6 months ago:
Daniel groaned as agony ripped through his innards. Two Jaffa grabbed him mercilessly and heaved him into a small, metallic coffin. Red pain filled him and he tried to curl himself into a ball, seeking solace in the too-tight space.
A part of him was surprised that he could still move as the liquid fire in his belly eased just enough that he knew he wasn't going to pass out quite yet. As the lid of the coffin slowly closed, the scent of blood and guts became overpowering. He welcomed the darkness, hoping that the coffin was airtight so that the pain of his evisceration would be eased through a quick death.
Bright lights shone behind his closed eyelids, however, and for a moment he thought maybe he was once again achieving ascension.
Déjà vu. Barely holding onto consciousness, pain filled him so completely that he could hardly put a thought together. Daniel watched the dark smears on the floor as he was dragged past them, knowing he should recognize what they were but not quite able to figure it out.
He felt himself heaved up and forward and even as he landed in the padded coffin, he recognized it for what it was. Fear filled him and for the first time since the Goa'uld had cut him open again, he tried to fight back even though he knew he was weaker than a newborn.
A hand roughly pushed his arm back into the depths of the sarcophagus, and as the cover slowly closed over his head, he heard familiar sounds in the distance. For some reason, the loud retorts filled him with hope even as he felt his consciousness taken by the white light.
He tried to hold Janet's gaze but wasn't able to when her eyes narrowed into a glare. He bent his head, worrying a newly-healed hangnail he definitely remembered being there just twelve hours ago.
"From the amount of blood your team described that was in and around the sarcophagus and on your body, not to mention the cuts in your shirt, I think you'd better let me be the judge of that."
"It healed me." He tried not to wince when Janet remained silent when he added, "Twice," and he knew she was giving his just-cleansed bare body an assessing look. He lay down when she bade him to and he suffered her poking and prodding. He suppressed a wince when a nurse stuck a needle in him to draw blood.
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"Local Goa'uld knives. Very sharp knives. Serrated edges. Think Ginzu." He cleared his throat, hating how shaky his voice was. He watched the nurse remove the blood-smeared cotton wad and replace it with a band-aid.
"How are you feeling now?"
The word 'fine' nearly left his lips once more, but he hesitated. "I feel really good. There's no pain, no weakness. I feel as if I could go out and run a marathon."
"Well, I'm willing to bet your dopamine levels are through the roof."
"You mean I'm..."
"We still don't know the full effects of a sarcophagus on a human body yet—"
"But this time I was injured. The last time I used a sarcophagus, I..."
"You weren't sick or injured. I know. But I have no way of knowing how this exposure might affect you. If there is an addiction, I think it'll be very mild." Her smile was encouraging and he relaxed. "I want you to stay on base until your blood works come in."
"Okay." Daniel sat up with the sheet covering his groin, waiting for Janet to leave and give him privacy. He rotated his ankle while jiggling his leg, feeling an excess of energy and wondering how he could use it up. An extremely erotic visual hit him and he was immediately grateful for the sheet strategically covering him. He reached for the clean fatigues just as the heavy curtain was pulled back and Jack stepped in.
"I'm fine." Daniel slid from the bed, acutely aware of his hard on as he reached for his underwear and stepped into them. He ignored Jack, who raked his eyes from Daniel's head to his toes, paused on his erection and then finally rested on his abdomen just as he turned to pick up his pants.
"Yeah, I can see that."
Resisting the urge to keep his back to Jack, he faced him and began putting his pants on.
"Janet says I'm okay, but she wants me on base for a while. She said I might be—"
"I feel okay. I don't feel especially..." Daniel couldn't help the smile forming as he fingered the buttons on his fatigues. He glanced down, hoping to pull Jack's gaze to his crotch as he started a slow seductive dance of his fingers along his erection.
Still stroking himself through his boxers, Daniel stepped closer to Jack. "Hmmm?"
Looking over his shoulder, Daniel leaned into Jack. "Janet's going to be gone for a few minutes." He cocked his head towards the infirmary bathroom. "What do you say we—"
"Tie your ass to the bed?"
"Now? Here? I really don't think this is the appropriate place for that." Daniel's fingers moved to the buttons on Jack's fatigues.
"Ohforcryingoutloud." Jack pushed Daniel's hand away then snicked the curtain back around the bed. "Listen to yourself. Do you hear what you're suggesting? Here. At the SGC. Now?"
"You're not in the mood?" Daniel was pissed. Fuck him. Janet didn't order him to stay in the infirmary, just on base. His office would be private enough, and his right hand would take care of the need that Jack wouldn't. Angrily, he started to button his pants, while Jack stood there, arms crossed, eyebrows raised as if he knew something Daniel didn't.
"To my office," Daniel growled, trying to button his pants with shaking fingers.
Jack pointed to Daniel's crotch. "You seem to be experiencing some difficulty."
"I'm fine." The feeling of goodwill had dissipated and Daniel was left feeling empty. He turned away from Jack, embarrassed by the tears that sprung into his eyes. "Crap."
"Yeah, my sentiments exactly."
