyes of the colonel as the man fled the infirmary after Daniel's death. There had been a very similar expression on Jack's face when it was believed that Daniel had burned to death on Oannes. Back then, Jack's grief and depression drove him into considering retirement. What Hammond had seen on Jack's face this time was far worse. He knew that the colonel was blaming himself for Daniel's death. Would his guilt and grief drive him over the edge? Would Daniel's loss also result in the loss of another good man? The general could only hope and pray that didn't happen.
Hammond's intercom buzzed. "Sir? Doctor Fraiser is requesting your presence in the infirmary. She says it's urgent," his aide announced.
Concerned that his fear over Jack may have become a reality, General Hammond immediately left for the infirmary. When he got there, his eyes instantly went to the bed where Daniel Jackson spent his last hours of life. The curtain was drawn about it, and the general could see that someone was within the circle of cloth. Guessing that it was Samantha Carter and Teal'c saying their final farewells to their friend, he did not disturb them. Instead, he sought out Janet Fraiser. There was a strange amount of activity in the infirmary. During the last few minutes of Daniel's life, Doctor Fraiser had cleared all the nurses out of the room to give the archeologist and his friends complete privacy. There were no other patients, so it had been an easy thing to do. Now, however, there seemed to be an abundance of medical personnel in the room, and they all kept looking over in the direction of Daniel's bed, expressions of disbelief and, surprisingly, happiness on their faces. Puzzled, Hammond went to the C.M.O.'s office.
"General!" Janet exclaimed. "I'm glad you could come, sir. This is something that you need to see with your own eyes." She led him to Daniel's bed and opened the curtain. Hammond stared in stunned silence at the sight before him, his mouth falling open. There in the bed was a very much alive Daniel Jackson. He was grinning from ear to ear, looking shockingly healthy. Sam and Teal'c were also smiling, looking happier than the general had ever seen them.
"What on Earth?" Hammond turned to the doctor. "What's the explanation for this?"
"I honestly don't have one, sir," she admitted. "Daniel died. He was well and truly dead. Then, around twenty minutes later, he just . . . came back to life. It's the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen. I've examined him, and, from what I've found so far, he's perfectly healthy. There is no sign at all of the illness."
A big smile lit Hammond's face. He stepped forward and laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "This is excellent news. I can't tell you how pleased I am to see you back among the living, Doctor Jackson. You never cease to amaze me."
Daniel gave him a big smile. "Thank you, sir." His expression grew serious. "We need to find Jack, General. I'm really worried about him."
"We don't know where he is, sir," Sam explained. "According to the checkpoints, he left the base right after Daniel's . . . death. His car is gone. He's not answering his cell phone. We've left messages on his home phone in case he goes there, but, quite frankly, I'm worried, too. Daniel's death hit him really hard. He blames himself for what happened. I'm afraid that he might . . . do something."
Hammond nodded soberly. "I'll send some men out and see if they can figure out where he's gone. I'll post one of them at the colonel's house. If we can't find him within the next few hours, I'll notify the local authorities to be on the lookout for him."
"I want to look, too," Daniel announced.
"Absolutely not," Janet said emphatically. "You are staying right there until I'm positive that you're really all right."
"Janet, I'm fine. You said so yourself that I'm perfectly healthy. I know Jack. I know how he thinks. I might be able to figure out where he is."
"Daniel, not even half an hour ago you were dead. You can't just get up out of that bed like nothing happened."
The archeologist's expression hardened in determination. Before anyone could stop him, he was out of the bed and standing there, arms held out to either side. "Well, I just did, didn't I," he said. "There is nothing wrong with me. I'm fine. Janet, I have to find Jack. I can't just lie in bed when he is out there somewhere, thinking that I'm dead. If you're worried that I might have a relapse, then someone can come with me while I search. I need to do this. Please!"
"Teal'c and I can go with him," Sam offered. "We'll keep an eye on him. If he starts to get sick, we'll bring him right back."
Janet looked at all of them, then sighed in exasperation. "All right. This goes against every medical instinct I have, but I can see that I won't have a moment's rest until I let you do this." Her eyes narrowed, and she fixed Daniel with a steely gaze that would have many a man squirming. "I want your oath that if you have any discomfort at all, if you feel even the tiniest bit ill or the slightest hint of pain, you will immediately come back here. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, ma'am," Daniel replied meekly, bringing a faint smile to Sam's face.
Daniel was given some privacy while he dressed, then he, Sam and Teal'c left the base. They took Sam's vehicle and headed down the mountain. Daniel's mind was working frantically, trying to figure out where Jack might have gone. Knowing his friend like he did, Daniel guessed that Jack would want to be completely alone, someplace where he thought he wouldn't be disturbed. The fishing cabin in Minnesota was too far away for Jack to consider driving there in his emotional condition. He'd want someplace closer, somewhere he could get to fairly quickly.
