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Dream a Little Dream
"For all those times you stood by me
She's only sleeping. At least that's what I tell myself. Janet hasn't said anything to me about her concerns, only that Casey is unconscious, and she has no idea why. But I overheard her talking to Jack and Sam soon after we brought Casey home. Words like 'coma' and 'nothing we can do', and 'we'll just have to wait', and my personal favorite, 'these things take time'. How much more goddamned time will it be before Casey is really back with me?
I keep telling myself that I should be thankful that she's here, that we found her. She hasn't been harmed...not physically. But...I have no idea what's going on...no clue as to why she won't open her eyes. Look at me from those emerald green depths. Whisper that she loves me. Smile that beautiful, warm smile when I tell her that I love her. I can't...I won't...refrain from touching her. I hold her hand. At night, I lay beside her, and hold her as close as possible. I don't care who thinks what about it. She's my Wife, damn it, and I'm going to let her know that I'm here! Besides, holding her is the only thing keeping me from falling completely apart. Because right now the only thing I can do is hope...and pray.
And...wait. I do what I have to do...translations that need to be finished, that have stacked up during the two and a half months we spent searching for her. General Hammond has made it clear that all SG teams will be on full, active rotation again. No more 'call-backs' to planets we've visited before. So far, no one is complaining. The fear is there, you can feel it. See it in the eyes of the men and women heading to the 'gate room to embark on their new missions. Fear that hasn't been as intense for over a year. Because she always protected them. Gave them warnings that prevented them from walking into traps, or offending the natives. Or getting hurt in any of a dozen different ways. But she's back, she's on the base, and that alone gives them hope that soon, very soon, she'll be 'searching' for each mission that's given tentative approval...giving those warnings once again.
Sometimes her 'warnings' are downright comical. She once told Ferretti to listen to the ducks. No one else on his team, just him. Ferretti thought she was kidding...pulling his leg. Seems that when a tree fell, the result of logging by local farmers, several small limbs broke free. His team was far enough behind him to see what was about to happen, and all of them called out 'duck!' He didn't. And spent three days in the infirmary with a concussion. Another time she told one of the women, Cathy, I think her name is, to just grin and bear it. We thought she meant to go along with whatever was happening. Which she did mean, sort of. But her warning had meant to grin and bare it. To satisfy local customs, being a lone female arriving with a group of males, she had to be 'inspected' by the local shaman, to prove that she wasn't diseased in anyway. Then there was the time she told Jack to make certain he walked the line, very carefully. He thought she was being a wiseass, he even told her that. When we got through the 'gate, there was a grid of colored paving stones that led away from the steps, toward a cobblestone road. And painted on that grid was a blue line. It twisted and curved, but led from where he stood to a blue circle on that road. Jack walked it, heel to toe. And we could see the energy field - one that we had no idea was surrounding us - drop when he reached the end. No telling what would have happened had we just stepped down. Odd, we never found anything else on that planet. Casey joked that it was just the Ancient's way to break up the monotony of 'gate travel. Maybe she was right.
Her cheeks are so pale...she's lost weight. Casey didn't have extra weight to lose. I was with her when Janet bathed her, put her in the blue infirmary pajamas that we've all had to wear far too many times. I could see every rib far too clearly...not even when we first met was she so thin. Janet told me that if she doesn't wake up in a day or so, she's going to have to insert a feeding tube. God, that sounds so damned frightening. A feeding tube now...then the respirator to help her breathe...no...no, she's Immortal. She can fight this. She'll be okay...she has to be okay!
If he's not in his office, pouring over the rocks and stuff that need translated, he's here. Sitting right there, holding her hand. He sleeps at her side, holding her tightly, whispering to her. She's home, but she's not back. Not yet. Radar's tough. She'll pull through this. God, please let her pull through this! Doc Fraiser...Janet...hasn't got a clue what's wrong. Only that there's been some sort of 'trauma'. Sort of goes without saying, considering she's unconscious.
We have no idea how long she was lying there beside that tree. It'd been a couple of weeks since we'd been on the planet, talking to that Unas...Chalk...no, Cha'ka. Daniel gets pissy when I mispronounce names. I have a bad habit of relating a name to something I can remember, and then using that word or name instead of the proper one. Kind of fun to watch people's reaction when I do that, though.
Sam, Teal'c, and I have set up our own 'watch'. We make sure Daniel eats. That he's working out. General Hammond's been kind enough to take the team off the duty roster for awhile. We've earned it, spending damned near three months looking for Casey. I hate taking out just part of the team, and until Casey rolls those green eyes and starts making her smartass comments, Daniel won't be going anywhere. And that's as it should be.
