Something I said by JoaG
Daniel didn't know which was worse, the pounding in his head, or his burning and throbbing feet. He stifled a groan as he slowly came to awareness. He was cold, his body occasionally tensing in involuntary shivers. He knew that he was lying on his left side; he could feel rocks digging painfully into his hip and ribs. He opened his eyes and turned his head, trying to get his bearings. The movement sent the world a-whirling, and before he could sit up, he found himself violently heaving and expelling the contents of his stomach.
He tried to push away from the ground as he felt warm drops of vomit splatter onto his face. He was disoriented, and for some reason his muddled brain couldn't get his right arm to obey. Coughing and retching, he finally managed to push himself up slightly with his left arm as his body began dry heaving. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly against his pounding headache; he concentrated on breathing while his stomach slowly settled.
Panting, sweat poring down his chilled body, he turned onto his back, and yelped in pain. His right arm was caught beneath his body and he pushed with his feet, trying to turn back onto his side. Fire erupted throughout the soles of his feet. He instinctively curled up on his side, lifting his feet off the ground and bringing his knees up to his chest. He lay there breathing hard, waiting for the pain to subside, shivering from cold and pain.
He remained there for an indeterminate amount of time, until the stench of his vomit finally forced him to move away. Gingerly pushing off with his left hand, he managed to get himself into a seated position. He took deep breaths as the world tilted once more, his vision graying out slightly.
Head throbbing in counterpoint to his feet, Daniel felt like he was having the world's worst hangover. When he was sure that he wasn't going to pass out, he tried taking stock of his body. His right arm was somehow lodged behind his back. Using his left hand to try and feel behind him, his fingers encountered a nylon rope. With a lurch, he realized that his hand had been brought up between his shoulder blades and was tightly bound. The rope had been made into some kind of harness wrapped around his torso, securing his hand against his back. He struggled to untie himself, but was unable to reach the knots.
Swearing under his breath, he gave up the attempt and turned his attention to his feet. He had lost his boots somewhere, somehow, and had obviously been walking in his sock clad feet. The socks were torn and stained with blood, the material sticking to his bruised and bleeding feet. He looked around in desperation, realizing that walking was out of the question.
A quick once over revealed a variety of bruises all over his body, several of which were making themselves painfully felt. He was dressed only in his pants and tee shirt, and he shivered as a gust of cold wind blew over him. He checked his pants' pockets and came up empty. He had no food, no water, no weapons. He'd kill for a knife at the moment; he was off balance with his hand tied up behind him. At least his arm wasn't hurting him, it felt numb, actually.
Daniel looked around, searching for landmarks. He was sitting in the midst of a glade, surrounded by trees. There was no discernible path, but the distinctive bluish green tint of the leaves and grass informed him that he was on planet P4J 164. He rubbed his face with his gritty hand, recalling that he'd gone on this mission when SG8 had contacted General Hammond, requesting the services of an archaeologist. He'd seen the pictures of the ruins that they'd discovered and had quickly volunteered, much to Jack's chagrin. He had joined SG8 two days ago, if his memory was correct. But what had happened? His last recollection was sitting around the campfire after having spent the day transcribing the ancient hieroglyphics.
Where was SG8, for that matter? Who had tied him up? Why had he walked into the woods without his boots? And what the hell had he imbibed to have caused such a hangover? He hunched forward slightly, trying to keep all pressure away from his feet. He needed to take care of those injuries but didn't have anything but his tee-shirt to wrap his feet in, and with the way his hand was hog tied, he couldn't even take that off.
"Hello!" he called out, hoping he wasn't far from base camp. He doubted he was close, though. He suspected he'd been traveling for a while, the way his feet felt. He called out a few more times, hoping someone would hear him. Silence answered him.
As much as he hated putting weight on his feet, he had no choice but to at least try to see if he could spot some landmarks; maybe figure out where he was. With his free hand supporting his weight on the hard ground, Daniel maneuvered his legs beneath him until he was kneeling. With a deep breath, he grabbed onto the trunk of a tree for support. Gritting his teeth, he gingerly placed his left foot down on the ground. The pain was worse than he'd thought it would be, and he closed his eyes as he forced his protesting body up.
His chest scraped on the hard bark as he used the tree to help himself into a standing position. He placed his other foot on the ground and almost lost his balance, taking several small, wincing steps forward in order to keep from falling down. Bruised muscles in his legs and back protested and he'd have had problems enough walking even if his feet hadn't been in the condition that they now were in.
He forced himself to breathe through clenched teeth, his one hand holding onto a tree for support. He peered into the gloomy woods, the overcast sky barely penetrating the canopy. There had to be a trail, he *knew* he had walked here, his feet were very painfully telling him so.
He hobbled carefully around the small glen, unable to make out any sign of his passage here. Trembling from his exertions, he spotted the glint of water amongst the trees. With no other direction to choose from, he opted for the small pond. He needed liquids, and he had to clean the dirt from the cuts on his feet before they got infected.
Every step was agony; he felt each pebble, branch and root as he made his slow way into the woods. Cold sweat poured down his chilled body, causing him to shiver non stop. At least there was less wind here amongst the trees. As he approached the water, he could feel the ground beneath him become damper and colder. He stopped a few feet away from the water's edge, swearing when his nose informed him that the liquid before him was not appropriate for his consumption, or for soaking his feet in. A grayish green scum littered the surface, and bugs flitted happily about.
He turned around and aimed for the brighter patch of woods that he had just left, barely making it out amongst the shadows before him. He was desperate to stop and sit down, but he was afraid that if he rested, he wouldn't be able to bring himself to stand up again. Crawling was beginning to look like an option, except that doing so one handed was going to be difficult. As he reached the edge of the clearing, he almost threw himself down, wincing as his bruised body took the brunt of his weight in his rush to get off of his abused feet.
The wind was more prevalent here, and he tried moving back into the shelter of the woods. After a few half hearted attempts, he gave up and curled up on his side, trying to conserve heat.
Too cold to relax, in too much pain to fall asleep, Daniel lay there in abject misery, unable to clearly remember what had happened to bring him to this predicament. He attempted to concentrate on his last clear memory, which was joking around with SG8 as they all ate their supper. Their banter had been light at first, but a note of darkness began insinuating itself in his memories. He vaguely recalled jeers and insults, and somehow his taunting SG8 with 'I could do it with one hand tied behind my back' kept coming back to him. He suspected he knew now why he'd been tied up in this manner.
- - - - - -
Jack O'Neill stood at the bottom of the ramp leading to the Stargate, his two team members waiting impatiently beside him as the battalion of Marines rushed into the Gateroom. As they fell into position behind him, Jack glanced up at General Hammond, who was staring down at him from the Control Room. Once the last man fell into position, Hammond leaned over the mic and announced, "SG1, you have a go."
Striding determinedly up the ramp, Jack walked through the event horizon without hesitation, trusting that the others would follow behind. The trip through the wormhole to P4J 164 felt instantaneous, and his thoughts continued to twirl through his mind as he looked around for SG8 as he stepped away from the Stargate.
General Hammond had been in contact with the offworld team less than 30 minutes ago. Jack cursed the planet and this particular Stargate; it was powered by the sun and could only be activated every 48 to 72 hours. No amount of jury-rigging would get it to work before its built-in solar battery was charged.
Major Jefferson, SG8's Commanding Officer, had been forced to wait several hours after discovering that Daniel was missing before alerting the SGC and requesting assistance. He'd been unwilling to tie up the Stargate by dialing home and thus preventing a rescue team from coming through for another three days by initiating the wormhole himself, and had waited until the SGC's regularly scheduled contact time later this afternoon.
The man had reported that his team had woken up ill this morning and that Daniel was nowhere to be found. His boots, glasses and jacket were still in camp. They had no recollection as to what had happened; they had all woken up with what appeared to be one hell of a hangover. They had searched the immediate area and the ruins where Daniel had spent the previous days, and had had no luck in finding any trace of their missing archaeologist.
Luckily Jack, Carter and Teal'c had been on base when Hammond had contacted the planet. Keeping the wormhole active, they had rushed to get ready and were now heading in search of their missing teammate. Jack knew that they were now all stuck on this planet for at least two to three days, depending on the amount of sunshine the 'gate would be exposed to. He looked up at the overcast sky; the sun wasn't very evident. He hoped that Daniel wasn't too badly off, if he needed medical help, they were in trouble.
Major Jefferson hailed him as he stepped down the dais leading to the Stargate. Jack stared at the man's black eye a moment before the Major apprised him of the search pattern already undertaken. Not finding fault with what he had accomplished so far, Jack quickly issued orders, expanding the area to be searched. His men quickly deployed. Jack noted that one member of SG8 had his wrist taped up, another was limping slightly.
He, Teal'c, and Carter headed off to the south and eventually split up. Jack continued on into a thickly wooded area while Carter made her way towards a meadow, Teal'c heading for small hills west of the woods. There were no footprints or signs of passage. Constantly calling out his friend's name, Jack kept his eyes peeled as he traversed between the dark and gloomy trees.
He could feel the cold wind on his face and fingers, and all he could think of was Daniel outside without proper clothes in this weather. Jefferson had taken Jack aside and had confided that he thought that somehow, his team had been drugged. He'd also admitted to vague recollections of their dragging Daniel out into the dark, but he couldn't swear whether they were memories or dreams.
He'd looked Jack straight in the eye, and had admitted to possibly having mistreated Jack's friend and unbeknownst to Jefferson, Jack's lover. Jack's admiration for this man had gone up a notch, even when he felt anger at him for possibly being responsible for Daniel's predicament. Jack wondered if SG8's various injuries had been inflicted during Daniel's probable forced disappearance.
Jack realized that one possible reason why Daniel hadn't returned to base camp was the fact that he didn't have any footwear. If he'd been dragged through these woods, he hated to think what condition his feet must be in.
Jack listened to the chatter on the radio with half an ear; people reporting that no signs had yet been found. Jack traipsed through the woods for several hours, covering a southern heading. He knew that Carter was flanking him on the right and Teal'c on the left, but by this time they had probably drifted apart by a few miles.
Jack kept calling out Daniel's name, hoping that his friend would hear him. He heard a rustling sound and stopped, peering to his right. For a moment he thought that he'd found Daniel, until he spotted a kitten-sized furry creature nibbling on some lilac colored moss hanging from a tree. He took a step forward when suddenly the creature hissed at him. He backed off slowly, and the creature glared at him until he was out of sight. Shaking his head, Jack continued on his way. Jack knew from his mission reports that there were no dangerous creatures on this planet; he figured that they must have missed the pint-sized furball.
Jack had to deviate from his path at one point when two small deer-like creatures were caught up in a battle. They totally disregarded him; too intent on their aggressions. He climbed over an old rotting log, his foot slipping on the lilac moss which seemed to cover everything in the immediate area.
The light was beginning to fade and Jack realized that he needed to turn back. He had swept across a very small area of the woods; with a sinking heart he knew that they probably needed more manpower in order to do a proper search.
A small chipmunk-like creature chattered at him from a branch above his head. Before Jack could react, it launched itself at him. Jack reflexively swatted it aside, where it crashed against a tree trunk and lay still. Looking up at the branch, Jack could see the lilac moss the animal had been eating.
He clicked his radio on and called base camp.
"Siera Gulf eight niner, this is Sierra Gulf one niner. Come in."
Jefferson answered almost immediately.
