Title: Deeper Than Memories
Rating: PG-13 for some language
Word Count: ~10,000
Prompt: from alobear for the Jack/Daniel Ficathon: action/adventure, mission fic; optional request: established relationship that the rest of the team knows about, set before Jack's promotion to running the base
from sidlj Amnesia. Jack/Daniel... but Jack for once is the one with amnesia!
Spoilers: "The Fifth Race," "Fallen"
Summary: Navigating a relationship with Jack is difficult enough, but when Jack doesn't even remember Daniel it's almost impossible. With all the times Daniel's lost his memory, it's starting to feel like the bitter taste of his own medicine.
Notes: Thanks to green_grrl for the as always quick and efficient beta and support.
Dedication: This fic is for sidlj. This fandom is better for having had you in it. We won't forget you.
He'd gone through the medical exam, a frustrating debrief which mostly consisted of himself and Sam saying variations of "I don't know," and he'd even agreed to take a shower and put on a fresh set of clothes, but no one was going to convince Daniel that he should be grabbing a nap in the VIP guest rooms instead of waiting in the control room until either SG-1 shipped out on a rescue mission or Jack 'gated in. Daniel was convinced Jack was going to 'gate in. He'd look sheepish, explain how some alien princess had wanted to make him her groom, and then he'd grumble through an invasive medical exam.
Or maybe he'd be dragging mud and a limp, and he'd tell them about escaping slavers, that the natives mistook "Colonel" or one of Jack's Simpsons references for some word in their language that meant he was property.
Or maybe he'd been laid up for eight hours with alien hoodoo and he'd barely be walking, maybe he'd throw up on the ramp, and they'd spend 48 hours in 'gate lock down while hazmat cleaned the 'gate room again.
Or maybe Jack would be angry, put up a single finger and gruffly say, "Lock it out," like he'd done on other occasions.
As it was, when the klaxons blared, Daniel fumbled his research notes, Teal'c raced for the stairs before Sargent Harriman had even confirmed it was Jack's IDC, Sam checked the readings from the 'gate, and Jack walked through the 'gate, head and body swiveling, taking in the room, the 'gate, the wormhole.
"What the hell just happened?" Jack turned back to the wormhole again, jerking back when it disengaged, like he'd never seen it before.
Daniel grabbed the mic, a rock growing in his stomach. "Jack?"
He looked up, squinting first at the speakers, and then his eyes slid to the window. "Yes, God?"
Daniel sighed heavily, for once appreciating Jack's ill-timed sense of humor. General Hammond tapped Daniel's shoulder, taking over the microphone.
"You've been gone twelve hours, Colonel. You have to go through quarantine."
"Okay," he said, entirely too chipper. He casually swung his arms—at least he didn't look physically hurt—and looked between the two doors, again, like he'd never been through them before and wasn't sure which way was quarantine.
"O'Neill." Teal'c approached, staff weapon in hand. "It is good to see you, my friend." He bowed slightly. Teal'c had been on more pins than Daniel—he'd blamed himself when they'd lost Jack in the maze of the ruins, dodging weapons fire, and Daniel had let him carry that guilt. He'd have to apologize to Teal'c later. It hadn't been his fault, and either way, Jack was okay now. Jack was whole and Jack was home.
"Friend?" Jack asked. "Who are you?"
Well, at least Jack was home.
"The MRI is showing some trauma around the amygdala and hippocampus, which could be affecting his memory." The image of Jack’s brain washed out when the conference room lights flicked back on, as if illustrating the way his memories had disappeared. Janet tapped the papers back into the manila folder, looking slowly around the room from Hammond to each member of SG-1. She turned the folder twice: fidgeting wasn't her usual style. "Colonel O'Neill didn't seem to remember any of us," She continued. "The staff, the SGC, or anything from at least the past seven years."
"What about before?" Daniel asked. "Before the stargate?" Sara, Charlie—those were his real questions, did Jack remember the life he'd had before Daniel.
Janet knew what Daniel was asking, and she knew why. He and Jack hadn't been very good at keeping secrets, at least not this one, not from Janet. "I didn't get that far in the questioning because he said he didn’t know who Jack O'Neill was."
"Is there any chance this isn't Colonel O'Neill?" Sam was on the same page as Daniel. They'd all been duplicated at least twice, and Daniel's body had been used to carry other consciousnesses. It wasn't that far fetched of an idea that he actually wasn't Jack.
"This would have to be a duplicate like no other we've seen. And honestly? I know Colonel O'Neill—this man sounds just like him. We'll probe deeper; find out exactly what happened and what he knows."
"And you say this trauma was surgical?" Hammond tapped the report open in front of him, his fingers spread out.
"It doesn't appear to be accidental, if that's what you're asking. It's too precise, and barely noticeable. The greatest indication that something's wrong is Colonel O'Neill himself."
Daniel hid behind his hands, breathing deeply, pulling himself back together. "He must have seen something or, or this is punishment! I said we shouldn't go into that temple." He banged his fist on the table, more annoyed with himself than with Jack. Regardless of what else had happened, regardless even of how Teal'c felt he'd been responsible, Daniel should have gone back. Daniel was their negotiator. He could have talked Jack out of whatever trouble he'd gotten into. They both should have been captured.
Sam turned towards Daniel, reaching for him but not touching. "Daniel, they were shooting at us before we even reached the temple."
The firing started just outside, in the ruins. Jack had tackled Daniel's legs, the energy weapon's blast striking the wall instead of Daniel's back. "Inside! Daniel! Go!" He'd argued halfheartedly about staying out of the temple, but while they were under fire there was really only one choice.
"We had to find cover, Daniel Jackson."
Logic was sometimes Daniel's greatest nemesis. "It still could have angered them. Or coming through the ruins? We could be infidels, for all we know. Trespassing on their hallowed grounds could be punishable by memory loss." He was reaching. He was reaching pretty damn far. "We don't know. We don't know and we left him. When has Jack ever left one of us behind?"
"We were taking fire," Sam said emphatically. "The Colonel ordered us to retreat." Anger simmered beneath her words, hot and guilty; SG-1 really was the team that did everything together.
"Son, what's done is done. Dr. Fraiser and her medical team will do all they can for Colonel O'Neill. There's no use second guessing the past." Hammond closed the folder in front of him. "Dr. Fraiser, let me know when you have further test results. Dismissed."