Janet says that if Casey hasn't come to in a couple more days, she'll have to put in a feeding tube. It's already been four days since we brought her back through the 'gate, and she wasn't in such good shape then. Too damned pale. Janet said she's lost at least ten pounds. And that's not a good thing. Radar was doing her best to put on a couple of pounds to please the Doc. Daniel isn't going to take it well, seeing that done to his wife. Hell, I won't be taking it well, either. It's too...too invasive. Too much like giving up on her. I know that it'll help her start putting back on the weight she needs...but it'll mean that she'll have to wear a diaper, for crying out loud! Radar would hate that!
He needs to get out of here. Just for a little bit. I know that in his heart, he's terrified that the minute he leaves, she'll wake up. It's important for him to be here when that happens. For himself, as much as for her. But I've ordered a couple of pizzas. We'll go down to the officer's lounge, maybe play a game or two of chess. Maybe I'll even be able to win for a change.
He looks at me as if he has no clue why I'd be there. I'm his best friend, where the hell else would I be but at his side through something like this? Doesn't he get it? Doesn't he know that when he's hurting, I'm hurting too? Sure he does. He just has other things on his mind right now. He smiles, sort of. There it is. The acknowledgement in his eyes...that it's okay to lean on me. It's only there for a minute, before the worry floods back in. "Hey, Jack."
"Look, I have a couple of pizzas and a couple of hours. Feel like a game of chess? Or we could watch a movie."
His eyes go back to her face. He reaches up and smoothes her hair back. He washed it this morning, so I was told. Janet says he comes in and bathes her every morning. Sam helps him with her hair. "Thanks, but..."
"Four levels, Daniel. We'll be all of four levels below this room. You can be back up here in three minutes." I should be used to arguing with him about every damned thing. Most times it's kind of fun. This time, however, it isn't.
He's still caressing her face. "I guess I am hungry," he finally admits.
"Two pizza's, both with everything and extra cheese."
Finally, a real smile! Haven't seen that in way too damned long. Took me a couple of months to get used to seeing him with a smile all of the time, his eyes full of happiness instead of always being so guarded. The minute Casey was taken, that smile disappeared. So did the happiness in his eyes.
"Let's go." I turn and head toward the door. He'll follow me. I know he will.
I don't want to leave her. But sitting here, hour after hour, alone with my thoughts...my fears...isn't doing me any good. I know that...understand that. Sam, Jack, and Teal'c are always nearby. One of them 'escorts' me to every meal. Even if I can't eat, they sit there with me. Let me talk...babble about whatever comes to my mind. Or say nothing at all. It's a remarkable thing, to have friends like them. I'd be insane by now if not for them.
Jack is already halfway to the door by the time I've made up my mind to join him. I'm fairly certain he knew I would. I can't leave her without whispering my love to her...kissing her sweet lips. I don't know if she can hear me, or feel me, but I'd like to think that somehow, on some level, she can.
We don't say a word as we walk to the elevator. The ride to level twenty-five is done in silence as well. If I want to talk, I know I can. Right now Jack respects my need to just...not talk. I don't have anything to say. Lately I'm terrified that if I open my mouth, I'll start screaming. Did enough of that, holding a pillow to my face and screaming my fears...my frustrations, while we looked for Casey, trying to follow a trail that didn't exist.
I can smell the pizza before we get to the lounge, and my stomach rumbles like a truck rolling down a cement street. Jack looks sideways at me, gives me the crooked grin that's reserved for his close friends. For a minute, I'm baffled by the fact that I'm counted in that very small number. Baffled, because we don't actually have one thing in common, other than our experiences through the Stargate; and humbled, because Jack is one of the finest, most decent men I know. He doesn't make friends easily; like me, he keeps people at arms' length. Yet, here we are, closer than any blood brothers could ever be.
"Sounds like I arrived just in time," he jokes.
I can also smell coffee. It's all I drink, most of the time. It's an addiction that Casey and I share. Neither of us can function without it. She makes the best coffee I've ever tasted. I prefer what she considers, and I suppose they are, gourmet brands of coffee. My favorite of late is Sumatra Mandheling. She says it's like trying to drink syrup...which is actually how the flavor is described...'syrupy flavor with earthy overtones' is written on the back of the package. It's a bit...stronger...than what she likes. But she makes a pot every morning, and every night. And however many we go through here on the base. God love her, she keeps the package in her purse. There are other 'coffee connoisseurs' around here who snitch from my stash of specialty coffees. I know two of them...Janet and Major Newsome. But I suspect a couple of others. I have noticed, however, that when she's with Jack, she's drinking the same sludge he does. I love her anyway.
