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What the Eye Beholds, the Heart Denies

 

"...I can't live if living is without you
I can't give, I can't give anymore
Can't live if living is without you
Can't give, I can't give anymore..."
"Can't Live" by Air Supply

 

Chapter 1

The desert air was cold, the wind that whipped around the two black cloaked figures brutal as it attempted to pull the protective robes from their bodies. The presence of the strangers had been duly noted, and results of that knowledge whirled around them in spirals of fine sand.

"They'll probably ambush us," the shorter of the two muttered.

"The surprise is ruined, if it is expected," the taller replied. "We must not only expect, we must be prepared."

"Not easy to do when we have no idea what to prepare for."

"We do know. We prepare to battle evil itself."

"And just how do we prepare to face evil in an all out fight?"

"The condition of our minds, the position of our hearts, is known only to us, individually. Only when we face our innermost fears, acknowledge our true intentions, are we able to find the answers for which we seek."

Sometimes, the old woman wished her companion would give a straight answer. "Seems to me that they've already won. After all, the Protector of all has been...removed...from the scene."

"All is not lost."

"Sure feels that way."

"Believe in the ability of good to overcome evil. What the eye perceives is not always the truth of the matter."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

She opened her eyes slowly. Yep. The room was still there...unchanged. Well, sunlight was trying to filter between the slats of the still closed blinds. Damned light anyway. It was supposed to be cold and rainy and miserable. Miserable...achingly unhappy. Heartbroken. Just as she was.

The pounding in her head was less severe than it had been the last time she had been awake. Her hand moved automatically to his side of the bed. Cold sheets greeted her. As they had the night before, and the night before that. And each morning after. Cold. Empty. Alone.

One hand went over her eyes as the tears began to form. She'd cried so much in the past three days; she'd been certain, after her weeping-screaming-wailing session in the wee hours of the morning, that she'd never be able to cry again. The tears that were running down the side of her face proved her theory incorrect. The temporary respite that her restless sleep had afforded her abruptly ended.

"Daniel," she whispered, tears rolling unchecked down her cheeks. The silent tears became quiet sobs, which turned into wails of anguish as she curled into a ball on the bed where she'd spent so many happy, blissful, wonderful hours. Reading - whether sharing sections of the newspaper, or their individual books...writing, she working on poems, he on the notes for translations that just wouldn't let him sleep...cuddling and talking, sharing their innermost thoughts and hopes and dreams with one another...making love. Glorious hours of rapture in his arms...flights to that secret garden of pleasure that existed only for them...

A light tap on the door went unheeded. "Casey?"

She looked through tear-filled eyes as Jack stuck his head into the room. She said nothing.

"I made coffee...that Sue-me-trot Mandy-hanging stuff."

She closed her eyes. She didn't want coffee. She didn't want to talk to Jack. She wanted Daniel. She wanted her Husband. And that was never going to happen. Not ever!

The last few minutes on the ha'tak were mostly a blur...two squads of Jaffa were moving through the passageway as the team raced for the escape pods. There had been a firefight...P90's loudly announcing the presence of the Tau'ri...taking down the enemy with brutal accuracy, desperation in the eyes and actions of the five people determined to get off the doomed ship.

She could still feel her heart pounding...smell the smoke...feel the ship shuddering around them...

 

"Look out!" Sam shouted, just as yet another group of Jaffa seemed to appear from nowhere.

Casey whirled around, her finger holding down the trigger of the P90, not caring much whether or not she hit anything, only that they remained unable to return fire. Teal'c was suddenly beside her, she wasn't sure where he'd come from...she was only aware that his own weapon was adding to the threat that kept the Jaffa at bay.

It seemed to take forever to get even close to the escape pods that would get them off the ha'tak before the rest of the explosives detonated. Seconds seemed hours long, and she wondered if this was the swan song for SG-1. Every step was hard won, as more Jaffa arrived. The sound of the P90's rang as loudly as the explosion in one of the labs on the level just above them. There was no time to think about that...to wonder just what had happened...the laboratories had not been on the list where the explosives were to be planted.

