Screams In the Silence
Category: Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Spoilers: Small one for The Fifth Race
Season: Any after 4
Content Level: 13+
Content Warnings: Violence, Severe Jack whumping
File Size: 135kb
Archive: Incoming Wormhole, Jackfic
Summary: SG-1 meet a Goa'uld and this time the cost is almost too high
Disclaimer: Stargate Sg-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II)
Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and
Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no
money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original
characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may
not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
Author's Note: Many thanks to Gummy, my Nutty beta.
Screams In the Silence
He lifted his arm with an effort that was almost beyond him.
Threw the dirt in.
Watched as it fell.
Took another deep shovel load.
Each movement the same. Mechanical. Unthinking. He wouldn't think.
Daniel's hand reaching out, hand curled. Carter's hair covered with dirt. Teal'c's
eyes, unblinking, staring, unseeing.
He had dug the hole. Not as large as he had wanted, but he couldn't do more. He
Threw them in. Carter was heavier than she looked.
He could call her Sam now.
Now that she is dead.
He knew that he must dig another hole tomorrow. Smaller this time. Room only for
This was all that he had been saved to do.
His final act.
He was dead already.
Jack O'Neill let himself slide down the cell wall, until he was sitting, knees bent, on
the hard earth floor. The light was fading rapidly, only a dull glow showing through
the small window set high in the wall opposite. In the gloom he could see a small cup
of water on the floor, just to the left of where he sat, but he ignored it, choosing
instead to shut his eyes, and try to calm his rapidly beating heart.
When had he given up? When had it become too much for him to cope with?
He shook his head slightly and took a few deep breaths.
He knew the answer. The old saying "Where there's life, there's hope" sprang to
mind, and he smiled bitterly. That was it. There wasn't life and there wasn't hope. It
was over. His team was dead and he was as good as. Tomorrow he was going to join
them, but he didn't really care.
He thought back to this morning.
It all happened so quickly; SG-1 walked out of the gate, alert as ever, to be greeted by
blasts of some sort of energy weapon. They had no chance to defend themselves, to
even get off a shot.
Jack woke to find himself, hands and feet chained painfully together, lying face down
in the dirt, the hot sun beating down on him. Without meaning to, he groaned, his
tongue swollen in his mouth, his thirst all he could think of.
"Up." The command was barked harshly from somewhere near his feet. "Your god
For a moment he just lay there, and then, with a feeling of resignation, he rolled and
pulled his feet under him, finally managing to kneel and look around. Teal'c was
already kneeling several feet away, seemingly unhurt, and after a frantic glance about
him, he saw Daniel and Carter still obviously unconscious nearby, surrounded by
His dazed brain hardly had time to process the information before a hard blow to his
side knocked him down again, leaving him gasping.
"You are to only look forward. Now get up."
"Getting, getting." He choked the words through parched lips.
"Silence." This time it was a heavy boot connecting with the small of his back,
making him arch in pain. "Up."
"It would help if you didn't keep knocking me down."
A sudden jerk on the chains pulled him upright and a face leered into his from only a
couple of inches distance. "You will be silent." The command was spat out, and he
was slammed into the ground, his knees protesting vehemently.
"Human." The resonant voice of a Goa'uld made him look up to be greeted by the
sight of a slight young man simply dressed in white robes. "I would suggest that you
obey my First Prime's orders. He can be easily upset."
A movement at the edge of his vision made Jack turn his head. Daniel was stirring,
moving his head from side to side. Carter still seemed to be out for the count.
Jack found himself measuring his length in the dirt once more with the added bonus
of a sharp pain in his rib cage.
A tiny plume of dust tickled his nose as two black booted feet blocked his vision. A
hand reached down and lifted his chin from the ground. Two blue eyes looked down
at him from a smiling face.
"I did tell you that Yeas'r had a quick temper. You would do well to heed my
warnings." The Goa'uld's powerful hands brought him to his knees once more,
gasping as the pain from his injuries registered.
"Now tell me why you have come to one of my planets. We don't often have visitors
here." The Goa'uld's voice remained pleasant.
"Sorry - can't answer that, you told me not to speak. If you don't remember ask Yes
Sir, he'll tell you that I'm right." Jack steeled himself for the expected blow, and was
surprised to see the Goa'uld give a quick shake of his head, stopping the Jaffa.
"I find your bravado quite amusing. Perhaps you will find it amusing when I allow my
Jaffa to play with your companions. We shall be amused together."
There was the sound of scuffling and muffled shouts. Jack swung his torso around,
taking in the sight of his three teammates being pulled upright, their mouths gagged.
Carter must have just regained consciousness, he realised, because she was staring at
him with a terrified look in her eyes as she was gripped tightly by two large Jaffa.
"You just won't learn, will you." The Goa'uld's emotionless voice brought his
attention back to the watching figure. "I told you not to turn."
Jack heard the solid thump of a staff weapon before the crushing blow to the side of
his head registered in his brain. He rocked back, but was prevented from falling by
several hands gripping him from behind. The coppery taste of blood filled his mouth,
and ran down the back of his throat causing him to cough, splattering red drops on the
ground in front of him.
"Now tell me what you are doing here." This time the Goa'uld's voice was firm.
"Go to hell!" Jack spat again, realizing several of his teeth had been loosened by the
The Goa'uld knelt once more, ignoring the wet patches on the dirt, his face grim.
"You will only speak to tell me what I wish to know. Any other answer will be
punished. I repeat - what are you doing here?"
Jack pressed his tongue to his front tooth, trying to hold it in place. He knew that his
team was struggling against their captors by the sounds, even if he couldn't see them.
"I don't speak to anyone unless I've been formally introduced." This time it was the
Goa'uld who reacted, striking Jack across the mouth with the back of his hand. It was
then that Jack realised that ribbon devices had other means of inflicting harm on the
human body. The sharp edges of the metal cut deep shreds from his cheek, baring it to
the bone. The tooth gave up the battle and was spat out to lie at Jack's feet.
If Jack had been able to, he would have brought his hands up to his face, but as it was
he could barely manage to stay upright, defiantly glaring at the creature in front of
him. The Goa'uld's formerly impassive features were now contorted with rage, his
"It does not matter who I am. All that matters is that you answer my questions. Why
are you here, and where did you come from? My patience is not inexhaustible." He
gestured to the guards holding the rest of Jack's team. "Bring them forward so that
they can see what happens when I am not obeyed."
Carter, Daniel and Teal'c were pulled into sight, their eyes large above the sodden
material of their gags, their movements stiff with defiance.
"Now. I will explain the rules one last time." The young man had got his emotions
under control, and was smiling once again. "You will only speak to answer my
questions. If you disobey you will be punished." His eyes glowed hotly. "What are
you doing here?"
Colonel Jack O'Neill managed to direct one swift lopsided smile towards his
teammates before answering, ignoring the blood running down his face.
"We heard that the climate was good here, thought that we could get a tan, maybe do
a little fishing."
The Goa'uld's angry roar was deafening.
"You know, getting that angry isn't good for your blood pressure."
Jack could only tense himself for what he knew would follow.
Hands grabbed him from behind, pulling his head sharply back, making him gasp.
"You have been warned. Now you will be punished, and I will then ask your
companions the same questions. Perhaps they will be more cooperative after they
have seen your fate."
Unable to see his enemy, Jack struggled against his captors. His efforts were fruitless,
the hold on his head too strong.
"Yeas'r - deal with it." The dismissive words caused Jack's pulse to race.
"Gladly, my lord." The Jaffa's face leered down at him. Jack watched as, with slow
deliberate movements, he raised a large knife and held it before the kneeling man's
eyes. Then he lowered it, holding Jack's gaze all the while.
The blade was cold against Jack's throat. Everything seemed to slow down. The
sound of his friends faded into the distance, his heartbeat all that he could hear.
When it came, Jack almost felt a sense of relief. He felt the skin part, the blade slicing
deeply, cutting its way through the arteries, and the jugular. He felt the blood gush
forth, pulsing up through the opening. He felt his breath falter.