Questioning him about the moss, Jefferson admitted that it had only begun growing the previous day. When asked if they had eaten any, he had quickly confirmed that they had not. But when he admitted that they had burned firewood with moss clinging to it, Jack was pretty sure that that was how they had been drugged. He assumed that SG8 had probably ganged up on Daniel; his lover, although well liked, did at times bring out the best and the worst in people.
He warned Jefferson not to make a fire that night, and to keep an eye out for any possible hostile animals. Jefferson confirmed that he'd noticed the aggressive behavior of the wildlife today. So far Jack had only come across the smaller animals; a larger one could very possibly be dangerous.
Jack reluctantly returned to camp, and spent most of the night lying awake. He felt guilty for being nice and cozy in his sleeping bag where he was positive that Daniel was out there freezing.
- - - - - -
Daniel spent the night curled up in misery. He was freezing and knew that he should move around to stay warm, but his feet hurt too much to support his weight. He had tried to walk around the clearing twice, and the last time only managed to limp a few feet before he collapsed to his knees. To make matters worse, his bruised muscles had stiffened up in the cold and simply sitting up was difficult.
He was hungry and desperately thirsty. His headache hadn't gone away; he suspected the fact that he must be dehydrated wasn't helping it any.
He lay there in a stupor. Occasionally fragments of memories or emotions would come back to him. In a half dream, he saw himself sitting around the campfire, accepting an MRE from Sean O'Connor. From the moment he'd arrived on the planet, the dark haired man had gone out of his way to try and make Daniel feel like part of the team. Last night, they had sat together talking about movies, Daniel missing Jack's company when they talked about one particular movie they'd seen together. Suddenly the conversation had turned into an argument. He'd been feeling oddly angry because Jack wasn't there with him, that he wasn't with his own team... his family.
Daniel didn't remember the words, but he remembered the intent. He had wanted to hurt; and hurt he did. He'd been sarcastic, arrogant, cutting, saying the first things that popped into his mind. The remainder of the team had quickly jumped in to defend Sean, and Daniel had turned his anger on them. Anger; unmitigated, uncontrollable rage.
It had crept up slowly, inexplicably. He couldn't recall Sean saying anything that would have caused those emotions to rise in him. Hell, Sean hadn't said anything that should have upset him in the least. The whole team had been happy to have Daniel with them; he shouldn't have felt like the odd man out. The one thing he knew for sure was that whatever had happened, Daniel had been the one to initiate it. His face burned suddenly in shame; he was going to have some major apologizing to do when they found him. If they found him.
The four members of SG8 had dragged him to the ground when Daniel had boasted that SG1 was a much better team than they could ever hope to be; Major Jefferson having been the one to tie his hand back with the rope after dragging his jacket off of his body. They'd torn his boots off his feet, and had physically hauled him up and forced him to walk in near-bare feet for what felt like miles.
Less clear was the nightmare trip through the woods. His arm and hand aching horribly after it had been wrenched up and secured behind his back, his feet bleeding and bruised, they'd forced him to walk through the dark woods. Kicks and punches had punctuated their commands to keep moving whenever he had faltered from fatigue or pain. And throughout the ordeal, he'd kept taunting them, insulting them, lashing out at them both verbally and physically.
He still didn't understand what had happened, but knew that his punishment was far beyond what he'd deserved. He was anxious for someone to find him; and simultaneously afraid that SG8 would return in the same mood as the one they'd left with late last night. He was vulnerable at the moment, with no way to defend himself or escape.
He was also desperately afraid that he wouldn't be found. Daylight was gone and the temperature had dipped with the loss of the sun. He was shivering constantly now and knew that he wouldn't last long if the temperature kept falling. The temperature had begun to dip the first night he had arrived; SG8 had teased him, telling him he had brought the cold of Colorado along with him. They'd been enjoying almost balmy weather until then.
He was exhausted; how could he be so tired when he had done nothing but lie here all day and night? He squinted into the dark, barely able to make out the trees around him.
He lay his head back down on the hard ground, squeezing his left hand between his thighs to warm his chilled fingers. He'd have preferred to stick it under his armpit but with his other arm bent backwards, it wasn't an option. Strange that he couldn't feel his hand or fingers. Probably his hand was asleep due to the positioning. His feet were cold, too, but there was nothing he could do about that.
He tried to remember when the SGC was scheduled to contact them. He thought that it might have been today, or was it tomorrow? In what condition were SG8 in? If Hammond had initiated contact, would they have even been there to answer his hails? Would they have admitted to their abducting him? He childishly wished that Jack were here; he knew that his own team would eventually have found him had they had been here. But most of all, he just wanted to be held in his partner's arms, to hear his sweet murmurs that everything would be okay. He snorted suddenly at the thought; more than likely were Jack to find him, he'd be giving Daniel a tongue lashing before using his tongue on Daniel in more creative ways.
- - - - - -
Jack was up before daybreak the following morning, and was soon joined by both Carter and Teal'c. They barely took the time to eat their breakfast before they'd packed up their gear and headed off. Each went in the same direction as the previous day, intent on expanding their search area.
The day was spent much as the previous one. The lilac moss was now everywhere, and nearly all wildlife he encountered appeared vicious and ready to attack at the slightest provocation. The foliage on this planet was so springy that minutes after traipsing through it, it returned to its natural form, obliterating any sign of passage. That was why no one could find any sign of where SG8 had left Daniel. And unfortunately, none of the team could remember which direction they had taken that night. They had all seemed to feel that they had wandered around in circles, and had admitted to having had trouble finding their way back to camp afterwards.
Jack wrinkled his nose as he approached what appeared to be a stagnant pool of water. He was tired, his legs were sore, and he was hungry. He hadn't taken any time to rest, and had only wolfed down a powerbar for lunch while on the go. The one thing that kept him going was the fact that Daniel had no food or water, or appropriate clothes.
He'd been searching for most of the day; nobody had had any luck. It was getting late once again and he knew that he had to turn back soon. He circumvented the soggy area carefully. He had taken several steps away from the reeking pool when he belatedly realized he's spotted something in the damp soil. He backtracked and squatted to examine the hardened footprint carefully. Standing quickly, he bellowed, "Daniel!"
He turned his flashlight on and followed the few faint prints illuminated by its glow. They faded as the ground grew less damp, and so he continued on in their general direction. So intent was he on searching for the vague trail that he nearly tripped over the huddled form on the ground. He quickly knelt next to him.
Daniel appeared to be unconscious. He was shivering, curled up into a ball. Relief flooded through Jack as he realized that Daniel was alive. His flashlight revealed what he had feared; bloody and torn socks on his feet. He placed a shaking hand on his love's face, his cold fingers registering the even colder skin.
Daniel moaned and turned his face into Jack's palm, searching for the source of heat. Jack placed a hand on the man's shoulder, staying further movement. He could feel him shuddering beneath his fingers and he quickly shed his jacket, intending to wrap it around the younger man's shoulders. Already warm from his body heat, it would help keep Daniel comfortable until Jack could remove the sleeping bag from his rucksack. Immediately Jack felt the cold air stir goose bumps along his bare arms.
He swore when he saw how Daniel's hand had been ruthlessly pulled up behind his back and tied. He clicked his radio on while one handedly removing the sleeping bag from his pack. He informed the teams that he had located their missing archaeologist. Knowing that it would be impossible to carry Daniel out of these woods in the dark, he ordered everyone to return to camp and to come find them the following morning. Carter argued that she wasn't far from his position and would come and meet him. Teal'c responded with the same reasoning, and Jack acknowledged that he might need their help during the coming night. He left his radio on, knowing that they would easily trace his signal and find him shortly.
Moving quickly and efficiently, Jack lit the battery-powered lamp and placed it nearby, hoping that the light would keep the wildlife at bay since a campfire was out of the question. Especially since all of the available dry wood in the immediate area appeared to be covered with the encroaching lilac moss.
After maneuvering Daniel into the sleeping bag and rolling him onto his side, he dug into his pack and removed several small chemical-heating packs, igniting all of them. Barely conscious, Daniel mumbled something unintelligible as Jack reached down and placed a heating pack behind Daniel's knees, and another against the small of his back. A third and fourth were placed against his stomach.
His shivering intensified as his body worked to maintain his core temperature. Jack turned Daniel partway onto his stomach, his chest and head supported on Jack's lap, so that he could reach the knotted rope behind his back. Before he could cut the rope, Jack heard Daniel talking softly. He lowered his head, listening to the whispered words.
"Please let me in. I'll be good, I promise. Please, Mr. Cathcart, I'm cold. I won't read at the dinner table. I'll be good."
'Aw shit', Jack said to himself. He rubbed Daniel's shoulder and back gently while brushing his lips against Daniel's temple.
He hated to hear Daniel begging in his delirium; he'd had this particular nightmare once before during a high fever. Later he'd explained to Jack that he'd been locked in an unheated porch one winter night when his foster parents had lost their patience with a young boy who had been desperately trying to fit into this overly-strict household.
"Daniel, it's okay. You're safe. Come on, big guy, can you wake up for a minute?"
His words seemed to reach Daniel because he quieted after a moment. "Close the window, Jack," Daniel muttered after a short pause. Jack smiled and squeezed his shoulder gently.
"Sorry, no can do," he answered.
He smiled down at the confused look on Daniel's face as he turned his head to look up at Jack.
"Hey," Jack said gently. The shivering man continued to stare at him, and Jack brought a hand to his face, cupping his cheek, then rubbing his thumb gently in small circles.
"I'm really here," he said to Daniel's unasked question. He stroked alongside the man's stubbly jaw, and kissed him quickly on the lips before turning his attention to freeing Daniel's arm.
"I'm going to cut the rope," he warned as he grasped Daniel's cold right hand firmly in his. One slice and Daniel's arm was free. He carefully brought the arm down until it was lying straight behind Daniel's back, and then maneuvered it over Daniel's hip, laying it gently against his waist before rolling Daniel onto his back. Daniel brought his other hand over and touched his arm tentatively.
"I can't feel my arm or hand," he said in a whisper, forcing the words between chattering teeth.
Jack frowned at the words. "Probably the nerves were pinched. You'll get some feeling in it soon," he said, hoping that he was right. He gently probed the arm and shoulder, relieved that he couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. Which didn't mean that there hadn't been any nerve or muscle damage. Jack reached over and zipped the jacket closed. Using the empty sleeve, he pulled it across the front of Daniel's arm and body, tucking it in tightly into his pants as a makeshift sling.
He reached back and removed his water bottle, offering Daniel a few sips. He watched as Daniel swallowed the liquid, his teeth chattering against the plastic mouth.
Daniel closed his eyes and curled himself into a ball, so Jack decided to have a look a Daniel's feet. He tucked the edge of the unzipped sleeping bag up and over the exhausted man's shoulders while he pulled up the bottom edge, exposing his feet. Daniel tried to pull his feet up into the shelter of the sleeping bag, but Jack deftly caught one retreating foot.
Pulling the lamp closer to better illuminate the damage, he saw that blood had dried onto the ragged cotton material, causing the material to stick to the wounds. Jack knew he'd have to soak the cloth in order to ease it away from the cuts and scrapes. He had a limited supply of water on him, and thought back to the stagnant pool he'd passed by earlier. He could boil the water... but then he'd have to start a fire, and the wood had that damned stuff growing on it.