Step by agonizing step, hiding behind the support pillars, the pods just a few feet from them...more Jaffa...

A hand grabbed her arm, shoved her toward the escape pod. She looked up, into worried blue eyes. "Daniel?"

"We're out of here, babe. Jack just contacted Colonel Ronson, he's already scanning for pod beacons."

"I don't want to leave you!"

"Shh...just a few minutes, Angel. We'll be safe and sound on the Prometheus in just a few minutes."

He kissed her, a quick meeting of their mouths, his tongue barely flicked over her lower lip before he broke the contact between them. When he pulled away he winked, then pushed her firmly into the pod. "I love you."

She couldn't hear the words over the heated sounds of the battle that raged around them, but she could see the words on his lips...in his eyes. "I love you," she replied. Just before the front of the pod slammed closed. She looked around. There was a large red button beside her right hand. Panic button, she thought wildly, giggling mentally with not a little hysteria. She slammed her palm against it, felt as if she was being thrown from one side of the pod to the other, although the narrow confines prevented her from actually moving. First her stomach dropped to her feet...then it was up in her throat. It was a struggle to keep from hyperventilating as she stared at the solid metal in front of her. There was no way to move, no room to shift to a more comfortable position. Not that she was actually uncomfortable...well, she'd like to be the hell out of this thing...

She had no idea if she was moving away from the ship, although for a moment it felt as if she were tumbling out of control. She heard a hissing sound, and that feeling ceased. Cold. She was cold. Great, it was just her luck to wind up in a malfunctioning escape pod. If the hissing sound had been the atmosphere venting from the pod, she'd suffocate. If she didn't freeze to death first!

For what felt like the hundredth time she tried to reach out, tried to see anything...sense anything. All she could see was darkness. As if she was covered with a blanket. A very large, very heavy, very dark blanket. 'Please, please, please, let our good luck hold out,' she prayed silently.

 

She hadn't been able to 'see' anything from the day they had left Jack's cabin...nothing about the mission that had gone so very wrong. Nothing to warn her that Daniel was in danger. What good was a gift of sight if she couldn't even protect her Husband? If she couldn't warn The One? She had no idea if her gift had been 'restored' or not. She hadn't bothered checking, not since...not since that day. Didn't care enough to reach out. Didn't have the strength to reach out.

She played over the events again in her head...vague images from the moment the front of the escape pod had opened...Jack and Teal'c looking so...sad, no...angry. Sam in tears. She'd been half unconscious, the oxygen levels dangerously low in the pod...a result of damage, and the fact that she'd been in the damned thing for just over seventeen hours.

Left in the pod while they searched for Daniel. Hoping that they could find him, that they could avoid telling her the bitter truth. That his pod had never cleared the ha'tak. That the explosions that had resulted from the carefully placed C4 had left nothing but small pieces of Ares' ship floating through space. That four escape pods had been located by their homing beacons...but that there had never been a fifth. That Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had piloted F-302's, searching through the debris, willing to expose the team's Immortality if they could just find the escape pod with Daniel in it.

The clearest memory she had of that godawful day, after waking up in the infirmary of the Prometheus, was Teal'c's dark eyes, glistening with unshed tears, and the severe downturn of his thick lips. How he'd held her hand. Told her that he was so sorry.

She barely remembered crawling from the bed, when she'd learned that the ship was heading back to Earth. She didn't remember stopping at the armory. She did faintly remember aiming the 9 millimeter Beretta at Colonel Ronson, and demanding that he return to what was left of Ares and his ha'tak. Begging...demanding...pleading...that the search for Daniel continue.

She also remembered Jack gently taking the weapon from her shaking hand...holding her while she cried...while she screamed her heartbreak...her grief. Things became hazy after that. Jack carrying her back to the infirmary. There were images of Dr. Wilder's somber face, dark eyes full of pity. Then...nothing.

Until she awoke in the infirmary at the SGC. Janet was beside her. Her father standing behind the petite doctor. Jack was sitting beside the bed, holding her hand. Just like Daniel had always done whenever she was in the infirmary...for whatever reason. Sam and Teal'c had been standing at the foot of the bed.