He felt himself die.
The hands released him to fall forward, and he lay, the pain finally registering as his
body struggled for oxygen that it could not reach.
The last thing that he saw was the horrified looks on the faces of his friends.
Jack lowered his face to where his arms rested on his bent knees. He would remember
those looks; remember the agony of his choking breaths, knowing that his team was
forced to watch.
He would remember them.
His reawakening had been brutal. Awareness had come at a price, as he was pulled
from what he knew must be a sarcophagus. His vision was blurry, vague shapes all
that he could make out, but he had had no trouble feeling the slaps making his head
"Time to wake up, dog. You have a job to do." Jack recognised the voice - Yes Sir, a
man who really seemed to enjoy his work. As his vision cleared, he began to take in
more details. The First Prime was only accompanied by one Jaffa, but Jack knew that
he was no match for either of them in his current state. His head was swimming, and
he could barely keep himself upright by leaning against the edge of the coffin-like
box. He didn't seem to be able to take more than shallow breaths, his frantic panting
loud in his own ears.
"My Lord Rast'ur has ordered that you be made useful before we dispose of you.
Come!" The command was accompanied by a hard push in the direction of the nearby
door. Unable to do anything but obey, Jack stumbled forward, helped along by the
other Jaffa's painful grip.
It took only a short walk to reach another door, and it was then that Jack realised they
were on a Goa'uld vessel. For a moment his heart sank with the thought that they had
been taken off the planet, and could now be anywhere, unable to gate home, then the
next door opened to reveal a ring platform. He was held upright between the two men
and, with the familiar feeling of disorientation, Jack was soon blinking in the harsh
sunlight. His sense of relief was almost palatable when he recognised his
surroundings. He was back on the planet again - a chance to escape still possible.
His relief was short lived.
The Goa'uld's camp was in the process of being dismantled, loads of equipment being
carried to the rings and transported up to the ship. Soon all that would be left was the
featureless flat expanse on which it had sat, hidden from the UAV by the tall cliff
surrounding it. Jack looked around, expecting to see his team being made to help, as
he expected to be. All he needed to do was get some time with them, and he was sure
that, despite obviously being taken out of the sarcophagus too soon, he would be able
to plan an escape.
He was pulled along, stumbling across the hard packed ground, his feet catching on
even the smallest rocks. He felt the eyes of the watching warriors on him, laughter
echoing in his head. The walk took him nearer to the stargate; he looked up at it with
longing. The doorway to home was so near, but it may have well been a million miles
away for all the chance that he had to reach it.
And he had to find his team first. He would leave with them, or not at all.
"Here." His attention was forcibly brought back to Yeas'r by a heavy cuff to the side
of his head that left his ears ringing. A shovel was thrust into his hands. He held it
loosely, staring down and letting his sluggish thoughts process the information.
He must have to dig.
A hard push almost caused him to lose his grip on the shovel and he staggered
forward. The First Prime was pointing.
"There. Go on. They must be buried before night fall."
Jack lifted one hand and rubbed at his eyes, trying to clear his still partially blurred
vision. Suddenly the shapes on the ground made a terrible sense.
He dropped to his knees beside them, finally releasing the shovel, and letting it fall.
His hands reached out, trembling, touching, searching.
No signs of life.
They were dead.
His team was dead. His friends were dead.
And in that moment he despaired.
The hours of digging the hard earth, preparing the grave, passed without thought. The
taunts of the Jaffa warriors, the pain in his weary body, all submerged by a sea of
Yeas'r had tried to goad him, detailing the final moments of his friends, their refusal
to answer questions. He had said that they wept for mercy.
Jack knew that he lied.
Their deaths had been glorious, their bravery an example to any watching.
He didn't need to have seen to know the truth.
He greeted the knowledge that he would join them tomorrow with a smile.
The long hours of the night made no impact on Jack O'Neill. His body was beginning
to stiffen after being held in the same pose for so long, but he ignored it.
He was thinking.
Those times when he had laughed with Daniel. Trading smiles with Teal'c.
Encouraging Sam to work her miracles.
After hours he came to the only conclusion that he could.
They would want him to live.
He had every intention of doing so. What would happen when he got back home was
something else altogether. Something to be dealt with when the time came, but not
Now he had to find a way out of here.
Forcing his body to obey, he came shakily to his feet and began a careful search of his
prison. It didn't take long to find that he had nothing but a small dirty cup of water to
He refused to give up. He wouldn't give up.
Such was his certainty of a solution that the whisper at the door came as no surprise.
Its words were.
"They aren't dead." A pause. "You must save them." There was the sound of metal on
metal, and the door slid open. "Quick, we must stay silent, many sleep nearby."
A tall, heavily built Jaffa beckoned Jack forward.
Jack stayed where he was.
The whisper became more urgent. "I sympathise with the cause of the rebels, and
have contact with them. As soon as I saw you, I knew who you were, and that you
must be saved. Our battle against the Goa'uld depends on it. Now come quickly, we
must waste no more time. I will explain as we go."
They left the small building that housed the cell along with several storerooms. The
night was dark, the only light coming from the waning moon low on the horizon. Jack
followed as best he could, although his vision was now back to normal, he was still
hampered by a shortness of breath causing him to tire almost to the point of collapse
before they made it to the nearby gravesite.
"Rast'ur has a stasis weapon. He uses it often to completely paralyse his victims. It
was this weapon that he used on your companions." The Jaffa hurried on, quietly
explaining as he went. "He has done this many times before, taking pleasure in the
anguish that those left behind suffer. The stasis field only lasts for a few hours, before
wearing off. I believe that he relishes the thought of his victims waking up to find
they have been buried alive. Their terror must be unimaginable."
By this time they were nearing the freshly dug grave.
"I will help you uncover them. We must hurry, the nights are short here."
Jack took the offered shovel, and dug, exhaustion forgotten. The newly turned soil
was still loose, and it wasn't long before the bodies of his teammates began to
emerge. Looking at them Jack found it hard to believe that they were still alive - that
this wasn't some cruel joke perpetrated by the man digging beside him.
Daniel was the first uncovered, his face relaxed as if in sleep. Teal'c and Carter
followed soon after, and, pulling them from the ground, he had to test once more for
life. He couldn't help himself and finding none, he looked up at his companion
"They are not dead. You must believe me." The Jaffa placed a reassuring hand on
Jack's shoulder. "I will help you move them into the trees, but then I must return to
camp. Your friends will begin to revive shortly. You have to have patience."
Jack was exhausted by the time his teammates were hidden, finding it harder and
harder to stay on his feet. He would have fallen if the Jaffa had not guided him to a
log, helping him to sit. His eyes reflected his sympathy as he squatted down and
"Do not worry. Rest. I will fill in the grave. Rast'ur and Yeas'r have returned by ship
to our home world and have left me in charge of completing the clean up. I will tell
any who ask that I disposed of you by zat during the night. They will not question.
Wait until we have departed through the gate. Then you will be safe. Here, you will
need this." With relief Jack saw that the object he held out was a GDO.
The Jaffa stood and despite his fatigue, Jack followed him up.
He spoke one final time. "I am Un'tak. I wish you well."
Jack clasped the other's arm, nodding briefly before the man faded into the night.
Jack sat back down. He was terribly tired, but he could not shut his eyes. They darted
compulsively, scanning each of his friends for any sign of movement.
He waited in silence, his heart straining in his chest.
It was still dark when Jack heard the first indications that his teammates were
reviving. The deep cough could only have come from Teal'c.
Jack was by his side in an instant. For the past half hour there had been sounds close
by as the Jaffa in the camp awoke and prepared to depart. They must be planning to
leave soon after dawn; he could see why his rescuer had been anxious to get himself
and the others hidden. He waited until Teal'c blinked his eyes, obviously coming to
terms with his own close brush with death. When the other man finally turned his
gaze towards him, he leaned in close and placed a finger against his lips in the
universal sign for silence. With a gesture, Jack indicated the cause of the need for
quiet and although Teal'c's eyes widened at the sight of him, Jack could see that he
understood. He gave a slow nod, barely able to be seen in the gloom.
