Holding On by JoaG

Painful spasms shook his legs and shoulders as Daniel desperately hung onto Sam. His arms were dead weights, heavy and numb, and only the sight of Sam's unconscious body folded over his arms told him that he still had a grip on her.

Daniel tried not to look down, but the thought of the unforgiving rocks below pulled at him regardless of his desire not to. He could just make out the wet splatter of blood below him which dripped down relentlessly from Sam's forehead. With a morbid thought he figured the red marked the spot, a bull's eye for when he and Sam eventually fell to their deaths. He felt another cramp commence in his thigh and he adjusted his weight minutely, trying to ease the pressure before it escalated into a full blown contraction.

His foot slipped and he gasped, shoving his weight sideways while scrambling to maintain his precarious foothold in the small cracks of the rock wall. The movement dislodged Sam and his unresponsive arms weren't able to hold onto her as she slipped between them. He lunged forward—


His hand came into contact with a hard warm body and he jerked awake. Gasping and disoriented, he sucked in air through a spit-less mouth, looking around wildly. It took him several seconds to recognize that he was in Jack's Avalanche, and Jack had thrown an arm across Daniel's chest, holding him securely against the seat.

"You okay?" Jack was dividing his attention between Daniel and the road.

"Yeah," Daniel said, swallowing and trying to get some moisture back into his mouth. Side effects of the medication Janet had given him for the strained muscles in his back, arms and legs – sedation, dizziness and dry mouth.

Every time he closed his eyes, he relived the desperate hour where he'd held onto Sam with failing strength, wedged against the remains of the once solid-seeming stone stairs he and Sam had been climbing before they'd crumbled beneath them. It was a miracle he'd managed to snatch her arm as she fell from above him. He had wrenched his shoulder in the process; he hated to think what he'd done to Sam's.

"Won't be long, we're almost home," Jack said as he removed his arm and replaced his hand on the steering wheel. Daniel looked out and realized the neighborhood looked vaguely familiar, but he had no idea exactly how far they were from Jack's. God, he was so tired and sore.

He closed his eyes and leaned back against the headrest, the movement of the truck lulling him back to sleep despite his wanting to stay awake. He'd fought the effects of Janet's meds in the infirmary, waiting with the rest of the team for news on Sam's injuries. Concussion, Janet had said, and a dislocated shoulder from when Daniel had grabbed her. Minor injuries as opposed to what would have happened had Daniel not been quick enough, or hadn't been able to hold on…

But Sam was slipping, her shirt and jacket sliding along clammy skin and fighting his tenuous hold on her. He tried to tighten his numb hands, feeling his nails scrape the skin of her stomach as she continued to slide. He yelled, pleading with Jack and Teal'c to hurry—.

He jerked awake again as the sound of the engine stopped. He opened sleep-bleary eyes and noticed they were at Jack's house. He fumbled with the seat belt, his left arm not quite obeying his commands and his fingers numb against the cool metal. By the time he'd unlatched it, Jack had pulled his door open. He turned, his body heavy and tired, but thankfully pain free.

Jack helped him up with a gentle pull along his uninjured arm and he was grateful for the help. He staggered a few steps till he got his balance, then continued up the walk, knowing Jack would make it to the door before him and unlock it. He went inside and stopped in the hallway, debating what to do, where to go.

"Let's get you to bed," Jack suggested, pushing gently so Daniel was facing the bedroom. Bed sounded good, but it also meant dreams. Nightmares. He needed to relax, despite the effects of the muscle relaxants and pain killer.

He'd love a bath but he knew that getting in and out of the tub tonight would be too taxing for his abused body. He thought of hot water pounding his muscles, streaming down his body, easing the tension that still ran through his subconscious, and settled for that.

"Shower," he mumbled as he walked, head down, into their shared bedroom.

"You think that's such a good idea?" Daniel glanced up and managed to catch Jack's grimace before he schooled his face.

"Why not?" He shuffled towards the bathroom but stopped as he felt Jack's touch on his arm.

"You're more than a little groggy," Jack said, turning Daniel towards him. "Fraiser said if she let you out of the infirmary, I was to put you straight to bed."

"I'll go to bed after my shower," Daniel argued, his tongue thick and his words coming out slurred. He couldn't go to bed now, he knew he'd dream again, and he needed something, anything…

He looked at Jack, his face strangely in focus while the rest of the room swam nauseatingly around him. Finally Jack nodded and went into the bathroom. Daniel followed more slowly, hearing the shower door pulled back along its tracks and then the sound of running water.