The first words out of her mouth had been to ask about Daniel. Where was he? Had they found him? Was he all right?

Jack telling her, his voice choked and nearly monotone, that he and Sam and Teal'c had looked for nearly seventeen hours, and hadn't found the escape pod. That they had located what they thought might be pieces of it. That there hadn't been enough left of the pod to even offer hope of finding his body.

Her world had collapsed around her in that moment. She'd died in that moment, was as dead as Daniel...her body just hadn't gotten the message.

She wrapped herself around his pillow, breathing deeply of the scent that was just...him. And allowed her grief to escape in wails of sheer, heartbreaking pain.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack winced as he stood in the kitchen, listening to the sounds of a woman in absolute agony. He'd learned that trying to approach her when she was crying that way resulted in getting hit...multiple times. Fists filled with fury, anger fueled by grief. Emotions he was all too familiar with. He bore the bruises of those lessons...had realized that he could do no more for her if he was there, than he could if he just let her be. So, in spite of his desire to comfort her, until she was ready to allow him to do so, he would respect her wish to be left alone. Not completely alone...at this point in time, no one was certain just how clearly the slender blonde was thinking...or how desperate she might become.

He ran a hand over his face. He'd fucked up so badly this time. And his best friend...the best friend he'd ever had...had paid for that mistake with his life. His screw-up had left Casey a widow. She wasn't even thirty yet, for crying out loud! Married not quite two years. A widow. Fucking unacceptable! And there wasn't a goddamn thing he could do to change that horrible fact. Those final minutes on the ship continued to play in his mind with crystal clarity, in perfect Technicolor. He closed his eyes...

 

The ship shuddered around them...the cross corridor between them and the transport ring became a thoroughfare for a fireball the size of a small car.

Only one way off of this thing now..."Escape pods," he ordered immediately.

"We have the radios to contact the Prometheus," Daniel argued. "If we don't make it to the rings, those Jaffa won't make it off the ship!"

"If we don't make it to those escape pods, we won't make it off the ship!" he barked.

"Jack, we have to try! There has to be another way-"

That was Daniel, always picking the worst damned times to argue...always following his heart...always concerned about the innocent. He reached out, turned the archaeologist around and gave a none too gentle shove...

 

Another explosion sent them flat onto the floor. After that, it was pretty much a blur. The only thing he could remember clearly was the feeling of desperation as they literally fought to get to the escape pods...while explosions that weren't supposed to happen for several more minutes continued to echo around them. He was so going to be talking to someone about those timers!

And then...the pod opening...looking into the worried face of Colonel Ronson. Knowing in his gut that something was very wrong...something more than the early detonations.

 

He gasped slightly when the front of the pod was opened. "Status?"

"The Goa'uld ship just blew. Rocked us around a bit, damned near didn't get you in time," Colonel Ronson reported. "We have a problem, Colonel."

Ronson's voice had been flat...emotionless. The tone of voice a man tended to have when something very bad had happened. He didn't want to know. He had to know. "What problem?"

When Ronson refused to meet his eyes he'd known. His first fear, striking cold and hard and deep into his heart, was that something had happened to Sam. "We kept searching...but there were only four beacons. We never heard a fifth beacon," Ronson replied.

Four. Not five. Four. That was so not good. His legs were a bit wobbly as he stepped out of the pod, it took a few seconds before he could stand without leaning on the commander of the Prometheus. His heart was pounding against his ribs, fear...dark, cold, terror was clawing at his gut. "Who?"

"Doctor Jackson."

"You're sure?"

"We were able to scan the pods as we brought them on board, the isotope in your blood identifies you as well as rendered you invisible to the internal scanners."

No, not Daniel! Not the Space Monkey! That man had beaten death so many times...no, he wasn't dead! Daniel was out there somewhere, probably concocting a litany of complaints about the whole situation. Using those really big words that he couldn't even pronounce, let alone spell. "Get Sam and Teal'c. We're going out there."

"Colonel O'Neill, he's not there," Ronson had said gently.

"Get the damned birds ready! Get those two into them! We're not leaving here without that archaeologist!" He hadn't realized he'd been shouting until the echo disappeared.

