The Best you Canby JoaG
"That's it. Stay awake just a few seconds longer."
Daniel took one hand away and reached for the canteen. It was less than a third full, barely enough to keep Jack alive, let alone the two of them. He uncapped it one-handed and brought it to Jack's lips.
"You need to drink." He tipped a bit of the tepid water into Jack's slack mouth and watched as Jack swallowed. As much as he wanted to let Jack drink all of the water, Daniel knew they had to ration it. It was still a good five miles to the Stargate and with the growing heat of day, holding a bit of liquid back right now might make the difference for Jack in the long run.
"You?" Jack's voice was weak and breathless.
"I've had my share," Daniel lied, capping the canteen. "We need to ration, we lost the rest of the water when…" Daniel trailed off as Jack's eyes closed once again, only to be opened with obvious difficulty. Concussion, loss of blood and the effects of the painkiller Daniel had given Jack earlier were taking a toll.
"I'm fine, Jack." Daniel stuffed the canteen into their one remaining pack and placed it inside the sleeping bag between Jack's legs. By the time he'd finished, Jack had drifted into unconsciousness once more. Daniel reached a hand and felt for Jack's neck, needing affirmation that he was still alive. Fast and weak, Jack's pulse fluttered beneath his fingers.
Exhaling loudly, Daniel glanced once more at the blood-stained bandages wrapped around Jack's torso and zipped the sleeping bag around the still body. Squinting into the harsh sunlight and ignoring the pounding in his skull and the pain in his wounded leg, Daniel took hold of the rope affixed to the ends of the sleeping bag and pulled it over his head until it lay against his chest. Last of all, he pulled the edge of the material over Jack's face, loosely covering it to protect the man he loved from both sun and sand.
Ignoring the weakness in his leg and the dizziness experienced when he stood up, Daniel began walking, limping heavily in the shifting sands, heading for the Stargate, pulling his injured teammate behind him.
The sand dune loomed before him and Daniel began climbing at an angle. Even though it was still morning, the sun beat down mercilessly and Daniel rued the fact that he'd lost both boonie hat and sunglasses in yesterday's sandstorm. He'd managed to tear a piece of cloth from inside their second sleeping bag and had tied it over his head, but it didn't provide the same type of protection from the sun as had the hat.
The makeshift sled behind him slipped sideways, pulling him off balance and Daniel stumbled to his knees as he slid backwards down the hill. He fought to maintain his position, hands clawing uselessly at the shifting sand, deathly afraid of losing his hold on the rope. He slid down several feet before his feet found purchase and he managed to stop their descent. Panting harshly, spots dancing before his eyes, he ignored his headache and resolutely pushed himself on, taking one shaky step at a time. He could feel the heat of the burning sand through his boots. For a moment the thought of being cooked from both inside and out hit him and he began to giggle. Baked by the sand underneath and roasted by the sun above – he'd be well done by the time he got Jack home.
He crested the hill and looked at the desolate vista before him. Far in the distance, distorted by the heat, he could see the Stargate shimmering brightly like a beacon, situated on top of another similar dune. There was only sand between it and them, with no shade in sight. Waves of heat rippled before him, distorting the wind-shaped furrows. The distance was almost frightening; under normal circumstances it would simply be a short walk, but with an injured leg and having to drag a his precious burden behind him in this heat, it felt almost unreachable.
He paused for only a few seconds, then began to slowly descend. This part was always tricky because the sleeping bag tended to slide more quickly than Daniel could and soon, instead of pulling it, he'd be holding it back.
He was halfway down when his foot caught on something and he tripped. He fell forward, getting a face full of sand, but not before he'd spied the armor-clad leg he'd stumbled over. Daniel's momentum brought Jack, wrapped mummy like in his sleeping bag, hurtling on top of Daniel.
Daniel managed to twist around and catch the bag before it rolled over him and he held tightly as they both slid down the rest of the dune.
"God damn it, let me out!" Jack was thrashing inside the bag, the violent motion of the fall having brought him awake.
"Sorry, sorry." He pulled himself from beneath the bag as quickly as he could, the pain in his leg making him nauseous. Daniel unzipped the end of the sleeping bag and pulled it down, away from Jack's face. He leaned over, trying to provide a bit of shade. Worried that Jack might have started bleeding again, he placed a hand on Jack's chest. "It's okay, I'm sorry, I tripped."
Jack was panting harshly, his face and hair drenched with sweat. "Daniel?"
"Yeah." Daniel smiled at Jack before turning his attention to the bandages he'd slapped on the gunshot wound several miles back. He raised the edge and offered a silent prayer when he saw there was minimal bleeding.
Patiently, Daniel repeated the events of the past twenty four hours, as he had each time Jack had woken up.
- - - - - -
Jack was burning up. The agony in his side was a fire consuming him, and the throbbing in his head told him he was suffering from a concussion. He tried to slow his breathing, taking quick shallow breaths, trying to control the pain.
He'd woken up in the dark and stifling heat, totally disoriented and in incredible pain. Then Daniel was there, and although the heavy covering had been removed from half his body, it hadn't helped cool him off.
Although his vision was blurry, Jack could see Daniel's face was sunburned and full of sand. He reached up to wipe the grit away and was surprised to find how heavy his arm was. His fingers scrabbled against the sandy stubble, feeling sweat beneath it all. When Jack lowered his hand, Daniel mopped his face on his shirt sleeve, wiping the remaining grit away.
"We were attacked by Jaffa."
Images of several armed warriors coming towards them flitted in Jack's mind. Jack and Daniel had been trapped in the half-buried ruins while Teal'c and Carter had headed to the Stargate for fresh provisions. "I remember… they caught us by surprise."
"Yeah, we held them off, trying to get hold of Sam and Teal'c, but there was radio interference."
Jack closed his eyes, his memory confused. He could remember fighting the Jaffa, and there had been something else, making it hard to breathe.
Daniel lifted Jack's head and his mouth filled with warm water. He swallowed, the liquid wonderfully refreshing despite its taste and warmth.
"What we didn't know was that there was a sandstorm brewing, and we all got caught in it. It came up so fast that none of us had time to make it to the Stargate. You got shot, hit your head when you fell, and I managed to drag you farther inside the ruins and wrapped both of us up in the sleeping bag. I don't think the Jaffa made it."
"I don't know."
Daniel looked up and Jack turned his head to gaze at an enormous sand dune looming above them. He could make out the furrows in the sand where he suddenly realized was how Daniel had got him here. He looked at the rope tangled around Daniel's waist and at the sleeping bag he was lying in, and realized that was how Daniel was getting him home.
The pain in Jack's head escalated and he had a sinking feeling he wasn't going to be awake much longer. He shifted, trying to force himself awake and the movement woke the pain in his gut.
"Damn." He gritted his teeth together and felt Daniel's hand on his cheek, encouraging him.
"I'm okay," he panted when he was able to get enough breath to speak. "Give me a minute and then help me stand up." His attempt at bravado failed as he saw the worried look on Daniel's face. "I'm okay," he mumbled again as his vision began to grey out.
He fought to stay conscious, keeping his gaze on Daniel's face until it slowly faded. As he lost his battle, he realized Daniel had said he'd been shot. Shot, with a gun? Whose? Jaffa didn't carry guns.
- - - - - -
With a sigh, Daniel covered Jack again and stood up. Leaning heavily into his makeshift harness he began slow, painful steps through the deep sand, grateful that the storm had whipped this area more or less flat from here to the Stargate.
Time began to lose all meaning; the only thing that counted was the sun beating down on him, his breath labouring heavily in his ears, and the raw skin on his chest from where the rope rubbed him as he dragged Jack's weight behind him.
He kept his head down, the glare of the sun on the sand blindingly bright. He had to remember to look up every so often to make sure he wasn't straying. One step, limp, another step, limp. He began counting to one hundred in Russian, trying to keep his mind focused. Adin, dva, tree, chiteeree… sto.
Then he switched to French. Un, deux, trois, quatre… cent.
The 'gate didn't appear any closer. He tried counting in Spanish for every two steps. Uno, limp. Dos, limp. Tres, limp. Quatro, limp… cien.
Ena… dio… tria… tecera… ecato. This time he'd counted every four steps in Greek.
God he was so thirsty. He thought about the bit of water left in their canteen and told himself he'd go another one hundred steps, then stop and take one sip. Only one. He began counting in Arabic. Wahed, ethnein… Why were the words so difficult to remember? He knew this. Hell, he'd learned to count in Arabic before English. Tralata, arba'a… His legs were so heavy, the sand pulling at his feet every time he tried to take a step. Saba wa sentin… saba wa… no, that wasn't right, where was he? Oh yeah, sixty eight. Tamania wa sentin…
"Tamania wa sentin, tamania wa sentin, tama…tamania wa…"
He blinked, realizing he was on his hands and knees and no longer moving forward. For a few seconds, he couldn't remember where he was until a voice whispered his name.