Before long Sam and Daniel were also groaning their way to consciousness, both
instinctively brushing dirt from their clothing and hair. The joy was evident in their
expressions when they had recovered enough to fully understand that the Colonel was
alive. Although they too immediately understood that there could be no noise, they
satisfied their need to express their happiness by small touches on their leader's arms.
Jack finally found that he could smile, the trauma of the past day beginning to ease.
Only a short time passed before the watching team saw the first of the Jaffa dial the
gate and walk through, carrying armloads of equipment. Soon all that was left was the
small building that had housed Jack, and one lone figure. The last Jaffa turned
towards their position and, raising one hand in farewell, Jack's rescuer left through
the open wormhole.
Even before the wormhole had shut itself down, O'Neill was on his feet and running.
He had already dialled, and was keying in the code on the GDO, when they caught up
to him. A quick look to see that they were all present and accounted for and he
motioned them through, following fast behind.
The world spun and spat him out, his feet hitting the ramp, his eyes catching his first
sight of home.
As the sullen pop of the wormhole shutting itself down behind him echoed through
the room, he slowly made his way down the ramp, his eyes tracking his teammates,
watching their movements.
A luxury he had nearly lost on that dusty piece of hell.
There was the clunk and soft grind of the gateroom door opening as he reached the
end of the ramp. Knowing the General was the most likely candidate to come through
that door, Jack took a moment to collect his thoughts, preparing for what was to come.
"Colonel, you're back early. You weren't supposed to return for another four days.
Was there a problem?"
He knew it was coming.
He couldn't avoid it, no matter how he tried.
The silence after the General's question told all.
Carter looked up at him. He simply looked back, seeing a sudden realisation in her
I'm sorry, Sam. He couldn't say it, but he could think it.
Her eyes suddenly reflected his own, and she called out to the General. "Sir, I think
we need a medical team here."
Jack found his breath caught in his throat, and he gasped, his stance wavering. Carter's
voice went up in pitch, and she reached out a hand to him, helping him to sit. Jack
found himself surrounded by his concerned teammates. It was Daniel that spotted it,
and Jack saw the look of horror transmit itself along the line as the focus of Daniel's
shocked stare registered.
He felt the line of pain across his throat, the pull every time he tried to take a normal
breath. He lifted his fingers and felt the now familiar raised bar of livid tissue ringing
his neck, legacy of the partially completed healing.
"Colonel O'Neill?" Doctor Fraiser reached forward and took his hand gently in hers,
lowering it. "What happened?"
He wanted to explain, he really did. He would give almost anything to tell them all
what had happened to him. How he had woken with the knowledge that he couldn't
speak, could barely breathe. That the Goa'uld had done it deliberately, timed it so that
he lived, but only just.
He would have given anything to be able to explain.
But he couldn't.
"Are you certain, Doctor?" General Hammond was not normally given to questioning
his CMO when it came to medical matters, but in this case he couldn't help himself,
her diagnosis had been so uncompromising.
"Yes, sir, I am." Janet hadn't taken offence at the General's question, she completely
understood. She had repeated the tests several times herself, unwilling to accept the
results. "The damage to Colonel O'Neill's throat is severe. His oesophagus, larynx,
trachea, and jugular all show signs of only partial healing. It is a wonder that he can
breathe at all and his vocal cords are almost severed."
"What is your prognosis, Doctor?' The General's distress was evident as he ran a
weary hand over his face.
"Not good, sir. I'd like to get a second opinion, but it looks like the Colonel's
breathing is already compromised. I may have to intubate if it gets any worse. To be
honest, I'm not sure if such extensive damage can be repaired."
"Have you told him?"
"Yes sir. It was hard to know how he took the news. He didn't react at all, almost as if
he expected it. I administered a sedative and he is sleeping at the moment."
Hammond rose, determination on his face. "You have my permission to call in any
specialist that you think necessary. I take it that the Colonel's team are in the
"Yes. They appear to be none the worse for their ordeal. I want to keep them in the
infirmary for twenty-four hours for observation in case there are any hidden effects
from the weapon that was used on them. Also, they seem shaken by the whole
experience, even Teal'c. I'd rather have them where I can see them."
They moved together towards the door of Hammond's office, the General stepping
aside to let the Doctor go first.
"I'll debrief the Colonel's team informally now, Doctor. Perhaps it will help them to
tell me exactly what happened. Please keep me informed regarding Colonel O'Neill."
Janet nodded, her mind already paging through possible specialists that she could
General Hammond found the members of SG-1 exactly where he expected to find
them, perched in various beds in the infirmary, anxiously watching their leader sleep.
Ironically, Jack looked the most peaceful of the four, his face relaxed and his
breathing, although shallow, not as laboured as it had been. The General noticed an
IV running into the back of his hand and remembered Doctor Fraiser saying that the
Colonel had been dehydrated. He shivered. The logical extension of that thought was
that Jack hadn't been able to drink at all. Did that mean that he would have to be fed
through an IV as well? Damn! He couldn't imagine how someone like the Colonel
would stand that for any length of time. In some way, he hoped that the Doctor would
need to intubate her patient - it would stop him from trying to run off. Then he smiled
to himself. Knowing Jack O'Neill, it probably wouldn't stop him.
He decided on a matter of fact approach, immediately pulling up a chair between
Doctor Jackson and Major Carter's beds.
"I gather from Doctor Fraiser that you all seem to be suffering no ill effects from your
experience. I'd like to know exactly what happened on the planet to you, and to the
Colonel. We will have the formal debriefing when the Colonel is able to report."
At his words, he saw all three pairs of eyes turn towards the sleeping man, the terrible
evidence of his ordeal there for all to see.
"Major?" His voice pulled their attention back.
Major Carter stiffened up slightly and began to describe their experiences. It didn't
take her long to get to the questioning, it had all happened so quickly, from the minute
that they stepped from the gate to the killing of their colonel." The Goa'uld was
getting angrier and angrier as the Colonel refused to answer." Her eyes flickered back
to O'Neill. "Then his First Prime grabbed..." She stopped and her whole body
"It was then that the Goa'uld ordered that O'Neill's throat be cut." Teal'c's matter of
fact voice took over the report. Sam flashed him a grateful look before shutting her
eyes and leaning back against the pillows of her bed. "We were unable to help him."
"He died at our feet, General." Daniel interrupted, jumping off his bed. "We had to
watch as he choked his life away, drowning in his own blood. We were made to
watch." His voice dropped away until it became almost a whisper. "It took a long
time. He had his eyes open until just before the end. Watching us." He had reached
Jack's bed and now stood, looking at him as if he couldn't believe that his friend was
really there. He echoed Teal'c's words, "We couldn't help."
"There was nothing that we could do, Daniel Jackson, The Goa'uld made us watch to
cause us pain. Do not allow him to win."
General Hammond saw the effect of Teal'c's words on Daniel. He stayed beside the
Colonel's bed, but he nodded, acknowledging the truth. Sam sat silently, her face pale
as the sheets. The General could only imagine what it must have been like for these
people, the strongest and closest team that he had, to watch their leader die in such
He wondered what effect it must have on the mind of the Colonel. He knew that Jack
was a master at hiding his emotions. In this case it would be even easier if he chose to
do so, being unable to speak and answer questions directly.
It was a while before Major Carter continued. "After that, he asked us the same
questions that he had asked the Colonel." She gave a grim smile, "We weren't in the
mood to talk. I don't really know what happened next, it's all a little vague. He fired
some sort of large weapon at us, then everything went blank until I woke up in the
"It must have knocked us out, General. Perhaps it was some sort of zat." Daniel
frowned, obviously trying to remember the events of that day.
"I also have no memory of the events leading up to our rescue by Colonel O'Neill."
"And Jack can't tell us." Daniel's simple statement conveyed all their pain.
