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It was dark.  Daniel had been unaware of this until a soft, diffuse light began to slowly brighten the blackness.  He looked around.  This place was familiar, yet not familiar, alike yet not alike someplace he'd been before.  Where was that place?

"Hello, Daniel."

Daniel turned to see Oma Desala.  "Oma."  His eyes looked around again.  "Now I remember.  When I was dying from the radiation, you brought me to a place like this.  Did you bring me here?"

"No.  You came to this place yourself."

"Am I dying?  Or am I already dead?"

"Neither, but your mind is very far from your body at this moment.  It resides in a place neither within your plane of existence nor mine, a place in between."

"That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

"The body is but a vessel for the mind and spirit, Daniel.  They are not chained to it."

"Right.  Okay.  Astral projection aside, why am I here?"

"In your battle against the forest fire, you crossed a line, one that no ordinary human could have crossed on their own."

"What line?"

"That I cannot tell you.  I will only say that you have taken a step down a path that only you have the power to walk upon."  Oma turned and began to walk away.  "Remember what I have said, Daniel.  I cannot teach you what you already know.  The knowledge is within you.  You need only see it."

As quickly as she had appeared, Oma was gone.  He should have asked her how to get out of this place and back to his body.  Okay, that sounded really weird.  But then, these days, he sometimes felt like he should change his middle name to Weird.  Daniel Weird Jackson.  Yep, Jack would say it had a nice ring to it.

A whisper of sound came to Daniel's ears.  It came from everywhere and nowhere, very slowly growing in volume.  For a moment, Daniel thought that Oma was returning, but, no, this was something else, someone else.  He focused his attention on the voice, and it gained clarity.

"I finally got Carter to go off and get some real sleep," Jack said.  An image of him gradually appeared off to the side.  "She's been stuck like glue to your side all this time, only dozed a bit in the cot Beckett brought in.  I probably wouldn't have succeeded in making her leave if Fraiser hadn't threatened to stick a needle full of sedatives in her butt.  Teal'c is off Kel'no'reeming, so it's just the two of us right now.  Fraiser threatened me, too, but I pulled rank.  There are advantages to being a general."

Jack seemed to be looking right at Daniel, though the archeologist knew that his friend couldn't see him here.

"Doctor Beckett said that there was a chance you could hear us.  I hope he's right.  We've been talking to you, all of us.  You've had some other visitors, too.  That girl named Teyla came by, as did a couple more of her people, some guy named Halbert, or something like that, and an old lady who looked at you and said that your spirit was far away, whatever that means.  All of Teyla's people are hoping you'll get better.  They're really grateful that you saved those kids.  The kid'll be fine, by the way, some burns, but nothing really bad.  They'd have been goners if it weren't for you.  The fire's out.  The rain came down in buckets, a regular flood of biblical proportions.  They sent a jumper out a while ago to take a look at things.  They checked out the place that Teyla said you found the kids.  It's a good thing you didn't hang around there.  An enormous tree fell across the stream right where that boulder was and took two or three more with it.  I don't know if you could have prevented them from falling on top of you.  Teyla said she thinks you sensed that it would be too dangerous to stay there.  That old Spidey sense was right on the mark again."

Jack paused a long while.  When he spoke again, the forced casualness of his demeanor was gone.  "Daniel, don't you get it into your head to leave us.  I'm not going to let you do that.  Yeah, I know that I don't have much control over you, none at all anymore, but you're damn well going to listen to me now and do what I say.  We need you, Earth, the SGC, SG-1, your friends . . . me.  Sam needs you.  If there's nothing else big enough for you to come back for, then you do it for her.  She loves you more than I've seen anyone love anybody, and I know that you feel the same way about her.  We all care, Daniel.  We all . . . we all love you.  Yes, I actually said it, the L word.  I should have said it that day two and a half years ago when I sat at your bedside.  I guess it's easier to say while you're in a coma, and I can't be certain that you hear me.  I've got to keep up that tough Jack O'Neill exterior, after all."  Jack's eyes appeared to gaze straight into Daniel's.  "We don't want to lose you, Daniel.  Don't you go away.  You already went away once.  I let you go then, but I'm not going to now, not even if a whole myriad of angels come to get you.  Or maybe it would be a myriad of Ancients.  Whoever.  They can't have you.  You belong with us."

