The Journey Homeby JoaG
Daniel’s voice was hoarse and didn’t carry far, a sure-fire sign of his dehydration and fatigue. But still, the sound of his voice quieted the wildlife, leaving only the buzzing of insects. Jack stood with his arm around Daniel’s waist as his lover leaned heavily against him. Daniel’s knuckles were white as his hands where they grasped the crutch Burke had fashioned for him from a small tree.
They waited patiently for the cowering archaeologist to come out, Daniel being fairly sure this was where he had left the exhausted man. Burke snapped his gum, the sound startling loud in the still quiet jungle.
“Bill!” Daniel repeated, his voice cracking. “They’re all dead!”
Jack could feel Daniel trembling, the aftermath of the adrenaline rush from his near-death at the hands of the rebels; both human and zombie. Or maybe it was simply pure exhaustion and pain.
Figuring the man was probably cowering on the ground, thinking Daniel might be trying to coerce him into giving himself up to the rebels, Jack called out in a sing-song voice, “Doctor Lee, come out, come out, wherever you are.”
“Colonel O’Neill?” Lee’s face popped up from behind a large bush, his eyes staring owlishly at the three of them. Yep, this man definitely didn’t know Daniel all that well. The last thing Daniel would have done was to betray a friend to their enemy.
Which was one of the reasons Jack loved Daniel so much. Jack had never known someone with such inner strength. He was such a gentle man, until his beliefs were disputed or a friend mocked or endangered.
Still, Daniel had been ready to go down fighting, and Jack hadn’t been surprised to see Daniel reaching for a rock as the Honduran rebel came at him with a machete. Exhausted, tortured, shot, starved and dehydrated, his lover still didn’t give up.
“Come on,” Jack said as he waggled his fingers, beckoning him out from behind the bushes. Lee was in nearly as bad a shape as Daniel, and he gratefully accepted Burke’s canteen as he pushed his way through the hip-high growth.
“What happened?” Lee asked as he stared at Daniel’s bound leg, water dripping down his chin before he wiped the droplets away with the back of his hand.
“Raphael shot me,” Daniel replied simply. Jack nudged Daniel, reminding him to drink some more water as they waited for Lee to slowly slake his own thirst. Jack split a power bar between the two men, not wanting them to eat too much at once, but knowing they needed something in their stomachs. Both men looked a lot better once they’d eaten and finished the water in their canteens.
As they began their slow trek back to the rebel campsite, Burke contacted the Nicaraguan authorities, asking for air rescue. They’d be airlifted to the military base in Managua, where a US plane would convey them and the artifact back home.
Jack had no problem finding the camp, they just followed the trampled growth where Daniel and Lee had run for their lives. When they came upon the small encampment, though, Jack took no chances.
“You two stay here while we make sure there’s no one around,” he ordered as he pointed to a small clearing.
“You’re just going to leave us here?” Lee asked in a terse voice.
“Just for a couple of minutes,” Jack said patiently. The man was nervously looking around, whereas Daniel immediately limped to the nearest tree and sat down, leaning against the trunk with his injured leg stretched out in front of him.
“But what if there are more hiding out here, waiting for us?” Lee argued.
“There aren’t, Bill. Jack got them all. Come on, let him do his job.” Daniel spoke impatiently, his eyes closed. Lee moved to sit beside Daniel, still looking unconvinced as Jack left them to enter the camp.
Daniel had said earlier that Jack had gotten all the rebels, but minutes later they’d both been surprised by the zombie’s appearance. Jack had never doubted Daniel’s word; Daniel had been just as shocked as Jack to see him.
Daniel had said the artifact reanimated the dead… what if those three he’d killed… Jack felt the hair on the back of his neck start to rise with the thought that three more hard-to-kill ghouls might be following behind him. And Daniel was out there alone, unarmed. He hurried through the shacks, checking and double-checking that there were no hidden dangers.
One large shack held a glowing metallic box. The artifact. Jack quickly checked the room then high-tailed it out of there with distaste.
Once satisfied that the camp was empty, he signaled to Burke that he was going to get his men. Jack returned to Daniel and Lee. Both men looked terrible, but Daniel’s pale, tight countenance bespoke of the pain in his leg. Lee jumped up at Jack’s approach, whereas his lover merely opened his eyes tiredly.
“That device, will it…?” Jack waved his hand in the air, towards the jungle.
“Um, no,” Daniel replied. “They weren’t dead to start with before being exposed to it.” Daniel frowned and looked at Lee, as if to corroborate his answer.
“You told me one of them died,” Lee said, “and that the device brought him back to life. But he was exposed to its effects once he was dead. It shouldn’t affect the other three from over here.” He turned to look at Daniel. “You said they were all dead?”
“We better go turn it off,” they said in unison. Lee helped Daniel up, and the two men made a beeline for the shacks as fast as Daniel’s injured leg could carry him.
“Found some water,” Burke called as he came towards Jack, two large plastic jugs in his hands. He carried them over to a table, clearing it of its detritus by first swiping his gun over it. He had a metal bowl under his arm and dumped it beside the water with a clang.
“Bath,” he announced to Jack with a grin. Jack grinned back. He turned and entered the shack as the two scientists were leaning over the box.
“That the thing?” Jack asked conversationally, noting it was no longer glowing.
“Yes,” Daniel said as he threw an old blanket over it. As Daniel leaned tiredly against the table, his eyes darted to the right and then quickly aside. Jack turned and noticed the car battery. He ground his teeth together as images of Daniel being tortured with it came to the fore.
“Burke found some water. You guys up for a wash?” He tried to keep his voice neutral, holding his anger at the rebels at bay, and wishing he hadn’t been so quick to kill them. It would have given him much pleasure to have those three tied up in here with that car battery sitting on the table instead of the artifact.
Both men’s eyes lit up at the prospect of cleaning up, and they followed Jack outside. They quickly stripped and washed, using the soap and deodorant from Jack’s supplies. Jack took it upon himself to wash both men’s backs, careful of the bruises and burns that dotted their skin.
After making sure Daniel was okay for the moment as he finished washing up, Jack continued to poke around.
He found Daniel’s pack, and recognized some of his lover’s clothes strewn around the campsite. There was evidence that the rebels had worn the clothes, and Jack had no wish to bring the dirty clothing back with him, and he was sure Daniel felt the same way. Daniel would have to remain in his soiled tee shirt and pants for the moment.