"Dismissed?" Daniel swiveled in his chair. "But what are we supposed to do?"
"There's no sign of any contagion. You could talk to him." Fraiser shrugged.
Daniel slouched, embarrassed that he hadn't already made that request. Jack probably would have insisted that the debrief take place outside quarantine. The last time Daniel had been without his memory, Jack had never been far away.
Sam squeezed Daniel's shoulder. She looked sad, or maybe tired. "I'll look over my readings. You have some recordings, too. Translations? Maybe they'll be something that helps explain this."
"Do you know how unlikely that is?"
"I like to be optimistic." Sam smiled, though it didn't quite reach her eyes. "C'mon, let's go see the Colonel." She squeezed both of Daniel's shoulders this time, patted them twice, and then headed for the door. Daniel was quick on her heels, taking his copy of the meager report with him. Not that Dr. Fraiser's medical analysis would help with any translations he might be able to do from only an hour of recording, but he'd feel better holding a tangible representation of the problem.
Jack had blinked at each of them in turn, clearly lost as to who any of them were. "Daniel." Daniel jerked his thumb at his chest. "Daniel Jackson. Major Sam Carter. Teal'c. We're your team mates."
"You're our CO, commanding officer," Sam supplied. "You're a Colonel."
"You are a formidable warrior."
Jack shook his head and held up his hands. "For cryin' out loud, I know you all mean well, but like I told the doc, I'm not your guy."
Teal'c's eyebrows shot up for all of them.
"You're Jack O'Neill. You're the second-in-command of Stargate Command—this. The SGC." Daniel gestured around them. "You're . . . our friend."
Jack shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you, but I'm not. I'm not him, the Jack guy."
"Then who are you, sir?"
He shrugged again, this time bringing his hands up. "I don't know, but I'm not the guy you want me to be."
Before the team had split up in the temple, Jack's eyes had met Daniel's, communicating that they'd find each other—if it came to that—because they always found each other. "Would you believe us if we insisted that you are?"
Jack snorted at Daniel's question, picking at the tape holding in his IV. "There's a lot of you telling me I'm this Jack guy, but you'll have to excuse me if I'm still skeptical."
"That," Daniel said, pointing at Jack with his whole hand. "That is exactly what Jack O'Neill would say."
"He's right, sir," Sam agreed.
Jack narrowed his eyes. "You call me 'sir.'"
"It's a military thing," Daniel explained.
"And you're not military?" He looked first at Daniel and then took in Teal'c as well, almost as though he was remembering and not just asking.
"No, no, we're not."
Janet came in with a laptop then. "I thought this might cut through some of the stubbornness." She turned the laptop around for Jack and cued up a more recent interview he'd done for the NID, starting with his name, rank, and position at the SGC.
Jack leaned in, eyes narrowed as he studied the video. Janet offered him a mirror. "Oh no, the resemblance is not just uncanny."
"I didn't say that," he snapped. He was thinking it, though, Daniel knew Jack too well to believe otherwise.
"Oh for cryin' out loud," the Jack on the screen snapped.
Jack's eyes went wide. "It's an expression," he said, squirming a little. Daniel smiled, remembering another time they'd all lost their memories and Jack had used that same excuse.
"What do you remember?" Daniel pulled a chair closer and sat down, leaning forward on his elbows. "What do you remember from the planet?"
"I woke up on the floor. There was this round thing in front of me." He mimed the size and various dimensions. "Big and black, set into the wall like a window. I stood up. I walked. The, uh, the stargate? It was all blue ahead of me, and I knew I was supposed to walk through it, so I did."
"What about your GDO?"
"It's a device that allows us to, um, open the door."
Sam picked up the explanation when Daniel faltered. "We have a protective shield over the stargate. The GDO lets us admit friendlies."
"I'm a friendly?"
You were, Daniel wanted to say. What he said instead was, "Anything before then?"
"You mean when I was unconscious?"
Daniel groaned. "Jack."
"No. Nothing specific. Some impressions, but nothing that I'd call a memory." He folded down the laptop, fiddling with the button on the front.
"Any details you can give could help us figure out what happened," Janet prompted.
Jack sighed. "Bright lights. Colors. Claustrophobia." That sounded a lot like Jack's first description of the Ancient device they encountered on P3R-272. But Daniel couldn't imagine Jack willingly putting his head back in one of those things. The last time nearly killed him!
"Also—okay—there's words in my head. 'Tabula rasa'? Does that mean anything to anyone?"
Daniel sighed. "Blank slate." He shared a look with Janet and SG-1. "I think it's pretty obvious the device did this."
After a long moment Jack spoke again, "I don't think it was the device. I feel like I made a choice."
Daniel felt the word "choice" hit him in the gut. Everyone else seemed struck by it too; enough that Daniel was still the first one to recover. "You chose this? To forget?"
"Assuming you're right, that I did actually forget, that I am the guy you're talking about? Then, yeah, I guess."
"You must have had a good reason," Sam offered.
Daniel set his jaw. If Jack had given up his memories, he'd given up his life. Daniel had enough experiences with altered and missing memories to know that was the one thing he'd never give up. He'd never give up Jack. But Jack, for some reason, had decided to give up him.
"It's weird, though." Sam folded her arms and turned to Teal'c. "We received a GDO signal, and whoever was there dialed the 'gate—they dialed Earth!"
"Perhaps we have allies on that planet."
"They shot at us," Sam argued.
"Is it not as Daniel Jackson said? We may have intruded, and they merely meant to defend themselves."
Daniel pushed away from the bed, not able to even begin processing this conversation. "You'll have to excuse me," he said, teeth mostly clenched. "There's something I want to look up." It was a flimsy excuse and maybe Sam and Teal'c saw through it, but no one called him out on it. Jack would've stopped him, if only Jack remembered him enough to stop him.
Jack wouldn't have chosen this. That one thought stuck with Daniel as he reviewed the tape he'd made in the ruins. Jack wouldn't have picked this given any other choice. And if he had? He would have left a note. Daniel rubbed his tired eyes. Maybe he should get Jack in here to help with the translation. If he'd really had his head in one of those head suckers again, then he could start speaking Ancient at any moment.