Jack's voice stopped, and his image faded away to be replaced by another.  Daniel saw Teal'c in a room, sitting cross-legged with several candles around him, eyes closed.  Though he could not read the Jaffa's thoughts, he sensed very strongly that Teal'c was thinking about him, sending out his own mental command that Daniel not die.

"Teal'c, can you hear me?" Daniel asked.  "I'm right here."

The Jaffa showed no indication of having heard Daniel.  His form disappeared, another taking its place.  Sam lay in the bed that Daniel had shared with her.  Her arms were hugging a pillow, which was wet with her tears.  Her eyes were open, more tears issuing forth.

"Please," she whispered.  "Please don't die."

"Sam?  Sam, I'm here.  Please don't cry," Daniel said.  Like Teal'c, she didn't hear him.  He gazed upward.  "Oma, tell me how to get back!"  There was no reply.

"I cannot teach you what you already know," she had said.  Did he already know how to leave this "in between" place?  Oma had said that his mind was far away from his body, which sounded wonderfully metaphysical but wasn't much use in figuring out how to get his mind back into his body . . . or whatever he had to do.

Although he didn't know what good it would do, Daniel closed his eyes and tried to gain an awareness of his physical self.  For the longest time, nothing happened, and then he began to feel something.  It was faint, tenuous, but it was there.  He grabbed onto it, trying to make it real and solid.

All at once, the light began to fade, the darkness closing in.  Before he could even try to stop it, everything went utterly black.

A sound drew Jack's attention.  He looked up to see Sam slip in the room.  Her eyes were bloodshot from crying.

"Carter, I told you to get some sleep," he said.

Sam settled in the other chair.  "I couldn't, sir."  She gazed at Daniel.

"Well, you could at least be resting."

Sam shook her head.  "I can't explain it, sir.  I suddenly felt. . . ."

"Drawn," finished a voice from the doorway.  Jack and Sam turned to see Teal'c.

"Yeah," the astrophysicist agreed.

"Drawn?" Jack queried, eyebrows lifting.

"As if Daniel Jackson was calling to me," Teal'c stated.

Jack's eyebrows went up another notch.  "Oookaay."

A soft sigh from the bed made everyone's head whip around.  They were shocked and utterly delighted to see Daniel's eyes flutter open.

"Daniel!" Sam cried.

He turned to her and smiled.  "Hey, Sam.  I made it."

Jack started to laugh.  "You sure did, Danny Boy, after giving us yet another hell of a scare."

"It is good to see you conscious, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.  "We were deeply concerned about you."

"Teal'c, go wake the doctors up and tell them that Daniel's come back from Neverland," Jack said.

Sam grasped Daniel's hand in a tight grasp.  "You have no idea how scared I was, Daniel, how scared we all were."

"I know, Sam.  I'd have come back sooner, but it took a while to figure it out."

Jack's forehead crinkled in puzzlement.  "Say what?"

Both Janet and Doctor Beckett came hurrying into the room, followed by Teal'c.

"Hi," Daniel greeted, giving a little wave.

They stood blinking at him.

"Uh . . . Daniel?" Janet said.

"Last time I checked."

The C.M.O. of Stargate Command shook her head a little, as if clearing it.  "Sorry.  We just weren't expecting you to regain consciousness so abruptly."

"You have been in a deep coma for the past thirty-six hours," Beckett explained.

That surprised Daniel.  "That long?  It didn't feel that long to me."

The two doctors glanced at each other.

"Were you aware all this time?" Carson asked.

"Um, no, not the whole time.  I was . . . someplace else."

"Where, pray tell?" Jack asked.

"You'd just think I was nuts, Jack."

"You mean even more nuts than I already think you are?"


Janet stepped forward.  "Okay, everyone.  Out.  Doctor Beckett and I need to run some tests.  And all of you need to get some sleep."

"But—" Sam began.

"Ah!" Janet said, holding up a finger.  She'd sounded suspiciously like Jack.  "No buts.  You are hereby banned from the infirmary until you get some sleep," her gaze focused on Jack, "and that means all of you, regardless of rank."

