Jackfic Story

 

Interesting

by Papaya

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).


TITLE: Interesting

AUTHOR: Papaya

E-MAIL: Papaya.6@hotmail.com

CATEGORY: Whump, Hurt/comfort, a hint at romance

SPOILERS: None that I can think of

SEASON: Sam's a Major and Daniel's around

WARNINGS: Major Character Death, Violence, Blood, Torture

SUMMARY: Someone is laying bait for our good Colonel. He comes to the rescue, suffers for it, and finds some new friends in the process.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Sorry, I keep killing people, I gotta get over that - don't worry, they always get better.

oO0Oo oO0Oo oO0Oo

INTERESTING

"Well, Kids, this should be interesting." Jack O'Neill announced as the gate began to dial.

"Sir?" Carter asked.

"Well, you see - the last... Oh, I don't know..."

"Seven." Teal'c interrupted, apparently reading his mind.

Jack did a double take at the Jaffa, "...Seven... missions we've had were all supposed to be boring cake walks and every one of `em had... oh, just a ton of nasty surprises. This one, however, is supposed to be full of problems - jams, pickles," He gestured broadly, "predicaments, situations, glitches, hitches, snags... Well, you get the idea."

He looks at Daniel and Sam's expressions, "I'm just saying, it should be interesting," He pauses to emphasize his point, "and there had better not be any surprises!"

"Interesting?" Daniel asked incredulously.

"Daniel, you're the one who insisted we go."

Carter jumped to assist, "Colonel, you said yourself, the risk/reward ratio was worth it."

In the briefing yesterday, members of SG-8 had described the amount of technology the natives possessed, and the extremely productive naquedah mine. Just exactly the kind of planet they were searching for every time they went through the gate. Unfortunately, the natives had become hostile, and SG-8 had come back wounded and one man short. The mission was, first and foremost, a rescue mission. They were to rescue Lieutenant Alberts who had been captured. Jack had insisted they undertake the assignment personally (Although his insisting had taken place privately in the General's office shortly before the briefing.) But Jack couldn't resist a chance to annoy Daniel.

Jack sighed, "Naquedah mines and technology..."

"And remember, I've been able to translate much more of their language so I can talk to them, unlike Major Smith and his men."

The Colonel protested, "I'm just saying... interesting!"

As they left, he spoke softly to Teal'c, "just keep an eye out will ya? I've got a REALLY bad feeling..."

They headed up the ramp.

oO0Oo

Once on the other side things happened fast. As they had expected based on information from the MALP and SG-8, they were barely able to reach cover before they were attacked.

They retaliated with zats only since they wanted to establish relations with these people. Daniel immediately began shouting in their native language, trying to get through to somebody.

Finally the natives' weapons fire slowed and stopped. One man slowly rose and looked toward Daniel who was also rising from behind a large rock.

"We mean you no harm!" Daniel shouted in a language completely foreign to his teammates.

When there was no answer, Jack swore under his breath. One of his team was vulnerable standing out in the open and there was nothing he could do about it.

Daniel continued to shout while the native leader looked at him suspiciously. Jack was studying the man's body language intently. He actually seemed to be relaxing fractionally. Jack, however, did not.

It was only when the man put down his weapon and ordered his men to do the same that he let his watchfulness ease just a bit. Daniel walked over and stood talking to the man.

"Ask him about Alberts, Daniel." Jack suggested.

"Already did. He doesn't seem to know. But he says he'll take us to someone who does."

Jack's eyes narrowed as he cautiously followed the natives down the hill towards the trees. "I do not like this." He mumbled to Carter who fell in beside him. "Something's not kosher."

Carter could feel the suspicion flowing off O'Neill. "Sir?"

"Don't know yet, Carter, but something's about to surprise us. You can bet on it."

oO0Oo

The surprise Jack expected was waiting for them inside the buildings. SG-8 had never gotten this far so they hadn't known the complex was full of Jaffa. SG-1, in spite of their heightened awareness, was captured immediately.

As they were forced roughly through the halls, the team tried to take in as much of the layout as they could.

Besides the Jaffa and the natives they met at the gate, there seemed to be a third race of people on this planet. They looked sort of human; in fact the Colonel thought they were similar to the Hunchback of Notre Dame or maybe the Elephant Man. They were disfigured and walked hunched over. They seemed to be at the very bottom of the pecking order; lowest of the low.

He glanced at Daniel who was predictably fascinated by them. "It's very unusual. They seem to be slaves to the slaves. I'd love to talk to one."