"General." Doctor Fraiser appeared at the door. "May I speak with you?"
Hammond almost welcomed the interruption.
"Certainly Doctor." He turned back to the others. "We will continue this later. Try to
get some rest, people." He gestured towards the other bed. "He would want you to."
"Colonel." Jack heard the familiar sound of the Doc's voice close beside his ear.
"Time to wake up."
He opened his eyes, his head still filled with the images from his nightmares. Filling
his friends' open mouths with dirt and watching as they fought to breathe. Watching
as they died.
He fought to take a deep breath, to clear his head, but he couldn't seem to get enough
air into his lungs. Despite his best intentions he felt himself beginning to panic as his
head started to spin. He shut his eyes, putting all his energy into calming himself
down, trying to relax.
"Damn it! Get a intubation kit here, stat!"
His eyes snapped open at the doctor's words. He didn't need that cursed tube down
his throat; it felt bad enough as it was. Tight and hard and ugly.
Janet was bending over him, so he grabbed her wrist, reducing his panting as he did
He shook his head. There was no need for speech. Janet would know exactly what he
She put her free hand over his and squeezed lightly. "Alright, but I'm afraid that we
are only delaying the inevitable, your breathing is compromised and soon you won't
be able to take in enough oxygen. Do you understand?"
This time it was his turn to agree, giving a nod, and as much of a smile as he could
"I have someone to see you, sir." Jack was surprised to see a short, dark haired man
standing beside her. He hadn't even realised that there was anyone else there. "This is
Doctor Hamilton. He's an otolaryngology specialist and has dealt with these sorts of
Idly Jack wondered how often the specialist had needed to deal with someone who
had had their throat cut and stuck back together again like a jigsaw with a few of the
"Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Fraiser has explained some of the circumstances
surrounding your injury." Jack caught Janet's eye, and lifted one eyebrow in a perfect
imitation of Teal'c. She stifled a laugh and gave a quick wink. "I've looked at the
tests and x-rays, but I am afraid that I will have to make a physical examination as
well. I'll be as quick as possible, but it will be painful."
The Doctor was right, Jack thought as he struggled to control his reactions, it was
painful. Almost as painful as having his throat cut in the first place.
"It won't be much longer, sir." Janet had obviously seen the signs that he was trying
so hard to hide, if her anxious look was anything to go by. He clenched his hands
tightly under the sheets as Doctor Hamilton pressed his fingers hard into the back of
his neck and muttered one of those annoying noises that doctor's seem wont to make
to avoid communicating in any intelligible way.
"Doctor." Janet's warning tone made it through the buzz of agony and Jack opened
his eyes to find both doctors looking over at the various monitors attached to him.
Even he could tell that they weren't happy with what they saw.
Well, hallelujah, they had finally worked it out. Stop now or your patient will either
kill you or die, one or the other. At the moment, he felt like it was the dying option
that was the easiest, and he had already done that once this week. He didn't want it to
become a habit.
"That will be sufficient, I think, Doctor Fraiser. I have enough information for the
moment." Jack was startled when Hamilton patted him awkwardly on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Colonel. It isn't often that I examine someone with these injuries who is
still alive. I hope that I didn't distress you too much. I'll discuss my findings with
Doctor Fraiser, and have my report prepared as soon as possible."
Jack would have liked to have said that he appreciated the Doctor's dilemma, but he
couldn't, and had to content himself with a brief nod. He shut his eyes, busy trying to
breathe again, and felt himself slipping slowly into the dark.
Jack really wasn't surprised to find his throat filled with tube when he woke again.
The constant nightmare of choking and struggling for breath that had plagued him for
hours had given him fair warning of what to expect.
But he didn't have to like it. He raised his head a little and looked around, knowing
that the Doc would be hovering somewhere close.
Daniel came into view. He must have been sitting next to the bed.
"Janet's gone to talk to the General. She'll be back soon." The archaeologist looked
like he hadn't slept in days, his face lined with fatigue. "How are you feeling?"
Just peachy, Daniel. How do you think I'm feeling?
Jack's knew that his frustration at the question must have been obvious because
Daniel flushed slightly and stammered out an apology.
"Hell! I'm sorry, Jack. I wasn't thinking." He hurried on. "I'm sure that the Doctor
that Janet called in will be able to do something. Don't worry."
Jack saw how much emotion was expressed in those few words. For Daniel the
thought of not being able to speak must be dreadful; his love of language and
communication such an integral part of his life. Of course, for himself, it meant the
end of his career - the Air Force would hardly be anxious to keep on a senior officer
already coming to the end of his active service if he couldn't speak. Not a good
advertisement for a career in the military.
Of course it was probably all academic anyway. Without this damned tube and the IV
he couldn't even breathe or feed himself.
He couldn't live like this.
The Goa'uld had managed to kill him after all.
The silence stretched uncomfortably, until Daniel stood up and touched him on the
"It will be okay, Jack. You have to believe that. It will be."
All Jack could do was shut his eyes.
He heard his friend sigh softly and the rustle as he sat again.
"Jack. Janet is here." Daniel gently woke the Colonel as Janet entered the room. She
waited until she was sure that he was fully awake before she spoke.
"Daniel would you mind stepping out for a while? Why don't you go get something to
eat and come back in about half an hour?" Janet saw reluctance cross Daniel's face
and took him by the arm, leading him towards the door. "I need to examine the
Colonel and I'm sure that he would rather have some privacy. You understand." She
smiled as he nodded and slowly walked out, looking back twice before he had even
reached the elevators.
"Now Colonel." Janet tried for a matter of fact tone as she approached her patient's
bed. "I have the report from Doctor Hamilton." She spotted the apprehensive look
before Jack's face blanked of all emotion, and perched herself on the edge of the bed,
trying to look relaxed. She was anything but relaxed, but the last thing the Colonel
needed right now was to pick up on her concern.
"He has suggested that we operate and attempt to repair the damage. He is fairly
confident that he can restore your trachea and oesophagus."
Jack raised his right hand and gestured to his mouth.
"Yes, " Janet smiled, "That would mean that we could remove the tube as soon as you
have recovered from the operation, probably in just a few days."
He shook his head, his frustration clearly showing, and once again gestured at his
Her heart sank a little, but she answered honestly. Jack O'Neill wasn't the sort of
person to need bad news sugar coated.
"Doctor Hamilton is of the opinion that the damage to your vocal cords is too
extensive to repair." She saw the blankness beginning to return to his eyes and hurried
on. "However he did say that he couldn't be sure. We will know more when he
She waited for a response.
All she got was a slow blink of his eyes. It was hard to read the Colonel at the best of
"I've scheduled the surgery for tomorrow morning. Would you like me to explain the
situation to your team?"
This time the response immediate. The Colonel shook his head emphatically and
pointed at himself. He then made writing motions, obviously requesting pen and
Janet handed him a clipboard with some blank paper, her experience telling her that
trying to write while lying down was much easier against a hard surface. The pencil
that she found would also be simpler to use than a pen.
The Colonel's hand shook slightly, making his normally neat handwriting a little
untidy, but it was still clear enough to be easily read.
Ask my team to come. I will tell them.
"Okay, sir. I'll pass the message along and then report to the General. Is there
anything that you need before I go?"
The only answer she received was a headshake. The Colonel put the clipboard
alongside him on the bed and shut his eyes, dismissing her.
Jack waited for the Doc to leave the room before allowing himself to really think
about what she had said. It hadn't come as a complete surprise; he had been mentally
preparing himself for news like this since he returned to the SGC.
He knew that he only had two options - wallow in self pity, or cope with it, if and
when it happened. After all the things that had happened to him over the last years, he
knew that nothing was set in stone, and he had had enough of self pity back on the
planet. There was only one way to deal with this.
As the door to his room opened, Jack formed as much of a smile on his lips as he
The room was quiet when Jack woke up from the anesthetic. He felt remarkably alert
considering the pain medication that he knew must have been administered. The tube
was down his throat, helping him to breathe, but he had expected that. The Doc had
explained that it would be at least three days before it could be removed.
