Jack cast a last look at the edge of the clearing. Nope, no Horus Guard, no aliens with scary weapons, no carnivorous beasts slavering for a meal. Hadn't changed one bit since they'd arrived on P1Q-444 yesterday. Even the weather had stayed disgustingly normal and calm. Jack looked at the sky hopefully. Nope, not a dark cloud in sight.
He supposed he should be grateful for a mission that kept Carter happily occupied studying soil samples and Daniel happily digging in that same dirt searching for clues of an ancient civilization. Nope, not even Daniel would be able to find trouble on this planet. Jack checked his watch and went over to SG-1's happily occupied archaeologist.
"Daniel?" Jack squatted beside Daniel as he knelt by a rock industriously brushing.
"Ja-ck?" Daniel never faltered in his brushing, not even bothering to glance over at Jack.
Jack had never known his name had two syllables until he'd met Daniel. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Brushing, Jack." Daniel sighed. The tempo never varied, even though Jack saw Daniel's fingers tighten slightly around his brush.
"You only have two hours left until we have to head back to the 'Gate," Jack reminded him.
"I know, Jack. That's why I'm trying to finish this," Daniel said in a quiet, even tone. He continued brushing.
"Can I help?" Jack gestured at the rock.
Daniel finally stopped and put his brush down with great care. He looked at Jack over the top of his glasses. "No. No you can not help, Jack. Wait," he hesitated a moment, "you can. Why don't you leave me alone so I can get some work done?"
" Geesh, Daniel," Jack shook his head, "you hurt me. What am I supposed to do? I'm bored."
Daniel picked up his brush again and turned back to the rock. " I don't care what you do, Jack. Just stay away and let me finish. Unless," he turned back to Jack with a hopeful smile, "we can stay one more day."
"I'll start packing up your equipment for you," Jack offered with a exaggerated shudder that made Daniel's smile broader.
"Fine, fine," Daniel said absently, his attention already back on the task at hand.
Jack had watched Daniel pack up all his tools and equipment from a dig more times than he could count. At any rate, it would give him something to do while allowing Daniel to work up to the last minute. Jack sighed as he opened the first case. There were times he hated having to pull Daniel away from doing his job. This was going to be one of them. Boring as the mission was for him, it was doing Daniel a world of good. There'd been too many tense missions lately. He and Daniel had been arguing at every turn, Jack's orders and Daniel's ethics clashing frequently. This mission was starting to get them back on track.
Reaching for one of Daniel's small shovels without looking, Jack pulled his hand back at the sudden pain. He noticed the small lizard run across the handle and into the grass. Damn, who would have thought such a little thing had such a big bite? Jack studied his hand and saw the small red punctures.
"You have a first aid kit handy, Daniel?" he called.
"In my pack. Side pocket," Daniel responded in return. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." Jack called back. "Just a little..." He let out a gasp as his hand started to throb.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice was filled with alarm. "Jack?"
Jack opened his mouth to reply, astonished when he couldn't find breath to speak. He pulled his hand to his chest and curled around the pain. His heart was pounding as if he'd been running for miles, his mouth gone bone dry. He risked opening his eyes and saw the darkening sky a moment before Daniel's face came into view.
"Let me see, Jack." Daniel's voice was soothing and calm, quelling Jack's rising panic. It was a tone he recognized from countless briefings, from first contacts on alien worlds. A cool callused hand brushed over his forehead, helping him to focus. He felt Daniel pull gently at his hand and bit down hard, trying hard not to scream.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice seemed to be echoing. "You with me?"
"Unnnhuhhh," Jack managed to grunt, finding it hard to move his mouth to make words. "Liz...ard." Daniel would know what he meant. They'd seen dozens of the little reptiles during their day and half on the planet. He could hear Daniel rummaging around in the first aid kit.
"Got it," Daniel said in a confident tone. Then he was leaning close, one hand resting on Jack's cheek. "I'm going to try to get some of the venom out." He held up the snake bite kit. "Stay with me, you hear? Stay with me."
Jack blinked once, hoping Daniel understood. Daniel gave him a smile and patted his cheek once before turning away to lean over Jack's hand.
Staring up at the sky, Jack saw pinkish clouds drift lazily overhead, and he felt himself drifting with them as he felt a tugging on his hand and heard Daniel talking to someone over the radio. The pain that had been so harsh had faded to a dull ache. Jack didn't think that was a good thing.
"Sam and Teal'c are on their way." Daniel leaned closer.