"Hey! Now Cut That Out!" Jack hollered at the Jaffa who had just punched Daniel in the back of the head for talking. He managed to help Daniel keep his feet, but he too was studying the `Janitors' as he had dubbed them.

A group of people unhappy with the status quo could be very helpful. Also, Jack found it interesting that several of them turned to stare pointedly at him. Not just looking to see what was going on, but looking directly at him in a meaningful way, as if trying to communicate.

Probably it was wishful thinking on his part.

It seemed they had reached their destination, because the Jaffa behind them stopped just as they reached a wider, more ornate place in the hall.

A tall, extremely pale woman with long black hair emerged from a dark room. "I am Khek," she spoke in the telltale Goa'uld accented voice. "I serve our Lord Dagon." She nodded at the Jaffa who immediately forced the team to their knees."

"You could've at least asked!" Jack complained loudly.

"You would have refused." Khek responded matter-of-factly, "Lord Dagon has learned much of you and your team, Colonel O'Neill."

"Ahh Crap!" Jack growled. Nothing he hated more than being on the short end. `Know your enemy' was good.' `Know more about your enemy than he does about you' was much better. Knowing less just sucked.

"Bring them." Khek commanded.

"Then why'd ya make us kneel?" O'Neill asked sarcastically.

As he seemed to struggle to his feet, he threw a look at Teal'c and the two of them attacked the closest guards.

Carter reacted instantly and took out the Jaffa nearest her.

With Daniel's help the four of them had soon recovered their weapons and were blasting their way out of the building.

In the noise and confusion, the Colonel ordered everyone to rendezvous outside in case they got separated.

Minutes later O'Neill hit the ground next to Teal'c who was providing cover fire. He knew he should be the last of them to arrive, so when he came up one short, he was not happy. "Where's Carter?!"

Daniel stared at him.

"She did not follow." Was Teal'c's response, shouting to be heard above the weapons fire.

"T! Daniel! Get back to the gate. Secure and hold it for as long as you can, but if we're not there in ten minutes, get home and get us some backup!" The staff blasts were closer now and so numerous, further discussion was impossible. Daniel wanted to argue, but Jack was already gone.

oO0Oo

For Daniel and Teal'c, there really wasn't much choice. Now that there was no reason to keep up the faade that this was not a Goa'uld world, the Jaffa pursued them all the way to the gate. They were barely able to dial and dive through before the area was swarmed.

The good news was that their retreat provided just the distraction Jack needed. Stealth took care of the rest and he was soon deep inside the fortress. Silently he moved from room to room, level to level, systematically searching until he found the detention area.

He knew Carter was probably still being questioned. Hopefully the questioning would be fairly benign at this point, so he hid and waited, peeking into cells at random just to see who else might be down there.

The only beings he saw were the Janitors, and while they stared at him even more pointedly than they had before, they made no move to stop him or set off any kind of alarm. These guys just had to be on their side.

As he came around a corner, one of the Janitors was waiting for him. He stopped short, weapon ready but not pointed, to see what the alien would do.

"May I touch you?" He spoke in a gravelly voice with such a thick accent Jack could barely make out the words.

"Yeah, um, okay, go ahead." Jack spoke warily and braced himself.

The Janitor reached out a gnarly hand and barely brushed his fingertips against O'Neill's cheek but the effects were immediate.

The Janitors were telepathic. Immediately Jack's mind was filled with images. Images that assured him the Janitors were there to help, and explained what their help could entail.

The communication between them took only moments but accomplished what many hours of discussion probably wouldn't. Jack knew the Janitors were indeed their allies and he knew what they were capable of. Should he need them, they would be there with their own version of a rescue.

He didn't like their version. No, he didn't like it at all, but he reluctantly agreed it would be their best chance if they couldn't get out on their own. And apparently, it had worked before, many times, with other prisoners.

When Ak, as Jack now knew he was called, removed his hand, he immediately turned and left silently, as if nothing had happened.

Jack continued searching cells. They were all empty until, in one cell, he recognized an SGC uniform.

"Alberts?!" He whispered as loudly as he dared. The form on the floor did not stir, but Jack doubted the Jaffa would have bothered to throw a dead body into a cell, so he kept trying as he worked at the lock. Finally he was rewarded as Alberts slowly and painfully turned to look at him through hazy, bloodshot eyes. He redoubled his efforts to open the door and finally it gave with such a loud creak Jack was sure the noise would bring a battalion down on them.

He quickly moved to where Alberts lay, taking out his canteen as he went.

"No..." Alberts moaned, "You shouldn't have come."

"Hey, is that anyway to greet the cavalry?"