- - - - - -
He'd stopped moving. For a while the motion had been lulling until it had become jerky, the small stops and starts causing his head to pound, awakening the pain in his side. He opened his eyes, trying to see where he was, what was happening. Everything was dark, he couldn't see. There was a soft swooshing sound that came and went, and he realized it was connected to the movement.
Jack stretched experimentally, the confines of his cocoon familiar, having lain in these too many nights than he'd like to remember. There was a voice nearby, familiar yet muffled, speaking in various tempos to the jerks and starts. Jack had listened to it, its familiarity was soothing. He'd begun to doze off when the lack of movement disturbed him.
"Tama…tamania wa… saba wa…"
Daniel's voice was slurred, the repetitive words beginning to scare Jack. He raised his hands and batted at the material covering his face, calling out to the man he knew to be close by.
Jack's voice sounded frail to him, hardly loud enough to startle a mouse, let alone carry past the shroud enveloping him. But it must have because seconds later, bright sunlight blinded him as his face was uncovered.
"Jack, don't move."
Jack squinted past the glare and the ensuing headache it created, relieved to see Daniel kneeling beside him. Daniel leaned forward and his shadow created a bit of shade.
"Are you okay?"
Jack licked dry, chapped lips, then nodded. His bit of shade moved away and Jack shut his eyes. He then felt himself lifted up and supported against Daniel's chest. The movement hurt, and Jack pressed a hand to his side, feeling bandages beneath his shirt. He turned his head away from the sunlight. He could smell Daniel's sweat, feel it slide against his own sweaty cheek as it slid against Daniel's neck.
"What happened?" He could see they were in the desert, heck, from the blazing sun and burning sand, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
"Jaffa attacked us."
"We got separated in a sandstorm, Jack. I don't know…"
Jack licked cracked lips with a swollen tongue. "I guess there's no water?"
"Water! Yes, there's some left. Sorry, sorry…" He felt Daniel's arm go around him to hold him steady as Daniel leaned forward. Again the motion was painful and Jack gritted his teeth to not cry out.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have moved you." Arms held him steady, a hand cradled his head against a damp-clothed shoulder.
Jack shook his head, waiting for the pain to subside. "It's okay… better now," he managed after a few minutes.
"Here." Daniel held a canteen and Jack drank greedily. He'd almost drained it when he realized if he was this thirsty, then Daniel must be also. He pulled away, feeling water spill down his chin and throat before Daniel took the container away.
"You finish it," Jack ordered. There wasn't much, maybe a few more swallows and Jack already felt guilty for having taken so much of it.
"I'm fine. Here, finish it."
"Daniel." Jack was too tired to argue. "Please, drink."
Daniel stared at him for a few moments, then lifted the canteen and tipped it up. Jack watched Daniel's throat as he swallowed, once, twice, three times. And then nothing, even though Daniel kept the container inverted for a few more seconds.
With a sigh, Daniel tossed the canteen aside, and laid his head against the top of Jack's head.
"How far?" He could feel Daniel's body trembling and the movement elicited a shiver in him.
"Almost there." Jack shivered again, surprised that he was wasn't feeling hot anymore. "Are you cold?" The sleeping bag was pulled up to his shoulders, and Jack shivered again, wondering how one could be cold in this desert heat. Regardless, the weight of the bag felt good and Jack let himself relax against Daniel.
But his comfort was soon disturbed when Daniel laid him flat again. The bag was being zipped up and as Daniel leaned forward, Jack got a good look at Daniel's sunken and red-tinged eyes.
"Daniel, wait. Rest a little bit." He could see Daniel's hands shaking, and he cursed at his own weakness. "Give me a few minutes, I'll walk out of here."
"Don't be stupid." Daniel tugged at the zipper, which appeared to have gotten stuck on the material.
"Daniel. You're exhausted."
"And you're badly hurt. I need to get you home."
"I'll be fine for another ten minutes." Jack reached out and put his hand on Daniel's arm. "Please, just… stop for a minute." Daniel tugged harder and the zipper gave suddenly. He pulled it up, then back down again to make sure it would move freely. But he didn't zip it all the way up.
"Tell me what happened. My memory's not so good today, it seems."
He was rewarded with a wan smile, and Daniel crawled forward until he was positioned by Jack's shoulder. He let himself fall sideways onto his butt, and then inched forward until his body was between Jack and the sun, giving him a bit of shade.
"A sandstorm hit minutes after the Jaffa attacked. We had shelter, they didn't. They were being battered something fierce… their armor protected their bodies, but not their heads." Daniel hunched forward, his shoulders slumping. "It got hard to breathe, the wind, the sand, we could barely see… I was reloading my gun, you were covering me when three Jaffa broke into the ruins. They came at you." Daniel leaned forward, his body bowed until his forehead was resting close to Jack's. "You got one, I got another, but… a bullet ricocheted… it struck you here." Daniel's fingers ghosted at Jack's side, and for the first time Jack saw blood dried around and beneath Daniel's nails. "You went down, hit your head on the wall."
Daniel slid onto his side, his hand moving from Jack's belly and up to his shoulder. He was leaning his head against Jack now, speaking softly. "I got the third Jaffa but more came in. One hit me with the edge of his staff weapon. I went down, lost my gun, scrabbled for yours. Got him, got the next one… by then I couldn't see anything because of the storm." Jack could feel Daniel's breath against his skin as he spoke, hot and airless like the air around them.
"I grabbed you, pulled you farther into the ruins, went back for our packs and you know that first Jaffa that I shot? The bastard wasn't dead. He'd found my gun, there was one fucking bullet left and he shot… Anyways, I got him, too."
He sat up suddenly, looking at anywhere but Jack. His face had closed up, like it always did when he had to talk about taking lives. Jack knew he was hurting inside, both from the violence he'd been forced to experience and then carry out.
"We should go." Daniel shifted until he was on his knees, but Jack put a hand out to stop him. "That last bullet, what happened?"
Daniel's eyes moved to his leg and Jack followed his gaze. Daniel's fatigues were stained with blood, which Jack had at first assumed was all his but realized now Daniel had been injured, too. "It's not serious." Daniel reached for the bag's zipper, and Jack, exhausted, let Daniel pull the material back over his head.
He heard Daniel stand, the sound muffled through the bag. He was jerked forward suddenly, and then nothing. He was about to call out when Daniel began moving again, more slowly than before, but without the accompanying counting.
The pain was waking in his abdomen, the familiar fuzzy feel of the pain-killing effect that he suspected Daniel had given him, beginning to wear off. His head was clearer for the moment, though, but he suspected that that wouldn't last long as the pounding started up behind his ear.
Time seemed distorted, the heat, pain and movement all blending into one long torturous nightmare. Jack thought he might have dozed, he couldn't be sure until the angle of the ground began to change, sloping sharply upwards, bringing him into full awareness. Soon the grade was steep, and Jack could hear Daniel panting harshly as he fought to get the two of them up the steep dune.
Jack pushed the edge of the bag from his face, needing to see. He squinted, the sunshine blinding after the relative dark of the bag, but all he could see was sand, sand, and more sand. Bits of it were flung back every time Daniel took a step, landing in Jack's hair and trickling down his face. He bent his head backwards, trying to look beyond Daniel, only to see they were nearly at the top of the rise.
Panting, almost sobbing, Daniel continued to climb, one slow step at a time. The sun was merciless, escalating the pain in his head. As Jack closed his eyes, he actually felt the bag he was lying in begin to slide sideways. He knew what would happen before it actually did. The motion caught Daniel off balance, causing him to slip to the left. He lost purchase in the sand, and both of them began to slide down the slope. At first it felt like Daniel managed to get control, but Jack and the bag soon began gaining momentum, pulling Daniel along with them.
Despite being entombed inside the bag, Jack tried to dig his feet into the sand, but it prevented him from gaining purchase on the sand. Daniel managed to turn around so his back was to the slope, feet digging into the sand to try and stop their descent. For a moment it looked like it would work, until the pull of gravity forced Daniel onward, flinging him forward onto his stomach. Both of them were sliding down, out of control.
Eyes closed tightly against granules of sand being flung into his face, Jack came to a stop at the bottom of the dune. For a second he thought they'd be okay until Daniel slammed into him, hard. Pain exploded in his side, and Jack knew no more.
