Spilled Blood by JoaG

"Daniel! Doctor Jackson. Doctor Lee. You have to see this."

The excitement in Tobias Johnstone's voice was unmistakable. Daniel glanced at his companion, then frowned down at the remaining artifacts spread out before them on the table, waiting to be examined, catalogued and packed. He reached for his radio, which he'd earlier placed on the table along with his vest and shirt due to the planet's heat and humidity. "What is it, Toby?"

"You have to come and see. It's incredible."

Daniel sighed at the young man's enthusiasm. "Toby, we don't have time for this. We need to get everything packed and ready to ship back to the SGC by tomorrow."

"Doctor Jackson, believe me. You need to see this. Just follow the river past the waterfall and head east. You won't regret this."

"Go ahead, Daniel." Bill Lee picked up a small pottery item and began inspecting it. "You never know. Tobias might have discovered something interesting after all." He grinned up at Daniel, and they both smiled at the memories of the younger archaeologist's bumbling efforts to make himself useful. This being his first trip offworld, he was a mass of nerves but despite his awkwardness and slight clumsiness, his enthusiasm made up for whatever he knocked over or overlooked. They both agreed, though, that with time and experience, Tobias would be a welcome addition to any team.

Daniel pulled his shirt on and grabbed his vest and utility belt, making sure he had water and his radio before he signalled Captain Gonzalez, the person assigned to accompany him whenever he stepped away from the safety of the main compound.

The archaeological and geological teams had been here for nearly twelve days. Their missions: to assess the area to see if there were any signs of ancient technology amongst the ruins found near the Stargate, and to seek out the origin of the mineral traces found in the fast-flowing river. So far, neither had led to any potential leads.

"What's up?" Captain Dolores Gonzalez strolled up to Daniel, flashing a quick smile his way.

Daniel smiled back as he explained where they needed to go. She quickly informed her superior and they set off through the thick growth, following Tobias Johnstone's instructions.

It took them close to an hour before Daniel found Tobias. He glanced around, wondering where Major Clark was.

"Oh, I didn't wait for my shadow," Tobias explained before Daniel could ask. "The guy gets on my nerves, always telling me to be careful."

"You sneaked off? Toby, there's a reason for—"

"You don't really need her." He waved in Dolores' direction. "You've got more experience travelling through the Stargate than she has."

Daniel sighed in exasperation. "Yes, I do. But when I'm busy working, I need someone to watch my back so I can put all my attention in what I'm doing. Look, we're going to have to talk about this. This isn't the first time you—"

"Daniel. Would you please shu... just look."

Opening his mouth to retort back, Daniel saw the wide grin on Tobias' freckled face. With an apologetic look at Dolores, he turned to check out what Tobias was pointing at. For a moment there were only trees and branches, and then he saw them.


"Oh my God." Daniel quickly moved amongst the trees, the scaffoldings bearing bodies cleverly constructed amongst the lower branches. Most contained skeletal remains, with scraps of cloth fluttering idly in the wind. There were a few relics up there with the bones, and attached to each tree was a carving, reminiscent of a totem pole, barely two feet long.

"What do you think this is?" Dolores moved closer to one of the carvings, but Daniel caught her hand before she could touch it.

"It could be booby trapped or poisoned," he warned, seeing small spikes carved in the otherwise smooth wood.

"It's ancient," Tobias argued. "And it's not booby trapped, and if it's poisoned, then it's slow acting, because I feel fine."

Daniel felt himself stiffen in annoyance at the young man's carelessness. Was this how Jack felt whenever he thought Daniel did something he didn't agree with and considered reckless? At least Daniel knew what he was doing most of the time, and didn't go touching everything in sight.

Well, at least not all of the time, he admitted. Or without backup in sight. He reined in his mounting anger. Toby was more than competent; he was just overly passionate and needed to learn restraint. Like Daniel had. The thought surprised him; he figured he had Jack to blame for that.

Keeping control of his temper, Daniel walked past several more graves, noting all of them bore the carvings.

"These could be indicative of a family tree," he said to himself, aware of Dolores following him, gun held at the ready. They knew from the vast amount of artifacts found that there was, or had been, people living here; but up until now they hadn't encountered anyone.

Well, anyone alive, that was.

"Or if this is some type of writing, they could be epitaphs, or prayers to spirits or gods. I don't recognize the symbols, although this one," he pointed to something that looked like a mix between the face of a fox and a bird, "was on another one back there." He moved on to look at several other carvings, noting more similarities.

"Doctor Jackson?"

He quickly looked up at Dolores' awed voice. And stopped dead in his tracks.

There were hundreds of dead in the trees.

"Um, Daniel?"

He turned around, noting Tobias was backing away slowly from one of the scaffoldings. Daniel moved forward, curious.

"That one's pretty recent." Tobias shivered convulsively, looking a little green. Daniel advanced closer, the familiar scent of death making him swallow, then hold his breath. Tobias was right; this man couldn't have been placed here more than a week ago. Alarm suddenly made him snap at his companions.

"We need to get back to camp. Now."

"Sir?" Dolores quickly caught up with Daniel, who had a hand on Tobias shoulder and was pushing him in front of him.

"That dead guy back there was buried very recently. That means there are people here, now, and there's a good chance they know we're here."

"Buried implies being placed beneath the soil. These people aren't—"

"Toby." Daniel gritted his teeth together for a moment, then pushed the man forward once more when he slowed down. "We're in their graveyard; we don't know how they feel about us disturbing the dead and we don't know how many of them there could be. Only one of us is armed, so this is definitely not a good position for us to be in. We're just going to keep walking, and not look back." He gave a final push at the man who was beginning to slow once more. "Understood?"

"Yeah, I understand." Tobias came to a stop, and refused to move forward when Daniel shoved him again. "But maybe they don't."

Cursing silently, Daniel became aware of the dozens of men who stepped out from behind the trees before them. Darkly tanned, their bodies hard and muscular, they wore nothing but a few pieces of jewellery, and a loincloth. They carried spears and knives, and a few had spectacular scars which had been decorated with some sort of red paint.

They looked primitive, but Daniel recalled the Nox. Appearances could be deceiving. Still, he took no chances.

In a casual move, Daniel pushed the tip of Captain Dolores Ramirez's gun towards the ground. "We're outnumbered," he said softly as he stepped forward to stand in front of his two companions.

"Hello." He spread his arms out to the side. "I'm Daniel Jackson." He quickly introduced his two companions, all the while searching the faces of the people for signs of comprehension, and maybe try and figure out which one was their leader.

"I'm sorry, I hope we haven't intruded." He waved at the corpse to his right. "We were just looking around, we haven't disturbed anything." The men continued to stand wordlessly; not quite threatening, but not showing signs of comprehension, anger, or friendliness. So Daniel took a step forward. "You guys should have come over and said hi. We've been wondering if anyone lived in the area. We have plenty of MREs to go around." He smiled, then looked around at the dispassionate faces staring at him.

"O-kay." He shrugged at Dolores, who had brought her gun back up but wasn't quite aiming at any one person.

"Food. We have food, Daniel," Tobias whispered in an undertone. "These people don't know what MREs are."

"For crying... Toby, they obviously don't understand what I'm saying, so what difference does it make?"

Daniel fished two fingers into a vest pocket and pulled out a chocolate bar. "How about some *food*?" It was half melted due to the heat and was difficult to open, but he managed to finally pull the wrapping to expose the dark goo inside. He held it up in his palm as an offering.

He spied movement off to his side and saw one of the men make a chopping motion with his hand. Several pinpricks of pain assailed him along his arms and legs, and suddenly his legs no longer had the strength to hold him up. He felt himself going down and tried to put his hands out to stop his fall.

But his arms wouldn't obey and he hit the ground hard, jarring his hip and shoulder. He couldn't move and the sickening smell of warm chocolate wafted into his nose.

He couldn't see anything but feet and grass. For a moment he expected Toby or Dolores to come to his aid, but when they didn't, he listlessly figured they probably had been drugged also.

Hands pulled at him, turning him onto his back. He could see a long, thin needle poking out of his outstretched arm, and even as he stared at it, brown, hairy fingers plucked it, leaving a small drop of blood marking where it had been.

How many had he been hit with? Were they deadly?

He heard voices, the language unfamiliar. He tried to listen to the cadence, to distinguish words from the flowing sounds, but the voices grew fainter and drifted into the far distance as his vision faded first to grey, then to black.

- - - - - -

Daniel's arm felt like it was being pulled out of its socket. He managed to open his eyes, only to get a quick glimpse of everyone – archaeologist, geologists and SG-8, trussed up and unconscious, appearing to have been dumped carelessly into the far end of the large communal tent.

He blinked, his brain sluggish, and tried to remember what had happened, when he realized he was moving away from everyone. Which explained the pain in his arm – the other one dragged along the ground, numb, like the rest of his body.

Well, not exactly numb, he amended dully when he was pulled out of the tent and across some prickly plants. His arm and hand burned from where they'd rubbed against the vegetation. More like his body wouldn't obey his commands. A hairy brown leg attached to a bare foot repeatedly came into his field of vision every few seconds, and he came to the conclusion it belonged to the person dragging him.

Other than the foot, rocks and grass, Daniel's vision was very limited. His head hung helplessly, and he could feel his body pulled over stones and plants. He was very thankful he was wearing his boots, but he hoped they stopped soon because at this rate, his clothes would soon be in shreds.

The angle of the land changed and he felt himself pulled uphill. After a minute, he could see below him and fear finally caught up with him. There were dozens of nearly naked men and women following; all of them wearing thin scraps of leather across their groins, all of them bare-chested, including the women.

And they were heading for the Stargate, which was situated at the top of the only hill in the immediate vicinity.

The hand that held his arm in a vice let him go. The familiar edge of the Stargate was evident just a few feet away. Maybe it was the adrenaline now coursing through his body, or maybe the drug was starting to wear off, but Daniel managed to bring his arm down from where it rested above his head. After taking a deep breath, he turned onto his side.

And found himself staring straight into Tobias' too-pale, wide-eyed visage.

"Toby?" Daniel finally managed to force the words from strangely tingling lips and tongue. He reached out a numb hand towards his friend, only to realize it was too late. Tobias' neck had been cut open, his clothes drenched with blood.

It had been a ritualistic offering, there was no mistaking the arrangement of Tobias' body and the blood splattered around the Stargate.

Still, Daniel touched the cooling flesh, felt for a pulse despite the certainty that he wouldn't find one. Then he lay back, tired from the small exertion. He felt oddly withdrawn, and knew he'd probably feel Tobias' loss later, when his brain caught up with the rest of his body.

He knew this whole situation boded ill for himself and for the others down in camp. He needed to try and do something, considering he was the only one who wasn't tied up.