"No, - Colonel, - you don't - understand. - I'm sorry. - I'm bait." He spoke as if he barely had strength to form words. "Bait to catch you." There was a long pause, "I'm sorry" He began to lose consciousness.

"Nah!" Jack replied. "Help is on the way. I'm just the first wave."

Alberts just shook his head and passed out.

Jack heard noise in the hall and all but faded into the wall beside the door. In a moment, the door opened and Carter was thrust into the room.

The Jaffa slammed the door and left. Jack dropped to the floor next to her, resting a hand gently on her shoulder. "Carter?"

She shook her head as if to clear it. "I'm fine sir." She paused and glanced up at him, "Sorry."

Jack wouldn't be there if she hadn't been captured, but he shook it off and waited for her to continue. "They weren't that interested in me." She looked at him as she pulled herself into a sitting position, "They want you, Sir."

"It's such a burden to be so popular." Jack obviously wasn't taking it too seriously as he pulled C4 from his pack and moved to place it on the door. "Alberts, you gonna be able to walk?"

"No. - They want you, sir. - won't stop...."

O'Neill winced in sympathy for the man's obvious pain and suffering. "Carter, give him a hand." They moved to the back of the cell, covering Alberts with their bodies.

Jack hit the detonator and the room was filled with light and sound, flying debris and choking dust. Before the pieces had all hit the floor, Jack was already at the threshold, trying to scan for the Jaffa he knew would soon arrive if they weren't already there.

Then he heard an all too familiar sound. "Shock Grenade!" he warned Carter and dove for cover, but it was too late.

oO0Oo

When he regained consciousness, he let it return slowly as he had been trained. There was a lot you could learn about your situation while your captors believed you to be unconscious. And besides, his sight wouldn't return for a few minutes yet anyway.

The first thing he became aware of was a dull pain in his temples. Then there were the restraints on his wrists and ankles, holding him in a chair. He was also vaguely aware of a strap around his forehead.

Suddenly, some of the images he had seen in Ak's mind started to make sense. Several imaginative curses made their way through his mind as he returned to his task.

As for sounds, there were very few. Just some electronic beeping, and soft cloth sounds as someone moved quietly and calmly about the room. He turned an ear toward the further reaches of the room and guessed that there were at least two guards near what would logically be the door. He could hear them shifting weight from one foot to the other.

One thing he was sure of, there was no sign of Carter or Alberts. He could always tell when Carter was in a room. It was sometimes the scent of her, sometimes just awareness, but he always knew. He hoped that they had just been locked up again, or better yet, they had somehow managed to escape.

But then he sensed someone else. Someone was staring at him. At least he had an overwhelming feeling that he was being watched.

The presence spoke in a deep Goa'uld voice, "He is awake. Begin."

He heard the person behind him moving switches and pressing buttons.

Then Jack knew nothing but pain for a very long time.

oO0Oo

The second time he regained consciousness, Carter was there. He knew not by her perfume or some perception, but because she was holding him. He was lying on the floor of a cell with his head in her lap. It was nice -except for the cell part.

He opened his eyes and his headache immediately spiked. "Aagh! Oy."

He grabbed his head as if to hold it together. "Sir?" Carter's concerned voice cut through the pain.

"It - will pass" Alberts' weak voice.

"Carter. Augh." One hand moved from his head to her arm and he held onto her with a grip so firm it was painful.

"I'm sorry, Sir, I have nothing to give you."

"No, it's okay, it's okay. Alberts' right, it's fading." He struggled to sit up as the world spun. It wasn't really fading, so much as becoming something he could manage, something he could box up and set aside. He leaned his head back against the cool stone.

"Oh-kay, what was that?"

"I've been learning as much as I can from Alberts. They have something similar to the Tok'ra memory device..."

"Peachy."

"Only it's been souped up, the power intensified. It now has the ability to `rip' memories from you." She looked at him closely, "Do you remember anything?"

"Ahh, yeah. Bits and pieces. Memories, yeah." He squinted at her, "Nothing classified..."

"Yet." Alberts added.

Carter spoke softly to Jack, "He's not doing so well. They used the machine on him too."

"I have to tell you - what I can - before," Alberts stopped, then tried again, "The first time is a test - see how the chair works. Then they dig. They found my knowledge of SG-1 mission reports and they," he groaned, "latched onto you, Colonel. Took everything I - know about you and they - want - more. He knew - you would - come for me."

"He?"

"Dagon, - Goa'uld. - He...he..." Alberts slumped, once more unconscious.

