* * * * * *
Breathe Marien Jacey swore she wanted to die.
Her mental screams were deafening and the pain just wouldn't end.
She didn't even know what hurt.
She didn't know of any part of her that didn't hurt.
It had blurred together in her brain, refusing any attempt to separate the types of pain.
She no longer had any conscious contact with the outside world.
Her entire being had become centered on the pain to the exclusion of all else.
* * * * * *
Daniel rested his forehead against the coolness of the mirror as he waited for Jack to finish changing clothes.
*Are all rest stops alike?*
*Apparently. I wouldn't really know.*
*I am confused*
*You and me both. How is this possible?*
*I have no memory that would explain it.*
*We need to tell everyone then.*
*Will you wish me to leave you?*
*You know the answer to that.*
Daniel sighed, knowing his hot breath was fogging circles in the mirror.
*You wish me gone.*
*No. I just...I had no idea there would be a time when that would be a possibility. I'm so used to having you here now that I'm not sure I can go back to hearing only my thoughts.*
*You please me.*
*Yes. Very. Many things in you remind me of Martouf, but your unique traits have proven to be...illuminating.*
*Just don't move too much until Janet can examine you to make sure that what's happened is really what we think it is.*
The sound of Jack's voice startled him a bit, pulling him out of the intensity of the internal conversation.
"Open your eyes. You okay?"
Jack watched Daniel leaned fully against the mirror, leaving prints of his body behind as he then stood straight, stretching his arms above his head and yawning before turning to Jack.
"I'm okay...just tired."
**We're loaded. You guys done yet?**
**Yeah. Just checkin' on Daniel. On our way.**
**He looks like he's been shaken up.**
**Maybe. We'll be out in a minute.**
**Hey! Are you okay?**
Jack sighed, catching the pieces of another memory from Amber.
Her mind was slowly opening up to him, but the level of headaches she was starting to have were killing them both.
"You look sick."
"Yeah, I'm a bit nauseous. "
Jack ran a hand through his own hair, waiting until his arm was fully extended to stretch his back.
He saw Daniel grin at all the popping noises.
"Oh shut up."
"Not a word."
Jack wrinkled his nose at him and then motioned to the door.
"Splash some water on your face and try to look alive or Janet'll be all over you."
"Oh...and that's a bad thing?"
Jack went still and turned, knowing Daniel was teasing but also hearing another note underneath.
"She's taken, Daniel."
Daniel's eyebrows rose a bit and he smiled as Jack casually took one last smiling look behind him before heading out of the bathroom to join the rest of the group.
*You taunt him. For what reason?*
*I think he's giving Janet too much space. Maybe if he's got a reason to worry, he'll step it up a bit.*
*They will proceed at their own pace.*
*Oh please. We had to practically brain him to get him to make a move on her to start with. Even then he took forever.*
*Ugh...let me get to the toilet and then scratch it.*
*Yeah...we'll get some from the brochure rack outside.*
*I will try to minimize my movement.*
Daniel grabbed the edges of the toilet, his brain seemingly doing flip-flops while Jolinar scratched herself.
* * * * * *
Tesaf groaned, finally gaining control of his host again.
He thought about trying to pacify the Asgard by telling them that they should be grateful Vampires hadn't been discovered while the experiments had been conducted or else their DNA would've been played with as well, but he doubted they would be reasonable.
The fact that they existed was an incredible find and one that needed to be explored.
He just wished their hunger wasn't so great a drawback.
Even now, his host's body was crying out for release and he was helpless to procure any blood for him.
That was Angela's job...
Tesaf grieved fully for her, now.
She'd been his first host and he couldn't imagine being forced to stay in this one.
He looked over to a once-pretty woman hooked to many machines on a metal tabletop.
He'd never seen such agony before as her body twisted and she screamed soundlessly, obviously choking.
There was no color in her face and the tubing in her mouth and ears ran red with her blood.
He assumed it was being extracted rather than given.
His host tried to leap forward, his hunger pushing Tesaf out of control and into the back of his host's mind.
No sentience was involved here, just years of either amazing genetic manipulation or a cruel joke on the part of nature.
Jeff Adler Ornam, a purebred vampire, finally wrested control of his body from the vile creature that had invaded him.
The blood he'd been fed was weak and watered down.
Pure, fresh, human blood nearby sent a heady pulse through him, triggering the chemical signals his brain sent through his nerves.
His entire body tingled as the millennia old virus in his blood was activated and quickly re-wrote the necessary DNA.