He was slowly getting control of his body back, but the drug was still affecting his system. He turned his head to look at the DHD beside him. Would he have the time to get to it and dial the SGC and call for help? He doubted it, but it was still worth a try. Not only to try and save his own life, but for the lives of the eight men and women who would probably be needlessly killed after himself.

Slowly he got up onto his hands and knees, trying to ignore the way the ground seemed to keep tilting to the left. He got one foot up, wondering why his captors were ignoring him. But as he tried to push himself up onto his feet, he was assailed by vertigo so bad that he tumbled back onto the grass. Eyes tightly shut, he raised his hands and dug his palms into his eyeballs, only vaguely registering that he'd lost his glasses somewhere along the way.

He lay there fighting the nausea until he heard the swish of bare feet in grass coming towards him. He forced his eyes open, then struggled weakly against the hands that held him down. Expecting a knife, he was surprised to see a small wooden cup come towards him. An elderly woman leaned over him, wrinkled brown breasts drooping obscenely close to his face.

Despite her age, her fingers were like small pliers as she forced his jaw open with one hand. Deftly pouring whatever was in the cup into his mouth, she shoved his jaw closed and held it shut while covering his nose.

Whatever it was, it had no taste, but Daniel was pretty sure it wasn't something as innocuous as plain water. He tried to hold off from swallowing but the contents in his mouth soon doubled with accumulated saliva. He had no choice but to finally swallow so he could breathe through clenched teeth. Only then did she let him go.

Taking quick, deep breaths, Daniel fought to get up, despite the men who continued to hold him down. Finally realizing he was tiring himself out, he stopped struggling.

"Please, there's no need to do this." He tried meeting the gaze of his captors but none were paying attention to him, their interest lying in something behind him. He tried several more languages, finally quieting when a shadow fell over his face.

He was suddenly aware of the absence of voices. The wind rustled a few leaves, a bird cheeped close by. Jewellery of some sort clinked and Daniel arched his neck to view the person standing behind him.

Bits of bones and colourful stones were draped around the man's chest and arms, adorning most of his upper body. Tiny decorative pieces were braided into his hair. The sun shone on these ornaments, creating small prisms as the wind tossed his hair about. More decorations were tied around his thighs, ankles and biceps, making the tinkling sounds Daniel had heard earlier.

This was a shaman, Daniel decided, as the man began chanting in a sing-song voice, raising his hands towards the sky. The chant changed into a wail and the man began a peculiar dance. The noise of the bones as he moved made a strange accompaniment to his song, and would have been extremely interesting had Daniel not been in this predicament. He continued dancing and wailing, circling several times, till he came to a stop once more before Daniel's head.

In a quick move, the man bent down and pushing aside Daniel's open vest, sliced Daniel's tee shirt from just below the neck to his abdomen. The flint knife caught Daniel's skin, slicing shallowly down his chest. He continued slicing through the cloth in that manner, the men rolling Daniel onto one side, then the other. He also cut away at Daniel's vest, having a more difficult time to slice through the tough material. He cut into Daniel each time, small nicks or slices which bled freely. Obviously the idea wasn't to get rid of Daniel's clothes; it was to shred it to pieces.

Finally satisfied when everything hung in long tatters, the shaman raised the now bloody knife and held it to the sky.

Several women slowly approached, each adorned with a simple circlet around one ankle and one wrist. The decorations chimed as they moved, lithe and sinuous, their movements timed to some odd, internal song.

Then before Daniel had a chance to see it coming, the women knelt between his captors and struck him with large bundles of reeds. They were sharp, sharp enough to cut through the remnants of his thick vest and his pants, piercing his skin, all over his chest, his arms, his legs.

The cuts were tiny, but deep. Multiple round, bloody marks appeared wherever they struck him, the blood quickly pooling, then running down his body. He yelled, trying once again to get free, but he could feel the hands holding him down, bruising his skin as the men strained to keep him still. The women relentlessly struck him, until soon it felt like there wasn't an inch of his body that hadn't been pricked or nicked. Sweat dripped into the wounds, adding the burn of salt to the pain of the cuts.

He was forced onto his feet and dragged to the DHD. For a moment he thought they were letting him go, until a bristly vine was wrapped around his wrists, digging into already battered skin, and he was pushed to lie against the glyphs. The hot metal burned and he tried to pull away, but he was pushed down regardless. His arms were pulled apart, as were his legs, which were also soon tied around the DHD.

The women attacked his back, his buttocks and the back of his legs. He struggled and received a blow to the side of his head. He collapsed while the world spun dizzily around him and his ears rang noisily. His knees buckled and he slid down the DHD, only to come to a halt when the ropes dug painfully into his wrists. He hung there, his shoulders burning, one more than the other from its earlier mistreatment, his cheek lying against a sticky substance, while he tried not to pass out.

The sun beat down on his back, which was wet with sweat and blood. When the world finally stopped spinning an eternity later, he realized he'd been left alone. Daniel struggled back onto his feet to take the pressure off his shoulders. He was tied securely to the DHD, forced to lie over it, with only a bit of rope allowing him minimal movement.

He managed to raise his head and saw blood pooling from his wounds onto the various glyphs. He knew the cuts weren't deep, they weren't life threatening; they'd stop bleeding soon. He pulled his attention from himself and turned towards the Stargate. The shaman was kneeling before it and making some kind of appeal to it. Everyone else was standing around it and him, making small sounds in answer to the shaman's prayer.

Two of the glyphs on the Stargate were lit, having been depressed as he'd struggled to get to his feet. They winked out, the machine automatically turning itself off after a set amount of time. Which gave Daniel an idea.

He pulled away farther from the glyphs, trying to get a good look at them, as much as the ropes would allow him. He was appalled at the amount of blood that now covered them. He looked at his arm and saw that each small pinprick continued to bleed. Not life threatening, no, but if he continued bleeding in this manner, it might soon be.

Why was there so much blood?

He shifted on his feet, his pant legs shifting wetly against his skin, abrading the tender flesh. The first glyph was close to his hand, and he depressed it. He glanced back at the Stargate and no one reacted to it lighting up.

The second glyph was near the bottom and Daniel couldn't reach it with his hands. He tried to raise his knee, but the ropes wouldn't allow him the leeway. Instead he reached with his elbow, and just barely managed to press it down.

The third and fourth he got with his hands, the fifth, with his knee. The sixth, with his jaw. Finally he reached for the seventh with his right hand, double checked all the glyphs and looked back towards the Stargate.

He was feeling extremely light headed and wondered if he could have lost enough blood already to cause this. His arms, torso and legs were covered with blood, and his back was probably just as bad. He shivered, the air no longer feeling hot.

The people continued to stand before the lit Stargate, as if they were unaware of the danger they were in. Maybe they didn't know what the Stargate was. But if Daniel depressed the center crystal, a good dozen of them were in danger of being killed by the backwash. But if Daniel hesitated any longer, he might not get another chance to dial out.

It was either him, or them. Jaw clenched, he made his decision.

- - - - - -

"Unauthorized incoming wormhole."

Jack stopped, halfway out of Hammond's office, then seeing the general hurry out from behind his desk, Jack quickly made his way towards the stairs. He stood aside, allowed General Hammond to take the lead, and followed him down the stairs and into the control room. They took up a stance behind the technician's chair, waiting for the wormhole to stabilize.

"There's no GDO code," Davis said after several seconds.

Carter came running in and, glancing at the computer readouts, sat down next to Davis and began typing several commands.

"Gate diagnostics show everything running smoothly," she announced as the results showed up on the screen.

"Ja—" The voice died off, and the familiar sound of throat clearing filled the room's speakers. "General Hammond."

"That's Daniel," Jack blurted needlessly.

"Attacked... one dead... need help—"

There was silence, then the Stargate deactivated.

"Dial the planet!" Jack yelled a split second before Hammond gave the same order. Never wondering how Davis could remember all the gate addresses, Jack stared at the spinning 'gate, willing it to hurry.

"Can you activate the MALP?" Hammond asked Davis once they'd established a wormhole. Seconds later, the cameras came on, showing nothing but greenery and the empty camp several hundred feet away, down at the bottom of a hill. Everything looked peaceful, except for the lack of people anywhere.

"Daniel, can you hear me? How many hostiles? What's your status?" Jack leaned forward, willing Daniel to hurry up and give them the necessary intel.

"Scan the area."

Davis quickly did as Hammond ordered, the view changing as the MALP began to turn. The shimmering blue puddle of the wormhole came into view as well as several smoking objects on the ground nearby.

There was a long silence from Daniel's end, before he spoke up. His voice was slurred and weak, gasping for breath. "Primitives. Dozens. Took us down with blow darts."

"Daniel, are you hurt?" Fear began to churn in Jack's gut, sour and heavy. Daniel didn't sound right. Something had happened to him. "Daniel," he demanded.

He was answered with silence.

"What's that?" Carter asked, pointing to a dark lump off to the right. The camera zoomed in and they immediately saw it was a body. Red hair was its only identifier but Jack felt a surge of relief knowing it wasn't Daniel. He immediately felt guilty, but pushed that emotion back, trying to concentrate on what they were seeing, and what they couldn't.

The MALP continued to pan, and the DHD came into view. Carter gasped and Jack's heart lurched at the sight of the blood-drenched body lying atop the DHD, as if he were hugging it. There was blood on the ground... lots of blood. Then the MALP continued to turn and they all saw Daniel's pain-filled visage. His eyes were closed, his face slack as his body slowly sank towards the ground, only to come up short as ropes held him upright.

"Sir, permission to—"


Jack was out the door, Carter on her feet right behind him, both already running down the stairs as Hammond issued orders for SGs 6 and 10 to report to the 'gateroom. Jack met Teal'c on his way to the armoury and he simply told him to follow.

"Daniel's in trouble," Jack told Teal'c as he handed his teammates vests and weapons. They all pocketed several grenades and extra clips and returned to the 'gateroom at a run.

Jack shrugged the utility vest on, then checked his P-90 as he stood at the base of the ramp. He slammed a clip home, then attached the gun to the chest sling. When all were ready, he gazed up at Hammond, who was double checking the MALP's telemetry.

"It's still clear. I have two teams following right behind you, as well as a medical team on its way. You have a go."

Jack gave Hammond a two-fingered salute, showing his understanding before he turned and ran up the ramp. Just as he stepped into the wormhole, the multiple sounds of pounding feet echoed into the room.

He stepped out of the wormhole into bright sunshine. The heat and humidity hit him, as well as the scent of fresh blood and charred flesh. There was blood spread all around the Stargate, and Jack immediately deduced it came from the person lying close by. Six pairs of ankles and feet smouldered, the bodies belonging to the feet having been evaporated by the backlash of the wormhole.

Daniel's doing?

While Carter headed straight to the injured person, Jack did a quick visual of the immediate area for hostiles.

There was nobody around. Except for Daniel.