Letting go of Daniel, he reached for his pack, locating his first aid kit. He removed the antiseptic and bandages first and put them aside, adding his canteen to the items. He noticed that Daniel was becoming restless and he crawled forward.
"What's going on?" he asked as he placed a hand to Daniel's cheek.
"It hurts, Jack," Daniel moaned.
Jack pulled open the edge of the sleeping bag and saw that Daniel was gripping his right arm tightly.
- - - - - -
Daniel couldn't believe his eyes; for a time he'd thought that he was dreaming. He'd heard Jack's voice, felt his fingers graze his skin... his *warm* fingers. It wasn't really until he'd felt Jack's lips brush against his own that he realized Jack was really here. Still too muddled to comprehend how Jack had found him, he lay shivering against his love's warm body as he informed Daniel that he was going to free his arm.
He could feel Jack fiddling with the rope behind his back, but his arm was totally numb. There was no sensation, no pain. When Jack brought his arm forward, it lay heavily against him like a piece of wood, not even feeling like part of his body. He touched it tentatively, afraid that he was now paralyzed.
The water he swallowed was heavenly. Long before he was sated, Jack took it away. The cool liquid, though, caused him to shiver even more violently. Jack pulled the top of the blanket up to his chin and Daniel reveled in the protection it afforded him against the cold wind.
He could feel bits of heat touching his body, but it wasn't doing much to warm him up. A cold draft on his feet had him instinctively pulling them up towards his chest, but a warm, strong hand caught his ankle, holding one foot steady.
He began feeling a thickness in his arm, starting from his shoulder and reaching down to his fingertips. It was with relief that Daniel realized he was beginning to feel the sensation of pins and needles. It was uncomfortable, but he welcomed it. He tried to wiggle his fingers, but they still wouldn't obey him.
Jack let go of his foot and placed the blanket over it. He was still shivering uncontrollably, and every little gust of air seemed to make it worse. Cocooned in the blanket, Daniel wondered why he still couldn't get warm.
The sensation in his arm suddenly intensified, and the pins and needles became more than discomfort. He gasped when his arm and shoulder exploded in pain.
Distantly he felt Jack's hand on his face, the heat from his fingers unmistakable. In answer to his question, Daniel tried to speak, the words coming out as a moan. "It hurts, Jack."
The pain was unbelievable. His whole arm was on fire and he writhed as he tried to escape the pain. He forgot about his feet until his thrashing caused them to brush against the ground. He stifled a groan as he fought hands that tried to keep him still.
A sudden stinging sensation in his thigh startled him, but the pain was mild and fleeting. After a time he felt strong arms holding him tightly as he was pulled forward against a warm, familiar body.
- - - - - -
Daniel plastered himself along Jack's length. Jack held him tightly, relieved to have found this man who meant so much to him, alive; but worried about the agony that his arm was giving him and his overall physical condition. Daniel buried his face into the hollow of Jack's neck as Jack covered Daniel's head with the sleeping bag.
A groan came from underneath the covering, and Daniel's cold, uninjured hand moved unerringly, pulling Jack's tee shirt from where it had been tucked into his pants. He jumped involuntarily as the chilled fingers splayed against the warmer skin of his stomach, then held still as Daniel raised a leg and insinuated his knee between Jack's legs. A hiss told him that he'd jarred his injured foot. Jack knew he had to treat Daniel's feet soon also, before infection set in.
He lay there for a long time while Daniel shivered against him, his body tense from the pain. Jack waited for the morphine he'd injected Daniel with to begin taking effect, whispering to him softly. Slowly, Jack could feel the chill begin to leave Daniel's body as he began to warm up. He relaxed more and more as his pain became bearable. His breathing was deep and regular now, only punctuated by an occasional shudder.
The sound of something large approaching in the woods had Jack quickly reaching for his gun, which he had placed within easy reach. Even before he could find a target, he heard Teal'c's deep voice calling, "O'Neill".
"Over here, Teal'c," Jack shouted, knowing that Teal'c had probably seen the light of his lamp, but was making sure Jack knew that it was him. Footsteps quickly heralded the large man's approach before he knelt beside them.
He felt Daniel stir, either his movements or his voice had woken him up.
"Jack?" he asked, blinking in the light as Jack pulled back the sleeping bag which had been covering Daniel's head.
"Yeah, it's me," Jack said with a hint of a smile. "Nice mess you got yourself into," he teased as he ruffled Daniel's hair.
"Why are you here?" Daniel frowned as he squinted up at Jack. Noticing Teal'c for the first time, Jack saw Daniel's eyes widen in surprise. "You're not supposed to be on P4J 164," he exclaimed in a raspy voice.
"Well, let's just say that SG8 misplaced an archaeologist and we volunteered to come and look for him." Jack smiled down gently at his confused love. As Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's face, checking his friend's condition for himself, he heard Carter warning him on the radio of her approach.
"Oh," Daniel said. After a moment, he looked up at Jack and asked, "Did you find him?"
"Yeah, a little worse for wear, but I found him." He clicked the radio, "Roger that, Carter," he replied into his radio as he smiled down at Daniel.
"What happened to him?"
"Seems like some sort of alien plant gave out fumes in the campfire. It brought out the worst in everyone, and one poor archaeologist seems to have caught the brunt of the hostilities. SG8 is really sorry about what happened."
"Oh, so it wasn't something I said?" Daniel asked. Jack laughed softly at his words.
By the time his 2IC reached them, Jack was sitting up with Daniel leaning against him, the sleeping bag pulled up to his shoulders. Teal'c offered him his canteen and he tipped it to Daniel's mouth. Again, allowing him only a sip or two and wishing for a portable stove, he raised a hand to Daniel's nape as the man tiredly leaned his head against Jack's chest. Teal'c removed a power bar and tearing open the packaging, he silently handed it to Jack.
Taking the proffered meal, he gently squeezed Daniel's uninjured arm. "Hey," he said when the man in his arms looked up at him blearily. "Think you can eat a bit of this?" he asked as he held the bar before his face. Jack knew that they needed to get as much nourishment and liquid into him.
Daniel raised his head, peering at what Jack was offering. At his slight nod Jack broke off a tiny bite, feeding him the morsel. He watched as Daniel slowly chewed and swallowed, his head lying heavily against Jack's shoulder. He continued to feed him; alternating between food and water. He'd shake him awake whenever his exhaustion overwhelmed him and he'd nod off. When Daniel had eaten close to a quarter of the bar, Jack allowed him to succumb to sleep after having him swallow a dose of antibiotics.
All this while Carter had been busily examining Daniel, and at her questioning look at the sling, he'd explained how he'd found Daniel and that he'd had to give him something for the pain. She frowned as she pulled back the jacket to probe his arm and shoulder.
"We need to ice his shoulder, sir," Carter commented. Jack ignored the hiss of pain which her touch invoked. Daniel shifted, arching away from her touch. Jack gently placed a hand on the injured part of Daniel's body, feeling the heat rising off his upper arm and shoulder. He knew that they'd need to keep the swelling down; otherwise recovery would take even longer.
"Ya think?" Jack muttered. Carter removed three cold packs from their medical supplies and squeezed them, activating the products. Jack was glad that they'd taken the time to take a bit of everything when they'd left the SGC, not knowing in what condition that they'd find Daniel. She placed them along Daniel's arm, and secured his jacket tightly once again, holding the packs in place.
"I'd like to soak his feet first," Carter said as she turned her attention to those injuries. Jack nodded, but frowned at her next request.
"If we were to make a small fire and boil some water..." she started.
"No!" Jack countered quickly. "That stuff is all over the place."
"If we were to scrape the moss off of the wood, there would be little contamination, and of course I'd make the fire downwind from us," she argued. Jack knew that warm water would be best for Daniel's comfort, but he couldn't afford to risk exposing any of his team to the effects of that stuff. If trained soldiers like SG8 could be so easily affected by the vapors of a burning alien plant, he hated to think what it could do to his team. And they needed all of their faculties to care for Daniel. He was too vulnerable at this point; injured and unable to escape any or all of them were they to become infected.
"I believe my symbiote would allow me to withstand the effects," Teal'c offered.
"How do you know that Junior won't be affected himself?" Jack argued. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow, canting his head slightly while staring at Jack with a very slight smile. He sighed. He hated this, but maybe Teal'c could... just a small fire... maybe keep it going just long enough to boil some of that pond water, make it safe for cleaning Daniel's feet.
"Okay," he relented. "Just long enough to get that water safe to use. And Teal'c, you make sure you get minimum exposure. Go MOPP 4."
With a nod, the Jaffa rose to begin the process of starting a fire at the far end of the clearing. Carter got their collapsible container and went back into the woods to retrieve the water at Jack's direction. Before lighting the fire, Teal'c donned the protective clothing, minimizing his exposure to the moss' influence.
- - - - - -
Daniel lay in a twilight state, half awake and half asleep. His arm, feet and head still hurt, even with the drug Jack had given him, preventing him from falling into a deeper and more restful sleep. But the pain was manageable, at least for now. He could hear bits of conversation around him, but it was just too much effort to try and concentrate on the voices. He was still cold, not the bone chilling cold of before, but just enough to make him uncomfortable. He'd love to soak in a warm bath and let the heat of the hot water seep into him. He couldn't complain, though, he was very grateful for Jack's warmth underneath him.
The feel of Jack's hand on his head was comforting. His fingers traced small patterns in his hair. Daniel didn't think Jack was even aware that he was doing it. He roused slightly when Jack's voice became alarmed, and he reluctantly opened his eyes. He saw Teal'c outlined in the glow of a campfire at the other end of the glade. As he watched, Teal'c picked something large and metallic up from the fire and carefully carried it over towards them. As his eyes closed reluctantly, he noted that Teal'c appeared to be wearing protective gear.
He dozed until the sound of raised voices disturbed him. A little disoriented, he felt Jack tense beneath him. He turned his head and saw Teal'c standing nearby, minus the protective gear now, looking down at them with a look of loathing that was usually reserved for the Goa'uld. Sam crouched protectively beside them and he saw her fingering a zat. God, what was going on?
"Jack?" he asked tentatively.
"Shhh," Jack said with a slight squeeze to his arm. He tried to push away to let Jack stand up. Whatever was going on, he knew that by half lying on top of Jack, he was putting his friend in a vulnerable position. The movement jarred his arm and shoulder and reminded his bruised and battered body of its earlier abuse. He bit back a cry as he fell back against Jack.
At the sound of his voice, Teal'c turned towards Daniel. With a look of disdain, the Jaffa spat the word 'Hassak' at him before turning around and walking into the darkness of the woods.
"Teal'c!" Jack bellowed as their friend disappeared. He gently pushed Daniel aside as he got up to go after him, but seemed to reconsider and sat back down, pulling Daniel back into the comfort of his arms.
"Sir, shouldn't we...?" Sam asked hesitatingly.
"No, we'd never find him in the dark," Jack replied. "Damn, I should never have let him talk me into lighting the fire," Jack groused.
Daniel was a little confused, why had Teal'c turned on them and why had he just called Daniel a fool? And why light the campfire all the way over there? Daniel would have preferred to have it blazing hotly right beside him; he could have used the additional warmth it would have provided.
"What happened?" Daniel asked softly. He knew that Jack was upset, and bits of conversation that he'd heard while dozing came creeping back into his mind. Teal'c had accused Jack of constantly coddling Daniel, and of Sam being too weak a warrior to take her own command. The atmosphere felt familiar, and with a pang, he realized that he'd experienced it at the camp with SG8. Except that time it had been him doing the accusing.