He lay waiting, half fearing the answer, but desperately needing to know. Would he
be able to speak?
His team had been stunned by the news. He had tried to convey to them that he would
be glad to get back his ability to breathe and eat, but the limitations of having to write
everything down hampered him. He had known what he wanted to say, and not being
able to say it was very frustrating. In the end he stopped attempting to explain, and let
himself drift off to sleep, the stress of the last days having exhausted him. The last
thing that he remembered had been the sounds of his friends quietly leaving,
whispered farewells lingering in the air.
"Colonel O'Neill." Jack recognised the voice as Doctor Hamilton's. He opened his
eyes slowly, squinting a little against the bright lights. Janet was standing next to the
specialist, her eyes fixed on his. He knew what they were going to say before they
spoke. Confirmation that the damage to his vocal cords was too severe to repair. He
had run out of reactions, nodding, smiling, shutting his eyes - he had used them all in
the past days, so he just kept his eyes open and stared straight at them, willing them to
leave before he lost it completely.
There was no paperwork in Jack O'Neill's office. There was no mess in Jack
O'Neill's office. The only thing left in Jack O'Neill's office was Jack O'Neill.
It wasn't that he was hiding out, it was just that there were only so many things that
he could do. He could sit in on briefings, but by the time that he managed to write a
comment down, the moment had passed and it had become irrelevant. He could work
out in the gym, trying to regain his strength, but the morbid fascination attracted by
the huge scar on his neck, made even worse by the operation, had quickly become
grating. He couldn't go off world. Couldn't even enjoy a meal - he may be able to eat
properly again, but it was a painful and slow process, making him take small frequent
snacks of soft, easy on the throat food. He was beginning to hate the sight of jello.
So, here he was, in his office.
It had been two weeks since he had been released from the infirmary. He had refused
to go and vegetate at home while his fate was being decided. He didn't feel sick.
His debriefing had taken longer than the whole incident. In the end he had been
allowed to type up a report, which the General had read over. It had been brief and to
the point. He had died. He had been revived. He had escaped with the help of a Jaffa.
He had found his team unconscious. He had hidden them. They had woken. They had
He knew what would happen if he told Hammond about the grave. He would never
get out of MacKenzie's clutches. As it was, he had been made to endure two sessions
with the psychiatrist, made even more annoying by having to write his answers down.
He didn't know who was more pleased to be done, the doctor or himself.
So now he was marking time, feeling useless, waiting to learn his fate.
Medical retirement. There really wasn't anything else. All attempts to contact their
allies had failed, the healing device had proved worse than useless - the only result
being pain that lasted for hours. Carter had theorised that it hadn't worked because the
initial healing had been begun by a sarcophagus; perhaps some sort of fail save
designed to stop torture victims from being cured. No one knew for sure, the only
certainty was that it hadn't worked.
So he had gotten on with life. At least he wasn't sprouting weird languages like he
had when he had the Ancient's download in his brain. This time he knew exactly what
he wanted to say. He just couldn't say it.
Somehow sarcasm just came out as rudeness when it was typed on a screen. His
humour was all in the voice, the delivery. Every conversation had become a task to be
So, here he was, in his office.
Feeling sorry for himself.
Crap! He had promised himself not to let this happen. Back in that cell when he had
thought that his team was dead he had taken charge of his fate again and decided to
live. He hadn't given in and he wouldn't now.
Jack strode out of his office, determined to find something productive to do.
It had taken some persuasion on his part, but finally the General found him a job. A
new instructor had been appointed to oversee the cadet training and Hammond had
asked Jack to observe his methods. That was it - observe. See how things were going.
Nothing more. The General had emphasised that, and had sighed as the Colonel had
left, looking happier than he had in weeks.
Jack smiled as he drove, looking forward to getting some fresh air and being useful at
the same time. He didn't know the Sergeant in charge of training very well, only that
he was an ex-member of SG-10. Normally Jack would have had some input into his
appointment, but he had been in the infirmary when the position had come up. He was
looking forward to seeing Sergent Perry at work, his record showed extensive combat
experience, and only a serious leg injury that had left him with a permanent limp had
stopped him from continuing to be a part of the off world teams.
Jack handed his ID to the guard on the gate, and pulled in to the parking area of the
training facility. He could already see the small group of cadets clustered around the
sandy haired sergeant, watching as he demonstrated a staff weapon. He must have just
started this part of the training, as four or five weapons were sitting propped up
against the fence behind the young airmen.
"The staff weapon can be used in several ways." Perry was demonstrating basic
moves to the clearly unimpressed group. He swung it several times in the air, using it
as if it were a club. "It is a formidable weapon in the hands of an experienced
"So is a hammer, and a lot easier to carry." The muttered words were clear from
where Jack stood. One of the cadets, a skinny olive skinned young man leaned
towards his shorter companion and sniggered.
"I can't see that we'd have any trouble with these Jaffa people if this is the best
weapon that they have," his friend answered, keeping his voice low. "Just blast them
with a P90 and see how far they get."
Jack saw the Sergeant become aware of his presence as he looked over to locate the
source of the whispering. He gave the trainer a quick shake of his head, and received
an almost unperceivable nod in return, the two experienced soldiers communicating
easily without words.
The two cadets still hadn't noticed that they were being watched. Jack quietly took a
staff weapon from the pile and stepped forward. With one fluid motion he bent and
swept the feet out from under both the men, following through with a swift jab to the
stomach of the shorter one, leaving him down in the dirt. He ended the move with one
foot on the other's chest and the base of the weapon pointed at his head.
He took a second to mentally congratulate himself, all those lessons with Teal'c and
Bra'tac at the Alpha site had paid off.
"What the hell?!" The olive skinned cadet glowered at the man standing over him.
Jack could feel his anger growing as he realised that his classmates were all staring in
stunned amazement at the confrontation. The young man's face began to redden in
He stepped back, letting the cadet come to his feet, and waited.
For a moment he thought that the man was going to use his brains instead of letting
his anger take control, however he was disappointed. The cadet took a pace forward,
his aggression plain. Jack spun the staff weapon, turning it so that its head was facing
the man's body and twisted the mechanism, opening it. The sight of the glowing tip
stopped the man in his tracks. The Colonel spun on his heels again, and fired three
blasts in rapid succession, each taking a large chunk out of the nearby targets.
He turned back, the deactivated weapon at his side once again looking as harmless as
a piece of wood.
There was no sound except for the agitated breathing of the cadet in front of him.
"I think that Colonel O'Neill has just demonstrated my point. The staff weapon can be
deadly in the right hands." Sergeant Perry's calm voice broke the silence.
"Sir!" The young man snapped to attention. "I'm sorry, Colonel."
Jack saw the fear in the young man's face, the realisation dawning that he had almost
struck a superior officer. It was a sobering lesson for all the cadets, and one that they
had to learn. The ability to think clearly even in the heat of battle might someday save
There was more than one sobering lesson that these young soldiers could learn today.
He ignored the worried cadet, and moved forward through them to join Perry at the
front of the class.
"Colonel O'Neill." As the sergeant's eyes flickered to his open collar, Jack pulled the
prewritten note from his pocket, waiting while Perry read it. He had known that he
couldn't just sit and observe, despite the General's intentions, and he had come
Perry gave him a long look as he finished reading, and then snapped out a command.
He waited as his class straightened up, before continuing.
"This is Colonel O'Neill. He is second in charge of the SGC." Jack could feel all the
eyes twist towards him, evaluating, "He has asked me to explain why he cannot speak
to you himself. Several weeks ago he was captured by the Jaffa that you are training
to fight. They cut his throat." Jack pulled his shirt collar open, exposing the still livid
thick line of raised scar tissue. There were several gasps. "This is the sort of enemy
that you will encounter if you posted to the SGC. This is the sort of danger that you
may face. If you are not prepared to face such danger then you should speak up now."