Jack watched him for a beat. He wanted to get him home - back to Janet, Alberts was a good man, way too good to lose like this. Plus, if this was what he had to look forward to... well, it didn't look like too much fun.

Carter was having the same thoughts, "Daniel and Teal'c will be here soon."

"Yeah, soon." Jack closed his eyes and tried to regain his energy.

oO0Oo

He couldn't have been asleep long before the Jaffa returned for him. They didn't say a word, just grabbed him and dragged him from the room, stunning Sam with a zat when she tried to stop them.

He was dragged through the halls, thrown into the chair and strapped down.

"Colonel O'Neill. I don't believe we met properly last time. I am your god, Dagon."

"Oh, you are so NOT anyone's god. And we both know it."

Dagon just smiled and nodded to his assistant who turned out to be Khek. She came and inserted the familiar probes from the Tok'ra memory device, one on each side. But the wires she attached were considerably more heavy duty. The holographic screen appeared.

"So, Colonel, I am quite certain you would like to kill me. What weapon would be your first choice?" And he turned to watch the screen.

Khek moved her buttons and levers and it felt like hot spikes were burning into his head. He clenched his teeth against the pain and concentrated.

Dagon was rewarded with an image of a very impolite hand gesture on the screen. "He resists. Turn it higher."

Jack really hadn't thought the pain in his head could get worse, but it did. And suddenly images of different weapons were scrolling across the screen.

Dagon laughed.

"You see? You cannot resist me. I will take what I want. This is nothing. The pain you feel is nothing for I have not yet asked you anything you truly wish to hide."

Dagon moved to the controls himself and began to manipulate them. "Tell me your secrets, Colonel."

Different images flashed across the screen almost too quickly to register. All of them scenes from Jack's past. There were scenes of explosions, torture, prisons and firefights in the desert, in the forest, in the snow. There were glimpses of Charlie, and then Charlie's dead body in his father's arms. He saw a young Frank Cromwell moving away toward a waiting chopper, and an older one falling into an open wormhole.

With the image of the Stargate the pain suddenly increased.

Jack grunted. Sweat poured off his face. It felt as if his brain was being ripped to shreds.

Dagon pulled the image of the stargate back and held it. Then he began to dig.

Images of the SGC scrolled across the screen. At first they were just rooms, the details and especially the people, indistinct.

Dagon flashed back and forth between them looking for what he wanted.

Jack moaned through his clenched jaw, his body shaking with the effort to hide the images from Dagon.

Dagon chuckled and shook his head at his struggles. "Hmm, now this looks interesting..." He had an image of SG-1 and General Hammond at the briefing table only he couldn't make out any of the faces. He twisted a knob.

Jack tore so forcefully at his restraints that his wrists began to bleed. But the faces slowly became clear.

Dagon chuckled as he zoomed in on each face, watching his readouts as he did so. "Teal'c - the Shol'vah, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, and General Hammond, I learned of them from the Lieutenant, but his images were not so wonderfully clear."

Dagon walked around and studied Jack's face. He grinned at the raw hatred he saw there. "Turn it off. He's had enough for now." And he left the room.

oO0Oo

Jack was dumped back into the cell.

Carter knelt beside him. "Sir-"

She was appalled at his condition. His face was red as if he had just run a marathon at top speed, but it was deathly pale underneath. His eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot, and blood from his wrists was smeared over his hands. But she held back when he put up a hand to keep her from helping him.

It pained her to watch him struggle to sit up against the wall, but she knew he had to do it. Had to prove to himself and to her that he could.

"Wha's the news Carter?"

She tore a piece off her t-shirt and did her best to clean and bandage his wrists, trying to ignore it when he winced.

"I have some good news." She spoke cheerfully, hoping to get some small spark from him, but he didn't move or open his eyes. "I heard from Daniel. - I managed to conceal my radio and the General must have opened the gate. Anyway, he said they're mounting a rescue. They'll be here soon."

She didn't tell him that the Gate was so well guarded at the moment that there was no way Hammond could authorize their rescue. Nor did she tell him that Alberts had slipped into a coma while he was gone. Instead she let him drift into what she hoped would be a healing sleep.

After a moment he jerked awake. "If you make contact again, tell them to change the codes."

"Sir?"

"It works, Carter. Can't hide from it. No choice." The defeat in his voice was almost unbearable. Then, as if he remembered something, he shifted position and spoke, forcing his eyes to focus on her, "We'll just gate elsewhere. Start thinking of where you want to escape to..."

The words took her back to Antarctica where she had first learned of his abiding belief that they would always get home. She smiled softly. "How about something with a beach?"