"Daniel?" When he looked up, Sam was standing at the door to his office, two cups of coffee in hand. "I thought you could use a recharge."
He sat back, tossing his pen on the desk. "I could use a new battery."
She sat down across from him. "Didn't Oma technically give you one of those?"
Daniel smiled; it wasn't often that Sam brought up his Ascension. "I think it might've been used." He frowned when he thought that one through. "Actually that's really gross, so let's assume my sense of humor is already asleep."
Sam still chuckled into her coffee, though. She nodded towards the monitor. "Any luck?"
Daniel sighed and scrubbed his face. "This section—" He flicked towards the monitor, indicating what was currently on screen. "—has something to do with 'a mental disturbance.' 'Healing' has come up in a few other sections, along with some words I don't know but I'm pretty sure have to do with the body. Some of the roots. . . ." He trailed off, realizing that wasn't quite Sam's question. "I think it was an infirmary, for lack of a better description."
"Infirmary?" She leaned forward on her elbows, turning Daniel's notes towards her even though she couldn't read Ancient. "So, do you think the device was trying to fix Colonel O'Neill?"
"He doesn't seem fixed, does he?"
"I guess it depends on what you're trying to fix."
Daniel titled his head, squinting at her.
"I mean, obviously his memories being gone isn't a good thing, but maybe there's an advantage to it that we're missing. Maybe it saved his life. Or maybe he's happier like this."
Daniel had to remind himself: she didn't know. Sam didn't know because Jack wasn't ready to risk his career for Daniel, and Daniel had agreed. But it still hurt to think the Jack might be happier without SG-1 in his memories. Even considering all the messed up shit they'd been through—even after all that—Daniel knew Jack was happier with SG-1.
"We've saved the world."
Sam shrugged. "We've also died a few times. Lost friends. Been captured." Tortured, Daniel amended. "Maybe all those bad things start to outweigh the good."
Not all the good, and not for Jack. Daniel knew what Jack had in his life. He knew exactly how long it had taken the two of them to get on the same page. He knew how hard Jack had fought for Daniel to regain his memories, and how crushed he'd been when they both realized there were some things Daniel would never recover. They'd made firsts again, they'd coped, they'd agreed to do it all over again if they had to, but it would never be because one of them had chosen it.
"An infirmary, though. That's something." She turned Daniel's notes back around. "Maybe that means the machine could undo whatever it did to the Colonel."
"I was thinking the same thing. Going back poses risks, though. And how do we know that just sticking him in the machine will undo it?"
Sam shrugged. "Maybe Teal'c was right. Maybe they're friendlies and we just misunderstood. Maybe they'd help."
Daniel scratched his cheek, lifting up his glasses. "You sound like me."
"Someone has to be the upbeat one."
He snorted. Jack always grumbled when they were overly optimistic. "If they were going to help, we might have to convince them."
"It wouldn't be the first time you negotiated on our behalf."
"No, you're right. Though, they shot at us. But sent Jack back . . . well, mostly unharmed." He growled in frustration, so tired of he and Jack trading off who was in danger or injured or missing. "I don't get it."
Sam stood up and put her hands on Daniel's shoulders, squeezing gently. "You will." She collected her coffee cup and raised it to him. "Back to work."
He returned the gesture, raising his coffee cup as well. The heat and the scent took the caffeine straight to his brain, and while Daniel still had a thousand questions there was one sentence that focused him: Jack needed his memories.
After 24 hours they moved Jack from quarantine to one of the on-base VIP guest rooms. Daniel almost thought of it as their room, given how much time one or both of them had lived there. Being a member of SG-1 meant that sometimes you partook of SGC accommodations, usually because some aliens had whammied your mind. It was disconcerting when he thought too much about how often someone messed with his brain or his body.
Jack moved his rook into checkmate. Well, he hadn't forgotten how to blow Daniel away at chess.
"You're the only person I lose to fairly consistently."
Jack shrugged. "First time, as far as I know."
Daniel frowned. Jack had been playing a verbal chess match with Daniel, cutting off every avenue that alluded to them having a past together, or that might coax a memory. This was Day Two as far as Jack was concerned.
"Hundreds of times. We've known each other eight years," he reminded. "I can't even guess how many times we've been in this room and played with this chessboard." He traced his finger around the crown of the white queen. He'd chipped it one of the times he'd been quarantined and had run out of patience. Jack had chided him for throwing the piece and that had started an argument that burned through Daniel's frustration and energy and actually let him get some sleep. It'd taken him a week to realize that had been Jack's goal. Sometimes Jack's strategic mind was frightening in how quickly it would threat assess a situation.
He set the queen down in front of Jack. "Your memory loss is interesting, if nothing else. You don't remember your past, but you're still you. Brings up the question, what makes a personality, if not our experiences."
Jack rubbed his eyebrow, the familiar symptom of an Anthropological Headache. "I'm not sure it's really that interesting."
"But you haven't done or even said anything out of character. Your mannerisms are totally in synch with what I'd expect. Even how you beat me, I've seen you pull that knight to queen move countless times." He was building up a head of steam now, just trying to push through to break into something that would feel familiar to Jack.
"Isn't that, like, a basic move?"
"It's all about when you do it, what you'll sacrifice to gain the advantage. But the point is that I've seen you execute it just like that. It's like you forgot your past, but you didn't forget you. Maybe." He propped his chin on his hand, leaning in. "Maybe your brain is still mapped for your personality and while they can disconnect the memories, they're still there influencing you in ways you can't even imagine."
Jack sat back (much as Daniel knew he would) and waved in front of his face. "No matter how hard you stare at me, you're not going to be able to see them."
"But they're there."
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, Daniel. I don't know that they're there. You don't know that they're there. Fraiser doesn't know that they're there. Just because you want them to be there, doesn't mean they are! They're gone, accept it and move on." He crossed his arms like a petulant child.
Daniel smiled. "But you believe they were there."
"That's not what I said."
"You said they were gone. That means they used to be there."
Jack opened his mouth, shut it, and then held up a finger. Daniel could see him going through his rant and trying to figure out just what he'd said so he could refute Daniel's smug reasoning. He gave up and waved both hands in front of his face. "Okay, maybe I said that."