"Wait here, I'll get you some clean clothes," Jack said, pushing the toilet seat down and leading Daniel to it. He sat obediently, eyes closed, listening to Jack opening and closing drawers.

"Daniel," Jack called out from the bedroom. "The clothes are still in the dryer. Stay put, I'll be right back."

He sat in a daze, his body listing until his shoulder touched the wall. He knew if he stayed like this much longer he'd end up falling asleep again, so he stood up, swaying in place. The steam coming from the shower was enticing, so Daniel slid the shower door open. Holding on to the frame, he carefully lifted his leg into the tub, feeling the hot water hitting his ribs and hip. His leg muscles shook, and it was with painful effort that he managed to raise his other leg.

He turned and lifted his face to the stream, allowing it to flow over him until he needed to breathe. Reluctantly, he turned around, leaning his shoulder on the cold tiles for balance and let the water pound down his back. He stood like that until he heard Jack's voice saying softly, "Oh Daniel."

He felt a feather light touch on his face, and then Jack's fingers were at his throat, slowly making their way down his chest. Something was pulled over his shoulders and down his arms. The water became hotter, wetter, along his torso.

Then Jack's fingers were at his waist, and he heard the sound of a zipper. A moment later something rough rasped down his buttocks and legs. He felt Jack's hands tap his right foot.

"Here, be careful. Don't fall," Jack warned. Daniel’s hands dropped to Jack’s shoulders for balance. He lifted Daniel's foot and suddenly it felt lighter. Before he could put his foot back down, something was pulled over it. Jack repeated it with his left leg, and Daniel could feel the accumulated water in the tub lap over his toes.

Then Jack's hand was on the back of his neck, interrupting the flow of water. He opened his eyes, blinking back the droplets on his lashes, and looked at his lover.

Love, concern, affection, worry – Daniel could see it all in Jack's eyes. He wanted to tell Jack he was okay, he was fine, but all that he could do was utter the words that had been haunting him since they'd returned to Earth.

"I couldn't hold on," he said, no longer able to meet Jack's gaze. The water, which had felt so good before, suddenly felt like someone beating against his back, stinging, punishing. He welcomed the feeling.

"You did fine, Daniel. You didn't let go." Jack's hand touched his chin and Daniel pulled away. Jack didn't understand, he had to try and make him.

"She was slipping," he said through a tightening throat.

"You didn't let her fall."

The steam was thick in the shower, making it hard to breathe, filling his lungs and squeezing them tight. He began to shake despite the heat of the water, knowing he'd almost killed his teammate, his friend, his sister.

"Ssssam!" he finally said, a half cry, a half wail.

- - - - - -

Jack pulled Daniel against him, holding his trembling body close as Daniel buried his face against Jack's neck. With Daniel away from the flowing stream, the sound of the water increased twofold as it reverberated against the ceramic tub.

After a moment, he realized Daniel was sobbing, his shoulders shaking. He rubbed his hands up and down Daniel's bare back, soothing, waiting for the storm to calm. He'd expected this, the pills had torn down his defenses and this morning's hour of terror was coming back to the fore.

Daniel was too tired and emotional to continue in this manner for long, and after a short while, he began to calm, his body sagging against Jack. Jack knew it was past time to get his partner into bed, so he pulled the shower door open and exited, his feet squelching on the soaked bath mat. He stepped over Daniel's sodden clothes and ignored his own dripping garments.

He supported Daniel's weight as he helped him out of the tub and then wrapped him up in a bath towel. He had him sit and proceeded to rub him down vigorously before passing the towel through Daniel's hair. His partner leaned forward, resting his forehead against Jack's abdomen.

"You're all wet," Daniel said, pulling back in confusion. Jack smiled, tugging at the soaked sweatshirt when Daniel put a hand to it. He took a few seconds to strip, his sopping jeans fighting him as he pushed them off. He took the towel he'd used on Daniel and wrapped it around his waist, ignoring the cool dampness of it for the moment.

Jack urged Daniel up and led him to the bed, where he sat him down. He pulled a clean tee shirt over Daniel's head, dressing him like he'd done Charlie as a baby. He was gentle as he pulled the sleeves over Daniel's arms, careful not to strain already over-taxed muscles.

