On top of the Equineby JoaG Note: This story first appeared in Redemption 8
Jack stopped to admire the view before him, the deep, soft sand masking any signs of his approach. He leaned against a root-covered wall and watched with a lecherous grin as Daniel leaned over, butt waving in the air, rooting something out of the, well, roots.
The whole temple structure was overrun by gigantic roots, which were slowly crumbling the thick stone into powder. Parts of the roof and walls had given way to the encroaching growth, allowing sunlight to filter in through small holes.
And this dappled light shone gently on the man who was unconsciously making Jack regret the fact that they were stuck on this planet for at least another twenty-four hours. When Daniel straightened, he was frowning at the small portion of painted rock which was all that remained of the art that had once adorned the interior of the temple.
"Hey," Jack said, stepping into the smaller chamber.
Daniel twirled around at Jack's hail, nearly tripping over his own feet as the sand moved treacherously beneath him. "Jack, I didn't hear you come back." He flashed a smile at Jack before turning back to the wall.
The giant roots had destroyed nearly everything along the outer walls. Ranging from several inches to a foot or more in diameter, they flowed down the structures like claws, insidiously destroying what a thousand years of rain, wind and sand had only been able to diminish. Only the interior rooms had escaped the roots' damage, but here the humidity from the breaches in the ceiling had done its job and very little had escaped the ravages of time.
"Did you find anything?"
"No, just bits and pieces, not enough for me to even try to figure out who or what the temple was built for."
Daniel moved a few feet to his right, then stopped to stare at a small scrap of dull red paint that looked like a whorl, then compared it to the piece of stone he held in his hand. Jack could see where whole layers of stone had fallen off the walls and pillars, leaving only tiny tidbits still standing to annoy and perplex anyone who wished to study them. That which had fallen off was mere rubble, their colors still bright and vivid in spots where the sand had buried it and protected it from the sun and rain's effects.
Jack couldn't hold back his smile as Daniel stared so hard at the small shard in his hand, his eyes began to cross.
"So, does that mean we can get the hell out of this jungle and start heading back for home?"
They'd completed their mission, which was one of simple exploration. They hadn't come across any signs of precious minerals, Goa'uld or civilizations until they'd stumbled across these ruins hidden deep inside a large grove of trees. The gigantic trees had traveled across the land and halfway up a cliff, enveloping the temple which had clearly been mined from the cliff walls.
So the remainder of the mission had been left to Daniel's discretion considering this was the only piece of civilization the technology they used to scope out the immediate vicinity around the Stargate had so far routed out.
"Just give me another hour." Daniel whip-turned to flash Jack a smile before moving on to another piece of paint. "I haven't checked out the room back there."
He made a waving motion behind his back and Jack turned to look at the smaller chamber to his right. Daniel's footprints trailed around the edges of the walls; the only place where the sand was still pristine was near the unvisited room. The sand underfoot had been disturbed from their tramping around, mostly around where Jack now stood near the short vestibule where everyone had squeezed past the roots which had nearly obliterated the entrance.
"Okay. I'll just be outside, watching the roots grow. And grow. And—"
"I get the message, Jack. An hour." Another quick, fleeting smile. Daniel's eyes gleamed behind his glasses. "Thanks."
"Sure," Jack said, turning and slogging through the sand. He grumbled softly to himself just to annoy Daniel, then smiled when he realized they'd be home tonight after all.
He squeezed through the charred coils of roots which had covered most of the temple's entrance; Teal'c's staff blast had made enough damage, enlarging the entrance so that they could enter. He squinted in the sunlight and put his sunglasses on; the sun was bright and strong and his eyes teared after the dimness of the temple's interior.
Carter and Teal'c were sitting in the shade of a tree about thirty feet away. He was on his way to join them, he'd actually crossed half the distance when he heard the rumble of thunder.
He turned to his right, looking for storm clouds, noting in a split second that the sky was clear and that the thunder was getting closer and closer, like a runaway freight train roaring down a mountainside.
And the train hit with a vengeance. The earthquake threw him off his feet onto his knees. The ground swam beneath him, tossing him up and down like a cork on an ocean. The motion subsided slightly, enough for him to get to his feet only to be thrown against a tree trunk. He held on for dear life as the trees and ground swayed to the rhythm of the underground tempest.
The quake stopped as fast as it had come, the rumblings moving on, like a purring cat satisfied that it'd snuck up on its prey, tossed it around for good measure and then was off looking for more interesting quarry. A little dazed, Jack carefully let go of the tree, afraid that the solid ground beneath him would try to fool him once more.
Then he heard the creak of stone on wood behind him. Oh God!
Jack rushed back to the temple, banging his knee painfully on the edge of the roots as he squeezed into the small opening. He half ran, half limped into the temple, partly blinded by the dust and haze floating in the sun-dappled room. At first glance everything looked fine. Still he called out for Daniel once more as he turned, searching the room.
Teal'c and Carter rushed in behind him, their forms blocking the light momentarily. Jack moved away from the entrance, heading for the smaller chambers, then stopped in shock when he spotted the broken inner walls.
The roots had held the outer walls solidly throughout the earthquake, but the inner walls had collapsed, several of them falling like dominoes, only to come to a tilted halt against the far wall.
Part of the ceiling had collapsed, bringing down stone and roots and tree limbs onto one of the inner walls. And there were Daniel's footprints, leading right to the—
"Daniel." The words came out in a puff of air as Jack stood there in shock. It was Carter's panicked, "Oh my God," that had Jack moving, running hell bent to the edge of the fallen ceiling. A quick glance showed it to be partly balanced against the wall and in the grip of the strong, fibrous roots, still dangling from the broken gap.
He threw himself onto the sand and peered underneath a six inch gap. He caught a glimpse of green khaki, shoved himself forward by a foot and peered again.
The heavy block of ceiling lay against Daniel, pinning him. He lay twisted, unmoving, his face pushed into the sand.
Daniel couldn't breathe. He couldn't move. He was being crushed from above and smothered from below. His lungs burned from lack of air while his body was in the process of being squashed into a pancake. His pulse pounded loudly in his ears as he attempted to move an arm, a leg, a finger...
Then suddenly there was movement near his face. Something grazed his cheek, his mouth, his chin, scraped his nose and finally, hallelujah, there was air.
He tried to gulp the precious oxygen in, but all he could manage were small, quick, panting breaths. The heavy weight on his back was pushing him too deeply into the sand, preventing him from inflating his lungs. But the bit of air he managed to inhale was enough to stave off the worst of the burning and the encroaching darkness.
"That's it, that's it. Breathe, that's good."
The voice was strangely muffled, but God it sounded good to his ears. He blinked his eyes open, feeling sand drift across his eyelids and face. All he could see was gray stone and sand. Then something beige moved into his line of sight and fingers came close to his eyes, carefully scooped out a handful of sand, and pulled it away.