Jack blinked, trying to bring his friend's features into focus and failing. The sky was darker than it had been moments before, and Jack knew there were hours left of daylight. His heart pounded harder, and Jack swore he felt it skip a beat.
"D..d..."Jack felt fear twining its way around his heart. He was dying. He didn't want to die. There was so much left to do, so many battles to fight. Daniel's face was no more than a blur. Water splashed on his face, and Jack felt it trickle into the corner of his mouth. Salt, he filed the strange fact in a corner of his mind; it was salt water. Jack didn't want to close his eyes, even though the urge was overwhelming. He wanted one last glimpse of Carter and Teal'c, of Daniel, of his team.
"Sam, hurry, dammit," Daniel was yelling. Jack thought he reached out a hand to Daniel. He didn't like the anguish in Daniel's voice, the shakiness that was tinging his repeated calls to Carter and Teal'c.
Jack frowned as Daniel slipped his hand into his. Daniel was frightened. Definitely not good. Jack tried to find breath to form words. It was hard. He couldn't seem to concentrate to string together enough words to make a sentence, couldn't remember how to move his tongue and lips to form sound. But Daniel was talking again, his voice once again calm and in control.
"I'm here, Jack," Daniel soothed. "I'm here. Just hold on. Feel my hand? I'm not going to let go. Okay?"
Jack couldn't feel Daniel's hand in his, although Daniel said he was holding it, that he wouldn't let go. That was enough for Jack, had always been enough. Daniel kept his promises, was a man of his word.
Jack took a shuddering breath and whispered, "Danny."
"Shh, Jack." Daniel's voice had lost its shakiness, the hard edge it held moments ago. "Teal'c and Sam will soon be here. We'll get you home in no time at all. Janet isn't going to be happy though, having to patch one of us up..."
"No," Daniel shook his head. Even though his sight was rapidly dimming, Jack was able to see the jerky movement. "You're going to be fine."
"Daniel," Jack whispered, suddenly weary.
He felt Daniel's forehead touch his, Daniel bringing their clasped hands to Jack's chest, resting over Jack's heart.
"I'm here, Jack," Daniel whispered. "You're not alone. You hear me? You *are* not alone. I won't leave you. I'm here. I'm here. We're going home. You understand? We're going home and you *will* be fine."
Jack heard the desperation in the tone. If sheer will could make him live, Daniel's would have him surviving until he was a hundred. He couldn't seem to move any longer, his limbs going heavy as if he were drifting into a deep sleep.
"Daniel," Jack had so much left to say and realized suddenly that there was no time left to say it. He needed to get the words out, to give one last command. "You live."
"I will. I promise." Daniel's voice was firm, steady. "And you will too, Jack."
Jack tried to smile, not sure if he succeeded. He concentrated on the preciousness of each breath until even that took too much effort. There was no longer any pain, no longer any need to fight. Jack surrendered to the dark that was beckoning.
"Medics!" Daniel yelled as his feet hit the ramp in the 'Gate room. Teal'c deposited Jack on the cold metal, and Daniel fell to his knees, fingers scrabbling to feel for Jack's pulse, relieved that Jack's heart still beat and alarmed at the irregularity of the beat under his shaking hands.
"Come on," Daniel urged, looking away from Jack's blue tinted lips. "What's taking so long with the medics?" Jack wasn't going to last much longer. Clinging to his friend's hand, he leaned closer to Jack's ear. "You're not alone, remember that. You are going to be fine," he whispered hoping that some part of Jack was there to still hear his words.
Sam touched his shoulder gently, "They're here, Daniel. Let them work." She pulled him away and knelt beside him. "The colonel will be all right. He will." She gave a determined nod and Daniel knew she didn't believe a word she'd just said. Sam was suddenly gone from his side, talking to Janet in what may as well have been gibberish.
Daniel's brain was slowly turning as numb as his hand, the hand that Jack bruised, crushing it in those first intense moments of pain. He no longer heard what Janet was directing her staff to do. One of the medics was squeezing a bag that was attached to a tube protruding from Jack's mouth, another was busily cutting Jack's uniform away from his body and someone else was drawing blood, but his eyes kept being drawn back to that bag. Did that mean Jack was no longer breathing? That it was already too late? Had he not gotten help quickly enough?
"Daniel?" He wondered who was calling his name from so far a distance. "Daniel?" The voice was sharper this time and accompanied by a rough shaking.
"Did you get bitten too?" Janet's brown eyes regarded him with professional concern.