By the time Daniel and Lee had finished, Jack could hear the sounds of approaching helicopters. Burke went out to meet with the Nicaraguan military, and soon the four of them were piling into one of the large choppers, on their way to Augusto Cesar Sandino Airport in Managua.
Daniel sat beside Jack, leaning sideways, trying to take his weight off the back of his injured thigh. His face was pinched, and Jack figured he was in quite a bit of pain from his seated position. Jack took his jacket off then leaned over and loosened Daniel’s seatbelt, urging him to raise his leg. Daniel looked at him a moment and did as Jack asked. He rolled his jacket then placed it under Daniel’s leg, so that the injured part of it wouldn’t be resting directly on the seat.
“Thanks,” Daniel whispered as Jack buckled the belt.
The ride seemed interminably long to Jack. He couldn’t imagine how it must have felt to Daniel and Lee. Both needed medical attention, they were seriously dehydrated and exhausted, and both had injuries that were beginning to show signs of infection.
The three of them traveled in relative silence, not having much to say with the Nicaraguan military surrounding them. Burke, on the other hand, chatted up a storm with a few of the guys. Jack was used to Burke’s sense of humor, but he could tell he was beginning to grate on Daniel’s nerves.
There was a Medivac plane on its way to meet them at the airport, and Jack was anxious to get Daniel home. He’d hoped to make it straight to Peterson Field Air Force Base in Colorado, but he suspected that they’d probably need to stop at the Medical Clinic at the Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas instead. He glanced at Daniel, and seeing the pale, sweaty face, wondered if he shouldn’t try to get him medical treatment in Managua instead.
Storm clouds appeared in the distance, and they were flying straight into them. By the time they landed in Managua, Jack knew their flight home was going to be delayed.
A jeep drove up to meet them, and an officer stepped out and stood waiting as they exited the helicopter. Daniel’s leg had stiffened up, Jack heard him gasp in pain as he stood, crouching, attempting to move to the open door of the helicopter. Burke and Jack assisted first Lee down, then Daniel.
Daniel swayed then stumbled slightly as he stepped onto the tarmac. Jack wrapped his arm around Daniel’s waist, holding him steady. Burke carried their supplies while Lee took charge of the haversack containing the artifact.
“Colonel,” the officer said in accented English. “Welcome to Managua. We’re sorry to inform you that your flight will be delayed due to the coming storm. But we will be happy to put you and your men up for the time being.”
“Thank you,” Jack replied. “I appreciate it.”
A bolt of lightning lit up the dark skies, followed by a clap of thunder that echoed loudly through the airport. The officer quickly opened the door to the jeep, waving them inside. He looked Daniel and Lee over carefully. “Perhaps we should take your friends to our medical center?”
Jack was assisting Daniel into the front of the jeep when the younger man spoke up.
“I’m fine, Jack. I can wait till we get home.”
“Daniel, maybe you can wait, but it’s not fair to Doctor Lee, now, is it?” Jack knew that Daniel and Lee needed fluids badly. They’d been drinking water for the past hour but a bag or two of IV solution was probably what they needed right now. And Daniel needed that bullet taken out of his leg. Plus they needed antibiotics. And painkillers. Jack had been feeding the both of them Tylenol, but doubted it was doing much good for the headaches they probably still had.
“Thank you, I’d appreciate it if a doctor could take a look at them,” Jack answered the officer as he climbed into the back seat. Lee squeezed into the middle, beside Jack, the artifact resting on his lap. Burke made no move to get in.
“This is where I leave you guys,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Got me a lift back home, so… adios, amigo.” He looked at Jack. “Remember, temperate zone. Don’t forget.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jack called out as the jeep began moving forward.
Burke waved as a clap of thunder cut off any further words.
They were conveyed through a dizzying course along narrow streets, small, white buildings, flowers, shrubs and manicured lawns. They soon came to a stop before a one-story building surrounded by flowering bushes.
As they stepped out of the jeep, the rain was threatening to fall. The air was oppressive and damp, with the scent of ozone carried along by the wind. Lee hurried indoors, carrying the artifact, while Jack helped Daniel out. The injured man could barely put any weight on his leg, and by the time he’d gotten Daniel inside, a nurse had appeared with a wheelchair.
Jack escorted both men till they were settled in their respective cubicles. He took the bag with the artifact and left the archaeologists waiting for the doctor. He also wanted to go check in with the man in charge of this facility and thank him for the rescue if he was the one responsible for it. And he needed to get in contact with General Hammond and convey the news that his mission had been accomplished. As had Daniel’s.
- - - - - -
Jack heard the arguing almost from the moment he walked into the door of the medical center. Daniel’s voice was adamant and angry, speaking so quickly that Jack had trouble following his Spanish. When the receptionist made to stop him from entering, Jack pointed towards the cubicle, making speaking motions with his hand. She nodded, and let him through.
“Daniel?” Jack said as he poked his head around the heavy cotton curtain. “Que pasa?” Daniel was half sitting, half lying on the bed, wearing a hospital gown instead of his filthy tee shirt. Jack was happy to see an IV connected to his lover’s hand. Finally, he was getting some of the medical attention he so badly needed.
“He wants to take the bullet out of my leg. Jack, will you tell him we don’t have time for this?”
“We have another ninety minutes. That’s when our plane is coming in.” Jack smiled at the shorter man dressed in a white lab coat.
The doctor smiled back, his white teeth contrasting against his dark skin, and crossed his arms, waiting for the two men to finish talking.
“Well, there you go. We don’t have the time.”
“Why? It won’t take that long to dig out a bullet?”
“No, but the anesthesia will take time to wear off and it’ll be hours before I can get up and get onto the plane.”
“No anesthesia,” the doctor interrupted in a very thick accent. “I freeze, stop pain. Veinte minutos, no mas.”
“See, he can take that piece of lead out in twenty minutes. Doesn’t even need to put you under.”
“He’ll take the bullet out while I’m awake?” Daniel suddenly paled, and he swallowed audibly.
“Yeah, they’ll just freeze you. Maybe give you something to relax you.” The doctor nodded emphatically at Jack’s words. “Hey,” Jack said more softly, realizing that the idea of being operated on while awake was making Daniel nervous. “You won’t feel much of anything. I’ve had it done to me a few times.”
