imagined he could hear whispers as they walked in the more upscale area
of the city. He wondered if the cloak was required clothing for the
outcasts, a badge of dishonor and shame. Anger at what had been done to
Jack, no, not only to Jack but the other outcasts, fueled his progress.
"DanielJackson," Teal'c warned him once when Daniel's grip on Jack
caused the other man to let out a weak cry of pain.
"Sorry. I'm sorry, Jack." Daniel loosened his hand and then stroked
Jack's chilled cheek.
They arrived at their building, a hotel of sorts for people who came to
the city on official government business. Sam entered first and Daniel
caught a glimpse of her as she ran up the stairs to open the door to
"No. No. No." One of the clerks came out from behind a counter, shaking
his hands at them. "No. You can not bring an outcast in here. You must
take him back where he belongs. Put him on the street."
The rage building in Daniel exploded and he took a step towards the
Hannaran. He twisted a hand in the alien's uniform and let the force of
his anger carry them both towards the counter until their progress was
"Listen." Daniel didn't yell but his voice was threatening. He found a
secret satisfaction in seeing the terror in the amber eyes of the
clerk. "He *belongs* to us. He will stay with us. He is not an outcast.
His name, yes your outcasts do have names, is Jack O'Neill and your
people made him a slave. Don’t ever call him an outcast again or I will
take great pleasure in cutting out your tongue and stuffing it down
your pompous throat." He twisted his hand even more, bunching the shirt
beneath his fingers.
"Forgive me, sir. I did not know of his importance." The clerk brought
up his hands to his forehead as Daniel released him.
"You will inform us when Colonel Ferretti and Laewin arrive with
our transportation," Daniel continued, only stopping when Teal'c once
again called his name.
"O'Neill is distressed, DanielJackson." The reproach was gentle and
Daniel bowed his head.
'Focus on Jack. What Jack needs,' he chanted in his mind as they walked
up the steps. Sam had the door to their suite open and was standing in
the middle of the room.
"I began running some warm water. I don't know if we should bathe him
or not. If he's injured." Sam chewed on her lower lip.
"I think a bath yes." Daniel jerked his chin in the direction of the
bathroom. "Maybe some food, Sam? Some water, juice?"
Sam nodded. "I'll arrange for it." She let out a breath before wiping
at her face. "He looks so…my God, Daniel, he's alive."
Daniel pulled her into a hug, reassurance for her and, if he
admitted, for him, and followed Teal'c into the spacious bathroom.
"Would you like my assistance?" Teal'c asked as he lowered Jack to the
bench lining one wall of the room.
Daniel sat down beside Jack, supporting his slumped frame with one arm
and his torso. "I think maybe to get into the water. And then some
clothes. I have some extras in my bag."
"Yes." Teal'c began unfastening the button holding the cloak shut at
Jack's throat. He slipped the cloak out from under Jack's legs and
threw it into a corner.
"Take it with you, Teal'c. Give it to them downstairs and tell them to
"Nnnnno." The word was barely audible and Jack's voice sounded as if
he'd swallowed glass but the tone of command was unmistakable.
"Okay," Daniel agreed. "Okay, Jack. You with us? Huh?" He tilted Jack's
head up so he could look into his face.
In the light of the bathroom the milky film covering Jack's eyes was
more noticeable. He noticed a new scar near Jack's left ear, a wound
His questions went unnoticed and Daniel wondered if Jack was sleeping
with his eyes open. He eased Jack's arm through the short sleeve of the
silky shirt Jack was wearing, nodding in approval as Teal'c did the
same. They froze when they caught their first glimpse of Jack's torso,
crisscrossed with new scars and a few never-healed wounds that appeared
"I will hold him up while you undo the rest of his clothing," Teal'c
Daniel nodded. They didn't know what Jack had gone through and so far
Jack had tolerated Daniel's touch, almost seemed to crave it. Daniel
frowned as Teal'c hoisted Jack to his feet, noticing Jack didn't take
any of his weight on his own legs. Bending, his fingers unlaced the
thread bare trousers Jack wore. They slid to the floor and Daniel
knelt, sweeping them out of the way. Jack's feet were bare covered with
oozing sores matching the ones on his torso. He took in the gauntness
of Jack's legs, the paleness of the skin, the long scars running the
length of them, the twisted ankles, and prayed he wouldn't throw up.
"Let's get him into the water."
He forced emotion down. Daniel stripped off his own shoes and socks,
his shirt and pants, keeping on his boxers. He walked up the few steps
leading to the sunken tub and got in. The water was warm but not
too hot. He sat on the ledge inside and accepted Jack's pliant body
Jack bucked violently in Daniel’s arms as the water hit his skin, and
Daniel belatedly came to the realization that the water would be
painful to his open wounds. He was hard pressed to keep Jack from
sliding under the water or hitting his head on the tiled edge. Teal’c
grabbed Jack’s legs until Daniel could maneuver one of his own over
Jack’s in an attempt to hold him still.
