"Sir?" Carter's whisper carried as loud as a shout in the small damp hole in the ground.
Jack looked up from Daniel to peer at her, her blonde hair the only brightness in the murky light.
"No better," Jack told her. He feared tightening his grip on his friend would only make matters worse.
She moved closer to them, away from her study of the blocked passage. Jack was grateful for the meager warmth another body offered.
Jack looked down at Daniel, who for the moment was blessedly unconscious. His hair was plastered to his skull, damp from the fever that wouldn't release him from its grip. Thankfully there was no bright new blood staining the bandages around his chest and legs.
Daniel's breathing was loud, and each successive breath appeared to be a struggle. If Jack bent close, he could hear the rattle in Daniel's chest.
"Do you think Teal'c got through?" Carter asked as she stood and walked back towards the open area.
"If there was any way possible..." Jack said, leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished. If Teal'c hadn't gotten through, then Jack doubted there was any hope for them here. The hole in which they'd been thrown as prisoners didn't appear to have any visible means of escape. The only apparent way out was blocked by a tangle of sharp spikes that crisscrossed the area above them all the way to the lip of the pit. And even if they had been able climb out, taking Daniel with them would have been impossible. He'd been injured courtesy of their hosts, who for some reason had found whatever Daniel had said upon their first meeting offensive.
Closing his eyes briefly, the scenes of Daniel's torture at the hands of their captors haunted Jack. At least they'd been left alone for the past day. Of course they were in a pit, in the ground, with their escape blocked, but the torture had stopped. He held onto the hope that Teal'c had somehow gotten through to the SGC. He didn't know how much longer Daniel would last. The devices used in Daniel's torture, despite the natives' apparent primitive lives, were high tech, designed to damage a person but not kill him outright.
Daniel moaned; a small sound in the pit.
"Daniel?" Jack asked bending over him. "You with us?"
"Depends," Daniel said, opening his eyes. He breathed with his mouth open, trying, Jack guessed, to get more air in his lungs.
"Yeah?" Jack took the opportunity to move slightly and prop Daniel against the wall of the pit so he could better look at Daniel's injuries.
"We in the Carib...?" Daniel couldn't finish the sentence as he began to cough. Carter came to his side, supporting him and looking scared as she glanced at her commanding officer.
"Nah, who wants to go to the Caribbean? I was thinking Tahiti." Jack kept up the light chatter while he gently pulled back the bandages covering Daniel's thigh.
"Very nice," Carter added.
Daniel's leg didn't look nearly as bad as Jack feared considering the blood that had covered it when they'd first been thrown in the pit. But Daniel was still in pain, more pain than seemed possible for the injuries.
As if Jack's thoughts had been a cue, Daniel let out a groan. Jack heard Carter's gasp and looked up. Daniel had hold of her hand so tightly, that Jack figured her fingers would be bruised. His jaw was clenched and tears leaked from his eyes.
"Daniel." Jack reached out and placed a hand on his cheek, hoping to get Daniel's attention. But Daniel didn't respond, caught and locked in a haze of pain.
One hand came up to pull at the bandages covering his chest and his breathing changed, the gasps for air becoming more obvious. He began to shake.
Jack pulled the bandages away and stared at Daniel's chest. "What the...?!"
What looked like the fine silk of a spider web covered Daniel's chest and as Jack watched the silvery threads appeared to pull tight as Daniel strained to breathe.
"Carter, help me." Jack cursed as he remembered he didn't have a knife--one of the things their captors had taken away.
"We can't touch it," she warned. "Maybe the..." she glanced towards the wooden spikes above them.
"Daniel! Let go of Carter's hand," Jack ordered. The urgency must have registered with Daniel because Carter scrambled away from him.
"I'll need to stand on your shoulders, sir."
He nodded and crouched while she stepped onto his back.
"Carter? You hear that?"
The unmistakable sound of gunfire was overhead. And then the voice of their teammate called down.
"O'Neill. CaptainCarter. DanielJackson. We have arrived to assist you from your prison."