Daniel swiped at his eyes with the back of his hands.
Jack rubbed his back, then slipped around and buttoned Daniel's pants. "Let's put that away for another time, alright?"
"I'm..." Daniel's voice stuttered, skipped, then broke.
"Yeah, I'm hungry, too." Jack patted the bed and slid back the curtain. "Why don't you finish getting dressed, have a seat right here and I'll see if Mrs. Krenshaw is on duty in the commissary right now. I'm sure it'll be no problem for her to whip up a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich for her favorite archaeologist."
Embarrassed, Daniel shook his head. "I'm not hungry."
"Okay, let me know when you are and I'll get you that sandwich."
"No." Daniel averted his gaze from Jack, training it instead on the sure and steady hands of the technician as she drew blood yet again for what seemed like hourly checks of his dopamine levels. He slid off the bed, not even waiting for her to slap a band-aid on the new puncture site.
"Let her finish her job."
Jack's voice was the epitome of patience and understanding but Daniel could hear the underlying annoyance of the downtime SG-1 was now being forced to endure due to his addiction.
"She's finished." Daniel rolled down his sleeve, daring Jack to challenge his decision to leaving. He skirted around Jack, hitting a tray of bandages in his haste to escape. A sigh and a round of expletives followed Daniel all the way to the elevator.
Jack had been nothing if persistent. Daniel had been nothing but evasive, but the SGC was only so big.
It had taken a while and Daniel had stupidly thought that maybe Jack had given up the chase. Wrong. Jack entered his office without knocking.
"I spoke to Fraiser."
The office was dark; Daniel was working by the dim light of the monitor. Truthfully, he wasn't working. Hadn't worked since he'd tried to seduce Jack in the infirmary and had slunk back to his office after Jack had left to get him a grilled cheese sandwich. His concentration was shot to shit. All his energy over the rest of the day had been spent in maintaining a modicum of decorum on the outside, enduring Janet's constant hovering and test-taking and avoiding Jack. "I appreciate your concern."
Jack's sigh was long and suffering. "I'm trying to do patient."
"I'm not asking you to do anything, Jack. I think it would work much better if you—" Daniel turned off the monitor, hiding his tears in the darkness. Damn Jack for saying all the right things at the wrong time.
In the darkness, Jack shuffled towards the desk. "Addiction is better than dead. Addiction we can deal with. I don't know about you, but deadness... that I can't deal with."
Jack's hand on his shoulder was nearly his undoing. He took a deep, shaky breath as Jack's touch slowly moved up his neck to cup the back of his head. Daniel turned, the chair squeaking as he buried his face against Jack's stomach. He was grateful the room was dark, hiding their movements as Jack wrapped his arms around him, holding him close. He fought the closeness of his throat, shamelessly turning his head enough to wipe the slow tear that leaked from his left eye.
Damn his emotions.
"I didn't want to get into the sarcophagus. I..."
"Daniel, I saw what they did to you. When we got there. I..."
The emotion in Jack's voice, along with the tightening of his hand that was still twined around his nape, sent a frisson of fear down Daniel's back. He pushed away just far enough to try and look at Jack's face, but the light coming in from the half-open door wasn't enough to illuminate.
"We opened up the sarc, Daniel. We followed the blood trail and—"
"I know, I remember you being there when you—"
"No, I mean before... the sarc had just started its cycle. Teal'c interrupted it and... we saw... what that bastard had done and..."
The anguish in Jack's voice startled him. Pushing aside the memories his words evoked, Daniel concentrated instead on what he heard. "How did—"
"Teal'c interrupted the cycle and—"
"Your guts were hanging out of your body, Daniel. So do you understand when I say I can deal with the addiction? Just give it some time. It's barely been a day."
The visual slammed into him. Full force. Streaks of blood on a cement floor. Smell. The smell of exposed organs in an enclosed coffin and he struggled against Jack, gagging on memories. Something round and metal was shoved against his stomach and a strong hand guided him downward. "It's okay," Jack said, rubbing Daniel's back as he choked and heaved into the pail, forever thankful Jack had never presented him with the promised grilled cheese sandwich.
"Better?" Jack flicked on the tiny lamp on the corner of Daniel's desk
Daniel was pretty damn positive he looked anything but better, but for the man who loved him enough to sit by his side as he vomited up a wastebasket full of bile, he could tell a white lie or two. Thankfully, with only the desk lamp lit, Jack couldn't see the lies written in his face.
"Better," he reiterated. He sat at his desk, Jack on a stool, lower than Daniel's chair. "I want to go home."
"Make it happen."
Somewhere he'd taken his intelligence and tossed it through the wormhole. "What if I hurt..." He couldn't even say the words and he began to shake. Tremors built, ascending to the point that his teeth began to chatter.
"You're not going to hurt anyone." Jack placed the threadbare afghan from the couch over his shoulders. "Promise."
"I want to go home."
Jack used the corner of the blanket and wiped up the moisture around Daniel's eyes. "Fraiser would have my ass."
"Doesn't hurt to ask her." His lips curled into a lopsided, begging smile.