"Mmm" He spoke as if in his sleep. "Beach... sounds good..."

She sat close beside him, reassuring him with her presence.

oO0Oo

In the morning, they started again. The Jaffa came and dragged him away. He did not fight them. Carter found herself begging them to take her instead. Usually that was the Colonel's job.

They strapped him in and Dagon began again. Jack struggled and suffered.

Every other time he had been tortured, he had fought. He had fought and won in some small way. Something he could hold onto. Here, he felt he had nothing. He could not stop Dagon. The snake would take what he wanted. And he would use what he took to hurt and destroy those Jack lived to protect.

The idea was killing him faster than the machine.

After only a few hours of pointless pain and struggling, Dagon took the IDC codes. Then he took the Stargate addresses of several peaceful, Goa'uld-free worlds. He took all the classified information Jack tried to hide. No training, no experience could help him. Dagon just took, and laughed while he took it.

This time when they dumped him back into the cell he just lied where he had fallen.

"Sir? Jack?" Carter slid his head onto her lap and cradled him in her arms.

"Carter, - I think - I think I need some help."

The words chilled her. He was dying and he knew it.

"Sir? You just have to hold on, help is on the way."

"Aw, Carter, don't even - Hammond won't authorize it." He coughed, "I wouldn't." He tried to catch his breath. Aw, Carter, don't even - Hammond won't authorize it." He coughed, "I wouldn't." He tried to catch his breath. "But, Carter, - we will get out."

"Sir?" She looked at him doubtfully, his pain reflected in her eyes.

Aw, Carter, don't even - Hammond won't authorize it." He coughed, "I wouldn't." He tried to catch his breath. "But, Carter, - we will get out."

"Sir?" She looked at him doubtfully, his pain reflected in her eyes.

Aw, Carter, don't even - Hammond won't authorize it." He coughed, "I wouldn't." He tried to catch his breath. "But, Carter, - we will get out."

"Sir?" She looked at him doubtfully, his pain reflected in her eyes.

"But Carter - we will get out."

"Sir?" She looked at him doubtfully, his pain reflected in her eyes.

"Major," He looked at her earnestly, his words so soft she had to lean down to hear him, "You have to believe me."

"Yes sir."

oO0Oo

The next time the Jaffa came, Carter was ready. She hid behind the door and attacked when they came in. Thanks to Teal'c's lessons on top of the toughest training the Air Force had to offer, she had two Jaffa on the floor before their sheer numbers overwhelmed her.

Jack grinned at her as they pulled him from the room. "Nice."

Dagon greeted him cheerfully once he was strapped into the chair. "What will you tell me today, Colonel? I spent a very pleasant night planning several campaigns based on what I learned from you. Where shall we go next?"

Jack spit at him.

Dagon laughed. "Ah, Khek, He has not yet experienced the higher levels. Let us begin there as a reward for his insolence."

Khek adjusted the machine and turned it on.

Every muscle in his abused body clenched. Blood ran once more from his wrists. He could barely draw breath between his clenched teeth. He growled at Dagon. "I. Will. Kill. You."

Dagon came nose to nose with him, "No, Colonel, I will kill you."

oO0Oo

Carter sat breathless after her encounter. She couldn't stand feeling so helpless. The Colonel was dying and there was nothing she could do about it. She couldn't even give him hope.

Her heart was breaking for him. "Jack!" her soul cried out within her.

"Sam!"

For a split second, she thought...

"Sam, do you read?"

She grabbed for her hidden radio. "Daniel!"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, but the Colonel is not going to make it if we don't get help soon. Dagon has been relentless with that machine." She paused; then spoke reluctantly, "He said to change the codes."

"Got it. Alberts?"

"He's in a coma. I don't think he has long either."

There was a pause.

"We're coming. We just have to wait until we have the manpower. Too many teams are off world." Daniel was talking a mile a minute, "but there's an elaborate plan to get to you. We'll take Dagon out, too. I explained to the powers that be what you told me, and he's been deemed an unacceptable threat with the information he now holds. We're coming Sam, and we're not messing' around. You just have to hold on a little longer - tell Jack to hold on."

"Just hurry, Daniel." She begged. "Carter out."

oO0Oo

In the few hours of `interrogation' that passed, Dagon had become furious. Jack, full of pain and barely conscious, had found a way to keep a secret.

"What do you hide from me?" Dagon screamed. "No one has ever resisted like this! I already know everything you know about the Stargate program, your world, your past, your friends, and your family! What is it?"

When Jack didn't respond, he turned to Khek, "Full power!"