Jack howled loudly and Daniel flinched at the sound. “Sorry, sorry,”
Daniel whispered against Jack’s ear as Jack finally began to still, the
short struggle having exhausted his weakened body. Jack twisted against
Daniel’s side and tried to hide his face against Daniel’s shoulder. His
gasping breaths suddenly turned into a hacking cough. They eventually
eased off as Jack relaxed, his breath rattling slightly in his chest
whenever he exhaled. Daniel simply sat back in the warm water, holding
the shivering man who he had never thought to see alive again.
"I will return, DanielJackson, O'Neill." Teal'c rested his hand on
Jack's head a moment and Daniel saw him close his eyes. He wondered if
Teal'c was saying a prayer to a god he found to believe in.
Daniel began shaking despite the warmth of the water, and he felt his
throat thicken when it finally hit him that Jack was alive. Sick,
injured, lost… but alive! He buried his face in Jack’s filthy hair and
allowed himself a moment to relish the thought that Jack was back with
him, wondering what had happened to him and how he could have come to
this planet. Then he sniffed loudly, swallowed, and set to cleaning the
filth from the beloved body in his arms.
With one arm supporting Jack against him, Daniel reached over and
grabbed the container of soap, then a washcloth. He managed to
awkwardly pour some soap onto the cloth and holding it over the back of
Jack’s shoulder, he spoke gently to him.
“Jack, this might hurt a bit, but I need to start getting you clean.
I’m going to be as careful as I possibly, can, okay?”
There was no answer and somehow Daniel hadn’t expected any. He began to
clean Jack’s grimy body, passing the cloth over the bony back and
too-thin ribs, careful of the infected wounds. Jack shuddered at his
touch and Daniel wondered if he was causing him pain.
“You okay?” he asked. Jack just burrowed his face deeper against Daniel
As gentle as Daniel tried to be, Jack moaned and squirmed whenever the
soap neared any of his open wounds. Daniel knew they needed to be
cleaned and then disinfected. They’d get some food and antibiotics into
Jack, and then hopefully they’d be able to get him home to Janet very
soon. He concentrated on cleaning the dirt from the more or less
uninjured parts of Jack's body, deciding to leave the worst for last.
Daniel had to stop several times when Jack had a coughing fit. His
earlier exertions seemed to have triggered the cough, and the rattling
sound worried Daniel.
The water quickly turned a dark brown as the dirt came off. Twice
Daniel had to change the bathwater before he was finished.
“Jack, can you turn onto your back?” Daniel coaxed as he pulled on his
arm, trying to turn Jack around so he could wash his hair. With Jack’s
head balanced on his stomach, Daniel lathered the long, matted locks,
seeing bits of dirt, twigs and bugs appear when he rinsed the soap off.
Jack seemed to enjoy Daniel’s fingers in his hair so Daniel took some
time massaging his scalp. Jack lay with his eyes closed, a small grunt
of appreciation escaping him once in a while.
As he fingered the long hair, Daniel was determined to get it cut as
soon as possible. It was so matted that it would be impossible to pull
a comb through it, and anyway, Daniel like Jack’s hair shorter.
Realizing he had been putting off doing the worst part of the bath,
Daniel swallowed hard and began cleaning out the more serious wounds.
Thankfully by then Sam and Teal’c had returned and they were able to
hold Jack down as Daniel performed the grisly task as Jack began
twisting in pain once more, crying out or coughing as the cloth touched
the open wounds.
“Sssstop!” Jack screamed as Daniel tried to wash the open wounds on
Daniel stopped, looking at his friends helplessly.
“Do you want me to do it?” Sam offered. Daniel knew she had more
experience treating wounds, but he shook his head, needing to do this
himself. Steeling himself, he ignored Jack’s cries and by the time he’d
finished, he was shaky and weak-kneed, and several times had had to
fight back the urge to vomit.
With the water draining from the tub, Sam rinsed the soap residue from
the two of them. Teal’c reached down to pick Jack up in his arms and
Sam wrapped him up in a large fluffy towel. Daniel left the large tub
more slowly, needing a few seconds to try and get himself under
control. He leaned over the sink and took a few deep breaths, toweled
himself off and entered the bedroom.
Daniel pulled on pants and a T-shirt, pulling two pairs of socks from
his pack. Jack's feet were probably cold. With the weight he'd lost,
Jack would chill easily. Daniel grabbed up an extra T-shirt, figuring
they could layer Jack's clothes to keep him warm on the trip back home.
The transport Laewin would be arranging would be open air, Daniel was
sure. He made a mental note to tell Sam they'd need as many blankets as
possible. Daniel took a last look around and then grabbed his
shaving kit, the need to see the beard gone overwhelming. He cursed
himself for his selfishness and saw his hands shaking as he held it.
