Awww! Geez! I am so not liking this. Again with this lucid dreaming crap. And back in this skanky movie theater, too. I didn’t understand what this was about the first time so why my whacked-out psyche thinks it’s gonna mean anymore more to me this time I have no freakin’ idea.
OK, O’Neill, get with the program. What do I have, what do I need? Well, I have popcorn…Cool! But I can’t move again, which is not good. Why do I have to sit here, in the exact same seat I was in before? There’s no one else around that I can see although my spidey senses are tingling so I may well not be alone. Gah! This is so frustrating. Shit, I’m losing it here. Feeling hemmed in and helpless is not my favorite way to spend an hour or two. Admit it, Jack, this is scaring the crap outta you.
OK…Breathe…Let’s get back in control here. Everything is just the same as I left it last time. Perhaps there’s a little more light, like when you’re waiting for the main feature. I can remember the zing of excitement that came as the lights went down and the curtains drew apart. Sitting with my Dad right next to me, so close I could smell the damp wool of his jacket and the whiskey he’d sneaked at the bar across the road while I sat on the bench outside with a bag of chips and a bottle of Dr Pepper. Mom would’ve killed him if she knew, but I never told. I think he was proud of me for keeping his secret – a man’s secret – about bars and hard liquor and expensive cigars when I was only seven years old. I would have kept his secret under torture even then. He was my hero, the man I aspired to be. It was only later, when I was much older that I found out about the women and the gambling that drove my poor mom to an early grave. If I’d told my secret then, would it have made a difference? Would she have left with me in tow?
Fuck it – Coulda, woulda, shoulda…I was seven, I didn’t know any better. But this, this place, this memory of him is always good and warm. So, why am I here?
Oh! Here we go, the lights are going down and I can hear the clickety clack of the projector as the film spools through it. The broad shaft of light pierces the darkness, highlighting the sparkles of dust floating in the still air and then spreading its pictures over the screen in front of us. This is where it got uncomfortable last time – I nearly lost my lunch in the bed. But hey! Not this time. Now there’s an honest to goodness movie playing on the screen. A desert; wide sandy expanse drifted with dunes. And, in the distance, a figure. I can’t quite see…Must be a long ways off ‘cause it’s just a speck on the horizon, shimmering with heat haze. I hate that – fucks up your sight line. You have to concentrate real hard to get a good lock on your target, and if there’s that kind of haze then the heat is pretty intense. You have sweat and heat stroke to contend with, especially if you’ve been in the same spot for three days; waiting, always waiting for your mark to come over the dune opposite like your informants intel said he would.
So this figure’s getting closer, but he’s not so far away. He really is small…A kid: No more than six or seven and…Crap, he’s familiar. I know him. It’s the kid from the Beach House. “I know you!” Fuck it, O’Neill, get a grip. It’s a movie, nothing more. He can’t hear you. I can see the blonde mop of hair though and those eyes, so blue – even bluer than the sky above his head – and he’s looking straight at me. He’s so close now that all I can see is his face, eight feet high, and that stare is burning through me. There’s no fear there; just intelligence and pure childish innocence. It’s pouring from him and he smiles. One of his front teeth is missing and I don’t know why, but it makes me want to cry: I can feel the tears prickling the corners of my eyes. His stare never falters and I know I’ve seen that look somewhere before, but I can’t catch the memory. It’s hanging inches away from my conscious mind and I can’t reach out to snag it no matter how hard I try.
He takes a breath and suddenly I know what he’s going to say. I don’t want him to…”No, kid, don’t say it.” I’m begging him as loudly as I can, but I know he doesn’t hear me. My voice falters and the popcorn falls to the floor, spilling all around my feet. He’s going to deliver his lines and I can’t do a damn thing to stop him. He’s smiling that gap-toothed smile and all the time he looks so innocent, so happy. I know I want him to be quiet; he mustn’t say it again – I can’t bear not knowing what it means.
“Daddy. Is it time to go?”