“Okay,” Daniel said in a small voice.
“Bueno. I go prepare,” the doctor said as he moved behind Jack, a hand on the heavy curtain. “Cinco minutos,” he informed them as he left the room.
Jack took advantage of the bit of privacy they had and stepped close to Daniel’s bed. He placed a hand on the still-stubbled visage before him and rubbed Daniel’s jaw gently with his thumb. He could feel the heat of fever on his fingers, and knew that that bullet needed to come out now. “It’ll be fine,” Jack said. “You got through everything else these past couple of days, this should be a breeze.”
“I know, it’s just that…”
“It’s been hard...”
“Not that I’m afraid of a little pain. I’m not.”
“I know. It’s simply the idea of being awake…”
“It’ll be fine.”
“I know,” Daniel replied with a smile.
Jack heard the doctor’s returning footsteps and took his hand away. The man entered and injected something into Daniel's IV, then had Daniel turn over onto his stomach.
“You stay?” the man asked Jack.
At Daniel's pleading glance, Jack nodded. He moved close to Daniel’s head, sitting on the other side of the bed so he wouldn’t have to see the operation in full, gory detail.
Daniel trailed his hand down past the mattress, out of sight of the doctor’s view. Jack grasped the chilled fingers, and Daniel squeezed back.
The medication kicked in quickly, and Jack could see Daniel’s tense muscles start to relax. Jack talked softly to Daniel as the doctor began to freeze the area around Daniel’s wound. He spoke of everyday things; the last barbeque they’d attended, the latest gossip at the SGC, little mundane things to try and keep Daniel’s mind off the surgery being performed on his leg.
Daniel replied sleepily a few times, his fingers lax and loose now in Jack’s grip. Jack glanced at the doctor, who had begun the surgery with the aid of a nurse. The man had been right, from start to finish, the procedure had taken less than twenty minutes.
The nurse finished by bandaging Daniel’s leg and suggesting that Jack allow her patient to sleep. As she pulled the blanket over Daniel’s shoulders, Daniel’s eyes drooped shut. Jack placed Daniel’s hand back under the covers and when he was alone with Daniel, he kissed gently his warm temple before going to check on Doctor Lee.
He found the archaeologist sleeping in the cubicle next to Daniel, snoring softly. Lee also sported an IV, and his color had improved considerably since their arrival.
Jack walked to the reception area, looking for a place he could buy some coffee and get a bite to eat.
“There is a small cafeteria down the hallway to your right,” the receptionist answered with a smile, speaking slowly to ensure he understood her Spanish. “Senor,” she called after him as he turned to head the way she’d indicated. She was holding a bag in her hands. “The clothes you had requested, they have been delivered.”
“Gracias,” Jack replied, taking the bag from her. He looked quickly inside and found two pairs of pants and shirts in both Daniel and Lee’s sizes. At the bottom of the bag were socks and underwear. At least they wouldn’t be going home in those god-awful ass-baring hospital gowns.
- - - - - -
“Okay, just two more steps,” Jack coaxed as Daniel hopped up the last of the stairs leading into the plane. Jack had both hands on Daniel’s waist to ensure he didn’t lose his balance and fall backwards. One crutch was wedged beneath Daniel’s right armpit, his left hand was holding on tightly to the rail as he made it up the last step. Jack reached backwards for the other crutch, which Lieutenant Adams had been carrying for Daniel.
“Here,” Jack said as he handed the crutch over to Daniel.
As the lieutenant took advantage of the small pause to press past Jack and Daniel, Jack said, “I thought I asked for a Medivac?” The small, cramped seats in this plane were going to be painful for Daniel to sit in, as opposed to a bed where he could have stretched out.
“Yes, Sir, you did. But the only one available had engine problems. We wouldn’t have been able to get to you for at least a day,” Adams said as he led them to their seats.
Daniel followed along slowly, still shaky and groggy from the medications he’d been given, not to mention the fever that he still hadn’t shaken.
They settled Daniel into an aisle seat where he could stretch his leg, while Adams took the crutches and stored them in a locker in the back of the plane. Jack took the aisle seat across from Daniel, while Lee stowed the artifact in the overhead bin above them.
“Colonel, would you mind?”
Jack looked up at Lee, who was standing over Jack.
“Would you move over so I could sit?”
“For crying out loud, Lee, the plane’s empty. Sit there,” Jack ordered, slapping the seat in front of him. Lee gave him a wounded look, but quietly took the seat Jack had indicated. The man had been dogging Jack’s heels since he’d woken up thirty minutes ago.
Adams had been hovering in the aisle behind Jack, and he moved forward now that the men were settled.
“Colonel, is there anything I can get you or your men? A drink, some snacks?”
“Water would be fine, Lieutenant. Could you bring several bottles so we won’t need to bother you.”
“Of course, Colonel,” the man said with a smile, “but it’s no bother. Would there be anything else, Sir?”
Adams nodded. “I’ll get those right away.”
Now that the three men finally had relative privacy, Lee twisted in his seat and began talking excitedly. Ever since they’d left the medical center, the man had been bouncing with excess energy, whereas Daniel had been overly quiet and still.
“Colonel,” Lee said in a loud whisper. “Do you think we’ll be able to study the artifact before handing it over to the Tok’ra? Just the idea that it can reanimate the dead, imagine if we can duplicate this and make our own healing device out of it. We could cure all sorts of diseases, make the world a better place, if you know what I mean.”
“No.” Daniel’s quietly worded reply was barely heard over the sound of the engines. He was slumped in his seat, leg spread along the edge of the seat before him, eyes closed.
Lee’s argument was interrupted by Adam’s approach. The lieutenant handed out the pillows, blankets and water bottles. “We’ll be taking off in about 5 minutes, gentlemen. So if you’d be so kind as to belt up, I can tell the pilot that we’re ready to go.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Jack said as he straightened up and began pulling the ends of his seatbelt from underneath him.
As Adams moved forward to close the plane’s door, Jack watched to make sure that Daniel was properly belted in. Daniel shivered visibly, then spread the blanket over his shoulders. Jack unfolded his own and spread it over Daniel’s legs.