- - - - - -
There was a heavy weight lying against him and for a moment Jack thought he was back in the sandstorm. They'd sheltered together in the tight confines of two sleeping bags zipped together while the wind and sand blew violently around them, and Jack slowly bled to death.
He remembered Daniel's voice as he'd spoken to him, the panic barely held at bay while he'd maintained agonizing pressure on Jack's wound. Jack had flitted in and out of consciousness, rousing to pain and heat and little air and gratefully succumbing to the blissful darkness.
But this time it was different. There was no howling wind, no assault on his ears as the sand attacked the outer layer of their shelter. The weight was there, lying against Jack's abdomen and the sun was shining way too brightly in his face. Sun… meaning, no storm.
He opened his eyes and saw that the bulk on top of him was Daniel. His head and legs were in the sand, his hips and abdomen lying heavily and painfully across Jack's chest. For a moment Jack thought maybe Daniel had suffocated in the soft sand, but as he raised his head in panic, he noted that Daniel's face was turned to the side.
"Daniel." His voice came out as a croak, and he raised a hand to check for a pulse. He had trouble reaching up far enough, but finally managed to get his fingers on the proper spot. It was there, weak, but steady, and maybe a tad too fast?
Jack wanted to just lie back and go to sleep, but he knew they had to get out of this heat and out of the sun. Daniel had said they were close to the 'gate, he needed to wake him.
"Hey." He pushed against Daniel's shoulder and was rewarded with a soft sigh. "Daniel, wake up."
Daniel shifted and Jack gasped in pain as the movement caused pressure against his side. Despite the growing hissing sound in his ears, Jack heard Daniel cough, then felt him roll off of him. Again the movement aggravated his wound and he couldn't help from groaning. He placed a hand to his side inside the sleeping bag and felt sticky wetness. He didn't have to look at his hand to know that he'd started bleeding again.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice sounded confused and he seemed to be uncoordinated as he sat up. His foot was twisted in the rope, and Daniel clumsily began untangling himself from it. "What…?" Daniel glanced at Jack, a frown appearing on his face when suddenly his eyes widened. "Oh shit! Are you all right?" Forgetting the rope, Daniel leaned forward, nearly overbalancing in his rush to get closer to Jack.
"I'm okay," Jack lied as Daniel reached and stroked Jack's cheek. "Are you?"
Jack could see Daniel wasn't fine either, but he figured neither had the energy to argue with the other about their state of health.
"How far's the 'gate?"
Daniel looked around, apparently disoriented. "I'm not sure, I think…" He looked up and then got onto his knees. "It's up there. I remember now." He crawled to the edge of the sleeping bag and began untangling the rope from around his foot once more. When he'd gotten himself free, he began pulling on the rope and straightening the sleeping bag out.
"Daniel, forget that."
He looked up at Jack, a confused look on his face.
"You're too tired… just get up the hill and get some help." Jack could feel the blood beginning to slide down his ribs despite the pressure he was keeping on the bandage.
"I can't leave you, Jack."
"You're not leaving me, you're getting help."
"I can't… I…"
"Daniel." Jack was worried now at Daniel's confusion, and realized that he'd gone without water for most of the night and day despite the heat and the sun. "Go dial Earth, go through and get some help. Fraiser can be here in five minutes if you go now."
Daniel blinked, and Jack could see sand stuck on his eyelashes. He motioned with his hand for Daniel to lean forward and with his thumb, he brushed the grains away. Daniel had closed his eyes when Jack had touched his face, and Jack felt him shiver under his touch.
"I won't be long," Daniel said when Jack lowered his arm. He leaned over and kissed Jack on the lips, then got up, almost stumbled, and began limping towards the dune.
He took several steps away from Jack before climbing, and Jack realized Daniel wanted to make sure he wouldn't fall on Jack again should he not make it. But the climb was easier on Daniel without Jack's weight behind him. He watched as Daniel slowly but surely made his way up, then disappeared over the lip of the dune. Moments later, Jack heard the sound of the 'gate dialing.
He winced at the pain in his side, anxious for help to come and get him the hell out of here. He heard the kawoosh, and after a few moments, relaxed, knowing that Daniel was now safe on Earth and away from the heat of the planet. By now he'd be asking General Hammond to send help, and maybe he'd be given a few sips of water to help ease his thirst.
Jack licked chapped, split lips, tasting salt and wishing for a drink. He heard the Stargate wink out, and started counting the seconds until it activated again. It reminded him of Daniel's counting while he'd been walking and Jack understood how Daniel had used the exercise to keep his mind focused.
The sound of sand trickling against his sleeping bag had him opening his eyes. Was help here already? He hadn't heard the 'gate… he looked up and to his dismay, he saw Daniel coming back down the dune. Before Jack could open his mouth and ask him what had gone wrong, he saw Daniel's knees give out and Daniel simply crumpled into the sand.
Forcing himself onto his side, Jack began to crawl out of the sleeping bag, onto the hill. He kept his eyes on Daniel's still form as he called out to him, but the younger man never moved. Jack was shaking badly, his legs barely obeying his commands. On his hands and knees, Jack literally began crawling up the slope.
His breath came in sharp pants, the air was so hot it burned his lungs. Or was it his body that was so hot that it heated the air? The sand seared his hands, burned his legs and knees through the material of his clothes. He needed to get to Daniel, but after what seemed an eternity, he had barely managed to crawl two feet.
Then the 'gate began dialing again.
Had Daniel managed to get a message through after all? Still crawling towards Daniel, Jack made it one more feet when he heard the faint sound of a motor. He looked up into the glare of sun and sand, and saw the hazy glint of sun on metal as the MALP peered over the edge of the dune.
He raised a hand towards it, wanting to make sure whoever was operating it saw him. But he overbalanced and fell onto his side.
"Colonel O'Neill, can you hear me?"
General Hammond's voice sounded like an angel to Jack. "About time," he complained as he raised his hand again, waved at the MALP, and promptly passed out.
- - - - - - -
The dreamlike sounds Jack heard eventually began to separate into bleeps, hisses, pings and squeaks as he slowly woke up. He lay there with his eyes closed for a while, the idea of opening them actually meant that he'd be truly awake and he was too comfortable right now, floating on a gentle tide of painkillers. He contemplated how familiar it was these days to wake up in the infirmary, knowing from the sounds around him that he was safe and in good hands.
It seemed to happen too often, though. Their work was fraught with danger and unknown hazards, and there wasn't a week that went by that someone got hurt seriously enough to be confined to the infirmary. The only person Jack knew who spent more time under Fraiser's care was Daniel. How often did SG-1 come through the Stargate and--
Jack didn't realize he'd yelled out the man's name as he struggled to get up until Fraiser and Teal'c were there, holding Jack down firmly on the bed. He felt the pull of stitches in his lower right abdomen close to his ribs, reminding him of his gunshot wound.
"Colonel, lie still." Fraiser leaned close to Jack, her face almost looming over him. "Daniel's going to be fine. Just relax."
"He needs water, he was shot!" Jack forced himself to lie still, acknowledging the fact that he'd never be able to free himself of Teal'c's hold, even if he hadn't been injured and feeling so weak.
"I know, I know. I've removed the bullet; we had to wait for him to stabilize. He was suffering from dehydration and heat stroke."
"He's okay?" Jack watched her face carefully as she smiled at him, noting that her eyes shone and crinkled. He relaxed into the bed, and Teal'c, after a gentle squeeze to his arm, let go of him.
"His wound is infected and he's running a fever, but nevertheless, he's responding well to treatment." She reached over and adjusted the blankets he'd pushed aside.
"I want to see him."
"Of course." She smiled again, but this time there was a steeliness to her voice. "But not tonight. He's just come out of recovery and he's sleeping, and I don't want him disturbed." Before Jack could ask, she answered. "Sam's sitting with him. Don't worry, he won't wake up alone."
The struggle and the conversation had exhausted Jack and he fought to keep his eyes open. "He didn't go through the Stargate. I told him to go get help, but he came back." The words sounded slurred, and he was having trouble getting his tongue around them.
"DanielJackson did indeed dial Earth." Teal'c sat down in the chair beside the bed and Jack turned his head to look at his friend. "General Hammond informed us that SG-1's code had been sent, but nobody entered the wormhole. He ordered the MALP activated, and was able to see that both yourself and DanielJackson were in need of medical aid."
"We think Daniel was a little confused due to the heat stroke. He must have been stuck on the idea of getting you help and wasn't thinking straight."
"Ya think?" Jack managed to mumble to Fraiser before sliding down into sleep.