Sam and Teal'c are already sitting at the table, although neither of them have started eating. I can feel Sam's eyes boring into me, trying to determine how I really am, not how I say I am. Teal'c nods regally, like he always does. In the years we've been together as teammates, as friends, I can tell by his eyes what his mood is. Somber. Like it's been since we started looking for Casey.
When I'd finished with a particularly difficult translation yesterday, I decided to tell Casey about it...I always talk to her about my work. She congratulates me, commiserates with me, asks dozens of questions...I miss talking to her! I've missed talking to her for over two-and-a-half damned months now! Anyway, Janet has her in the isolation room, same one she was in before; and when I walked into the room, Teal'c was sitting beside her. Telling her about his day with the cadets. Holding her hand. I swear that if she wasn't in love with me, and I didn't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loved me; and no one around us had a doubt of her love for me, I'd have some serious competition from that Jaffa! I realized in that moment that not only have my friends been 'taking care' of me, they haven't left Casey alone, either. These people aren't just friends, they're family...the family I've never had...or at least haven't had since my parents were killed. I didn't understand, until that moment, how much she and I both need them.
"Daniel Jackson, you are looking well," Teal'c says, bringing me back into the moment.
"Thanks, Teal'c, I'm feeling...better."
"Will you be meditating with me tomorrow evening?"
Casey never wants to miss a Thursday evening of meditation with Teal'c. It's a very...precious...time. I very much enjoy watching the two of them together. Listening to them tease one another. In all the years I've known him, I never realized that Teal'c had such a wicked sense of humor. Oh, I knew that he had a sense of humor, his comments to Jack proved that...but I'd never suspected him of being a prankster...a jokester. Apparently he's talked more about his life and growing up to Casey than with any of us; she's informed me that he was known among his friends for his practical jokes when he was a teenager. I suppose becoming a Jaffa limited his time for such pranks, and that he thought being First Prime of Apophis meant that he could no longer...indulge...that part of himself. He'd been First Prime for fifty years. It takes a moment for me realize he's still waiting for my reply. "Yeah, I think I will." Because Casey would want me to, I tell myself. No doubt we'll sit on the floor in the isolation room. Which will suit me just fine.
He gives that nod of acknowledgement, and leans forward, ready to eat.
"I had an idea today," Sam started, opening the top pizza box and grabbing a slice.
"News flash, honey...you have ideas every day," Jack says drolly.
"Ha ha. It's sort of expounding on your idea," she tells me.
Me? What idea have I had that would inspire Sam? "Really? What's the idea?"
"You said that we had to shine a light to find a needle in a haystack," she said, between bites.
"Actually, Airman James had the idea."
"Well, it was you who gave me the idea," she says. "We know that Goa'uld symbiotes give off an energy reading. It's totally unique to them, and actually affects the brainwaves of the host."
I think I see where she's going with this. "If we had scanners that could pick up anomalous brainwave activity-"
"We could determine almost immediately if someone is a host or not," she finished excitedly. She and Teal'c can 'feel' the presence of a Goa'uld, because of the naquadah in their blood. Casey can sense the duality that results from the infestation of a Goa'uld. But the rest of us are pretty much in the dark when it comes to picking the Goa'uld out of a lineup, especially when they're careful not to use the 'voice' or let their eyes glow.
"That's great! Can these be portable...like the scanners the teams carry?" Each team carries a small, handheld computer. Which has scanning abilities to provide terrain information, and if samples are taken of the soil, can give a general idea of whether or not there are any ores present. The information to build them was taken from Jack's head when he had the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into it. He drew nearly fifty schematics, only three of which the techs have been able to actually build. The scanner was close enough to the portable, handheld computers that the military use that Sam was able to modify them fairly easily.
"If I'm lucky, I can actually add it into the programming of the scanners," she tells us.
I finally take a bite of the slice of pizza Jack has handed me. It smells great. It looks great. Tastes like sawdust. I can feel my stomach churning in protest. But if I don't eat, they'll all start getting those worried expressions. Janet will order me to the commissary. So I force myself to keep chewing. Swallow, and try to keep it from coming back up. And wonder if she's aware that I'm not with her. Need to get back there...if I just hurry up and eat, I can prove I'm all right, and get back up to her room, where I should be. Where I belong.
This is the first real 'conversation' Daniel's had since we came back with Casey. Before we'd located her, his communication had dwindled to single word responses. When he gave the briefing to General Hammond, outlining the reason we should return to P3X 888, he spoke for two minutes, three at the most. Daniel is always full of information, bursting at the seams to share it, words pouring out of him because he's almost desperate to make the rest of us understand what's so important, so fascinating about the finds that have been made. To see him...watch him withdraw, become so...silent...breaks my heart.