Bile choked his throat and Daniel swallowed it down. He didn't have
time to get sick.
An inhuman howl sounded from the bathroom and Daniel hurried into the
room with his supplies.
"Jack. Jack." He sat on the floor next to Jack who was trying to push
himself in the small space under the bench. "Hey. I’m here." Daniel
stroked damp hair back from Jack's face. As Jack burrowed into his
arms, Daniel looked up into Sam's stunned face.
"What happened?" he asked.
"He became agitated when you left the room, Daniel. I was cutting his
beard while Teal'c held him. I thought it would make him a little more
comfortable. " Sam sounded shaken. "Daniel, I think…his eyes…I don't…"
"I know, Sam." Daniel placed a hand on Jack's chin, turning his face
towards the light. Jack's eyes no longer appeared brown, a milky white
substance covering the irises. He brought his hand close to Jack's
eyes, looking up at Sam when Jack didn't blink, seeing her lips press
"Jack?" Daniel bent close to his friend's ear, whispering his name.
"Jack? Can you see us? Do you see me?"
Jack turned his head towards Daniel's voice, one thin hand coming up
and wavering in the air until it was captured within Daniel's own.
"Can you see me, Jack?"
There was an incomprehensible sound and then Jack's broken voice
Bringing Jack's hand to his cheek, Daniel let Jack stroke his skin, the
motion seeming to provide comfort.
"We're going to get you cleaned up a little more," Daniel soothed,
alarmed when Jack began to pull away and try to curl into a fetal
"We will not put you in the bath again, O'Neill." Teal'c knelt on
Jack's other side, placing his hands on the floor to either side of
Jack's body, not touching but close enough to deal with any fight Jack
might put up.
At those words, Jack relaxed, his arms coming away from his chest.
"Will you let MajorCarter finish her task?" Teal'c asked. At Jack's
slow nod, Teal'c motioned for Sam to come closer. She used the scissors
to cut the whiskers as close to the skin as possible. Daniel was
pleased to see Jack lay still for the most part.
"There. All done, sir." Sam smiled as she finished. She glanced at
Daniel, motioning to Jack's hair. Daniel frowned and shook his head. He
didn't want to overwhelm Jack with more than he could handle.
"I thought I'd shave you, Jack. Remember how you always told me you
hate having a beard?" Daniel got out his battery operated razor. It
would do an adequate job for the moment. He turned it on, switching it
back off when Jack twisted his head to the side.
"It's just my razor." Daniel spoke as if he was trying to calm a
skittish wild animal. "Feel." He reached out and placed the razor in
Jack's cold hand, sitting back on his heels as Jack began skimming his
fingers over it.
"It's okay." Daniel scooted closer. "Will you let me do this for you?"
Jack held out his hand offering the razor back to Daniel.
"Thank you." Daniel accepted it. He moved behind Jack, tilting Jack's
head back to rest on his chest. "We're gonna be fine, guys," he said to
Sam and Teal'c. "Aren't we, Jack?"
No answer again except a small humming noise.
Sam nodded. "I'm going to see what I can find out about our
"If you need assistance, DanielJackson, I will be available." Teal'c
gave a little bow and accompanied Sam from the room.
"Teal'c?" Daniel called before the other man got through the doorway.
He waited until Teal'c turned. "I just wanted to say…" Daniel patted
Jack's shoulder when the muscles tensed under his hand. He swallowed
hard, his throat tight. "Thank you. You and Sam."
"You are most welcome." Teal'c regarded them both a moment longer
before walking into the hall.
"This isn't going to hurt," Daniel kept his voice low and soft, "not
hurt at all. You're going to feel a lot better when we're all done."
Daniel expected Jack to pull away when the razor touched his face so he
was prepared with his other hand to support Jack's head and gently
guide it back into place. "See," he continued speaking as he started to
shave off the beard, "it's fine. No problems. Just relax. I'm here with
Jack tensed a few more times but Daniel's litany of reassurances seemed
to calm him enough that Daniel could finish the task.
"Feel better?" Daniel stroked Jack's cheek. At some time during the
proceedings, Jack's eyes had closed. He bent closer listening to Jack's
slow even breaths. "Let's get you dressed. Get you warmed up."
Pressing his lips to Jack's cheek, Daniel shifted Jack enough to guide
first one arm then the other through the sleeves of the T-shirt. The
shirt hung on him, the sleeves loose. Getting the pants on Jack was a
little harder due to Jack's inability to help by lifting his legs or
his hips. Daniel was breathing hard until he was done, but he managed.
He propped Jack against the wall slipping the two pairs of socks over
Jack's icy feet after dabbing some antibiotic cream on the sores,
smiling when he heard a soft hum.