- - - - - -
Daniel woke up with a deep feeling of underlying dread. It was familiar, having experienced it so often in his lifetime. It was his body's way of reminding him that something bad had happened, like when he'd lost his parents when he was eight, when he'd decided to go all or nothing and present his theories to the academic world, or when Shau'ri had been first abducted, and after she'd been killed.
He lay there listlessly, trying to remember what had happened this time to bring back that horrible feeling. The sounds around him were familiar, and after a moment he realized he was in the infirmary. He opened his eyes a crack and saw Sam sitting next to him. Her attention was fixed on something in her hands; Daniel thought it might be a book. God, she looked tired. He was vaguely aware he'd been in the infirmary now for a while, having woken up a few times to see either Sam or Teal'c sitting beside him. He wasn't sure if he'd been there a day or a week, he just remembered a jumble of pain and exhaustion and fever.
The memory left Jack out of the picture, so with an increasingly sinking feeling, Daniel struggled to remember what had gone wrong. Flitting over the time spent in the infirmary, he remembered being given drugs that helped with the constant pain in his leg, but not the fever and weakness he'd experienced. But in his fever-haze, he'd overhead bits of conversation, fragments that at the time hadn't made sense but were now beginning to paint a picture of trepidation.
Back on the planet, Daniel had left Jack to go for help, and at one point Jack had apparently tried to get up, causing his wound to open and had nearly bled to death. He'd gone into cardiac arrest before a rescue team could bring him through the 'gate, and Janet had been hard pressed to revive him.
Oh, right. Sam and Janet had both assured Daniel that 'the Colonel' was doing better now, but that was beside the point. Jack had died, literally, a foot away from safety. Daniel had been responsible for getting Jack home and Daniel had failed to do his duty. Jack had died, and it was Daniel's fault.
He turned towards Sam's voice, saw her looking at him worriedly.
"Are you in pain, do you need something?" She leaned over the bed and pressed a hand to his cheek.
He realized he was breathing rapidly, his throat closing uncomfortably over a lump he just couldn't seem to get rid of. He shook his head, unable to speak. He coughed, trying to clear his throat. It helped ease some of the tightness, but none of the emotional pain he was feeling.
"Here." Sam got up, poured some water into a glass, and placed a straw in it. She brought the straw near his mouth and he sipped, wondering if he'd be able to swallow past his closed throat. Despite his apprehension, the water was cool and refreshing. When he released the straw, she reached over again and cupped his cheek.
"Janet says you're doing a lot better. They took you into surgery last night and took the bullet out. The infection's under control, your fever's down. You'll be good as new in a few more weeks." She smiled and pushed back a bit of hair near his temple, then took her hand away, only to run it through her hair.
"You look tired." Her eyes were red rimmed, her face pale and drawn. He tried to focus on Sam and not on his failure. "How long was I…?"
"You dialed the 'gate almost two and a half days ago." She looked away, staring down the length of the infirmary. "I'm sorry."
Daniel frowned at her apology. "For what?"
"When the sandstorm hit, Teal'c and I had no choice but to make a run for the Stargate. We came back as soon as the storm was over, SGs 2 and 7 helping with the S&R. We should have found you and the Colonel after an hour or two, how complicated could it have been? You were heading for the 'gate, we were heading for the campsite…" Sam swallowed, and she looked at Daniel, eyes bright with unshed tears. She blinked furiously, then sniffed once. "When General Hammond contacted us and told us you'd been found, we discovered we were only one dune over from where you had dragged the Colonel through the sand. We could still see the furrows where…"
"One dune, Daniel. That's what, twenty, thirty feet away? We must have crossed one another and never even known it."
Daniel didn't know what to say, but he knew he didn't want his friend to blame herself for what was really his fault. If he'd walked faster, been stronger, he'd have made it to the Stargate in much less time and Jack wouldn't have had to suffer so much.
"You couldn't have known," he finally said. She looked away again, and Daniel reached out for her hand. At his touch, she jerked her head back in his direction. "It's okay, there's nothing to forgive."
She forced a smile, and he knew she didn't believe him. He really had no energy for this, didn't want to deal with her pain when he had so much of his own to face. Maybe they could talk about this tomorrow or the day after. Or not. His head was beginning to ache and what he really wanted now was to sleep.
"What I don't understand is why you turned your radios off. You had to know we'd come looking for you after the storm? Siler examined them, both were working fine."
Daniel's heart skipped a beat then nearly plunged down to his toes when he realized he had totally forgotten about the radios. The wind had been playing havoc with them during the sandstorm, sending all kinds of irritating static through them until his nerves, already raw with the effort of stemming the bleeding of Jack's wound and keeping them both alive, had led him to turning the two radios off. Then later, he'd been so intent on getting Jack home to safety that the thought of even trying them to see if Sam or Teal'c had survived the storm had never crossed his mind. Damn, what else had he fucked up?
"Oh, I have good news."
He forced his attention back to Sam's words, but he was having trouble concentrating. Waves of guilt flowed over him, heat flushing his body when he realized all he'd had to do was click his damn radio on every few minutes to see if there was anyone out there to hear him.
"Janet says the Colonel woke up last night, and again earlier this morning. There's still a bit of infection but she says it's under control." She smiled at Daniel once more, and he simply nodded, knowing she needed to see a response from him. He let his eyes close and after a moment, he felt her touch on his forehead, then heard the pages of her book flip open.
He thought he'd fall asleep in a second. Instead, images of his nightmarish trek through the desert kept plaguing him, reminding him how he'd failed to save Jack.
- - - - - -
"I really appreciate this, Lou," Jack said once more as Ferretti turned onto Daniel's street. Out of habit, Jack checked Daniel's driveway for his Thunderbird as they approached, then smacked himself mentally, knowing Daniel wouldn't yet be medically cleared to drive.
"Like I said, Jack, it's no problem." Lou Ferretti pulled up to the curb in front of Daniel's new house. He put the car in park, then turned to look at Jack. "You sure about this? I can drive you home if you'd rather…"
Jack realized that gossip had spread on base about him and Daniel not speaking. Which was why when Lou had offered Jack a ride home today since he'd been released from the infirmary, he'd asked Lou to drive him to Daniel's home, rather than his own. He needed to find out what was going on with his lover and why he'd steered clear of Jack during their recovery.
Once Fraiser had taken Jack out of the ICU and into the ward and Jack was finally able to see Daniel with his own eyes, Jack had thought everything was going to be fine. That first night, pumped up and flying high with pain killers, he had a hazy recollection of feeling Daniel's lips on his forehead and his calloused fingers on his cheek. After that, for the next two days, it seemed Daniel was always asleep whenever Jack was awake. Whenever Daniel was awake, he lay lost in thought, barely speaking to Jack unless spoken to.
Fraiser never noticed anything amiss because although more subdued than normal, Daniel chatted and joked with the doctor and her nurses. When Jack had broached the subject three days ago when Daniel had been released, she simply had put it down to residual weakness and lethargy, and possibly the pain meds he was still taking.
So how did she explain the fact that Daniel left the infirmary and went home at the opportune time when Jack had been sleeping? No 'goodbye', no 'see you soon', no 'I'll hold the bed warm for you until you can join me'. No 'I love you and I'll miss you'.
"Thanks, but I'll be fine." Jack reached for the door, wincing when the movement pulled at his healing wound.
Ferretti stepped out of his car and had reached Jack even before Jack managed to painfully unfold himself from its interior. Doubt flooded through Jack's mind, forcing him to say what he dreaded. "But if you wouldn't mind waiting a few minutes, just in case Daniel's not up to company…"
"Of course. I was planning on it anyways."
With a steadying hand on Jack's arm, Ferretti accompanied him up the short walkway to the front door. Still a little unsteady and weak, Jack was grateful for his presence. "If you need a lift somewhere or need to run an errand, you can call on me anytime, you know that, right?" They stopped at the door, and Jack smiled up at his friend. "Even when Carter gets back from her mission offworld."
Jack pushed the doorbell, not wanting to drag this on much longer and hating to admit it, but the ride from the mountain had tired him out.
"Thanks Lou. I think between you, Carter and Cassie, Daniel and I have things pretty much in hand."
A warm breeze flitted through Jack's hair, drying the sweat that had spread over his body from the effort of walking the short distance from the car. He shifted his weight as his knees grew weaker, waiting for Daniel to answer the door. After several more seconds, Jack tested the doorknob. It was locked.
He pressed the doorbell again and leaned tiredly against the door jamb. He could hear the sounds of children playing a few houses down, and birds were chirping in the trees nearby.
"Maybe he's not home?" Ferretti said in a worried voice.
"His car's in the driveway, and anyways, he's still on crutches, he'd never be able to shift gears."