"But, My Lord!"

"I don't care. He will tell me or he will die."

Khek moved her levers and an unearthly whine filled the room.

Jack sat there and let the pain wash over him. It rolled over him in waves, each one taking a piece of him with it. It would be over soon. He was unaware of the tears that streamed down his face. Blood trickled from his nose and ears, but he no longer cared. He had won. He would die, but he had won.

He had beaten Dagon.

"Stop!"

Suddenly the pain ended, leaving Jack dazed and confused. "What now?"

Dagon, now calm and thoughtful, studied him for a full minute.

"I believe we will try something else." He addressed Khek, "Bring up the results from our first few sessions." After studying the readouts of Jack's reactions to the torture for awhile he began to laugh once again.

"Bring Major Carter!"

"No." Jack moaned. "No. No. No..."

He knew he had to shut up, that he was playing right into Dagon's hands, so he bit his lip and resigned himself to the fact that his torture had just gotten a whole lot worse.

oO0Oo

Carter was pushed roughly into the room.

Their eyes met and held. Hers told him she knew she had been brought here as leverage against him. His were pained, but more from regret, she realized, than the machine.

She knew she had to stay strong to help him resist, no matter what they did.

Dagon saw their unspoken communication and stepped between them. "Major Carter, welcome to my palace. I'm sorry, we didn't speak longer last time, but I believed you were useless to me. Now it seems you may have some small value after all. You see, Colonel O'Neill cares for you," He chuckled, "Yes, he does, very much. Did you know?"

Dagon stepped aside and let their gazes lock once more. Jack's weakened state allowed tears to come to his eyes.

Sam squared her shoulders, and turned to smile at Dagon. "Your point?"

"How much, I wonder, is he willing to let you suffer? You see, he has a secret he won't tell, I just wonder if it's worth your life. Just how much are you worth to him?"

Sam looked, and saw in Jack's eyes the answer to that question.

It strengthened her more than anything else could. The depth of emotion he had allowed her to see in that instant was the most beautiful thing in the world to her.

"Begin."

The Jaffa tied her wrists to hooks in the ceiling, and brought out a pain stick.

Carter was even tougher than Jack expected. Every time they stopped she had some smart remark or comment ready for Dagon. And while he raged at Dagon, inwardly he felt pride at her strength. He knew from experience what a pain stick could do.

Finally Dagon ordered the Jaffa to stop and turned to Jack, "Well, Colonel, would you like them to continue?" He gestured to Khek who turned on the machine.

Gasping for breath, Sam looked up and was horrified to see it in action. She had thought she was imagining the worst when she had seen Jack's condition in the cell. The reality was much more terrible. How could anyone suffer that and survive?

Dagon gestured again and the machine paused for a moment. "Very well, Colonel, you give me no choice." He turned to the Jaffa, "You may continue."

The Jaffa took up his pain stick again, and at the same time, Khek turned on the machine.

Dagon leaned in beside Jack and whispered in his ear, "All you have to do is stop fighting, let me see what you hide, and she will be safe. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Major Carter could be safe, but you won't allow it. You're making her suffer, Colonel. Why? What could possibly be this important?"

Jack closed his eyes and welcomed the machine's effects because that pain was nothing compared to the pain of watching Sam suffer.

Finally she collapsed unconscious and they could no longer torture her. Dagon gestured with disgust and they dragged her away.

"Take him too, I tire of this."

oO0Oo

When Sam regained consciousness she was on the floor of the cell, nose to nose with Alberts. His dead eyes seemed to stare right through her and she jerked away as quickly as she could; straight back into Jack.

"Unh" he groaned.

"I'm sorry, Sir!" She turned, careful to block his view of Alberts, and gently rolled him over.

He was so very weak, his voice, a whisper, "No. Carter, - I'm - sorry. My fault... you suffered... S - So... sorry."

She smiled sadly, fighting back tears, "No. Sir, - listen to me. You did what was necessary... I know that... Even if I didn't... I'd take what they did... and more... for you."

He held her gaze as long as he could before consciousness deserted him and fled.

oO0Oo

Suddenly, behind them, the cell door was thrust open. Sam scrambled to face it. It was too soon - too soon for the Jaffa to return!

But it was the slave aliens that entered. They immediately began to gather Alberts' dead body together for transport - disposal? Sam didn't have the energy to stop them from committing what she feared was a desecration.

She merely watched and hated herself for not taking action. She knew Alberts had a family. She should make sure his body was returned to them. `Nobody gets left behind.' But in her current condition there was nothing she could do to stop them.