"Ask away, but until our illustrious doctor gives you permission, you're here for the duration."
"We need a medic!"
The pain coursing through Daniel's body was eerily reminiscent of what he'd experienced six months ago, only this time there was no blood or slimy entrails to contend with, and no sarcophagus to heal him.
The pain in his belly was so bad that he was forced to limp. He held one hand to his right side, pushing in slightly to try and decrease the agony. The other arm was wrapped around Jack's waist. Chills coursed through him as he reluctantly pulled his hand from his side and grabbed the edge of the railing near the bottom of the ramp and eased himself down.
His strength was gone; his one focus had been to get to the Stargate. He was here now and he looked around desperately for Janet. He spotted her threading her way through the controlled chaos, and he closed his eyes, curling forward, trying to breathe through the pain.
Janet was trying to speak to him. Part of him was aware she was asking questions, but he was unable to grasp her words through the haze of pain. His whimper as he rode out the throbbing ache in his side seemed to be answer enough for her.
"Your chariot awaits," Jack said when the gurney pulled directly in front of Daniel.
Daniel wished Jack would've waited until he had time to prepare or at least warned him, but he didn't and instead of going with Jack's assistance, Daniel stiffened, resisted and the pain exploded.
The rest was a blur, like traveling at a high rate of speed on the highway. You know you've passed familiar landmarks, but the lines of demarcation are lost in the speed and urgency of the journey.
"Daniel!" Janet's voice gave him a sharp shove towards coherency. He turned on his side, the pressure to his belly easing enough to allow him a moment to catch his breath.
Janet grasped his hand and gave a light squeeze. "Just hang on..." Quickly she stole a glance over her shoulder at the ascending numbers on the elevator's control panel.
His hand climbed up Janet's arm and he violently shook his head. "It hurts..."
"I know," Janet soothed, pushing hair off his sweaty forehead.
"Just like before," he gasped. "Appendix. Hurts like my appendix."
Fraiser's explanation of Daniel's collapse was phoned in during SG-1's debriefing. Acute appendicitis. Immediate surgery. Hammond's voice was a step above stunned as he informed the three waiting anxiously for the news.
"He already had his appendix removed!" Jack slapped his hands firmly on the table and the clap startled Carter. "People don't have two appendixes." He forced himself to stay seated, even though his first instinct was to rush out of the room and get to the infirmary to see Daniel before he was wheeled into surgery.
"Maybe DoctorFraiser is in error—"
"Doctor Fraiser was absolutely certain it was his appendix." Hammond cleared his throat and his gaze settled on Carter, who was white-faced in shock.
"Well, I didn't graduate from medical school but the last time I watched ER, appendixes didn't grow back." He raised an eyebrow at Carter, daring her to contradict him.
"I don't know, sir, maybe when he came back from..." Carter didn't finish the sentence, merely pointed upwards with an index finger the way Daniel often did when he spoke about the year he was gone.
"His appendix scar was still there. I can attest to that—" Jack suddenly clamped his mouth shut, feeling the heat of a blush start up his neck.
"Indeed. I also can verify that DanielJackson retained his scar." Teal'c gave Jack a quick glance with a tight nod.
"Maybe only his appendix was regenerated when he descended. Internally, and not..." Carter gave a small shrug as color came back into her face.
"After the battery of tests Janet gave him when he came back?" Jack remembered those days too well, uncertainty on all their parts waiting for Daniel's memory to return.
They all fell silent, contemplating the situation until Hammond called them back to order. Jack forced his mind back to the aborted mission, while his heart wanted him to be back in the infirmary.
Jack shifted his weight impatiently, too agitated to sit while waiting for Fraiser, who he'd been informed was on her way out of the operating room. Carter and Teal'c stood when the doc entered the main ward, and her smile upon seeing them eased some of Jack's uneasiness.
"He'll be fine. He's in recovery right now and should be out in about an hour."
"Was it his appendix?"
"No question about it. And no, Colonel, other than the actual scar on his abdomen, there was no sign of internal scar tissue indicating that it had been removed already or that Daniel was born with two of them."
"But you took it out years ago. I know you took it out."
"I know, sir, I was there."
"Do you have any idea what might have happened?" Carter moved away from the bed she'd been sitting on, taking a step closer to Fraiser as if urging her to speak.
Fraiser sighed and sat down on a bed. It hit Jack that she looked tired and strained. He wondered how bad it had been... he decided not to ask, at least not right now.
"This is way beyond me, sir. My only hypothesis is that the sarcophagus that healed him six months ago also regenerated his appendix." She shrugged. "His intestines were ruptured; it's possible that it simply healed everything, appendix and all. He definitely didn't have an appendix when he came back from being ascended—"
"But he had a scar—"
Fraiser looked up at Teal'c. "I guess you don't know how a sarcophagus works? Whether it heals from the inside out or..." She sighed when Teal'c shook his head. "Like I said, it must have to do with the area of his injury—" A nurse approached Fraiser, shoved a printout into her hands then stood to the side while she reviewed it. Optimism slid from her face and her words to the nurse were too low and out of context for Jack to decipher.