Jack punched the doorbell several more times in succession, then knocked loudly on the wooden door. He hadn't wanted to intrude into Daniel's home, not sure of his welcome, but his worry was mounting by the second. He dug his keys out of his pocket and as he was fumbling to put the key into the lock, the door finally opened.
Daniel stood there before them, barefoot and wearing a rumpled tee-shirt and sweats, squinting in the bright light, his disheveled hair and three day stubble proving that he hadn't taken much time in personal hygiene. His face and neck were badly sunburned, the skin peeling around his nose and forehead. Jack noted Daniel's hands were just as red, the angry red line stopping where his jacket had hidden his wrists from the sun.
"Jack? What are you doing here?" Daniel's voice wasn't quite normal… not exactly slurred, just a little… off.
"Fraiser just released me and Lou was good enough to give me a ride home. Then on the way I got this really great idea." Jack slowly pushed his way into Daniel's space, forcing the somewhat bewildered man to take a step back inside the house. "I told Lou, you know, Daniel's home by himself, I'm gonna be home by myself…" Jack noted how heavily Daniel was limping and as he slowly pressed inside the hallway, he mentally cursed Daniel for not having reached for his crutches before answering the door. "…So I said to Lou, why don't we take a detour, pick you up, and bring you back to my place. That way you and me, we could watch a few videos, remind one another to take our meds, drink a few beers—"
"Hey, I don't remember beer coming up in this conversation." Ferretti was right beside Jack and staring at Daniel with a frown on his face.
Jack shrugged and continued the conversation, keeping it upbeat until he could get a handle on what was wrong with Daniel. "Can't blame a guy for trying, can you? In any case, it'll save Cassie and Fraiser a bit of trouble, trudging back and forth between my place and yours to check up on us and make sure we got healthy stuff to eat and all that."
Jack forgot all about his own pain and weakness when Daniel swayed and caught himself on the wall. Before Jack could say something, Daniel turned and limped into the living room. Jack and Ferretti followed silently. The blinds in the room had been drawn, and in the dimness Jack saw several discarded blankets bunched up on the couch. It was obvious that Daniel had been asleep and Jack had just woken him up.
Daniel made it to the couch and fell heavily onto it, the movement drawing a wince from him. By now Jack's legs were threatening to give way, so he followed Daniel and sat down gingerly next to him. The change in position caused his wound to ache, and he placed a hand on his side, needing a moment to recover. Ferretti was watching the two of them, and Jack motioned he was okay, and for him to open the blinds.
"So," Jack began, noting that Daniel was shaking almost as badly as Jack. "Whaddya say?" As the sun streamed into the room, Jack finally got a good look at his friend and noted that Daniel's pupils were as huge as saucers with very little blue showing. So that was it - obviously Daniel had taken some of Fraiser's super duper pain killers… which meant they weren't going anywhere today.
Daniel furrowed his brow, and Jack got the feeling Daniel hadn't been listening. Or had been listening, and hadn't been able to process Jack's words. Jack placed a hand to Daniel's forehead, testing for fever. Daniel didn't react, just continued staring at Jack.
"Then again, I can just as easily crash here." Although Daniel felt a little warm, Jack didn't think it was anything to be concerned about. Yet. He leaned his head back against the couch, thinking he was so tired, maybe it was just as well and that he could stay here instead of going on home. He was aware of Ferretti wandering around, heading for the kitchen.
"You don't like staying with me," Daniel finally said, looking at Jack in confusion, a frown on his face.
"Ack, that's not exactly true." Jack turned his head sideways to look at Daniel. "I didn't like staying at your apartment because I was always terrified of knocking over one of your 'exhibits', but this place, it's really nice and cozy."
And it was. Although Daniel had only moved in a couple of months ago, Jack had never really given Daniel a chance to invite him to stay over. They'd always gravitated to Jack's home out of habit, even though Jack, Carter and Teal'c had helped Daniel paint and fix the place up. Then again, Daniel had spent so much time sleeping in Jack's bed that it had taken him several weeks before he'd even gone out and bought himself a half-decent sized one. The child-sized divan that had come with the house would barely fit Cassie, let alone two grown men.
"Daniel, when's the last time you ate?"
"Lou?" For a minute Daniel sounded totally lost and obviously had no idea that Jack hadn't come over by himself. "Um, Cassie made me some soup earlier."
Ferretti looked at Jack and shook his head. He squatted beside Daniel, placing a hand on Daniel's knee to get his attention. "When? When did Cassie come over? Was it last night, or this morning?" Lou looked over at Jack and said in a low voice, "There's a bowl of soup and three quarters of a sandwich sitting on the table, but the bread's stale and the soup's cold."
"… not very hungry." Daniel blinked rapidly several times and Jack realized he needed to put his guy to bed.
"Hey, big guy, let's get you into bed, okay?" Daniel turned to look at Jack, and again, the small frown appeared, creases marring his forehead.
"I'm not tired." He pulled away from the hand Lou had offered to help him up.
"But I am, Daniel. Would you mind if I stayed?"
"Are you okay?" Daniel quickly asked, his words coming quick and breathless. Jack saw Daniel's gaze move from his face down to his side, where he still held a hand to the wad of bandages beneath his shirt.
"Just not used to being out of bed for so long. So, is it okay if I stay?"
"Yes, yes, of course." Before either of them could make a move, Daniel lurched to his feet, overbalanced and caught himself on the coffee table. "Do you want the couch, or would you rather my bed?"
"Bed's fine." He looked at Ferretti and said softly, "Be easier to keep an eye on him." Jack allowed Ferretti to help him up, then watched as he grabbed Daniel's crutches and handed them to Daniel. Jack shuffled slowly behind them as Daniel led them into the bedroom.
The bed was a mess, silent testament that Daniel hadn't been sleeping well. Ferretti straightened the sheets and blankets while Jack moved towards Daniel. Daniel's eyes were half closed, and Jack reached for Daniel's arm, making sure Daniel didn't collapse on them before they could get him under the covers.
"Come on, bedtime," Jack said softly when Ferretti finished. Daniel blinked several times, looking at Jack in a half stupor. Again he let himself be led and put to bed.
"You want me to call Fraiser?" Ferretti asked once he pulled the blankets over Daniel and rested the crutches nearby.
"Not yet. I'll see how he is after he sleeps off the meds." Jack moved to the other side of the bed and sat down. He toed off his shoes and removed his pants after fishing his cell phone from his pocket. He placed the phone near the bed before sliding under the covers and tossing the pants onto a nearby chair.
"I'll clean the kitchen and make sure there's something edible for you two to eat later," Ferretti said as he pulled the curtains closed, dimming the room. "You want me to hang around?"
Jack shook his head as he settled in the unfamiliar bed. "No, I'll call if I need anything, though."
"Good. I'll let myself out when I'm done."
Ferretti winked at Jack then left the room.
"Daniel?" He felt the bed dip as Daniel moved and Jack turned carefully onto his side to face his lover. Daniel was fighting sleep, but stared at Jack with what looked like longing and tenderness.
Jack reached a hand and stroked Daniel's cheek. The skin beneath his fingers was warm, Jack hadn't imagined it earlier. He wondered if he should give Daniel something, but decided against it for the moment.
"Missed you the past couple of days."
Daniel blinked, but remained quiet. Jack could hear Ferretti in the kitchen, washing the dishes.
"Damned bed was too small, I kept wishing I were home. With you. I kept telling myself the guy farting in the other bed was you snoring."
After several seconds, Jack's softly spoken words seemed to penetrate Daniel's mind, and a slight smile lifted the corner of his lips. Jack leaned over and kissed the curved lips, then pulled back to look at Daniel.
They stared at each other, not talking, the only sound was their breathing and the occasional footstep as Ferretti took out the garbage and straightened the living room. After a while, Daniel's eyelids slid closed, then opened as he fought to keep looking at Jack.
Jack felt his own eyes begin to shut and he struggled to open them. Daniel soon lost the battle, though, closing after a brief attempt to open them again. As Jack heard the front door snick shut, he gave up the fight and let himself follow Daniel.
- - - - - -
There was a heavy weight lying against his side and a warm hand was nestled inside his shirt, lying heavily on his abdomen. He heard a familiar deep, guttural breathing with occasional snorts near his ear, tickling the skin on his neck. Daniel smiled, realizing his arms were full of Jack.
Despite the ache in his leg and the fuzziness in his head, for a few seconds Daniel was content. Until the familiar feeling of doom hit him broadside, and he realized he'd caused this same man to suffer needlessly due to his own ineptitude and shortcomings.