Daniel smirked, finally one step closer to moving Jack towards acceptance—the acceptance that Daniel would fix him.
"But that doesn't mean I believe it."
"I think it does. Just because there's trauma doesn't mean the memories are gone. It might just mean that your ability to recall them has been . . . hindered." He held out his hands, offering up the perfect word to describe the path to Jack's rehabilitation. "But with a little coaxing, you might be able to remake the connections and voilà, memory!"
"Are you seriously suggesting that we can defeat alien technology with the power of positive thinking?"
Actually, he was suggesting that Jack remembered Daniel, somewhere in his brain, and that Daniel was going to do everything in his power to bring those memories back to the surface.
Daniel folded his hands, thumb rubbing over the spot Jack kissed when Daniel was working into the night instead of sleeping. "I lost my memory—everything—a few months ago."
"This happens to us often?"
Daniel snorted. "Often enough." He chuckled mirthlessly, trying to tap into the feelings he'd had when he'd been Arrom, when he was first told who he was and SG-1 tried to convince him of it. He'd been so skeptical, but he didn't have anything else, so he'd gone along with them until he slowly started finding himself.
"I had some trouble believing that I was who everyone said I was. And I had more trouble recovering memories. But you helped me. You worked with me. Hell, you gave me a picture of my wife!"
"I was. She's gone now." He frowned, wondering if he could be as unselfish as Jack, if he even knew where Jack still had a picture of Sara.
"Is he married?" Jack squinted, and for the first time Daniel felt like he might be trying to make a connection.
"You were married. Divorced. You're not married now." That was the truth, though Daniel often felt like it was only the legal truth. "She hasn't been part of your life for a long time. I don't think she'd trigger many happy memories. Sha're didn't for me."
Jack nodded slowly, his face darkening. Daniel knew he was taking a risk pussyfooting around Jack's memories, but he couldn't imagine that the first thing he wanted to remember was Charlie. Daniel hadn't been too happy when he'd remembered Sha're enough only to be told she was dead.
"So, positive thinking?"
Daniel grinned brightly. "It couldn't hurt, could it?"
Jack shook his head. "I don't even know you and I can already tell you're a pain in my ass."
"That. That is very true. And a very Jack O'Neill thing to say."
"At least I agree with him on that."
"He's you," Daniel reminded him. "It's not that surprising."
Jack sighed. "Okay, he might be me. I might be Jack O'Neill." He said it like he was testing it out, but it was enough for Daniel. For now.
Daniel grabbed a second piece of pie, rearranging the stack of plates on the tray. He'd gone for all of Jack's favorite foods or foods that had some emotional resonance. If they carried Jack's favorite beer in the commissary he'd have gotten tipsy just for the sake of reminding Jack that he was a cheap date as he'd joked many times before.
"You look as though you are eating for two, Daniel Jackson." Daniel smiled at Teal'c's effort for the joke. "This is for O'Neill?"
"Half of it." The dishes rattled and slid when Daniel tried to lift the tray. Teal'c quickly grabbed a second tray, wordlessly moving plates over. Even though Teal'c probably would have helped him anyway, Daniel couldn't help but wonder if this was part of Teal'c's way of assuaging his guilt.
"O'Neill appears to be himself."
Daniel stopped to grab napkins and utensils, piling them on Teal'c's tray. "He's very Jack, even when he's saying that he's not Jack." He groaned. "I know I didn't like it when you guys would tell me stuff I couldn't remember, but I tried to remember! You'd say 'Abydos' and I'd try to put a picture together, some small memory of what the place was like or who the people were. But Jack just shuts off."
"Perhaps it is painful."
Painful? Painful was your boyfriend standing in front of you and not only being unable to remember you, but possibly having chosen to forget you.
"Physically," Teal'c amended. "Though I cannot imagine O'Neill succumbing to pain rather than fighting to remember you."
Daniel glanced up at Teal'c. That had been rather specific. "And the team."
"And the team," Teal'c said with a shallow bow. A smile played at the corner of his mouth, though, and Daniel felt like he finally had the answer to the question about whether or not Teal'c knew about them.
"How do you feel? About the idea of Jack just forgetting us—all that history. It's been a long time." Daniel backed into the door, holding it open and getting a good look at Teal'c's pensive face.
"It is difficult to think that O'Neill might not remember our many adventures, or what he has done to save the world, but he is still O'Neill. I am confident our friendship can be renewed."
"Can it, though? I mean, there's foundation there, trust. It took forever to get Jack to take me seriously."
"He always took you seriously, Daniel Jackson, he just may not have seen your opinion as having much tactical value."
Daniel rolled his eyes; oh God, did he ever remember those conversations.
"Regardless of what O'Neill remembers, he is—as you have pointed out—still O'Neill. Is that not the most important thing?"
Daniel shook his head. "That just doesn't sit right with me. It took me months to get back my memories, and even then, there's some gaps." He shrugged, trying not to let those little things bother him. He'd lost his first kiss with Jack, though Jack reenacted it with great detail, and countless other little moments that had come up over the last few months. Something about whipped cream on his nose that Jack had explained with, 'You had to be there,' and then wouldn't talk about again. In some ways, he guessed Jack was finally giving Daniel a taste of his own medicine.
"It's just that I know how frustrating it is."
"O'Neill does not appear frustrated."
"'O'Neill' is on day two of this." He stopped just outside of Jack's room and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I haven't been sleeping well." That was a poor excuse for picking on Teal'c, but he thought Teal'c could probably understand.
"You should rest," Teal'c said before opening the door.
"Room service?" Jack chirped from the bed. "My, how decadent these accommodations are. You're spoiling me."
"Don't get too used to it," Daniel deadpanned.
Teal'c set his try on the table and bowed. "I am glad to see you are in high spirits, O'Neill."
"The highest." He sat up, sniffing. "Is that pie?"
Daniel grinned, finally: recognition. "Apple and cherry. I thought you might like both."
"That sounds like a bribe." He stood up, coming to the table. "But I'm interested." He slipped into the chair, already picking up a fork and turning the slice of apple towards him.
It wasn't meant to be a bribe, but Daniel was fine pretending it was. "I want to talk about the mission. Not just what happened after we left, but before." He sat down across from Jack and pushed out the other chair for Teal'c. It would be good to have someone here to back up his version of events.