Perry waited for a few beats, then continued once more. "That being the case, I now
expect your full attention for the rest of the day. Colonel O'Neill will be observing the
class, and will be evaluating your performance."
Sergeant Perry finished speaking and turned to face Jack. He snapped off a textbook
salute. Jack returned it, moved to one side, and finding a comfortable spot to sit,
settled in to watch.
The training proceeded smoothly, the cadets giving their instructor their full attention.
It was a hot and sweaty group that stopped for lunch, taking the food from the
supplies brought to them from the main building. Jack looked at it in disgust, it
seemed that indigestible mess hall food followed him everywhere. He regretted not
bring his own supplies from the SGC.
Jack was happy with the progress of the training session. The class had thrown
themselves into the lessons with renewed vigour, sideways glances at where he was
sitting showing that they hadn't forgotten his presence. They may have been trying to
impress, but all that Jack cared about was the end result, the method used to achieve it
"Colonel O'Neill, can I get you anything? Coffee?" Sergeant Perry joined him,
carrying two folding chairs. "Here, sir. I figured that we were too old to sit on the
ground and eat unless we have to. May as well be comfortable. Now, can I get you
Jack accepted his offer with a smile, and the two older men were soon sitting,
watching the class eat.
Jack sipped the hot coffee cautiously; he still had to be very careful not to burn his
still tender throat. Perry sat silently beside him.
Tom Perry took another bit of his sandwich, barely noticing the taste as he swallowed.
One of the cadets, Nugyen if he remembered correctly, had brought the tray of
sandwiches over and he had taken one gratefully, not realising how hungry he was
until the food was in front of him. He noticed that Colonel O'Neill wasn't eating; he
was taking slow sips of his coffee, and looking over at the youngsters, a thoughtful
expression on his face.
Perry watched as the Colonel raised his hand to rub his neck, the terrible injury
exposed as the collar of his shirt was pulled down. He understood how that felt - the
pull of scarring on the skin. He found himself massaging his own knee in sympathy,
the memory of the staff weapon blast still vivid in his mind.
The realization that despite the difference in rank, he did have a lot in common with
the Colonel caused him to speak.
"What are your plans now, sir? Now that you are off the active duty roster perhaps
you might consider coming down here on a regular basis. I could certainly use the
help. The cadets obviously took your lesson to heart. I think that it helps to focus
them when they see the reality of what they are training for rather than just being told.
We still have a lot to offer, even if we can't go off world." He paused, remembering
the weeks just after his injury, when he was sure that his career in the military had
been cut short. "I know I wouldn't have been able to retire, and just sit around after
the things that I've seen, knowing what is really going on out there. At least by doing
this I'm still a part of it." With a start he realised what he had just said. "Sorry, sir, I
didn't mean to imply that taking medical retirement was the wrong thing to do, if
that's what you're planning. I just mean that it wouldn't have worked for me."
He hadn't really been looking at the other man as he spoke, so he was surprised when
the Colonel abruptly stood, putting his coffee cup on the ground next to his chair. He
stood as well, bringing his eyes level with the Colonel's. For one brief moment he
caught a glimpse of coldness and pain, the echoes of a past that he didn't even want to
contemplate, then the shutters came down, and his face became an unemotional mask.
Colonel O'Neill raised his hand as if he were about to speak, then shut his mouth with
a sigh, and gave a nod of farewell. As he walked to his car, Perry couldn't help
thinking about what he had seen it those few seconds, the soldier behind the face of
the officer, a soldier that he wouldn't ever want to meet on the battlefield. Not the
face of someone who would take retirement gracefully and slide away into obscurity
without a fight.
He hoped for the Colonel's sake that things would work out; he would hate to imagine
what would happen otherwise. The coldness in the Colonel's eyes seemed to settle
around him, and he shuddered, before turning back to his watching class.
Jack sat in his truck, mind in turmoil. He knew that he shouldn't have left like that,
but the Sergeant's words had affected him badly. The image of himself as a washed
up old man, sitting on his balcony, waiting for the occasional call to come out and
help train the kids, had shocked him to the core.
Was that his future? Sure, he couldn't deny that Perry did a valuable job, from what
he had seen the man was an excellent instructor, but he couldn't be a part of that.
Without speech all he could teach were the movements, he needed to be able to
explain, tell those young people how important it was to be ready, talk to them.
Talk to them.
He had to face reality. This little excursion had been a wakeup call.
He leaned forward and put the key into the ignition, and grimaced in frustration when
his cell phone beeped. He pulled it roughly from his pocket, reading the text message
on its small screen.
What now? What could be so important that he had to return to the mountain
immediately? What could they possibly want with him?
With his mind still lost in the silence, Jack O'Neill headed back to the SGC.
He hurried through the check ins, barely acknowledging the greetings of the guards.
He knew that whatever the General wanted, it must be important, but he couldn't help
feeling annoyed. The last thing he wanted to do right now was see people, he wanted
to be alone for a while, think things over. Revaluate.
He reached Hammond's office, thankful to find the General alone.
"I'm sorry that I had to call you away, Jack, but something's come up." The General
launched into an explanation as soon as he had entered, gesturing him to close the
door, and waving him to a seat. "We had a call from the Asgard while you were
Jack felt a sudden surge of hope. Asgard technology had helped him before, their
medicine was far ahead of Earth's.
"Wait, son." Hammond must have seen the look on his face, because he hurried on,
his voice sympathetic. "They weren't responding to our request for help, it didn't
even seem as if they had received it. They want your help. The message was short, but
it seems that they want you, and only you. I tried to respond, but it seemed to be a pre-
recorded message. They said that you should be ready," he glanced at his watch "in
Jack grabbed a pen from the desk and wrote on the waiting pad.
What possible use could I be?
He threw the pen down angrily, and gestured at his throat, not caring that his emotions
had surfaced for the first time since he had returned to Earth. Not caring for once that
Hammond could see exactly how he felt.
"I don't know the answer to that question, Jack, but I do know that this is the best
chance that you have. Now you better go get ready, we don't really have a choice."
Jack acknowledged the order with a nod, and headed for the locker room to change,
collecting his weapons on the way. He had no idea what he was going into, but he was
going to be prepared for any eventuality.
"Jack, we just heard." Jack looked up to find Daniel and Teal'c. He would bet
anything that Carter was waiting in the corridor, only the fact that he was changing
stopping her from entering. "What do they want?"
He frowned at Daniel's question and shrugged, frustrated again by his friend's
questions. Questions that he knew he couldn't answer. He just wanted to be out of
there. Away from the sympathy and the pity. Away from well meaning friends.
He straightened up and began putting on his weapons, his face blank. Finally he slung
his P90 over his arm and looked at his watch - only a minute or so to go.
"Is there some way that we may accompany you, O'Neill?" Teal'c's concern was
clear. "Perhaps we can contact the Asgard and request that we be allowed to come?"
"Colonel?" Carter's head appeared around the door, and seeing that the coast was
clear, she stepped inside.
The tingling sensation told Jack that the time for talking had passed. He raised his
hand in farewell.
"Colonel O'Neill, thank you for agreeing to come."
Jack glared at the small figure in front of him, trying to convey without words just
what he thought of the Asgard methods.
"I will take you to Commander Thor."
Jack felt his mood lighten considerably as he followed the alien through the ship's
corridors. Thor owed him, plus he was a friend. Jack knew not to count on anything,
but he couldn't help himself hoping.
The grey metal doors slid open and Jack found himself in a large room, set out with
tables and chairs as if for a meeting. Thor stood at the head of the table.
"Colonel O'Neill, it is good to see you once again. I apologise for bringing you here
with so little warning but the matter was urgent. May I present to you Rast'ur of the
Jack turned slowly, his mind going into overdrive. The white robed figure stood on
Thor's right, just out of his reach, a look of shock on his face. Yeas'r's expression
mirrored his master's.