But still, regardless of the feelings of inadequacy, Daniel knew he loved Jack with all his heart. And waking up with Jack in his bed at the moment, it was more than obvious Jack had forgiven him his transgression, but it was something Daniel just couldn't shake. In the six years of working together, not to mention the few times Daniel had zipped by in his ascended state to help them out according to his teammates, never had Daniel felt as inadequate as he did now.
He kissed the top of Jack's head, feeling the soft hair beneath his lips. He wasn't sure how Jack had gotten here, his memory was fuzzy. The last thing he recalled clearly was the almost unbearable pain of his leg from enforced pacing throughout the night, leading him to surrender and swallow one of Janet's 'take it only if you can't stand it' pills.
From the moment he'd woken up in the infirmary, Daniel's sleep had been plagued with nightmares of Jack dying in his arms. Each time he'd closed his eyes, he'd see images of Jack lying deathly still in the sleeping bag, his face so pale. Or he'd feel Jack's blood as it had oozed between his fingers when he'd tried to stop the hemorrhaging, sheltering inside the airless sleeping bags with Jack during the sandstorm. Or the image of Jack lying in the infirmary bed with tubes coming out everywhere from beneath the blankets…
Jack stirred, the fingers on his belly jerked slightly. The snoring stopped, only to be replaced with a heavy sigh.
"Hey." Jack lifted his head from where it had been snuggled against Daniel's shoulder, and smiled at him.
Daniel's throat and chest tightened again at the affection reflected in Jack's face. Daniel didn't deserve any of this - not Jack's love, not Jack's friendship, not Jack's faith in him. Nevertheless, he forced the words out of a tight throat. "When did you get here?"
"Sometime this morning."
"You came with Lou?" The memory of Ferretti walking around his house had to be real and not a dream. Up until now, he hadn't featured in any of Daniel's private nightmares.
"Gave me a lift home." Jack shifted again, raised his hand and placed it against Daniel's cheek. "You were a little out of it when I got here. Leg hurting you?"
"It was, a bit." Right, a bit of an understatement, that was.
"How's it feel now?"
"Better." Stiff, still sore, but yeah, definitely better.
"You've still got a fever."
So that explained the headache and sore joints.
"What about you? How are you doing?" The last Daniel had heard from Sam, Jack had still been relegated to the infirmary.
"Doing good enough for Fraiser to release me today. I came over hoping to entice you to come stay with me… took one look at you and had a slight change of plans." Jack rolled off of Daniel and onto his back. "Not that I mind. Your bed's pretty comfy."
"Been telling you that for months, Jack."
"Yeah, you have, haven't you? You know, you didn't have to go through all the trouble of getting both of us shot just to get me into your bed. You could have simply asked."
Daniel stiffened at Jack's words. Maybe he'd been wrong, maybe Jack hadn't forgiven him after all.
"Hey? What's wrong?" Jack rolled over again on his side to face Daniel, and Daniel turned his head away, not able to meet Jack's gaze.
"Daniel, what did I say? What did I do? What's going on with you? You've been going weird on me ever since we got back from that hell of a planet, no pun intended."
"Nothing, you didn't do anything."
"You coulda fooled me. You're upset with me, and I can't figure out why."
"It's not you I'm upset at."
There was silence for a few moments, then Jack placed a hand on Daniel's chest.
"You blame yourself for what happened over there, don't you." It wasn't a question.
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I know you."
Of course Jack would figure out how he felt, they'd been together as lovers for too long to not know one another that well. "I can't stop how I feel."
"No, you can't. But you can start to rationalize it."
Daniel laughed. Like he hadn't tried. He'd fucked up. He'd struggled to bring Jack to safety, and in the end, Jack had died. Daniel had failed, end of story. "You were injured. I was responsible—"
"You know, for someone who up until a few months ago was doing the firefly thingie out there…"
"Oh, that's funny."
"And getting their kicks by traversing the galaxy—"
"Galaxies as in plural?"
Daniel nodded. "You know me, gotta go see what's over the hill."
"Sorta like the grass is always greener on the other side."
"Or the stars brighter."
"You remember this?"
God, how he wished he did remember. "No, I just… know I'd want to see it all."
"Well, obviously none of that meaning of life stuff stuck with you now that you've descended."
Daniel frowned, rubbed at a throbbing spot just above his right eyebrow, and looked at Jack.
"And your point is?"
"You were injured. How the hell can you blame yourself for what happened to me when you were suffering from an infected gunshot wound, dehydration and heat stroke?"
"That's just it!" Daniel fisted his hands and hit the mattress in anger. "How can I not blame myself? I didn't even have the brains to use the radio to see if Sam and Teal'c had survived the storm! All I knew is that we had to survive that sandstorm, pray that there weren't any more Jaffa out there, and keep you alive long enough to get you back to the Stargate. Somehow I became so single mindedly focused on saving you, I forgot everyone else, to the point that I couldn't even think of calling them for help!"
Daniel found himself sitting up in bed, not recalling the action. Jack pushed himself up, moving slowly and carefully, reminding Daniel that he also was still recovering from his injury.
"It happens that way sometimes, Daniel. You just get so focused on survival that everything else gets pushed aside."
Daniel threw back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His desire to stand was thwarted, though, when his thigh protested, telling him he needed to slowly stretch the healing leg before even attempting to put weight on it.
"It's never happened to me before," Daniel admitted, needing to stop this conversation before Jack got him to divulge his innermost fear. He looked longingly at his crutches, just out of his reach.
"It has to me."
Daniel turned to his lover in shock.
"It was on a mission, just before Charlie was born. Our platoon had been decimated, only five of us were alive, but all of us injured. We finally managed to hide ourselves until the enemy dispersed, then began making our way out of the jungle. It took us three days, we lost two of the team on the way back."
Jack's eyes had gone dark with the memory, his face paler than Daniel liked.
"From what I hear tell, we walked right through our camp, and would have kept right on going had the others not stopped us. We were so focused on getting out of the jungle, we'd forgotten that we were camped in there ourselves."
"It's not the same thing," Daniel finally said. He wrapped his arms around his waist, feeling cold, then promptly lowered them when the room spun, setting his hands on each side of his thighs for balance.
"What do you mean?"
"The people who were with you weren't… family."
"No, but they were teammates and friends. Kawalsky was one of the other two survivors."
Daniel thought over what Jack just told him, wondering if maybe his fears weren't justified, after all.
"Daniel? Are you thinking that what happened is because we're lovers?" He felt Jack's hand on his shoulder, felt the heat of it through the tee shirt on his chilled skin.
"I don't know." He debated continuing lying to Jack, but couldn't bring himself to do it. He looked at his hand, unable to face Jack as he admitted the truth. "Yes, I guess so."
"Shit." Jack shifted on the bed until he was sitting beside Daniel. He reached for Daniel, placing his palms just under his jaw, pulling gently until Daniel looked at Jack. "Don't, just don't. You did nothing, absolutely nothing wrong, and everything right. You got me out of there, you kept me alive, you made it to the 'gate and got help."
"You died." Daniel stared into Jack's eyes, looking for hope, for salvation, for forgiveness. All he saw was love and understanding. "Despite everything I did, you died."
"I'd have died several times over if not for you. First time from the gunshot wound in the ruins. You stopped the bleeding then. Fraiser said that in itself was a miracle. Then you got me under cover until that sandstorm blew over. I know what would have happened if you hadn't, Carter described what was left of the Jaffa who we didn't kill."
Daniel opened his mouth to protest, to say that he'd truly had no control over any of those things, but Jack silenced him with a thumb gently placed over his lips.
"Then despite a wound in your leg, you managed to drag me several miles over sand and heat under an unforgiving sun. You were suffering from heat stroke - you of all people should know how that can cause confusion. Plus you gave me all your water, and don't deny it," Jack quickly said when Daniel went to protest once more. "That much I remember."
Daniel's lips were partly open, and he couldn't resist flicking his tongue out, tasting Jack's thumb. Jack gently brushed the digit over Daniel's lips, the motion both soothing and painful as it irritated still healing skin.
"So without the water, Fraiser said I probably wouldn't have lasted long enough to make it to the Stargate in the heat because of the blood loss. Just that little bit you gave me was enough to keep me alive."
Daniel shook his head. This was all stuff he knew, and had kept telling himself over and over. But he was still confused. Jack's confession had him thinking maybe his obsession in getting Jack home hadn't been a weakness from fear of losing his lover as much as it was a survival trait.
"I didn't go through the Stargate. I don't remember… they told me I came back for you. I lost precious seconds, you were bleeding and if I could have gotten you help just a little sooner, you might not have… died."