“Thanks,” the younger man said gratefully. Jack noted that Daniel was sitting with his full weight on the injured portion of his leg. Which meant that the wound was still frozen. Once the medication wore off, sitting would be uncomfortable for him once more.
“Daniel,” Lee continued, “this is an opportunity we can’t miss. It’s a freaking Goa’uld artifact, and we have it in our possession. We can’t let this slide by. The Tok’ra can wait a little bit while we study it.”
“After what we’ve both gone through these past couple of days, I think we deserve to keep it for a few days.”
Ignoring Lee, Daniel turned his head to look at Jack. “Jack, I want that thing off the planet as soon as we get to the SGC.”
“I’m sure Jacob will be there waiting for us,” Jack said in agreement. Which brought back the nagging worry he’d had about Carter and her team since Hammond had informed him that he hadn’t heard from her since they’d left on their mission to spy on Anubis’ forces.
As the engines began to rev, Jack realized Daniel was staring at Jack.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Like hell. I know that look.”
Jack hadn’t wanted to worry Daniel about their friends, but he had no choice but to either lie, or come clean.
“Carter, Teal’c, Bratac and Jacob have gone to a planet where they think Anubis is setting up his super soldiers. They’re overdue and Hammond hasn’t heard from them since they left.”
“Do you think that…”
“I don’t know, Danny.”
“So General Carter won’t mind if we take the time to experiment with the device,” Lee continued. “What he won’t know, won’t hurt him.”
“Damn it, Bill,” Daniel hissed as the plane began its run. “You saw what that thing can do, do you really want to chance anybody else like Raphael getting their hands on it? Or worse, the NID?”
Lee glared at Daniel, and Jack wondered why the two men were now at odds. Daniel had saved Lee’s life by hiding him from the guerillas, and from what he suspected, Daniel had been the one to get them out of their prison. So why was Lee so adamant about keeping the thing and studying it? After seeing what it had done, Jack couldn’t agree more, it needed to be kept away from the NID. Hell, he wasn’t even sure if the Tok’ra could be trusted to safeguard it. Maybe the best thing was to destroy it, before Anubis got wind that it had been found.
They sat in uncomfortable silence as the plane completed its take off, quickly climbing and heading towards home. As soon as he was able to, Daniel disengaged his seatbelt and lowered the armrest between the two seats. He settled his length along the cushions, his head wedged into the space between the seat and the bulkhead, his hips and legs awkwardly curled in the limited space.
“Colonel,” Lee whispered over the top of his seat. “This is a chance of a lifetime. Can’t you talk to General Hammond and let me have a few days to study the artifact?”
“That thing brought a dead man back to life,” Jack whispered back, not wanting to disturb Daniel, knowing he needed the rest.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, I saw Raphael and his goons shoot him. Like a sarcophagus.”
“No, you don’t understand, Lee. He came after me and Daniel after I shot Raphael and his goons. Burke took the guy down only by blowing him to bits. Now, picture an army of these walking zombies. Do you really want to take the chance and letting them loose on Earth.”
Lee opened his mouth to argue, then Jack’s words must have registered because he turned around and sat back in his seat. Soon there were rustling sounds as Lee tried to make himself comfortable.
Jack sat staring out the window at the fading sunset, brooding over his worry about Carter and Daniel. Having seen how nervous both Daniel and Lee had been around the artifact, he really wanted it stored somewhere safe until the Tok’ra came to take it. And what was happening with Carter? Had they been found out? Were she and her team okay?
Thirty minutes later, Daniel began to shift restlessly. When the plane hit a bit of turbulence, he sat up with a loud gasp, breathing harshly and looking around wildly for hidden dangers.
“It’s okay, you’re safe,” Jack said as he leaned over the aisle and placed a hand on Daniel’s arm. Daniel nodded and lay back down. He moved restlessly, trying to get comfortable. Finally he sat up and slouched in his seat so that his thighs weren’t touching the bottom cushion. With a loud sigh, he tilted his head back.
“Need something for the pain?” Jack asked. Daniel turned his head and nodded. Taking out the horse pills the Nicaraguan doctor had given Jack before they left, he handed two over across the aisle, along with a power bar he’d stuffed in his pocket earlier. Daniel had nibbled a few bites of a sandwich before they’d left for the airport, and Jack knew he needed some more food to go with the pills. Daniel managed to eat a third of the bar before putting it down on the seat beside him.
They sat quietly for a while, listening to Lee snore. Daniel suddenly sat up, and looked over his seat, down the aisle.
“Where’s the toilet?” he asked.
“It’s down there,” Jack pointed, as Daniel stood up with the aid of the seat in front of him.
“Need a hand?” Jack offered, beginning to stand.
“It’s okay, I can manage,” Daniel replied as he began hopping down the aisle, using the seats to help him move forward.
Jack turned and watched Daniel’s slow progress until he entered the small cubicle, then straightened and sat back in his seat, stretching his back and legs while inhaling deeply.
Several minutes later, and Daniel hadn’t come out of the toilet. Jack began to get worried so he got up to go check on him. Lieutenant Adams caught his eye from where he was working up front, and Jack shook his head, indicating he didn’t need the man’s services. As he neared the toilet, he heard the unmistakable sounds of someone throwing up.
He sighed, and leaned against the opposite door and waited. After another minute, there was silence. Just as he was about to knock on the door and ask Daniel if he was all right, he heard water running. Another minute later, the door was unlatched and opened.
“You okay now?”
Daniel’s face was pale and sweating, despite the water he’d splashed on it. He simply nodded and hobbled past Jack.
“Here,” Jack said, moving ahead of Daniel and putting his arm around his waist. It was awkward walking double in the narrow aisle, but with Daniel’s arm slung over his shoulder, Jack moved sideways, guiding Daniel back to his seat.
“Wait.” Jack moved past Daniel and squeezed into the window seat, lifting the pillows and blankets off the cushion and placing them onto his lap. Daniel sat down with a wince, then shifted onto his left side so the back of his thigh was a few inches in the air. Jack put a pillow against his shoulder and patted it. Daniel gratefully laid his head against it.
Daniel shivered as Jack covered his lover with the two blankets. He slid his hand under the blanket and around Daniel’s waist, ensuring that it was hidden. He snaked his fingers underneath Daniel’s tee-shirt and placed them along the hot skin of his abdomen, rubbing gently as Daniel settled minutely against him, nuzzling his face into the pillow until he was comfortable. Daniel’s hands rested along Jack’s ribs, curled beneath his body.