"And Mrs. Jackson?"

It was at that moment he realized that there were three escape pods standing against the wall to his right. "Is she okay in that thing?"

"For now, as far as we can tell."

"Leave her...no sense in upsetting her. We'll go find Daniel, and he can open her pod." Saying it made it true. That's the way it worked. If he said they'd find Daniel, then they would. "Let Teal'c, Sam, and I get out there. He's there...the damned beacon is just malfunctioning."

It was plain to see that Ronson didn't believe he'd find anything. "There's nothing left...just pieces. Not even big pieces."

He refused to accept the obvious. "Get me to a goddamned ship! I'm going after Daniel!"

Ronson nodded. Two other pods were opened. Teal'c and Sam were informed of the situation. The three of them ran to the hanger bay. Climbed into F302's, and launched without waiting for a go-ahead.

 

Seventeen hours. They'd searched for seventeen hours. There had been nothing. Teal'c had located what he believed were the remains of an escape pod. His heart had wanted to cling to the fact that there had been six pods. Six. They'd only used five. Sam had crushed that hope when she'd pointed out that the empty pod had probably been splintered into much smaller pieces than what they'd located, simply because it hadn't been thrown clear of the ship.

The prevailing summary of events was that Daniel's pod had somehow malfunctioned, hadn't been thrown far enough away from the ship when it exploded, the pieces of the ship acting as shrapnel, and tearing apart the small pod.

It had been hell opening that that last pod...having to tell Casey the horrible truth. He would never forget the look in those green eyes as he told her that Daniel was dead. Not just missing. Dead. For a few minutes she hadn't believed him. Then...then the light that always seemed to shine so brightly had faded. Pain so deep that it cut him to the quick set in. And it hadn't left.

 

She was pale...barely conscious. Still had managed to look pissed off. "Hey, Radar."

"About damned time," she had wheezed. Her eyes had scanned around her, looking for one face. "Where's Daniel?"

He'd forced her to sit down on the floor with him. Saved him from catching her when she collapsed, because right at that moment he hadn't had the strength to hold himself up, he wouldn't be able to support her as well.

"Where is Daniel?"

"The pod...no beacon...ship exploded..." he could barely rasp out the words. Knew in the back of his mind that they made no sense. Casey was a very intelligent woman. Even his imprecise explanation had been enough...

 

The look on her face still haunted him. The first cry of pain had broken his heart. Each ensuing cry shattered it just that much more. Because it was all his fault. Every tear Casey shed was his fault.

After being sedated for nearly twenty hours, because whenever she was conscious, she was weeping uncontrollably, or pointing guns at people, insisting that they find her husband, she'd finally come around. So far, after waking in the SGC infirmary, demanding to know where Daniel was, hearing all over again that he was...gone, Casey hadn't uttered a word. She didn't even acknowledge his presence half of the time. Two days of silence. He'd sell his soul to the devil if she'd say something...anything...even if it was to yell at him, blame him for the current situation. To call him a heartless, selfish bastard, because he couldn't take a few seconds and check to make certain that all of the pods functioned correctly. Yes, they had been under fire...and losing the battle. But what the hell would a few seconds have hurt? It sure has hell wouldn't have cost Daniel his life!

He let out a deep breath. Took a sip of his coffee. The screaming had stopped. That was a good sign. His mind continued to examine the current situation...

Gary had been to the house several times, tried to talk to her, to hold her...she'd pushed him away each and every time. Rolled to her side, curled into a ball...and laid there. Crying. It seemed that when she was awake, she was crying. Maybe not sobbing, but the tears rolled down her cheeks in a continuous flood of grief, dampening the sheets with her pain.

Janet would be here shortly. She was going to give Casey a mild sedative again, and she and Sam were going to try to get the slender seer into the shower. They had to attend the memorial service this afternoon. Damn it! This shouldn't be happening! If someone had to die, it should have been me!

The heart-wrenching sobs had subsided, he only heard the occasional shaky breath as she hiccupped quieter, less forceful whimpers. Sounds that were every bit as painful to hear.