"No." Jack took his hands away from Daniel's face and his skin suddenly felt cold without their heat and comfort. "I saw you come back and start down the dune. But you were at the end of your strength and you passed out before you could get to me. I should have known you'd gotten through, I should have trusted in you. Instead, I saw you go down and I foolishly tried to get to you. That was my fault, and mine alone."
Daniel closed his eyes to hide the pain Jack's words evoked. He'd done it again. He'd failed Jack. His collapse had been the cause of Jack's renewed bleeding. He'd thought all along that Jack had started bleeding without Daniel noticing, but it seemed he'd done everything right, up until the end.
"No," Jack repeated. "Don't. Danny, it wasn't you, and it wasn't me. We survived a hell of a situation. We're here now. Together. It's over." Jack placed an arm around Daniel's shoulder and pulled him close. Daniel allowed him to, leaning into Jack's warmth. He relished the feel of familiar arms holding him tight until Jack pulled back.
"Hey, it's past time for my meds, which means you missed yours, too. Let's get something to eat. And you need some Tylenol for that fever."
Daniel wasn't hungry, but when Jack handed him his crutches, he slowly followed him into the kitchen. Jack ordered Daniel to sit while he took out a plateful of sandwiches that had somehow miraculously appeared in Daniel's fridge. He wondered what else he'd missed while sleeping off the pain meds today.
He obediently ate the tasteless sandwich that was placed before him, along with the juice. He took the pills Jack placed beside his plate, not even glancing at them, trusting Jack to know which ones he needed. He wondered vaguely where he'd left his glasses, but decided it didn't matter. He'd gotten used to the blurriness over the past day or three.
Jack suggested they go relax and watch a movie and Daniel followed uncomplainingly. When Jack handed him his glasses, he took them and put them on, not asking where he'd found them. They sat side by side on his couch, Daniel's leg elevated on the coffee table before him, Jack leaning against Daniel. They stayed that way until Daniel shivered, and Jack reached for one of the blankets neatly folded on the coffee table and spread it over Daniel. He didn't reclaim his original position, though. Complaining about the pain in his side, he stretched out on the far side of the couch, shoving his feet between Daniel's back and the couch cushions.
They watched the movie Master and Commander but it couldn't hold Daniel's attention. His mind kept whirling over everything he'd done during their ordeal, and even with the new information Jack had imparted, Daniel still found himself coming up short.
But the more he thought on Jack's words, the more sense they made. Daniel realized he had done all that he could, mainly - he had managed to keep Jack alive. But at the very last, he should have gone through the wormhole and sent help back. Instead, his physical weakness had been the cause of Jack's suffering. All this time, he'd been blaming himself for failing to get Jack back to the SGC before he bled to death or they ran out of water… that he'd been so single mindedly trying to save the man he loved, that all his training and reasoning had been pushed aside in his obsession to get Jack home.
But Daniel had been sick himself, everyone had been telling him that. But for some reason, he hadn't believed them then... somehow he'd needed Jack to convince him, and yes, Daniel knew, heat stroke could certainly have accounted for his odd behaviour. Finally, after a week's worth of soul searching, Daniel finally accepted the fact that he wasn't to blame. He felt like a weight had been taken from his shoulders despite the heaviness of his body and the pain in his head and leg.
He rubbed a hand over his face, realizing he was hot, thirsty and needed to pee.
The movie had long ended, the DVD's screen saver was blazing on the television when Daniel turned to Jack to tell him what he'd just discovered. He began speaking Jack's name, a smile on his face, when he realized Jack was fast asleep.
Moving slowly, partly so he wouldn't wake the slumbering man and partly because his leg was hurting, Daniel lowered his feet to the floor and leaned over, watching Jack sleep. Lines of pain that Daniel didn't remember seeing before were evident on Jack's face. He was still pale, but he had more colour than Daniel remembered seeing when Jack had been lying in the infirmary. There were still dark shadows beneath Jack's eyes which were enhanced by the dim light in the room. Daniel hoped rest and relaxation would help them fade away. His bladder reminded him he needed to go and he reached for his crutches and, ignoring the pain in his leg at the shift of position, made his way to the bathroom.
As he stood washing his hands, he raised his eyes to the mirror and was startled to see red rimmed eyes staring back at him in a pale, unkempt face. The skin was still red and peeling, itchy and sensitive, which was part of the reason he hadn't shaved in the past days. He acknowledged that he looked worse than Jack did at the moment. He dried his hands and as he hobbled back to the living room, he debated whether he needed to take another pain killer.
By the time he reached the living room, his leg was burning. That pain killer was sounding better all the time. Recalling that Jack had had the meds in the kitchen, he turned and headed for that room. He found the stash of pill bottles on the kitchen table and with shaking hands, he went through them until he found the one he wanted. He double checked the name and content before tipping one into his palm.
He turned to the sink and held a glass of water beneath the flowing stream. As he lifted the glass to his mouth, it suddenly slipped out of his fingers and crashed to the floor.
- - - - - -
The tinkle of breaking glass woke Jack and he wondered if someone had thrown something through a window. He listened carefully and hearing soft cursing along with water running in the kitchen, he realized that Daniel must have broken something.
"You okay in there?" he called out as he struggled to sit up. He sat on the couch's edge, knowing from experience he needed to wait a few seconds before standing up.
"I'm fine. I just broke a glass."
"Did you cut yourself?" Jack asked as he moved as quickly as he could into the kitchen.
"No. I just made a hell of a mess."
Daniel was standing near the sink with water and broken glass all around his bare feet.
"Stay right there," Jack ordered. He grabbed a roll of paper towels and with a grunt, slowly lowered himself to his knees. He cleared a path for Daniel, making sure there were no pieces of glass before he allowed him to move.
Daniel returned with a dustpan and he handed it to Jack before pulling a chair and sitting heavily in it. Jack picked up all the large pieces of glass, then went carefully over the area several times until he was confident there weren't any slivers left.
Getting up from the floor was harder than he'd expected and he had to hang onto the counter for a moment before straightening up. When he turned to look at Daniel, he saw that he had his head in his hands, his elbows leaning against the kitchen table.
Jack quickly disposed of the broken glass, then moved to stand beside Daniel. He placed a hand to his neck, feeling the burn of fever on his skin. He moved to the sink and got some more water, sliding the glass before Daniel.
"Just being my usual klutz," Daniel answered as he opened his palm, revealing a blue capsule. "I wanted to take this and dropped the glass."
"Yeah. Jack, I—"
"Take some of these with that." Jack pushed the Tylenol towards Daniel. "Wait! Let me take your temperature first."
Jack got the thermometer, and as Daniel went to speak again, Jack stuck it into his mouth, feeling bad about cutting Daniel's words off but not wanting to listen to him spout 'I'm fine' when he obviously wasn't.
They sat quietly, Daniel with his head lowered, Jack playing a tune on the table with his thumbs until the thermometer registered a fever that was nearly 102. Jack pushed the water and pills towards Daniel.
"You were right," Daniel said as he opened the bottle of Tylenol.
"I usually am," Jack teased as he stood and stepped behind Daniel, placing a hand on his nape and hating the feel of the warm, dry heat against his fingers. He ignored the look Daniel threw at him. "I'm gonna go call Fraiser." He moved toward the phone.
"Why?" Daniel's voice was shrill and when Jack turned back towards him, he had a confused look on his face.
"You're still feverish, and that's probably a sign of infection. I'll rest easier if she's aware that you're sick."
"I'm not sick," Daniel said, tossing back the painkiller and the Tylenol.
Jack turned his back to Daniel for a moment, trying not to smile at the almost pout on Daniel's face. He waited patiently for the nurse who'd answered to contact a doctor. He tapped his fingers on the counter, watching Daniel play with the pill bottles. After several long minutes, the nurse returned and informed him that there was an emergency in the infirmary and none of the medical personnel were available to come to the phone. He left a message, stating that Daniel had a temperature and for Fraiser or Warner to call if they thought it necessary.
"They're all busy." He scratched his scalp, wishing he could remember which SG teams had been out in the field and which had been due to return. He'd been out of the loop for too long, he had no idea who could have warranted the emergency.
Daniel was still nervously playing with the medication bottles, but Jack could see how his fingers trembled.
"How about we hit the hay? It didn't sound like anybody would be calling back in the next couple of minutes." He held the crutches for Daniel until he balanced them under his arms and as Daniel headed for the bedroom, Jack turned off the lights in the house.
"You got cream for that?" Jack asked as Daniel sat on the bed, fingers rubbing at the peeling skin on his nose.
"In the bathroom."