Somewhat red faced and ashamed, he said, "He didn't know what he was saying, Jack."
A kiss on the temple was his reply.
"We know, Daniel," Sam added. "We thought we'd taken all precautions; we scraped the moss from the wood, and Teal'c put on the protective gear. We thought that his symbiote would be immune and would protect him. I guess we were mistaken."
Her haunted eyes turned to look towards where Teal'c had left their campsite.
"It makes you angry," Daniel said, wanting to try and explain what Teal'c was experiencing. "Unexplained rage, you say the first things that you think of, wanting to hurt. It's not even subconscious thoughts that are expressed; it's pure, thoughtless fury."
He tried to relax against Jack, but his ears were now peeled for the slightest sounds. He hoped that Teal'c would soon return... and in his proper mind. He had no doubts as to how easily he could hurt them in this state. He heard Sam fiddle with something and then the sound of water being poured into a container. He continued to listen and watch, peering into the dark shadows, seeing and hearing nothing beyond the confines of their camp.
A gentle tap of a finger against his cheek woke him up with a start.
"Wake up," Jack breathed in his ear.
"Teal'c?" he asked, trying to sit up.
"No, there's no sign of him." Jack's voice was sad. "We're going to take care of your feet, and I didn't want you to wake up in pain," Jack explained. Daniel nodded, and shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable on the hard ground as Sam pushed the covering over and exposed his right foot.
"I'm going to soak your foot first in some water," she explained. "It's going to sting," she warned as she lifted his foot and lowered it into the warm liquid.
He jerked his foot reflexively out of the water, his feet stinging and burning at the contact. Sam ruthlessly kept a firm grip and placed it back into the water. "Sorry," she muttered as she kept his foot submerged regardless of his attempts to remove it.
Daniel arched back against Jack, breathing hard. Damn, it hurt. Slowly, the pain receded slightly, only to ignite once more as Sam began to slowly peel his sock from his abused limb.
Jack remained silent throughout Daniel's ordeal, tucking his chin on top of Daniel's head. Daniel could feel Jack's breath on his face, and he tried to match his own panting inhalations to Jack's more controlled ones. When finished, Sam moved the water aside and placed his foot on her lap. He knew that this next part was gonna hurt; and hurt it did. The antiseptic stung horribly. He hoped that Teal'c was nowhere near their camp at the moment because Daniel suspected the small moans he kept hearing were coming from him.
None too soon, she was bandaging his foot. It was only then that Daniel realized that his good hand had a death grip on Jack's thigh. He released his cramped fingers, and knew that Jack was going to have bruises there, thanks to him.
When Sam placed a clean sock on his foot, for the first time since waking up from his drugged walk in the woods yesterday, his foot was finally warm. It ached from her ministrations, though, and he dreaded the thought of everything being repeated on his other foot.
He tensed when she took his left foot and tried to steel himself for the ordeal. The second time was worse as the earlier ministration had tired him out, and he lay weak and damp with sweat when Sam finally finished.
Jack laid him down onto the ground and he didn't resist. He was aware of the sleeping bag being shifted around him and he snuggled into it, exhausted. He missed Jack's warmth and comforting presence. He shivered as his now overheated body began to cool off as the sweat of his body began to dry. He closed his eyes, utterly miserable once again.
- - - - - -
Jack was glad when Daniel's ordeal was finally over. He could see that Carter had been as careful and gentle as possible in cleansing and disinfecting his feet, but damn, they had taken a licking. Despite the painkiller Jack had given him, Daniel had stiffened in pain from the moment Carter had touched his foot.
He'd been relieved to see that there had been mostly bruising and a few deep cuts and scrapes; nothing dangerous except for the possibility of infection. But the injuries had still been severe enough to cause swelling and the discomfort of his healing feet would probably keep him abed for quite a few days.
He knew that Daniel was exhausted and that all this pain was taking a toll on him. He slid out from beneath him and made him as comfortable as possible on the hard ground. Hopefully he'd sleep now, and he whispered that same directive in his love's ear as he wiped the beaded sweat from Daniel's face with the edge of the sleeping bag.
Jack stood up and stretched, glancing at the dark woods, wondering if Teal'c was out there watching. Rubbing his hands quickly against his arms to keep warm, he wondered why Teal'c hadn't attacked him the way the wildlife had. Maybe humans' brains worked differently; maybe their reasoning skills could somewhat counteract the anger Daniel said that the moss brought about. He looked around, thinking that it felt warmer tonight than it had last night. Maybe whatever cold front that had passed over them was now moving away.
He noticed that the fire Teal'c had built was still smoldering, the glow of the embers almost dark as the wood was mostly consumed. He grabbed the container of dirty water and walked towards the fire, stopping several feet away.
Flinging the water at the embers, he stood there in satisfaction as steam and smoke rose in a loud hiss from the complaining embers. He watched a few moments, satisfied when the sizzling finally stopped that the danger of contamination from the moss was gone. He shook the metal container a few times, feeling the droplets spray his hand as he turned back to his teammates.
Seeing Daniel's huddled form before him forced him to stop. Damn, but that man infuriated him sometimes. Why the hell did he have to go and volunteer to go offworld with SG8? This wouldn't have happened had he stayed on base, finishing the work that had been assigned to him. It wasn't like he didn't have enough to keep him occupied! How many times did he stumble into bed at 3 or 4 in the morning, trying to finish up a translation before a ridiculous deadline?
He threw the container into the trees as inexplicable rage came over him. The sound of the metal crashing against a tree was sweet, but it wasn't enough to satisfy him. He ignored Carter's questioning call as his hands curled tightly into fists. He wanted to take that container and pound it to pieces, to smash it until it was just a small crumpled metallic ball, and to take that piece of metal and smash Daniel's face...
Breathing hard, he suddenly felt fear wash over him. He wanted to hurt Daniel... he was angry at Daniel and wanted to punish him. This wasn't him, he would never hurt Daniel.
He dragged his eyes from the trees and looked at his injured lover once more, and felt the rage rising again. Before he knew it, he was striding away from the camp, crashing through the trees. Once more he ignored Carter's calls and kept moving until he tripped over a root and went sprawling.
Breathing through his mouth, he tried to control the anger he felt. He had to keep his distance from his friends. On one level he knew that he'd been affected by the fumes of the fire; damn but he was stupid! On the other level he was fighting to keep his rage in control, and protect his team. This was probably why Teal'c had also left the camp.
He got up slowly, taking stock of his body to ensure he hadn't injured himself in his tumble. He made his way quietly back towards camp, finding a good spot to sit out of the wind and watch. He couldn't trust himself to be with them, but he could take his anger and frustration out on anything that tried to approach them.
He could see Carter bending over Daniel, who was trying to sit up. He clenched his fists again, holding back the emotions. Couldn't that man listen to orders? Carter put a restraining hand on his chest and after a few moments, Jack's lover finally settled back.
Jack exhaled loudly through his mouth, venting the release of some of his irritation. Finally. Lie down and sleep, Dannyboy. You ain't no good to us this way, listen to the good Major and get some rest.
He felt a pang of sorrow that he was worrying Daniel with his behavior, and quickly squelched the thought when he remembered that he wouldn't even *be* on this planet if Daniel had stayed on Earth. They'd be home right now, snuggled up in bed together, or making love. The memory of Daniel's body beneath him caused his penis to twitch.
Recalling how Daniel had made love to him the night before he left on this mission, he shifted as his pants seemed to tighten uncomfortably around him. He brought a hand up to his groin, massaging himself gently. He remembered the sound of Daniel's moans and gasps as Jack slowly kissed and laved his way down Daniel's body.
With a curse, Jack tore his pants open and took hold of his aching member. Stroking himself quickly and angrily, he let the memory of their climax bring him towards orgasm.
- - - - - -
Daniel fought off the lure of oblivion as weakness, pain and exhaustion kept pulling him towards sleep. He knew that he couldn't permit himself any rest, not while Jack was out there under the incensing influence of the moss. He'd instinctively tried to get up and go after him, but the dual agony of shoulder and feet quickly reminded him of his vulnerability and inability to move, let alone walk.
He'd refused Sam's offer of more painkillers when the injection that Jack had given him earlier began to wear off. He hadn't realized how much it had deadened the pain; his arm, head and feet were all throbbing and burning in dissonance with one another.
Sam had tried to get him to eat something before taking his next dose of antibiotics, but the pain he was experiencing had quickly killed any feeling of hunger. He swallowed the pills on an empty stomach, which ended up making him even more nauseous.
His mind kept jumping back and forth, unable to stay focused on just one thought. Where had that moss come from? It hadn't been apparent the first day that he'd been here. Maybe it was weather-dependent; it had been much warmer then. According to SG8, the weather had only started cooling off late the day he'd arrived.
He worried about Jack and Teal'c, and blamed himself for the whole situation. Maybe if he'd been able to control his mouth when the effects of the moss had hit him, he wouldn't have forced SG8 into taking him on. He'd always been a little too sarcastic at times; it was a defensive mechanism he'd developed as a kid when he'd been hauled from foster home to foster home. As an adult he usually was able to keep a lid on his mouth, but the effects of the moss had released his inhibitions, inciting the other SG team to take out their own antagonism on him. He was just lucky that they had been able to more or less control themselves and hadn't hurt him any worse than this.
It was all his fault; and now his lover and friend were both out there, unarmed, not quite in their right minds. And so were the so called 'harmless' creatures... the ones that the previous SG teams had assured everyone were no danger to humans.
He watched Sam as she sat a few feet away from him staring towards the woods, a zat gun sitting in her lap. Amazing how bright this glade was; thanks to the several moons orbiting this planet, there was always at least one shining up in the now cloudless night sky. He saw her tense suddenly and he could see her eyes flit from copse to copse as she searched for whatever it was that she'd heard. Daniel tensed too, hoping that it was Jack returning. Or Teal'c. After a few minutes, Sam relaxed.
Daniel shifted carefully, wary of his arm and shoulder, frustration making him on edge and unable to relax. He found himself snapping at Sam when she asked if he was okay. He quickly apologized, and she moved to his side, replacing the now warm cold-packs with freshly activated ones. He shivered as the cold, gelatinous packages touched his skin. She immediately placed a hand to cheek and forehead.
"You have a fever," she informed him. Sighing, he obediently swallowed the three Tylenol tablets she handed him, and lay back on the uncomfortable ground as the water and pills sat nauseatingly in his stomach. Sam looked worried and so Daniel didn't bring up the fact that his chest was feeling heavy. He recognized the symptoms of a cold and thought resignedly that that was all he needed.
He hoped the pills would also help alleviate some of his discomfort, or at least bring the pain down to a dull roar. He closed his eyes, shifting once more, trying to find a position that didn't hurt.
The sound of conversation woke him up and he reluctantly opened his eyes. Jack was standing a few feet away from him, staring down at him. Carter was standing before him in what he swore looked like a protective stance. He stared numbly at them for a moment, until he realized that Jack had returned.
"Jack!" he exclaimed as he tried to sit up. His throat felt raw, his voice sounding strained and a little rough. Gritting his teeth against the pain of his shoulder, he forced himself up, fighting against the constraining clutches of the sleeping bag. He felt the now warm cold packs slide off his body and he realized that he'd been sleeping for some time.