I remember his grief when Sha're was killed. He confided in me one night shortly after her death, both of us involved in our individual projects, neither of us willing to leave the base to face our empty apartments. So we took our breaks together. He actually brought some of his work to my lab, and we sat together, he working on his translations, while I tried to reverse engineer a piece of Goa'uld technology.
He looked over at me, gave me that sad smile, and said very softly, "I never gave up hope of finding her, saving her. But I knew it would never happen."
It seemed that the more we learned about the Goa'uld, the more he understood that getting Sha're from Apophis would be next to impossible. That he'd never be able to bring her to Earth, not without jeopardizing the entire planet. And that even if the Tok'ra could have removed Amaunet without the symbiote killing the host, his wife wouldn't have been the same. He'd never get back the Sha're he'd known...had loved...had married.
That grief over Sha're's death was deep, but it was nothing in comparison to what I saw in his eyes as the days kept passing without word of Casey, without any sign of her. I watched him dying a little more each day as we continued searching. She'd vanished in a way that left no trace, no trail to follow. Without a trail, without leads, there was nowhere to go, nothing we could do. I watched the realization that he might never find her sink into his awareness. Watched as it slowly strangled the hope...the very life out of him.
When we found Casey beside that tree, lying there in the exact spot where we'd found him three weeks earlier, I watched that light flicker in his eyes, begin to grow again. He's not all the way back, and he won't be until Casey regains consciousness. But he's on the mend. I can see it in his eyes, on his face; hear it in his voice.
Janet is completely stymied. There's nothing physically wrong with Casey. She just won't wake up. Her worst fears are that Casey has suffered emotional or mental trauma. If Ba'al had raped her, that would certainly send her on a downward spiral mentally and emotionally. Daniel is certain that the Goa'uld hadn't touched her, that Casey'd been able to keep him at bay until they escaped.
We have bits and pieces of that story. We know that Daniel was nearly dead, that Ba'al's engineer, lo'taur, and one Jaffa helped him and Casey escape. The Jaffa was killed, beheaded by a staff weapon blast. Nutesh and Shanda left immediately for his home planet, urged on by a nearly hysterical Casey. Even if she thought Daniel was dead, she knew he was Immortal, all she needed to do was protect his body. I haven't said anything to anyone, not even Janet, but if Ba'al raped Casey before they made their escape, that could possibly account for her apparently panic-stricken, and actually very atypical behavior. I pray I'm wrong, she's suffered so much, I don't think her battered psyche can deal with that abuse, and the guilt she'd carry over it. Daniel has been wonderful to her, and for her, but she has a long way to go emotionally before she's as 'healthy' as she should be.
The only plausible theory we have been able to come up with is that there were others on that planet when they arrived. Nutesh and Shanda left before these unknown persons showed themselves. They probably figured if Daniel wasn't dead, he soon would be. So they took Casey. The question remains...why did they return her, to the exact spot where she'd been taken from...well, from the spot we assume she was taken from? Was she able to escape a second time, perhaps only remembering those dialing coordinates? What happened to her during the three weeks she'd...disappeared?
Janet has also told me that she's ordering SG-1 off of the base for twenty-four hours, starting at noon tomorrow. It'll be damned near impossible to get Daniel to leave. Personally, I think he'd be better left alone, allowed to stay at Casey's side. I have the feeling that if...no, when he returns to the base, long before that twenty-four hours is up, nothing will be said. At least, I hope it won't be. He's not in any mood to deal with military chains of command. I have no doubt he'd resign, pick Casey up, and just walk out of the Mountain if push came to shove. I wouldn't blame him a bit, either.
Casey's only been a part of SG-1 for just over a year, yet she's become as important to me as Jack and Daniel and Teal'c. I miss being able to talk to her about Jack, confiding in her about a relationship that we're still trying to keep...discreet. I miss being able to discuss things about our missions, things that no one else around us can understand. Each mission is unique, and only those who were there know...understand. Each team can relate to the others in a general way. We all know the rush of adrenaline that accompanies each trip through the 'gate. We all know what it's like to deal with the Goa'uld, to be held prisoner, to be tortured. We all know the intense feelings of anxiety that come with meeting new cultures, never sure whether we're going to be regarded as friend or foe. Although most of those particular pitfalls have been avoided since Casey's arrival. I've watched her a time or two, going over the mission reports with General Hammond. I have no idea what she does, how she does it. But she's never been wrong.