"It's Tobias Johnstone. He's dead." Carter moved to flank Jack on his right, Teal'c on his left as they all cautiously approached the DHD. Jack wanted nothing more than to run down and cut Daniel down. Instead, he watched the bushes for any signs of life. Daniel had said there had been a few dozen, but there was no sign of life now. Maybe they'd been scared off when their brethren were killed by the Stargate's activation?

With Carter and Teal'c on the lookout, Jack turned his attention to Daniel. His clothes were torn and saturated with blood, with much of it pooling around his feet. With fear at what he would find, Jack reached a shaking hand to check Daniel's pulse. His skin was cool and clammy, his pulse beating fast and weak. Jack quickly grasped the rope, intending to cut Daniel down.

"Colonel O'Neill."

Jack jumped, then turned and saw SGs 6 and 10 approaching, Major Hawkins in the lead. Jack waved them down the hill, towards the camp, ordering caution. The puddle shifted as three more personnel stepped through and Jack recognized Fraiser's petite form as she stopped to assess the situation. The Stargate winked out behind her and her people.

With backup now in place, Jack motioned to Teal'c to cut Daniel's bindings as he placed his hands under Daniel's shoulders, taking his weight and holding him. Daniel sagged as he was released and Jack lowered Daniel down, onto his side. The damage to his body was evident now as his torn clothing slipped, exposing his injured flesh.

Daniel moaned and opened his eyes, looking around dazedly. Carter leaned over and placed a hand to Daniel's face, wiping at smears of blood on his cheeks. She smiled gently at him when Daniel met her gaze. "You're safe," she said simply.

It must have been enough for Daniel because his eyes rolled back and he lay still.

Then Fraiser was there, kneeling beside them and quickly looking Daniel over. As she began to insert an IV into Daniel's vein, Jack got up and stepped over to the DHD. He stayed clear of the puddle of blood at his feet and winced at the slick feel of the glyphs and at the enormous amount spread over them as he dialled home.

"He's lost a lot of blood." As Fraiser wiped Daniel's chest clean with a cloth, blood continued to pour from the numerous cuts on his torso. "It's not normal to continue bleeding like this from such small injuries," she said as peered closely to examine the wounds.

The two medics stood waiting nearby, and she waved them over. They had a collapsible stretcher with them and seconds later, they were on their way back to the SGC. Jack pulled his attention away from the bloody scene, sent a silent prayer along with Fraiser, and wiped his hand clean on the grass. Something caught his eye and Jack reached for a small bundle of twigs tied together, lying in the shade of the DHD.

One end of the bundle was covered with blood. Jack realized that they weren't twigs, but very thin, sturdy reeds, the tips cut away so that they looked like the nib of a pen, and were razor sharp.

"Son of a shit." He looked around and saw five more such bundles lying near the Stargate. All were bloody.

"Colonel, we've found the others. They're alive." Major Hawkins' voice came to him over the radio and Jack gazed towards the camp. The major had stepped out of the doorway of the main tent and was waving towards Jack. As Jack began making his way down the hill, several people began walking out of the tent, a few staggering and obviously dazed, but clearly uninjured.

"What happened?" Jack asked once everyone was out. Most shrugged, but one captain stopped before Jack.

"Tobias Johnstone found a graveyard," she said as she stood at attention. She swayed, and Jack reached a hand out to steady her. "He called Doctor Jackson over and he and I went to see what Tobias had found. Doctor Jackson discovered that some of the bodies in the graveyard had been placed there recently and insisted we leave immediately. We were attacked on our way out. Doctor Jackson attempted to speak to the people, but they either didn't understand, or didn't care. We were knocked out with blow darts of some sort. I woke up here. Everyone had been knocked unconscious. Nobody saw them coming, sir. They caught the camp by surprise."

"Thank you, Captain. The Stargate's active. You guys go on home." At his dismissal, she turned away and began walking towards the hill with the rest of the rescued personnel. Then the captain stopped and looked at Jack while everyone else continued on.

"Colonel... Doctor Jackson and Tobias?"

"Tobias Johnstone is dead. Doctor Jackson was injured. He's already been transported to the infirmary."

The woman's face paled, but she nodded, thanked him, and continued on towards the Stargate.

"Get them home," Jack ordered Major Hawkins. None of the people complained, everyone continued to file up the hill, accompanied by SG6.

"Carter." She looked at him and Jack pointed to the stacks of crates already loaded onto the FRED. "Get the controls and bring it home. Hawkins," Jack said into his radio. "Once everyone's through the 'gate, let's pack this place up and get the hell out of here."

His orders were carried out quickly and efficiently and within two hours, they'd dismantled the camp and everything had been carried to the Stargate. There had been no signs of any hostiles. Jack was both thankful and sorry for that. He'd have loved to have given whoever had done this to Daniel a taste of something they'd never forget.

Then he glanced at the gory remains someone had kicked to the side. Maybe they had gotten something memorable; he just hoped one of those feet belonged to the person responsible for hurting Daniel.

- - - - - -

"That's everything." Jack wiped the sweat from his forehead with his shoulder as he helped carry the last box down the ramp. He added it to the considerable pile of crates and gear which had been placed to the left of the Stargate. Personnel were already toting it away and Jack sidestepped two men carrying heavy loads as he made his way to Hammond.

"Still no sign of hostiles out there?" Hammond was eyeing something hanging from Jack's belt.

"No sir. Not a peep. I don't know what that might mean, though, if we find that the planet is mine-worthy." As he spoke, he untied his souvenir and showed it to Hammond. "I'm thinking either Daniel scared the shit out of them when he dialled Earth and they won't bother us again, or they'll come at us with spears blazing – or whatever weapons it is they use." He showed Hammond the bloody tips.

"These people managed to incapacitate eight men, four of which were armed, kill one and severely injure another." Hammond waved toward the bundle of reeds in Jack's hand. "Primitive or not, these were pretty effective." He waited until two airmen walked by, hauling more crates away, and lowered his voice. "Maybe we'll get lucky and the results of the surveys will prove the planet worthless. This is all just such a waste."

Hammond looked tired and Jack knew exactly how he felt now that the rush of adrenaline was leaving his body. He needed a shower, and he needed to go check on Daniel. As if reading his mind, Hammond took the reeds away from Jack.

"I'll have these delivered to Doctor Fraiser. You might want to get out of those bloody clothes, Jack, before you go see Doctor Jackson."

"Daniel's awake?" Hope flared through Jack. Maybe Daniel wasn't as badly hurt as he'd first feared.

Hammond shook his head. "Doctor Fraiser hasn't been able to stop the bleeding. But she was curious to know what had inflicted the wounds." He pointed to the reeds in his hand. "She won't be happy to see this."

"Can't blame her."

He hurried through his shower and rushed to the infirmary. A nurse pointed him to intensive care and he stopped just inside the door.

The bandages covering Daniel weren't pristine. There were dabs of blood beginning to soak through. Jack knew from experience these types were usually very absorbent; for blood to start soaking through meant that Daniel was still bleeding heavily.

Large pieces of gauze were laid out over his chest, and his arms and legs were wrapped with long strips, giving him the mummy look.

There was blood and IVs leading into Daniel's veins, and as Jack approached, he saw the line of a Foley catheter snaking out from beneath the bandages. A nasal cannula provided oxygen, and a heart monitor played out the too-fast rhythm of Daniel's heartbeat.

Daniel was sporting a light beard, something that Jack knew he'd done specifically for him. A kind of welcome-home gift to Jack, to appease him after being separated for nearly two weeks. Daniel was always clean shaven and rarely let his beard get away from him if there was any chance not to shave. But he knew Jack secretly enjoyed the scruffy look on him.


Jack spun around, coming face to face with Fraiser. "How is he?"

Her lips tightened as she glanced over Jack's shoulder, towards Daniel. "We haven't been able to stop the bleeding. Those... things you brought back were pretty nasty."

Jack remembered the instrument of torture he'd brought back. "Yeah, they were. They used them to..." He broke off and took a deep breath. "I saw maybe a half dozen. There might have been more."

"I sent them to the lab to run a toxicology test. Something's preventing Daniel's blood from clotting. By themselves, the wounds aren't serious. Hell, they probably won't even leave a scar. But with the number of punctures and the fact that they're bleeding freely, he would have died in another twenty minutes. If he hadn't managed to dial the Stargate..."

"And he's still bleeding?"

She nodded. "We're giving him transfusions to replace the blood he's already lost, and Vitamin K and fresh frozen plasma to try to initiate clotting. So far there's been no effect, but that might change if we can identify whatever's preventing the clotting process."

Jack grabbed the back of a chair and pulled it close to the bed. "Can I...?" He sat down without waiting for an answer.

She put a hand to his shoulder. "We need to change the bandages pretty frequently." She squeezed. "It's not a pretty sight. You might want to—"

"I found him out there, doc. It's okay. I'm okay with this." She dug her fingers into his muscles and Jack realized that she wasn't okay with what had been done to Daniel. "What about the others?" he asked, trying to distract her.

"They're fine. Whatever substance was used to knock them out left them a little groggy and headachy." Her grip loosened and she lowered her hand. "We're keeping them here under observations for the next eight hours; most of them are sleeping off the effects."

"Good. That's good. And Daniel? He was knocked out by that stuff too."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah. Didn't Captain Gonzalez tell you?"

"Damn it. No, she was asleep by the time I was able to start asking questions. I didn't realize she knew what had happened to Daniel."

"She was with him when they were knocked out. She didn't get to see—" Jack put a hand out over the bandages— "this."

"Daniel's very weak, and he's only come 'round once, and he was pretty out of it then. Don't expect much if he does wake up." She gave Jack a tight smile, then moved off to speak to one of the nurses.

Jack sat back, taking everything in. Daniel's face was stark white, a slight bruise on his cheekbone standing out like a marker. Jack reached for Daniel's hands, and stopped when he noted the blood caught in the creases of Daniel's hands and around his fingernails. Obviously everyone had been so busy taking care of Daniel's wounds that they hadn't had time to truly clean him up.

Jack stood and looking around, found a basin, cloth and towel. He filled the basin with warm water, then lathered up the washcloth. He brought all back to the bed and careful of the bandages, began to gently wash Daniel's right hand.

"It's alright. It's just me," he said softly as he passed the washcloth around the fragile-looking fingers. The fingers that had explored Jack's body ten days ago. The fingers that Jack had expected to be wrapped around his cock in just one more day. "Figured you'd been digging in the dirt. Probably safer to make sure you're nice and clean all over." He paid careful attention to Daniel's nails, gently massaging the area with the cloth, then lowering Daniel's hand into the basin to rinse.

He wiped the water off, then laid the hand back down onto the bed. He grabbed the basin and cloth and moved to the other side, and being extra careful of the IVs in this hand, carried out the same ministrations.

Almost finished, he glanced towards Daniel, and was surprised to see Daniel had turned his face towards him, a crescent of blue evident in partly opened eyes.