His partner all but ignored him as he turned away from him and continued his discussion with Sam. Daniel forced himself to concentrate, the words sounding slightly distorted to his ears.
"I'm telling you, Carter, I'm fine now. Look, I'm really sorry about what happened, I should have known better to get that close to the fire, but..."
"I still think you should keep your distance for a while, sir," Sam interrupted. "No disrespect, but I saw the look you gave Daniel before you walked out on us."
"Godamnit, Carter, I said I'm fine!" Jack yelled, glaring at her.
As he heard the shouted words, which reverberated strangely in his head, Daniel ceased his struggle with the sleeping bag and froze. He looked up and saw his lover and what amounted to as his sister at a standoff with one another. He tried once more to get the older man's attention.
"Jack, are you all right?" he asked as he finally managed to raise himself into a seated position without using his feet for leverage. The sleeping bag fell from his shoulders and he felt the cold air against his torso, even though he was still enshrouded by Jack's jacket. The change in position irritated his lungs and he stifled a cough. Jack glanced down at him and then ignored him once more. Sam, on the other hand, turned her attention to Daniel.
She squatted beside him and tsking, fished out the dislodged packs from where they'd fallen inside his jacket. Irritated at her fussing, Daniel attempted to push her away, trying to get Jack to look at him. With dismay, he realized that although his lover had returned, he was still experiencing the distorting influence of the moss' mind-altering effects.
"Will you stop your whining," Jack snapped at Daniel's imploring requests to talk to him. The cold brown eyes pinned Daniel with such a look of loathing that the words froze in the injured man's sore throat. His stomach churning sourly, he swallowed down the threatening bile. He'd never expected such a look of hate to be directed towards him; and although he knew that it wasn't Jack's doing, it still nearly broke his heart.
"Colonel!" Sam exclaimed in shock, coming to Daniel's defense.
His mouth suddenly dry, Daniel tried to clear his throat. The action only resulted in triggering a harsh cough, and he clutched his arm as it jarred painfully with the force of his efforts. Bent protectively over his arm, he tried to clear his lungs. The coughing jag suddenly ended when his stomach spasmed and he vomited bile.
"You know, Carter, I'm really tired of this," Jack said impatiently, indicating Daniel with a sweep of his hand.
Embarrassed, Daniel tried to push Sam away as she helped him clean up. She glared at Jack before handing Daniel some water so that he could rinse his mouth. The older man studiously ignored her scathing look and continued speaking to Daniel, derision mocking his usually compassionate face.
"I think you've spent more time either recovering from injuries or illness than you have actually working for your paycheck. I really don't understand why Hammond keeps you around, Daniel. Maybe you're 'doing' him on the side, hmmm?"
"Jack," Daniel moaned softly, closing his eyes at the pain the words inflicted. He knew that Jack didn't mean them, but they were close to some of the questions he'd sometimes asked himself about why he'd been kept on as part of the team. He wasn't military and he felt that he had often been a burden to his friends. His lack of military training had endangered them several times; he thought he'd improved in the past years but obviously it hadn't been enough to satisfy Jack.
Maybe he should reexamine their relationship; maybe Jack was just keeping him around to warm his bed.
No, that wasn't right. Where did that thought come from? They loved one another; Jack was only spouting things to hurt him... and his exhausted mind wasn't processing fast enough to keep remembering that fact.
The sound of Jack's voice echoed strangely as he continued his diatribe, at times sounding muffled, at other times seeming distorted and slow. The words were jumbling into sounds, blending in with Sam's lighter tone. He stared at their mouths, unable to make the shapes of their moving lips match with the words.
Teal'c's deep voice startled Daniel and interrupted Jack's tirade. While Sam and Jack's attention turned to the approaching Jaffa, he slid back down to the ground and curled into the false comfort of the sleeping bag.
- - - - - -
Jack stared at the trio from across the clearing, holding the blanket tighter as it tried to slide down one shoulder. Daniel hadn't moved since he'd lain back down, and Teal'c had almost forcibly instructed Jack to keep his distance and hold his tongue. He chewed the inside of his cheek as he tried to decide to go and join them.
He'd dozed off earlier while sitting in the woods, watching the camp. When he had woken, he'd decided that he was now feeling pretty normal, albeit a little cold, and rejoining teammates would be a good idea. It wasn't until he'd spotted Daniel that the anger arose once more inside of him. He hadn't finished telling him what he thought of him when Teal'c arrived and interrupted his sermon.
He no longer remembered why he'd been mad at Daniel. He just knew now that the man he loved was sick and injured, and the more he sat here, the more he wanted to be with him. Making his decision, Jack gathered his feet beneath him and stood up.
A wave of vertigo hit him and he swayed. The trees tilted towards him for a moment before he turned and vomited. Hands were suddenly on his shoulders, helping support him, allowing him to get his bearings. He finally managed to straighten after spitting a time or two. A canteen appeared in his hands and he took a sip, rinsing his mouth then taking a couple of swallows. His stomach tightened, reminding him that it still wasn't happy. He saw Teal'c's dark, concerned eyes before him, and he nodded, letting him know that he was better.
Teal'c gently nudged him towards Daniel and Carter, the latter sitting and watching him warily. He tried smiling at her, but her face remained closed and impassive. He didn't blame her; he remembered what he'd said to her and Daniel earlier.
"The illness marks the end of the mania," Teal'c stated as Jack slowly eased himself down beside the huddled form, looking at Daniel's pain-filled visage. His eyes were closed, his face drawn. The moonlight made the planes in his face stand out, giving the illusion that he was gaunt and pale. Sweat beaded his face and Jack put out a shaking hand. Expecting to touch cold skin, he was surprised to find it hot and dry beneath his fingers.
"Shit," he muttered to himself.
At his touch, Daniel opened his eyes. His gaze was at once wary and imploring.
"I guess sorry won't cut it this time, huh?" Jack said softly as he gently stroked the burning cheeks with the back of his hand. He looked up at Carter, intending the apology for her also.
"Wasn't your fault," Daniel said in a raspy voice. Jack realized that Daniel must know how Jack felt; he'd been on the giving and receiving end of the moss' effects.
"Then I'm sorry that I let Teal'c build that fire and that I was stupid enough to get close to it."
Daniel's slight nod told him he understood.
"It is I who must apologize," Teal'c said as he knelt beside them both. "I was arrogant in my belief that I would be immune to the effects of the moss."
"We both screwed up, Teal'c," Jack told the Jaffa, knowing that he must be feeling as stupid and guilt-ridden as Jack did.
"What time is it?" he asked Carter, moving his arm as he attempted to catch the light of the moon on his watch face.
A flashlight illuminated Carter's arm for a second. "It's 03:15, the sun should be rising in a couple of hours," Carter answered.
"How's he doing?" Jack watched worriedly as Daniel coughed, his face clenched tightly in pain as his good arm came up to clutch at his injured one.
"Not so good," Carter replied. Jack jerked his head up to look at her. "He's in a lot of pain and refused to let me give him anything for it. Maybe you can convince him, sir."
Jack realized that Daniel had probably wanted to stay alert until Jack returned; and knowing his archaeologist/linguist/lover, he probably felt guilty about everything that had happened.
"Don't want any," Daniel muttered before Jack could open his mouth. He coughed again, and Jack moved to slide behind Daniel. Wary of his injured arm, with Teal'c's help he carefully pulled him up beside him, raising his body so that he was sitting curled up against Jack's chest while Jack rested against the trunk of a tree.
He'd felt Daniel tense at first, but he relaxed as he realized what Jack was doing. Jack wrapped the edges of his blanket around the sleeping bag, cocooning them both underneath it.
"You need to sleep," Jack said as Daniel buried his head against Jack's shoulder. "We're not going anywhere except back to base camp as soon as it's light," Jack said as he pulled the edge of the sleeping bag to cover Daniel's nape. Jack was anxious to get Daniel back to the camp. Just knowing that he was closer to the Stargate would be one more weight off his shoulders.
"We'll be stuck on this god forsaken planet for at least twenty four hours, and Janet will have both our hides when she sees the condition I've allowed you to get into. So do us both a favor and let Carter give you some morphine so that tomorrow you don't look half as bad as you do right now."
Daniel didn't move, so Jack continued, trying to figure out what was bothering him. "Hey. I'm me again, and so's Teal'c. We won't be crazy enough to light another fire, so you don't have to worry about any of that stuff happening again." Daniel coughed harshly against him, and Jack tightened his hold against him. He worried about that cough, and saw that Carter must be also as she dug out another dose of antibiotics.
Daniel obediently swallowed the pills and when she held up the syringe, he gave a slight nod. She expertly administered the drug and Jack continued to speak to Daniel softly as he waited for the painkilling effects to be felt.
Jack knew when Daniel began to feel better; his tense body began to sag more and more; his head slowly sliding down Jack's chest until his face was nestled against his arm. Jack tightened his hold on him, preventing him from sliding down farther. He shifted Daniel into a slightly more secure position and the younger man made a noise of protest.
"Feeling better?" Jack asked as Daniel pushed his face into Jack's shoulder.
"Mmmm," Daniel responded sleepily.
"Good. Try and get some rest," he said as his hand came up to gently cup Daniel's head.
When Daniel didn't answer, Jack thought he'd fallen asleep. He inhaled deeply, wondering how he could have been so stupid earlier. And the things he'd said to Daniel, where in the world had those thoughts come from? To accuse Daniel of not pulling his weight; of sleeping with Hammond! fer crying out loud.
As if reading his mind, Daniel suddenly mumbled, "Jack, do you think I'm a burden?"
Jack's felt his face grow hot with shame as he struggled to find the words to tell Daniel how sorry he was. He saw Carter look at him with what he assumed was pity. He looked away, unable to face either her or Teal'c. Before he could answer, Daniel continued.
"...Thought I was helping the team. I'm sorry." His words, slightly slurred, conveyed to Jack that he'd thought Jack's silence was confirmation to his question. "I'll ask Hammond for a transfer when we get back." Jack had to strain to hear these last words, so quietly were they spoken.
Damn! He'd hurt Daniel again with his inability to express himself.
"Oh God! No, Daniel! Never a burden!" Jack's cry caused Daniel to raise his head and look at him in bewilderment. "I never meant anything that I said. You must know how much I respect your input and how much I need you on the team. I trust you implicitly. I would never want anyone other than Carter, Teal'c or you watching my six."
Daniel giggled at that. Giggled?
Letting his head fall back against Jack's shoulder, he said, "I'll watch your six, Jack..." His voice sounded even more slurred. "Why is it sixes, and not sevens or eights?"
Jack smiled at the idiotic question. He glanced over at Carter and saw her duck her head in amusement. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow.
"Sam's got a nice six, but yours is better." Carter's guffaw and subsequent giggles caused Jack to smile even wider.
"Thank you for that enlightening piece of information, Daniel. Now why don't you be quiet and go to sleep?"
"Not sleepy," Daniel murmured, his face burrowing against Jack's shoulder once more.
"Okay, then just close your eyes and try to relax," Jack whispered after planning a kiss on Daniel's exposed temple. He felt Daniel's breath as it escaped the folds of the sleeping bag, warming his cold skin. His breathing slowed and Jack knew that he was finally sleeping.
Knowing that Carter and Teal'c would remain awake and alert for the remainder of the night, Jack allowed himself to close his eyes and rested his chin on the soft hair of his lover's head.