Taken aback by the apology, Jack turned his head and spoke into Daniel’s hair. The man lying against him still smelled of sweat and illness, desperately needing a shower. Jack could see twigs and dirt caught in the sweaty strands.
“Forcing Hammond to have to send you to come rescue us. Just one more occasion where that damned Jackson luck shows up. We walk through a remote part of the jungle and straight into the path of a bunch of rebels.”
“Nothing wrong with your luck, Jackson. Looked like you were holding your own when I got there.” With gentle fingers, Jack swept his fingers through Daniel’s hair, brushing the remaining dirt away.
“Right, a rock against a machete. That poor blade didn’t stand a chance.”
Jack snorted. “God, Danny,” Jack breathed into Daniel’s hair. “If you could have seen your face when I shot those goons.”
“It’s not funny, Jack. I thought I was going to die. For a moment, when I saw you, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I thought I was hallucinating.” Daniel lifted his head to look into Jack’s face, his eyes wide and full of love despite the pain and illness reflected in his face. “I haven’t thanked you, have I? For saving us? I know how hard it must have been, leaving Sam to go after Anubis without you while you came looking for me.”
“Carter’s gonna be fine. I’m just sorry it took so long. It took a while for our governments to reach an understanding. Funny how it could have been interpreted as an act of war if I’d accompanied you and Lee in the first place. But by coming after you, it was taken as a humanitarian act. But actually it was Burke who requested I be the one to accompany him on the rescue.”
“You guys had a history together?” Daniel asked as he lowered his head to the pillow again.
“Yeah. Some bad stuff happened, and Burke got the raw deal. But he’s a good guy, despite how irritating he can be at times.”
“If you say so,” Daniel replied.
“How’d the guerillas get to turn that thing on?”
Daniel tensed slightly before answering. “Luck, I guess.”
“Come on, Daniel, that thing’s covered with writing in an alien language. You’re not gonna convince me they just decided to push some buttons to see what happened. They must have known it was more than just a piece of carved rock.” Jack had his suspicions, and when Daniel sighed and relaxed at his next words, he had his confirmation.
“Lee broke, didn’t he?” Jack squeezed the hot flesh beneath his hand, telling Daniel that it was okay, that Daniel wasn’t ratting out on his friend. It wasn’t everyone who was strong enough to stand up to torture, and from the two men’s conditions, it couldn’t have been a day in the park for either of them.
“That’s why he’s so adamant about studying the artifact, he wants to try and make up for talking,” Jack guessed. He glanced at the still-snoring archaeologist, and envied him his rest while Daniel was in too much pain to sleep.
“You wanna try those pills again?” Jack asked. Daniel shook his head. “Look, we have at least another three hours before we land in Texas. It’s gonna be torture for you like this.”
“Texas? Not Colorado?”
“Nope. We’ll need to get a military jet from Laughlin to Peterson, but I think we might be stopping off at the medical clinic in Laughlin first.”
“What? Why? I’m fine.” Daniel pushed off from Jack until he was sitting up, then hissed as his wounded thigh made contact with the seat cushion.
“That’s why, and no, you’re not fine. You’re still dehydrated, you’re exhausted and running a fever, you need pain killers and you need more antibiotics.”
“If I take the pills, will you take us straight home?”
“Daniel, I’m not saying this to coerce you into taking something for your pain. I’m just saying that you’re sick and need medical help. The last thing I want is for you to suffer; in all good conscience I shouldn’t have taken you out of the medical facility in Managua so soon.”
“Carter will get through the mission whether or not we’re at the SGC. I know you feel bad that I’m not out there with her, but I have to admit I’d have a hell of a time concentrating on that mission knowing you’d been captured and I couldn’t do a thing to help. Danny, when I saw you at the mercy of those guerillas…” Jack’s throat tightened and he let the words fade as Lieutenant Adams walked down the aisle, carrying a clipboard.
“I’ll take the damn pills,” Daniel sighed. Jack fished out two more from his pocket and handed them to him, reaching for the water bottle he’d placed at his feet earlier. Daniel swallowed half the water before turning onto his side again, leaning against Jack. He rested quietly for a few minutes before he spoke again.
“I was serious about getting that thing off world, Jack.”
“It’s worse than a sarcophagus. That begins to affect your mind after you use it a few times, but used sparingly, it still has its uses. The artifact corrupted those men after just a few hours. We can’t chance the NID or anyone else catching wind of it.”
“I won’t let it out of my sight. Don’t worry.”
“What about your friend?”
“He won’t talk.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Jack, he might work for the NID for all you know.”
“He’s CIA, and he won’t talk.”
“Okay. But I won’t be able to relax until Jacob takes it back…”
“They’ll be okay.”
Daniel inhaled deeply. “I know.”
“This is Carter we’re talking about. She’ll do fine.”
“I’m not—” A yawn interrupted his words.
“Of course not.”
“At the medical clinic. How long would I be there?”
“I don’t know, a day, two days.”
Daniel was quiet for a moment, and Jack craned his head to look at him. His eyes were closed, and his face appeared to be relaxing slightly, losing the pinched look he’d been sporting earlier. Jack thought maybe he’d dozed off.
Nope, Daniel was still awake.
“Daniel, your health is not to be negotiated.”
“The doctors might not let release you so soon.”
“So tell them it’s a matter of national security. After all, it would be the truth.”
“All right. I’ll arrange for a jet to take get us home by tomorrow afternoon.”
Jack raised a hand and gently stroked the heavily stubbled face he so dearly loved, careful of the cuts and bruises marring his skin. As his thumb passed near Daniel’s chapped lips, Daniel turned his head and brushed his lips along his finger. The relative privacy they had permitted them these barest of displays of affection, but Jack knew they needed no physical affirmation to prove their love.
He lowered his hand and closed his eyes. He was tired. The trip, the worry, the heat, all had taken a toll out of him and was only now catching up to him. He felt Daniel begin to relax, lying more heavily against him. He’d managed to keep these pills down and they were finally kicking in.
