- October 16th, 2013
Title: Without This Soul
Word count: ~3000
Rating/Warning: PG for some bad language
Spoilers:1.19 Tin Man, 4.21 Double Jeopardy
Prompt: Daniel and Jack: What did you do this time?
“What did you do this time?”
“What did I do? What did I do? What I usually do, Jack, and what you seem to have so much trouble letting me do: my job.” Daniel stared at them, unblinking.
“I've never had any trouble letting you do your job as long as you don't do things that get us into trouble.” Jack shook the bars of the cell to illustrate his point. “So what did you do this time?”
“You know, since I'm on the outside of the bars and you're on the inside, maybe you're asking the wrong question.”
“Whatever. Just open the door and get us out of here.”
Daniel stepped back and smiled. “No, I don't think I will.” The door behind him slid open and Daniel slipped through.
After he left, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c stood and stared.
“I don't know, sir. He doesn't look like he's under the influence of anything, not that I can really tell from here.”
“I sense no Goa'uld presence, O'Neill.”
“Then what?” Sam asked. “That's not the Daniel we went through the 'gate with a day ago.”
“Not the Daniel we went through the 'gate with? It was Daniel when we had our mission briefing. A mission briefing for a simple mission to check on Tupelo's people, I might add. It was Daniel when we met for breakfast. It was Daniel when we geared up. It was Daniel when we went though the 'gate and it was Daniel when some energy beam thingy knocked us out. Why the hell wouldn't it be—”
Teal'c's hand on his shoulder stopped his rant. “I am worried about Daniel Jackson as well.”
“I know, sir.” She moved to the bench on the wall opposite the door and sat down. No one said anything else for a long time.
Twenty-four hours later, when Daniel returned, it was Sam's turn to try to talk to him.
“Get us out of here, please, Daniel.”
“Yeah, and let us use the latrine,” Jack called from the back. “The rusty bucket in the corner thing is gettin' kind of old. Oh, some water would be nice, and maybe a meal.”
“What has happened, Daniel Jackson?”
Daniel ignored everyone but Jack. “Water?” He sounded genuinely surprised. “Yes. Yes, I forgot. I'll bring you some water as soon as I can.”
“And then you'll get us out of here, right?” Sam repeated it slowly.
“Um... not yet. But I will be back with water, I promise.” He was about to say something else when an alarm went off. “I'll be back. Soon.”
And that was the most human thing they'd heard him say.
The alarms had been going off with some regularity since their arrival two days ago. The floors and walls, old and rusted, always felt warm and alive with a buzz or shake that was insistent and annoying. It kept them from getting any sleep. Well, that and being in a jail cell.
When the door opened, Sam pressed herself against the bars and stared after the departing figure.
“I know where we are, sir, I just can't place it. But we've been here before.”
“Wherever here is.”
“That's not very helpful, major.”
She sighed. “I know, sir. I'm working on it.”
“Work a little faster.”
Daniel was true to his word. Within hours he came back with their packs, which he threw into a corner, still out of reach of the team. He slipped the MREs and the bottled water through a slot in the door. He also gave them their emergency blankets and their toiletries. “I'm sorry about the bathroom facilities, but I'm working on it. Will this do for now?”
“What will 'do,' Daniel, is for you to let us out of here. Right now.”
“I can't do that, Jack,” Daniel said.
“I just can't.” And he was gone again.
It was more than 48 hours before Daniel came back again. During that time, Sam paced except when Jack ordered her to sleep. Teal'c tried to kelno'reem. Jack himself sat on the bench and complained.
When Daniel came back, he had two buckets with him, although neither of them was in any better shape than the one they'd started with. With a “sorry about this” he made them stand against the back wall while he slipped the buckets through the cell door. With a grimace he took the full and foul bucket out.
“Where are we, Daniel? Tell us, please,” Sam pleaded.
Jack pushed her out of the way. “The food—which is a generous description at the best of times--is not going to last us much longer. What about that? Do you know we're hungry here?”
“I'm working on the food situation. But it could take some time, so ration what you've got, okay?”
“We've been rationing,” Jack told him.
“I know,” he said. This time he paced in front of the cell. “I want you to know how sorry I am about all this. Really. But I don't have a choice.”