"You like that huh? Feels good?" Daniel moved to Jack's side once more
and pulled him into an embrace, unable to stop touching the miracle of
a living breathing Jack. Under his hand, Jack's heart beat a rapid
"I'm going to get you to the bed," Daniel whispered into Jack's ear
pausing as Jack's hand gripped his shirt. He closed his own hand over
that tight fist. "No, don't worry. I'm not going to leave you."
Their position against the wall was awkward. Daniel pushed his back
into the wall and used his thigh muscles to slowly move the two of them
upright. He paused, hard breathing and sweating. Jack may have lost a
substantial amount of weight but was making Daniel do all the work.
"Okay," Daniel said when he caught his breath. "Let's see about getting
you to the bedroom. You're gonna need to help here, Jack." Daniel took
a step, supporting all Jack's weight. "Come on, just a few steps. I've
got you. Don't worry." But when Daniel looked down he realized Jack
made no effort to move his legs. Maybe he couldn’t support his weight,
Daniel thought. God they needed to get Jack home. He wanted Jack home
safe in Doctor Fraiser's infirmary away from this place that held such
horror for Jack. He wanted Janet to look at him and tell him Jack was
going to be okay, tell him Jack was going to see and walk and talk.
"Do you need some help?" Sam came down the hall as Daniel maneuvered
Jack towards the bedroom.
"Nearly there, Sam." Daniel hated the way Jack tried to hide his head
when Sam spoke. "Right, Jack?" He smiled at the small grunt Jack gave.
Sam walked ahead of them, entering the room and pulling down the
covers. She stepped away when Daniel approached the bed with Jack.
"Here, Jack. Bend your legs." Daniel placed his knee against Jack's and
nudged him. "It's the bed. That's all." He smiled when Jack complied.
"Great. You're doing great." He kept his arm around Jack and guided him
onto his side, lifting Jack's legs to the bed when the other man made
no move to do so.
"Ah, ah." Jack's breath came in little puffs and Daniel sat on the bed
next to him. "You hungry, Jack? Thirsty?" Daniel placed his hand on
Jack's forehead, smoothing the wrinkled frown appearing at the
question. "Some food? You want to eat?" He motioned for Sam to leave,
to bring them something. "To drink?"
"Eeee," Jack murmured.
"Yes, eat," Daniel answered, not liking the slurred sound of Jack's
"You're going to need to sit…"
Loud voices from the outer rooms penetrated their sanctuary and Jack
tossed his head from side to side. He clutched Daniel's thigh, his
fingers digging into muscle.
"Nnnno. Nnnn." Jack's eyes were opened wide and he began trying to
scratch his face.
"No." Daniel caught his hand, surprised at the strength Jack displayed.
"No. Stop it. Jack, stop it."
"Hur. Nnno hur."
"I won't let them hurt you. I promise." The voices were closer and
Daniel could hear Teal'c's voice above them all although he couldn't
make sense of any words over Jack's harsh breathing.
The door banged open, causing Jack to cry out.
"What's going on?" Daniel kept one hand on Jack's shoulder, rubbing it.
The woman inclined her head. "Laewin and your Colonel Ferretti brought
us word you insisted an outcast belongs to you."
"His name is Jack O'Neill. And I'd like to know how he wound up on
Hannara," Daniel spoke quietly, not wanting to distress an already
"They told us he was dead. We saw his," Sam looked over at Jack and
Daniel before continuing, "his execution on another world."
The president frowned. "There are those Hannarans who deal in flesh."
"Who sell slaves?" Daniel asked. "Who grow rich while others die?"
"Yes. Do not delude yourself, Doctor Jackson. I am sure there are those
who do the same on your world," Griffor said. "It is not allowed by our
laws, but some cling to the old ways." She stepped closer.
Jack shifted away from her as if he sensed her proximity. The rest of
the Hannarans in her entourage surrounded the bed.
"He has the wasting sickness, Honor." One of the Hannarans bowed.
"I see. Yes I see."
"The wasting sickness?" Sam asked.
"Do you not see his eyes? His legs? He does not move them, does he?"
Griffor asked Daniel. "His speech can not be understood?"
"It is the wasting sickness. Your Jack O'Neill must be a strong soul
for most do not survive the blinding."
"He survived it." Daniel looked up at her and saw her frowning once
again. "How do we heal him? Do your healers know how to cure this
"I am sorry. I do not know what he once was," Griffor continued. "It is
rare for one to survive to this point."
"There are no medicines?" Sam asked. Daniel heard the determination in
"Yes. There are medicines. But I have never seen one recover fully from
this state." Griffor motioned one of her aides to her side and
whispered something in his ear. "We will provide you with the medicines
you need and will accompany you to the Portal."
"Hang in there, Jack." Ferretti bent over the bed a moment before
leaving the room.
"Jack," Daniel bent low as the others filed out of the room. "Jack, you
hear that? We're going home. You're going home."