Daniel’s breathing deepened, and soon Jack knew he was sleeping. The soft puffs near his ear were comforting, and he dozed lightly. He woke up when Adams walked by twice, another time when they hit a patch of turbulence. Daniel slept through it all, even when Jack’s arm had gone numb and he’d had to pull it from around Daniel.
- - - - - -
“Wha?” Jack opened his eyes, and saw Lieutenant Adams leaning over the seat in front of him.
“Sir, we’re landing in five minutes.”
“Okay, thanks,” Jack replied as he rubbed his left hand over his face while trying to get the kinks out of his neck.
“Would you like me to arrange for transport when we arrive, Sir?” The man glanced at Daniel, then back to Jack.
“Yeah, to the clinic, if you don’t mind.”
“Yes, Sir. There’ll be an ambulance waiting for you.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it. Oh, would you mind?” Jack looked over towards Lee, and Adams nodded, turning to wake the still-slumbering man. Jack turned to Daniel, who appeared to be deeply asleep. His face was squished between the seat cushion and Jack’s shoulder, one hand was lying limply in Jack’s lap underneath the blankets. Jack placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder and shook him.
“Daniel, wake up,” he said softly, hating to wake him from such a sound sleep. When Daniel didn’t react, he shook him a little harder.
“Turn it off!” Daniel yelled as he rose up and twisted away from Jack. “Aaaagh!” he cried out when he jarred his leg on his chair. Gasping for breath, Daniel cowered in his seat, his eyes darting every which way.
“Easy, Danny, it’s okay, you’re safe,” Jack quickly said, trying to calm the disoriented man.
“Daniel?” Lee said, his frightened eyes peering at them from around the top of his seat, with Adams standing concernedly in the aisle.
Jack waited a moment to see if Daniel would further react. He finally seemed to recognize Lee, and turned to look at Jack.
“Jack?” he asked in a breathless voice.
“Plane. Heading for home.”
Daniel visibly relaxed, leaning his head against the headrest. Jack looked at the lieutenant. “He’s fine, he just had a bit of a flashback.”
“Yes, Sir.” Adams turned away, not looking very convinced.
“You okay? You know where we are now?” Jack asked when Daniel still seemed breathless. Daniel nodded, and Jack realized Daniel’s hands were folded beneath his thigh, trying to relieve the pressure.
“Texas, right?” Daniel said, confirming that he was back in the here and now.
“Right. Here, sit on this,” Jack said, folding the small pillow and motioning for Daniel to put it beneath his leg. It seemed to help, as Daniel seemed to be a little more comfortable and let go of his leg. He gripped the armrest on his right and Jack could see the white of his knuckles.
“Why are we landing in Texas?” Lee asked.
“Cause that’s where most military flights come in. I’m gonna requisition a jet to take us to Colorado later tomorrow.”
The seat belt warning sign came on and they buckled up. The plane landed without mishap and they taxied for a few minutes. When they came to a stop, Jack saw the flashing lights of an ambulance speeding forward to meet them.
Adams opened the doors, and Jack waited patiently for him to bring Daniel’s crutches. He wasn’t surprised, though, to see a medic enter the plane and come towards them. After a quick examination of both the archaeologists, Jack and the doctor helped Daniel down the stairs and into the ambulance.
“Colonel O’Neill.” As Lee climbed in behind Daniel, Jack turned towards the Captain who had called his name.
“General Graves sends his compliments and would like to see you at your earliest convenience, Sir.”
With a final look at Daniel, who was lying on the gurney with an IV in the process of being set up, Jack replied, “Now would be fine, Captain. Lead the way.”
The ambulance doors closed and knowing that his friend and lover was in good hands, Jack hefted the artifact and followed the Captain to the waiting car.
- - - - - -
Jack turned to see the doctor he’d been waiting for standing by the partly open door. He stood up quietly, careful not to wake the sleeping man in the hospital bed and walked into the hallway.
“I’m Doctor Weiss. I understand that Mr. Jackson was brought in under your command?”
“Yes, Doctor Jackson and Doctor Lee.”
“Well, Colonel,” he said, consulting the clipboard he was holding, “both men are suffering from dehydration, malnourishment and infection, although all symptoms are more severe in Mister… Doctor Jackson’s case. I understand the bullet from his leg was removed several hours ago in Nicaragua?”
“That’s right,” Jack said, beginning to wonder if he’d made a mistake to have Daniel looked at the doctor at the Central American military base.
“Don’t worry, whoever performed the surgery did a good job.” He smiled at Jack. “Of course the wound has become infected due to his debilitated condition. He’s running a pretty high fever, but we have him on antibiotics and we’re giving him sustenance and liquids through the IV. He’s a little sleepy now from the painkillers, but he’ll be right as rain in a few days.
“Doctor Lee, on the other hand, will most likely be released in the morning. Although I’d like to keep Doctor Jackson here at least two more days.”
“Sorry, doc,” Jack said with a wince, recalling his promise to Daniel. “I need to have him back at Peterson tomorrow afternoon.” The doctor opened his mouth to argue, but Jack raised a hand. “I know, he’s pretty sick, but it’s a matter of national security. He has information that’s desperately needed and I’m not equipped to debrief him here.”
The doctor frowned. “I understand. It’s very obvious from their physical conditions that both men have been through hell, and I heard you’d gone in to extract them from a bad situation. But I don’t feel comfortable releasing Doctor Jackson while he’s running a fever.”
“Nobody feels worse about it than I do,” Jack said softly. “But we really need to get him back. Look, the flight to Peterson isn’t even two hours, and from there he’ll be transferred straight to base hospital. His physician will be there to meet us; if you’d like, you can call her. Doctor Janet Fraiser.”
“Doctor Fraiser? Yes, I know her. Fine, Colonel O’Neill. If Doctor Jackson’s continues to improve, I’ll release him tomorrow afternoon. But if his condition deteriorates, I’ll have no choice but to countermand your request and keep him here.”
Jack nodded. “Okay. Thanks.”
As Doctor Weiss turned down the hallway, Jack re-entered Daniel’s room, only to see that Daniel was awake and watching him. Jack smiled, closing the door behind him.
“Hey, you’re looking a hell of a lot better,” Jack said as he sat on the edge of the bed. Daniel had been given a bath and a shave, which Jack was pretty sure had Daniel feeling better also. And although he was still so pale, the bruises, scrapes and cuts on his face stood out in stark relief, he looked more comfortable. This was probably due to the pain pills and maybe the fluids he’d been receiving for the past three hours.