There have been funny things that have happened as a result of her warnings and predictions, or rather, not heeding them, even if it's not intentional. Some of the most entertaining have been the result of not fully understanding what she 'sees'. Like the time Colonel Farnsworth of SG-9 was to meet with the leaders of a culture in the middle of their industrial revolution. Casey told him to leave the cows alone. No one could figure out what she meant, and all she could tell him was that she saw cows, and knew that there'd be trouble if he didn't leave them alone. Turned out this leader had his own version of a Model T. And insisted on driving the colonel around in it. Which was fine, the colonel reported, until they ran into a herd of cow like creatures. They took offense at the monster in their midst, and began to charge it, butting it with their heads until they managed to push it over an embankment. The two men were able to scramble to safety before it fell, but they had a long walk back to town. Of course, the treaty we were able to sign as a result has provided us with a reliable source of naquadah.
Daniel looks tired...not just tired...weary. I'm so glad he was able to spend a couple of hours with Casey while they were both being held prisoner by Ba'al. I think it was all that kept him going after she disappeared. He needs rest, but I know that won't be happening until Casey is awake, and at home with him. Please, God, let it be soon!
Daniel Jackson does not remain long with us. O'Neill tried to entice him into a game of chess, boasting that he had been practicing, and would easily win. It did not prove to be an effective lure. Daniel Jackson insisted that he was tired, and merely wished to sleep. That he is able to sleep at Casey Jackson's side is at least a modicum of relief to him.
Doctor Fraiser seems unable to determine the cause for Casey Jackson's current condition. We all fear that she suffered greatly at the hands of those who took her, and that her mind was unable to process...to cope...with that brutal treatment. Her rape at the hands of Ba'al and his Jaffa is not something she can remember, and thus the memories cannot harm her. For her to endure rape at the hands of the cron'la-ha's who deserve no names would be devastating for her...to her. She has told me of the trials she suffered as a child. The damage done to her gentle, loving heart is great. And causes her to falsely believe herself to be unworthy of true affection, and to harbor fears that bring much pain.
I have spoken to O'Neill. As soon as we learn who took her from P3X 888, we will search them out, and demand retribution. I will take great pleasure in sending the mik'ta-ha's into eternity, to face the wrath of the true gods. Daniel Jackson killed Ba'al, and while O'Neill fears that he will one day appear again, I do not believe it to be possible. There are many places where Daniel Jackson could have sent the body, places from which there is no escape.
Major Carter has informed me that Doctor Fraiser will 'pull rank' as the Chief Medical Officer of the SGC, and insist that the members of SG-1 leave the base for at least twenty-four hours. Although I understand the doctor's concern; neither O'Neill, Major Carter, nor Daniel Jackson have left the base for more than an hour or so in the two months and seventeen days that Casey Jackson was missing, I do not believe commanding them to leave will have the desired results. I do not have an abode 'off base', nor do I, at this time, desire one. I do not feel the need to leave the facility. Perhaps my time as the First Prime of Apophis, spending months at a time on his mothership, have inured me to the 'difficulties' of remaining underground for extended periods of time. I do not believe Daniel Jackson will leave, even if ordered to do so. Nor do I believe that he should be forced to leave his wife's side at this time. When she has awakened, then I will agree that he should take time to return to his home for at least a few hours.
O'Neill and Major Carter seem distressed that Daniel Jackson did not remain with us longer than he did. I find it a most reassuring sign that he was willing to join us for as long as he did. That he ate was another indication that he will soon be his old self. When Casey Jackson has awakened, there will be no need to worry about either of them.
I will take my leave as well. O'Neill and Major Carter have had very little time alone as of late. Nor have the circumstances been conducive to the continuing growth of their romantic relationship. I shall meditate, seek the answers that I know are just out of reach. I will once again seek guidance from Casey's spirit guide. Perhaps Miss Eloise will be able, be willing, to speak to me.
Janet's checking her when I get back to the room. Nothing's changed it seems. I've brought a bit of work with me, just a few photos, and three small tablets. The translations shouldn't take long, all of the text is Goa'uld. It'll keep me busy until I'm tired enough to sleep.
I'm grateful that Janet respects my wish for privacy...my desire to remain mute. I have nothing to say. If I don't scream out loud, I'm liable to bite someone's head off. Better to just keep my mouth shut right now.
The top part of the bed is upright...I'll lower it when I'm ready to stretch out beside her. I'll turn off the light over the bed when Janet's finished. I should brush her hair, I didn't get to brush it as long this morning as she normally does after she washes it. I love the silky feel of those long tresses against my fingers. I put the box of work aside, grab her hair brush. I sit on the side of the bed, lean her forward, so that her head is on my shoulder, and begin to brush.