Then one of them stopped and looked at her pointedly. He raised a hand and looked as if he were about to approach, to touch her. Sam readied herself to fight him off if need be. But just then a team of Jaffa appeared to supervise the activity inside the cell. The alien immediately pulled his hand back and returned to his task. Soon they and their burden were gone. The Jaffa walked on as well.

Sam returned to Jack's side. His breathing was erratic, his pulse weak, but he managed to open his eyes when she called his name. He looked at her. She laid a hand on his arm. He smiled and spoke. She leaned close to hear his words: "It'll be okay. I promise." He spoke so earnestly, she almost believed him. Then he closed his eyes and slept. She did her best to follow his example.

oO0Oo

The next day found Jack back in the chair before he had regained consciousness. He opened his eyes to see Sam strung up from the ceiling once more. He saw the desperate look in her eyes before she realized he was awake. As soon as she saw him watching, her expression snapped shut and a look of determination appeared.

Dagon wasn't laughing anymore. He came in angry and ordered Khek and the Jaffa to begin without even speaking to Jack. He just stood and stared at Jack, waiting.

"You - might as well - kill her. I - won't - talk." Jack panted out the words so callously Sam gasped - and not from her pain.

She was shocked. Not at his willingness to sacrifice her - she knew he would do that if a greater good would be accomplished; no, she was shocked at the fear in his voice. Was he truly despairing? Hoping only for death to release them? It was so unlike him. She forgot the Jaffa for a moment as she looked to her commander for the answer. The answer he sent her was completely unexpected:

His eyes were full of hope and encouragement.

But just for a moment - then his mask was back and he turned to Dagon.

What was his plan? Carter wondered.

Dagon stared at Jack, full of fury because his plan to manipulate his prisoner wasn't working. Jack held his gaze unflinching, even as his body spasmed uncontrollably.

"Very well!" He gestured at the Jaffa. They stopped and let Sam slump against her restraints before releasing her and dragging her out of the room.

Dagon leaned into Jack. "You DO realize I can keep you alive indefinitely. We can do this every day for years..."

"And if I die you can just throw me in a sarcophagus and..."

"NO!" Dagon shouted, spitting, "I have no sarcophagus to relieve you of your pain. Expect no hope there."

"Wouldn't call it hope, Dagwood."

"You will suffer every day! And I will enjoy it!"

"You do that."

"Begin!"

oO0Oo

Once again, Jack was thrust back into the cell, barely conscious. He only had time to register the absence of Alberts, "The Janitors - take him?"

"Janitors?"

"Slaves"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good."

"Sir?"

He was determined to string his words together coherently - he had to make her understand. "It's time for me to go, Carter. I'll come get you. It's the only way."

She figured he must be delirious, and did her best to make him comfortable.

He lay back dissatisfied with her response. He closed his eyes, as if to sleep, but then he reached out to her once again. He began to speak softly, but not to her. He spoke as if he were pleading with someone, "Please, Ak..."

As soon as he touched her arm, her mind was filled with images and suddenly she knew what his plan was. The aliens she saw in her mind barely registered. Her CO's plan shocked her. He was planning to die.

"No." She whispered. She held onto his hand and watched as he took a deep breath and quit fighting.

Carter watched his chest rise and fall one last time. Still she clung to his hand, feeling the thready pulse slowing, praying that the images she had seen were the truth.

As if in answer to her prayer, the Janitors appeared almost immediately. They pulled him away from her and made ready to carry him away under the watchful eye of the Jaffa. She only stared.

The Janitor who had approached her before, turned to her and echoed Jack's words. He spoke quietly so the Jaffa would not hear, "It'll be okay, I promise."

oO0Oo

Pain

Hope

Death

Rescue

Fight

Jack's eyes opened.

He came off the table fighting.

Hands that were gentle yet incredibly strong grabbed and held him until he regained his senses. "Ak?"

"Indeed, Colonel O'Neill."

"Did that - all - just - happen?"

"Indeed, Colonel O'Neill."

"We gotta get Carter."

"Ind..."

"That's about enough of that, Ak."

Ak smiled. He allowed the Colonel to rise. He helped him to his feet and supported him knowing that he would attempt the feat well before he was truly able. Then he bowed low.

"Colonel, Thank-you. You were able to keep our secret, as I suspected; A rare ability indeed. I am sorry you and Major Carter suffered so long for it. I nev-"

Jack waved him off with a gesture "You wouldn't happen to have any of our stuff would ya?"

"Inde... Yes, Colonel, over here." Ak gestured at their gear, dumped in a heap in a corner.