Jack waved his fork in the air, indicating he was on board for Daniel's little game.
"We were following up on telemetry that showed an Ancient outpost. Most of it was in ruins, though. Whenever they abandoned it—it was a very long time ago—a lot of the structure had collapsed and most of the writing on the walls was pretty worn. That's what I do, translate the languages."
"I know," Jack snapped. He cut off Daniel's hopeful look. "You have mentioned it literally every time we've had a conversation."
"We were there for a few hours," Daniel barreled on. "I was recording the walls, Sam was taking samples, Teal'c was scouting the perimeter, and you were cracking jokes."
"That doesn't sound like a thing I would do."
Some moments Daniel struggled to remember why he cared that Jack had forgotten about their relationship.
"We were moving towards the temple when we were set upon." Teal'c thankfully took up the story while Daniel mitigated his frustration. "There were energy blasts coming from many directions. Daniel Jackson suggested that we stay out of the temple, but it was the only area that was defensible. You ordered us forward."
The room they entered was massive, most of the walls were marble, which may have explained why that part of the building was still standing whereas others had crumbled. Tables were equally spaced throughout the room, some like the Ancient control tables they'd seen before and others that were plain slabs. There were vestibules on the far wall and doors leading to rooms beyond. Jack pressed forward into the temple.
The natives gave chase, though they seemed reluctant to fire inside the building. The only shots that rang out were near misses and the one that had tagged Daniel's arm. He'd gotten up, arm numb, and kept going, though. It was only Jack who stopped to return fire.
SG-1 had been looking for an exit, something that would allow them to wrap around the ruins and get back to the stargate. It was a last ditch moment when they split off—Sam and Daniel one way, Teal'c and Jack the other.
Jack got pinned in. Teal'c got out. Three members of SG-1 made it back to the stargate. Jack had told Teal'c to go, but they all felt guilty about it. They were still taking fire, so they 'gated home, standard operating procedure that even Daniel understood by now. Jack would escape or they'd come back for him once they rallied the troops. But Daniel had known that in the end—no matter what had happened—Jack would be fine.
Except he hadn't been.
"Does any of that sound familiar?" Daniel waited. Jack's brow furrowed, like he was actually trying for once.
"It was warm there, over ninety. Lots of trees. You could taste the camphor." He tried to build Jack's memory the way he built his own, layering in lots of details, painting a picture until he had the hook and knew the scene.
Jack tapped the fork against the plate in an uneven beat, and Daniel could hear the weapons fire. Daniel shared a look with Teal'c, both of them expectant.
Daniel leaned closer to Jack, hoping that this was the moment when they'd break through. Jack's furrow deepened, and then he shook his head, closing off whatever memory he might have almost been able to access.
"It sounds familiar. Like I caught it on TV." He shrugged. "But it's not . . . not a memory."
Daniel's shoulders dropped and he pushed the pie plate towards Jack. "Just eat your pie." He'd try again later.
Ancient technology could blow itself, Daniel decided. He brought Jack to a motel—to get away from the Mountain, he'd explained—but it was more than that. It was the motel they went to—unbugged, untracked, where they could be alone and together. It wasn't the same room they'd stayed in the past two times, but all the rooms looked identical and the stains on one rug could be the stains on another.
Of course to Jack it might as well be somewhere brand new.
"This is a change from the Mountain?" His lip curled as he looked around, probably considering how many people had come here for a quick afternoon screw (they had, so many times).
"It's a change," Daniel offered with a shrug. He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice, but even with a lost memory Jack could see through him.
"This place means something to him—me," he corrected.
Daniel shook his head, trying a new tactic. "Don't worry about it."
Jack held up a finger, walking to the far side of the room. He traced the edge of the dresser, his fingernail picking at the peeling Formica finish before he moved on to play with the antenna on the tv. "I didn't live here," he said slowly. "God, I hope not."
Daniel chuckled, relieved that Jack was actually playing along. "No, you didn't."
He crossed to the closet, opening it and putting both hands on the bar. "Small." He kicked the luggage rack folded against the far wall. "We stayed here?" A memory was trapped in his glance, and Daniel nodded.
"Yeah. Yeah, we did." He tried not to sound too eager. He focused on his memories of coming back from Ascension, how things that seemed familiar didn't connect and how long it took for most of them to come back. Some things wouldn't come back, and it was okay if Jack didn't remember everything. He had to repeat that last one a few times.
Jack turned back to the closet and sighed. "I don't remember. Shit, Daniel! I don't remember who I was, okay? Can't you just—?"
"Forget?" Daniel supplied.
"Yeah," Jack mumbled. He wandered into the bathroom, flicking on the fluorescent light. His reflection was visible from where Daniel was standing; Jack's brow furrowed as he still fought to make something connect.
"You don't have to remember on your own. I could tell you," Daniel offered. He blocked the bathroom door, remembering Jack stripped down and trying to take a shower. Only half of the rings held the shower curtain up and the water sputtered hot for about thirty seconds before running ice cold. Jack had cursed his way through the fastest shower he'd had in his life, and then curled up with Daniel, "only for warmth," he'd gruffed, but it was the best post-coital cuddle Daniel had ever had.
Jack turned on the tap and splashed some water on his face. Their eyes met in the mirror. "Don't." He turned, a water droplet ran down his cheek. "I . . . It's not just that I can't remember. I don't want to remember," he confessed. "I had a choice. This is the choice I made. Tabula rasa."
"I can't believe you chose this."
"Well, I did!" He pushed past Daniel, stomping into the bedroom. "If I'm as great as you think I am, maybe I had a good reason."
"You probably did," Daniel snapped, his anger getting the better of him. "But that doesn't mean you have to give up. I was Ascended and I came back for you, but you're right here, and you won't—"
The look on Jack's face made it clear that even if he didn't remember, he finally understood. "Oh."
The word was too simple to convey everything that meant, but they always had been able to communicate with the briefest of words.
Jack took a step back, finding the bed with his hand before sitting on it. He looked up, eyes locking on Daniel's. "Daniel," he said, with the same fervor he'd put into it before Daniel had become a stranger.
Daniel choked the hope off in his throat, not willing to give in to it yet.