- - - - - -
Jack swore as he manhandled the makeshift litter through a multitude of clinging branches and leaves. Carter walked beside him, pulling as many as possible out of the way, holding the lower ones up so that they wouldn't scratch Daniel's exposed face. They'd had to backtrack several times when the trees grew too close together, preventing them from passing through.
Daniel remained dead to the world. Once the morphine aided Daniel to fall asleep, he crashed, and crashed hard. Between his exhaustion, pain and fever, it didn't surprise Jack at all. They'd stopped to rest a short while ago and had tried to rouse their sleeping teammate in order to give him another dose of antibiotics. He'd finally opened his eyes and mumbled something about fried eggs, and had dozed off before Carter could even get the canteen to his mouth. With a bit of swearing and a lot of coaxing, they finally got semi-comatose friend to take the pills.
It was just as well that Daniel wasn't aware of his surroundings at the moment. As careful as they were, they'd jostled him quite a bit in their attempts to leave the forest. They'd been walking for three hours now, their going slow as they had to choose their route carefully.
Jack could see the sun shining through a patch of trees and with relief, realized that they were nearing the edge of the woods. He raised a shoulder to wipe the sweat that dripped down his face; the temperature had risen quickly with the sun. As Jack lowered the left side of the litter in an attempt to fit it through two trees, he noticed a large patch of moss as the side of the litter brushed against it. The moss was patchy with black splotches all over it. Carter stopped a moment to examine it, and informed him that it looked like the stuff was drying up.
"I think the moss is weather-related," she continued as she brushed by him to push branches out of Teal'c's way. "It probably grows when the temperature dips below a certain temperature. It developed and spread very quickly; I think if it grew in this abundance all of the time, the wildlife would end up killing one another."
As they passed out of the woods and into a bright, grass covered meadow, Jack saw Major Jefferson wave at him from the opposite end. He and several marines quickly strode towards them, and Jack eagerly gave over his end of the litter to a marine who equaled Teal'c in height and bulk. The Jaffa refused to relinquish his hold on the litter, however, and continued to bear his friend's weight as they continued towards the Stargate.
Flexing his hands, which had become cramped and sore from the rough saplings they had forced through the sleeping bag to use as a makeshift stretcher, Jack moved ahead and walked beside Daniel. He was bundled up securely in the sleeping bag, the flap pulled back to expose only his face. Jack reached down and pressed his fingers against the pale skin, noting that Daniel's fever still hadn't abated. His breathing sounded a little rough and wheezy, punctuated with an occasional ticklish cough. Thankfully, it hadn't gotten worse; Jack was hoping that if this was the start of a respiratory ailment, then the antibiotics Carter had been dosing him would keep the infection at bay.
They made good time now that they were out of the wooded area and within two hours had Daniel settled in camp. Several sleeping bags were placed beneath his body as an impromptu mattress, Major Jefferson assuring them that with the change in temperature, the nights would be too warm for them. Jack sat beside Daniel in the shade of several trees, watching his love shivering with fever. Teal'c settled on Daniel's other side, sitting stiffly and probably feeling as helpless as Jack did while waiting for Carter to go check on the Stargate and return with the news as to how soon it could be activated.
He forced himself to meet Jefferson's gaze when the man squatted beside them, and saw that the Major's bruised face was full of remorse and embarrassment. Jack glanced around and noted the remainder of SG8 standing or sitting around the camp, watching them with anxious expressions.
He accepted a freshly-filled canteen from Jefferson and handed him his own near-empty one in return. Jefferson asked a young captain... O'Connor Jack believed his name was, to go refill SG1's canteens and requested that MREs be heated for the returning team members. First taking several sips of water, Jack then poured a goodly amount onto one of Daniel's bandanas and wiped Daniel's sweaty face with it. A slight sigh was the only reaction as the wet cloth cooled his overheated skin.
Carter returned in time to accept her lunch from Captain O'Connor. Sitting down beside Jack, she informed him between bites that she doubted that they'd be able to use the Stargate before the day's end. It would be at least another 24 hours before the 'gate was fully charged, due to the overcast sky of the past two days.
Jack ate his own meal without tasting it. He forced his food down, knowing he needed to keep his strength up but having no appetite whatsoever. Daniel remained deeply asleep, and Jack didn't attempt to rouse him, knowing that his body required the rest.
As he swallowed his last mouthful, a cry of alarm sounded out in the camp. Jack got up and looked towards the sound, Teal'c and Carter following suit. The news came over their radios seconds later. Three marines had fallen through what appeared to be the ceiling of an underground chamber near the ruins that Daniel had been working in. Their injuries appeared serious and the rest of the ceiling was on the verge of collapsing.
With a curse, Jack ordered all available personnel to the site, leaving Captain O'Connor to watch over Daniel. He glanced at Daniel's still form before rushing towards the accident site.
- - - - - -
Daniel was hot. He tried to shove at the fabric covering him and found that he couldn't move his right arm. As he struggled he realized that his arm was securely fastened. He began to panic and finally managed to kick off the offending covering.
Hands grasped his arm and legs and voices yelled out at him. SG8! They were hurting him, forcing him down and trying to tie his hand behind his back. Blurry forms surrounded him and he tried to twist away, kicking at the closest person. Pain erupted in his foot and he cried out as his shoulder simultaneously woke up in agony as he finally got his arm free from his captor.
He fell back onto his stomach, weak with pain, gasping and wheezing for breath. He struggled to breathe, his chest feeling heavy and congested. He tried to crawl away from SG8, but they tenaciously kept hold of him, preventing him from escaping. His breath rattled in his chest and he began to cough uncontrollably.
His airway became congested with phlegm and he couldn't breathe. As he began to fight for air, he suddenly found himself sitting up, strong hands holding him against a hard, muscular body. The position eased his fight for air, and he finally managed to cough up the mucus clogging his airway. His stomach followed suit, expelling sour bile. His body was held securely by those hands, and smaller, softer ones gently took hold of his head as he helplessly gagged and dry heaved.
When the spasms ended he was pulled back against that same body, his face resting against cool skin and material. The smell of sweat and a hint of aftershave tickled his memory, providing him with the feeling of familiarity and safety and love. He heard voices around him but couldn't seem to focus on the words.
He hadn't realized how parched he was until water seeped against his mouth, dribbling down his chin before he greedily swallowed. It was taken away long before he managed to quench his thirst and he tried to voice his complaint. His throat was sore and what came out sounded like a croak.
Something wet and cool was pressed against his face. It felt wonderful. He could feel water dripping down his face, tickling its way along his neck before being absorbed by his tee-shirt. A voice kept talking in his ear, the cadence slow and soothing and familiar. Somehow he'd been rescued from SG8, and had found his way into Jack's arms.
Jack, who'd thought that Daniel wasn't pulling his share of duties most of the time!
He tried to push away, opening his eyes with effort. He had to show Jack that he wasn't a burden, that he could carry his weight in camp. Hands caught at him, pulling him forcibly back against Jack's chest. He struggled briefly, and sagged against him when his strength gave out. He'd failed; Jack was right, he was a burden. He couldn't even manage to sit up, how could he even attempt to do his share of the work?
He could feel oblivion pulling at him, and with the sound of his breath rasping in his ears, Daniel finally gave up and permitted himself to fall head first into darkness.
- - - - - -
As Daniel's head lolled lifelessly onto Jack's chest, he realized that Daniel had passed out. His fever was sky high, and Jack began unzipping his jacket which still served as a sling. Teal'c was there, helping ease Daniel out of the sweat-laden piece of clothing. With his knife, he quickly cut the tee-shirt off Daniel, his limp body quickly prickling with goose bumps as the air reached his overheated skin.
He passed the sodden handkerchief over Daniel's chest and arms, trying to bring his fever down. Teal'c found another cloth and did the same on the other side.
Jack cursed at their predicament. Three injured marines, Daniel sick and injured and the Stargate unavailable for the next twenty four hours. He'd had to reprimand Jefferson when the man had insisted on trying to see if the 'gate would activate now, once they'd rescued the injured men. Carter had argued against it, saying that if the gate didn't have enough energy, it would use up what it already had saved and they'd be stuck here for another three days.
He'd returned from the collapse, helping to transport one of the injured marines, when he'd seen Daniel struggling in the throes of delirium. SG8 were attempting to hold him down, preventing him from getting up on his injured feet.
Jack had gone to him as quickly as possible, arriving in time to help Daniel as he began choking as he coughed up half a lung. Carter and Teal'c took over from SG8, helping support Daniel until the spell was over. Jack had been shocked at the heat emanating from the wounded man. His fever had climbed dangerously high while everyone had been involved in rescuing the injured men without causing the roof to cave in. Even now, one had severe back injuries and another had definite internal bleeding. There wasn't much they could do but make them comfortable.
Daniel had seemed to recognize Jack and had stopped fighting him. He'd quieted for a short time, when suddenly he tried to get up, mumbling something about digging latrines. Jack had held him tightly against him until the younger man had finally succumbed to his fever and weakness.
When Daniel began to shiver, Jack dried him off and wrapped him up in the sleeping bag. He didn't wake up, and Jack knew it was going to be a long night.
- - - - - -
Jack stood back from the rush of medical personnel as they swooped towards the injured men being wheeled into the infirmary. He watched as Daniel's gurney was settled in the far corner. He and the rest of the rescue teams all took a seat on empty beds, each awaiting their post mission checkups. He managed to find a bed close to where the nurses were working on Daniel. Doctors Fraiser and Warner were frantically working on the two injured marines, and both rushed their patients to surgery without even a glance towards Daniel.
Jack sighed. Daniel needed help, but he knew that the two marines were much worse off than Daniel. He wanted to go sit beside him but knew that he'd be in the way at the moment. The medical staff was certainly swamped today and it was in his own best interest if he just let them do their jobs. The other doctor on call finally entered the infirmary and was directed towards Daniel.
God, he was tired. He was worried about Daniel and at this point he just wanted to bury the two of them under a pile of blankets and not come out for a week. Actually, he'd settle for a hot shower and meal, and the news that Daniel's fever was gone and that he'd be okay. He, Teal'c and Carter had spent the night alternating sponging Daniel down and holding his shivering body in their arms. By the time daylight had arrived, they'd gotten his fever down considerably, but not without a fight.
Jack sat there a while with his head buried in his hands, trying to drown out the all too familiar sounds of the infirmary. He started when a hand touched his shoulders. He raised his head and peered into Carter's worried blue eyes.
"Sir, are you okay?" she asked. He saw her glance towards Daniel's bed and he couldn't but help look that way too. Ah, there was only one nurse working on him at the moment, maybe he could safely visit his bedside now.
"Just tired," he answered, grateful for her concern but feeling a little snappish and not wanting company. Sensing his mood, she moved off as one of the nurses approached him, ready to give him his examination.
He sat through the physical with quiet determination, and hopped off the bed as soon as the nurse moved off to the next victim. As he moved toward Daniel's bed, he noted the two IVs, the line from the catheter, and the heart monitor. He could see Daniel's flushed face through the oxygen mask and he couldn't resist placing a hand against the too hot cheek. The head of his bed had been elevated; Jack could see that his breathing was a little easier and his coughing had eased off considerably.
The nurse attending him, Debbie, smiled at him before shifting her attention towards Daniel's feet. As she began removing the socks and bandages, Jack picked up Daniel's lax hand, taking care not to disturb the oximeter attached to his pointer finger. When Daniel only shifted restlessly at her treating his feet, Jack surmised that he'd been given something for the pain. Which was probably why he was sleeping soundly and wasn't quite as restless as he'd been the past 18 hours.