Jack had spent two of the first with General Graves, then on the phone with General Hammond. Finally the artifact was safe for the moment, locked up inside a shielded box, stored behind a thick vault. Another hour filling out paperwork and sitting here waiting for Daniel’s doctor to come by.
“I’m feeling better,” Daniel replied as he looked at Jack.
“Good.” Jack smiled and leaned down to give his love a kiss. Daniel raised a hand and held it to Jack’s shoulder, stroking gently.
“You need anything?” Jack asked. “Water, magazine, sex?”
Daniel shook his head, then his eyes widened and he chuckled, his sleepy brain just catching up with Jack’s joke. He dropped his hand and curled up onto his side, facing Jack.
“Do you know where my glasses are?” Daniel blinked slowly, seeming to have problems opening his eyes again.
“Those I think you lost in the jungles of Honduras. Sorry, you’ll have to wait till we get back tomorrow for your spare set.”
“Oh, right.” Another slow blink. “Did you speak to General Hammond? Have you heard from Sam or Teal’c?” Daniel’s voice was beginning to slur and thicken.
“I spoke to the General. There’s been no news.”
Daniel’s eyes closed, and this time Jack could see him struggling to open them again. He leaned over and kissed his temple, leaving his lips against the too-warm skin for several seconds. Daniel smelled of antiseptics and unfamiliar soap. Then Jack said softly, still leaning close to the man he loved more than life itself. “Go to sleep, Danny. Everything will be fine.”
“Jack,” Daniel breathed, his eyes closed.
“I love you. Just remember that and dream about me, okay?”
A small smile appeared on Daniel’s lips, and he murmured, “Love… too.” Jack waited a moment, but Daniel was asleep. He placed another tender kiss on the slack face and left the room, heading for his own assigned bunk where he hoped he’d be able to relax enough to get a decent night’s sleep.
- - - - - -
Freshly showered, shaved, breakfasted and with the burden of still no news of their missing teammates, Jack walked to the medical clinic in the early morning heat. Despite having had a fairly comfortable bed to sleep in, restful sleep had eluded Jack. Visions of an injured Daniel facing a machete-happy zombie had haunted his dreams throughout the night. He knew he’d be facing those nightmares for a while.
There was nobody at the nurses’ station so Jack headed straight for Daniel’s room. He was happy to see him sitting up, with Lee perched at the foot of Daniel’s bed. Both men had been talking and fell silent at Jack’s entrance.
“Any news?” Daniel watched Jack carefully as he approached.
Jack knew how Daniel felt right this minute. He’d experienced the same pulse-racing apprehension when he’d asked the very same question of Hammond barely thirty minutes ago. At Jack’s slow shake of his head, Daniel looked away. Jack turned a nearby chair and straddled it, noting that a breakfast tray on the roll-away table had barely been touched.
“How are you two feeling?”
“Fine,” Daniel said morosely.
“Much better,” Lee answered cheerfully.
Jack reached over and placed a hand over Daniel’s cheek, noting that he was still feverish.
Daniel glared at Jack a moment, as if his illness was Jack’s fault.
“I don’t want to be here. I need to get back to the SGC.”
Jack knew how Daniel felt. He wanted nothing more himself but to hop onto a plane and fly home right this minute, both to get Daniel into Fraiser’s hands and see if there was something he could do to help his missing teammates.
“There’s nothing either of us can do to help them, Daniel. We just have to wait, and put our trust in their ability to get back home.”
“I feel so damned helpless,” he complained, hitting the mattress with his fist.
“I know,” Jack replied, resenting Lee’s presence and wanting to take Daniel into his arms. “I felt the same way when I heard you’d been taken. Hammond’s hands were tied and it took days before I had permission to come after you. But you have to remember, both of you,” Jack said, glancing at Lee, “your mission was a success. You found Telchak’s toy, and when, not if, Jacob gets back, he’ll be mighty pleased to see it.”
Daniel rubbed at his forehead, and Jack knew he must be still be feeling lousy. He pointed at the uneaten breakfast with his chin.
“Not gonna eat that?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Jack realized that the drugs Daniel had been given had suppressed his appetite, despite the fact he’d barely eaten anything in days.
“You want out of here? Try helping yourself by eating something. You need to boost your strength up and fight that infection.”
Daniel chewed on the inside of his lip, then pulled the tray towards him. He took a sip of juice, then picked up a piece of cold toast.
“Lee, I want a detailed debriefing about what happened out there. I’m gonna go see if I can find your doctor and get an update, then I’ll try to get us a room somewhere where we can talk.”
“Sure, Colonel,” Lee replied a nervously.
“What about me? Daniel asked.
“Later, after I’ve spoken to your doctor.” Jack stood up, and while Lee was staring out the window, Jack winked at Daniel. “Get some rest, Danny. I’ll be back soon.”
- - - - - -
Daniel was sprawled across the two seats, sleeping heavily thanks to the painkillers that Doctor Weiss had administered. Lee was sitting beside Jack, absorbed in a magazine. Jack was left alone with his thoughts and his visions of what Daniel had gone through at the hands of the rebels. Lee’s accounts had only confirmed much of what Jack had suspected. He’d questioned Daniel in less detail, getting him to clarify a few bits that Lee had been unable to answer.
Jack had spent most of his free time getting in touch with some of his contacts on behalf of Burke. He wasn’t sure how much good he’d be able to do his old friend, but at least he’d set the ball rolling.
He glanced at his watch and noted they were due to land pretty soon. Several minutes later, an airman came by to inform Jack that the jet was on final approach. As Lee belted himself in, Jack stood up and eased away from his seat. He leaned over Daniel and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Time to wake up,” Jack said as he shook the younger man gently. Daniel blinked and peered up at Jack sleepily. “We’re landing. Better belt up.” Yawning, the dazed man sat up and fumbled for his seat belt.
Jack stood watching for a minute until the belt was securely buckled and tightened. As Jack sat down to do his own belt, he could see Daniel trying to blink the sleep from his eyes, then closed them as he rested his head against the back of the seat. His head soon drooped over to the side, swaying gently with the movement of the plane.