“Why?” Sam reached a hand through the bars and Daniel jumped back, avoiding her touch. “Why don't you have a choice? Daniel, who's manipulating you? Tell us and let us help.”
“I wish you could,” he said with a wistful smile. “But you can't.”
He opened the door and left before they could say anything else.
Over the next few days, he came in to watch them, sometimes not saying anything. Sometimes he talked to them about things that had happened years ago. He wanted to know about Gairwyn and the Nox and Nem. He wanted to know about the funeral they'd given him after he'd “died,” something Jack had sworn never to reveal.
He brought in MREs a few at a time and carried out buckets of waste. The stench in the room was enough to make all of them, including Daniel, gag.
Then he'd leave, sometimes to tend an alarm, and sometimes he simply walked out the door mid-sentence.
On day six, he brought them the last of the MREs.
On day eight, Sam said, “I know where we are.”
The next time Daniel appeared, all three of them were lined up against the bars ready to plead for their release before they starved. The vibrations had stopped and the metal was now cool. It was oddly disturbing. The alarms became more frequent and that disturbed them more.
But the Daniel they saw wasn't the Daniel they expected. This Daniel was filthy, thin, almost gaunt, with a scruffy beard and a black eye.
“What the hell happened to you?”
“Nice to see you too, Jack.”
“Daniel, where's the other Daniel?” Sam asked.
“What? What other Daniel? Carter, what the hell are you talking about?
“Could we save the chit chat for when we're out of this room?” Daniel pleaded. “I know you have questions, but I'd feel better if I had some backup upstairs,” Daniel said.
“Upstairs? Could someone please explain to me what's going on?”
Daniel shook so much the keys in his hands rattled. “You'd think in a building with this much machinery, there'd be a better way to open a door.” Finally, he slipped the key into the lock and the door opened. “We need to be upstairs in the control room now.”
“Why now?” Sam asked.
“You'll see, but hurry.”
Daniel wouldn't say anything else as they scurried through the corridors. Sometimes he had to stop to get his bearings. “Sorry,” he said, “I wasn't allowed out much and I don't want to get us lost. I'm not sure I could get us un-lost if I did.”
They tried to be quiet and let Daniel concentrate, but Sam couldn't help herself. “What did the other Daniel do to you?”
“He, um.... Let's just say he wasn't happy with the way his history played out. Apparently, I didn't do a very good job with his life.”
“Carter, would you please tell me what's going on?” Jack said it as softly as he could considering how frustrated he was.
“We're on Harlan's planet,” Sam said. “The Daniel we were seeing wasn't our Daniel. That— ” she pointed to the exhausted man in front of them “—is our Daniel.”
“There are two Daniels?”
“Teal'c, help me out here.”
“The first time we were here, I believe Harlan created two duplicates, one of me and one of Daniel Jackson.”
“What?” Jack's volume earned a glare from Daniel. “That little weasel,” he said more softly. “When I see him, I'm going to kill him.”
“I don't believe that will be necessary, O'Neill. Have you noticed how quiet it is?”
He had. They all had. The building was an empty shell.
“The other Daniel turned everything off,” Daniel said as he looked down a hallway for direction. “Essentially, he left the lights on so that we could find the control room.”
“Why?” Sam asked.
“Because he's here alone. After our doubles died, he and Harlan were the last ones left. Harlan died in an explosion about a year ago, and Daniel's been alone ever since.”
“Because he finally realized he didn't want to be alone,” Daniel said. “Because he couldn't live without the people he loved. He thought he'd be able to keep us here, but that wasn't realistic either. We're out of food and water, and there's no way to get more.”
“How the hell did he find us in the first place?”
“By accident,” Daniel said. “He just happened to be on Tupelo's planet the same time we were. He told me he used to go there sometimes to watch Tupelo's people. Ironic, isn't it?”
“What'd you do this time, Daniel?” Jack said gently.
The Daniel in his arms smiled. “I've always loved it when you said that, even when it made me so mad I could scream. Did you know that? Your double used to say it too. When he was really angry or worried. Most of the time he was just worried. Do you know that we know that about you?”
The real Daniel placed his hand on Jack's shoulder.
“Yeah, I know, although I'm disappointed that I'm so transparent.”