Jack smiled, continuing the slow gentle massage. "Hey."

Daniel's fingers twitched beneath his. Jack removed the now cool cloth and critically examined the hand he held in his. Satisfied, he lowered it into the water, then wrapped it in the towel.

"To..." Daniel cleared his throat. "Toby..."

Jack clenched his teeth, knowing he'd have to tell Daniel the bad news. He continued to rub the fingers gently with the towel.

"Yeah, Danny. He's—"

"Toby's dead." His voice was hoarse, barely a whisper.

It wasn't a question, it was a statement.

"I know. We found him."

Daniel closed his eyes. "The others?"

"Fraiser said they're fine. They were tied up in the camp, but nobody was hurt."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"Coming in time... save every... one."

Jack leaned forward and cupped Daniel's jaw. He felt the scratchy growth beneath his fingers. "We couldn't have done it without you dialling for help. You did good."

Daniel's lips parted, but his eyes fluttered shut before he could answer. Jack stroked the cold skin gently with his thumb for a few seconds, then removed it when he heard footsteps approaching.

"I'm sorry, sir. We need to change his bandages."

"Right." Jack pushed the chair back, getting out of the nurses' way. Two of them began lifting the bandages and Jack, despite his assurances to Fraiser that he wouldn't be affected by this very scene, ended up having to turn his head at the sight of the blood-soaked dressings.

Despite their ministrations, Daniel became restless, although he didn't rouse. When they rolled Daniel onto his side in order to get to his back and buttocks, Jack moved forward so he was leaning close to Daniel's face and spoke to him softly.

"I know, it hurts. It won't be long, they're almost done."

Daniel huffed slightly, the sound coming from deep in his throat.

"Hey, stop complaining," Jack teased gently. "Do you know how many guys on this base would love getting their ass felt up by two lovely women."

"Are you speaking for yourself, Colonel," one of the nurses asked with a twinkle in her eye as she continued working behind Daniel.

"Would you believe me if I said I'm glad it's him and not me?" Jack quipped back, hating the outright lie. At this moment he'd have given anything to be in Daniel's place just to take away his pain.

"In your dreams. That's why you big guys get injured so much. You can't get enough of our tender, loving care."

"Damn, our secret's out. Does the doc know?" Jack bent his head closer to Daniel's when this time Daniel uttered a low moan.

Immediately one of the nurses stopped her work and bent over the bed in order to get a good look at Daniel's face. "You're feeling this pretty strongly, aren't you?" She straightened and smiled at Jack as she reached for a syringe lying off to the side, sitting in a tray. "Doctor Fraiser left instructions for pain relief." She double checked Daniel's chart, then injected the contents into the IV. The two waited a few minutes before continuing with their work. This time, Daniel remained quiet as they moved on to Daniel's legs and arms.

By the time they had finished, Jack could see spots of blood already beginning to seep through the first of the bandages that had been changed. He ran a hand through his hair, wondering how long they could keep pouring blood into Daniel while it leaked out all over his body. He was amazed that with all the liquids being pumped into Daniel's body, the blood was still red.

The scrape of a boot behind him warned Jack that someone was there, even before he heard Carter's softly spoken, "Sir?"

"Been standing there long?" Jack asked without turning around.

She cleared her throat slightly before mumbling, "A few minutes."

Jack guessed she'd been there a lot longer, maybe had even been there towards the end of the bandage changing.

She stepped closer, as if afraid to approach Daniel's bed. Jack finally tore his gaze away from Daniel's pale face and looked at her. She held herself stiffly. Her eyes were red and shiny, her nostrils flaring slightly as she continued to fight and hold her emotions in.

"They gave him something for the pain. He's not feeling anything."

Carter nodded, and Jack saw some of the tension in her neck and shoulders relax a little. She sniffed and swallowed before turning to look at Jack.

"General Hammond wants to see you," she said, sounding apologetic. "Along with Major Hawkins and Colonel King. The others are awake and are insisting on giving the general a debriefing."

Jack nodded. The initial debrief would probably last an hour at the most, but most likely he, Hawkins and King would end up in the briefing room for yet another hour, at least. "You got any plans?" Jack asked hesitantly, hoping she'd offer to stay with Daniel. It wasn't likely he'd wake up any time soon, but just knowing someone who cared for him remained with him would ease part of Jack's fear for the man he loved.

"No. I mean, if it's okay, I'll stay with Daniel." She lost part of her fight and a tear slid down her cheek. She turned away from Jack and unobtrusively wiped it away.

"I'd appreciate it," Jack said, sliding the chair away and getting up. He held it out to her and she reached a hand and held onto the back. Her grip was hard, her knuckles white as she strained to hold herself in check.

"Hey, it's alright." Jack put a hand onto her arm and she looked up at him, eyelashes spiky with unshed tears. She nodded, her breath coming out in a loud hiccupping gasp.

"Ah, don't do this," Jack muttered, hating seeing Carter cry as much as he had Sara.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled. She let go of the chair and ran out of the room. Jack knew exactly how she felt, and wished there was someone who could just take him in his arms and tell him everything would be all right. Unfortunately, the one someone he wanted to hold him was the one who was lying unconscious, losing his life's blood at a terrifying rate.

Jack followed behind her slowly, ignoring the sympathetic glances of the nurses, trying to give Carter time to rein in her emotions. He knew part of the problem was her fear of showing her emotions in front of Jack. He and Daniel had discussed the military mindset and Jack knew how much harder it was for Carter to be tougher than all the men. At least she hadn't had to waste her time proving herself smarter, faster and tougher than everyone she now worked with. That she could do with a hand tied behind her back.

He found her several feet away, her back to the door. Conscious of the personnel who could come by at any moment, he simply put a hand on her back instead of putting his arms around her in a friendly hug. After a few more minutes, she managed to get control of herself and looked at him sheepishly.

"Sorry," she said again, sniffling loudly.

"Don't sweat it." He dug his hands into his pockets and slouched against the wall. "I feel exactly the way you do, except the only thing that's keeping me from carrying it out is the fear that Fraiser's nurses would be all over me with tissues and sympathetic hugs." He shivered theatrically.

Carter snorted - part laugh, part sob. She nodded at Jack, wiping at her face with a sodden tissue she'd dug out of a pocket. "I can just see that, sir. I think that just might get Daniel off that bed and push them all away in a jealous rage, which would even be scarier."

Jack pulled a hand out of a pocket and reached up to wipe a threatening tear that was just spilling over. He was always grateful for her understanding and approval of his and Daniel's relationship together. "He's gonna be fine, Carter."

She dabbed impatiently at the same eye when more tears followed. "I know. It was just... all that blood," she finished in a whisper. "I can't imagine what you must be going through."

"I'm fine. He's in good hands. Fraiser's giving him stuff to stop the bleeding. It'll kick in soon."

"Of course." She straightened and pulled away, suddenly all military. "Teal'c's almost finished in the 'gateroom, sir. He said he'd come and join me when..."

"Good. The more the merrier. I'll be back as soon as I can." He patted her shoulder and she straightened and walked back into intensive care. Jack pushed away the vision of Daniel lying in that bed and went to see General Hammond.

- - - - - -

Jack's stomach growled and he thrust aside thoughts of hunger, instead reaching for the last of the now-cold coffee, trying to appease the gnawing pains. He burped. Hot bile rose into the back of his throat and he tossed the empty cup into the garbage.

"You'd feel better if you got something to eat, had a hot shower and got a bit of rest." Fraiser was watching him from across the bed, and Jack waved off her concern.

"I'll go eat something a little later."


Jack sighed. There had been no change in the past six hours, and Jack acknowledged that he'd be able to handle sitting here at Daniel's side if he didn't constantly get distracted by how own body's demands. "I'll just get a sandwich, I won't be long." He stood and began to walk away, then stopped at the door. Fraiser looked up at him questioningly.

"There's something I don't understand. If something is causing Daniel to keep bleeding like this, wouldn't it have passed through his system by now? Sorta like the way the painkillers keep wearing off really fast?"

"You'd think so, wouldn't you? Daniel's blood work does show traces of an alien drug, but there's not enough of it there that we can even begin to look for an antidote. We can only hope it'll begin to wear off soon."

"Yeah." He watched a moment as Fraiser changed one of the dressings on Daniel's chest, then quickly decided now would be a good time for some chow. He checked his watch, knowing exactly how long it took them to go through that procedure and making sure to time his return just as they finished.

He managed two sandwiches and a small salad. He immediately felt better, and the nagging headache had disappeared by the time he left the commissary.

He'd timed it just right; doc and a nurse were finishing up wrapping Daniel's arms. Jack took his customary chair as they checked all the readouts.

"Feeling better?" Fraiser asked as she made notations in Daniel's chart.

"You were right about the food."

She gave him a look over the chart - there was no way Jack was going to go and try to sleep. He knew he'd toss and turn, worrying about Daniel. "We'll worry about the other thing later. Anyways, it's not that late."

Jack turned his attention to Daniel's hand, lying near Jack's knee, and waited for Fraiser to walk away. Unable to keep himself from touching Daniel, he stroked the cold, limp fingers. Once Fraiser moved away from the bed, Jack followed her with his gaze as she went to speak with a nurse. Absently he picked Daniel's hand up, wanting to warm it between his palms.

And felt something wet and warm.

He saw blood, a trickle that had slid down Daniel's wrist and onto his palm. Jack followed the trail to where the edge of the bandages just missed covering part of the large mass of small puncture wounds.

He turned to call Fraiser over, but something stilled him. Instead he grabbed a piece of gauze from a nearby jar and placed it against the small, bloody, open wounds. It quickly saturated with blood, but gave Jack enough time to wipe the blood from his hands, and Daniel's.

He took several pieces of gauze this time, and covered the cuts with them. It was stupid, really, but it made him feel like he was doing something, if only taking care of one of a myriad of wounds. The gauze quickly became useless and he replaced them with more. Before long, a small, bloody pile lay in the waste bin near Jack's feet.

"Colonel, here, let me—"

"It's fine, doc. I got it." Jack refused to give up the small bit of bleeding skin. Let the doc take care of the rest of Daniel; this was his to care for.

"Here, these are a little more absorbent." She placed a small pile of bandages to replace the gauze. Jack lifted the bloody material, watched, mesmerized as the small cuts quickly pooled with blood, joined together into a large drop and began to slide down Daniel's wrist. He caught the trickle with the new bandage, and held the cloth gently against Daniel's bare skin. Fraiser was right, this stuff was better.

After a few minutes he raised the edge and was satisfied it was absorbing well. He waited until the blood pooled again and lowered the bandage. With his other hand he reached for another, ready to switch in a few more minutes.

This time, when he discarded the bandage and watched the blood flow, he thought it took a little more time before it pooled over and ran down Daniel's arm. He caught the overflow, cleaned up the wound, and watched again. The blood continued to ooze out of the wounds, but there was a definite change. This time, it definitely did take longer before it collected together and began to run.