"Little power monger," Jack grumbled.

Janet's eyes narrowed.  "I do have some syringes all ready to be filled with heavy-duty sedatives, General.  Sitting in that chair won't protect your butt from a needle for long."

Daniel snorted loudly, laughter bubbling into his throat.  Jack spun around and glared at him.  "You laugh and you die, Jackson," he growled.  His glare focused on Sam, whose mouth was trembling with the effort not to smile.  "And that goes for you too, Colonel."

"Yes, sir," Sam squeaked, not out of fear but out of the struggle to keep the laughter in.

Grumbling about not getting the respect befitting a general, Jack got up and left the room.

"We will return in the morning, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, bowing his head, then leaving.

Sam got to her feet and leaned over the bed.  She kissed Daniel gently.  "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you, too," Daniel said back to her, smiling into her eyes.

"We'll see you in a few hours."  Sam slipped out of the room.

"Janet, I have nothing but admiration for you," Beckett declared.  "I dearly wish that I could intimidate the people in my infirmary the way you can."

"Unfortunately, that doesn't always work," Janet responded.  She pointed at Daniel.  "Especially with him, his teammates and General O'Neill.  They have, on many occasions, been the bane of my existence, not to mention my most frequent patients."

"Hey!  It's been over three months since I was your patient last," Daniel objected.

"Only because you either healed yourself or were on another planet while you were in need of medical attention."

"Well . . . okay, so I'll give you that."

Janet nodded in satisfaction.  Carson smiled.  The woman certainly had quite a relationship with these people.

"How are you feeling, Daniel?" Janet asked as she approached him, penlight in hand.

"Fine, and you don't need that," he replied, pointing at the light.

"Humor me."

Sighing, Daniel put up with having the irritating light shone in his eyes to check pupil response.

"No headache, dizziness, nausea?"

"No, no, and no.  Like I said, I feel fine."

Janet stared at him.  "Daniel, we all know that your definition of 'fine' and mine are poles apart."

"Janet, I swear, I feel perfectly fine, well as fine as I can feel with a Foley catheter and an IV stuck in me, which I'd really like out now, the catheter in particular."

Janet smiled.  "Let's leave them in for now.  We're going to want to do some tests."

With one exception, all the tests showed that everything was back to normal.  The exception was the PET scan.  It still showed the increased synaptic activity.

"Daniel, can you tell us what happened in the forest?" Carson asked.  "We got most of the story from Teyla.  She told us that, at one point, something strange happened to you."

"Yeah.  We were on our way back.  I was in a lot of pain, just barely holding onto consciousness.  I didn't think we were going to make it.  I tried to dig deeper, find more strength from somewhere.  I felt . . . something."

"Can you describe it?" Carson asked.

"I felt as if I'd tapped into a new source of power, but it was much more than that.  All I can say is that I felt different.  The pain was gone, and I wasn't tired anymore.  When I opened my eyes, everything looked sharper, clearer, like the difference between wearing my glasses and not wearing them, but in a far greater degree.  What was even stranger is that the heat from the fire didn't bother me anymore.  I barely noticed it.  We went the rest of the way without any problems.  It took very little effort to control the fire.  In fact, it's like I wasn't really putting any thought into it.  I was just doing it.  The last memory I have is making it into the clearing, that is until. . . ."

"Until what?"

"Until I woke up . . . someplace else."

"You said that before, Daniel.  What do you mean?" Janet asked.

"It's difficult to describe.  Oma was there."

Beckett's eyes widened slightly.  "Oma Desala?  The Ancient who helped you ascend?"

"Yeah.  She said that my mind was far from my body, that it was in a place between our plane of existence and hers, whatever that means.  She told me that I had crossed a line that no ordinary human could have crossed on their own."

The two doctors looked at each other.

"Daniel, the PET scan shows a substantial increase in synaptic activity in certain areas of your brain," Janet told him.  "We had no explanation for it, but now I think that, in the forest, you tapped into something in your brain that was previously unused, something that gave you the ability to do what you did.  What that something is I don't know.  How do you feel now?  Do you feel any different from what you did before?"

"No, I don't think so.  I feel normal."

"I guess we'll just have to see if something manifests itself."