Jack looked down, touched his lips, and Daniel could see a fraction of a memory blossom in Jack's mind. "Oh," Jack repeated. "No." He snapped backwards on the bed, his body violently seizing as his eyes rolled back.
"No. No!" Daniel ran forward, grabbing Jack and rolling him to his side, trying to hold on to him and keep him stable with one hand while pulling out his phone with the other and desperately dialing Janet.
This time they couldn't pull Daniel away from Jack's room. The tubes and machines beeping around Jack were another language Daniel spoke. "Stay," they said. "He wouldn't leave you. He remembered. He'll wake up and remember you."
The stack of translations, notes, and Daniel's laptop for playback were piled on a movable tray he'd borrowed from one of the surgical rooms. He stood up, taking a break from reviewing what the translation team had uncovered while he'd been playing What's My Line with Jack.
"Daniel?" Janet touched his elbow.
"He'll be okay," he said, not sure if it was a statement or a question.
"It seems likely." She pulled his arm out of his defensive pose and squeezed his hand. "Can I talk you into coming to the briefing?"
"Is the briefing going to be here?"
Janet pulled on his hand. "He's asleep. You talked to him already and he was fine, surly even, very Jack O'Neill. I promise, when he wakes up the staff will page me and you'll be there to fly out of the conference room and back to Jack's side."
Daniel was quiet for a moment, considering exactly how long it would take him to run from the conference room back to the infirmary. He touched the tape holding the IV in Jack's arm. "This happened because he remembered me."
"And it's proof that the memories are still there. Daniel. Come to the briefing. I think we have some news you'll want to hear."
He turned. "Well, why didn't you say so?"
She squeezed his wrist. With one last look at Jack, Daniel let himself be led away.
"There's been no further trauma to Colonel O'Neill, but the memories Dr. Jackson induced seem to have triggered a seizure. It's not clear what caused the seizure physically, and since we're dealing with alien technology, I hesitate to venture a guess."
"But he'll be all right," Daniel repeated his statement from earlier, urging Janet to relate that key important information—Jack would be fine.
"There is nothing to indicate that Colonel O'Neill wouldn't have a full recovery. But." Jack hated it when Janet said "But," and it was starting to grate on Daniel as well. "The most definitive information is back on that planet and in the machines SG-1 found."
Daniel's eyes cut to Sam who was looking at Janet with her best poker face. Well, Daniel could pick up this thread. He spun his translation team's research notes towards the General. "We have strong reason to believe the 'temple' was originally an infirmary. If the device is anything similar to the one we uncovered on P3R-272, the process should be reversible."
"Though in that case, we needed the Asgard to help." Sam glanced at Daniel. "And we still haven't heard back from them."
Daniel pursed his lips, trying to follow what Sam was doing—cutting down the General's alternatives? "If this device does what I think it should, we won't have to even bother the Asgard."
The General lifted Daniel's notes, eyes glancing across them, but he didn't seem to be reading them. "What about the indigenous population? You were the one who suggested the memory loss could be a method of punishment for trespassers."
Daniel could have kicked himself for making that suggestion. "It could also be something Jack did accidentally. Or something they did to protect themselves because Jack saw something he shouldn't have. They returned him to us, though." He turned to Sam, warming to his argument. "How did he activate the GDO?"
"We still haven't figured that out, sir."
"Someone transmitted the code. We know Jack didn't do it."
"He could have been in a fugue state?" Sam shrugged, weakening the suggestion.
"His memories after waking up were clear. He woke up, went to the 'gate, it was active, and he walked through. General, I think the beings on that planet are very good with memories, and I think they pulled his IDC—and the address for Earth— out of his brain."
"Then why return Colonel O'Neill without his memories?"
Daniel took a deep breath, buying himself a second to think. "Maybe they thought they were helping. Maybe . . . maybe Jack was right. Maybe he chose to forget." He looked at his briefing folder, still not wanting to believe that Jack would choose to forget him, but maybe starting to believe that it might be true.
General Hammond shook his head. "What are we supposed to do if you're once again met with hostility? Or if you all return without your memories?"
"General Hammond, it is unlikely the device will affect me. In our previous encounter with Ancient technology, it did not react to my physiology. It was only Colonel O'Neill who could activate the device."
"So I'm supposed to send just you and Colonel O'Neill?"
"Uh, and me. Jack's not going anywhere without me." He leveled his gaze at Hammond, willing him to understand that this was personal.
"And me," Sam added. "SG-1 stays together."
"That is a fact of which I am painfully aware, Major." Hammond took another look around the table. Daniel felt like Hammond's eyes studied him the longest. "And if you're all fired upon again?"
"General, I truly believe that whoever sent Jack back didn't intend us any harm." Daniel pressed his hands to the mission folder. "I recommend we go armed with zats. If there is another firefight we can protect ourselves—without any consequences that can't be walked away from. If they don't shoot first, well, we'll just get to the diplomatic part faster."
"You all agree?" Hammond looked between them, catching their nods. "All right. Go. Bring back Colonel O'Neill if you can."
Sam and Daniel thanked him in chorus, and they all stood, prepared to disembark as soon as Jack was well enough to 'gate back to the planet. Daniel would know for certain what happened to Jack, and if Jack did chose to forget Daniel, then Jack would just have to tell Daniel when both of them would remember it.
Jack looked like himself once he had the ballcap on his head and a zat strapped to his hip. He was missing the P-90, but arming everyone with zats was not only diplomatically useful, but they wouldn't have to wait for Jack to take a marksmanship test with his P-90.
"We go through this thing all the time, right?"
Daniel nodded. "All the time. But it's probably best if you don't try to remember."
"Oh, now you stop pushing me to remember." He grinned, though. That same grin usually meant that Daniel had ink on his nose or dust in his hair. It was a grin between the two of them, and a grin that told Daniel that whatever memory had hit Jack at the motel had stayed with him.
"If you're concerned, sir, I could explain what happens when the event horizon demolec—"
"Carter!" Jack slapped his face, and the gesture was so routine, Daniel braced himself for another seizure.
"Maybe we should just go through the 'gate." He mimed walking with his fingers, pointing that Sam should go first.
She shrugged and walked through, Teal'c a step behind her, Jack and Daniel a step behind him. It was only a step across the galaxy, but Daniel went from the sterile lights of the 'gateroom and the quiet buzz of the MPs to the bright light of midday and a dozen humming energy weapons pointed at his chest.