From head to toe, his form was ready to inhale the blood he saw just a few feet away.
The woman was helpless and in moments he was at her side, his fangs extending into the tubing to take his due.
* * * * * *
Amber re-loaded the cooler, writing down food items they should probably pick up since they were low or out of them now.
Cassie slipped onto the backseat and perched on her knees so she was looking straight at Amber.
"Your forehead's yellow."
Amber stared at her for a minute.
"Yellow...it just had that weird mark earlier, but that whole place is turning yellow."
"More like orange-yellow."
Amber choked a hollow laugh.
She had no idea what was happening to her.
**But we'll figure it out.**
**Not if we don't get back to the SGC.**
**You know we can't.**
**What I know is that you're being a stubborn fool.**
**Can you honestly tell me...**
**Jonathan, it's not worth it. If you're wrong, then we'll have gone all the way to Florida for nothing.**
**A trip to Florida is never for nothing. Tell Cassie to hold up a mirror and see what she's talking about.**
Amber rolled her eyes, trying to smile for Cassie's sake.
"Jonathan wants you to get a mirror so I can see what yellow you're talking about."
Cassie rummaged through Janet's purse, finally pulling out the small handmirror, still sheathed in it's box.
"You'd think she never looks in the mirror."
Amber smiled, her eyes asking the question.
"I gave it to her and she hasn't even opened it."
"But she carries it. That means it's probably worth more to her and so she doesn't wanna take a chance on it breaking by simply letting it tumble around in her purse."
Cassie smiled a bit.
"That sounds like Mom. We have boxed things all over the house. You have to look at the picture on the box to see what's supposed to be decorating that shelf or table. It's silly. "
Amber smiled and then felt dizzy as Jonathan's mind flooded hers.
Going into his memories were becoming more and more painful both at the entrance and the departure of each flash.
She stood in the kitchen, watching Janet sitting on a stool in nothing but a T-shirt and shorts, her sandal dangling off her toes as she laughed at some comment Sam made.
The two women oo'd and ah'd over the trinket box Amber had spent four hours in the mall trying to find after hearing from Cassie that Janet had loved it.
"Jack, how did you know?"
"Huh? Oh well, you know...saw a couple garage sales, realized I hadn't gotten you anything so that was the cheapest thing I saw...except for some chopsticks, but, well...we all know how pathetic you are with..."
Amber grinned and ducked the large plastic ladle Janet lobbed at her, complaining about how lax the military was when it came to treating their superiors properly.
When everyone had settled down, Janet got off her stool and kissed Amber quite a bit more shyly than she'd kissed Daniel or Teal'c in appreciation for their gifts.
"Thank you, sir. This has been an amazing birthday..."
Amber looked at her, feeling the tugs in her throat and her mind, convincing her to lean forward just that little bit more and turn that sweet, chaste kiss into something more...
Amber shook from the force with which she returned to reality.
**Just how long have you liked her? Her hair was a lot longer in that one.*
Jonathan appeared beside her, catching her as her knees gave out.
**Easy. I didn't realize just how painful this was getting for you.**
**I just want someone to cut off my head.**
**I know. I'm starting to feel some of it...as if my brain's clearing the fog. Who's Ryan?**
**Made out with him just before I talked to Danny in the bathroom. I didn't know you saw it as you doing it...I just figured you were watching me do it. That's...weird.**
**No kidding. I'll never see Janet the same way...**
Jack grinned, wrapping his arms around Amber to hold her upright while the last dregs of the memory and accompanying pain died down.
**Just remember what I told Daniel. Taken.**
**Not if you don't get on the ball.**
**Yeah, I know.**
Cassie bounced up to them and Jack cocked his head at her.
"You realize you look like a five year old when you do that?"
Cassie grinned, popping up and down in a circle on her borrowed Pogo stick.
"It's fun! Mom showed me how to do it behind the bathroom. Said she used to do it awhile back."
"And she just happened to have one lying around?"
"No, it was laying on the ground and so she showed me how to use it."
Amber elbowed Jonathan lightly.
**Coulda been watching that if you were doing your job as boyfriend.**
**I know that that's the best description for me, but it still makes me think of some fourteen-year old, pimpled teenager...**
**Well, I'm just glad you remember being a teen. With a memory like yours...**
**I don't know. I hate wounding you when you're in too much pain to fight back. Takes the fun out of it.**
Amber smiled, letting him lead her to the front seat.
**Lay down and I'll get the Doc to take a look at you.**
**Formal...fine. Staying here.**
**Good. Be right back.**
Jack walked over to where Janet was checking the airman...person.