"So, can I get out of here now?  And don't say you want to keep me for observation.  I don't need observing."

Janet smiled.  "Okay, how about if you just stay the rest of the night?  It'll be dawn in a few hours."

Although Daniel would have preferred sleeping in his bed with Sam, he agreed, but only on condition that the IV and catheter be removed.  Once that had been done and the doctors had wished him a good night, Daniel rolled onto his side and closed his eyes.  But sleep did not come.  He thought back to that moment in the forest when he somehow found a deeper wellspring of power.  His instincts were telling him that there was something more to it, that something else had happened.

"You have taken a step down a path that only you have the power to walk upon."  What did Oma's words mean?  She had said that he'd crossed a line.  What line?  Daniel sensed that this was very important.  He had that nagging feeling again, the feeling that there was something he should know.  It was like times in the past when he had a feeling that there was something he'd forgotten, but he couldn't recall what it was.  This time, though, Daniel sensed that this was something far more important than having forgotten to pay a bill or to set the VCR to tape something.

Trying not to let it bother him, Daniel strove to relax.  After a long while, sleep finally came.

The sun had not been up long when Daniel's teammates made an appearance.

"So, how are you feeling this morning?" Jack asked.

"Like I have no reason to be here," the archeologist replied.  "They promised I could leave this morning."

Sam took his hand.  "That's great news, Daniel."

Daniel looked at the two men.  "I didn't ask this last night.  What are you guys doing here?"

"We wished to be at your side during your illness," Teal'c replied simply.

"There was no way that we were just going to sit on our asses, waiting for news about you," Jack added.

Daniel was touched by their actions.  "Thanks, guys."

"I'm afraid we're going to have to get back, though, or at least I will.  I can't leave Reynolds in charge for too long.  He might decide he likes it too much."

"I, too, must return," Teal'c stated.  "Doctor Lee has requested my aid in his creation of the virtual reality training tool that has been adapted from the chairs acquired from P7J-989."

Sam nodded.  "I know about that project.  They've been at it for a couple of years now.  They thought it would be a great way to train SGC personnel.  Pretty much any scenario could be programmed in, and, to someone in a chair, it would seem real."

"Considering what happened to the four of us in those damn chairs, I really don't see the wisdom in having anything to do with them," Jack stated.

"This would be completely different, sir," Sam told him.  "For one thing, the 'player' would know that it's a simulation.  And he wouldn't be trapped in it like the Keeper trapped us."

"So, what does Bill need you for, Teal'c?" Daniel asked.

"I volunteered my services in testing a simulation that was created.  He had believed that he would be ready for my help today."

"Well, I'm sure another day or two isn't going to matter," Jack said.  "I'm thinking that, while we're here, we might as well take a bit of a tour before heading back to our own little corner of the galaxy."

Daniel sensed the approach of Elizabeth Weir.  He had come to recognize the unique 'feel' of her presence.

The woman came into the room, smiling when she saw Daniel awake and sitting up in bed.

"Daniel.  It's good to see you looking well.  Carson told me that you regained consciousness during the night.  He said that you appear to be perfectly fine, not a thing wrong with you."  Her smile widened.  "He also said that you were eager to get out of here."

"That I am.  I'm just waiting for the doctors to give the word and for someone to bring me some clothes."

Janet came walking in.  "Then I guess you'll be happy to know that I'm here to give that word."  She laid the clothes she'd been carrying on the bed.  "There you go.  Your boots are in the cabinet with your other things.  The clothes you were wearing were pretty much a lost cause, so they were thrown away.  They did save you from getting even more burns, though."

"Um, yeah, speaking of the burns. . . ."  Daniel pulled off a bandage on his arm, revealing undamaged skin.

"When did you do that?" the doctor asked, studying the skin.

"I didn't, not on purpose.  It healed by itself."

"Not by itself, Daniel," Janet corrected.  "A burn like that would take several weeks to completely heal on its own.  Your ability to heal yourself must have been working subconsciously."

"I guess so.  It's not the first time.  Speaking of burns, how are the kids?  Jack said that none of their burns were bad."

"When did I tell you that?" Jack asked.  The only time he remembered saying that was—

"When I was unconscious," Daniel replied, unknowingly finishing Jack's thought.