"Throw down a knife, Teal'c," Jack yelled up. "Daniel's in trouble. We need medical help ASAP."
"Understood," Teal'c replied.
Jack stepped away. Daniel's breathing sounded almost normal again and when Jack looked at his chest he saw no sign of the filaments that were present just moments before. "Daniel," Jack said, kneeling by him. Daniel blinked up at him, his eyes unfocused and glazed with fever. "We're going home, buddy."
"Home. Sha're," Daniel sighed before he lost consciousness again.
Fraiser's mouth was set in a grim line---a sign that Jack took to mean that any news she had to share about Daniel was not good. Hell, he knew it couldn't be good. The doctors, and then some specialists, had been holed up in the isolation room with Daniel ever since SG1 had come back through the Gate.
Carter was fiddling with a computer and looking just as grim as Fraiser. No, not good at all, Jack thought.
"Doctor Fraiser? Do you have a report on Doctor Jackson's condition?" General Hammond asked.
"I do, sir." She nodded to Carter who put a picture on the screen.
Jack frowned. It was obviously showing something that was evidently inside Daniel, but what it meant he had no idea. "Doc? Mind sharing what we're looking at?"
"We believe the devices used to torture Daniel implanted these spheres."
"What *are* they?" Jack asked.
"Sir, do you remember the threads that appeared on Daniel on the planet? The ones that made him struggle to breathe?"
Jack nodded and then leaned forward, his stomach making a few flip-flops along the way. "Those thingies caused that?"
"They did, sir," Fraiser answered. "They send out filaments at varying intervals, inflicting more pain upon the victim."
"This is not a device I have ever seen," Teal'c commented. "Is there a plan for their removal from DanielJackson?"
Okay, Jack did so not want to see Fraiser shake her head as an answer.
"We counted ten spheres inside Doctor Jackson. At this point, two of the spheres have dissolved with no interference from us, and at least four others are showing signs of disintegration."
"That leaves four, Doc," Jack said. "Why can't you just go in and pull them out?"
"Two are in his left lung, and the remaining two are attached to his lower spinal cord. We'd be taking a risk of doing further damage at this point. He's running a high fever due to an infection from the lashing he received. We don't want to put his body under the stress of surgery at this point. We'll keep a close eye on things but it appears as if the devices should all be disintegrating within the next seventy two hours based on the rate we're seeing with the others. If we don't see any signs that the remaining sphere are breaking down within the next twenty four hours, we'll explore other options. Doctor Jackson will be kept under sedation so any pain he experiences will be minimal."
"What's Doctor Jackson's prognosis?" General Hammond asked.
"I expect the infection should be under control within the next twenty four hours. He's on some strong antibiotics to combat it," Fraiser replied. "Right now, we don't know if there will be any lasting effects from the spheres. He's breathing on his own, although we have him on oxygen. I'll keep you informed of his condition. I'm sorry I don't have any more information to give you at this time."
"Can we see him?" Jack asked, motioning to Carter, Teal'c and himself.
"He's heavily sedated, but I'll allow you all a few minutes with him." She smiled at Jack. "We're keeping him in ISO room two and I'm going to require all of you to suit up to play it safe."
"Dismissed, SG-1," Hammond ordered. He gave them a gentle smile as he stood.
Jack nodded. General Hammond understood the relationship SG-1 had, their need to pull together when things got rough. He held back a sigh. He just wished it didn't happen quite as often as it did.
"Hey," Jack said watching as Daniel turned his head and blinked. The lights were on but no one was home, Jack realized.
Just as Fraiser had foreseen the spheres had disappeared within the predicted seventy two hours. Bringing Daniel back from the high levels of sedation was proving to be a longer process than Jack expected. Although watching Daniel over the past three days as the spheres continued to send out their tendrils at varying intervals made Jack very glad Fraiser had elected to keep Daniel out of it while his body absorbed the spheres.
"How you feeling?" Jack asked while Daniel stared at him as if Jack had grown three heads.
"Good," Daniel finally mumbled before closing his eyes. Jack said nothing but pulled a chair closer and sat down.