"Ah. Maybe I should have gone first." Daniel pushed forward between Sam and Teal'c. "Hi. Um, you might remember us? We're sorry for trespassing before. We're explorers."
"You travel through the stargate." The one who spoke up wasn't holding a weapon, but she stood behind the others. Her white hair was pulled into an efficient bun.
"That's right. We use it to learn about other cultures."
"With the SGC." She said the initials slowly.
"That's right," Daniel said, but he could feel the others tense behind him. He took a step forward, ignoring Jack snapping his name. "I'm guessing you got that from Jack the last time we were here, and that you know we won't hurt you."
"You're looking for allies. Space weapons."
Daniel inwardly groaned that weapons would be the first thing on Jack's mind. "And to understand."
"Meaning of life stuff?" The corner of her mouth twitched in a smile, and Daniel had the feeling that across any culture or species, Jack's charm always won out.
"Our friend—thank you for returning him—but he's not . . . right." Daniel reached back, pulling Jack forward. The energy weapons shifted, a nervous energy shooting around the perimeter; Jack raised his hands higher.
"It took his pain."
"It took more than his pain. It took—" Daniel looked around to the other members of SG-1. "Us. His friends, his family."
"He remembers nothing from before waking up on this planet," Teal'c added.
The woman who spoke leaned closer to the man standing beside her. He also didn't have an energy weapon. After a moment, the woman looked back to Daniel.
"The machine is supposed to heal a troubled mind. We attempted to help him."
"Attempted to help him?" Sam took a step forward, glancing over at Jack. Janet had said nothing was physically wrong with Jack when he 'gated home.
She nodded grimly. "He struck his head, so we checked for internal damage. It is a standard procedure," she reassured them. "While no physical issues were found, we uncovered other imbalances that we could rectify, so we helped him, removing obstructions that were impairing his judgment and ability to focus on Ascension."
The hair on the back of Daniel's neck rose. Two years ago he'd have been excited to meet them, now. . . .
"That's the thing you did, right?" Jack muttered.
"Yeah, yeah, you said you don't want that."
"And I don't." Jack said louder to the aliens, politeness eking from every pore, "No, thank you. I'd like to return this gift. Do you have some sort of exchange? I could use a new toaster."
She didn't say anything.
"A juicer?" Jack turned to Daniel. "You like juice?"
Daniel glanced at him, a little lost for a second in that Jack O'Neill charm and that he was honestly asking Daniel on a mission, in front of aliens, whether or not he liked juice. That didn't sound like a man who'd chosen to forget him. He smiled, in spite of his professionalism. "Ah, what Jack is trying to say is that, uh, in our culture the road to enlightenment is a more difficult path."
"You would prefer we return his flaws?"
Daniel bit back his laugh, but not his smile. "We like him flawed. Specifically we like him being able to remember us."
Sam touched his shoulder, pulling Daniel in for an SG-1 pow-wow. "Maybe we should consider what we're asking them to put back. There are some things that are pretty rough." She widened her eyes, like Daniel could seriously have forgotten how Jack had lost Charlie, or that Jack blamed himself for that, or that Jack had nearly killed himself because of his depression and guilt. But what Sam didn't seem to realize was that Jack valued who he'd become since that moment, and Daniel felt certain that he wouldn't want to lose those memories, no matter how painful they were. Charlie's death was something Jack kept buried, but it was something he kept.
"Those experiences made him Jack," Daniel said tersely. "The good, the bad. You know he'd want them."
"O'Neill is a better man for the trauma he has faced."
"O'Neill is also standing right here." Jack's eyes darted around the circle. "What are you guys talking about?"
Daniel pursed his lips, shot a quick glare at Sam, and turned to Jack. "There's some stuff in your past that's . . . rough."
Jack looked around at them again. "We're in the military. I assume I've lost some friends, men under my command, you."
Daniel snorted. Jack had been able to accept that Daniel had been raised from the dead before he had accepted that he was Jack O'Neill. "There's been more personal loss, too. Your divorce," Daniel said carefully.
"Sara," Jack agreed. "And my son."
Daniel swallowed. "You know what happened to Charlie?"
He tilted his hand back and forth. "Roughly. I read a redacted version of my file. Dr. Fraiser thought it might help before we knew that remembering would give me seizures."
"You've been having seizures?" the woman interrupted. SG-1 turned; Daniel had almost forgotten they were still surrounded.
"Just one," Daniel said. Jack chimed in with him, "That's bad?"
She frowned, her lips growing thin. She gave a brief command, and the circle around them parted. "Come. Your ways are not ours, but I won't be responsible for harming another being."
"Why didn't we start by telling them I was having seizures?" Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack's question. "I thought you were good at this talking thing." If it was possible Daniel rolled his eyes even harder.
It didn't take long for the Avitus to prepare the Ancient device. The device itself was more complex than just Jack's aptly named head sucker. There was a second device, with a monitor that was used to shift through memories, and a glove control-device, that was worn by a doctor who administered the procedure. Daniel had always wondered if the device on P3R-272 would have worked better with parental guidance.
The Avitus had worshipped the Ancients for a very long time, and Drina, the woman who'd first spoken to them at the 'gate, confirmed that their primary goal was Ascension.
"Not all Avitus can use the machine." She lifted the monitor device, clarifying which machine she meant. "But everyone can benefit from the Tabula Rasa."
"Is that what you call it?" Drina nodded in response to Sam's question.
"It helps remove distractions and obstacles to Ascension. We can think more clearly. Used properly before meditation, it can empty one's thoughts to achieve true focus."
"And how many of you reach Ascension?" Not that Daniel was eager to do it again, but reaching a higher plane of existence when you were at the end of your life? Maybe there was still something to that, to being able to go on, to learn more, even if you couldn't affect anything happening on the lower planes. Daniel mentally shook his head; Jack would hate it more than Daniel had, and Daniel couldn't imagine being that again.
"There have been one hundred thirty-one recorded Ascensions."
"This year?" Jack prompted.
She bristled. "In our recorded time."
"So, it's still very, very difficult." Daniel smiled tightly.
"It is very, very difficult, yes." She turned to Jack. "Are you ready?"