Again, he caught the spill, looking almost furtively over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching, almost feeling like a kid afraid of being caught playing with something he shouldn't be. He gently dabbed the wound clear of blood and watched, mesmerized, as the red liquid slowly trickled out of the holes in Daniel's skin.

He cleaned the wound again, and waited. This time, small red drops appeared, but it looked like the flow was so minimal, that it just might clot before the blood was ready to flow.

"Doc!" Jack jumped up, looking around for Fraiser, waving the bloody bandage in his hand as he tried to get her attention.

Immediately Fraiser and the nurses dropped everything and rushed to Daniel's side. He pointed to the small wound with a shaking finger.

"The bleeding's stopping."

Fraiser lifted one of the bandages on Daniel's chest and although it was wet and thoroughly blood-drenched, when she wiped away the streaks of blood across the mangled flesh, it was evident that the bleeding had slowed to a stop, or was nearly there. She grinned at Jack as she discarded the bandage.

"We'll need to get him cleaned up. You might want to come back in an hour or so."

Jack glanced at the blood-streaked skin and nodded. "I might take that shower now. Maybe pass on the good news?"

"You do that, sir," Fraiser said absently as she reached for some liquid and began dabbing Daniel's chest.

Jack stood, realized he still had the bloody bandage in his hand and lobbed it into the garbage. Then he left, deciding to head for the gym where he was pretty sure he'd find Teal'c.

- - - - - -

Jack returned to the infirmary feeling like a new man. He'd gotten rid of some of the day's frustrations by working out, after giving Teal'c the news of Daniel's improvement. Word must have spread quickly because soon Hawkins, King and a few others went out of their way to find Jack and let him know they'd heard the news.

He'd showered, had even taken the time for a piece of pie and some cold milk, having enjoyed the dessert he'd skipped after his earlier meal. Now he entered the intensive care area with not quite with as much dread as he'd experienced previously.

Daniel lay on his side, completely naked except for a towel spread over his groin. His body was exposed to the air, with three small bandages covering the shallow slashes down and across his chest.

And Jack got to see the damage inflicted as a whole, and winced.

The nicks and cuts, except for several stubborn, probably deeper cuts, had stopped bleeding. But his chest, shoulders, arms and legs were covered with the small wounds inflicted by the reeds. There wasn't an inch of flesh on his torso that hadn't been pounded by that instrument of torture. His legs and arms were less damaged, evidently his captors had concentrated on the larger portion of his body.

Jack circled around the bed, seeing the same amount of damage on Daniel's back and buttocks. Again, only a few cuts were bleeding and pieces of gauze appeared enough to stem the flow at this point.

Jack hooked the nearby chair and pulled it closer, then straddled it, leaning his arms on the back, and watched Daniel sleep.

"He was asking for you."

Jack turned to Fraiser, who came to stand beside him. "He woke up?"

"Just for a few seconds. He was a little disoriented, but he recognized me and fell asleep right after."

"So... the blood loss...?"

"Now that the haemorrhaging has stopped, he'll begin to get stronger once we've replaced his blood volume. Our next worry is infection. We've disinfected the wounds as we were cleaning him up, and with the amount of bleeding he's gone through, I'm pretty confident they're clean."

He waved at Daniel's near-naked body. "You're just gonna leave him like that?"

She smiled. "The wounds will heal faster like this, although it increases the risk of infection slightly. It's a good thing none of these are very deep."

Daniel coughed, then opened his eyes. Immediately Jack reached out and touched Daniel's hand and called his name.

He didn't look quite awake, but he did manage a smile when he spotted Jack. "Cold," he simply said, before he closed his eyes again.

Jack turned to Fraiser, who waved a nurse over. After speaking a few words with her, she explained to Jack. "We'll put him under a bed cradle. It'll keep the blankets off his body, but will trap his body heat."

Jack had seen the contraptions before. It was a frame that hooked beneath the mattress and then came over the patient's body. Blankets were draped over it, preventing from touching the skin. It took Fraiser and her people only a minute to set it up and soon Daniel sighed in his sleep. Jack took hold of the limp fingers once more, telling himself they didn't feel quite as cold as before.

"He's going to be sleeping quite a bit, so you might as well do the same, Colonel. Daniel's comfortable, and like I said, barring any infections and he doesn't start bleeding again, he should be fine."

Smiling, Jack nodded, deciding that his on-base room would do for the next few nights. He'd speak to Hammond, take a few days off when Daniel came home, if Fraiser felt he needed someone with him. He whistled on his way out, looking forward to sleep now that things were looking up.

- - - - - -

His shoulder hurt. Daniel pulled himself out of the depths of fuzziness and tried to push onto his back and off of his side.

"Easy. Don't try to move." Janet's, or someone else's hand, was preventing him from turning around.

"Hurts." He opened his eyes and saw a close up of the light green pillowcase he lay on. Moving his head to try and look at Janet seemed a huge effort.

"I know. But you have to try and keep still. Until your wounds scab over, you could start bleeding again."

Daniel wasn't quite sure what Janet was talking about but he realized that the parts of his body that he'd just rubbed on the mattress were burning. Still, the ache in his shoulder at the moment was worse.

"Shoulder... need to turn..."

"Your shoulder?" Despite the fog in his brain, he heard a note of concern in Janet's voice.

"They dragged me around by my arm... might have pulled something."

"Okay, hold on a second."

There was the sound of fabric being moved and then hands were on his hips and back. "Let us do the work. Just relax."

Before Daniel could nod, he was being turned. Suddenly there was pain all over his back and buttocks, the weight of his body making everything worse. "Jan—" Before he could tell Janet, though, he was being turned again, onto his other side. His legs and arm hurt where they rubbed on the sheet, and he shifted, hunting for a position that wasn't quite so uncomfortable. He found one that he thought he could bear after a few moments.


"Yes," he sighed. All of this had tired him out, and he closed his eyes. There were more rustling sounds, and then he felt glove-clad hands on his bare shoulder. He could hear Janet breathing behind him, and he tried to relax as she dug her fingers into the muscles of his upper arm and chest.

"Does this hurt?"



"No. Yes!" he yelped when she hit on a sore spot.

"Can you move your arm?" She had him lift, rotate and bend his arm until she was satisfied. "There's a little bit of swelling, you probably just strained something. We'll keep an eye on it and I'll tell my people to be careful when they put you down on that side."

He wanted to ask her why they needed to lie him down on his side, but by now he was having trouble concentrating on her words, and he fell asleep as she placed a gentle hand on the back of his neck.

- - - - - -

It was the furtiveness of the whispering that brought Daniel out of the twilight sleep he was in. Usually it meant something bad, until he recognized the voices and realized Sam and Teal'c were trying not to disturb him. He opened his eyes just in time to see Sam biting into a sandwich.

"Are you comfortable, DanielJackson? Shall I summon DoctorFraiser?"

"Daniel." Sam's voice, muffled as it was since her mouth was full of bread and meat, squeaked in surprise. Daniel couldn't help smiling as he met Teal'c's gaze.

"I'm fine." He was, just as long as he didn't move. That much he remembered. He was still lying underneath the weird contraption that was like a small tent covering his body, but his arms and shoulders were free of it.

There was a large plate of fruits beside Teal'c, and Daniel could smell chicken soup. He wondered if this was his lunch they were eating – if so, there was no way he could eat all of this. He'd barely been able to swallow half the juice and Jello Janet had given him earlier. Strange, he remembered eating that meal, he didn't remember finishing it.

Sam swallowed her mouthful quickly, then reached over to smooth the hair on his forehead. "Sorry, we're taking a late lunch and decided to sit with you. It's been a really busy morning. We didn't mean to wake you up."

"I wasn't asleep." As soon as he'd said the words, he realized how silly they sounded. Of course he'd been sleeping, otherwise he'd have heard his friends come in and sit down. "Thanks for..." He waved a hand towards them, touched that they'd want to spend their time with him, even though he'd been asleep.

"Can we get you anything?"

He realized he was thirsty. "Water?"

"Sure." Sam got up and moved away from the bed. Teal'c moved closer, smiling down at Daniel. Teal'c. Smiling. That was something he didn't get to see often. That in itself scared Daniel – he must have been really bad off.

"I am pleased to see you looking so well. DoctorFraiser assured us you were recovering, but she also informed us that you would sleep deeply."

"I was. I mean, I slept most of the day, didn't I?"


"Here." Sam held a glass with a straw protruding from it and brought it close to his mouth. He opened his mouth and grabbed the straw, sipping with relief, feeling the coolness slide down his throat and ease the dryness that had settled there.

"Thanks," he said when he'd drunk enough to quench his thirst. He raised a hand to rub his eyes and stopped when he spotted large, angry looking gashes, just below a dark bruise which encircled his wrist. He turned his hand, seeing more of the cuts up along his arm. He stared at them uncomprehendingly, until the memory of the women striking him with the reeds hit him.

"Oh God!" Daniel tried to see the rest of his body. He had a glimpse of more cuts and nicks all along his chest and ribs, but from the way he was lying, he couldn't see and the blankets hid his view.

Daniel pushed the blankets aside, but the contraption holding them didn't budge and he turned onto his back, pushing it again, then kicking. He heard Sam and Teal'c calling his name and suddenly he was being held down.

He fought his captors, screaming at them to let him go, his back and buttocks burning where he'd been jabbed repeatedly. His legs were caught in the blankets, pinning him as effectively as Teal'c, who had leaned down and was telling him gently to calm down... Teal'c... not an alien... not a primitive... blankets, not someone who was going to hurt him.

Daniel ceased his struggles, shivering as sweat quickly cooled his body.

"Turn him onto his side." He felt hands turn him over, and he didn't resist, his body limp and exhausted, feeling like it didn't belong to him anymore.

"It will be all right." Teal'c lowered himself so his face was even with Daniel's. "You will be fine. You are safe. I would not allow anyone to hurt you."

"S... sorry." He jumped as someone touched a sore spot on his back. He saw Sam's white face staring at him over Teal'c's shoulder. "Sam, I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay. I... you just caught us by surprise."

He closed his eyes, trying to ignore the people doing things to his back and buttocks. He felt a large, warm hand cover the side of his face and he opened his eyes and reached for Teal'c's wrist. Teal'c took Daniel's hand between both of his and Daniel tried to concentrate on the marked differences in their skin colour. But the injury on his arm drew his attention. It was one thing to have felt them as they had been inflicted, it was another to see the damage. He shivered again.

"There's not much bleeding." Janet's voice floated behind him and Daniel realized that nothing hurt anymore. Even his fingers, held securely in Teal'c's grasp, felt numb. "Just relax, we're almost done."