"You sleeping?" he asked.
Jack smiled and patted Daniel's shoulder. "Have a nice nap."
The click of heels alerted Jack to Fraiser's approach.
"Doc," he nodded.
"Colonel." She gave him a smile before she looked at Daniel's chart.
He tapped his fingers on his knee and then on the bedside table. Fraiser was being far too quiet for Jack's liking. She'd told them the spheres were gone so it didn't make sense she was still so worried.
"Doc?" he asked when she placed the chart back at the end of the bed. "There something you aren't sharing?"
"All of Daniel's vitals are where they should be," she said. "By this evening, I expect we'll see him more alert."
Jack nodded. "But...I keep thinking there's a but in there somewhere."
"There're some tests we need to run that we can't do while he's still asleep," Fraiser added. "Now if you'll excuse me, sir, I have other patients to attend to." She smiled at Jack and then patted Daniel's blanket-covered arm. "I'll be back in an hour."
Watching Daniel sleep had been about as exciting as watching paint dry. Hell, Daniel hadn't so much as talked in his sleep so that Jack would have blackmail material. Carter had been by for a bit and then made an excuse to get back to her lab when it was apparent Daniel wasn't going to wake up. Teal'c came in once, stood guard over Daniel's bed for a half hour and then needed to go to his quarters to kel-no-reem.
On the bright side of things, Daniel was awake now, although he seemed to be more interested in eating the light supper he'd been provided than conversing with Jack.
"Good soup?" Jack asked. A silent Daniel just didn't seem normal in Jack's book.
"Yeah. Good," Daniel said, as he took one last spoonful. He pushed the tray away. "You don't think Janet will let me have steak, do you?"
"I'm guessing no," Jack responded. "But since she's coming, why don't you ask her yourself?"
"Ask me what?"
"Daniel here was just wondering when you're going to feed him, Doc." Jack pointed at the tray.
"Are you implying that our food isn't good enough for you, Doctor Jackson?" Fraiser asked, pulling Daniel's chart, her tone light and joking.
"Not at all. Jack promised he'd buy me a big steak dinner when I go home," Daniel explained. "Speaking of which..."
"I'd like to run a few tests before we talk about you going home," Janet replied and looked pointedly at Jack.
"Hey I can take a hint," Jack said getting to his feet. "I'll vamoose. Give a holler when you're done, Daniel."
"Deep breath," Janet ordered as she pressed the stethoscope to Daniel's chest.
Daniel obeyed, letting his mind drift. He couldn't remember the past few days, only being on the planet with Jack and Sam holding on to him and telling him help was on the way. Even the pain now seemed a distant memory. "So am I going to live?" he asked as she pulled back.
She frowned. Maybe a joke hadn't been such a good idea, Daniel thought.
He gave Janet what he hoped was a conciliatory smile.
"I want you to stay on base for the next two days. Everything appears to be fine. I'd like you to check back in tomorrow morning, sooner if you notice anything out of the ordinary," Janet explained as she wrote a notation on his chart. "Any questions?"
Daniel shook his head. "Nope. None. I can..." He waggled his fingers in the direction of the door.
Janet gave him a nod and a smile, but just before she left the bedside she turned and looked him up and down. "I know the female staff would be quite happy to see your, um, assets, but you might want to consider changing out of your hospital gown before you leave." With this comment Janet gave him a quick wink and turned to leave.
Daniel stared at her in astonishment and could feel his ears growing hot. He ducked his head and put his hand around the back of his gown, pulling the gap closed. He glanced around to make sure no one was nearby when he bent over to retrieve a pair of pants from the small bedside cabinet.
"Hey," Jack said as he came into Daniel's office. "Doc spring ya?"
Daniel took the small ceremonial pot from Jack's hands before replying. "Sort of." He set the pot back on the table and put his hand over it when Jack reached toward it once more.
"Sort of?" Jack asked. Daniel crossed his arms over his chest and stared. Jack looked at him, gave a sheepish grin and placed the pencils back on the table before jamming his hands in his pockets. "You said sort of."