"We've started him on stronger antibiotics, Colonel," Debbie said as she looked up from her work. "And don't worry, he's not feeling much of this," she assured him as she began disinfecting Daniel's feet. "A technician will be here soon to take X-rays of his feet and shoulder." Jack nodded, his attention back on Daniel's face as his eyes moved behind his eyelids in REM sleep. He mumbled something unintelligible, his fingers twitching slightly between Jack's. He squeezed Daniel's hand, his thumb massaging gently.
Jack remained with Daniel except for the few minutes that he was sent from the bed while X-rays were taken. Carter and Teal'c came to sit with him once they were released.
It seemed to take forever, but finally he heard Fraiser's footsteps approaching. He looked up and was surprised to see that the infirmary was almost empty. Everyone must have been cleared. He glanced at his watch, wondering why General Hammond hadn't sent someone down to inform him of their debriefing.
"Colonel," Fraiser said as she picked up Daniel's chart. Her eyes came back to Jack's as she scanned him with a critical eye. He held her gaze, trying not to show his exhaustion. He doubted he'd fooled her; but he knew that he'd be able to sleep only when he was sure that Daniel was going to be all right.
"Well, the good news is that there's no major damage to Daniel's shoulder," Fraiser said after she examined said shoulder. "He's torn some muscles and pulled some ligaments, but nothing severe enough to warrant surgery. I think this will heal fine. He'll be stiff and sore for a week or two. He may need some physiotherapy, I'll see how things progress before I decide."
She picked up the chart and made a few notations in it. "Daniel definitely has bronchitis, probably brought on by exposure and his weakened condition. The infection in his feet certainly didn't help. Oh, and Sam did a great job treating those, so I'm told."
Jack sagged back in the chair as the news flowed over and through him. Shoulder, feet, bronchitis, nothing serious, so far.
"The antibiotics you gave him helped keep the infection down. That in itself is probably why he doesn't have pneumonia at the moment." At Jack's hopeful look, she said, "But it's still a possibility. He's very weak and has no more reserves left. What he needs now is to sleep and heal. Which is why you're going to hop into that bed right next to him after you go shower and eat, and do the same."
He nodded, too relieved and tired to argue. With a last glance at Daniel, grateful that his other two team members remained with him, he went off to follow the doctor's orders.
- - - - - -
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said through clenched teeth as the older man helped him back onto his hospital bed. The trip across the infirmary to the bathroom had been absolute agony, but Daniel wasn't about to admit it to Jack or anyone else. Normally by now he'd be walking with the aid of crutches, but due to his shoulder, that option was out of the question. At least he was beginning to feel a little stronger; although his legs still felt like strands of wet spaghetti after his short trek.
He stifled a cough as he lay back down, easing his feet onto the pillows placed at the foot of his bed. His feet were throbbing now, something that always happened whenever he walked on them for a bit. Not that walking was any fun either.
Jack removed the soft slippers from Daniel's bandaged feet and fiddled with the sheet and blanket. He eased the coverings over Daniel's abused feet, making sure that they didn't put any pressure on them before tucking them around his hips. Daniel closed his eyes, waiting out the pain, which throbbed to the rhythm of his elevated heartbeat.
He felt so helpless. Unable to even walk to the toilet by himself, how pathetic was that? Although he had to admit that he'd improved quite a lot in the past two days. Before that he hadn't even had the strength to stand. Once again, here he was... a burden.
"I wish I didn't have to go," Jack said plaintively as he sat down on the chair beside the bed and interrupting Daniel's thoughts. SG1 was being sent out on an offworld mission to finalize a treaty; something that had been planned weeks beforehand. It was bad enough that they were going without Daniel, who had played an important part in the negotiations. It would have added insult to injury if they were to delay this meeting, even if it was due to Daniel's inability to attend. The Sorrkesh were sticklers for punctuality and agreements. SG1 had said they'd return on this day; and return they would.
"I know," Daniel said, wishing also that Jack wasn't leaving for the next day or two. Janet had said that since his white blood cell count proved to be almost normal today, and seeing that he hadn't had fever since this morning, she'd let him go home tomorrow afternoon if things continued to progress in the same vein. But with Jack leaving he wasn't sure if she'd allow him to be on his own. Daniel couldn't see what difference it made; at least at home he'd have a change of scenery and things to keep his mind occupied. He could doze in front of the television, or sit on Jack's back verandah and relax. Here he was stuck looking at medical equipment and cement walls.
He had books to read, Jack and Sam had made sure of that. But he couldn't seem to drum up the strength to read more than a paragraph or two. Either he'd doze off or end up with a headache. At least now his friends came to visit whenever they had a free moment, either keeping him company or just lending support.
He dreaded the thought of spending the next couple of days alone here in the infirmary. He was well enough to be bored; didn't that mean he was well enough to go home?
Even the members of SG8 had come to visit a few times; Major Jefferson sporting one hell of a black eye. Daniel didn't recall hitting him, but he did remember his feet and fists making contact before he was overpowered and forced to the ground.
His feet finally quit their complaining and Daniel began to relax. He closed his eyes and shifted on the bed, trying to get comfortable. He started a bit when he felt Jack's fingers on his face as he removed his glasses, but smiled his appreciation nonetheless. He felt Jack lean over him to put the eyewear on the table beside his bed, using the movement to cover a quick kiss on the cheek. Daniel's smile widened.
"I gotta go," Jack said reluctantly after a moment. Daniel opened his eyes and gazed at his lover. Jack straightened and placed a hand on his uninjured shoulder as he stood, and squeezed gently. "I'll see you in two days."
He nodded, knowing that they really had no idea how long this treaty signing was going to take. It could and most likely would take several days, as they still had a few items to iron out. He watched Jack as he made his way out of the infirmary, wishing fervently that he was going with him.
- - - - - -
As the car turned a corner, Daniel jerked awake. It was taking all of his willpower not to nod off; he didn't want the driver to see how weak and tired he really was. He saw the man sneak a peek at him and blushed. Damn, what must he be thinking? Good old Daniel Jackson, getting beat up by SG8 and being left out of the action when his team goes away for a nice, quiet mission. Daniel made a fist with his right hand, hidden inside his sling.
He turned his head and watched the scenery go by, realizing that he'd slept longer than he'd thought, they were now in town. As the driver turned once more, Daniel opened his mouth to tell him that he was going the wrong way, when he suddenly realized that he was being driven to his apartment. Not Jack's house. Damn, but he was stupid.
He'd fully expected to recuperate at Jack's, but he had no ready excuse to give the driver in order to make a detour to his Commanding Officer's home. Okay, so Daniel would go home, grab a few pieces of clothing and take a cab over to Jack's house. No big deal.
They pulled up in front of his apartment building a few minutes later and Daniel managed to undo the seatbelt before fumbling one handed with the door. As the driver leaned over to give Daniel a hand, he finally managed to undo the latch and the car door swung open. Gritting his teeth and preparing himself for the pain, Daniel swung his legs and cautiously put his weight on his slippered feet.
Thanking the driver, he managed to hobble into the lobby without showing much of his discomfort. The doorman stood there watching him with a sympathetic expression as he made his cautious way to the elevators. Daniel wondered what must be going through his mind. 'Yep, here comes the good ol' doc once more, barely able ta walk, sweat pouring down your face, arm in a sling, breath rasping in your lungs. What ya go do now, doc? One of your teammates beat you up? Oh no, this time it wasn't just one, it was all four. Ya know, maybe you should see about getting new friends, doc. 'Cause these ones sure don't do a great job o' taking care o' ya. And ya sure don't wanna be a burden on 'em, do ya?'
How many times had Daniel come home either limping, in a cast or sling or simply walking that slow, cautious way due to an injury? The man must think that Daniel was some kind of loser, and Daniel was running out of excuses to tell him for every time he got hurt.
He entered the elevator car, grateful when the doors slid shut and hid the man's curious gaze. The walk through the base to the car had tired him more than he'd expected, and he was shaking badly by the time he reached the door to his apartment. He fumbled with the keys and cursed when he dropped them before being able to insert them into the lock.
He finally got the door open and entered his apartment. First things first, he needed a pain killer. He hobbled to the kitchen and turned on the faucet. He fished in his jacket for the bottle of pills Janet had given him. He tried to open the bottle but it was the kind that was childproof, needing both hands to pop the cover. He slid his right hand out of the sling and grasped the bottle with it. His shoulder gave a painful twinge when finally the cap popped free, scattering half the pills over the counter, into the sink and onto the floor.
Daniel dropped the pill bottle onto the counter top, ignoring it as more tablets spilled out. He filled a glass of water and grabbed a pill, swallowing it down. He left the mess for later, all he wanted was to get something into his stomach before the pills wreaked havoc down there, and then get to bed. He opened his fridge and was greeted with the sight and smell of spoiled food.
He shut the door with disgust and shuffled to the pantry. It was quite bare, with only a box of crackers that looked edible. He realized belatedly that he'd been spending so much time at Jack's that he hadn't gone for groceries in weeks. He grabbed a handful of crackers, but spit out the first stale bite. Abandoning the idea of food, he made his way to the bedroom, having to hold onto the wall now for support.
Breathing harshly and coughing, he fell more than sat on top of the bed. He rolled onto his side, relief from being off his feet bringing tears to his eyes. His feet began throbbing as the pain intensified. Trying to distract himself, he reached for the far edge of the comforter, wanting to cover himself with it. He was hot at the moment, but knew from experience that as soon as he cooled down, he was going to be cold. He tugged but it wouldn't budge; it was probably caught between the mattress and box spring. He tugged harder but it still wouldn't move.
Giving up, he huddled on the bed, feeling the sweat pouring down his back and sides. The other alternative was to stand up and push the comforter back from where he lay, but the thought of getting on his feet at the moment made him decide to bear the coming cold.
He lay as still as he could, the pain in his feet and shoulder all consuming for the moment. He felt so alone, so miserable. He should have been glad to be home but was now regretting his pleading with Janet to let him go. His friends and family were away, he couldn't manage to do anything for himself and damn it, he was starting to get cold.
- - - - - -
Jack swore as he maneuvered the Avalanche up the street, searching for a parking space. He had wanted to surprise Daniel; they'd come home much earlier than expected, the signing ceremony being short and to the point. Upon arriving at the SGC he'd learned that Daniel had been released and had gone home. He'd whizzed through all of the paperwork and medicals and had arrived home only to find an empty house. He belatedly realized that Daniel would have been chauffeured to his apartment and not Jack's house.
Driving around the block, he finally found a space and parked the Avalanche. Walking swiftly, he entered the apartment building, nodding to the doorman as he held the door open for him. As he approached Daniel's door, he hesitated before knocking. Realizing that Daniel might be asleep, he opened the door using his key.
The lights were off and even though it was still daylight, the rooms were gloomy. He glanced around, not seeing any sign of Daniel. As he made his way towards the bedroom, he spied the spill of pills in the kitchen. Quickly swiping them off the countertop and into his hand, he poured them into the bottle which had been lying on its side. He picked up the dozen that were on the floor and blowing the dust off of them, also dumped them in their container.