"No," he managed to choke through a suddenly tight throat, "No, I'm fine." He straightened and nodded at Janet. "It was a lizard. Sam brought one of the them back with us. Jack was bitten about ten minutes ago. I used the snake bite kit to pump out as much of the venom as I could." This he could do. Give a report, detach himself from the reality of Jack's motionless form being wheeled from the Gate room at a rapid pace.
Janet squeezed his shoulder and took off at a near run, following the gurney and giving rapid fire orders that made Daniel's head spin. They were gone before Daniel had a chance to even take another breath.
"SG-1?" General Hammond stood before Daniel, his expression one of deep concern.
"We need to be with Jack, General, sir." Daniel reached out a hand to the ramp's cold metal rail and steadied himself. He was vaguely aware of Teal'c standing beside him and speaking quietly to General Hammond. Now that the first rush of adrenaline was leaving his system, Daniel felt nauseous. The sight of Jack lying helpless on the grass replayed itself with unrelenting frequency in his head. Swallowing hard, Daniel fought to keep his breakfast where it belonged.
"Understood, SG-1. We'll schedule the debrief for a later time."
Daniel thought his own heart would stop when he and Teal'c found Sam crying in the hallway outside the infirmary.
"Sam?" He pulled her close, her tears soaking into his already sweat dampened shirt.
"I think his heartbeat stopped on the way here." Sam finally mumbled into his shoulder. "I don't know if they got it back or not."
"O'Neill is a strong warrior," Teal'c said, his dark eyes fixed on the doors as though staring at them would allow him to know what happened inside.
"Come on, Sam." Daniel urged. " You know Janet would have let us know immediately if..." He couldn't, wouldn't finish that sentence. "Let's sit down and wait." He rubbed her shoulder reassuringly.
She looked up at him and smiled faintly. "Sorry about that, Daniel." She brushed at his shirt as she pulled away, becoming Major Samantha Carter, USAF, before his eyes. "The colonel will make it. He will." She smiled at him even though it didn't quite reach her eyes.
Daniel joined Teal'c in watching the doors. Maybe if he concentrated hard enough, he could bring himself to believe the reassurances he'd given Jack. But Jack's hand had been cold in his, Jack's eyes drifting away at the last moments as if he'd given up, had no will left to fight. In all the years they'd known each other, Daniel had never seen that before, and it chilled him to his very core.
The gentle voice and touch startled him out of a half doze.
Daniel looked up into Janet's frowning face. "I'm awake," he muttered.
Janet said nothing to that lie, just raised her eyebrows in surprise. She busied herself with looking at the readouts from the medical equipment by Jack's bed.
"How is he?" Daniel asked her, his eyes fixed on his friend who lay motionless and pale.
"The antivenin is helping. His vitals are strong. The colonel is going to make it, Daniel." Janet smiled at him.
"What about...you know?" Daniel gestured at his own head. Janet had warned them about the possibility of brain damage.
"His reflexes are good so far, Daniel," Janet said softly. "We'll have to wait until he wakes up for any further assessment."
"It's been almost two days," Daniel rubbed his thumb over the back of Jack's hand, the hand he hadn't relinquished since Janet had allowed him to sit by Jack's bedside.
"I suspect Colonel O'Neill will be waking sometime today. He's been getting a little restless lately, and his vitals are much stronger." Janet put her hand on Daniel's shoulder. "You need rest, Daniel. Colonel O'Neill isn't going to be aware if you leave him for awhile to get some real sleep."
"No, but I will." Daniel glanced at her briefly before turning his attention back to Jack. "I promised him he wouldn't be alone."
"I could order you to leave, Dr. Jackson," Janet finally said in exasperation.
"You could, Dr. Fraiser, but we both know you won't." Daniel gave her the merest hint of a smile.
"As soon as the colonel wakes up, you are going to be banned from the infirmary for at least twenty-four hours," Janet said sternly, and she walked away to continue her rounds.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel whispered, leaning in closer. "I'm still here. I told you you wouldn't be alone." He watched Jack's slow, steady breathing, unassisted by any machine. "Janet says you're going to be fine. That little lizard packed quite a punch, huh?" Daniel pushed up his glasses to briefly rub at his eyes and hoped that Janet was nowhere nearby to see that. It wasn't that Teal'c and Sam hadn't come by and helped keep watch. It was just that Daniel couldn't bring himself to leave.