"What's with him?"
"I think he's starting to regain his hearing. He's beginning to respond slightly to strong auditory input and I'm hoping that's a good sign. I have no idea what to do to help him here."
Jack faced the man, his whole body tight and leaning a bit as he turned, his hands forced into his pockets.
**That's how doctors are, Jonathan. We can't afford to see a patient as an enemy. That's not our call. We're here to save lives.**
**I know, I know, but...doesn't it ever get to you? I mean, really get to you?**
**Not to me, but I haven't worked on any non-allied patients so I really couldn't answer that one. She's who you need to ask.**
"Amber's head's about to fall off from pain. Wondered if you'd take a look."
Janet's eyes shot up to meet his.
"What kind of pain is it?"
"I don't know. I'm still not feeling everything she's feeling. You'll need to ask her."
"You can't just repeat?"
"Takes mental power to talk, Jan. Every thought's hurting her now."
"Okay...I'll be there in a moment."
Janet watched Jack walk away, wishing she'd said something more.
*He's ignored you or walked past you as if you weren't even there. I say ditch him.*
*Janet, I'm serious. Either he doesn't care as much as he said he did or he's gotten so wrapped up in his own head and in Corvores...sorry, Amber...that you're taking a backseat and that's not how this works. He needs to learn that.*
*I'm not going to abandon him.*
*I know. I just wish there were a way to teach him a lesson. I'm sick of this.*
Guiding Hagar to the Bunny, Janet left him in Jack's care, letting a slight sense of satisfaction vein its way through her at the disgust on the Colonel's face as she made her way to the ailing doctor.
Now feeling guilty at her indulgence, she lightly probed Amber's head, asking questions.
Cassie, increasingly sick of the pogo stick depositing her on her backside every few bounces, had tossed it in the general direction of where she'd found it and sat down on the grass, watching the birds and the adults at the BunnyMobile.
Teal'c walked up, the last of the bread loaf in his hands.
"CassandraFraiser, would you join me in feeding these animals?"
Cassie grinned, jumping up.
At least one of the adults wasn't ignoring her now.
* * * * * *
Lantash watched Qesir walk off with Dr. Warren, submitting to yet another battery of tests to convince the humans that Amy was not suffering ill effects from the blending.
He allowed Martouf to take over, his amusement at his host's discomfort in proximity to Qesir with regard to her unabashed approval of his form causing Martouf to mentally prick him a few times.
Sighing softly, Martouf enjoyed having control and stretched his arms out on either side as he rose onto the tips of his toes in perfect balance.
Slowly returning to a relaxed stance, he concentrated on releasing each of his muscles, enjoying the unique view he had of them since joining Lantash.
*We should leave now.*
Lantash didn't even need to read his host's mind to know the subject of his thoughts.
*Yes, but it would be difficult to go anywhere without Jacob. He knows this land. We only have a vague idea of where Jolinar is.*
*So does General Hammond. Surely he could assign a guide to us. And he does know where Jolinar is.*
*A full military escort would accompany us. They do not trust us.*
*Lantash, paranoid ramblings are not going to help us here.*
*I do not believe they are paranoid.*
Martouf listened with only half a mental ear as his symbiote continued while he waited for Garshaw to join him.
Finally, Lantash tired of being ignored and ranted on a new topic.
*She is late.*
*She cannot be late. We set no definite time for her to be here.*
*She knew it was urgent.*
*It is possible that in our concern to conceal our intentions we were too subtle and she did not understand.*
*Has she ever misunderstood us before?*
*And she wishes to see Colonel O'Neill so her mind will run alongside ours this day. Therefore, she is late.*
Loathe to prolong the argument, Martouf looked around, realizing that unlike other areas of the base he had seen, there had been no patrols or guards nearby.
*Perhaps there is nothing of value on this level.*
*According to Samantha, they have extra supplies on all levels. That is enough to warrant a guard. This is odd.*
*You believe there is something amiss.*
*Yes and I wish to explore.*
*Lantash, it is an oddity.*
*You remember how Samantha spoke of television shows that upset her where someone would not follow protocol, choosing to "check it out" and would invariably be captured or killed for their trouble.*
*Television is not reality.*
*But this is, therefore, we wait until we can search as a group or we go not at all.*
*Very well, but we will search.*
Assured his host would not rashly run into possible danger, Lantash agreed and took up his mental pacing while waiting for Garshaw to join them.
* * * * * *