So Daniel must be sleeping, as he had first suspected. He knew that the pain killers tended to knock Daniel out; his weakened condition quickly succumbing to their effect. He heard coughing as he made his way to the bedroom, confirming his realization. He stopped in the doorway, seeing Daniel asleep on top of the comforter.
Walking quietly and sitting on the side of the bed, he placed a hand on Daniel's cheek, testing for fever. His skin felt cool to the touch. Jack saw how Daniel was huddled, his knees pulled to his chest, and reached over to tug the comforter back. It resisted his efforts a moment before coming loose. He tucked the edges around Daniel's shoulders and leaned over to kiss his forehead after removing Daniel's glasses.
Daniel opened his eyes and turned his head slightly. Seeing Jack, he smiled sleepily as his eyes closed once more.
"Hey," Jack said.
Daniel response sounded more like a breathy sigh, but Jack understood the 'hey' beneath the murmur.
"Didja eat?" he asked, realizing that Daniel must have gone straight to bed upon entering the apartment. Daniel didn't respond so Jack got up and let him sleep. Making a quick mental calculation, he figured that Daniel would be waking up in about an hour or so. He decided he'd have supper ready by the time Daniel was cognizant enough to be hungry.
- - - - - -
Daniel rolled over onto his back, feeling warm, comfortable, pain free and contented. He stretched, and happily realized that he was in his own bed. It was a pleasure to wake up elsewhere than on the hard ground or an infirmary bed.
Bits of memory filtered through his groggy brain and he realized that he remembered Jack talking to him. He called out for him, his voice sounding slightly hoarse.
Listening intently, he sat up when he didn't hear a response. He was sure Jack had been here. Gingerly putting his feet down on the floor, he pushed the comforter away from him. As he stood up, he realized that he hadn't been able to pull the damned thing onto him; Jack had surely been here.
Walking in short mincing steps towards the kitchen, ignoring his complaining feet, he called out again for Jack. He spotted his bottle of pills sitting on the countertop. Hobbling over to them, he realized that the bottle had been changed. This one he could easily flip the top open with one hand. The other one sat empty beside it.
Jack had definitely been here, but had gone. He'd probably taken one look at Daniel's ineptitude and had left. Daniel didn't blame him, he was fed up of having to depend on others right now; Jack must be just as disgusted having to do and care for Daniel.
He made his way down to his sunken living room, taking the few steps too quickly and jarring his feet badly. He half fell onto the sofa, quickly taking the weight off his aching soles and hitting his sore shoulder against the edge of the couch.
He curled up dejectedly on his side, thinking how he was in constant pain and felt invariably abandoned and useless. His feet eventually stopped throbbing, but the pain in his heart didn't.
- - - - - -
Juggling the grocery bags and the hot foil containers in his hands, Jack got the door open and shut it with a swing of his hip. He brought the small amount of groceries he'd purchased into the kitchen and made short work of putting them away. Getting ready to put their dinner on a couple of trays, he heard coughing coming from the living room area. He smiled; Daniel was up so he wouldn't have to try and drag him out of bed to come eat.
Leaving their meal for the moment, he went to check on Daniel. He was lying on his back on the sofa. For a moment Jack thought he was still sleeping but as he bounced down the steps, realized that Daniel's eyes were open.
"About time you woke up," he teased as he sat on the sofa beside Daniel. When he didn't respond or even look at him, Jack began to worry.
"Danny?" he said as he brought a hand up to grasp his arm. At the touch, Daniel's eyes finally shifted and he glanced at Jack a moment before moving to stare at the wall again.
"You okay?" Jack asked.
"Did you forget something?" Daniel asked in a soft voice. Before Jack could reply, Daniel continued. "Oh, and thanks for picking up my mess, but you didn't have to. I'll be more careful in the future. It was nice of you to stop by earlier."
Jack was dumbfounded as Daniel tried to turn away from him, dismissing him as he turned his back on Jack. The action was lost on him though, when Daniel hissed as his injured shoulder couldn't bear his weight. He seemed to content himself with turning his head towards the back of the couch.
He squeezed the cold flesh beneath his hand, trying to get Daniel's attention and thinking that he should put the heat up in the room and bring him a blanket.
"Did I forget something? Mess? What are you... Daniel, what's going on?"
"Nothing's going on. So the mission went well? I see you're back early."
"Of course the mission went well, you did such a great job with the treaty that all they needed to do was put their John Hancocks on the dotted line," Jack said irritably as Daniel changed the subject. "Daniel, what's that comment about my stopping by earlier?"
"Nothing my ass," Jack snapped, his voice rising slightly as his temper began to flare. He hated it when Daniel tried being vague. This was the man who constantly spoke about airing their feelings to one another, why was he talking in riddles?
"I did come by earlier and saw you were sleeping. Since you had nothing edible in the house as you've been spending all your time at mine, I went out to get a few staples for our breakfast and picked up some supper."
He felt the minute shift of muscles stiffening as he continued to hold onto Daniel's arm. The younger man turned his head to look at Jack, his eyes appearing wider than usual without his glasses.
"You went out for groceries?" came the whispered question.
"Well, unless you wanted to eat green ham and eggs, where did you think I...?" Jack began asking, when the sudden realization made him swear. "You thought I wasn't coming back?" At Daniel's slight blush, he realized that he'd guessed right.
"Daniel, what the hell is going on in that slightly muddled brain of yours?" Jack let go of Daniel's arm and stood up, staring down at his confused lover. "What have I done to make you think I didn't want you? Is it because I went on that mission? You knew I had no choice..."
As Daniel struggled to sit up, Jack leaned over and gave him a hand, quickly picking up a few cushions and placing them on the coffee table. He lifted Daniel's feet, ignoring his protest as he set them onto the soft mounds.
"It's not the mission, Jack." Daniel couldn't seem to meet Jack's eyes as he sat with his left arm cradling his injured one.
Jack seated himself beside Daniel, turning to face the distraught man. He reached over to pull him against his chest. Daniel stiffened and resisted a moment, but then melted against Jack, burying his face against Jack's shoulder.
"Okay, spill," Jack ordered as he tucked his chin on top of the short, cropped hair. "What's bugging you?"
"I hate being like this," came the soft reply after a moment. "I hate being helpless, dependent on you and others."
"You're injured," Jack replied. "It's normal to feel frustrated. But this is more, isn't it?" Jack thought back to their conversation on the planet, about Daniel asking if he'd been a burden to Jack after Jack had accused him of being sick and injured. "This is my fault," Jack said with a sigh. "Damn it, if I'd only been able to keep my mouth shut."
"You couldn't help what you said, it was the moss," Daniel said, his voice slightly muffled as his face was still resting against Jack's tee-shirt.
"Yeah, it was that damned stuff that spoke using my mouth, but you took the words to heart. You know that I didn't mean what I said."
When Daniel didn't reply, Jack continued. "Major Jefferson told me you'd spoken to him and his men, that you forgave them for what they did to you."
"I started the whole thing, Jack. How could I not forgive them?"
"You started nothing, that god damned moss did," Jack argued. Okay, this was going nowhere. He decided to try another approach. "How often have I made you angry or upset with something I said? Or on a mission, when you me ask for more time and I veto your request? You can't tell me that for a moment you don't feel anger towards me... that my words or orders don't make you want to tell me off."
Daniel nodded his agreement after a moment.
"Then when you get a second or two to think about it, you realize that yeah, maybe that snarky Colonel has a reason for his decision, something that you don't know about, or remember that we have a timeframe and need to keep it. Or maybe he wants to cut the mission short so that he can drag his archaeologist home to make wild, passionate love to him."
Daniel snorted at that, and Jack smiled.
"What I'm trying to say here is that yes, maybe I've had the occasional notion run through my mind that you do tend to get injured quite a bit. But as to your being a burden, Daniel? Never! But hell, I've been injured almost as often as you. I've never even suspected that you might think of me as being a burden when I'm laid up."
"God, no, Jack. I want to help you when you're sick or injured. I've never even considered letting someone else help you! Damn, I love you, you're mine to take care of." Daniel's anguished words brought a lump to Jack's throat and he had to clear his throat before continuing. He stared at the intense blue eyes that had turned up to look at him.
"Then why would I harbor the thought that you're a burden, hmmm?" Jack asked gently. "I feel exactly the same way," he said as he lowered his head to kiss Daniel's lips. It was a gentle touch, healing and forgiving.
He pulled back and laid his cheek against Daniel's forehead. "I like doing things for you, Danny. I hate to see you hurt or sick, but I like that you permit me to see your vulnerability when you're not well. That you trust me enough to let me into your life and allow me to see when you're hurting, both physically and mentally. Hell, I kinda like the thought that I'm needed, as sappy as that may sound."
"I always need you, Jack," Daniel said as he raised his hand to clasp Jack's neck, pulling him back for another kiss. His mouth opened beneath Jack's, his tongue coming out to invite Jack's to come and play.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Jack allowed Daniel to ravish his mouth. The sound of Daniel's rumbling stomach pulled Jack back to awareness and he straightened up, remembering that he'd gone out to get them some food earlier.
"As nice as this is, I think you need something to eat, hmm? And don't you have a pill or two to take?"
"Yes mom," Daniel said with a sigh as he pushed himself off of Jack, allowing the older man to get up.
Jack returned in a moment with their still-warm supper and Daniel's antibiotics. He opened the foil container for Daniel and handed him a fork, watching as the younger man awkwardly maneuvered the implement with his left hand. Jack dug into his supper, enjoying the take-out from their favorite restaurant.
Daniel seemed to eat with gusto but his stomach decided when he was halfway through his meal that it had had enough. Jack brought their trays back to the kitchen and settled himself once again beside his love. They half sat, half lay on the couch, relaxing in the quiet of the late afternoon.
"So, do you want any dessert? I got some cheesecake; or would you rather *be* the dessert?" Jack asked with a grin.
"Hmmm, I think I'd like to be the dessert first, and then have the dessert," Daniel said sleepily.
Jack glanced down at Daniel, noting that his eyes were half closed. "How about we have both desserts after a little nap?"
Daniel smiled, then stood up with Jack's help. As they made their slow way to the bedroom, Daniel leaned against Jack. The smile remained on his face as Jack helped him lie down on the bed. As Jack spooned against Daniel's back, he heard the contented man say, "better green ham and eggs than lilac moss."
Jack snorted, glad to see that Daniel was in a better mood. "Actually, isn't it 'green eggs and ham'? Charlie always loved Dr. Seuss," Jack said.
"Both sound just as disgusting." Daniel shifted his legs slightly, and Jack raised the top of the comforter with his foot, taking the pressure off of Daniel's legs.
He wound his arm around Daniel's waist, careful of his injured arm. Daniel took hold of his hand and threaded his fingers with Jack's.
"I remember you holding me," he told Jack. "A lot of what happened on the planet is a blur, but I remember feeling safe in your arms."
Jack kissed the back of Daniel's head, squeezing the fingers slightly. "I was terrified of losing you back there," Jack confided. "You got so sick, and we had to wait to open the 'gate."
"When I first woke up, I kept hoping that you'd come find me," Daniel said, his voice soft. Jack knew that he was already half asleep. "I mean, you weren't even *on* the planet and I was expecting you to rescue me. How dumb is that?"
"Not dumb at all. Just shows how much faith you have in me." Jack felt the fingers beneath his go lax, and he knew that Daniel had fallen asleep. He wasn't sleepy, but was contented to lie there holding his lover in his arms. If that made Daniel feel safe, he'd do it for an eternity.
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