Maybe he shouldn't have tried to protect her from what was going on. Maybe he should have let her ride second seat in the F302 he had piloted, searching desperately for an escape pod that wasn't there...that been destroyed when the remaining explosives had gone off, all at once, breaking the ha'tak into a million pieces. Ares was dead. Strike up the band. That snaky bastard had managed to take Daniel with him...even if it hadn't been intentional...even if the Goa'uld had had no idea that SG-1 had been on his ship...had rigged it to blow. Daniel was dead. And it was Ares' fault.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Janet tapped lightly. Took in the haggard look on the colonel's unshaven face when he opened the door. His beard was showing as much gray as his hair, she thought. His eyes held no warmth. It was as if he was dead inside. "How is she?"

"No change," he reported.

"Has she eaten?"

Jack shook his head.

"Have you eaten?"

"Can't."

She nodded. This had happened before. Each time Daniel had been declared dead...when Sam had been trapped in a machine, an alien entity controlling her body...when Teal'c had been 'trapped' in the Stargate...any time one of his 'kids' had been in jeopardy, he hadn't been able to eat then, either.

"I thought Sam was coming with you," he said, leading her into the great room.

"She stopped to pick up a few things for you," Janet replied.

"Oh." Probably a change of clothes. Something appropriate for a memorial service. His dress blues, he assumed. His ditty bag. He'd taken a shower...when had that been? Casey had finally fallen asleep, so he'd taken a quick shower. But he couldn't remember exactly when...or what day.

"Let me make you something to eat," Janet said gently.

"Don't know that I could eat it," he admitted. Just the thought of food had his stomach rebelling. A drink sounded much better. And he would continue to avoid the cabinet where the Jacksons kept their liquor. He had to stay sober. Casey was his responsibility now. He had to take care of her, for Daniel. He owed that to his best friend.

"Well, I'll make something, and you can try," the doctor replied. "Maybe we can get Casey to eat."

"Have to get her out of that room first," Jack rasped, dropping into one of the chairs beside the breakfast bar.

"She still won't leave it?"

He shook his head wearily. "Nope."

Janet frowned slightly. Casey had curled up on her bed as soon as she'd been brought home, the colonel had told her. And hadn't left it since. She opened the pantry and scanned the contents. Thankfully there was a can of chicken noodle soup. A box of crackers. She'd get that fixed, and hopefully the colonel could eat. She'd try to get a piece of toast down Casey. Wouldn't even attempt the protein shake that she knew the seer needed desperately. "Here, this should do," she said, trying to sound more cheerful than she felt.

He watched silently, nursing the cup of coffee that he'd poured earlier. It was that fancy stuff, but there didn't seem to be any other type in the pantry, at least, not that he could find. Coffee was coffee. Not only his appetite had been affected...his sense of taste seemed to have disappeared as well. Anything he tried to eat or drink tasted bitter...or like ashes.

"The Tok'ra sent a report on the repercussions of Ares' demise," Janet informed him.

Like he gave a damn about what the Tok'ra said. Wasn't this entire disaster their fault? Hadn't they been the ones to insist that SG-1 go on that damned mission? Yeah, right now he had enough to deal with...the one 'repercussion' that never should have happened. He glanced up, realized that the doctor was waiting for some sort of response. The silence stretched on for a few minutes, he stubbornly refusing to show any interest at all over what was in the report. Soft brown eyes held his in a silent challenge. He just didn't have that much 'fight' left in him. He sighed. "And?"

"It seems that the alliance he was trying to build against Ba'al is gaining momentum. Right now Ba'al is suspected of being the one who destroyed Ares."

Jack closed his eyes. It wasn't fair! They'd gone on that damned mission because the Tok'ra insisted that if Ares was taken out of the picture, there would be no alliance. Daniel had died for nothing? No! That just wasn't fair! "The bastards knew," he hissed. "They knew that taking Ares out might not change anything. One of those little facts they neglected to tell us!"

Janet glanced over at him. "General Hammond had the same reaction. Right now, the treaty between the Tok'ra and us is hanging in the balance. The Alliance is insisting that nothing be said, but the president isn't too happy at the moment. He said-" She broke off, turned her head, wiped away the tear that had escaped.