“No! No! NOOOOOOOOOO! What do you want? Just tell me, please. I don’t understand.”
God, I feel, I feel…Gonna be…arrgghhh.
“Jack! JACK! Wake up.” Daniel’s hands were firm on his lover’s shoulders, wrestling him over the side of the bed as he heaved again. Fighting Jack’s writhing body, Daniel attempted to pull him away from the mess where he had already thrown up on the pristine covers. “Jack, baby, please. Please wake up now. It’s okay, I’ve got you.”
Jack roused with a sharp intake of breath that nearly choked him as bile raced back down his airways, burning a trail into his lungs. The resulting coughing fit nearly made him puke again and all he could do was hang limply over the edge of the mattress with only the strength of Daniel’s arms preventing him from slithering off and onto the floor.
Reaching behind Jack’s sweaty, shaking body Daniel pulled at the soiled sheet and cotton throw. Balling them up with one hand, he tossed them to the side of the bed. Luckily, the comforter had caught a lot of the moisture, so the bottom sheet was still dry and clean. Leaning Jack against his shoulder, the younger man pulled the pillows into a pile against the headboard and then gently maneuvered his lover into a semi-sitting position.
“I’m just going to call Izel, Jack,” Daniel murmured as he pulled a shaking hand over Jack’s wet brow. Jack kept his eyes tightly closed, knowing without having to test it out that if he opened them he would vomit again. With a last worried look at Jack’s gray and clammy skin Daniel leaped up and quickly made his way to the balcony.
“Izel! IZEL!” he shouted, too concerned to be considerate of the housekeepers sensibilities. His only thought was to get the panga back as soon as possible and get Jack to a hospital on the mainland. “IZEL, goddammit…,” he started to yell as the small woman dashed into the loft room, her hands grasping a towel, the soap bubbles still visible on her skin where she had hurriedly pulled them from washing dishes.
“Mr. Daniel?” she started and then saw Jack, pale and trembling leaning back on the pillows like a weak kitten. “Oh, Mr. Jack. What has happened?” She moved quickly to Jack’s side and placed a hand on his forehead. “There is no fever, but he has been sick, yes?” she asked, wrinkling her nose as she caught the smell of vomit from Jack’s damp tee and the pile of dirty laundry.
“Izel,” Daniel’s voice was shaking with concern, “we need to get Juan back with the panga.” He looked worriedly back at Jack, who still had his eyes squeezed tightly shut. “I think Jack needs to see a doctor.”
His words seemed to get through to Jack, who tried and failed to pull himself higher up the mound of pillows. Swallowing deeply, Jack let his eyes crack open and was gratified to find that, after a brief moment when the room seemed to be turning around him, he was able to focus on Daniel and Izel without his stomach rebelling.
“No doctors,” Jack croaked through acid roughened vocal chords. “And I’m not going to the mainland. Just stomach flu ‘tis all.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Daniel replied sarcastically, moving across the room to sit back down next to his supine lover. “If this is just stomach flu, how come you’re not feeling ill all the time? You were fine yesterday at the cave.”
“’Praps some bad shrimp, or something,” Jack countered, desperate to stop Daniel from forcing him to go to the mainland. He didn’t know why, he just knew it was a very bad idea.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Daniel,” Izel interrupted. “Juan has taken the panga up the coast to get the champagne Mr. Jack asked for. He will not be coming back for me until this evening.” She shook her head apologetically. “And unless it is a real emergency I cannot call the doctor to the island.”
She moved back over to Jack’s side. His color was already looking a little better and although he looked wrung out he was sitting straighter. “I have some Damiana herb tea which I can brew with ginger root. That will stop any more vomiting.” She petted Jack’s head affectionately and he gave her a wan smile. He knew she understood how much this vacation meant to both him and Daniel. She motioned to him to peel off his t-shirt and he complied, feeling better for having the cool sea breeze gently tease his damp skin. “I will take away this dirty laundry and bring back some tea.” She smiled reassuringly at Daniel, who was still frowning worriedly at Jack.
