by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: December 2003
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: AU H/C, Jack/Sam romance
WARNING: violence, language, adult themes and circumstances.
SPOILERS: Any up through mid-late season 6.
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Alternate season 7. Daniel is back, Jonas never left.
SUMMARY: Jack learns to cope with a life-changing disability and finds that, when the universe closes a door, it sometimes also opens a window.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story almost escaped publication. For one thing, it's a very AU stand alone which is completely separate from my Gates of War series. For another, it was written back in season six when I didn't know that Jonas would be leaving the series. It sat on my hard drive for several months until I let my beta reader see it. She decided that it needed to be published. I want to apologize to her about one thing--she suggested a couple of changes that would have made it a better story. But I'm in the middle of writing two new installments in Gates of War and decided not to rewrite this one. Therefore any problems with the tale are entirely my responsibility, not hers.
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
Chapter 1 - Darkness Falls
Blackness slowly gave way to a faint glow that O'Neill could see through closed eyes. He could hear someone walking around in the room. There was a familiar smell, too, mediciny. Hospital? Not freakin' likely. He was strapped to a chair.
The last thing O'Neill remembered was leaving a boring diplomatic dinner and starting a short walk across town to the stargate. Sam, Daniel and Jonas had been going a mile a minute about the force field technology that the Albarians were anxious to trade for medical knowledge. He and Teal'c had both apparently had made the mistake of assuming that everything was as innocuous and uninteresting as it looked.
O'Neill remembered something his mother had been fond of saying: Saints preserve us from a bored Irishman. Well, it looked like he was about to face the consequences of carelessness.
He had no idea, though, how he had gotten from there to here. Wherever the hell "here" was. He was pretty sure he hadn't been zatted. A zat hurt like hell and immobilized him like a taser, but rarely knocked him out cold. He didn't feel any of the usual after-effects of having been drugged, either.
As soon as whoever was in here with him realized he was awake, things were going to progress to the next stage, and common sense demanded that he delay that as long as possible. He wanted some answers about what was going on and where the rest of his team was, but he couldn't affect their situation for the better. As long as his captor thought he was unconscious, there was no incentive to use them against him. He waited, finding out all he could with senses other than sight.
Eventually, the other person in the room had enough of waiting for him to come to on his own, and waved the local equivalent of smelling salts under his nose.
"I know you're awake, O'Neill. Don't try my patience."
Osiris. Shit. He considered continuing to play possum, but she probably did know he was awake. He opened his eyes. "Osiris. Well, there goes the neighborhood!"
"You've remained your usual charming self, I see."
"Wouldn't want to disappoint."
"Oh, you won't."
"OK, what is it this time? Something you want? Or something Anubis wants?"
"Your iris code, to begin with, of course. I know it expires in two hours. You think you can withstand anything for that short a time. I assure you, that is not the case." She reached behind the chair and picked up a helmet with a black visor. "You've seen something that operates similarly to this, I believe, the implant that downloaded Thor's mind into the memory banks of one of Anubis' ships. This is a prototype, a little less efficient and prone to causing a bit more damage, but still highly effective. The process takes much less than two hours. If you fight it, a fatal stroke will result, but that won't do you any good. I have a sarcophagus here. The wisest course would be to cooperate, of course, but I understand the requirements of your code of honor. By all means, resist as much as your conscience demands."
Osiris had pretty much laid it out. There was no way he could just give up the iris code and let Osiris send a surprise attack through. A few Jaffa could do a lot of damage and kill a lot of people. Worse would be some kind of bomb or nerve gas or something. Jack tried to figure out how long it took a sarcophagus to cycle through, and realized he didn't have the slightest idea. How many times would he have to die before his code got locked out?
And that was only "to begin with."
Holding out to the death only to wake up back in that thing, over and over--going through withdrawal again, assuming that he ever got out of this--O'Neill didn't know where he was going to find the strength. How could this be happening to him again?
Where were the others? How many of these gadgets did Osiris have? If it was just the one, then as long as he kept her busy his kids would be safe. Maybe long enough for the cavalry to come over the hill. It wasn't like he was lost halfway across the galaxy with a snake in his head and no one knew where to start looking.
One way he hadn't died yet was stroking out. It couldn't be worse than that acid of Ba'al's. He remembered the old people who'd had strokes who were in the nursing home where his grandfather had spent his final days. It had been horrible, people tied to beds and gibbering to themselves. Lights on, nobody home. He'd had nightmares for years.
She had said "fatal" stroke. He prayed he wouldn't get stuck half-way between life and death like those poor bastards in the nursing home. He realized that he was way more afraid of that than he was of dying and being brought back by the sarcophagus.
God, oh God, Osiris wouldn't be betting everything on getting the code out of him, not when the rest of the team had GDOs also. Where were they and what was happening to them?
His question was answered by the sound of a scream from somewhere nearby. He wasn't sure at first if it was Daniel or Jonas, until he heard a clearly recognizable string of curses. Daniel.
He yelled, "Hang on, Danny!"
Osiris jammed the helmet over his head. A couple of seconds later, a series of needles jabbed into his skull and started to drill.