"Where's Jack?" Daniel whispered. He hadn't seen Jack at all since he'd woken up. He remembered vague images, touches, whispers, dreams... Jack washing his hand, him telling Jack he was cold, but he wasn't sure if they were real, if Jack had truly been there, or not.

"O'Neill has been detained in a meeting with the delegates of P1C 889. He did complain vocally about the change in schedule, but General Hammond had no choice but to agree to their terms if we wish the..."

The monotony of Teal'c's voice was soothing and Daniel allowed himself to drift. Soon he felt heat surround his body and knew that the blankets had been replaced. He missed the feel of the blankets' weight on his body, but the warmth was still welcome.

"He'll be fine, Sam. Don't worry." Janet's voice, coming from far away, was the last thing he heard.

- - - - - -

Sam's voice droned on in the crowded room. Daniel tried to pay attention but all he could think of was that he was the one who should be up there, convincing everyone how wonderful and brave Tobias Johnstone had been. Instead, Sam was talking about someone she barely knew. Bill Lee was scheduled to speak next. Maybe Bill would be able to tell everyone about Toby's enthusiasm and love for life.

Janet and Jack hadn't wanted Daniel to attend the memorial service, scheduled because Toby's body had been shipped back to his family in Florida. Daniel had insisted; this was the least he could do for Toby, since he hadn't been able to save the young man who had been under his charge. Although Daniel knew there was nothing he could have done; Toby had been taken while they'd all been unconscious. It was a tragedy, but something Daniel accepted that he couldn't have prevented from happening. All that Daniel could do was pay his respects, and he'd gotten out of bed and dressed despite Jack and Janet's protests.

But Daniel was beginning to think they had been right in trying to keep him away. His legs were shaking and everything, every single part of his body, hurt. The pain was escalating fast, and he was having more and more trouble listening to Sam's words.

All he wanted to do now was lie down, and he'd only been standing amongst the assembled personnel for less than ten minutes. Of course, there had been the walk from the infirmary - he'd refused to get into the wheelchair Janet had provided, insisting on making it there on his own two feet. Anyways, sitting in that contraption would have been torture on his back and buttocks no matter what kind of pillows Janet put on it.

Daniel glanced towards Jack, standing next to Hammond just a few people removed from Daniel. His lover's face was stony and emotionless, and he'd refused to look at Daniel once he'd made it to the center of the room and had taken his place next to Teal'c. Jack had gone cold after he and Daniel had argued in the infirmary.

He wanted, needed, to catch Jack's attention, but other than ssssting loudly over the speaker's voice, the only other way was to catch Jack's gaze. And *it* was frozen on the podium before him.

Daniel swayed and had to take a small step sideways to keep his balance. He could feel sweat trickling down his back, making his skin itch. Despite his efforts, his breathing quickened and that wheelchair parked right outside the 'gateroom was definitely starting to look good.

"Daniel?" He jumped as Janet touched his arm, peering at him from behind. "Are you all right?"

He shook his head, the action making him dizzy. Her grip increased and he winced at the pain she unwittingly caused him.

"I have to lie down," he whispered urgently. From the corner of his eye he saw Jack turn his head, as well as a few others standing nearby.

"Come on." Janet tugged at his arm and relieved, Daniel took a few shuffling steps away from the pageantry. Then Jack was there, on his other side, and face burning hotly, Daniel was led away through the mass of attendees.

He was gasping and shaking by the time he lowered himself into the wheelchair, his pants and cotton shirt wet with sweat. He should have worn the sweats Janet had insisted on but he hadn't wanted to show up looking like a bum at the service.

"I've got it, sir. You can go back in."

"Is he okay?" The coldness was gone from Jack, and only concern showed in his eyes when Daniel raised his head to look at him. "Are you okay?"

"He was on his feet too long. He'll be fine as soon as he lies down."

Daniel dropped his head, staring at his hands. "I'm fine," he managed to state to the floor. He leaned forward to take the pressure off of his back but that only increased the pain in his buttocks and thighs. Janet began pushing him away from the ceremony, where the now fainter sound of Sam's voice had begun to mix with the whining in his ears.

He didn't hear Jack's footsteps following alongside so he guessed he'd done what Janet had said, and had gone back inside. Daniel was both glad Jack was attending the rest of the ceremony, but he still felt a little disappointed Jack hadn't decided to accompany him back to the infirmary.

The trip was taking forever. As much as he'd wanted to get off his feet, now he needed to get off his butt. He gripped the sides of the chair, trying to pull himself up to take his weight off the seat, but only managed to tire his arms.

Finally they made it to the infirmary and Daniel got up too fast, his head spinning as he stumbled against the bed. Janet's fingers were unzipping his pants and all he could do was stand there and hold onto the bed frame. He felt the material grate against his legs as they slid down, and he stepped out of them, not remembering anyone taking his shoes off.

He shifted restlessly on the bed, trying to get away from the pain and find a comfortable position. Nothing helped. He felt a pinprick in his arm and knew Janet had given him something extra for the pain. He closed his eyes, knowing that the discomfort would ease soon. He forced himself to lie there, ashamed that he hadn't been able to last throughout the ceremony, and afraid at the look on Jack's face earlier.

And then it dawned on him. He had been supposed to go home later that afternoon. He'd probably killed any chance of Janet letting him go. He stifled a sigh, and was surprised to feel Janet's hand pat his hand.

"Just get some rest. You'll feel better when you've slept."

Too tired to agree or disagree, Daniel followed her suggestion.

- - - - - -

"Let me get the door." Jack shifted the packages under his arm and unlocked the door, pushing it open. Daniel stepped inside Jack's house, wordlessly heading straight for the bedroom. Despite the shot of morphine Janet had given him earlier in the infirmary, sitting on the unforgiving seat in Jack's Avalanche hadn't been easy on his body.

The trip from the mountain had been in total silence. Jack's face again stony and cold, Daniel felt neither the inclination nor the energy to ask him what was wrong.

"Wait." Jack slammed the door and hurried down the hall. "Let me get the air mattress onto the bed first."


As Jack stripped the bed down, Daniel began the task of removing his clothes. They chafed at his scabs, and with one hand holding onto the wall for support, Daniel managed to toe off his sneakers. He quickly pulled his sweat pants down, the waistband already causing him discomfort, and gratefully stepped out of them. He started to pull his sweat shirt over his head but his shoulder and back complained, stopping him as the jersey caught around his face.


Disoriented, Daniel swayed. Jack placed a hand on his shoulder to hold him steady, and Daniel yelped at the touch.

"Sorry." Then Jack was easing the sweat shirt over Daniel's head and he was able to lower his arms. "You okay?"

The cold and distant look was gone from Jack's eyes, replaced only by concern.

"Yeah. I just want to lie down."

"Be done in a second." Jack turned to pull the sheets and blankets back onto the bed and Daniel stuck his thumbs into the waistband of his boxers and pulled them down. Clad only in his socks, Daniel leaned weakly against Jack's bureau.

He was glad for the dim light in the room, glad that the shadows hid the ugly bruises that marred the majority of his body. Caused by the excessive bleeding, Daniel had to not only cope with the multitude of cuts and nicks, but the painful contusions which made sitting, lying down and even standing very painful.

"You need anything?" Jack asked, watching nervously as Daniel gingerly slid onto his side. Jack raised the sheet and one light blanket, allowing them to lie loosely over Daniel's hips.

"I'm fine." If he could relax, the drugs would make him sleep. And if he slept, he didn't feel the ache that had become his body.

"Okay. Call me if you need anything." Jack passed a hand through Daniel's hair and kissed his temple. He turned his head, offering Jack his face and wasn't disappointed when Jack's lips touched his fleetingly. "Get some rest." Another kiss on his temple, and Jack left Daniel alone in the bedroom.

Daniel blinked back a tear, surprised that the tender touch meant so much to him. Jack had only been able to visit him late in the evenings, spending much of his time with Hammond or trying to clear his desk so he could take four days' leave to stay at home with Daniel. And still, during those few hours Jack had spent with him, Jack hadn't been able to do more than give Daniel a fleeting, comforting touch. And then, the fiasco with the memorial service held earlier this morning and the ride home... right now, Daniel just wanted to lie in Jack's arms, but he knew his body wouldn't be able to take the pressure.

Still, it was good to be away from the constant comings and goings of Janet's nurses, the unending examinations and questions, to the quiet privacy of Jack's home. Four days in the infirmary, two of which he barely remembered, were four days too many.

He jerked awake when Jack called his name. Hesitantly, testing his body, Daniel turned to see Jack putting a tray down at the foot of the bed.

"Time for supper."

Moving slowly, Daniel sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Sitting back was an impossibility at this point, and he found this to be the easiest position in which to eat. At least it was for several minutes, until his butt couldn't take the pressure anymore.

He ate what Jack had prepared, still slightly fuzzy from sleep, listening with half an ear to Jack talk about the local news, until he'd had enough to eat. Which was just in time because he had to get up off his rear end. He stood and while Jack cleaned up, Daniel made his slow and painful way to the bathroom.

When he returned to bed, Jack was waiting for him with his pills and a glass of water. Daniel took them uncomplainingly; his body was waking up from the drugs, and just walking seemed to aggravate every bruised and slashed muscle.

"You want a book? Magazine? I can bring the portable TV in here." Jack stood a few steps away, hands in pocket, watching as Daniel struggled, again, to find a comfortable position.

He shook his head. The drugs made him too dopey to concentrate on anything. "Radio?" The droning of the announcer might be soothing, and the soft music might help him relax.

Jack immediately turned the radio on and fiddled with the settings, looking for a classical station that Daniel liked.

"Jack." Daniel had managed to lie on his side. Overall it was the least painful position, but his body would soon tire after spending most of the past four days in this position. "About Tobias... we have to talk."

"Let's not." Jack raised the radio's volume, still searching for the elusive station.

"You didn't want to talk about it in the infirmary. Well, we're not there anymore." And Jack hadn't. When Daniel had brought up the memorial, Jack had immediately clammed up after stating there wasn't any privacy there. "Well, we're alone now."

"And I still don't want to talk about it."

"We'll have to sooner or later."

"No, *you'll* want to talk about it sooner or later. Fine. So talk. Just so long as it isn't with me." With an angry click, Jack turned the radio off and stomped off, slamming the door behind him.

Daniel sighed, unsure how to handle Jack's volatile emotions. He had enough to cope with the pain of his healing body; thinking about what Jack was going through right now was too much to contend with. Instead of going after Jack, like he normally would have, Daniel hunkered down and waited for the drugs to knock him out. Meanwhile, he tried to ignore the feeling that he had just handled this whole situation with his usual lack of grace.

- - - - - -

The insistence of his bladder finally forced him out of bed. Jack's alarm clock showed it was the middle of the night, and Daniel didn't fail to notice that Jack's side of the bed hadn't been disturbed.

He crawled out of the bed, his body complaining every bit of the way. With a hand against the wall for support, Daniel shuffled across the dark room to the bathroom for relief.