"The Colonel and I are already acquainted, Commander Thor. When he was my guest
I had no idea that I had captured such a valuable prize." The Goa'uld spoke slowly as
if weighing his words. "I must admit to being surprised to see him here. However, I
don't think that he will be much use to you in these negotiations. I think that you will
find that the good Colonel has been left with a permanent souvenir from his visit."
Although Rast'ur only allowed a small smile to briefly cross his lips, his First Prime
had no such compunction. His laugh was deep and full of malice.
Jack tugged his collar open, exposing the scar, refusing to be baited.
"I do not understand." Thor's voice was puzzled.
"I had better explain then, Commander. I had Yeas'r cut the Colonel's throat. He
won't be doing much talking in the near future, if ever."
Jack couldn't tell how Thor took the news, except for a slow blink of his large eyes
his expression didn't change. "If that is the case, then I must delay these talks for a
short while. You will remain here." He turned to Jack. "Colonel O'Neill, if you would
accompany me?" Giving the Goa'uld no time to protest, he left the room, taking Jack
They walked back the way that Jack had come when he arrived on the ship. Thor
stopped in a side room and turned to face him, putting a thin, bony hand on Jack's
"Do not worry, I will have my medics examine you. Although I cannot guarantee
anything, we will do our best to repair the damage." Jack's joy was cut short by his
next words. "However that will have to wait until after these negotiations, but do not
worry, I have arranged for help."
Three flashes lit up the small room and the remaining members of SG-1 stood
blinking in confusion in front of them.
Shit! Jack was glad that he couldn't speak because the words that he was thinking
would severely damage their relations with the Asgard if he spoke them aloud.
"Commander Thor, what's going on?" Carter looked around her worriedly.
"I apologise for bringing you to my ship without warning, Major Carter, but I was
unaware that Colonel O'Neill had been injured. We have been asked to negotiate with
a minor system lord to allow one of the planets within his sphere of influence
protected planet status. The natives of that planet asked to have Colonel O'Neill
negotiate on their behalf, apparently you had contact with them several months ago."
As he spoke Thor began leading them back towards the meeting room. "I am sure that
they will understand that Colonel O'Neill can not attend these talks alone under the
Jack could see the door of the meeting room just ahead. His mind was blank as he
began to panic, his heart racing. With a lunge he stepped in front of the party, putting
his arm out to stop them entering.
"Jack? What's wrong?"
Daniel - always with the questions that he couldn't answer. He didn't know what to
do, couldn't think how to stop them.
"O'Neill, is there some reason that you do not wish us to meet with this Goa'uld?"
Jack could only nod in answer to Teal'c's question, hoping that it was enough. It
"I am sorry, O'Neill, but if we do not return to the negotiations the Goa'uld will
leave. We must do what we can to bring this planet into our treaty, for the sake of its
inhabitants." Thor eyed him, patiently waiting for him to step aside. "Whatever issue
you have with this Goa'uld must wait until after the meeting is finished."
He had no choice. He brought his arm down, and took as deep a breath as he could
manage. With a nod, he moved to one side, allowing Thor to precede him, knowing
that he could do nothing to prevent what was to come.
Rast'ur had moved to one of the seats near the door, his First Prime standing behind
him. The Goa'uld didn't rise as they entered, he keep his face impassive and leaned
Daniel came to an abrupt halt as he recognised the waiting man. The only sign of
recognition Sam gave was a small gasp. As Jack had expected, Teal'c allowed
nothing of his surprise to show.
"It appears that Colonel O'Neill wasn't the only one to be brought back from the
dead. I imagine that he managed to dig you up before the stasis field dissipated." The
Goa'uld's cold voice held only a note of curiosity. "This is very interesting. You were
in no condition to unbury your friends without help, Colonel. I wonder which of my
Jaffa is the traitor."
Jack managed to keep his face impassive. He could feel the stares of his team on him,
see the shock in their faces without needing to look. There was nothing that he could
do now except keep Rast'ur here until he was able to warn Un'tak. He walked to the
side of the table opposite the Goa'uld and slowly and deliberately, took his seat, never
taking his eyes from those of the other man.
Taking their cue for their leader, SG-1 followed, taking seats flanking him and
reached for the information pads provided.
"Colonel O'Neill." The Asgard's voice roused Jack from his daze. He looked up, his
eyes unfocused to find everyone in the room staring at him, his team with concern, the
Goa'uld and his Jaffa with amusement. "Are you unwell?"
"The Colonel is still not completely recovered from the operation carried out to
reverse some of the effects of his injury." Teal'c's deep voice answered on Jack's
behalf. "If you would provide him with somewhere to rest, I will escort him."
"Certainly, Teal'c." Thor peered up at Jack, concerned. "I will have my medics
"I must protest, Commander." Rast'ur stood up angrily. "These talks have gone on
long enough, I will not condone any more delays."
"Then I suggest that you carry on without the Colonel." Thor cut across the Goa'uld's
protests. "It is clear that Colonel O'Neill is unwell."
"Jack, do you need to see Janet?"
Jack shook his head in answer to Daniel's question. He reeled sideways as he stood,
only Teal'c's firm grip preventing him from falling back into his seat.
"Sir, are you sure?" asked Carter, worried.
He nodded his head emphatically and gave her a tight smile. Following Thor, he
slowly negotiated his way out of the room, helped by Teal'c. When he reached the
door, he looked back to see Daniel and Carter still watching him, their faces lined
He waited until they had turned the corner of the corridor before straightening up and
pulling his arm from Teal'c's grip. The Jaffa released him, his only reaction a raised
eyebrow. Jack pulled out a pen and notepad from his jacket pocket and quickly wrote
a short message, before handing it to Teal'c.
`We must warn Un'tak, the Jaffa that helped me.'.
"Indeed. I do not however know how we can accomplish this, O'Neill. We do not
know the location of Rast'ur's home world."
"I do, O'Neill, and I would be only too happy to transport Teal'c down to a safe
location. The Asgard have been keeping Rast'ur under observation for some time,
since he began spreading out into territory nearer to several of our protected planets.
His ambition has greatly concerned us."
Jack gave a relieved smile at Thor's words. Not all of his fatigue had been feigned,
the stress of the day was finally catching up on him.
"O'Neill, although I guessed that you had an ulterior motive for you wanting to leave
the meeting, I can see that you are not well. Perhaps it would be best if Commander
Thor had his medics look you over." Teal'c asked, concerned.
He realised that he was rubbing the bridge of his nose, a headache hovering in the
back of his head, his neck throbbing. In fact, he was starting to feel decidedly queasy;
all that soft mush food must be catching up with him. He lowered his hand to his
mouth and swayed, finding himself leaning against the Jaffa's strong body.
"Teal'c, please follow me. We will take Colonel O'Neill to my medical facility."
Thor's tone allowed for no argument.
Jack lay back and felt his body sink into the soft substance covering the bed. There
wasn't anything else to do. To his disgust, Teal'c had just dumped him there and then
left with Thor, merely stating that he "would warn Un'tak and return as quickly as
possible." He made it sound like a walk in the park, a pleasant jaunt to get some fresh
air. He had been here ever since. Not knowing what that damned snakehead was
saying to Carter and Daniel, not knowing what was happening to Teal'c, not knowing
where Thor was, not doing anything except lay there.
The only interaction he had with the Asgard medics that were constantly coming in
and out of the room, had been when one of then pressed something into his neck a
short time ago, and admonished him when he tried to feel what it was. Now the area
around the scar was feeling heavy and numb, which was an improvement on the
constant dull throbbing that he had experienced for weeks now, and that had
intensified over the last few hours into sharp pain.
Jack shifted restlessly. He couldn't even relax, there were bright lights playing over
his body, lights, which constantly changed in colour and intensity. At the moment a
blue beam was concentrated on his face, making it hard to do anything except close
his eyes. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, just a slightly warm glow on his skin.
Now, if only he could relax.
His eyes felt heavy and his mouth tasted of blood and bad breath. Jack stayed still and
took stock. Apart from a soft pounding in his head, he felt remarkably fine. He must
have fallen asleep after all.