"Care to share with the rest of the class?" Jack prodded.
Fraiser imparted a slew of medical orders which sent the nurse scurrying. "It's not unexpected, though I thought maybe we'd be lucky this time around, Daniel's got a fever and the residual effects of the anesthesia aren't sitting well at all."
"Is that medical speak for puking up his guts?"
"I'll tell Daniel you were asking about him."
This was bullshit. Recovering fine, my ass. To the annoyance of the medical personnel surrounding Daniel's bed, Jack paced back and forth, weaving around them as they settled Daniel into the bed, reattaching all the leads, wire and tubes.
Fraiser took point, examining the monitors, writing and nodding approval as each and every beep joined the one before it.
"Well, this pretty much sucks, Doc."
Fraiser didn't even blink an eye. Actually she never made eye contact nor acknowledged Jack at all. One more entry and then she handed the chart over to the nearest nurse. "I want vitals every fifteen. Monitor the urine output and if Doctor Jackson's fever goes anywhere but down, I want to be notified immediately." She stepped away from the bed, turned, then called out to Jack. "Colonel O'Neill, may I have a word with you?"
Fraiser waited until she closed her office door before speaking. "With all due respect, sir, is there something you want to get off your chest?"
Jack waved his hand at the door. "Daniel had his appendix out again. That doesn't happen to most people. Oh, but wait, most people don't go through the 'gate on a weekly basis, have their guts ripped open by a Goa'uld and healed by alien technology."
"I'm not done yet. You started this and you're damn well going to let me finish what I have to say."
"You're not going to say anything that I haven't already thought."
"This was incompetence. Pure and simple... What?" Jack stopped. "Huh?"
"I know what you said. It's just that..." He looked past his own anger and guilt to see the expression Fraiser wore on her face looked strangely familiar. It was the same one Jack had seen reflected back at him from the mirror in the locker room. The same demons that had been nipping at his heels during the mad rush back to the 'gate, appeared to be following their doctor around as well. "We're quite a pair, you and I."
"I just wanted you to know I agree with you one hundred percent, Colonel. Daniel is lying in that bed due to my incompetence."
"I've been known to make mistakes."
"Not this time. This time..."
"You saved his life and in the scheme of things, that's what important." Jack smiled for the first time today. "To me."
"And to me, sir—"
"Eh." Jack threw a finger up at Fraiser. "Don't take this the wrong way, Doc, but shut up and let me talk."
"You were talking, Colonel."
"Yes, I was," Jack said thoughtfully. "Until I was interrupted."
Fraiser offered him an apologetic smile before glancing at the door.
"Yeah, me too. I promise I'll be fast because there's a chair by one of the infirmary beds with my name on it." Jack drew a breath. "Thank you. I know we don't say this often enough, but for this one, you deserve a thank you."
"Eh..." Jack waved a finger at Fraiser. "Interruption?"
Fraiser shook her head.
"Good. Where was I? Oh, yes. Thank you, Doc. For believing the unbelievable. For thinking outside the box. For saving Daniel's life, hell, all of our lives on more than one occasion, and for not killing one smart alecky, fresh-mouthed colonel when he came in here yelling and threatening—"
"Your annual physical is just around the corner. We'll discuss the repercussions then."
His ass was asleep and Jack rocked from cheek to cheek in a futile attempt to start some blood circulating, because this chair was hard and unyielding, and payback for every single moment Jack had given Fraiser a hard time. He adjusted the laptop balanced on his knees, grumbling under his breath at his inability to keep watch and work.
Jack glanced at the numbers in the corner of the screen, then at the infirmary clock followed by his watch. Daniel had woken up about two hours hour ago, disorientated, nauseated and in pain. Daniel had gotten an emesis basin, a chaser of Compazine and painkiller in his IV and was just drifting off when he'd noticed Jack and attempted a lopsided grin. Jack was working on giving Daniel a thumb's up but his eyes were closing even before Jack had a chance to raise his thumb.
Since then, Daniel slept the sleep of the unconscious, complete with a collection of moisture in the corner of his mouth. Jack watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, surveyed the monitors, not really sure if he should be damn proud or slightly petrified that he knew the numbers weren't anything to write home about. Fraiser wasn't too upset about the fever so Jack knew he should be taking his cues from her, except that his gut was filled apprehension.
He forced his attention back to the laptop and lost himself in the dry, boring information on the screen in front of him.
Pain woke him. Low, strangely familiar pain in his belly and Daniel reached towards the ache.
"Fraiser will be pissed if you play with her handiwork." A cool grip wrapped itself around Daniel's hand.
Jack was here. And here was...
"You're in the infirmary, appendix boy."
Appendix? Hadn't he done that? A few years ago? Was Jack losing his mind?
The fingers around his tightened. "You were going for a repeat performance, Daniel. Seems the sarc is a gift that just keeps on giving and giving."
Daniel wasn't too sure if the pain was clouding his ability to think or if Jack's description as to why he was in the infirmary was especially cryptic. "Huh?" he croaked, slowly opening his eyes.
"Regenerated body parts ring any bells?"