I have no idea how much time passes...I only know that her hair is smooth, softer than ever. Touching her, holding her both comforts me, and makes me nearly crazed with grief...because she isn't here...and I don't know how to reach her, how to help her, how to bring her home. Janet left earlier, and is now back, doing her evening check of the equipment. I ease Casey back onto the bed, move out of the way and let Janet take a cursory look at her as well.
I keep telling myself she's just asleep, and bound to wake up at any moment. I can't handle even thinking about the alternative. How long before Janet quietly suggests that Casey be placed in a facility for patients like her; a long-term care facility for those who can't take care of themselves...and who will never rejoin the rest of us in the world of the living? I'll never step foot off the planet again if that happens. I'll continue to do linguistic work, translate artifacts that are found and brought back. But I'll stay right here, at her side. No matter what. No matter how long it takes. She'll come back to me...she has to come back to me! I can't live without her, doesn't she know that?
"Love you, Angel."
She's just sleeping...she'll wake up soon, I know it...
Jack, Sam, and Teal'c come into the room. Sam whispers that it just 'felt' like they needed to be here. I can't help but wonder...is this Miss Eloise? Has she...influenced...all of us to be here right now? While Janet is finishing her routine check of the equipment, I lean close, whisper my love to her.
"I love you so much, Angel. You gotta wake up, Case, you have to! Please, Angel, open your eyes!"
We all nearly jump out of our skin when the beep on the monitor suddenly begins chirping faster.
"This could be it," Janet says calmly. Although the look on her face is one of studied and cautious optimism, I can see the excitement in her eyes.
I don't know what to expect, what to do. I drop onto the chair beside the bed. I tighten my fingers around hers, just a bit. "Come on, Angel, you can do it."
The first thing I'm aware of are the sounds. A constant, rhythmic beeping. Fabric moving against fabric. The scratch of a pen against paper. A soft creak, as if someone is shifting their body in a chair.
The next thing I notice is the smell. An odd...clinical...smell. Chemicals, nothing overbearing, just...there. And...just the hint of aftershave. At this particular moment, the fact that I can make these...detailed...observations seems perfectly normal.
When I realize that my vision is...black, I panic for just a few seconds. Until I realize that I'm staring that the back of my eyelids. Okay, let's just open the eyes and see where I am. The light beyond my closed eyes is bright, I can't bear to open them more than just a crack. Okay, we'll come back to the eyes in a minute or two.
My butt is numb. Yep. Butt...definitely numb. There's something on my finger...slight pressure; it doesn't hurt, but I know it's there. I'm lying...sort of. It feels as if the upper half of my body is elevated slightly.
Okay. So far I can hear, smell, I think I can see, or will be able to, when my eyes are able to adjust to the light I can feel. My mouth tastes funny. Metallic. Blood? No...no it's a different taste than the coppery flavor of blood. Seems that all of the senses are working.
Now, let's see what else I know. Name. Um...well...that should be easy enough. But absolutely nothing comes to mind. Nothing. Zip. Nada. That doesn't bode well for whatever happened to me.
Wait...why do I think something happened to me? Because I'm lying somewhere...and I can't remember my freaking name, that's why! The beeping sound seems to be increasing in speed. More of those shifting sounds.
I have to open my eyes, I have to see where I am, what's going on. Once again I try to force my eyelids open. Oh, god that is so damned bright!
I hear another sound. I recognize it. Sort of. A voice, I think. But not speaking any language I recognize. Wait, there's a word I know. 'Doctor'. Name. That's a name. No...that's not quite right either. Not a name...yet, it is a name...a form of identification...I think.
I hear another sound, right beside my head. A click. I can sense a difference...the warmth that I could feel on my face is gone. The need to know, to see what is happening around me, to me, has me trying again to open my eyes. The bright light is gone, although there's still enough light around me to make it difficult to keep my eyes open. I squint against the unaccustomed brightness.
I can hear movement at my side. I want to turn my head and look, but something is preventing me from moving. Something soft, slightly cool against my forehead. Moving down to my throat. Everything is blurry, like a picture horribly out of focus. A shadow moves in front of me. I hear that sound...one of the voices. The tone is kind...reassuring. Bright light penetrates my barely open eyelids. "Ow!"
It takes a moment for me to realize, to understand that the noise I heard, that odd sounding voice, was mine. It doesn't sound like me at all. I mean, not like I should sound. Like I remember my voice sounding. I close my eyes against the intrusion. Begin my mental inventory again. Something seems...different. I'm me...but I'm not me. It makes absolutely no sense, I'm aware of that much. But right now, not a hell of a lot is making sense to me.