"You heard everything we said while you were unconscious?" Sam asked, surprised.  Despite what Doctor Beckett had said, she'd had her doubts that Daniel could really hear them.

"No, not everything.  I didn't become aware of people talking until last night.  Jack was alone with me.  He said that you'd finally gone to bed and that Teal'c was performing Kel'no'reem."  Daniel met each of their eyes.  "I saw all of you."  His gaze went to Jack.  "I saw you talking to me."  He turned to Teal'c.  "I saw you sitting on the floor with candles around you."  His eyes went to Sam, and he took her hand.  "I saw you in our bed, crying."

The revelation brought silence to the room for a long moment.

"So . . . you heard everything I said?" Jack asked, looking slightly uncomfortable.

Daniel looked straight into his eyes.  "Yes."  He gave his friend a small smile, one that told Jack that the things he'd said would never go beyond them.

"To answer your question about the children," Janet said, "they'll be okay."

Just then, Doctor Beckett came in.  "Indeed they will.  The poor little tykes went through quite an ordeal, and it will take some time for the burns to heal, but I don't think there will be any scarring.  None of the burns were third-degree, though some were nasty enough to blister pretty badly.  They owe their lives to you and Teyla.  Their parents are very grateful.  I'm sure that they would love to speak with you."

"I can stop by and say hi after I get out of here," Daniel responded.

Everyone except Sam left the room so that he could change.  Janet told Carson about Daniel's healed burns, figuring that he should know.  She recounted the previous time that they believed his healing abilities worked subconsciously.

Beckett shook his head.  "It really is amazing.  I should imagine this has made your job a wee bit easier."

"Yes and no.  While Daniel's healing abilities mean that I don't have to worry so much about him getting physical injuries, the use of his paranormal abilities adds a whole new set of worries, like what just happened."

"Yes, I'm sure it does."  Carson smiled.  "So, how much longer will be we blessed with your lovely presence, Janet?"

She returned the smile.  "I would love to stay for another day or two, Carson.  The medical technology you have here is amazing, and I'd like to hear more about the genetic research you're doing on the Wraith."  Her expression turned regretful.  "But I need to get back to my infirmary."

"Well, perhaps the next time you have some leave coming, you can get permission to come visit us."

Janet's smile brightened.  "I'd love that."

Watching the two doctors, Jack frowned severely.  For having been in each other's company for less than two days, they were awfully chummy.  He didn't like the way that Beckett was smiling at Janet.  There was nothing actually wrong with the smile.  He just didn't like it.  And that Scottish brogue was so . . . lilting.  Some women might find it attractive.  Did Janet find it attractive?  She was sure smiling a lot.

Unbeknownst to Jack, Daniel and Sam had come out of the room.  The couple noticed the unhappy frown on his face.  They followed his gaze to Janet and Doctor Beckett, who were still chatting amiably.  The lovers exchanged a glance, figuring out why Jack looked so put out.

Pretending like they hadn't noticed anything, Sam and Daniel joined the others.  Elizabeth, who had been talking with Teal'c, offered to give Jack and the Jaffa a tour of the city, and Janet decided to join them.  Like Jack and Teal'c, she'd spent virtually no time outside the infirmary since arriving, so she'd seen very little of Atlantis.

Sam, figuring that she'd lost enough time from the power generator project, headed off to find McKay.

Doctor Beckett took Daniel to the room where the two children were.  It turned out that they were brothers.  Teyla was in the room with the kids' parents.  She smiled and stood when Daniel came in.

"Daniel.  We were told that you awoke during the night.  All of the Athosians are happy that you are well."

"Thanks, Teyla."

The woman turned to the boys, who were sharing a bed.  "Tomar, Jas, this is Daniel Jackson, the man who came into the fire to save you."

"Mother said that you mastered the fire, commanded it to move away," Tomar, the older boy, said.  He appeared to be around ten.

"No, I didn't master it.  All I did, all I could do, was push the fire back enough to get you and your brother out."

"Are you an Ancient?" the other boy, who was around six, asked, wide-eyed.

Daniel smiled.  "No, I'm not an Ancient.  I'm human.  I just have some special abilities that make it possible for me to do things like what I did in the fire."