“Thanks, Izel.” Jack smiled wanly, squeezing her hand gently in appreciation.
Daniel was still so distracted, he didn’t see Izel leave the room. Jack could see that his concern was beginning to morph into something else. ‘He’s got a theory,’ Jack thought, his heart sinking. Jack knew that face, the ‘I know there’s something going on here and I’m going to dig till I find out’ face. Although the specifics of his dream were beginning to fade, Jack could still remember his frustration and the background itch in his mind, telling him there was something he should be doing. But, what was it and did the kid in his dream have anything to do with it? Jack was beginning to worry that the children he’d been seeing all week were figments of his imagination and the consequences of that train of thought were that he couldn’t be sure he wasn’t losing his mind. Jack knew he would have to give Daniel something to chew on, but imaginary kids wasn’t a subject he was willing to divulge until he was sure what was going on in his screwed up psyche.
“I’ve been having these dreams.”
Jack decided that a pre-emptive strike was in order if he was to head Daniel off. Otherwise his lover would just dig and dig until everything came spilling out. All his Special Ops training had been for nothing in the face of a Dr Jackson interrogation. If Daniel had been handling Jack in that Iraqi prison he wouldn’t have lasted a day let alone four months.
Daniel turned his head slowly, blue laser beam eyes examining his face with an intensity that made Jack want to turn away, but he resisted the temptation and plowed on.
“You remember we watched that documentary about those Yogi fellas who do that Lucy dreaming.” He knew his dumb act made Daniel mad, but he wanted to keep him off balance for a while. He knew how intense Daniel could get and he needed to tell this at his own pace, if only to make sure he didn’t let anything slip he didn’t want Daniel to know just yet.
“Lucid dreaming,” Daniel corrected automatically, well used to Jack’s intentional mangling of words and concepts. “Düsum Khyenpa,” Daniel nodded, drawing the necessary information from the filing system that was his brain.
Jack would never let on, but he loved to see Daniel do this; loved to watch the flummoxed faces of marines, geeks and visiting dignitaries as Daniel pulled out fact after fact without a book in sight. It made Jack so proud of his genius lover.
“He was a master-level practitioner of Tibetan lucid dream yoga,” Daniel continued his intellectual prowess, unaware of Jack’s hero-worshiping. “And St Augustine of Hippo wrote a letter referring to it in 415 AD. Although the phrase wasn’t actually coined until 1913 by Fredrick van Eeden in his article ‘A Study of Dreams’. It’s a well documented idea.”
“Yeah. Well, I’ve been having these weird dreams; people, events and places from my past. But I’ve been aware in my dreams that they are dreams.” Jack frowned. It all sounded a bit bells, incense, and Hare Krishna, and he wasn’t sure if he could adequately explain just exactly what was going on.
“Have you been able to interact – you know – touch things, talk to the people?” Daniel had moved to sit cross-legged at the foot of the bed, his hand wrapped loosely around Jack’s ankle, as if trying to anchor him to the bed.
Jack found himself welcoming the touch and the feeling of being grounded without being crowded. Trust Daniel to know just what he needed. He sighed loudly. “This is going to sound really whacked, but…well, yes and no.”
Daniel waited. Jack always had problems when it came to explaining himself. Ask him about military tactics or the last series of the Simpson’s and he could talk your ear off. But require him to explain his feelings or to dig into his own psyche and it was like pulling teeth. In the early months of their friendship, long before they had become lovers, Daniel had quickly realized that Jack couldn’t be pushed into this kind of conversation. You had to let him go at his own pace. Either that, or get him very drunk or very angry. Neither of those options was practical or appealing right now. Using all his ‘Jack’ awareness, Daniel felt the tension of his lover’s body through his ankle. Jack’s skin was clammy and there was a quiver of nerves underneath that wasn’t at all usual for the normally cool-as-ice colonel.