My eyelids drift open again. The intrusive light is gone now. I turn my head slightly, able to move this time. More shadows that seem to be moving beside me. I blink a few times, trying desperately to focus. Slowly I am able to make out more distinct shapes.
Something has my hand...warm, firm...I feel my arm lifted slightly. Something presses against my fingers...soft, warm, firm. My first instinct is to pull away. So I try. There's no resistance, whatever has hold of me lets go. As soon as my hand is free, I immediately miss that warmth. As if on their own, my fingers seek whatever it was. Cloth, they're moving over cloth. There...warm and firm. Once again whatever it is wraps around my hand. I take comfort from the feeling, although I'm not sure why.
Okay, if my brain isn't scrambled beyond repair, that's a voice. A male voice. A very nice male voice. I have no idea what that voice said.
"Babe, look at me."
That was a command...a request...an order...something like that. The voice wants me to do something, my brain recognizes that much. But what it wants, I'm not exactly sure.
"C'mon, babe, look at me."
The voice is softer, pleading. Okay, how in the hell do I know that? I know, understand the emotion connected to the sounds...the words that I'm hearing. But the meaning of the words...not there. How perfectly annoying.
I close my eyes for a few seconds, open them again, hoping that doing so will force away the haze that seems to be surrounding everything. It helps a bit, I'm able to see even more distinct shapes. People. There are people standing around me. I roll my eyes, trying to force them to focus. Slowly the features of faces becomes clearer. I glance above me. Pipes crisscross the ceiling. The room is a dull gray. Where in the hell am I? And who are those people?
There is only one thing I know for certain. I am not where I'm supposed to be. Wherever that is. All I know is that it's not...here.
"Casey, I want you to squeeze my hand, can you do that?"
Another voice. Feminine this time. Very...authoritative. Yet another realization that leaves me more baffled than before. Something soft and firm, and slightly cool wraps around my fingers. This voice wants something from me as well.
"Casey, squeeze my fingers."
Okay, I understood that. Well, parts of it. The voice wants me to use my hand...I have to concentrate, but slowly the information I need moves forward in my mind. I know what the voice wants now. I obey, squeezing slightly.
"Tighter, can you squeeze tighter?"
I give it my best shot. I have no idea if I have complied with what the voice wants.
"That's good, sweetie. Now, can you tell me where you are?"
I try to look around again. Four faces. One is very close to me. The features are soft, gentle...feminine. Dark brown...no, auburn hair. Warm, friendly brown eyes. How in the hell do I know that? She...she? Yes, she is smiling at me. But there's concern on her face as well, and in her eyes. Just behind her is a man. He seems...tall. His hair is gray...no... more silver than gray, although there's still a bit of dark running through it. His eyes...I'm not sure, but I think they're brown as well. He's watching carefully. There's just a hint of a smile on his lips.
Beside the man is another woman. She's taller than the woman who is near me. Her hair is blonde, and short, and her eyes are a dark blue. They're wide and full of...worry? I think that's what I'm seeing...but I can't be sure, and it looks as if there's water in them...tears...she has tears in her eyes!
My gaze moves on. Next to the woman, close to where my feet are, is a huge man. I have no idea how I know this, but I do. His skin is very dark. His head is completely bare, there isn't any hair. In the middle of his forehead is an odd mark. It looks like gold, and it reflects the light when he moves slightly. I can't tell if he's smiling or not. His eyes are very dark, though.
On my other side is another man. He's tall also, at least I think he is. He's sitting beside the bed. His hand is wrapped around mine. Which explains the warmth I felt...although it doesn't explain why it feels so...right. His hair is short, like the first man's, although it's blond. Well, sandy blond. Again, the fact that I can make that distinction is a bit frustrating. His eyes are blue; a bright, beautiful blue. Even though they're behind...what is that thing on his face? He has water...no, not water, tears...tears in his eyes as well. I watch as a drop rolls out of the corner of one eye, moves down his cheek. He's sad. Very sad. Tears mean you're sad. I don't know how, but I remember that, too.
"Casey, look at me."
I shift my gaze back to the first woman, the one who is standing so near to me.
"Where are you?"
I say the first thing that comes to my mind. "Beats the hell outta me."
The people who are standing around me, looking at me, react in varying degrees of amusement. The woman beside me smiles. "You don't know where you are?"
"I'm not where I'm supposed to be," I respond. And why does my voice sound like that? It's...raspy. Not familiar at all to my ears.
"And where are you supposed to be?" the woman asks.
I look around. "Not here."