Jack had mentioned a sarc, surely if he'd been in the sarcophagus he'd feel better than he did now. He'd feel fine. Actually, he'd feel more than fine, he'd feel—Daniel began to struggle. Fighting against his lethargic body. Uncooperative limbs fighting against the restraints holding him down. "Addicted," he managed to ground out.
Two hands pinned his shoulders to the bed. "Oh, jeeze, Daniel. No. You're not addicted."
Liar. If he wasn't addicted then why was he being pinned to the bed in the infirmary? Why was he so disoriented? In pain? With Jack in his face.
"Colonel, what's going on here?"
"Daniel gained consciousness about two minutes ago. He's disorientated—"
Daniel fought to connect the words, to make coherent thought processes from the conversation between Jack and Janet. He squirmed under Jack's hands, whimpering as it awakened the pain.
"Stop it!" Janet's voice was firm and harsh, biting through Daniel's haze.
Her hands replaced Jack's and Daniel feared for her safety. Janet was tiny and when addicted he was so strong and he didn't want to be strong, he wanted to be—
"...I ordered some more blood work..."
Words drifted in and out, like a poorly tuned radio.
"Fever. Cell count—"
He fought to hold on and lost the battle.
Weakly, Daniel poked Jack's left leg, the one that was stretched out parallel to his body. It wasn't sharing the bed with an appendage of Jack's that was getting to Daniel; it was the angle at which Jack was sleeping. The poor guy was going to be a mass of aches and pains when he woke. Slumped in the chair, Jack's head was resting against his right shoulder; his right leg was anchored at a strange angle to stop his relaxed body from sliding onto the floor.
Waking up with a snort, Jack looked disoriented before the stiffness hit and he straightened with a grimace. A moment later, all discomfort seemed to disappear as he leaned forward and smiled. "Hey."
"What are you doing here? What time is it?"
"Me? I was waiting for you to wake up. Welcome back, by the way. And as to the time..." Jack checked his watched and frowned. "It's late. How're you feeling?"
"Like I just had my appendix taken out. Again. That wasn't a dream, was it? I..."
"Not a dream. Seems like you grew a second appendix. You'd be all set for entry into the medical books if, well... you know."
"I wasn't sure..." He licked dry lips. "I remember how much it hurt and how it was just like before—"
"And you didn't think to tell me about this? Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
"Do you have any idea how worried I was?" Daniel coughed, his throat dry and irritated. "Is there water?"
"Yeah, but it must be warm by now. Let me call someone—"
Daniel didn't want to wait, he was thirsty and anything wet would be wonderful. "Warm is fine."
"I still need to let someone know you're awake." Jack reached over and pressed the call button as he stood. "You were pretty out of it there for a while." A moment later he was handing Daniel a half-filled glass of water. He sucked slowly through the straw, holding back the urge to suck the glass dry and instead concentrated on first wetting his mouth and tongue, and slowly swallowing the liquid. His stomach lurched for a moment, not quite sure what to do with the gift and he had memories of pain-ridden nausea and a vague memory of Jack there with him.
He remembered snippets of conversation but they were too dreamlike, except for an underlying fear of something not quite defined. He teased his fingers towards the thick bandage on the lower right side of his belly only to have Jack call him to task.
"I didn't like going through this the first time around," he sighed as a nurse stepped up to his bed. As he suffered her poking and prodding, memories of those days all those years ago swept over him. The feeling of abandonment when everyone left for their vacation, leaving him alone at the SGC. The barely averted crisis when the replicators attacked, forcing him out of his sick bed but still sidelined as he watched, helpless as his events separated him from his team, pulled them into gut-wrenching predicaments one after another.
"Are you all right, Doctor Jackson?"
"I'm fine." He gave the nurse a smile as she wrote in his chart, nodding when asked if he'd like to try and eat something. He wasn't hungry so much as thirsty but if eating settled his stomach and got the awful pasty feel from his mouth, he'd give it a try.
"I'll let Doctor Fraiser know you're awake. Then I'll bring you some breakfast after I get you some fresh water." She left after giving both Daniel and Jack a nod.
Jack stood and stretched. "Well, if Fraiser's gonna give you a going over, I'll go grab a quick shower and a coffee. You need anything?"
"No. I'm fine."
Jack hesitated, turned halfway towards the door.
"Really, I'm fine." He raised a hand and grabbed the metal bedrail, which was cool against his skin. "Thanks."
Jack gave Daniel's fingers a gentle pat and nodded. "I won't be long."
"Are you sure I'm not hurting you?"
Daniel sighed and tightened his hold on Jack's arms, pinning them against his chest. "I'm sure." His incision pulled from the angle he was laying and he slowly shifted his hips until the pain eased. He felt Jack shift with him and he suddenly thought maybe Jack wasn't comfortable. "What about you?"
"I'm fine, as long as you are, too."
"Good." Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep breath, luxuriating in the feel of Jack's body behind him. He felt comfortable, loved and totally at peace. Then again, these feelings could be due to the painkillers he'd taken with lunch. He snorted, then regretted the action when the jerky movement hurt.