"He said...?"

"He said that the Tau'ri are through sacrificing themselves for the Tok'ra. That Daniel's blood is on their hands."

It was surprising that the president was viewing the situation in such a personal manner. Then again, Daniel had that affect on people. They cared about Daniel, because he was the kind of man who stirred feelings of friendship...loyalty...protectiveness. That naïveté that had been so prevalent in the man when the two had first met had been chipped away. Each mission that the team had undertaken had made Daniel a little less idealistic...just a little harder...a little more cynical. His hatred of the Goa'uld just a little deeper. Jack hated the changes, as much as he realized they were inevitable. A man, no matter how innocent, no matter how kind or generous or tenderhearted, lost those things when he saw too much battle. When a man killed - even if it was only to save his own life, or in Daniel's case, to save the life of one of his teammates or an innocent victim - he gave up a bit of his soul. A bit of that gentleness.

"He informed the Alliance that until they were helping to pay the bills, and they were losing good people out there in the battle against the Goa'uld, their opinions didn't mean anything."

"Oy. That's bound to cause some problems."

"Maybe," Janet replied, shrugging slightly. "Those countries - well, those leaders - are well aware of the cost. Financially as well as literally. And none of them are actually willing to pay their fair share. Not yet. They want to call the shots for the SGC, but they aren't willing to make the sacrifices. Until that happens, we can blow them off."

"We're talking about politicians," Jack argued. "Their need for control will outweigh every other consideration."

"What they want and what they can get from their respective governments, without exposing the Stargate Program, are very different. And right now, if they were to expose the program, they'd be held just as responsible in the ensuing uproar, and their political careers would be over in a heartbeat."

"I suppose that is a possibility." Jack allowed. Not actually caring one bit. He stared at the bowl of soup that had appeared in front of him.

"Eat, colonel. I'll see if I can't get Casey to eat something as well," Janet said gently.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

She'd heard Janet come in. The soft murmur of conversation in the kitchen. Couldn't muster enough energy to care. Casey didn't even lift her eyes when Janet walked into the room.

"Time to get up and dressed, Casey. You don't want to be late."

Green eyes, dull with pain, swung in the doctor's direction. She said nothing.

Janet continued to watch her. Waiting. Her brown eyes demanding a response.

Just as Jack had done, Casey sighed in defeat. "Late for what?"

The doctor fought back her tears. "Daniel's memorial service."

Memorial service. What was held in place of a funeral when there wasn't a body to bury. There was no body for her to bury. Because the escape pod had been completely destroyed, killing the only man she had, and would, ever love. Leaving nothing but this horrible emptiness inside her. "I'm not going."

"Of course you are," Janet replied firmly.

"Leave me alone."

Janet sat down on the side of the bed. "Casey, do you think you're the only one hurting over Daniel's death? The colonel is in the other room, blaming himself for what happened. Teal'c has been meditating for three days, blaming himself. Sam has been in tears, unable to work, because she's blaming herself."

"Good," Casey snapped. "They should be! Daniel died! He's dead, and it's their fault! He never would have gone on that mission if they hadn't insisted! He wouldn't have died if not for them!"

"You don't believe that," Janet said softly.

Tears filled her eyes. As much as she wanted to blame her teammates, as much as she needed someone to blame, in her heart Casey knew that they were hurting. Not as much as she, perhaps, but they had lost their teammate...their brother. "No, I guess I don't," she admitted softly after several tense moments.

"Go take a shower, I'll get some toast ready for you."

"I can't eat."

"You have to eat, Casey."

"If I eat, it won't stay down."

Janet studied the young seer for a moment, then nodded slowly. "I won't force you...today. But you have to try."

She managed to nod.

"Can you stand on your own?"

"I think so."

"Don't lock the bathroom door...just in case," Janet admonished.

"Right." She pulled herself from the bed. Gathered a bra and panties and her robe. Hesitated at the door to the bathroom. Wondered briefly how she would live without Daniel...how she would make it from one day to the next, when she couldn't even face a shower without him.


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