Jack staggered over to retrieve his and Carter's pack.

"Y'know, you really remind me of a friend of mine." Jack grinned. "So how do I get to Carter?"

"I am sorry we cannot go with you..."

"Yeah, I get that."

"You cannot possibly do this alone. Should you not wait for your friends?"

"Can't risk Dagon putting her in the chair. Not only would it put you guys at risk, but she does not deserve to suffer any more. And speaking of that - explain to me why you don't just kill Dagon's victims in their cells and then revive them later? It would be quicker - more efficient, less painful." He was busy stripping the packs taking only the supplies and weapons he would need to rescue Carter and kill the snakehead.

"It is our highest law. We would become no better than Dagon."

Jack nodded.

"I gotta go. Can you show me the way?"

"Colonel, you are not well enough."

"So, this way?"

oO0Oo

Jack ghosted down the hallways. He was nearly invisible in the dimly lit corridors outside the cells. He soon reached his destination.

"Carter." He whispered.

She was at the door immediately, the joy in her voice instantly recognizable, "Sir, is that really you? I couldn't believe..."

She fell silent at Jack's signal and he faded away as a Jaffa patrol passed. After a few moments he reappeared and quietly unlocked the cell.

"Now, as you know the Jaffa don't oil these things, so as soon as you can fit through, we move. Down the hall to the left is an empty room."

She nodded and on the count of three they put their plan into motion.

Seconds later they were hunkered down in the room waiting for the Jaffa. Jack was handing Sam her weapons. At the first sound of boots, they were out the door blasting. Being attacked from behind was not something Dagon's Jaffa were ready for and they were quickly defeated.

Before the last Jaffa had fallen they were on their way. When they reached a convenient spot, Jack stopped to explain. "I set quite a bit of C4 on my way to your cell. Right now, we need to get to the chair room and destroy it."

"What about Dagon, Sir?"

"Oh yeah," he responded cheerfully, "him too."

oO0Oo

Once they had reached the chair room, Jack stopped. "Dagon and Khek are inside, alone. I'm going to detonate the C4 to cause a distraction. You take out Khek and I'll take Dagon. Quick and quiet, no discussion. Kill, do not engage. Can you do that?" He looked at her regretting the brutality he was asking of her.

Carter only nodded. Jack hit the detonator and as explosives shook the entire complex they moved. Jack went in first and Dagon was dead on the floor, his throat slit through to the snake, before Carter had reached Khek. But the other goa'uld fell soon after.

Jack stood and cleaned his knife. As Carter turned to him she shivered, for she saw, just for a moment, eyes that were cold and dead. She wondered, not for the first time, what his years of `damned distasteful things' had done to his soul. But then he looked up at her and his eyes had resumed their normal light. The `other' Jack had been put away; boxed up until he would be needed again.

"We head for the gate. Take out any Jaffa we meet on the way. There shouldn't be many left, and those that are should be in chaos. It'll be the humans we'll have to worry about. Let's go."

Jack was right. By the time they reached the gate the Jaffa had all but scattered. He had taken out the first prime and several squad leaders with his C4. The humans had given them some trouble, but they had simply avoided most of them.

Their arrival at the gate coincided with its activation. Jack clicked his radio, "Sierra Gulf Charlie, this is Sierra Gulf niner, please stand down, I repeat, stand down, the situation is under control."

General Hammond responded, "Colonel O'Neill, what are you talking about?!"

Daniel piped in, "Jack are you, y'know, you?"

Jack and Sam exchanged a grin, "Why don't ya come see, Danny? You got the door open."

Daniel and Teal'c appeared through the wormhole, weapons at the ready with a squad of marines behind them.

"I told you to stand down!" Jack complained. Then he gestured at the marines, "Major Adel, since you're here, take your men and round up the Jaffa, and watch out for hostile humans. The other aliens you may encounter are friendlies. They're on our side, got it? Good guys!"

Daniel was studying Jack as if he were a new artifact, "Jack, you want to explain why one minute you're dying on a goa'uld infested world and by the time we mount a rescue you're cured and you've got everything under control??"

Once again Jack smiled at Sam who returned his grin and went to reactivate the gate, "Well... I told you this was going to be interesting...very VERY interesting!"

He put his hand on Daniel's shoulder and turned him back towards the event horizon as Teal'c punched in the new IDC code, "I'll explain it all when we get home. Oh, and we have some new and interesting allies... Did I say VERY interesting?" He pushed Daniel back through the gate and then he reached a hand out to Carter, "Let's go home."

End.


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