They were passing an old dirt road when Daniel spotted something. "Whoa! Stop! Back up!" he shouted.
Sam slammed on the brakes. "What is it?"
"Back up to that dirt road we just passed." The major did so. "Look at the ground." Daniel pointed at the earth. "Aren't those tire tracks?"
"Indeed they are, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "From the appearances of them, they were made only a short time ago. Also, the brush that has grown over the road has recently been crushed from the weight of a vehicle."
"It's Jack. I know it is," Daniel said with conviction.
Sam slowly navigated her car down the road, trying to avoid the worst of the potholes and small gullies that had been worn into the dirt over the years. After several minutes, they all spied Jack's car, which was stopped at the end of the road. The three friends got out.
"There is evidence that O'Neill continued that way on foot," Teal'c said, pointing to where the brush was trampled. "It appears that he was moving with great haste."
Daniel looked at the evidence that his friend had gone running at full speed into the forest. "Stay here. I think I should go alone."
"Daniel, I don't think that's a good idea," Sam said. "Janet wants us to keep an eye on you."
"Sam, I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to find when I reach Jack. I also know that he isn't going to want anyone seeing him like that, especially not you and Teal'c. Let me go to him alone, okay? I'll be all right."
Sam studied Daniel's face closely, then nodded. "All right. Here." She handed him a walkie talkie. "If you need help, call us."
Daniel made his way down the trail left by Jack. It was easy enough to follow, the colonel having made no effort to hide his passage through the forest. The archeologist had been walking for about ten minutes when he caught sight of something ahead. As he drew closer, he recognized the form of his friend. Jack was sitting on the ground, his back against a tree. His head was bowed, face hidden by his crossed arms, which were resting on his knees. His BDU's were torn in several places from his mad dash through the brush. There was blood spotting a couple of places.
Quietly, Daniel walked up to his friend. Jack gave no indication that he was aware of Daniel's approach, though the linguist was sure that the older man could hear him. He knelt on the ground a couple of feet away.
"Jack?" he said softly. His friend's body stiffened. "Jack, it's me. I'm here."
Very slowly Jack's head lifted, and he looked at Daniel. His eyes were terribly bloodshot, dry tear tracks making rivulets through the dirt on his face.
"Daniel?" he rasped.
Daniel smiled gently. "Yeah."
"You . . . you. . . . D-Did you ascend again?"
Daniel's smile widened. "Nope. Better. I got resurrected. You know, sort of like Lazarus, except that I was only dead for twenty minutes rather than three days. And I also have doubts that God had anything to do with it, although, at this point, I wouldn't rule that out entirely."
Afraid to hope, yet so desperately wanting to, Jack reached a hand out and came in contact with a very solid, very much alive Daniel Jackson. "Oh, God," he whispered. Then he was suddenly crushing Daniel in a tight embrace. He buried his head in the crook of Daniel's shoulder and just held him.
Daniel closed his eyes and held onto Jack. It was a long time before the older man drew back. He cupped Daniel's cheek in his hand, his eyes running over his best friend's face as if he still couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.
"You're really alive," he said in wonder.
"Yeah, I really am."
"Janet's still trying to figure that one out. Right now, she has no idea. Neither do I. All we know is that, somehow, something brought me back."
Jack grinned. "I'm beginning to think that it's impossible to kill you, Danny Boy. You just keep coming back. It's becoming quite a habit for you."
"Yeah, well, I'd prefer it if I didn't keep dying in the first place. It's getting rather annoying."
Jack laughed. "That it is, Daniel. That it is."
"Shall we get out of here?"
They rose to their feet.
"Um . . . Sam and Teal'c are with me," Daniel said. "They're waiting at the road. You, uh . . . might want to do something about your face."
Jack's mouth twisted into a grimace. "Pretty bad, huh?"
Daniel smiled in understanding. "Yeah. It doesn't bother me, but I figured that you might want to maintain that tough Colonel O'Neill image in front of the others. I think I hear some running water over that way."
The two men followed their ears to a tiny stream, where Jack washed his face. The water did nothing to fix his bloodshot eyes, but he looked better. Jack thought about donning his sunglasses but decided against it. It was an overcast day, and wearing the glasses wouldn't fool anyone. Besides, he was tired of hiding behind his tough military facade. If everyone on the base ended up finding out that he'd been crying, then so be it. He could go back to being tough later. Right now, he was too happy to have Daniel back.