O'Neill locked his hands on the chair arms and concentrated hard on repeating name, rank and serial number like a silent mantra, hoping that would qualify as resistance.
Apparently it did. His whole body burned white hot and he convulsed against his restraints hard enough for the rough leather to cut deep. He couldn't tell if he was screaming or if it was someone else. The whole universe was searing agony. He couldn't think, couldn't breathe, could only struggle desperately against his restraints until the chair arms were slick with blood.
It stopped abruptly, and as he collapsed, gasping for breath, Osiris told him, "Just give me the code, then you can rest."
"O'Neill, John J., Colonel, United States Air Force..." He heard Osiris hit a switch, and then the pain took him again, unendurable, inescapable. Still, as long as he could think coherently of anything, it was that, over and over again. After a very short while, there was nothing but the pain, and Osiris got nothing on her machines but static.
O'Neill lost track of how many times the cycle repeated. Then the induced pain stopped suddenly, replaced by a headache like the world's worst migraine, and complete loss of sensation on the left side of his body. A few moments later he drifted into oblivion.
The next thing he knew was the white glow of the sarcophagus, and the crushing despair of waking to another round of torture.
The others were almost certainly suffering also. Hanging on until help came was up to him. They had to stay strong for each other. When the Jaffa came for him, he was ready, or at least as ready as any human being could be to face that again.
Osiris was furious. O'Neill figured that it must take a little while for the dead box to do its thing. She was running out of time. He knew that meant she'd pull out all the stops this time and he was in for the fight of his life.
When they didn't check in, Hammond would know something had gone wrong. Help would be on the way soon. He held onto that certainty.
Osiris asked him, "Why put yourself through this, O'Neill? Even if you do keep the iris code from me, surely you understand that you cannot defy me forever. You, or one of the others, will tell me where the Tok'ra are hiding. If you are hoping for a rescue party, my Jaffa are guarding the stargate."
"My condolences to their next of kin," O'Neill replied.
She reached for the helmet again and O'Neill tried to prepare himself for the next round. Now that he knew what to expect, he was terrified. The needles bit into his scalp again. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Where had that come from? He hadn't stepped inside a church since Charlie's funeral. Osiris sure didn't know what to make of it. Sarah apparently wasn't a Catholic.
Nothing good came of confusing an already irate Goa'uld. He heard the switch snap again and agony went off the scale. Bright flashes of multicolored light filled his vision, searing his eyes like lasers. This time he knew for sure he was screaming, and he couldn't stop. Osiris was shouting for the iris code and against his will he remembered typing it in. He caught himself just in time. "O'Neill, John...."
Osiris did something else and, unbelievably, it got worse. If he could have got his hands free, he would have clawed at his burning eyes to try to stop the torment.
He could have sworn he felt something burst, and that was an answer to prayer.
This time when he woke up, it was pitch black. He felt around. He was in a box the size of a sarcophagus, but he knew when you woke up in one of those it was all lit up.
For a moment he completely lost it. That snakehead bitch had buried him alive! He started yelling, pounding and kicking the lid with pure panic strength.
He heard distant shouting. "...get that thing open..." Sam, in the command tone he'd rarely heard.
"...not so fast, let Daniel see what it says..."
<shooting, P-90s, zats and staff weapons>
"...thought you shot that bitch..."
"I know I shot that bitch!" That was Ferretti, Jack would know that New York accent anywhere.
"...K, I got it, give me a hand..."
The lid scraped open. Jack fought to sit up, he wanted the hell out of there right now. "Danny? Carter?"
"We're all here, sir. We need to go, now."
"Somebody kill the power?"
"Oh, God, Carter, don't tell me the lights are on in here!"
"I can't see!"
"Daniel, help me with him!"
"Major, it's now or never. There's company a-comin'!" An empty magazine clattered to the floor and another one slammed home, a burst sprayed the corridor and shell casings scattered.
"MajorCarter, we are cut off. We shall have to leave by another route."
"What other route?"
A staff blast sizzled past Jack as Daniel half-dragged him out of the sarcophagus, and Teal'c calmly replied, "That one."
"OK, move out!" Carter fired a zat.
Their escape was something out of nightmare. Daniel led him out a hole in the wall, trying to guide his bare feet away from sharp debris but he cut himself anyhow. Then they were out and running like hell through cold pouring rain, trading fire with pursuing Jaffa. O'Neill was completely disoriented, depending on Daniel to see for the both of them.
Ferretti yelled into his radio, "Dial us outta here, Josh, we're comin' in hot!"
O'Neill tripped over a dead Jaffa, and fell in a couple inches of cold water. Daniel helped him to his feet and they ran another twenty yards. "Three steps up," Daniel told him.
The wormhole was the same wild ride as always--but he stepped out of the event horizon into darkness. The metal floor hurt his feet.
Disorientation made him nauseous. It felt like twenty people were yelling at him at once when the medics got hold of him. Carter yelled up to the control room, "Shut the iris!"
O'Neill heard it close. They were all home alive. Reaction set in and his legs went out from under him.
Chapter 2: Battle Damage Assessment
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