He studied the boys.  Tomar had bandages on his neck and both arms and hands, plus a small one on his forehead.  There was a large bandage on Jas' right cheek and others on his right arm and shoulder.  His ankle was wrapped, possibly because of a sprain.  Though Doctor Beckett had said that they'd heal, it still bothered Daniel to see the injuries.  He wished that he'd sensed the fire sooner, soon enough to reach the children before they got hurt.

"Words cannot express how grateful we are to you for the lives of our children," said the father of the boys.

"We owe you so much," his wife said, a small hint of tears in her eyes.

Daniel shook his head.  "You don't owe me a thing."

The man's expression changed to regret.  "There is something you must know."  He turned to Tomar.  "It is your responsibility to tell him."

The boy's gaze fell to the bedcovers.  "The fire was our fault," he mumbled.  "Kas and I were going to explore a cave.  We had a lantern with us.  We started to play, and the lantern got knocked over and broke."  The boy's eyes lifted to Daniel's.  "We tried to put the fire out, but we could not."

Daniel gazed at the boy gently.  "Is that how your hands got burned?"

Tomar nodded.  "We ran, but Kas fell and hurt his ankle.  I tried to carry him, but he was too heavy.  I knew there was a stream, and I thought we could hide there."  The boy's eyes returned to his lap.

"It was an accident, Tomar," Daniel said softly.  "Yes, you should have been more careful, but you acted very bravely in the things you did.  You protected your brother.  And you did a smart thing by going to the stream.  That saved your lives."

Tomar shook his head, looking again at Daniel.  "We would have died if you and Teyla did not come."

"But we did come, so everything turned out all right."  Daniel's eyes passed over the kids again.  "Doctor Beckett, could you remove the bandages?"

Startled, Carson just stared at him.  "Daniel, you don't have to do that.  I am aware that it puts a strain on you.  After what happened to you—"

"I'll be fine."

"What are you speaking of?" the mother of the children asked.

Teyla smiled.  "He is going to heal them."

Beckett removed the bandages from Tomar first since he was the one who was more badly burned.  Some of the burns were pretty ugly, badly inflamed and blistered.  The boy's hands were the worst.

Daniel stepped toward him.  "Close your eyes, Tomar.  It won't hurt."

Uncertain, the boy nevertheless closed his eyes, laying his head back against the pillows.  Daniel laid his hand upon Tomar's body, just below the ribs.  Dipping his head, he closed his eyes.

Though Beckett and Teyla had both witnessed the use of Daniel's abilities before, they stared, enthralled, as, gradually, the blistered skin smoothed, the redness fading.  One by one, each burn disappeared, replaced by healthy skin.  Soon, there was nothing left of the injuries.

Stepping back from the child, Daniel glanced at the parents.  Their eyes, which were upon their son, were filled with awe.  Seeing that Daniel was looking at them, they bowed their heads deeply.

"You have the power of the great ones," the man said in a hushed, reverent voice.

Daniel wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he turned to Kas instead.  Doctor Beckett removed the bandages from the six-year-old, and Daniel set about healing him, being sure to heal not only the burns but also the injured ankle.

"Mama, it does not hurt anymore," Kas said, smiling, after Daniel was finished.

With a joyful smile of her own, she lifted him out of the bed and onto her lap, hugging him tightly.

Carson placed a hand upon Daniel's arm.  "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"Thank you," the mother of the boys said.  "Our thanks to you forever."

Daniel smiled and nodded.  He gave the family his goodbyes, then left with Teyla and Carson.

"Daniel, that was a wonderful thing you did," the doctor said.

"I just hated to see those kids hurting.  If I'd sensed the fire sooner, we could probably have saved them from a lot of those burns."

"Do not belittle what you accomplished, Daniel," Teyla chastised.  "If you had not been there, there would have been no hope for those children.  To look at the past and think only of what could have been done means that we fail to see what we did do."

Daniel smiled, nodding.  "You're right."

"Well, now that I have two less patients, I have some other work to get back to," Beckett said.

Daniel and Teyla left the infirmary.

"I would like to give my thanks to you as well," the Athosian woman said, "for myself and the rest of my people.  You are a good man, Daniel, one I am honored to know."

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