He and Jack had been at each other's throats for their last few missions. Jack's orders had run counter to Daniel's ideals more than once. Daniel had been growing increasingly frustrated with missions that didn't allow them to truly get to know other cultures, missions that were focused on what they could acquire materially and not what they could learn. He'd thought this mission would be a godsend.
"Janet says you're getting better, Jack," Daniel continued to whisper. "Hey, did I ever say thank you for recommending we go to 444? I think we both needed it. Needed a break. Not that you got one.
"What is it with SG-1 anyhow? Sometimes I think the universe is playing one colossal joke on all of us." Daniel stopped to clear his throat. "I'm frankly getting a little tired of it. You'd think we'd get a break sooner or later. I'm hoping for sooner. Bet you are too."
Daniel looked up at his friend's face as Jack's hand twitched in his. "Hey it's okay to wake up, Jack. I'll be here." Jack's head turned slightly away, and Jack frowned in his sleep. "I promised I'd stay right here until you wake. I'm waiting." Daniel sighed as Jack seemed to settle into a deeper sleep.
Resting his arms on the bed, Daniel lowered his head to them. Maybe closing his eyes for just a few minutes would help the headache he could feel blossoming behind his eyes. "I'm not going to leave, Jack. Just so you know. I'm going to be quiet for awhile though. You wake up whenever you're ready."
Jack recognized the smell before he even opened his eyes. Eau de Infirmary, that unique blend of disinfectants, medications and bleached sheets. He wiggled his feet under the blanket and cautiously opened his eyes. Yep, infirmary. He took a deep breath, relishing the ability to breathe.
"Colonel!" Doc Fraiser seemingly appeared out of nowhere. "You're awake. Good."
"Uhhhh..." Jack licked at dry lips with an equally dry tongue.
"Here, try this."
The doctor held a straw to his lips, and he drank the cool water. He drained the cup and wished for more.
"Better?" she asked.
"Yeah," he managed. He watched as she lifted his left hand, the one where he'd been bitten, and examined the bandage.
"You remember what happened, Colonel?" Doctor Fraiser asked as she began unwinding the gauze.
"Big, big lizard." Jack nodded. "Real big."
"At least 5 inches." She smiled at him. "Daniel had Sam bring back a specimen."
"Damn," Jack said, "I was hoping for some sympathy points."
"You used them up the last time you were in here," Doctor Fraiser pointed out as she finished unwrapping his hand and put an ointment on the small wound. "You're going to be fine, Colonel. Daniel managed to extract some of the venom when you were bitten. That's most likely what kept your reaction from being fatal."
Jack took in a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. He could still remember Daniel's voice, calm and sure, telling him he would be okay, that he wasn't alone, that he would survive. Thinking of which..."Doc, where is Daniel anyway?"
Jack didn't quite understand the grin that lit the doctor's face at his question. She nodded to his right. Jack was suddenly aware that his right arm was pinned beside his body, and he couldn't move it without pushing against a heavy object. His eyes followed the path of Doctor Fraiser's glance, and his smile answered hers.
"He's been here ever since you were stable enough to have visitors," she whispered. "I tried to get him to leave a few times, but.." She shrugged her shoulders.
"I know," Jack whispered back. "Daniel with a mission is an immovable object."
"He's been sleeping for a couple of hours. I told him I was going to make him leave when you finally woke up. He kept insisting that he'd promised you he wouldn't leave."
"You're not going to wake him up now, are you?" Jack moved his left arm across his chest to touch Daniel's hair lightly.
"I think I can wait for that until you're both conscious at the same time." Doctor Fraiser patted his shoulder. "Get some more rest, Colonel. You're a very lucky man, sir."
Jack wasn't watching the doctor as she walked away. Instead he focused on the sleep-relaxed face of his best friend, the friend who promised he'd be there with Jack no matter how bad it got, who promised him that he wasn't alone; the friend who was his conscience even when he didn't want to be reminded of it, the man who had offered him his friendship and trusted Jack with his heart and soul.
He didn't have very many memories of anything after he'd closed his eyes on P1Q-444, but he did remember a calm, quiet voice and a steadfast presence by his side. He smiled down at that steadfast soul now. Jack shook his head. Daniel had fallen asleep with his glasses on once again. He reached gingerly to Daniel's face and pulled the wire frames off gently. He folded the glasses and put them on the bedside table.
"Yes, I am, Doc," he whispered, "the luckiest." Jack gave a huge yawn and joined his friend in slumber. Daniel would stay for as long as Jack needed him. He was a man of his word.
|Summary:||Jack has a close call.|