"Daniel, can you hear me?" The fingers were back, and more sand was removed from around his face.
"Ja—" Shit. It was impossible to breathe and talk at the same time.
Jack must have heard because the fingers stilled, then there was a scuffling sound and a brown eye appeared before him, startling Daniel when he realized what he'd thought was more sand was actually an opening underneath the rock.
"Daniel! Can you move? Are you hurt? Can you tell me if you're hurt?"
Daniel tried to take stock of his body but it was numb. Okay, no, maybe numb wasn't the correct word because if he was numb his body wouldn't be registering the crushing pain. Would it? Wasn't it impossible to be numb and in pain at the same time? Daniel realized that there was no one single place that hurt more than any other, which could be a good thing. Except for his lungs, which were still craving oxygen despite the bit that was getting in.
Daniel blinked, unable to take in enough air to try to explain. "… K," he finally gasped.
"Sir, we can't dig him out, that'll bring the whole piece of rock down on him. But maybe if we try to shore up the rock with rope from the trees, then we can dig Daniel out."
Jack pulled away from Daniel's line of sight and he focused intently on what Jack was saying. "Give Teal'c the rope. I want you to get to the gate and bring back help. We're not going to be able to free him ourselves."
Then suddenly, Jack was back. "We're gonna get you out of here, but you have to hang on. Just hang on, you hear me?" With one hand, Jack eased Daniel's glasses off. Until that moment, Daniel hadn't realized how tightly they had been pressing onto the side of his cheek and behind his right ear. Then Jack went back to pushing the sand away from Daniel's face.
"O'Neill, be cautious in clearing the area. We must stabilize the stone above Daniel Jackson before we attempt to free him."
"He can barely breathe, Teal'c." The hand stopped, then moved away slowly. "I was thinking maybe we can dig some of the sand from beneath him, ease off the pressure a tiny bit. You think we can shore it up from back here?"
"We will require something strong enough to sustain the weight of the rock. I believe I can …"
Teal'c's voice faded as Jack leaned back down and peered through the gap. "Daniel, I'm going to try and dig underneath you a little, see if I can get rid of some of the pressure. Just keep breathing. If you feel anything moving underneath you, it's just me, okay?"
Sweat was pouring down Daniel's face and he blinked it from his eyes. There was a hissing sound in his ears, strangely offset by the fast, rhythmic beat of his heart. Jack was talking, but his voice was fading in and out. Something brushed by his hand, strangely abrasive as sand rubbed against skin. He tried to think what could be moving beneath him, then remembered Jack's words before he could begin to panic as thoughts of Goa'uld symbiotes worming their way towards him began to fill his head.
Then the pressure eased off just a touch; enough that a little more air was getting into his lungs. The hissing faded, only to be replaced by a wheeze as air made it a little deeper into his lungs. But the feeling of elation that Jack was going to be able to free him this way was soon cut off when an ominous creak of stone on stone sounded close by.
Then something was squeezing his fingers and he opened eyes he didn't remember closing. His hand and part of his forearm had been unburied and it was being tightly clasped by Jack. Daniel pressed down on the warm digits holding his, the movement difficult to perform. He saw it was his right hand that was sticking up out of the sand; his left, he thought, was curled beneath him, caught in the sand.
He tried to take stock of his body position; he was lying mostly on his stomach, the right side of his body lying pressed more deeply into the sand than his left. His left shoulder was taking the brunt of the weight; he knew the slab of rock above him was too heavy for him to be holding up; it was more likely that he was simply wedged in between the bottom of the rock and the sand below. He just prayed that there was something solid holding the rock off of him because his parents were testament that bodies did not bode well when crushed beneath stone.
The hand let go of his and Jack slipped away. Still too breathless to speak, Daniel simply watched as Jack's feet moved out of his line of sight, then returned a moment later.
"Here, let's see if we can make you a little more comfortable."
Jack had somehow widened the space beneath himself and the rock and he pushed something green towards Daniel. It took him a few seconds to realize it was his boonie hat. And that Jack was trying to place it beneath his cheek.
It took a bit of maneuvering and a lot of sand-clearing, but after a few minutes Daniel's face was no longer resting on the sand.
"Thanks," he croaked.
Jack's hand reached in and gently cupped his cheek. His thumb rubbed slowly against his skin, rasping against grains of sand.
"Teal'c's ready with the rope. I have to go and help him. Daniel, I'm not going far. Just to the roof so we can try and tie off this hunk of rock. I'll be back as soon as I can. You'll be... I'll be back soon, I promise."
"I'll hurry back," Jack said. He stilled his hand, smiled, then was gone. Daniel had thought he'd be okay with being alone, honest, he had. But seconds after the wisp of Jack's footsteps had faded, he realized he was alone, on a deserted planet except for his teammates with a half ton of rock threatening to crush him to death. He was quickly beginning to feel like this would become his crypt.
With Teal'c hanging from the roots as close to the temple's roof as possible, he tied off the rope close to the center of the hole in the roof. Jack stood near the gap that had given way, balancing awkwardly on the uneven roots that had spread, growing one over another, over the temple's rooftop. Even then, they'd had to gouge a hole into the growth to reveal the broken stone to drop the remainder of the rope into the temple's interior.
When Jack was sure Teal'c was safely on his way down, using footholds and handholds he'd had to cut into the woody growth with his knife, Jack hurried back to Daniel.
The rope was now dangling beside the fallen slab and Jack pushed it aside as he lay down next to the hole he'd enlarged. Daniel had his eyes closed, his face and neck bathed in sweat, the hand Jack had unearthed lying limp. The wheezing breaths seemed to be weaker and Jack was pretty sure Daniel was already close to exhaustion.
He checked his watch. Carter had been gone close to forty minutes. If she ran the whole way, she should be close to the gate now.
As if on cue, Jack's radio crackled. Carter's voice barely made it through the static so he got up and hurried outside.
"Say again, Carter."
"Colonel. I repeat. I'm at the Stargate and in the process of dialing out."
"Understood. Hurry back."
"I will, sir." Jack heard the backwash of the Stargate as it engaged, then nothing as Carter broke off the transmission. As he returned to Daniel, he could picture Carter rushing down the ramp, yelling to the general that they needed help, and the flurry of activity that would ensue.
Jack estimated it would take at least twenty minutes to mobilize a rescue team and another forty to sixty minutes for the team to reach them. Sixty to ninety minutes, total. He hoped Daniel could hold on for that long.
Pushing back his fears, he resumed his place beside Daniel, shifting as close to the rock as he could, and reached inside. He felt for Daniel's pulse, noting the hot, sweaty skin. It took him a few long seconds to locate his pulse, and he felt a stab of fear at the rate of the beat, which was way too rapid for someone who was simply lying down.