Just a few more minutes and Daniel would be delivered into Fraiser’s hands. This was familiar, this was routine, this was home.
Daniel jerked as the plane touched down. His head lifted and he met Jack’s gaze before turning to stare out of the window.
As they taxied, Jack searched for the ambulance Fraiser had promised would be there to meet them. True to her word, it had arrived by the time the doors were opened. Jack was in the process of handing Daniel his crutches when General Hammond entered the plane, Fraiser hot on his heels. The General’s grin was in total contrast to Fraiser’s concerned look.
“I’m glad to see you boys home,” Hammond said as he first nodded to Lee, then placed a comforting hand on Daniel’s shoulder. He moved out of the way to allow Fraiser to get to Daniel, and spoke quietly with Jack.
“There’s still no word,” Hammond said before Jack could ask. “It’s been three days, Jack. Given that it took the scout ship almost thirty hours to fly to Tartarus, if they had to fly back, then they’re really not all that much overdue.”
Having nothing more to add, they both leaned against the seats and watched as Fraiser gave Daniel a quick examination. The two of them murmured quietly together as Fraiser asked Daniel a few questions.
“I think we can go back to the SGC,” she finally said with a smile as she stood up. “Nothing too serious that I can’t handle.”
Daniel stood with a grimace, but managed to make his way out of the plane without difficulty. He suffered the trip back to the base in the ambulance with the doc, while Jack and Lee rode with the General.
Home. Amazing how the cold, sterile, underground base could be so familiar and welcoming. He accompanied the General to his office while Daniel and Lee got yet another medical once-over.
He debriefed his superior and then went to the infirmary. To Jack’s delight, Daniel was sitting up and was finishing his supper. Jack noted someone had found his spare glasses, and that this time there was no IV attached to Daniel.
“Soup, crackers, cheese and applesauce,” Jack said as he examined the remnants of Daniel’s meal. “Don’t’cha just love hospital food?”
“Actually, it’s the first meal that’s not threatening to come up. Don’t knock it.” Daniel flicked his spoon over the bottom of the bowl, and licked the last of the applesauce from it.
“I’m not. I’m just glad to see you eating. Looks like you’re feeling better, too.”
“I am. Janet said I can probably go home tomorrow.” Daniel lowered his head and looked at Jack over the top part of his glasses. “I’m on sick leave for a week. Any chance you could…”
“Already did. Four days downtime, starting tomorrow. Although I’d like to stick around a while if there’s no news…”
“Me too.” Daniel put the spoon down and pushed the roll-away table aside. “Is Telchak’s artifact…?”
“In a shielded box, locked in a vault.”
“I wish I had a bit of time to study it before we hand it over to the Tok’ra.”
“I’m one ahead of you there. Lee’s taken pictures and filmed a mile of tape of it. It’ll all be waiting for you when you come back.”
Daniel yawned, and Jack could see he was starting to tire.
“I better go and let you get some rest.”
“No, stay a little longer.”
Jack wanted nothing more at the moment than to be at home with Daniel, and have the younger man lying comfortably in his arms. It had been hard not to give Daniel the comforting he deserved, neither of them having had more than a few minutes of privacy.
But by this time tomorrow night, if Fraiser permitted, he and Daniel would be spending the evening cuddling together in Jack’s bed.
They stared at one another, sitting in comfortable silence, until a nurse came by to remove Daniel’s supper tray. Jack stood, deciding he was going to go home and make sure the house was ready for Daniel’s homecoming.
“I’d better go, I want to get some groceries on my way home.”
Daniel nodded, fiddling with the edge of his blanket. Jack jammed his hands into his pockets, badly wanting to reach over and cup Daniel’s head with them so that he could properly kiss him goodbye.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” It felt like an awkward parting and he felt guilty leaving Daniel alone.
Daniel yawned again, and picking up the remote control for the bed, pressed the appropriate button to lower the bed’s head.
“Sleep well,” Jack said, unable to keep himself from reaching out and squeezing Daniel’s blanket-covered foot.
“Tomorrow,” Daniel agreed as he put his glasses on the roll away table.
With almost unbridled anticipation, Jack left the base and went home to get things in order for his soon-to-be recuperating archaeologist.
- - - - - -
“And what are you two still doing here?” Fraiser asked with smile in her voice.
“Hi Janet,” Daniel answered sheepishly.
“Usually when I discharge you, you can’t wait to get the hell out of here. My nurses tell me that you’ve been moping on this bed for over an hour.”
“I just wanted to wait a little longer and see if there was any news from Sam or Teal’c,” Daniel admitted, eyebrows raised, giving her his little puppy dog look.
“Daniel, I know you’re worried, but I ordered rest and relaxation. You need to get away from this place, and sitting around here isn’t going to get your stress levels back down to normal.”
“I’m sorry, doc,” Jack said where he sat beside Daniel on his still-rumpled bed. “You’re right. And you know we’ll be notified the moment there’s any news.”
Daniel nodded reluctantly, and reached for his crutches.
“Colonel O’Neill,” one of the nurses called out. Jack turned to where a brightly smiling woman was quickly approaching them. “The Gateroom just called. They’ve heard from the Alpha Site. The shuttle was spotted flying in and they estimate that they should be arriving at the Stargate within twenty minutes.”
Jack raised a fist in triumph, grinning just as widely as Daniel. He glanced at his watch.
“Hey, Carter’s got great timing. It’s nearly lunchtime. Care to join us, doc?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” she replied. “I’ll meet you in the commissary in thirty. Then, mister, you go home,” she ordered, wagging her finger at Daniel.
“Yes, ma’am,” Daniel said, his smile widening at her teasing.
Jack put an arm around his lover’s shoulder, anticipating the return of his missing friends and teammates, and then bringing Daniel home.
“Come on, let’s go see and meet them.”
Author's Comments: This fic is dedicated to Ximeria. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! The Journey Home didn't begin as a companion piece to devra's `Journey's End', but as her story picks up where this one ends, we thought they could very well be read as such. In either case, they are still stand alone fics.
See Journey's End for devra's sequel to JoaG's "The Journey Home"
A heart-felt hug to both DebiC and Mira, who alpha'd and beta'd this story. It's incredible how much one can learn with just a few well-placed comments.
And to the sisters of my heart, my thanks, as always.
Summary: The journey home from Central America begins
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