Jack hopped from one foot to the other and held up a finger. "One second." He pulled Daniel a few steps away from the others. "This stuff—the memory stuff—the bad stuff—I've got it all worked out, right?"
A smile ghosted on Daniel's face. "Mostly?"
"Jack, look, I'll be right there with you. Whatever you need." He lowered his voice and gave Jack a significant look. "That's what we do."
"Oh? Because I thought we had sex with each other."
Daniel ducked his head, chuckling. A few choice memories drifted to the forefront of his thoughts. "Yes, that is actually the other thing we do."
Jack squeezed his arm. "Don't worry, I'll remember it all soon enough."
Jack would remember, very soon. He'd remember everything that happened before waking up. "Um, Jack?" He took a deep breath, wanting to get this out while Jack was actually talking to him, while he might get Jack to promise to talk to him after. "If you did forget everything on purpose . . .?"
"Just hear me out."
"Daniel," he said softer, getting Daniel to make eye contact. "I didn't forget this on purpose. Not my life. Not you."
"You don't have your memories back yet, how do you know?"
Jack held his gaze, those soulful eyes locked on Daniel's. "Some things you know deeper than your memories."
Daniel smiled, letting that smile settle into the part of him that never believed Jack forgot him on purpose. "You know, you're the most ridiculous romantic I know."
"Yes." Jack put his hand to his heart. "I know that, too."
"Okay." Daniel turned Jack around. "Let's get your memories back."
Jack blinked when he woke up. "I had the strangest dream. You were there, and you were there, and you were there." He pointed to them each in turn.
Daniel looked across Jack to Drina. "I forgot to mention it, but we would have been fine if you'd erased The Wizard of Oz."
"I'm not familiar with this Oz wizard, but I can tell you it is very important to the Colonel."
Daniel's eyes cut back to where Jack was still lying on the slab, a smug smirk on his face. He'd known Jack for nearly eight years, but was still piecing together the way the man thought. He could talk to Drina, have her work it through, explain every connection she'd seen in Jack's memories, but part of what Daniel liked about knowing Jack O'Neill was figuring Jack out for himself.
"How do you feel, sir?"
"Right as rain, Major." He turned to his side and sat up slowly, though. Apparently he'd actually been listening to Drina's instructions and not just counting the holes in the ceiling like he'd said he'd been doing. He swatted Daniel's knee. "Quiz me."
"Our gray Asgard buddy. Also, the Norse god of thunder." He grinned at Daniel.
"Cassie?" Sam asked.
He pointed to her. "Fraiser's daughter. Likes dogs."
"Bra'tac," Teal'c offered.
"Your Jaffa Master. He also owes me five bucks."
Jack arched one eyebrow. "You know I don't remember those planet numbers."
Daniel snorted, knowing perfectly well that Jack did remember the planetary designations and just pretended not to. "Sounds like pretty much everything." Daniel didn't think there was any real way to tell it was everything without a lot more prodding, but yeah, probably everything.
"Then you are satisfied?"
"Money back guaranteed." Jack hopped off the table. "There is one other little thing. About security?"
Drina smiled. It seemed she had anticipated this. "I have already deleted all maps and data pertaining to your scans. I assure you, the Avitus will keep your secrets, if you will keep ours. We do not have 'big, honking space guns,' but would like to be friends."
Jack glanced over at Daniel. "Friends, huh? Not a bad win out of this mission."
"We could always use more friends."
"We understand that you'll seek something mutually beneficial. We hope that access to our machines and instruction will suffice, and in exchange, you could tell us what you remember of your time being Ascended."
Daniel's eyebrows shot up. "Oh. I, I didn't know you knew."
Jack shrugged. "My head." He held up a hand, stepping closer to Drina. "Speaking of . . . there are certain things that need to be kept—" He put his finger to his lips and glanced over at Daniel.
Drina smiled. "Of course. You told me so yourself in your memories. Consider it forgotten."
"Forgetting does seem to be something your people excel at." Jack pulled on his ballcap, adjusting it over his eyes, probably missing the grin that passed over Drina's face. Daniel couldn't help but think that there was someone else in the universe who got Jack the same way he did. It almost seemed impossible, but given alien technology was involved, maybe it was inevitable.
Jack patted Sam's shoulder and Teal'c's back as he passed them, reestablishing connections with all of his team. He'd been surly without his memory, and they'd all said that was just like Jack, but he'd been missing this essential Jack part: trust. Without his memory he'd still cared. He didn't try to escape, and he'd been bothered by how frustrated Daniel was about Jack's inability to remember, but he had forgotten that he trusted SG-1. He'd forgotten all the reasons to trust SG-1.
Sam and Teal'c both smiled when Jack touched them, and for all that Daniel knew he wasn't the only one missing Jack, that was the moment when he really understood what it meant to the others. And maybe he was finally starting to understand what his own lost memory had meant to them, too.
Jack came up behind Daniel on the porch and tapped a cold beer against Daniel's arm. "Did I remember your favorite?" he joked.
Daniel turned and leaned up against the railing, taking the beer and checking the label. It wasn't Daniel's favorite, but it was one of the ones he liked. "You've never known my actual favorite."
"I'm assuming it was Skaara's moonshine." He smiled around the edge of his own bottle, but it was tight, as most things were when either of them brought up Abydos.
"You don't have to keep proving what you remember." The scent of the beer was sharp and it went straight to Daniel's head.
"It's nice, though, actually. I didn't really like being tabbouleh raja."
"Tabula rasa," Daniel automatically corrected, though a quick glance confirmed that Jack knew what the right phrase was.
"I'm glad I didn't forget all this." He put his arm around Daniel's waist and kissed just behind his ear. It was Daniel's favorite spot, a detail he'd whispered to Jack one afternoon at the motel.
Daniel settled into Jack's one-armed embrace. "We would've just started over again. If we'd had to. Done all the firsts again. I think I can recreate that first kiss, and the second first kiss." He ran his fingers between Jack's, squeezing until Jack wrapped his fingers into his own palm, both of them holding on.
"Do you actually have the patience for that?"
Daniel snorted. "I have the patience for you."
"That is quite a bit of patience."
Daniel snorted and turned his head to softly kiss Jack. "And don't you forget it."
~Comments and feedback are unforgettable.