"Yeah," Daniel replied. He began closing the books spread out on the table. "She wants me to stay on base for the next forty-eight hours. Just in case, I guess."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Daniel asked. He was beginning to feel an overwhelming need to escape--to get away from the SGC.
"I was clearing my throat," Jack said. "You eat anything yet?"
Daniel shook his head. "I have a lot of work to do."
"And I'm sure Fraiser would want your stomach to be filled with food while you do it." Jack put a hand on Daniel's shoulder, giving a gentle push towards the door.
"I'm not really Hun..." Daniel looked at his friend and decided surrender was inevitable. "Guess I am after all."
Jack grabbed four sandwiches and handed two to Daniel. "Turkey and peanut butter and jelly okay for you?" He had to smile as Daniel gave him an open-mouthed nod. He stuffed his own sandwiches in two of his jacket pockets and pointed to the corresponding space on Daniel's jacket. "You might want to do that in case your hands get full."
"Ohhhkay," Daniel said, drawing the word out in a way that made Jack know his friend didn't have a clue about what was going on.
Jack grabbed a couple of bags of chips from the counter and then two large plastic-wrapped chocolate chip cookies. "Stow these," he ordered, handing the chip bags to Daniel, who fumbled a bit with full hands.
"I know, I know," he grumbled at Jack. Jack said nothing, just waited until Daniel followed his lead in stashing the sandwiches.
"Coffee?" Jack asked, looking at Daniel who was looking at the coffee machine with something akin to worship. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Stupid question." He filled two of the largest cups with coffee and then covered them with lids. "Ready?"
A huge sigh told Jack he'd won the skirmish.
"You're not gonna pout are you?"
"I don't pout. Geez, I'm not three," Daniel pointed out. He gave a little half step to get his stride in synch with Jack's as Jack led them back out of the commissary. "Where are we going? I thought you said we were going to eat."
Jack stopped by the elevators. "We are. Food, coffee. Looks like eatin' stuff to me."
"And when you dragged me away from my work, I thought you meant in the commissary. I have my food now; I can just go back to my office."
"No. No, you can't." Jack nudged Daniel with his elbow when the elevator doors opened. "We're going to eat."
Luckily the elevator was empty, which Jack considered a good thing based on the slightly panicked look on Daniel's face and the way he'd backed against the wall. Jack kept quiet, biding his time.
Sandwiches and chips eaten, Jack looked at Daniel who leaned against the rock in the clearing.
Getting out of the SGC to some fresh air and sunlight appeared to have done Daniel some good, Jack thought. The tense set of his shoulders had relaxed somewhat.
"Rough mission," Jack said. He pulled a blade of grass and rolled it between his fingers. He was glad for his sunglasses which allowed him to sneak a sideways glance at Daniel. Sure enough the comment had been enough to bring a frown to Daniel's face, but that had never stopped Jack before. "Close call." Ah--now that got Daniel's dander up. He brought his arms up around his chest and the frown turned to more of a scowl.
"You don't have to remind me I nearly killed all of us, Jack," Daniel returned, his voice surprisingly strong.
"You didn't do it, Daniel. *They* did."
The silence stretched between them, Jack unable to figure out if Daniel was processing or just plain damn angry.
"Is this where you give me the 'get back on the horse' speech?" Daniel asked, finally looking at Jack.
Jack was reminded forcibly of how impossibly young Daniel seemed. Hell, sometimes the newest airmen at the base seemed years older than Daniel. That was until one looked into Daniel's eyes. "I wasn't aware you fell off."
Daniel made a sound that could have been a strangled laugh or a disgusted huff. Good, Jack thought, a little bit of anger was far better than shutting down.
"You know what I mean," Daniel said, his words clipped.
"Yeah. I also know you were scared shitless out there and yet you kept it together." Jack commented. "I've seen more experienced men fall to pieces in situations far less severe."
"I don't..." Daniel hesitated and stood up. He walked a few steps away and then turned back to face Jack. "I don't want to be a liability to the team. If I hadn't misspoken, if I had thought quicker..."