"She's still a smartass," the man with the dark and silver hair says. He's grinning.
Images...sounds...even smells begin to flash through my mind. Lights seem to flash, colors are whirling in front of me. Something is happening...and it's overwhelming. The disconcerting light show lasts for a few seconds. I close my eyes. The images have stopped moving now. I can examine them, look at them as if they were photographs. I can't make sense out of what I'm seeing! I should know! I should know! Help me! Please, somebody help me!
A flash of light, and I'm suddenly standing in a dark room. Well, not completely dark. It's dim...but there's a light bulb hanging down, offering illumination. I walk toward it.
I jump slightly at the sound of the voice. Turn around to find a tiny, wrinkled old woman - with a wild mane of long, white hair - looking up at me. She's smiling at me, her dark blue eyes staring at me. This woman seems familiar to me. I should know her, I'm certain of it. She's waiting for me to say something. What? Oh..."Hello."
"Glad to see you finally woke up."
Wherever we are, it's cold. I wrap my arms around my waist. Have I always been this...skinny? I rub my hands up and down my arms. Thin. But there's muscle there, I can feel it.
The old woman frowns. "Casey?"
I have no idea what that means.
She looks up, at what I haven't a clue. She nods once...twice. Sighs heavily. "Only you can break it," she say softly.
"I don't understand."
"There was something...something was put into your mind, something to trap your memories, hold them back from your conscious mind. Everything you know, that you've learned, your feelings, your abilities, it's all there. But you have to break down the wall that..." she stops talking.
I haven't understood most of what she said.
"We have no choice," she said softly. "To...interfere...would change things. We'd be in grave danger of becoming like them. You aren't bound by the same rules...you're able to do what needs to be done. All you have to do is remember. Nothing is wrong with you, Casey. The memories are there, your knowledge is there...your skills are there. Use them!"
The only thing that I can comprehend at this point is that something's been done to my mind. "Why?"
"Because we can't let them break you. If The One loses you, he'll be unable... unwilling...to fulfill his Destiny. The two of you together can't be defeated."
I still have absolutely no clue what the old woman is talking about. "Where am I?"
"You're on the astral plane. Well, one of them. It's a mental plane of existence," the old woman replies gently.
"How did I get here?"
"You chose to come here."
Now that is ridiculous! How could I choose to come here, when I don't even know where 'here' is? I shake my head. Feel something moving against my arms. I look down. Long hair. Very long, blonde hair.
"You must go back. Let the healing process continue. In time, you'll be good as new."
Time? How much time? How much time has passed since...whatever happened to me, happened to me? "How long?"
"I don't know, Sunshine."
No, I don't think that's right. She should know how long I was lying in that bed...asleep. "How long?"
She looks at me. "You were taken two and a half months ago."
I consider this. I have a vague idea of what it means. There are longer periods of time. But two months, over two months, is...significant.
"Close your eyes, Casey. When you open them again, you'll be back in the infirmary." She turns to leave.
Before she can move away from me, I reach out, grasp her arm with my hand. "Who are you?"
She looks up at me, gives me a sad smile. "I'm Miss Eloise, Sunshine. Your teacher. And now your guide."
Miss Eloise. Yes, that's right. It sounds right. I don't understand 'teacher' or 'guide', but I know that they're important.
She reaches out, puts her gnarled hand against my cheek. "It'll be all right. You'll see. Now, close your eyes."
Knowing somehow that I can trust this woman, I obey.
I can hear those sounds again. I open my eyes. I'm in that...room. And those people are still looking at me. I look over at the man who is holding my hand. I should know him! There's something...special...important...about him, I can feel it.
The small woman has something sticking out of her ears...and she's holding the other end against my chest. "How many fingers am I holding up?" she asks.
I study her hand. I haven't got a clue what she's doing. I don't know what she wants. I hold up my hand, the one that isn't wrapped by his. Mimic the way her hand looks.
She smiles at me, but I can see worry in her eyes.
Number. Two. Two fingers! "Two! Two!"
The smile on the woman's face grows wide and bright. "That's right, sweetie."
Again I look at the faces of the people who surround me. I turn to look at the man beside me. He's the most beautiful man I've ever seen! He's smiling too.
Even though I haven't actually done anything, I'm tired. I feel like I need to sleep for hours. Just one more thing to add to the growing list of things I can remember, but have no clue why.
I try to keep my eyes open, but I just can't. I hear the small woman beside me talking. Very softly. She's reassuring them. Telling them that I'm only going to sleep. The hand that is around my fingers hasn't moved. I take comfort from that thought. I hope that the man with those beautiful blue eyes is still here when I wake up again...
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