"Nothing." He turned his head lazily and felt Jack's breath brush his temple.
"I'm thinking someone's feeling no pain."
"It's not that." He stretched his neck back so he could look at Jack, but the upside down visual made him dizzy. "I was just thinking that this is the way the first appendix attack should have gone down—"
"It more or less was—"
"That's not what I meant. I meant... this."
"We weren't together the first time your appendix burst."
"No, but... you went fishing and then—"
"Hey, I invited you to come with me."
Daniel stiffened. He remembered the hurt Jack's offhand comment had made him feel at the time. "I'd just come out of surgery. How did you expect me to—"
"Hey." Jack's hand slowly rubbed up and down Daniel's arm. "I knew that. I was kidding. I didn't think you... you mean you'd have come?"
"Of course I'd have gone with you."
"Would you've shown me your scar?"
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Your friendship meant a lot to me back then. It was only a few months after Sha're and..."
Jack shifted and then his lips were against Daniel's neck. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
"No, I'm sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me. Must be the drugs." Daniel sighed and relaxed back against Jack.
"I've got an idea." Jack settled so that his chin was resting against Daniel's shoulder. "Wanna go fishing with me this weekend?"
This had been a bad idea. Who would have thought that sitting would be so incredibly painful. Daniel shifted in the passenger seat of the Avalanche, trying to find a comfortable position. Jack was in the tiny, local mom and pop corner diner, picking up some food for them so Daniel allowed himself the luxury of groaning. He needed to be horizontal and even stretching out his right leg and sliding down in the seat didn't alleviate the ache in his gut.
The first half of the journey hadn't been bad and it had actually lulled Daniel into a false sense of recovery. Even made him scoff at the warnings about taking it easy and dismissing the new prescription of pain pills Fraiser had insisted he take with him. Daniel moved again, cursing his stupidity of packing the pills in his suitcase instead of sticking them in his pocket. Asshole. After all this time, you'd think he'd have learned to listen to his friendly, neighborhood doctor.
Jack waved at him through the picture window of the restaurant then held up both hands. Ten minutes, he mouthed.
Daniel nodded then gave him a thumb's up, though truthfully, ten minutes or ten hours, the last thing he felt like doing was eating. He closed his eyes and began to breathe through the pain.
Daniel stirred as Jack opened the car door.
"Hey," Jack said, an apologetic smile on his face as he slipped behind the wheel. "Didn't mean to wake you up."
"Wasn't sleeping." Admittedly, Daniel had drifted but he hadn't slept. There was no way he'd achieve slumber after today's too long ride to the lake without a pain pill.
"Damn, I'm starving." Jack started up the truck, backed up and headed down the main road. His stomach growled on command.
Daniel sniffed the air and his own stomach betrayed him with a tiny grumble of its own.
"Oh, someone's hungry."
Okay, he did have to eat with the pill; otherwise he'd get nauseated. Daniel sniffed the air. "Meatloaf?"
"Mmm," Jack moaned appreciatively. "With gravy mashed potatoes, string beans, corn and an extra helping of those light flaky biscuits you—"
"You sound like a commercial."
"You think we could convince Ceil and Robert to come to Colorado Springs? You and I could be their backers." Jack tapped the wheel and nodded, agreeing with himself. "Yeah, I've been—"
"Who the hell are Ceil and Robert?" Daniel cupped his hand over the stitches and wondered if Janet had left a surgical instrument somewhere in his body.
"Ceil and—" Jack shot a glance at Daniel. Seconds later he pulled the Avalanche off the road. "Damn it, Daniel." Jack patted his jacket pocket and pulled out a blister pack. "You look like death warmed over."
Daniel pushed the hand searching for temperature back to its owner. "Sitting too long."
Jack grumbled and popped a pill out. "Take this," he ordered, shoving the pill in Daniel's face.
He squinted at the pill sitting in Jack's palm, then poked at it. "What is it?"
"A pain pill."
"Janet gave me—"
"And they are where?" Jack bounced his hand up and down, and the pill rolled around in his palm.
"Yeah. Point taken. Now be a good archaeologist and swallow this pill."
"No. We're almost there."
"Daniel." Jack broke his name into three syllables, elongating each and every one of them.
"I want to eat something with the pill." Daniel forced a laugh. "You don't want me throwing up in the truck, do you?"
Slowly, Jack withdrew his hand and dropped the pill into the cup holder. "No. Since you put it that way, I totally understand. And umm, I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
They drove the rest of the way in silence, Jack's hand on his thigh, occasionally squeezing the muscles in sympathy.
Jack had unloaded the car and now stood by Daniel's opened truck door, trying his damnedest to coax him into the house. "Told you so."
"Nice empathy." It had taken Daniel all this time just to manage to swivel in the seat. Sitting sideways, his legs dangling out the opened door, he was trying to figure out how to slide out and remain upright. "I feel stupid." Daniel paused, then added, "And old."
"Stupid I can definitely agree with," Jack leaned in and stuck an arm under Daniel's armpits. "Old. I've got that covered."