"Then it would have been Carter or me who bore their wrath, Daniel. They were out for blood. You just happened to be the closest target."
Daniel stared at him for a moment, his eyes wide in what Jack guessed was disbelief. He again crossed his arms over his chest in the defensive posture Jack hated to see. "It wouldn't have happened to you or Sam."
"I hate to tell you this, buddy, but I have plenty of scars to show you how wrong you are. We expect the unexpected out there. Despite your insistence that what happened was your fault, you gotta understand how things work around here. I'm responsible for your safety out there. Carter is responsible for your safety. So is Teal'c. We're the military, you're the civilian. It's our job to keep you safe. Understood?"
Daniel appeared taken aback by Jack's little speech. Maybe throwing him a little off-balance was all that was needed to stop the blame game.
"Oh," Daniel finally said and then sat back down on the rock. "Oh," he repeated again in a quiet voice that had Jack thinking maybe the light bulb had gone on. He was silent a few moments and then turned to Jack. "Sha're." The name came out on a breath. "Jack, I..."
The sentence went unfinished as the sound of approaching footsteps had Jack on his feet in an instant. He wasn't surprised to find Daniel in a half crouch. Yeah, he and Carter and Teal'c would keep Daniel safe, but Daniel had learned a lot in his two years with the SGC.
"Sam!" Daniel called as their teammates walked into the clearing. "Teal'c."
"We wanted to make sure everything was okay," Carter said. Jack hid a smile as her gaze flicked between Daniel and him. She appeared to be assessing the situation. What the hell did she think he was going to do? Beat the poor guy up? Geesh.
"You do look well, DanielJackson," Teal'c offered.
Daniel smiled slightly and ducked his head.
"We were having a picnic. Sorry we don't have anything else to eat," Jack said. He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Guess we should head back in. Doc probably wouldn't be too happy if we keep you out here much longer."
Shaking his head, Daniel sat back down on the rock he'd claimed earlier. "We can stay out a little longer."
Carter looked at her CO and smiled when he shrugged his shoulders. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, Jack thought as he sat down next to Daniel.
Jack's shoulder bumped against his, a small gesture to be sure, but one that nonetheless brought a feeling of comfort. Sam sat down on the other side, managing to squeeze onto the rock, effectively sandwiching Daniel between them. She put her arm over his shoulders and tugged a little. Daniel, to his surprise, found himself ducking his head until it rested on her shoulder. He heard Jack make a small sound of what could have been laughter. He was aware of Teal'c standing behind them, alert and on guard.
He wasn't ready to go back inside; wasn't ready to be reminded of the danger that lay through the Stargate. Sha're was still out there--an unwilling host. Daniel clenched his hand into a fist. He remembered thinking of her when he was in that pit, remembered thinking he was going to die and Sha're would spend the rest of her life as a prisoner because he'd failed in his vow to save her. Even now, a week later, the possibility of his death made his mouth go dry--the thought of Sha're forever trapped too horrible to contemplate.
"Daniel," Jack said so softly that Daniel couldn't even be sure Sam heard it. He lifted his head from her shoulder to look at Jack. Jack gave him a brief smile. "I promise."
Sam shifted and Daniel caught her quizzical look.
"We all do," Jack said with no explanation to Sam or Teal'c. But then Daniel realized it wasn't necessary between them. He didn't need Sam's word or Teal'c's, anymore than he needed Jack to say it. Strange how he even knew what Jack meant. He'd never finished his request that Jack carry on the quest to find and free Sha're, but Jack knew what he was going to ask. The realization nearly took his breath away. He'd had friends before of course; work colleagues and acquaintances, but Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had become something more without him even realizing it was happening. For the second time in his life he'd been blessed with a family, and for that he was humbled that he could find only one thing to say to Jack and Sam and Teal'c.
|Summary:||Daniel learns his place on SG-1.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
May we all be so blessed to find friends who occupy the same part of our hearts as family. Happy Birthday, Devra.