Crap! What about Teal'c? What about the meeting? Just how long had he been
He forced his eyes to open, rubbing them hard to clear the blurriness, and looked
around. He was still in the Asgard infirmary, still laying on the bed. The only thing
different was that he was naked and covered by only a thin blanket.
"Colonel O'Neill." An Asgard leaned over him, peering intently into his face. "Please
stay still for a while longer, I must run some more tests." He then picked up a small
metallic object from the tray beside the bed.
"Oh for cryin'out loud!" Jack reeled back as the instrument shone a beam of light
straight into his eyes. "What is it with you doctors..." He stopped.
"Please do not attempt to speak again until I have completed my tests." The Asgard
sounded annoyed. "It has taken much work to repair the injury and I do not want it to
be damaged again."
Jack nodded and lay back, feeling just a little frightened. While the beams of light
were once again passed over his body he stayed as still as possible, not wanting to
jeopardise anything by doing the wrong thing. For once in his life he was going to
obey orders. Janet would have been so proud of him. That little alien could shine all
the lights in his eyes that he wanted to, and Jack wasn't going to say a word in protest.
He was just going to stay quiet.
Because it was his choice to stay quiet.
Not because he couldn't speak, but because he choose not to.
So Jack just lay on the bed and waited.
It seemed like hours, but it was probably only about forty minutes before the medic
"You can get up now. Here are your clothes. After you have dressed I would ask you
to drink this" He handed the Colonel a beaker of green liquid. "It will clear your
throat of the medications we administered, then you can speak."
Jack put his clothes on, uncaring that he was being watched by the Asgard. He picked
up the glass and swallowed the bitter tasting green drink in three quick gulps, then
stood, glass in hand. This was an occasion. He should have something profound to
"Sweet!" With a laugh he pumped his fist in the air. "Let's get this show on the road!"
"I take it that you are pleased to have the use of your voice back, O'Neill."
Jack spun, surprised that Thor could have approached so close without him hearing.
With a whoop he grabbed the small figure and gave him a fierce hug.
"Thor buddy! Pleased is not the word. I don't think that even ecstatic covers it. I don't
know how to thank you."
"There is no need for thanks, O'Neill. I could do no less." Thor almost sounded
embarrassed. "The Asgard remember their friends, O'Neill."
Jack looked down into Thor's large eyes, and spoke quietly. "Thank you, Thor. Thank
you for your friendship." He stretched his hand out and, after a slight hesitation, Thor
Sam and Daniel had endured hours of posturing and boasting from the arrogant
Goa'uld. They had expected Teal'c to return with news of the Colonel, and were very
concerned that he hadn't. They tried to focus their attention on the details of the
treaty, but their eyes kept wandering towards the door, waiting for it to open. Every so
often one would catch the other's worried glace and would smile reassuringly.
Thor had re-entered the meeting only a short time after leaving it, but had ignored any
attempts to find out how the Colonel was.
The treaty was almost completed when Thor was called from the meeting again.
Rast'ur was almost beside himself with rage. Already angered by the Asgard agreeing
with the natives' request to include their world in the Protected Planet Treaty, he had
been trying to win as many concessions as possible in recompense.
Rast'ur's anger showed in the glow of his eyes as the Asgard left the meeting.
Turning to the two humans, he looked them up and down as if inspecting every inch
"I remember watching your Colonel as he dug your grave. The insects had landed on
your lovely face, and he could not keep them off and dig at the same time." He smiled
at Sam. "Every time he stopped to scare them away, one of my Jaffa `persuaded' him
to keep digging. He did not take much persuasion. Soon the insects clustered over
your mouth and eyes. Did you know that your eyes were open? Such pretty blue
Sam felt Daniel's hand grip hers under the table. She squeezed back, trying her
hardest to show that the Goa'uld's words were not upsetting her.
"There is no nacquadah on the planet," Daniel's firm tone cut across the resonant one
of the Goa'uld, "so I don't see that we need to spend any more time on discussion of
recompense for mineral rights."
Sam threw Daniel a grateful glance smile and the negotiations continued, but they
couldn't help thinking about the Goa'uld's words. In the forefront of their minds was
the knowledge that the Colonel had kept this from them, that he had coped with the
To Sam's horror, Rast'ur hadn't finished.
"Your Colonel had trouble getting you all in the hole, you know. He had given up and
made it too small. It wasn't a very good job at all really. Not the sort of grave that I
expected him to dig for his friends. It was as if he just wanted to get it over and done
with as quickly as possible. He was a bit more enthusiastic about covering you all up.
Do you still taste the dirt in your mouth?"
Teal'c returned from Rast'ur's home world very satisfied with himself. He had been
able to avoid the few Jaffa patrols that he had seen and had made contact with Un'tak
without any trouble. The warrior had packed his belongings, and with his family and a
few other dissatisfied friends, had left with Teal'c through the gate for the Alpha site,
happy to finally be free of the Goa'uld. Teal'c knew that he would make a valuable
addition to the rebel army.
He had been beamed up to Thor's ship within a few short hours of having left and
now was happy to find Colonel O'Neill restored to full health. He had watched his
leader fighting to take control of his life, struggling to find his sense of worth. He had
wondered at the tenacity of the man. He had shown no sign of giving in despite the
odds being stacked against him, but Teal'c had expected nothing less from his friend.
His admiration had grown as he realised the secret that O'Neill had kept hidden from
them - that he had thought them dead.
He could hardly bear to imagine what it must have been like.
Now as he approached the entrance to the meeting room with O'Neill and Thor, he
could hear the voice of the Goa'uld clearly through the door. One glance at the
thunderous look on O'Neill's face told him that he too could hear every word.
"Do you still taste the dirt in your mouth?"
Teal'c had never seen O'Neill move as fast as he did in that moment.
Jack burst through the door, slamming aside the chairs in his way and vaulting the
table. All he could see through the haze of rage was the sneering face of the Goa'uld
that had almost taken everything from him. Time slowed and pressed itself into a tiny
bubble, and left him alone with Rast'ur, isolated from the rest of the world. It gave
him time to remember the long hours spent in the hot sun, unable to even cry out his
anguish. To remember the blows whenever he paused for breath. To remember being
pushed to fall across the lifeless bodies of his friends as the Goa'uld laughed. To have
to watch as he stroked his fingers down Sam's cheek. He remembered despairing. He
remembered being thankful that he would join his team in death.
He remembered wanting to die.
And he remembered the promise that he had made to himself.
Jack reached through the cloud around him, and pulled the snake forward into his
arms. His movements were instinctive, the result of long hours of training and
practice, and of experience. The crack was loud in the silence.
And time snapped back.
Teal'c dropped Yeas'r's body beside his master's, and the two warriors looked into
each other's eyes, each acknowledging the other's skill.
"It appears that the negotiations have been concluded successfully, Colonel O'Neill."
Thor looked calmly down at the bodies. "I will have someone clean the room."
Jack wiped his hands down the side of his trouser legs. He turned towards Sam and
Daniel, almost afraid of what he would find.
"I think that it's time to go home, kids. The Asgard can take out the trash."
He was rewarded with two dazzling smiles.
General Hammond jumped as the four figures materialised, without fanfare, in the
middle of the control room.
The General groaned loudly as he took in the grinning face of Colonel Jack O'Neill.
"I'd just gotten use to the peace and quiet." He strode forward and gripped the
Colonel's hand in his. "It's good to have you back, son."
Jack shook Hammond's hand firmly. Sam's eyes were suspiciously moist, and Daniel
looked like he had just won the lottery. Only Teal'c appeared detached from the
general excitement that had swept the room when Jack had spoken. The two warrior's
eyes met for the second time that day, and once again Jack nodded in
acknowledgement of the Jaffa's unspoken words.
There were things that needed to be said. Secrets that needed to be spoken.
Nightmares that needed to be put to rest.
Jack turned back to the General.
"Sir, I think that SG-1 has a debriefing to attend."