“I'm glad,” Daniel said. “And I'm glad that you two have been friends for so long, that we've been friends for so long.”
“Me too,” Jack said. “Look, are you sure this is what you want to do, Daniel? We could figure out some way to charge your battery and bring you back with us. Carter's good at that stuff.”
“Thanks, Jack, but no. I think I'm ready to let go. I was a 'spare' after you left the first time, not the original and not even the double.”
“Not to be nosy,” Jack said, and both Daniels laughed, “but why didn't Harlan make copies of me and Carter?”
“Because you... your doppelganger... wouldn't let him. I was already in progress when you left so Jack let Harlan finish me, but he wouldn't let Harlan make any more. He destroyed the equipment.”
“Smart guy,” Jack admitted.
“Always was,” the real Daniel said.
The lights flickered as one of the machines behind then sputtered and died. “You guys should go through the 'gate before the power dies completely."
“We will wait with you, Daniel Jackson.”
“We're not going anywhere,” Sam added. “You know us better than that.”
“Yeah, I do know you. Even though it was a long time ago.” Daniel smiled. “And you?” he asked his double.
“You already know I'm not going anywhere,” Daniel assured him.
“I know.” The words were coming slower now. “I'm so sorry about Sha're. So sorry it had to be Teal'c. My Jack and Sam and Teal'c, they didn't know. We always looked for her, Daniel. Every time we went out. I don't know how we didn't know, but we didn't. We looked for her for so long.”
“Thank you,” Daniel said simply.
“I once thought that living a thousand years would be so interesting, to learn new things all the time, but it isn't. Because you never forget anything either, and there's no joy in that. If I have to die, I'm glad it's here with you.” He looked at Jack. “How did the others die? Were you there?”
“Teal'c died avenging his father's death and saving my Teal'c. Carter... Sam died saving us—” Jack waved his hand at the other Sam “—from the Jaffa on Cronus' ship. Jack died being a decoy and giving everybody lip. Pretty much what you'd expect from any Jack.”
“That's what Harlan said. I'm glad. Jack would want to go out fighting.” Robot Daniel started to sound like the robot he was. With each word, his voice slowed to a grinding monotone.
“And Daniel... you... he...” Jack stopped. “I don't have enough pronouns for this. The other Daniel died trying to free the people of Juna. It worked. The SGC is keeping an eye on them now, helping them rebuild.”
“I didn't know about the other Daniel. I'm glad about that, too.” His eyes closed and they all heard the mechanical click as the last of his systems shut down.
After a few minutes, Sam said, “We have to go soon. Air purification won't be working with the power turned off.”
“Yeah.” Jack put down the hand he didn't know he was holding. He had to unfold the stiff fingers. “Yeah, we'd better go. Daniel, you okay?”
“Oh, yeah, watching yourself die is a fun way to end the day.”
“If it's even day. I've lost track of the time.”
“Me too,” Daniel said. But no one moved.
“How did he know about Sha're?” Sam asked.
Daniel shrugged. “He wanted to know about who he was and I told him.”
“And the black eye?”
“I told him he was an asshole,” Daniel said without rancor, “that both of us were selfish, thoughtless bastards from time to time. He knew it was true, but he didn't like it. I think it was then that he figured out he'd have to let us go. I think it's then he decided to go, to choose another path.”
“That's Shifu's line,” Jack said. “Did you tell him about—”
“Sir, speaking of going....”
“Should we take the body with us?” Teal'c asked.
“No,” Daniel said. “He wants to stay here. He told me.”
“Then dial us home, Daniel.”
Jack arranged the body as best he could while Daniel dialed. The body was stiff in a way a human body never could be. Teal'c and Sam collected their weapons and the GDOs, which had been stowed under the control panel.
They were about ready to go when Daniel said, “Oops.”
Jack turned. “Oops? Oops? Daniel, what did you do this time?”
“Nothing, Jack, I'm just messing with you.” With a crooked grin on his tired face, he hit the center crystal with his palm.
The Stargate came to life as Sam wrapped her arms around Daniel. “Don't ever change,” she said.
Jack watched them go through the 'gate. Before stepping through himself, he looked back at the stiff and never-decaying body splayed in the shadow of the 'gate. “Don't ever change, Daniel.”
There was no answer in the silence.