Jack found the cream and tossed it to Daniel as he climbed in beside him. As Daniel spread the stuff over his face and his hands, Jack turned made sure the phone was next to the bed.
It was with relief as he stretched out his length on the bed. Daniel was restless, and Jack figured it was from discomfort. Once the pill kicked in, Jack was sure he'd begin to relax. He kept an eye on the clock, lying quietly while Daniel tossed and turned.
Finally after thirty minutes of watching Daniel suffer, Jack reached over, placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and asked, "Do you need something stronger?" He felt Daniel startle under his hand and kept contact with Daniel's arm as he turned to face Jack.
"Am I keeping you awake? Sorry, I'll go sleep in the other room." As Daniel went to sit up, Jack tightened his hold on Daniel, preventing him from rising.
"No, it's fine. I'm just a little worried about you."
"I'm okay, I just… "
"Your leg hurts?"
"And my head", Daniel admitted.
"Probably," Daniel said, rubbing at his face with both hands.
"Here, let's try this." Jack shifted his body tentatively towards Daniel, spooning up against him while ignoring the pull in his side. He curled an arm around Daniel's waist and snuggled his chin against the back of Daniel's neck. By the feel of the tense muscles lying against him, Jack could tell how badly the other man was feeling. Daniel took hold of Jack's hand and pulled it up towards his chest, holding it tight.
"If that pill doesn't kick-in in fifteen minutes, I'll give you a second dose." He felt Daniel nod. They lay quietly for a few minutes until Daniel pulled away.
Hating to admit it, Jack was relieved and rolled onto his back. His side had been aching from the position, and Daniel's body was like a furnace. Daniel shifted around, pushing the covers aside and turned until he lay facing Jack. He blinked and even in the dim light, Jack could see the exhaustion in his face. He reached for Jack's hand, seeming to need the physical contact.
"I did my best out there to try and get you home." Daniel's voice was soft, and the hand clutching Jack's tightened perceptively.
"But I admit that I was sick at the end, and I'm sorry I ended up making a mistake."
"You couldn't help it."
"I know that now. I just… wanted to say I'm sorry for having… honestly, I don't remember what happened, it's all a blur."
Jack smiled at Daniel, relieved to hear that maybe Daniel was getting over the events of that disastrous mission.
"So… we're good?" Daniel's tentative question nearly broke Jack's heart.
"Yeah, we're good. We always were, Danny." Jack moved a little closer, stroking Daniel's cheek.
"Damn, I love you, you know that?"
"Every time you admit that I'm right."
Daniel snorted, and shifted closer to Jack. He continued holding onto Jack's hand, and after a moment or two, as Jack watched, Daniel's eyelids drifted shut.
- - - - - -
The sound of running water woke Jack, and he turned to see an empty bed. The partially closed bathroom door muffled the sound of the water, but not the light which shone through.
"Daniel, you okay?" Jack called out after a minute.
The water turned off, and Daniel limped into the bedroom. Naked.
"I'm fine, just a little wet." He made his way to the bureau and removed a pair of sweats. Jack shifted, watching him as he made his way to the bed.
"I think my fever broke."
He sat on the edge of the bed and as he carefully threaded the pants over his injured leg, Jack placed a hand on Daniel's bare back. His skin was damp, still sweating freely, but thankfully much cooler than before. Daniel finished putting on the pants and slid under the covers. He shivered a little before laying his length against Jack.
"How's the leg?" Jack asked as he pulled the blankets over them.
"Better." He snuggled closer, his stubble scratching at Jack's neck.
Daniel fell asleep in moments, leaving Jack with an armful of sweating, snoring archeologist.
For the first time since he'd woken up in the infirmary and noted Daniel's subdued behaviour, Jack was able to fully relax. The next thing he knew was the sound of clattering dishes followed by a soft curse.
"Wha?" He turned, blinking the sleep out of his eyes, and saw Daniel leaning by the bed, attempting to position a large tray on the bedside table.
"Sorry." Daniel managed to shove the tray onto the table despite the lamp, alarm clock and journals sitting on it. "There. Breakfast," Daniel declared, turning to Jack with a grin. The aroma of fried bacon tantalized Jack as he sat up, careful of the pulling stitches in his side. "I've got coffee, I just need to—" Daniel waved towards the kitchen and as he half hopped, half limped towards the door, Jack bellowed at him.
"For crying out loud, Fraiser said to stay off your leg. You've been walking on that bum leg since I've gotten here."
His words stopped Daniel and he turned to look at Jack. He hated the hurt expression he'd just put on Daniel's face as he slid out of bed. "I'll get the coffee, as soon as I take a piss." Jack pointed to the bed. "You, you get your ass back into bed." Jack hurried to the bathroom, his stomach protesting its hunger. When he left the bedroom to get the coffee, he yelled over his shoulder, "And don't you start without me."
He poured the coffee and sneaked a sip as he walked down the hall. That Daniel had made breakfast, despite evidence that the bacon had been cooked in the microwave and the eggs boiled, all proof that Daniel had done as much as he could without needing to stand for long periods, was still testament that Daniel must be feeling better.
Jack handed Daniel his coffee and while he was busy taking his first sip, Jack touched the back of his knuckles to Daniel's cheeks and forehead.
"Well?" he asked, glancing at Jack over the top of his glasses.
"Fever's still down." Jack handed Daniel a plate and took the other for himself, then tossed the handful of pill bottles Daniel had placed onto the tray into the center of the bed. He'd sort through those later, after they'd eaten.
- - - - - -
The doorbell roused Jack from a half doze, and he reluctantly moved from where he'd been comfortably lying on the couch, his head in Daniel's lap. Daniel had obviously been sleeping also as he was blinking a little dazedly as Jack sat up.
"Stay put," Jack ordered as he walked to the front door.
"Doc?" Jack questioned as he opened the door to the base's CMO. She looked tired as she smiled at him. He stepped back to allow her entrance into the house.
"Sir. I'm sorry, it was a madhouse last night. Two teams came in with severely wounded and I only got your message about Daniel an hour ago." She walked into the hall towards the living room at Jack's invitation. "So I thought I'd stop by on my way home instead of calling."
"Two teams… not—"
No, not SG3. As far as I know, Sam and Teal'c are still safe and due back tomorrow."
"Hi Daniel. How are you feeling?" she asked as she hurried to sit beside him. She placed her doctor's bag, which Jack had missed noting upon her entrance, on the coffee table.
"His fever broke last night," Jack explained, standing and leaning against the wall as he watched Fraiser check Daniel out. "He's had a good breakfast, he's taken his meds, and we both napped."
"Did I wake you two? Sorry." She smiled apologetically at Jack before turning her attention back to Daniel.
Jack rubbed the back of his neck, not feeling quite awake yet while she examined Daniel. When she finished, Fraiser seemed satisfied with Daniel's prognosis, but Jack felt himself paling when she turned that assessing look towards him. With a sigh, he sat down beside Daniel and patiently waited while she checked his vitals.
"Everything's fine now," she declared, putting her instruments away. "Daniel still has a low grade fever, and if it persists, let me know and I'll arrange to have him taken to the infirmary tomorrow. We'll need to do tests and possibly change his meds." She gave Daniel an apprising look. "You *have* been taking the antibiotics as scheduled, haven't you?"
To his credit, Daniel blushed. "I, um, might have missed a dose or two," he admitted as he suddenly seemed to find the weave of his pants interesting.
Fraiser simply shook her head, gathered up her bag, and patted his knee. "Call the infirmary tomorrow morning and let us know your status."
"I will." Daniel smiled at her as she got up.
"I'll let myself out." She gave them both a tired smile. "Bye."
"Why do I feel like I escaped being dragged to the infirmary by the skin of my teeth just now?" Daniel laid his head back on the couch, his fingers slowly massaging his injured thigh.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe because you didn't follow doctor's orders?" Jack eyed Daniel's lap with regret before sliding against the opposite side of the couch. He bent his knees, tucking his toes beneath Daniel's butt.
"I thought I was. Then, I mean, when I was home alone. But the days are blurred together and I really don't have much of a recollection of what I was doing or what I was thinking."
"I know. I think we didn't realize it at the time, but you were in shock."
"Maybe I was. I realize that now, just like I know I did all I could for you back on the planet."
"That's all one expects, Daniel. To do the best you can with what you've got. And since I've got you, I have no worries." He nudged Daniel with his toes, emphasizing his words.
"Be afraid, Jack. Be very afraid," Daniel laughed as he reached for Jack's feet.
Author's Comments: Thanks to Moona for the Arabic translation, Noelia for the Greek and Portuguese, and to Gar for offering to go look up 100 in Russian, until I was able to remember it myself.
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