“There have been people in the dreams,” Jack continued finally. “I’ve seen my Gramps and he talked to me. I was flying in another and was in contact with base over the comm and then….” He faltered, his stomach roiling again as the face of the little boy flared up in his mind’s eye. Jack swallowed hard, fighting another wave of nausea. “Ah…I saw a kid.” His gaze flickered up at Daniel and then back down to his hands, which were unusually still in his lap. “He…God, Daniel. He called me Daddy.” A shiver ran through his body.
“Charlie?” Daniel asked, his hand tightening reflexively on Jack’s ankle.
“No,” Jack began, sounding a little unsure. “No, it wasn’t Charlie…Not Charlie.” Again he looked over at the younger man, but this time his eyes rested on his lover’s face. “His eyes were so blue, Danny,” he blurted out. ‘Almost as blue as yours’ he thought absently. “Charlie’s eyes were gray. I felt like I should know him just like I did when I…” He clamped down on the next sentence. He didn’t want Daniel to know he had seen this kid not only in his dreams, but here in this room, in the daylight, when he’d been wide-awake. The thought that he might be losing his mind once again bloomed in his thoughts and he shuddered as ice water flowed down his spine. Maybe all those years of G forces, incarceration, torture and Gate travel were finally going to catch up with him. The memory of Daniel, drugged and incoherent in a stark white padded room oozed unbidden into his mind and it took all his willpower not to throw up again. Shit, now he was scared.
“Jack?” Daniel had caught the way Jack had stopped himself and there was more than a vague feeling of dread curling through his mind. “When you what, Jack? Like you did when you what?” He knew he was pushing, but something told him this was important.
“What?” Jack tried to deflect Daniel’s question, but knew he wouldn’t be fobbed off with a half-assed answer.
“Jack.” Daniel’s tone was unconvinced.
“When I saw my Gramps,” Jack diverted smoothly. “Although I suppose I’d know him, being as he almost raised me when my loser of a father ran off.”
Daniel was surprised. Jack rarely, if ever, mentioned his family. He knew Jack’s mother had died when he was a teenager but Daniel had assumed his father had raised him and had died more recently. That Jack was feeling unsettled enough to let out personal information told Daniel he was far more rattled by what was happening than he was letting on. Daniel held himself in check and waited for Jack to continue.
“I don’t know this kid, Daniel. I have no idea what he’s doing in my dreams and why calls me Daddy.” Jack scrubbed his hand roughly over his face. “I feel…I feel like he wants me to do something, but I don’t know what.” He surged quickly from the bed and immediately wished he hadn’t. The world moved around him and only Daniel’s quick reflexes stopped him from landing on his ass on the loft floor.
“Fuck it, Jack.” Daniel was in equal parts worried and angry with his recalcitrant lover. “We need to get you to the mainland. I don’t care what you say, as soon as Juan comes back for Izel we are going to the mainland.” Pressing Jack back onto the bed he fussed with the pillows and eventually got his scowling colonel settled.
“Okay. Okay,” Jack grumbled. “But it’s just stomach flu, you’ll see…Just wastin’ the doctor’s time.”
“Humor me, Jack,” Daniel pleaded quietly. “I’m worried.”
Satisfied that his lover was going to stay put Daniel walked over to the balcony and looked out over the sea. Despite what Jack was saying Daniel was uneasy. This felt all wrong and if they had been off world recently he would have been dragging Jack back to the SGC as soon as possible. But Jack hadn’t been on a mission for over a month and had shown no symptoms before their leave had started. Jack had been very upset by Daniel’s mystery illness, but this smacked of stress levels off the scale. Daniel had seen no other indicators of pressure building in Jack and anyway; he had his own inimitable ways of stress relief, one of which was making love to Daniel in many inventive ways. The seduction in the cave had been proof that Jack was firing on all cylinders there. He was stubborn enough to fight going to the mainland, but Daniel was seriously worried and wanted him to get checked out.
Somehow he would have to find a way to get Jack onto the panga and into a doctor’s office.
As Daniel walked away from him, Jack rubbed across his face once more with a damp hand. He hated feeling so out of control and he knew Daniel was worried. This was supposed to be a trip away for Daniel to rest and recuperate, not to have to nurse Jack through a stupid flu.
He turned his head to look over at his lover and his heart almost stopped as he came face to face with the teen from the beach. Jack’s breath stopped in his throat as he quickly assessed the threat to Daniel. Where had the kid come from? He definitely hadn’t been there when Jack had woken up. He wasn’t moving and wasn’t looking over at Daniel. Jack couldn’t decide whether to call out and get Daniel’s attention. If the kid bolted they would never know where he came from and, more importantly, what he wanted. Jack was about to alert Daniel when the boy began to speak.
“It doesn’t matter what you do to me, you fuck, I’m not going to tell you where it is.” Pale and thin, the teen’s hair was unkempt and lank, hanging around the collar of his ill-fitting shirt. His gaze was hard and uncompromising and his tone was icy. The last time Jack had heard someone put so much venom into a few words was when Daniel had baited one minor system lord or another. Trouble was, the words were aimed directly at Jack, and he had no idea what the kid was talking about.
He opened his mouth to question the kid, but the boy beat him to it. “Are you going to hit me again? Or do I get the ‘special’ treatment?” Only a barely perceptible twitch in the corner of his eye told Jack that the kid was terrified. The implications of that made Jack’s blood run cold.
He felt sweat begin to bloom on his forehead. What did this kid think he was going to do to him? He’d never laid a hand on him and hadn’t had time to threaten him with anything when he’d seen him on the beach.
When his eyes flicked over to Daniel, Jack could see him in profile. His lips were moving, but Jack couldn’t hear what he was saying. Why wasn’t he looking around at the kid? Jack swallowed hard. What if he was the only one who could see and hear the boy? If that was the case then perhaps his worst fears were being borne out and he was losing what was left of his mind?
Suddenly Daniel moved across his line of sight and blocked the view of the teen for just a second. In two steps Daniel had passed by and as quickly as he had appeared the boy was gone. Jack felt faint with fear. Was this all in his mind? Once again his stomach decided to add to the general misery of the situation and Jack knew he was going to hurl.
Izel made her way up the terracotta steps to the doorway of the loft. She carried the pot of Damiana tea for Jack and a carafe of coffee for Daniel. She was already aware of the man’s addiction to caffeine and had made sure that her shopping basket had included more of the Santa Catarina he loved so much. A small plastic bucket swung from her fingers; she wasn’t sure if Mr. Jack was done being sick, but she hoped it would help to prevent any more laundry.
As she turned into the doorway she saw the figure of a teenage boy sitting cross-legged in the center of the room. The fact he was there did not surprise Izel. She had been seeing people that others did not see since she was five. Trapped spirits her Toci had called them; she had been a seer too, and had taught Izel the meaning of her visions. She had learned not to be afraid, gradually coming to understand that they were benign. They rarely spoke and never interacted with her. Sometimes she had been able to identify them – an old man from the village, a child killed by a car – and then she had been glad to let their family know that they were safe on the other side.
Now, what surprised Izel was the fact that Jack was also seeing the boy. The blonde haired youngster was gazing at him with unconcealed disdain and his deep blue eyes held Jack’s in an uncompromising stare. The boy’s lips were moving but she was unable to hear what he was saying. She wasn’t sure whether he was talking to himself or actually having a conversation with Jack. Izel could see that Jack was trying hard not to freak out. His face was pale and sweat had broken out on his brow, his hands clenched in white knuckled tension. Daniel had his back to the older man and was talking quietly, but all Jack’s concentration was centered on the sullen child.
Izel wasn’t sure whether she should walk into the room or not, but balancing on one foot at the top of the stairs was not a comfortable position. Her indecision made her wobble and she knocked the loaded tray into the doorjamb. Her gaze flicked quickly from the vision of the boy to the hot liquid slopping over the edge of the teapot and the jangling cups. By the time she looked back into the room, the teenager was gone.
Jack, however, was still staring glassy eyed at the spot where he had been sitting.
“Izel, let me take that.” Daniel was quickly at her side, taking the tray from her. Their movement across the room seemed to pull Jack from his trance and Izel was only just quick enough to get the pail under his chin before he once again retched. His stomach was empty and all he achieved were dry painful heaves.
Daniel climbed onto the bed and began to rub slow circles across Jack’s back as the urge to throw up began to pass. Izel poured a small cup of the herbal tea and doctored it with a large spoonful of agave nectar. Holding the cup to Jack’s lips she encouraged him to take tiny sips of the warm sweet tea and gradually he felt able to hand the empty container back to Daniel and slumped back on the bed. His eyes were still wild and bright with tears, both from fear and in response to the vomiting. Izel refilled the cup and, perching on the edge of the bed, made sure Jack drank all its contents before encouraging him to lie back and try to rest.
Jack felt exhausted. He slumped against Daniel, grateful for the strong broad chest against his cheek. Daniel slid up to the headboard and settled Jack against him.
“I will go and make some soup. He will need something later,” Izel whispered as Jack’s breathing grew deeper. “I will let you know as soon as Juan gets back, Mr. Daniel.” Seeing the crease of worry on Daniel’s brow she patted his shoulder gently. “I am sure he will be fine. It really is probably just a virus.” Daniel nodded and turned to place a soft kiss on Jack’s hair.
As Jack grew heavy in his arms Daniel tried not to be too worried. Izel was right. There was nothing to be worried about. Jack had only a slight temperature which could be explained away by the possibility of a virus. He’d seen Jack far sicker than this on more than one occasion. There was just something about Jack’s description of his dreams that set his teeth on edge. They could just be the product of a stressed mind and body, but Daniel had a bad feeling. He snorted quietly; he was always teasing Jack about his ability to know when things were going to get squirrelly, but that ability had saved his life many, many times. Daniel wished he was as adept as Jack at reading the itch that had settled in the back of his neck; right now it just felt like a vague sense of doom; something not quite visible on the horizon, but worrying nonetheless.
He ran his fingers gently through his lovers short silver hair and sighed. This place was paradise and yet it seemed like the Universe couldn’t let them rest. Resting his head against Jack’s he worked to consciously let go of the tension, using techniques Teal’c had taught him. Gradually the muscles in his neck and shoulders let go and he slipped into a quiet doze.
Izel gathered up the cups onto the tray and made sure the pail was within reaching distance just in case Jack needed it. As she made her way back out of the room she wondered whether she should tell Daniel what she had seen. Surely, if Jack had wanted him to know he would have said something? Izel was sure this vision had something to do with Jack’s sickness, but she couldn’t work out why. In her experience there was never any interaction between the world beyond and this plane. Still, the child’s mouth had definitely been moving and from Jack’s reactions the man had been hearing every word.
Izel stopped for a second at the foot of the stairs and looked up. Biting her lip she considered her options. She could forget what she had seen, as she had done many times before. But somehow that felt wrong. She had a feeling she had seen this particular spirit for a reason and ignoring it would be a mistake. She could talk to Daniel, but again she was sure Jack would have done that himself if he wanted him to know. The sickness was also worrying her because the more she thought about it the more she agreed with Daniel; Jack’s vomiting was very sporadic and from what she’d seen upstairs in the loft it was linked in some way to the vision he had shared with her.
Making her way back to the kitchen she came to a decision. When he woke she would talk to Jack, letting him know what she had seen and find out if there was anything she could do to help. Even if it was just to talk to Daniel for him. She knew that people often got scared by things they didn’t understand. Perhaps Jack was one of those people. If her Mr. Simon was anything to go by then a pilot’s mind could be completely closed to anything outside the ordinary.
Yes, she would talk to Jack.
Toci: The grandmother – mother earth – earth goddess