He was on his way back to bed when he heard Jack call out from the living room. Daniel froze, listening intently, wondering if Jack wanted something, only to hear him mumble something about blood. Then Jack moaned, and Daniel realized he was in the midst of a nightmare. About him.

His heart pounding, he hurried to the living room as fast as his body allowed him. Jack called out Daniel's name, his heartrending cry adding urgency to Daniel's movements, helping him ignore the pull of the scabs as they tore way when he lost his balance and landed hard against the wall as he descended the steps.

Jack was lying on the sofa, legs tangled in a blanket. Daniel hurried and squatted close to him, feeling flesh stretch and more wounds tear open. Sweat beaded Jack's face and his eyes moved quickly beneath closed eyelids. Daniel knew better than to touch Jack when he was like this. Instead, he called out Jack's name insistently.

Jack's eyes immediately popped open and he half sat up, breathing heavily. Daniel reached a hand and placed it on Jack's damp shoulder.

Jack turned quickly, his fist raised, ready to strike. Daniel pulled back in surprise and lost his balance. He landed painfully on his back, the agony causing him to see stars for a few seconds.

"Damnit. Daniel, I'm sorry. You startled me." Jack was there on his knees, trying to help Daniel up. He pulled on his arm and Daniel hissed as he squeezed tender flesh. "Sorry," Jack reiterated, pulling back when Daniel pushed his hands away.

"Just let me do it myself." Daniel glared at Jack when he reached out again to try and help. Instead he stood and stepped away, watching as Daniel managed to get to his knees, then onto his feet as he used the couch for leverage.

"You're bleeding," Jack said as he stepped behind Daniel. Instantly aware of his naked state, Daniel turned and headed for the bedroom. "Daniel, wait." Jack brushed a tentative hand on Daniel's shoulder. "Let me check and see if you've done any damage."

"I'm fine." Daniel took the first step, hands on balustrade and wall for balance and support. His ass and back throbbed from where he'd landed, and he was pretty sure he'd scraped some skin.

"Look, just go into the bathroom and let me check you out. I don't think it's that bad."

Right. Jack, who was standing right behind Daniel's naked butt, had to have a great view of the damage Daniel had just managed to inflict on himself.

Still, he did what Jack had asked, flicking on the bathroom light and blinking in the brightness of the room. He grabbed the bottle of painkillers and swallowed one with water while Jack took out some disinfectant. He began dabbing at a few spots on Daniel's back while Daniel leaned his hands wearily against the sink. But when Jack reached Daniel's buttocks, Daniel flinched and pulled away. His flesh was too tender to be touched, he felt as if he'd bruised the already existing bruises.

Wordlessly, he left the bathroom and entered the bedroom, Jack still trailing with disinfectant and gauze in his hands. "Jack, I'm fine." Daniel eyed the bed, wondering how the hell he'd manage to get into it now with his back stinging and throbbing.

"Try lying on your stomach," Jack suggested. With another dirty look aimed Jack's way, Daniel did as he suggested, then lay still as Jack took the opportunity to pat at a few more cuts. "The bleeding's stopping," Jack announced after a moment. Daniel heard him leave and walk into the bathroom. Alone for a few seconds, Daniel took the opportunity to grab the pillow in both hands and squeeze it for all it was worth, pushing his face and forehead into it as deeply as he could. He'd rather have kicked and punched something instead, but at the moment the pillow was the only thing within reach.

"Why did you come down?" Jack asked a moment later. Daniel slowly released the tension in his fingers, easing the battered stuffing back into some semblance of a pillow.

"You were having a nightmare. I thought I'd help," Daniel answered into the pillow. 'Like it took a genius to figure that one out', Daniel thought sarcastically.

"You heard me from here?" Jack moved a little closer.

"I went to pee. I heard you from the bathroom."

"I'm sorry I startled you."

"Why did you sleep on the couch? Why didn't you come to bed?" Daniel turned to face Jack, who, illuminated by the diluted light from the bathroom, was staring at the floor.

"I didn't want to disturb you."

"You wouldn't have."

"You know how oversensitive your skin is right now. I didn't want to—"

"That's just an excuse for you to punish me for scaring the hell out of you, isn't it?"

"What? What are you talking about?" Jack finally looked at Daniel, his eyes hard and angry.

"That nightmare you just had was about me, wasn't it? You won't tell me what's bothering you, but you can't escape your demons. Tobias died, and I nearly bled to death, and you're angry because you weren't there to stop it from happening." Feeling at a disadvantage, naked and lying on the bed while Jack was dressed, Daniel pushed himself into a seated position, trying to keep his weight on his legs rather than on his butt.

"Yes. Tobias died. Yes. You nearly died. What the hell more do you expect from me?"

"I didn't die, Jack."

"This time." Jack turned and ran a hand through his hair, pacing angrily towards the door. He turned around, and yelled at Daniel. "But it could just as easily have been you lying there with his throat slit."

"It wasn't me—"

"Or if you hadn't managed to dial the 'gate - Fraiser said you wouldn't have lasted another twenty minutes. You came this close—" Jack pinched his thumb and forefinger together, leaving a miniscule gap between— "to dying!"

"It could just as easily have been you!" Daniel yelled back. "If it had been SG-1 instead of SG-8, they could have taken you instead and slit your throat!"

"But it wasn't SG-1! It wasn't me!" Jack waved his hand angrily in the air, punctuating his words.


Jack stopped and looked at Daniel, confused, and Daniel took the opportunity to continue ranting, now that he was good and angry.

"And it's not my fault they didn't choose me to be sacrificed first!" The moment the words came out of his mouth, Daniel regretted them. He hadn't wanted to die. He hadn't wanted anyone to die. The anger bled out of him, leaving him tired and shaky.

"And you think that's funny? You'd rather have died in Johnstone's place?"

"No!" Daniel lowered his voice to a soft pitch." I didn't mean that. I just want you to understand that there was nothing I could do to stop any of this from happening."

"I wanted to kill them all for what they did to you." Jack's voice came down a notch also.

"Well, *I* did kill them, Jack. I activated the Stargate when those primitives had no idea what it would do to them." The memory of having to make that decision tore Daniel apart and he got angry at Jack again, that he was being forced to face it in this manner. "I knew exactly what would happen, and still I pushed down on that crystal and the backlash disintegrated them all in a split second. And no, it didn't make me feel any better. Nothing will make it feel better except for time. You're the one who's always telling me that. Why can't you just take your own advice and just let it go!"

"Damnit. This isn't going to work. It just might be better if we just end everything now." Jack turned around on his heel and left the room, leaving Daniel sitting there, mouth open in shock.


As fast as he could get off the bed, Daniel followed Jack to the kitchen, where he had poured himself a drink of scotch. Jack was downing a good portion of it as Daniel walked inside. He'd have wanted to stomp into the room, but all he could manage was a pathetic limp. Naked and hobbling, not quite a manner in making an impression on someone.

"What the hell are you talking about? You want to—" Suddenly afraid that this was the end for them, he gestured between himself and Jack. "We're finished? Just like that?"

"We...? No!" Jack's face suddenly cleared and the anger disappeared. "Not that. Oh, God, no." He moved the few steps separating them, raising his hand to grab Daniel and then stopping at the last second. Instead he drew a finger slowly down Daniel's cheek. His gaze followed the path of his finger. "Not us." Daniel could smell the scotch on Jack's breath. "The SGC. The missions. The deaths." This last was whispered as Jack raised his eyes to stare into Daniel's. "They hurt you. I... I'm just so sick of all the needless killing."

"I know I scared you. Hell, I was scared myself." Daniel grabbed Jack's arm, needing to hold onto something as fatigue and emotions warred with his need to get this out into the open. "But we agreed from the very start that our relationship wouldn't get in the way of our work. And you're letting it do just that. You're wanting to give everything up because I nearly died. We know that can happen every time we go through the Stargate. It's old news."

As Daniel spoke, Jack turned around and stood staring out into the darkened yard. Daniel could see their reflections in the window, Jack's face, once again, cold and hard, Daniel's mistreated body, a multitude of colours and healing scabs.

"Jack, I don't want to quit exploring other worlds. Despite the Goa'uld and their threat, and surprises like this last mission, I like my job. I like the uncertainty of what we'll find, the joy of new cultures, new civilizations, new allies. I like the adrenaline rush, the excitement. Maybe it's not the best reason for going out there, but I also know we're doing this for the greater good. Okay, maybe I don't exactly enjoy being used as a sacrifice to appease some weird Stargate god, but I do love my work. And I... thought you did, too. And if you're not going to be there with me, who's going to keep you out of trouble here on Earth?"

He spotted the tumbler on the counter and needing something to calm his nerves, without thinking, reached for it. He downed the contents in two deep swallows. The alcohol hit his stomach and set it on fire. "Shit."

"What the hell...?" Jack turned and grabbed the empty tumbler from Daniel's hands and set it on the counter. "You just took some morphine. Are you crazy?"

Daniel laughed and shook his head. "It seemed like a good idea at the time." He leaned against Jack, feeling wrung out and exhausted, the alcohol hitting him fast and hard.

"Bed." Jack eased a leg forward, trying to nudge Daniel into moving. Daniel straightened and reluctantly began limping towards the bedroom. Jack followed him, moved past him once inside the bedroom and pulled the blankets aside to make it easier for Daniel to lie down. The pills were kicking in, and Daniel managed to lie on his side without too much discomfort.

To his surprise, Jack moved to the other side of the bed and lay down on top of the blankets. The weight of the covers pulled against Daniel's tender skin but he, at this point, would endure any pain, just to have Jack close. Jack inched forward, slowly, until his forehead was touching Daniel's.

"Just tell me the guy who was responsible was one of those who left his feet behind."

Daniel snorted, he couldn't help himself. "Yes, he was."


Daniel lay there, feeling Jack's breath on his face as the drugs in his system, combined with the alcohol, dragged him quickly towards sleep. He knew Jack wouldn't stay, and would probably get up again once Daniel was truly out. But he was grateful for this small comfort, and reached a hand out, resting his fingers against Jack's cheek, feeling the heat of skin beneath his fingers.

When Daniel woke up, from the glare peeking through the edges of the curtains, not only was the sun up, but it had obviously been up for a long time. He had a mild headache, his back throbbed even as he lay there. He stretched, slowly, testing his body, and deciding things weren't much better than they had been yesterday.

He crawled out of bed, literally, having trouble straightening up, taking slow, shambling steps, walking hunched over, until he reached the bathroom. He swallowed a pill even before emptying his bladder, washed his hands, and made his uneven way back to bed.

"About time you woke up." Jack pulled the curtains back, allowing bright sunshine into the dark room.

"What time is it?"

"It's almost two." Jack sat down on the bed and tugged the blankets up over Daniel's legs. "I was just about ready to call Fraiser."

Daniel rubbed at his eyes with the palm of his hand. "Why?"

"You've slept for twelve hours. You're usually up every five or six for your meds. Then again, you did have yourself a little nightcap on top of your usual mix."

"I'm fine. Maybe a little groggy – you should have woken me up."

"Believe me, I tried."

Daniel wasn't sure if Jack was kidding, but he didn't look that serious. He seemed to be in a lighter mood than he'd been last night. Daniel wondered if Jack was just going to ignore what had been said, or if he really meant he was thinking about leaving. Daniel figured he'd let Jack think things over, give him some space. At least their relationship was fine. He felt a frisson of fear go over him as he remembered his mistaking Jack's words.

"You want something to eat?"

"Yeah, maybe." He really wasn't hungry, his headache and bruised back were stealing whatever appetite he might have had. But he knew he had to eat if he was going to get his strength back.

"I got some soup heating, you want me to bring it to you here?"

"Give me fifteen minutes and I'll come down."

"Ham and cheese sandwich sound okay?"

"Yeah." Daniel lay there, watching as Jack walked out, whistling. He'd give himself five more minutes, and start on his way to the kitchen. The way he felt, it probably would take him ten minutes to get there.

- - - - - -

"Don't scratch."

Daniel pursed his lips at Jack's warning, and nevertheless, rubbed at the healing skin through his cotton shirt.

"Daniel." Jack smacked Daniel's hand over the kitchen table, finding it hard to believe that only a few days ago, Daniel had spent the majority of his time sleeping. Now he was being more than a tad annoying.

"It's driving me crazy." Daniel lowered his hand, only to scratch at his thigh.

"I told you I'd rub some lotion on you after dinner."

"Well, it's itching me now." Daniel got up and grabbed one of the items Jack had picked up at the pharmacy just before they'd sat down for dinner. He opened the tube and squirted some of its contents onto his hand, then stuck his hand inside his shirt and rubbed.

"It's not helping," he said with an almost panicked look on his face.

"Give it a few minutes. It's got an antihistamine in it, it should work."

Wiping his hand on his pants, Daniel sat back down on the chair, adjusting the cushion to help ease his discomfort. Jack twirled some spaghetti onto his fork, watching Daniel do the same, amazed at what a few days' rest and recuperation could do.

Oh, Daniel was still stiff and sore, but at least he could sit with relative ease for short periods of time. He was on Vicodin now, and Fraiser said that in a day or two he'd be able to switch to something weaker. His biggest discomfort was the itching from healing skin, and Jack hoped the tubes of stuff he'd purchased would help.

"So, did it work?"


Jack pointed to Daniel's chest with his fork. "The lotion. Did it stop the itch."

Daniel looked down at his chest, frowning, then back at Jack with a smile on his face. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Well, if you still want, I can rub some more onto your back. I bought more than enough."

"Do I want? I can't move without wanting to tear my skin off." Daniel rubbed a corner of his back against the edge of the chair to emphasize his point before taking a bite of pasta.

Jack quickly finished his meal and dumped his plate into the sink. Daniel followed, rinsed both his and Jack's plates, then grabbed both the open tube and a brand new one.

Jack raised an eyebrow as Daniel pointed him in the direction of the bedroom. "I itch all over," he said in way of explanation.

Jack smiled as Daniel quickly stripped and, giving himself a quick scratch on his left thigh and right shoulder, lay down on his belly. While Jack removed his shoes and rolled his shirt sleeves, Daniel snuck his hand behind and scratched one buttock cheek.

"Don't." Jack grabbed Daniel's hand and laid it down on the bed. He squirted some of the greasy ointment onto his hands and rubbed them together to warm it up slightly. Then with a gentle touch, ran two fingers over the area Daniel had just tried to relieve.

Then walking on his knees, Jack moved close to Daniel's shoulders and began a slow, gentle rub, careful not to press too hard on the multi-coloured skin. The bruising was fading, turning brown in places, still darker close to the deeper cuts. Daniel's skin was rough beneath him, the scabs catching on the calluses of his fingers and palms. Jack was careful, using a light, feathery touch, rubbing a little harder in those rare areas that hadn't been as badly injured.

He worked his way down and around Daniel's shoulders and arms, then down across his ribs, moving to the small of his back. When he reached his buttocks, Jack took a few extra minutes to massage the skin there, teasing a little as he worked greased fingers near his cleft. Daniel moaned softly and raised his butt, offering himself, but Jack had other ideas.

He continued rubbing the lotion down the back of Daniel's thighs and calves, then had him turn around onto his back.

Daniel's semi-hard cock was fully evident, and Jack ignored it, moving up to spread more lotion across Daniel's shoulders and arms. He leaned down and kissed Daniel, who opened his mouth to Jack.

He played his fingers along Daniel's chest till he reached his nipples and then using his thumbs, ran light circles around them. Daniel moaned again and thrust his tongue deep into Jack's mouth. Jack answered just as enthusiastically, exploring Daniel's mouth as his hands continued to tease, feeling like he'd just come home.

But he hadn't finished with Daniel yet, so he reluctantly pulled back and grabbed more ointment. He moved down Daniel's ribs and abdomen, running his fingers close to Daniel's pubic hair before pulling back, feeling the muscles ripple there as they contracted involuntarily. Then, working even more slowly than before, he anointed Daniel's hips and thighs, coming teasingly close to the crease where leg met groin, only to move away.

Daniel gasped when Jack flicked a finger onto his now rigid penis. Smiling, Jack finished coating Daniel's legs, then moved back up, rubbing slower and slower as he reached Daniel's groin.

By now Daniel had spread his legs and was breathing rapidly through his mouth. Jack figured he'd suffered enough and gave a quick lick to Daniel's balls, enjoying the sounds Daniel made. Then he worked his way down to the tip of Daniel's cock, using tongue and lips to nibble and lick, suck and slurp, until he was able to take Daniel fully into his mouth, and sucked.

"Oh God!" Daniel shouted, thrusting his hips. Jack, prepared for the movement, had placed an arm against Daniel's hips to keep the movement to a minimum. He kept working Daniel with his mouth, hearing the gasps and moans increase in momentum until Daniel suddenly stiffened and groaned. He exploded in Jack's mouth. Daniel's essence poured into him, which Jack swallowed as best he could.

Then letting go of the swiftly softening organ, Jack moved back up to lie beside Daniel. Jack answered Daniel's dazed, sappy grin with a kiss.

Every time Jack did this and Daniel tasted himself, Daniel would smack his lips, as if testing the flavour once Jack pulled back.

"What?" Jack finally asked.

"It doesn't taste like you. I like you better." He turned and snuggled against Jack, laying his head on his shoulder.

"There's no accounting for taste, huh?" Jack teased as he lay there unmoving, afraid to disturb Daniel, and relishing the heat of the hard body against his. This was the first time Daniel had even tried to get close, and Jack knew it wouldn't last.

Daniel grunted in answer and a short time later, his breathing turned deep and nasal. Jack held the sleeping man as if it was the most precious thing in the world, which he was. Then Daniel shifted away from him, moving back onto the air mattress with a small sigh and once again smacking his lips. Jack watched Daniel sleep for a few minutes before getting up to finish clearing the mess in the kitchen.

Just as he was contemplating either watching TV or reading, Daniel ambled into the kitchen and leaned in the doorway. He'd gotten dressed in sweats, and he looked totally relaxed and for the first time in what seemed a long time, pain-free.

Jack gave the counter a last quick swipe with the dish cloth and then lobbed it into the sink. "Come back for seconds?" He waggled his eyebrows at Daniel, then quickly turned serious when Daniel gave him a look that went straight through to his heart. They say your eyes are the mirror to your soul; at this moment, Daniel's soul was so overflowing with love that Jack's skin prickled with goose bumps. He found he couldn't tear his gaze from Daniel's eyes, until Daniel blinked and looked at the floor, blushing.

He didn't deserve this man. He was so damn totally lucky that Daniel loved him, there were times he still couldn't believe it. He moved closer and Daniel looked up. Jack kissed Daniel's lips, slow, gentle, lovingly. Daniel's tongue flicked forward, teasing, as he put a hand to the back of Jack's head.

"Thank you," Daniel said when Jack finally pulled back from the kiss.

Jack winked at him. "You're looking a helluva lot better. Guess I've got the healing touch."

"You and the antihistamines." Daniel got a bag of cookies from the cupboard and opened it. He took two and handed one to Jack.

Jack nibbled at the chocolate-coated sweet, watching as Daniel took out two glasses and poured milk into them. He took a sip of the cold liquid, then reached for the bag of cookies and took out a handful, dumping them on the just cleaned countertop. He leaned an elbow beside them and ate another.

"So," Daniel finally asked as he licked chocolate from his fingertips. "You're going back to the base tomorrow."


"Any specific plans?" Daniel suddenly found the quarter glass of milk very interesting, and was twirling it so the milk splashed partway up the glass.

Jack realized this conversation was going to be about the one they'd started a few nights ago. Nothing had truly been resolved, and he and Daniel had avoided the subject ever since.

"Not really. Just the usual meetings with people who's great, great, great, great, grandfathers might have heard stories about this planet. Make new plans to kick Goa'uld butt. Try and find new and exciting alien technology that won't suck your face and download a whole library into your head. You know, just a regular ho-hum day."

"So..." Daniel put the glass down and shoved his hands into his pockets. The action outlined his groin, and for a second Jack got distracted and it took him a moment to realize Daniel had also rounded his shoulders protectively. "Nothing on the agenda about a change of scenery?"

"Only the types that might entail alien worlds." Despite the delectable sight Daniel was presenting Jack, Daniel's posture was one of uncertainty and nervousness, which Jack recognized immediately. "Look, Daniel. You were right. I needed a bit of time to get over what happened. Johnstone is dead. You had a close call." Daniel was looking at Jack intently, and Jack wanted nothing more than to see the tension ease from him. He regretting having added this worry to Daniel, on top of everything else he'd had going on.

"I guess it hits you harder when you don't expect something to go wrong. If you'd gone to a Goa'uld-infested planet, it might have been different. But this was supposed to be a peaceful and quiet mission, not one where people sacrificed others to appease a Stargate."

"I know."

"I'm sorry I worried you. I guess I have to learn you can't cry over spilled blood."

Daniel blinked at Jack a few times, but straightened up and pulled his shoulders back. "That's spilled milk."

"I think the other is more appropriate, in this case, don't you?" Jack picked up Daniel's glass, ignoring his own, and drained the last of the milk. He smacked his lips and placed the glass on the counter with a loud thunk. He waggled his eyebrows. "So, thinking about seconds?"  


Author's Comments: Huge hugs to DebA, who patiently answered all of my medically-oriented questions. More hugs to devra for the super quick alpha on this. Thanks to all of my Heartsisters, who enthusiastically kept asking for more.


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