Daniel stiffened as Jack began to slide him out of the truck.
"Stop it!" Jack sighed in frustration. "You should've just taken the pain pill Fraiser gave me."
Daniel stopped. "Janet gave you pain pills?"
Distracted, Jack used this opportunity to pull Daniel out of the truck. "Well, she was just covering all her bases."
"Ow!" Daniel held onto the armrest and slowly straightened. "What? Did she think you'd slip me a mickey?"
Jack whistled innocently. "Come on." He dropped his arm around Daniel's shoulders, matching his shuffling step. "There's meatloaf with your name on it and I'm starving."
Daniel backed away from the kitchen chair as if it were a sarcophagus. "I don't think I can sit." He wasn't too sure he could stand either, but upright was the least of the two evils since he was already there.
"Okay," Jack said soothingly. He was being gentle, kind and smothering and it had begun to grate on Daniel's nerves the minute he had one foot in the cabin.
Fumbling, he opened the Styrofoam container and shoveled in two mouthfuls of potatoes. "Pill," he mumbled while still chewing and stuck out his free hand.
Jack took the fork from Daniel's hand, sliced off two pieces of meatloaf, then pressed the utensil back into his hand. "Eat this and I'll be right back."
Jack was patting the bed enticingly when Daniel stepped out of the bathroom. He pulled back the quilt and cocked his head toward the inviting, crisp clean sheets and pillowcases. Daniel didn't need an invitation; he just needed to figure out how to go from an upright position to a horizontal one. He held his breath, counted to ten and hoped that the pain pill had kicked in enough to allow his body to bend.
He was tucked in and fussed over the second he stretched out. Too tired to protest, too drugged to be thankful, Daniel just closed his eyes and ignored Jack's ministrations.
Jack picked up the phone. Then replaced it on the cradle. Then picked it up and walked with the cordless into the bedroom. Daniel was sleeping, lying on his back, snoring. Pain pill or not, his face was still lined with pain. He stood watching, grimacing as Daniel mumbled in his sleep, moved then exhaled an "Ow."
Decision made. Jack walked into the living room and punched in a number he knew by heart and waited impatiently, pacing in front of the fireplace until he was connected to the infirmary.
"Infirmary, Doctor Fraiser."
"Doc, it's Colonel O'Neill."
"Colonel? Should I be sitting down for this?" The hint of humor was used to overshadow her worry.
"Daniel's in a lot of pain."
"Explain a lot. One to ten? Vomiting? Fever?"
Jack felt like a jerk and shrugged, even though she was unable to see him.
"Stiff. Sore… I don't think the drive agreed with him."
"Colonel, Daniel's had surgery. Driving and sitting in one position for any length of time will leave him uncomfortable and in pain. Keep the pills handy. Make sure he rests, eats and basically treats himself with kid gloves."
"Ahhh... In the world of Daniel, torture him."
She laughed. "Exactly, just make sure he doesn't kill you while you're in the process of taking care of him."
It was dark when Daniel woke and Jack was up in a shot from the couch, putting out a hand to steady him as he ricocheted off the bedroom doorframe.
"Whoa." Jack guided him to the window seat, but Daniel looked at the bench and just shook his head.
"No," he croaked, pulling away from Jack. "Think I'm hungry."
Brushing his lips across Daniel's temple, he guided him into the kitchen and left him in front of a chair by the table. "Sit here?"
"Yeah." One hand on the table, the other straight out for balance, Daniel slowly lowered his ass into the chair.
"Eggs. Bacon. The rest of your meatloaf—"
"Cereal? I'm not really awake enough to eat more than that. I don't want to wake up enough to eat more than that. I'm uncomfortable and I want to go back to bed."
Obviously, giving Daniel TLC was going to be met with some resistance. Jack pasted a smile on his face. "Cheerios or Captain Crunch?" With a side of pissiness, Jack wanted to add.
Daniel shrugged as if any answer was just too hard for him and never even looked up at Jack's smile.
"Okay, chef's choice." Jack prepared a bowl of Cheerios, added a spoonful of sugar and covered the floating o's with sliced banana. As Daniel inhaled his meal, Jack poured him a glass of juice then pushed it towards him. "Drink."
Daniel paused from eating, then drank on command, finishing the juice without even coming up for air.
Jack stood ready and once the glass was back on the table, he poured him more.
"How long did I sleep?" Spoon paused midway, Daniel squinted at his watch.
"Long enough for another pill." Jack knew the way Daniel's mind worked.
"Sure." At this moment, Daniel wouldn't know what amount Jack gave him.
Another bowl of cereal, minus the banana, the rest of the juice and a whole pain pill later, Jack was on Daniel's ass as he stumbled his way to the bedroom. Daniel was half asleep, swaying, not even objecting as Jack shadowed him into the bathroom.
"I can pee by myself." A comment, not a protest.
"I know. I just want to make sure that you remain upright and on target, I hate cleaning around the toilet."
Daniel managed to get his shirt off without assistance. Jack helped with the pants and before he could grab a tee and a pair of sweats, Daniel mumbled something incomprehensible then dropped sideways into the bed wearing only his boxers.