He rolled away and searched for Daniel's backpack. He found it out in the main chamber, where he'd dropped it an eternity ago. Jack rummaged through it, removing a handkerchief and a spare bottle of water. He returned to Daniel, pouring water onto the piece of cotton, then holding it carefully so as not to get any sand on it. Gently he reached out and wiped Daniel's face with it, removing the sweat and sand that clung tenaciously to his skin.
Daniel's eyes popped open, and Jack smiled gently. "Hi."
"Told'ja I'd be back soon."
"What's... going... on?"
"Carter just checked in. She just went through the gate and help will be here in no time."
Jack pulled the cloth away and replaced it with the canteen. "Think you can drink?" he asked, holding it close to Daniel's lips. He didn't miss how Daniel licked his lips in anticipation and Jack felt incredibly guilty for not thinking of this sooner. He tilted the bottle slowly, allowing just a trickle to fall into Daniel's mouth. Daniel swallowed and Jack continued to ease the water into him, allowing Daniel to time the sips with his breathing. The last thing they needed was for Daniel to choke.
He heard Teal'c enter the chamber and step around him. There was the scrape of rope on stone, and then Teal'c was kneeling beside him.
"Daniel, we're going to try and bring the rope around the rock here." Jack dribbled some more water into Daniel's mouth, noting that Daniel would hold the water in his mouth as it was taking him longer and longer to catch his breath long enough to swallow. He pulled the water bottle away and capped it. "Teal'c's gonna try and get it underneath the rock and pass it on to me. It's probably best if you keep your eyes closed in case I get some sand in them."
"Can you... get this... off... me?"
"I don't know. We're gonna see how it goes first. No promises."
"Then... stop talk... and do it."
"Yes, sir," Jack said with more enthusiasm than he felt. Again he grabbed Daniel's hand and squeezed it before straightening up. Teal'c was already digging in the sand behind the slab. Jack carefully reached behind Daniel's head and began moving sand. Ten minutes later the rope was in Jack's hand, handed to him by Teal'c, and he pulled it up and away.
They tied the tope off and Teal'c hurried back outside to tighten it and hopefully ease some of the pressure off of Daniel. The rope vibrated as Teal'c pulled, but there was no evidence that the weight had eased. Daniel continued to wheeze and pant. At least if the rock shifted before help got here, Daniel might have a chance of holding off being crushed.
When they were done, Jack took the time to walk around the stone slab. This was when he realized there was a large piece of root, near where Daniel's feet would be. This piece of wood was what was holding the huge slab off of Daniel. It appeared to be balanced just right, for the time being. If an after-shock or another quake hit, who knew what would happen if the roots still clinging to the rock snapped.
They needed something to jam underneath the rock, to hold it up, then lever it off of Daniel. He looked around but couldn't see anything useful. More ropes might work, maybe if they had pulleys... hopefully when the rescue team got here.
"O'Neill. The rescue party is on their way."
Jack turned to Teal'c, who was carrying a long, thick piece of root which was bigger than Teal'c's thigh.
"Thanks. I didn't catch anything—the walls are playing interference with the transmission." He glanced at his watch. Twenty-five minutes since Carter had last communicated with him. Hopefully in an hour's time, Daniel would be free. "Whatcha planning on doing with that?"
"A lever. The material is very strong; we will require something to hold the rock, however, when we raise it. Perhaps more rope?"
"If we knew how deep this sand went, we could maybe wedge it against the floor."
"Four... five feet."
Daniel's voice was weak but clear enough to catch Jack's attention. He hurried to him and got down on his knees.
"Trust me... it's an... archa... archael... I just... know."
"Okay, T, if we can find something to dig with—"
"Shovel... my... pack."
Jack grabbed Daniel's pack and removed the collapsible shovel Daniel always seemed to drag along with him. He eyed the piece of root in Teal'c's hand and began digging where he thought would be a good spot, only to have Teal'c place a hand on his arm.
"You would do best to keep Daniel Jackson company. I will do this." Jack stared at Teal'c for a moment, then nodded thankfully. He handed the shovel to Teal'c and resumed his position on the ground, beside Daniel.
There was an almost panicked look in Daniel's face as Jack took his fingers in his.
Jack glanced down Daniel's body, but by the way he was twisted, Jack couldn't do anything for him. "Daniel, I can't reach down to help you, buddy. Your leg's sorta in the way. Just do it."
"Can't." Daniel closed his eyes and Jack put himself into Daniel's shoes, and realized what he was feeling.
"I know it's embarrassing, but you can't just lie there and hold it in."
"Shit... hate... this."
"I know," Jack said softly as Daniel winced. "You doing it?" he asked several seconds later.
"Yes." Daniel's voice was curt and precise despite the wheezy quality. "Better," he said several seconds later. "Wet." He scrunched up his face and glared at Jack.
Jack laughed. "Wet is better than needing to go."
"Before the others get here?"
"… Not... s'long."
"I know. We'll have you out of here before you know it." Jack wished he could ease some of the pressure off of Daniel, but didn't dare chance it. Not yet. He looked over his shoulder. Teal'c had dug a hole at least two feet deep already and was digging like a madman.
"We'll try to anchor that rock; hopefully we can get you out of here soon. Just hang on."
"Not going... anywhere." Daniel waggled his fingers, still clasped in Jack's. "I'll never... complain... 'bout... how heavy... you are... again."
Jack laughed softly and Daniel managed a smile. "I'll hold you to that when I get you home."
"Soon. I promise. Soon."
Jack fervently hoped he could keep his promise.
Daniel tried to focus on Jack but he kept feeling himself drifting. Jack's hand had become his life-line, despite his difficulty in maintaining a grip. His whole body was incredibly numb. He had no idea if this was a good thing, or bad.
He imagined he could still feel his urine dripping down his leg. He was acutely aware of how wet his pants were. And how the sweat that had poured off of him earlier was slowly beginning to chill him.
He'd repeatedly tried moving his feet but he wasn't sure if he'd been successful or not. He thought his toes had twitched inside his boots but other than actually seeing them move, he couldn't be sure.
Daniel kept staring at Jack's watch, strapped to the arm that kept hold of his cold fingers, watching the seconds tick by, the minute hand moving ever so slowly towards the expected arrival time of the rescue team. Somehow he was latching on to the idea that the moment they arrived, he'd be free. He knew that was wrong but he was so desperate to get out of this crypt that he couldn't seem to stop those thoughts.
Daniel opened his eyes and met Jack's gaze.
"The rescue team's nearly here. Another couple of minutes and we'll see about getting you out from under this thing."
"Great... Time just... flew by."
"Teal'c's reached the bottom. We're gonna try and see if we can anchor this stone, but we won't try to get you out before we get more rope around it. Just in case. Just a little longer, okay?"
Jack pulled away and Daniel could hear him talking with Teal'c. There was a scraping sound close to his head and he rolled his eyes, trying to see what was going on. Something moved into his line of sight; it was a piece of wood or something, notched in the center, being pushed against the stone's edge.
Teal'c's fingers gripped the pale woody root, forcing it against the rock. Just as the wood slid into place, something above him shifted.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut in fright, feeling the pressure bearing down on him increase. His breathing rate rose as did his panic and he felt himself getting lightheaded just as his stomach clenched. Jack was yelling somewhere near him, then his voice softened. After long anxious moments, when Daniel realized the rock wasn't going to fall on him, he opened his eyes. That was when he realized Jack had been calling his name.
"Are you okay? Did it—"
"Slow your breaths down, you're breathing too fast."
He needed air, and the rock was preventing him from getting any. "Can't."
"You were doing fine before. You have to calm down."
"Your pulse is going a mile a minute. I know you're scared, but the rock's not gonna fall on you."
"Sorry to... tell you... but... already... has."
"Yeah, you've got a point there."
Sudden pain flared in his lower back, along his hip and down his thigh muscle.
"What? What is it?"
"Cramp." Daniel tensed, desperately needing to move to ease the kinks. "Damn it." The pain forced a few more choice words from him, but the need to breathe outweighed the ability to swear.
"The lack of oxygen is making it worse. Daniel, you have to try and relax."
Breathing through clenched teeth, Daniel could only glare at Jack. Relax, my eye. If he could only straighten his leg and hip, but no matter how much he tried to move, the pain only seemed to get worse.
"Look, I—" Jack moved away suddenly, then stuck his face back into the gap, squeezing Daniel's hand. "They're here. Hang on, okay?"
Before Daniel could respond, Jack was letting go of his hand and a pair of brown eyes were looking through the gap.
"Looks like you got yourself into a tight squeeze," Janet said.
"Oh... you're... funny."
She winked at him as she reached her gloved hand and grasped his wrist. "How much pain are you experiencing?"
"Cramp... bad cramp."
"Are you experiencing pain anywhere else? Your back? Your abdomen?"
"Doc, are you saying Daniel's paralyzed?" Jack dropped down beside Janet and squeezed as close as he could to her.
"No, I don't think so. He wouldn't be feeling a muscle cramp if he were. Can you squeeze my hand?" Janet moved so that her fingers were gently wrapped around Daniel's.
"So that's good, right, Doc?"
"Not... good. Hurts... like hell." Daniel squeezed her hand, trying to wish the pain away.
"It's good." Janet let go of his hand and fiddled with something next to her leg. "What about your feet? Can you feel those?"
"D'no." Daniel decided it was a bag of some sort that Janet had.
"What? Was that a no or—"
"Don't... know. Hurts... numb... can't tell."
"Okay." She pulled something out of the bag and snaked it into the gap. Daniel saw it was a clear, plastic mask.
"It's oxygen. Try to slow your breathing down if you can." Janet balanced the mask over his mouth and within seconds, some of the fog in his head cleared.
She took his hand and wiped it with something wet. The faint smell of alcohol permeated the plastic mask. "I'm going to start an IV, so I want you to keep your hand out of the sand as much as possible." There was the sharp sting of a needle and then Janet was placing protective gauze over the wound.
"I'm going to give you something to help relax your muscles. It'll hopefully be just enough to take the edge off; I don't want to give you too large a dose in case it compromises your breathing. Okay?"
"Okay." Yes, please, now, anything, just stop the cramps.
Janet moved away and Jack pushed himself closer. He snaked his hand next to Daniel's and brushed his index finger over his.
"Ferretti's here with his team and a couple of Marines. They're tying off the rock here to the trees, so we'll hopefully be able to pull you out in a little bit. Ten minutes, twenty, tops."
Daniel wanted to answer, but whatever Janet had pushed into his IV must have begun working because the cramp had faded into the background and the pressure on his body seemed to be a little more bearable. He blinked slowly, trying to focus on Jack's mouth, which was still moving. He had to concentrate hard to hear what he was saying.
Then suddenly, Jack's face was replaced by Janet's. Daniel didn't remember closing his eyes; they were open, had been open, he was pretty sure of that. And Janet was smiling; that had to be a good thing, didn't it?
Her voice sounded clearer, or was it his ears? The noise in his head was gone, or was it because his breathing wasn't quite as raspy and loud? Or maybe it was because the sound of it was muffled by the oxygen mask. He could hear people in the chamber around him, talking, moving, shifting things around.
"Better," Daniel replied when he realized she'd asked him a question.
Janet raised her head and looked over her shoulder. "He's fine, Colonel. Just a little dopey." She looked at him again and put her fingers around his wrist to take his pulse once more. "Hang in there, Daniel. They're almost ready to get you out. How's the cramp?"
Daniel smiled and felt the mask slip slightly on his face. He thought if Janet only gave him something to take the edge off, it was a good thing she hadn't given him a full dose.
There were enough people in the temple working on stabilizing the piece of fallen wall that Jack felt like a fifth wheel. He stayed where he was, feeling most useful right here, keeping Daniel company. Although at the moment Daniel seemed to be dozing. Whatever Fraiser had given him had worked wonders. He seemed relaxed, his breathing had eased even though he was still struggling for each shallow breath, stuck between the slab of rock and sand.
Jack had promised Daniel they'd have him out in twenty minutes, but it was already nearing forty. Some engineer, a Marine called Greene, had turned white when he'd seen how the slab was balanced on a single piece of root and had immediately taken steps in securing it before they even tried to dig Daniel out.
The man's words, praising Jack for not having tried to shift any of the sand away from Daniel, had scared Jack half to death. He didn't admit to Greene that he had moved some of the sand, Jack had simply exchanged a look with Teal'c, both men silently acknowledging they'd probably been lucky as all getout.
Jack ignored the series of ropes, pulleys and braces filling the area around and above the piece of rock and concentrated on Daniel. The chatter around him was that they'd be ready to go in a few minutes. The idea was to leave the slab in place with the paraphernalia holding it steady while they dug Daniel out and slowly pulled him out from beneath. Fraiser hadn't been happy; she was worried about spinal damage but they really had no choice. They didn't have the equipment, or the time, to move the rock itself.
A stretcher, neck brace and backboard were leaning against the wall, behind him, Carter waiting to hand them over the moment there was enough room to maneuver.
Jack turned to face Greene, who was wiping his hands on his pants.
"We're good to go, sir. We can start digging him out now."
On his knees, Jack moved over a few inches so he was kneeling at Daniel's head, Fraiser got down so she was at Daniel's hips and Teal'c hurried towards his feet.
"Now slowly, ease the sand from underneath him. Teal'c, be careful not to disturb those roots. I'm pretty sure our handiwork is strong but I wouldn't want to put it to the test."
Jack dug his hands into the cool sand beneath Daniel's head and shoulders and pulled, scooping out an armful of the stuff. He thrust it to the side and dug in again.
"Colonel." There was alarm in Fraiser's voice as she knelt there, arms extended into the slightly widened gap before her. "The sand's wet. He's bleeding."
Jack felt his stomach contract in fear for a second before he realized what it was. "He needed to pee."
Fraiser blinked at him, then pulled her hands out. Her fists were closed around a handful of dark, wet sand and she examined the granules carefully. "No blood." She grinned up at Jack, the relief on her face very evident.
Within a minute, they'd shifted enough sand to remove most of the pressure from above. Daniel was breathing almost normally now. He was lying on his side, the rock having pushed his chest and stomach forward so his shoulders had been pushed into the sand, his position somewhat twisted. The top leg was bent, the other partly extended. Actually if Daniel weren't still out from the meds and weren't injured, he could probably squeeze out of there right now by himself.
When they'd cleared enough space, Fraiser motioned for them to stop and Jack sat back on his heels while she reached under the rock and ran her hands over Daniel's body. Another minute of digging and they'd be able to put the neck brace and backboard on and then ease him onto the stretcher.
Daniel stirred at her touch. He inhaled deeply and began to turn his head, moving his leg restlessly. Hurriedly Fraiser grabbed hold of him and held his neck straight while Teal'c took hold of Daniel's thigh.
"Daniel, honey, don't move."
Daniel opened his eyes and looked at her, then shifted his gaze, meeting Jack's eyes. He looked confused but obeyed nonetheless.
"Sam, can you give me the neck brace?"
There was a scuffling sound behind Jack as Carter obeyed.
"Daniel, we're going to try and turn you, but I want you to keep as still and relaxed as possible, okay? We want to keep you immobile in case there's been an injury to your neck or back."
"I can breathe," Daniel mumbled from beneath the mask, sounding surprised.
"Yeah, we dug you out some." Jack squeezed Daniel's shoulder as he spoke. Fraiser removed her hands, trusting that Daniel was going to keep still. But as she reached for the neck brace, the cradle of ropes holding the slab of rock creaked as the stone shifted, the sound seemingly loud in the small space. Jack stiffened in alarm.
"It's okay," Greene called out, "some shifting is to be expected."
Jack began to relax, only to find himself holding onto a squirming, panicking Daniel.
"Damn it, Daniel, don't move." Visions of Daniel being paralyzed because of a sudden movement right about now had Jack pressing down on Daniel with more force than he suspected was safe. But Daniel was staring in terror up at the block of stone mere inches from his face and was trying to scramble from beneath it with every ounce of strength he could manage. Daniel was in the grip of panic, preventing him from escaping whatever terror he was experiencing would probably do more damage than good.
Hoping he was doing the right thing, Jack grabbed Daniel's shoulders and pulled, bringing the terrified man out from beneath his would-be prison and into his arms in a shower of sand. Daniel's weight pushed Jack onto his back and Daniel half lay against Jack, the oxygen mask flying from his face as Fraiser and Teal'c attempted to hold Daniel's lower body steady.
"It's okay, you're out. See? It's me."
Daniel flopped on top of Jack, still trying to scramble away but obviously his body wasn't quite working the way it should be. Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel and hugged him close, hoping the feel of his body would help bring him back to the here and now.
Daniel tucked his head down a moment and something must have clicked because he suddenly quit struggling. His right arm came around Jack's waist and he drew a shaky sigh.
"You okay now?"
"Yeah." Daniel took a deep breath, followed by a full-body shiver. "Well, that was a little embarrassing," he murmured into Jack's shirt after a long pause. He shivered again and made to lift his head but Fraiser was there in a flash.
"Don't move. Lie perfectly still and let us do the work."
"Never thought... you'd be... digging up an... archae... ologist... huh?"
"Oh, I don't know, I've excavated a few interesting places in my time." Jack was rewarded with a small huff of laughter as Fraiser untangled the IV line that had gotten caught between their limbs.
She was almost done when Jack heard a familiar rumbling sound deep within the earth. Even before he could cry out a warning, Teal'c had moved forward and was grabbing Daniel's arm.
"Out. Everyone out. Now! Move!" Jack was yelling even as he stood, helping to pull Daniel to his feet. As he and Teal'c half dragged, half carried Daniel towards the exit, Carter had tossed the medical supplies to one of the Marines and was dragging Fraiser towards safety.
The quake hit just as they got out of the temple, and stopped before they had reached the safety of open ground. A loud thud from inside the temple had Jack exchanging looks with his teammates. He wouldn't go look; he really didn't want to know if by having that panic attack, Daniel had actually saved his own life. He just hoped Daniel hadn't heard that telltale sound but the wide-eyed glance he gave Jack belied that wish.
"Aftershock," Carter said as she let go of Fraiser's arm and then hurried to help lower Daniel to the ground.
They'd managed to pull out Daniel's IV in their haste to leave the temple. Fraiser slapped a bandage onto the back of his bleeding hand and then with her directing, they soon had Daniel tied to a backboard, his body kept immobile for the transport back to the gate. The oxygen mask was replaced and the new IV started, and the bag was handed to Carter to keep a hold of. Fraiser took his vitals, then spread a blanket over Daniel while Jack sat next to him, a hand on his shoulder. Fraiser moved to Daniel's feet, pulled back the blanket and began unlacing his boots.
"Can you wiggle your toes?" she asked when she'd taken off both boots.
Jack watched as Daniel moved his sock-clad feet.
Janet stopped the wiggling by placing her hand on top of the toes. "Can you feel my hands?"
"Yeah. My feet are a little numb, like my legs, but I can feel you. Your fingers are warm."
"Numb? Are your feet cold?"
"Like pins and needles. And so's my arm. Truthfully, I'm just cold all over."
"I think it's just a reaction from the scare you just had."
"Not shock?" Jack could still feel Daniel shivering.
"I don't think so. His vitals are good."
She ran her penlight along the soles of Daniel's feet and Daniel's feet jerked.
"Good. Very good." She covered Daniel's feet and tucked the edges of the blanket around them. "Let me just give you a quick examination and then we'll get you back home."
Whatever meds Janet had given him earlier had worn off, leaving him feeling jittery and strung out. Most likely part of what he was feeling was a reaction to his panic attack earlier. And just the mere thought of that was enough to bring an embarrassing heat to his face.
But even worse was the overwhelming feeling that he needed to stretch; after having spent so much time forcibly compressed in one spot, he wanted, no, he needed, to move. His body hurt and the muscles in his legs, hips and back felt like they were on the verge of cramping. But Janet had him literally strapped to the stretcher, and the bit of movement he could manage wasn't enough to ease his discomfort.
Plus there was that other matter with the sand. He tried to wiggle his butt and only managed to aggravate the throbbing of his bruises.
"What's the matter?" Jack raised a hand, ready to call a halt.
Daniel pursed his lips and made a "come here" motion with his eyes as his head and neck was solidly set in place. When Jack simply looked at Daniel in confusion, he mouthed the words.
Highly aware of Teal'c and Ferretti holding the stretcher's handles behind his head, Daniel whispered to Jack when he bent close. "There's sand in my shorts."
Daniel grimaced when Ferretti snorted.
"I expect there's sand just about everywhere."
Jack was right. But this feeling was the worst. "I just want to be able to stand up and... you know."
"The sand'll make its way to your ass after a while," Jack said with a grin on his face.
"No, it won't. It's wet. Remember?" Daniel hissed, irritated at Jack's joviality.
Daniel rolled his eyes when Ferretti snorted again. "Jack, can you please ask Janet to—"
"Ask me what?"
Daniel jumped, not realizing she'd been walking just a few steps behind him within hearing distance. He should have known.
"Ask if you'd let me off of this thing and take a few steps, just to stretch my legs."
"Daniel, you know better than that." She moved forward so that she was in his line of vision. "You have extensive bruising along the side of your body and you could also have some fractures. And even though there's no obvious spinal damage, it doesn't mean there isn't any. Just bear with me a little while longer. We'll be at the gate soon and—"
"Damn it! My leg's cramping," Daniel yelled, struggling to reach his hands down to his spasming thigh muscle. He knew the pain was brought on by his tense reaction of frustration at Janet's words and Jack and Lou's reactions, and the act had brought on one of the cramps that had been threatening him for the past twenty minutes.
His hands were restrained, not allowing him enough leverage to reach down and try to knead the pain away. His struggles made the pain worse and he bit back curses when muscles along his right shoulder tightened and contracted into a tight band in empathy with his thigh.
Then the stretcher was on the ground and Jack was massaging the knot in his leg and Janet was telling him to try to relax.
"How the hell do you expect me to relax when—gah!" He just wanted to curl up or stretch out, anything to ease the continuing cramps. He might have been helpless pinned beneath that slab of rock but tied up like this to the backboard, he was just as powerless to help himself. He saw Janet rummaging through her medical kit and he began a panting litany under his breath. "Hurry, hurry, hurry," knowing whatever meds she was pulling into the syringe would ease the pain.
And ease it did. Daniel's muscles didn't relax, they collapsed. She'd given him a full dose of the good stuff, he realized as the world took on a hazy hue. He sighed in relief as the pain eased and his body relaxed. The board and neck brace didn't feel quite as uncomfortable now and the gentle swaying motion as he was being carried was soothing.
The chill he'd felt earlier was gone and he felt nice and snuggly under the blanket. Even the irritation of the wet sand on his groin faded to a background nuisance.
He watched Jack's head bob for a while, wondering why Jack had a funny smile on his face whenever he looked at Daniel. His stomach gurgled and he realized he was hungry.
"S'there a drive-thru where I can order some fries an' a burger? 'M hungry."
"Feeling no pain, huh?"
Jack had that odd smile on his face again. Daniel felt his eyes cross as he tried to focus on Jack.
"Mmmm? I'm good. Hungry. But good."
"I think Doc'll let you eat something when we get back to the SGC."
"Good. I want some fries." Daniel yawned.
"When he wakes up, you mean," someone sniggered in a low voice. Daniel thought it was Ferretti but he wasn't positive.
Keeping his eyes focused was getting harder and harder. "Maybe not a burger 'cause I know how the patty feels." He could hear Sam and Janet talking together somewhere to his left and the sound was soothing. "Squished between two pieces of bread... no sand, though. Maybe chicken?" He yawned again. "Those little chicken strips with... the dipping sauce?"
He closed eyelids that had gotten too heavy to keep open. "Spicy sauce," he mumbled, already half-tasting the tang of the sauce on his tongue and the heat of the chicken against his palate. He rolled into darkness eagerly, looking forward to his supper.
Jack bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from laughing out loud. The stress of the past few hours was catching up to him and he felt decidedly giddy. And despite the nagging worry that Daniel might not really be okay, seeing him doped up on muscle relaxants was just too funny and he'd been hard pressed not to run with Daniel's vulnerable state and tease the heck out of him.
He watched Daniel sleep for a while, then traded places with Ferretti, taking hold of the stretcher as the men took a break. They were more than halfway to the gate and were making good time.
Daniel slept the rest of the way, rousing only for a few seconds after they'd exited the Stargate. The pull of the drugs was too strong and he was out again before they carried the stretcher out of the gateroom.
During his post medical exam, Jack could hear Fraiser and her team working on Daniel. He roused long enough to answer a few questions and Jack worried about how groggy he sounded. When Jack left for a quick debriefing with Hammond, Daniel was still sleeping as he was being poked, prodded, x-rayed and bathed.
Daniel was still asleep when Jack and the rest of his team returned to the infirmary. He wondered what the hell Fraiser had given him.
"The whole ordeal's left him pretty exhausted," she said after Jack had asked. "His muscles were oxygen-starved for a long time, that and the strain he went through were the cause of the muscle cramps, so I had to give him a pretty strong muscle relaxant. Sleep is actually the best thing for him now.
"His reflexes are normal and other than bruises, I didn't find any physical signs of damage. We'll know for sure when I see the x-rays."
When the radiologist arrived with the results of Daniel's x-rays, all of SG-1 left the man sleeping and followed Fraiser into the lab to get the results.
"No fractures, no breaks," the technician said as he began clipping the x-rays onto the lit displays for Fraiser to see. "No sign of damage to his neck or spine. From what I heard he went through, he's very lucky."
As Jack looked at the pictures of Daniel's bones, Fraiser leaned forward and began peering at them intently. "If the ground hadn't been sandy, we'd probably be seeing fractures at the very least. The sand absorbed the shock; as it is the force of the blow forced him several inches into the ground."
She turned to SG-1 once she'd finished looking at the x-rays herself, smiling widely. "He'll be fine. He might be moving a little more slowly than usual for a few days, but there's no sign of serious damage."
"So he can go home?" Jack asked hopefully.
"I'll do another neurological test when he wakes up and if everything's still normal, yes." Fraiser gathered the x-rays and began returning them to their protective envelope.
"Speaking of waking up, Janet, how much longer is he going to sleep?" Carter asked while giving Jack a sidelong glance.
Fraiser grinned as she spoke to Jack instead of Carter. "The muscle relaxants should be wearing off anytime soon. Actually I expected him to have woken up by now. Don't worry, Colonel. You'll most likely be taking him home in a couple of hours."
"Great." Jack rubbed his hands together in mock enthusiasm, already thinking of what he'd say to Hammond to finagle a couple days leave out of him so he could stay home with Daniel.
"And before you ask," Fraiser said, moving out of the room and heading back towards the main infirmary, "no, Daniel won't need a babysitter but he'll probably appreciate a helping hand for the next day or two."
Jack nodded as he kept pace with her. So he couldn't use Daniel as the main reason for his wanting to take time off, but there were no missions on their immediate agenda and unless something had come up in the time he'd been offworld, he was sure the SGC could manage without him for a few days.
He left Carter and Teal'c sitting with Daniel while he went to his office to fill out the necessary paperwork. Whistling softly, he hurried to Hammond's office and gave the leave request to his aide, seeing as Hammond was busy on a call. He waited while the aide entered the office with his forms, then handed them back to Jack with the general's signature on them.
When he returned to the infirmary, Jack found that Daniel had been released from the medical trappings which had prevented him from moving unnecessarily. Even now, Daniel lay snoring softly with his left leg bent to the side, his head turned to face the same way, one hand flung up near his cheek.
Teal'c, who'd been talking in soft tones with Carter, looked up as Jack approached. His face lit up with a rare smile.
"Daniel Jackson has been cleared by Doctor Fraiser."
"He woke up?"
"When they removed the board and brace which protected his back and neck."
"Didn't try to stay awake for long, did he?" Jack said with a sigh as he took a seat on the opposite side of the bed.
"He did ask for you, sir."
"He mention he was hungry?"
At Carter's questioning look, Jack waved a hand at Daniel's sleeping form. "He said, before, on the planet, he was hungry. I thought, you know, I could take him home, stop for fries, burger—"
"I don't think so, Colonel."
Jack startled at Fraiser's voice next to his ear.
"I'd suggest something light; soup, meat and vegetables, nothing heavy."
"I just thought... he was asking for the stuff earlier."
"He was a little out of it earlier," Fraiser said with a sympathetic smile.
To which Carter replied with a teasing grin, "That's putting it mildly."
"So, I can take him—"
Daniel moaned softly, bringing all focus on him. He was still asleep but his eyes were moving rapidly behind his closed eyelids. Even as they watched, his even breathing hitched, the snores replaced by occasional low grunts as he shifted in the bed.
His fingers twitched once, twice, then his breathing evened out. Jack was about to ask Fraiser again about taking Daniel home when Daniel shot up with a cry and tried to scrabble off the bed.
"Whoa, whoa," Jack cried as he and Teal'c both reached for Daniel before he could tumble off. Daniel caught Jack's arm, his grip strong and painful as he glanced around the room, disoriented.
"Jack?" he finally said after several quick, panting gasps, looking down at his hand clutching Jack's arm. He looked around at everyone, blinking in confusion.
"You had a nightmare, Daniel," Fraiser said, moving in close and pressing her fingers against his wrist. Daniel gripped Jack's arm more tightly, then loosened his hold, his touch more gentle this time. Teal'c straightened and let go of Daniel.
"Looked like a doozey." Jack also released his hold from Daniel's shoulder when he saw there was no longer any danger of him falling off the bed.
"Yeah, I dreamed I was under the …" He trailed off, making small back and forth motions with his free hand.
"Want to try and lie back?" Fraiser raised the head of the bed as Daniel let go of Jack and began easing himself down.
"Ow. Owowowowow," Daniel complained as he got his body back onto the mattress. "I am so not moving from this bed anytime soon." He eased his head back onto the pillow, closing his eyes.
Jack frowned. "That mean you don't wanna go home tonight?"
"Now?" Daniel popped his eyes open and looked at Jack expectantly.
"Fraiser said you were good to go."
"Now?" Daniel asked again.
Jack shrugged, not sure if Daniel was eager to stay or reluctant to leave. He had to admit he was already lying in a bed and it suddenly seemed a little silly to make him walk through the mountain, up to the parking area and then sit in a truck for a thirty minute drive home, only to get into a bed again.
"Tomorrow's fine, if you'd rather stay." Jack hid his disappointment in what he hoped was a genuine-looking smile.
"No. I want to." With a grimace, Daniel sat up again, then leaned over, slightly hunched, protective of his left side.
"You sure? If you're not feeling up to going home—"
"I'm sure. I need... clothes," Daniel said, looking around.
"I'll get some from your locker." Sam stood, smiling, and when Daniel nodded, hurried out of the infirmary.
"You're sure, Daniel?" Fraiser asked as she watched him with an eagle eye. "You can spend the night here and go home in the morning if you'd rather get some more sleep."
"Will I feel better in the morning?"
She smiled ruefully, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, if anything, you might be a little stiffer."
Daniel nodded, still hunched over. "No offense, Janet, but I think I'll be a little more comfortable without twenty something stories of concrete over my head."
"I'd be more afraid of the commissary food gettin' you." Jack tried for levity as Fraiser nodded sympathetically, earning him instead a half-glare from Daniel.
"I understand. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat before you go?"
"I think I could eat, but I'd rather wait and …" Daniel turned to look at Jack. "Are we gonna go to your place?"
"Wherever you'd rather go."
"Your place. Less stairs."
"I'll just get you prescriptions for some muscle relaxants and painkillers." Fraiser turned and left.
Teal'c took a step forward, hands clasped behind his back. "There is no need to fear. Cheyenne Mountain is solidly built and will not collapse."
Daniel cast a hurried look at Teal'c which Jack interpreted as embarrassment. "I know that, Teal'c, but I can't help feeling a little nervous about being under tons of rock at the moment."
"It's an understandable reaction, Daniel." Jack rubbed Daniel's arm in sympathy.
"Do they not say on your world, after an occurrence such as this, 'you must return on top of the equine'?"
Jack snorted. "That's climbing back into the saddle, Teal'c. And I'm sure Danny'll be just fine once he gets a little breathing room." Daniel gave him a tight, relieved smile.
"Stop. Jack, stop the truck."
Jack immediately checked for traffic behind him as he braked, pulling over as quickly as he could onto the road's shoulder. Thankfully, the road was wider here, convenient if you had a flat tire, broke down or had an archaeologist apparently having a panic attack in your vehicle.
Daniel was fumbling for his seat belt and before Jack could reach over and help him, Daniel had the door open and more or less rolled out of the truck as he grabbed onto the door, moving more quickly than Jack would have expected, even with Fraiser's meds inside of him.
"Daniel?" Jack eased out of the driver's seat and looked at him over the top of the truck.
"I'm okay," Daniel replied, resting his forehead against the open door. "I just needed to breathe." He raised his head and stared at the darkening sky, taking several deep breaths. "Sorry about that."
"You should have told me, I'd have stopped earlier if you needed to—"
"Your brakes squeak."
"Yeah, I know. I'm gonna get them fixed when—"
"They sound just like rope rubbing against the stone."
"Oh." Jack stared at his feet, realizing what Daniel must have been going through for the past twenty minutes. "I'll bring the truck in tomorrow, get them fixed."
Daniel nodded, then slid back into the truck, moving a little more easily than he had earlier at the base. The muscle relaxants Fraiser had given him appeared to be working.
"You gonna be okay for the rest of the ride home?" Jack peered into the cab and watched Daniel struggle with the seat belt. He leaned forward and clipped the belt into the lock for him.
Jack got in, set the truck in gear and pulled back onto the road. He kept his speed down, trying to brake only when absolutely necessary. He saw Daniel grimace each time the brakes squeaked and although he didn't find the sound was similar to what he'd heard back in the temple, whatever Daniel was hearing was definitely grating on his already-frayed nerves. It was with relief that Jack finally pulled into his driveway.
"I'm gonna heat up some soup." Jack held the door open as Daniel half shuffled, half limped into the house, all his agility vanished. "You wanna eat in bed or at the table?"
Daniel stopped in the hallway, seeming to think over Jack's question.
"At the table. But I want to shower first." He turned and made his slow way towards the bathroom.
"You got a bath at the—"
"Sand, Jack. Believe me, you really don't wanna know."
Jack trailed behind Daniel, turning the shower on, getting fresh towels and a clean pair of sweats and tee shirt while Daniel sat on the closed toilet and began the slow process of undressing. By the time Jack returned to the bathroom, Daniel was stepping into the shower.
"I'll have supper ready when you come out."
"Okay." Daniel's voice was slightly muffled by the running water.
Jack dumped two cans of soup into a pot, threw some bread and cold cuts onto the table along with bowls, spoons and knife, and added a jar of mustard. He made himself a sandwich and left the rest, not sure how hungry Daniel might be.
He stood there, absently stirring the soup, waiting for the sound of the shower to stop before spooning the thick soup into the bowls. He couldn't believe they were home, it all suddenly felt surreal. Just a few hours ago he'd been wondering if Daniel might be paralyzed and a few hours before that, they were struggling to save Daniel from being crushed to death.
Jack shivered, realizing how close he'd come to losing Daniel today. Fatigue swept over him and he swayed, the spoon clattering loudly against the metal edge of the pot. He put the spoon down in the sink, lowered the heat over the simmering soup and gripped the edges of the stove, his head lowered, and concentrated on breathing as the shakes came over him.
"Hey." He felt a hand on his shoulder. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." Jack's voice was tight and thick as he forced the words out, drawing a deep, shaky breath as he straightened.
Suddenly arms wrapped around him and Daniel pressed close against his back. "You don't look fine. Should I start getting worried?"
He took another deep breath and swallowed back the lump in his throat, shaking his head. He turned so he was facing Daniel and wordlessly buried his face in Daniel's still damp neck. With deliberate care, he curled his arms around Daniel's bare and bruised torso and leaned in against his lover, taking comfort from his presence.
He felt Daniel's hand around his neck, holding him closer. As Daniel's breaths puffed softly against his ear, his pulse slowed and his breathing evened. He sighed one last time before pulling away, only to have Daniel tighten his hold. He felt lips press against his temple, then Daniel let him go. He stood there a moment, staring at Daniel's intent gaze. Daniel's eyes were a little glassy looking from the meds he'd taken, but there was no mistaking Jack had his full attention.
"I'm fine," Jack said with an embarrassed smile. He raised a hand to Daniel's cheek and traced his lips with his thumb. Daniel's tongue flicked out, following the path Jack's thumb had traveled. Jack leaned forward and kissed the damp lips gently, tasting toothpaste. Daniel's mouth opened beneath his and their tongues met briefly. He smiled when Daniel sighed as he broke the kiss.
"So, did you get all the sand out?" Thankfully his voice seemed almost normal.
Daniel grimaced and made a show of running his tongue over his teeth. "I sure as hell hope so. I even had some in my mouth and let me tell you, cracking sand with my teeth is not fun."
"I can attest to the fact that your mouth is now sand-free." As Daniel laughed softly, Jack waved at the shirt Daniel had thrown over a chair. "Need some help putting that on?"
"Please." Daniel handed Jack the shirt and Jack helped him thread it over his head and through his arms. The whole of Daniel's right side, from shoulder to hip, had mottled bruises darkening the skin.
"Thanks. Is supper ready?"
"As ready as it'll ever get."
He turned and grabbed a ladle with one hand, the pot of soup with the other. "Sit," Jack ordered. "Want a sandwich?" Jack doled out the soup evenly into the two bowls.
"Don't mind if I do." Daniel reached over and grabbed half of Jack's sandwich, giving him an innocent look at the same time.
"Sure, help yourself." Jack pretended to be put out while trying to hold back a smile. "I work hard to make supper and you just waltz in here and take it all."
"Oh, were you going to eat this?" Daniel spoke through a mouth full of bread and meat, waving the greatly diminished half sandwich with one hand.
"No, I guess you may as well finish it since you've eaten half of it already."
Jack was pleased to see Daniel eat with appetite, although his enthusiasm began to wane as he neared the bottom of the bowl, his eyelids slowly getting heavier, his movements becoming more lethargic. Daniel slurped the last spoonful of soup, placed it carefully into the bowl and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"I think I need to go to bed," he mumbled through a yawn. He stood slowly, holding onto the table until he was upright. Or as upright as he was going to get with a body stiff with bruises. Jack stood and followed Daniel to the bedroom. He quickly straightened the messed up bed and pulled the covers aside so Daniel could slide in.
As he tucked the comforter around Daniel's shoulders, he turned to look up at Jack with a confused look on his face. "You're not coming to bed?"
Jack glanced at his watch. It was still early, just a few minutes after seven.
"I'm coming, just give me a sec." Jack hurried to the window, pushing it open and pulling aside the curtains, making sure that Daniel had a view of the night sky and fresh air even though it was going to be chilly out tonight. Moving quickly in the fast cooling room, Jack shed his jeans and jersey. He could feel Daniel's eyes on him as he changed, and he smiled as he slid into bed beside Daniel.
Once they were settled, both lying on their sides facing one another, Jack realized with a pang that they were in the same positions as when Daniel had been pinned in the temple. At least this time it was without a half ton of rock lying precariously on top of Daniel.
Daniel was staring out the window, occasionally blinking furiously in order to stay awake, a small smile curling his lips as the light from the neighbor's windows streamed into the bedroom.
"I'm okay, Jack. I just need to do what Teal'c said... the equine thing." The smile turned lopsided as he spoke.
It took a moment for Jack to realize what Daniel was talking about. "Step back into the saddle? The mountain?"
Daniel nodded. "Sorry about my reactions earlier."
"Nah, everyone freaks at the sound of squeaky brakes."
"Not everyone freaks at the thought of working in a mountain."
"Not everyone works inside a mountain."
"Oh, good point."
"It's all too fresh in your mind right now. Go to sleep," Jack whispered as he stretched his neck to plant a kiss on the side of Daniel's upturned lips.
Daniel sighed deeply, closed his eyes, and three breaths later, was snoring loudly. Jack felt his own lips curl into a smile as he hunkered down for the night. Daniel would step back into the saddle, all right. And Jack would be there, holding the reins, if need be.
Author's Comments: Thank you, Annie, for trusting in me. And hugs to devra, for everything.