Next came the sweats, pulled one at a time over long, lean legs. He had Daniel stand up while he tugged them over his hips, then got him lying down in bed. Daniel curled up on his side, the blankets pulled up to his chin. Jack returned to the bathroom and tossed their clothes into the tub. He'd take care of them tomorrow. He had more important things to look after tonight, he thought to himself.

He dried off quickly and picked up Daniel's glasses from where he'd deposited them on the sink. Quietly, he walked into the bedroom in case Daniel was asleep. As he put his sweats on, Daniel turned his head to watch him. Jack stood a moment, drying Daniel's glasses on the ends of his tee shirt before climbing into bed. He reached over and placed the glasses on the bedside table near Daniel and then stretched out, spooning up against Daniel's back. He kissed the back of Daniel's head where the short hair, still damp from his shower, had started to grow in from his last haircut.

Daniel threaded his fingers around Jack's arm, holding it tight against his chest. Jack could feel the tension in the much-loved body, and he wished he could help Daniel through this. All afternoon he'd seen Daniel begin to doze off, compliments of Fraiser's meds, only to jerk awake, as if his body still hadn't caught on to the fact that it, and Sam, were safe.

"Try to sleep," Jack said softly. "I'll be right here."

"Can't. Keep dreaming." Daniel straightened his legs, moving restlessly against Jack.

"Carter's going to be fine." And she was; Fraiser had said she might be released in a couple of days.

"I was so scared," Daniel said in a choked voice.

"I know. I was too."

"She was slipping, I couldn't hold her. If Teal'c hadn't… just a few more seconds and she'd be..."

"Daniel, you held onto her for over sixty minutes. Carter's not a lightweight, no matter how slim she looks. It wasn't your fault she came to just then." With a shiver, he remembered Daniel desperately yelling for help as Carter began stirring, and Jack had been so sure Teal'c wouldn't make it to them in time. They'd had to climb up one of the numerous stone-cut stairways to get back to the top of the cliff and then come back down to where Daniel was. Just a few seconds more, and Teal'c wouldn't have been able to catch Carter as she slipped from Daniel's grasp.

As it was, Daniel nearly went tumbling as the rocks he had his foot jammed against crumbled. Teal'c had taken Carter from him, and had made short work securing a rope around Daniel. He had carried Carter back up while Jack had held the rope steady. Then both he and Teal'c had pulled Daniel up to safety.

Teal'c had rushed Carter to the Stargate while Jack had remained with Daniel, rubbing the cramped muscles until he could manage to stand and limp back.

"If I hadn't found those paintings in the rocks, she'd never have…"

Jack swallowed, knowing that the blame for what had happened wasn't Daniel's. If there was fault to be laid, it should be on Jack's shoulders. He should have guessed the area was unstable and should have, at the very least, insisted on everyone using ropes as precautions.

"Yes, she would, Daniel. We were exploring, we knew the stone was crumbling and dangerous." Jack nuzzled Daniel's neck before continuing. "If you hadn't been behind her, you wouldn't have been able to catch her. It's a catch 22, however you want to look at it. You saved her, she's alive, no different than if you'd shot a Jaffa aiming a staff weapon at her."

"I can still feel her slipping," Daniel whispered.

"Hey, turn around." Jack loosened his hold on Daniel and waited till he turned to face him. He pulled him close, pushing his shoulder under Daniel's arm. "Hold onto me," he said as he took Daniel into his arms. "See, you've got me. I'm here, I'm solid, I'm not going to fall. Concentrate on the feel of me."

Daniel's arms tightened almost painfully as he gripped Jack and buried his head against his neck. Jack slid his hand beneath the fabric of Daniel's shirt, feeling warm skin beneath his fingers. He rubbed his fingers back and forth in small, circular motions.

He knew Daniel would be fine tomorrow; it was tonight he needed to work through, to get over the memory of helplessness and despair, and the fright of nearly losing a friend. Jack hoped Daniel's love and trust in him would be enough to permit him to let go and succumb to healing sleep.

He continued to hold his lover until he felt Daniel start to relax against him. Soon Daniel's grip slackened, his breathing coming more slowly and deeply.

"Don't let go," Daniel mumbled. His inhalations soon turned into snores, deepening in strength and volume as sleep took a good, strong hold of him.

"I won't," Jack whispered back. And he wouldn't. Daniel's heart was firmly entrenched with his, and there was no way he was letting it slip away from him.  


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