"You're going to be cold."
Daniel drew the blanket up to his nose.
Jack got another quilt from the closet and threw it over Daniel. "Use this until I can bring some body heat into bed."
Daniel didn't want to leave his cocoon of warmth, no matter how much his bladder protested. He turned on his side, trying to distract his mind from the pressure. The sun coming through the window was strong enough to lighten the darkness behind his closed eyes and he groaned. It was a conspiracy.
Because yesterday's painful body aches were not yet a memory, he stretched slowly and tentatively. There was residual tightness, but nothing like yesterday. Cautiously, he pushed himself to a sitting position, then stood. The urgent need to pee overshadowed his desire to test out his body's cooperation, and he managed a high speed, probably comical shuffle to the bathroom.
There was a neat pile of clothes folded on the bathroom countertop with a note.
"Gone fishing. The pain pills are on the counter next to the Cheerios. Help yourself. Juice instead of coffee would be preferable in Fraiser's world, but this is vacation. Caffeine intake not counted and I promise I won't rat you out.
ps If you decide to join me, I'll be at the end of the dock, second chair to the left."
There was a stick figure holding what looked like a fishing pole scribbled at the bottom of the note. You'd think that after all these years of doodle practice during briefings, Jack would've progressed to something with a little more depth than stick figures.
There were sweats and socks and Daniel dressed, immediately feeling warmer. In the kitchen he went for the gold and had juice and cereal while waiting for the fresh pot of coffee to brew. He drank one cup, then put on his jacket, his boots, grimacing slightly at the pull in his right side. Not enough to take a pill, but enough to let him know that he'd had surgery not that long ago and that he needed to pay attention to his body when it spoke. Fully dressed for the outside, Daniel stood in the kitchen and fortified himself against the cold with a second cup of coffee, then rummaged through the cabinets, found a thermos and filled it for Jack.
The chill in the air took this breath away, and Daniel stood on the porch and contemplated going back inside and crawling under the covers, clothes and all. Steeling himself against the morning cold, he hunkered down in this jacket, tucking the thermos against his chest and walked down to the dock. "Frozen fish on the menu today?"
Jack bent his head backwards, looked up at Daniel and smiled. "Glad you could join me."
He answered with a smile of his own before leaning down and kissing Jack.
"Mmmm." Jack broke the kiss. "Is that coffee?"
"Yes." Daniel sat in the chair next to Jack and stretched out his legs. He held the thermos up. "Good coffee."
"For me coffee?"
"Yes, for you coffee."
Jack reeled in his line, looked at the empty hook, shook his head, put the pole next to his chair, then reached out towards the thermos.
Daniel pulled it back, away from Jack's reach. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry? As in, you're not giving me the coffee, sorry?"
Daniel exhaled loudly, his breath sending out a plume of smoke. "Sorry as in, my behavior yesterday was uncalled for, sorry."
Jack leaned over and plucked the thermos from Daniel's grip. "You felt like shit, so you behaved like shit. Totally understandable and forgivable."
"Oh." Daniel paused. "Does that mean you accept my apology?"
"Just don't let it happen again." Jack opened the thermos and sniffed the contents. "Ahhh," he groaned appreciatively.
Daniel laughed. "Isn't that my line?"
"Good coffee made by a recently de-appendixed archaeologist needs to be appreciated."
"Well, yeah." Jack poured some of the steaming brew into the thermos lid. "Though I can't think of how you would say that it was done twice. Bi-de-appendixed?"
"Works for me." Daniel turned his face into the warmth of the morning sun. "Jack?"
"Yesterday you mentioned Ceil and..."
"Who are they?"
"Ah, they own that corner diner. If we could just package their home town baking and take it to Colorado, think of the big bucks we could make."
"We? Where do I fit into this?"
"My job is to be your sidekick?"
"Your job is to be by my side and to kick my ass into gear when I need it."
"Nice job description."
Daniel turned his face towards Jack, who was intently studying the lake, the open thermos next to the fishing pole on the dock, and the forgotten cup of coffee he held in his hands. "What are you sorry for, Jack?"
"Not doing this before now. Not understanding how much—"
"No regrets, okay?" Daniel reached out and rubbed Jack's arm. "We're here. Now. No fish in the lake. Warm coffee at our disposal. Warmer cabin just a few feet away. That's all that matters. Water under the bridge, is just that."
"None. No crying over spilled milk or time lost."
Jack finished the coffee in one gulp, then screwed the lid back on the thermos. "Okay, this conversation is getting a bit too deep and maudlin for me."
"Going to go back to fishing?"
"Nope," Jack said as he stood. "Going to go back to the warmer cabin. Interested?"
Daniel looked up and smiled. "Of course I'm interested. One should never leave home without one's sidekick. You know," Daniel reached down slowly and carefully, picked up Jack's fishing pole, then stood. "I have it on good authority the bedroom is the warmest room in the house."
"Really? We'll just have to check that out, won't we?"
"Damn straight we will."
"Will you show me your appendix scar?"
Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in us and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate XV - The way it is'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link: