A Bright, Shining Star  by babs                                                                                                                                                     Part One
Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R
Category: Established Relationship.  Hurt/Comfort.  Angst
Season/Spoilers: Post Season 3.
Synopsis:

A tragedy on a mission threatens to destroy Jack.

Warnings: None
Length:  Kb

A Bright, Shining Star  by babs                                                                                                      Part One

"You promised, Sir Jack." The imp currently regarding him from beneath a mop of red hair was surprisingly adept at pouting. "You promised that when you finished talking to my da you'd go exploring with me."

"I know I did, Kaie." Jack knelt on one knee, ignoring the slight crackle as he did so, "But we adults have some more things to discuss."

"Kaie," Ahearne, the chieftain of the village and the boy's father, warned. "Do not be bothering our guests."

Kaie hung his head and dragged bare toes through the dirt. "Yes, Da."

Jack knew how the boy felt, a week of being confined to the village was making him a little stir-crazy. He looked up and caught Daniel's glance knowing that Daniel would understand.

Daniel smiled, placed his hand on the boy's head and turned back to Ahearne, "Major Carter is ready to explain the water purification system to the village. Perhaps I could accompany you, sir?"

Ahearne rubbed his beard and Jack found himself as anxious as Kaie. "I think that exploring may just what Colonel O'Neill needs."

Kaie ran to his father and hugged him. "Da."

Jack caught the glint of amusement lurking in Daniel's eyes at the sight, knowing Daniel was wishing for the same sort of hug. He grinned at his lover and wiggled his fingers. Daniel pursed his lips and frowned back before giving Jack a heart-melting grin.

"Come, Sir Jack," Kaie was already at his side and pulling on his hand. "I've got so much to show you," not allowing Jack to even look back at his teammates.



"Slow down, Kaie." Jack motioned for the child to take a little less helter-skelter approach to climbing over the rocks that were leading them up the mountain valley. Had he once done this with Charlie? Maybe this was why you had children when you were younger because he sure as hell wasn't up to this pace for much longer.

"Kaie." A little girl scrambled up over the rocks behind Jack. "Sir Jack."

"Why did you have to come and ruin everything?" Kaie complained. He plopped on his bottom on the nearest boulder. Jack sat down beside him, trying to offer some comfort to the disappointed child.

"Kaie," Jack warned. "Nealla just wanted to have some fun too."

Nealla nodded once and then sat down on the boulder next to Jack. "Me too," she echoed.

Jack leaned closer to the boy, motioning for Kaie to do the same. When they were nearly nose to nose, Jack whispered, "She's only doing this because she looks up to you, Kaie. She won't do it forever."

Kaie nodded, although the brown eyes that glanced from Jack to his sister were sparking with anger over the intrusion. "I guess she can come. But Sir Jack is with me, Nealla."

Jack turned his head when he was unable to keep a smile from surfacing at Kaie's possessive tone. Nealla gave her big brother a wide-eyed, solemn stare and then looked up at Jack as if she was wondering what the fuss was about.

"Then come on, Kaie. Let's get going. You can show Nealla and me the secret fishing hole  you were talking about earlier." Jack got to his feet, offering a hand to Nealla. Kaie grinned and began his trek over the rocks.

Jack walked a little slower, wanting to make sure that Nealla didn't get left behind, although he suspected that the girl had followed her brother to his secret hiding places more than once.

Nealla, unlike her brother, was quiet and trudged beside Jack, her attention fixed on the rocks. Jack studied the sturdy frame of the child, her red hair in a wild tangle, her skirt torn and patched.

Daniel had been excited when they first visited P2A-226, the civilization developed from ancestors brought from the highlands of Scotland centuries ago. The Goa'uld hadn't visited this world in the past century as far as Daniel could figure.

As he watched Nealla surge ahead in pursuit of her brother, Jack hoped that Daniel was right. That the people of this planet had given all they could to the Goa'uld, that the mining out of the naquadah meant the snakes had left and forgotten there ever was a world named Breighagh and that the children like Kaie and Nealla could grow up without fear.

He hadn't wanted Kaie to form any attachment to him, but this was their second visit to Ahearne's village and the boy was drawn to the strangers. Jack increased his pace as he saw that Kaie and Nealla had slowed down and were headed down into a small forested area.

He was getting old, he decided. He didn't know when the realization had hit him. Maybe it was Daniel had taken all the pictures of Charlie Jack had stored in shoeboxes and put them into an album, leaving the album on Jack's desk with only a note that the pictures were going to be lost  if they weren't preserved in an acid-free environment. Maybe it was seeing the announcement in the paper that a kid Charlie had played Little League Ball with just won a full scholarship to the University of Arizona. Maybe it was the realization that there was going to be no O'Neill going into the next generation. That Thomas and Margaret's son Jack was the last of the line. Or maybe, just maybe, it was one of those times that the loss of his son, of Charlie, seemed like a fresh wound and there was nothing he could do to make it go away.

Daniel knew to stay away from him at those times; to allow Jack space to grieve over his loss and to regain his equilibrium. He didn't, he couldn't, let Daniel in to that process, and sometimes it scared him. That need for solitude to grieve had scared Sara off after all. Not that his mourning was effective. All these years, everything he'd been through, and he still hadn't ever been able to cry for his son. Something about that seemed terribly unfair; that he could and had shed tears for children not his own, but couldn't summon even one tear for the loss of his own child, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood.

Jack shook his head at the turn his thoughts had taken and focused on the task at hand which was following two little red-headed urchins.

"Here we are, Sir Jack," Kaie said with a broad gesture.

Jack stopped and took in his surroundings. They were beside a mountain stream, well actually at the moment, Jack would have labeled it more than a stream since it was swollen with snow melt from the mountains to the north, that flowed swiftly on its way toward the valley floor. Jack could hear the muted thunder of a waterfall and realized that Kaie must have led him up the mountain by another route.

"We'll go back past the waterfall," Kaie explained as if he'd read Jack's thoughts. "Nealla likes to go there," he said in a whisper so that his sister wouldn't realize that her big brother could be nice to her.

"That's fine, Kaie." Jack turned in a circle, looking at the tall evergreen trees and the rock strewn stream bed. He was sure the Goa'uld considered the only thing of value on Breighagh to be the naquadah. How wrong they were. This place of peace was far more valuable than a mineral. The sound of Nealla's laughter as her brother splashed her with water made Jack smile. This place and the people were treasures beyond imagining.

"Look, Sir Jack." Kaie was balancing on one of the large boulders that jutted out of the stream bed. "There are fish in here. Come see."

"Kaie," Jack kept his voice low, not wanting to startle the boy, "I think you'd better get down from there. We can look at the fish from the bank."

Jack saw the frown appear on Kaie's face. The boy turned from him, hunching his shoulders in anger and took one step further onto the boulder.

"No!" Jack yelled as he saw Kaie slip. He scrambled up onto the rock, seeing Kaie's red hair bobbing above the rapids as the child was swept away.

"Nealla!" Jack turned his attention back to the little girl. "You must go back to the village and get help." Her brown eyes were wide with fear and shock.

"You must do this, Nealla." Jack nodded at her. "I'm going to get Kaie, understand?"

Nealla nodded once and took off at a run back through the path they'd followed to the stream.

Jack began running along the stream bank, shouting for Kaie, searching ahead for any possible place that he could snag the child. If he was lucky there were going to be some areas of still water where he'd be able to wade in and grab Kaie.

Jack kept his eyes on Kaie, noticing in relief that the boy's head was still above water. He spied an area where the stream seemed to slow. The bank was more of a small gravel beach at the spot and Jack pulled off his jacket and boots before entering the water. He hissed at the cold, knowing that he was going to have to get Kaie back to the village as soon as possible after rescue because he was most likely going to be hypothermic.

Damn! The currents Jack thought would bring the boy towards him weren't going to do so. A rogue wave rolled down the rapids, pushing Kaie further out of his reach. Jack had one glimpse of a pale terrified face and knew what he had to do. He launched himself into the rapids, stroking with the current, hoping against hope that his strength would carry him to Kaie.

He stretched, ignoring the cold that was seeping into his core, his fingers searching, praying that he could grab hold.

"Kaie!" he shouted above the roar of water, hoping the boy could hear him. "Come towards me. Swim!" And Jack gave another strong kick, his mind focused on success. If he could at least get Kaie in his arms they'd have a chance. Or Kaie would.

The current banged Jack into a rock and he yelled at the pain that shot through his back. He ignored it as Kaie gulped in air and went under a second before bobbing up again.

"Please, please, please," Jack's thoughts became a mantra, "strength, give me strength."

Success! Jack's fingers caught hold of Kaie's woolen shirt and he pulled the boy towards him.  Kaie's face was white, Jack had time to notice that much, and his eyes were open.

"I've got you; I've got you, Kaie," Jack repeated. They were going to hit another rock and Jack twisted his body, taking the brunt of the impact with his left arm. He heard a bone crack and tightened his grip around Kaie.

"Hold on," he commanded.

Waterfall, Jack's mind registered at the roaring sound. The banks had grown steeper and the current had them in its grip. No escape, there was going to be no escape. Nealla couldn't have gotten back to the village and brought back help so quickly. They were going over and there was nothing he could do. Jack summoned up one last vision of Daniel's smile, held on tightly to Kaie, and let the water take them over the brink.

Nothing, no pain, nothing. Jack opened one eye and wondered why he felt gravel under his cheek. There was a child lying beside him, blood marring the side of his face turned towards Jack. He had to hold on, Jack knew. He was so cold and so was the child. Jack pulled the boy closer with what little strength was left and summoned up a name.

"Charlie," he whispered, his voice like the gravel he lay upon.

"Charlie." And Jack smiled as he touched the boy's hair.



'This was just a routine mission,' Daniel repeated to himself. 'I told them it would be a good mission for us, a relaxing mission.'

Jack needed a mission like this. Their last four missions had been messy and Jack had been under continuous pressure. Daniel could summon up the tense posture Jack had been exhibiting recently; the exhausted look in Jack's eyes even as he joked in their briefings.

Damn it all, Jack was going to be okay. He and Kaie would be found sitting on the bank, wet and cold but otherwise okay. Daniel didn't want to believe anything else, even though he knew the outcome most likely wasn't going to be anywhere near the hopeful vision he so desired.

Daniel ran alongside Carden, one of the villagers, as the men searched for a sign of Jack and Kaie, his thoughts continually flashing back to Nealla's small body hurtling into the gathering.



"Da, Da," the little girl cried as she launched herself at her father. "Kaie. Sir Jack."

Sam stopped her explanation to the villagers and came to Daniel's side. Daniel was aware of both his teammates gathering near him. He could feel Sam's arm vibrate against his as Nealla sobbed out a few words: Kaie, Sir Jack, water, falling.

Ahearne lifted a grim face to the team and the villagers. "Aithne, Carden, Donal, we will need to go to the mountain. Aine, Sorcha," he gestured to two of the women Daniel recognized from earlier meetings as the healers, "if they've fallen in the water, they will be chilled to the marrow. Prepare the fires." He turned his attention to Daniel, Sam and Teal'c. "Nealla says that they were at Kaie's secret hiding place."

Daniel didn't miss the small choking sound Ahearne gave as he spoke his son's name.

"Teal'c, we'll need the first aid kits," Sam spoke breathlessly. "We'd better take the stretcher too."

Teal'c nodded and headed to their hut that had been provided for the duration of SG-1's visit.

"Daniel," Sam said, resting her arm on Daniel's a moment, her eyes meeting his. "See what more information you can get. Teal'c and I will be ready whenever they are."

Daniel nodded and moved closer to Ahearne and his men.

"Snow melt, the water is high," Carden was saying. "We lost Ula in the water last spring."

Daniel resisted the urge to pull up his arms and wrap them around his chest. He was unfamiliar with the terrain of which they spoke, knowing only that the river that wound through the valley had been high and swift when SG- 1 crossed the bridge into the village last week.  He knew for once Jack's desperate need to be doing something, anything, as he waited for Sam and Teal'c to come with their gear.



Daniel kept his eyes on Carden's broad shoulders as they continued their run, nearly bumping into the man when he stopped abruptly to scan the river. Daniel could see nothing in the water and, despite his very best efforts to keep a positive attitude, he was beginning to think that there was no way Jack or Kaie could have survived any length of time in the water. Carden and he had gone the farthest up stream, to Kaie's hiding place. Carden only smiled grimly when Daniel questioned him about it. It seemed everyone knew Kaie's secret spot. He was the chieftain's son after all.

A hoarse shout garnered their attention.

"Downstream," Carden muttered and pointed in that direction.

"Teal'c?" Daniel thumbed his radio while running. "Teal'c, do you see them?" His words came out in little grunts as he ran along the rocky path.

"Yes, DanielJackson. We are making our way to them also." Teal'c's voice was calm and assured.

"How do they look?" Daniel gave a little jump over a small ditch.

There was a long hesitation and Daniel wondered if Teal'c had lost his connection, but then his friend's voice crackled to life. "We can not ascertain their conditions yet, DanielJackson. But I fear…neither one of them has moved even with our repeated calls."

Daniel willed Carden to run faster, drew in breath for a final push himself and saw Jack and Kaie as he came around the next bend.

They were curled up together on a gravel covered spit of land. The river shallowed out and the rocks were gone. Even still, Jack's long legs still rested half-way in the water.

Sam, Teal'c, and the others were making their way across a narrow ford downstream and Sam waved to Daniel.

Carden yelled something to his fellow clan members that Daniel didn't bother to catch, focused as he was on reaching Jack and Kaie. He fell to his knees beside the two, ignoring the sharp bite of small pebbles, and placed his fingers against Jack's neck searching for a pulse. Jack's skin was icy to the touch, but over his own pounding heart, Daniel could feel the faint beat of Jack's beneath his fingertips.

"Jack!" Daniel hoped that his sharp tone would rouse the other man, but there was little response, just the faintest flicker of Jack's eyelids. Daniel continued speaking while he moved to place a finger on Kaie's neck.

The boy was held tight in Jack's grasp, and Daniel had to force his fingers under Jack's arm to get to Kaie's body.

If he thought Jack's skin was icy, Kaie's was frigid and Daniel felt his heart sinking as he realized he could not feel a pulse.

"C'mon, Jack. Let me have Kaie," Daniel urged. "I need to be able to get at him." He couldn't get a good look at the boy, curled as he was in Jack's grasp.

Daniel saw Jack's mouth moving and leaned closer to hear Jack's words.

"Okay, 's okay, Charlie. Daddy has you. Daddy's got you." The words were faint and slurred.

"Jack," Daniel tapped a finger on Jack's cheek. "It's Daniel. We're going to help you. Let me have Kaie."

Teal'c was by his side then and Donal and Ahearne.

"I can't get Kaie. Jack's got a strong hold on him."

Daniel looked up to see Sam already pulling supplies from the medical kits in their packs.

Teal'c took hold of Jack's arm, "O'Neill you must release the boy."

Daniel was heartened when Jack's eyes opened at the command, but knew that at the very least Jack had a concussion when those same eyes roved across them with no sign of recognition and then closed again.

Jack held Kaie closer. "Protect. Don't take him."

Teal'c nodded to Daniel and the others and Daniel slid his hands around the boy's body ready to pull when Jack was restrained.

"Let me help, Jack. Let me have him." Daniel continued his reassuring words as the others put their hands on Jack.

Jack fought them, actually baring his teeth at them although his eyes remained closed. Daniel ignored Jack's cries of loss and gathered Kaie into his embrace.

Daniel held Kaie in his arms a moment, looking at the blue face, the open staring eyes and the blood that caked the side of his skull. He had seen death more times than he could count and he knew death now. Kaie's skull had been smashed in on the left side, most likely by being forced into the rocks by the current. There was nothing they could do; no way that Janet and her medical team on Earth could bring the child back to life.

"Oh Kaie," he whispered. He looked up into Ahearne's hazel eyes and could only manage an, "I'm sorry,'' as he handed the broken body to the grieving father.

Ahearne took Kaie in his arms, walking some distance away and then falling to his knees rocking his son and speaking in an ancient tongue. Donal and Carden went to their chieftain leaving SG-1 to deal with their own.

"Sam?" Daniel asked as he watched Teal'c assemble the collapsible stretcher.

"I want him stabilized for transport, Daniel." Sam looked up at him and Daniel realized just how scared she was for Jack. "We're looking at a concussion at the very least. Broken left arm," she continued, running gentle hands down her CO's body.

"Colonel?" she called a few times but there was no response from Jack.

Daniel moved on his knees, positioning himself at Jack's head. He bent close to the other man's ear speaking in a clear voice that he hoped didn't relay his fear.

"C'mon, Jack. Show me you're in there." He ran gentle fingers over Jack's skull, wondering if the head injury was far worse than they suspected. "C'mon. Wake up for us. Wake up for me."

He didn't know if it was his constant talking or if it was Sam's probing, but Jack's eyelids fluttered and at Daniel's continued encouragement, Jack's brown eyes were soon opened fully.

"Jack? You with us?"

Jack's eyes roamed his surroundings with no real sign of recognition.

"Charlie. Where's Charlie? Where's my boy?"

"Jack, listen to me." Daniel moved so that he was facing Jack. "You've been hurt. Sam, Teal'c, and I are going to take you home. You're going to be okay."

"Daniel?" Jack frowned and then winced at the movement. "I can't find him. He was right here."

"I know, Jack. We're taking care of him. Okay?" He rubbed Jack's shoulder and then heedless of Sam and Teal'c, rested his hand on Jack's cheek. "Jack? Open your eyes," he urged when the other man's eyes closed. "Can you tell me what hurts?"

"Hmm…"Jack didn't open his eyes despite the plea and Daniel suspected he was close to losing consciousness again. "Arm. My arm hurts. Back."

"You hang in here with us, Jack." Daniel tapped Jack's cheek. He looked across Jack's body at Sam and didn't like what he saw at all.

"His back," she mouthed before raising her voice to explain what she was going to do. "Sir, I want you to stay still. Let us do all the work. Can you do that for us?"

"Daniel?" Jack clenched his hand in a fist, and Daniel covered Jack's scraped fingers with his own. "You find him, okay?"

"I will, Jack. I will. Sam's going to put a collar around your neck so you don't move, okay?" Daniel rubbed a small circle on Jack's knuckles. He watched as Sam slid the cervical collar under Jack's neck, bringing it around to fasten it.

"We're going to need a few more people to help move him, guys." Sam sat back on her heels, keeping one hand on Jack's shoulder. "We'll soon have you home, sir."

"I will ask them, MajorCarter." Teal'c rose from his position near Jack's legs, going over to Aithne and Carden who had moved away from Donal, Ahearne, and Kaie.

"Broken?" Daniel whispered to Sam as she handed him a blanket motioning for him to roll it into a log.

"I'm not sure, Daniel. There's a lot of bruising, but I just can't tell. He's not moving his legs." Sam spoke nearly in Daniel's ear. "I don't know."

Daniel nodded and focused on the task at hand. Jack needed him to keep a cool head. Jack needed him period.

Teal'c was back with Aithne and Carden and Sam explained how she wanted to roll Jack onto the stretcher.

"Keep talking to him, Daniel," Sam instructed as she switched places with Daniel, allowing him to be at Jack's head. Daniel placed his hands on either side of Jack's skull, keeping up a running commentary on what they were going to do.

"I need you to keep his head and neck in alignment, Daniel." Sam's voice had gone flat, almost monotone.

Daniel recognized her distancing strategy and was grateful that Jack was too out of it to notice. He rubbed a finger against Jack's cheek. "Soon, Jack. Soon."

Jack's eyes opened and flicked up to Daniel.

"Hey, I'm here. I'm with you," Daniel soothed the fear he saw in his lover's gaze as people surrounded Jack and placed hands on his body. "They're going to move you Jack. Just roll you over, that's all. On three and then it will be done. I'm with you, I'm here." Daniel listened to Sam's count and moved along with the others, keeping his eyes fixed on Jack's pale face, relieved that Jack didn't cry out in pain,  then scared because maybe that meant Jack wasn't able to feel anything. Pushing aside his fears, he moved to reassure Jack again.

"Okay, okay, it's over, Jack." Daniel bent his head forward resting his forehead against Jack's. "We're going to get you home."

Jack's breathing was hard and Daniel watched as Teal'c placed a splint on Jack's left arm.

"Sam, he's in pain."

"And he has a head injury. Let's get the blankets by his head." Daniel did as Sam directed, tucking the rolled up blankets tightly by the sides of Jack's head. He knew what Sam feared, what she wasn't going to mention, that Jack had a spinal cord injury. It chilled Daniel to the core. Jack wasn't attempting to get up, to move.

Sam had a roll of adhesive tape in her hands. "I'm going to wrap this over his forehead and down through the holes. I don’t want him moving." Jack was blinking rapidly, his mouth working.

"Sam just wants to make sure you're comfortable on the ride home, Jack. Wouldn't want you falling off the stretcher." Daniel rested a hand against Jack's chilled cheek as Sam finished. He smiled down at his lover. "You're doing good, Jack." He brushed away a tear that was trickling down the side of Jack's nose. "I won't leave. Okay?"

Sam crawled the length of the stretcher, helping Teal'c place additional covers over Jack and then tugging the straps snugly over his motionless body.

"We will assist you in carrying O'Neill to the Stargate," Aithne offered.

"Thank you," Daniel spoke for all of them. "We…"he looked at Ahearne who was still cradling his son's body and was being led towards the village by Donal, "I'm sorry."

"Kaie was ever a headstrong boy," Carden spoke, but Daniel saw the glitter of tears in the warrior's eyes. He knelt by the stretcher, placing one hand on the corner.

"Jack, we're going home. You hear me? We're going home." Daniel let his hand rest a moment on Jack's cheek.



"Coffee, Daniel?" Sam sat down in the chair next to Daniel's as he waited for word on Jack.

Daniel shook his head and then looked over at his friend. Sam held two cups in her hand, looking lost and bewildered by everything that had happened. Daniel wondered if his own face held that look of stunned disbelief.

"Sorry, Sam. I guess I will have a cup." Daniel took it and smiled.

"Any word?" Sam searched Daniel's face and then Teal'c's.

"No one has informed us of O'Neill's status, MajorCarter," Teal'c informed her.

"If he…his back…" Sam whispered. "Maybe we should have…"

"Sam, stop." Daniel put his coffee cup on the floor and took her hand in his. "Don't second guess."

Sam took a deep breath and then looked away. Daniel could see her biting on her lower lip.

The trip back to the Gate had been rough on all of them. Jack drifted in and out of consciousness, crying out in pain at times, calling for Charlie at others. The weather had turned from sunshine to a cold chilling rain, soaking all of them. And through it all, Daniel was sure Teal'c and Sam had been thinking the same thought he had, how was this loss,  this mission, going to affect Jack O'Neill?

"What's taking so long?" Getting up, Sam began to pace.

"Sam," Daniel began, standing and placing his hands on her shoulders. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the doors to the infirmary opening.

"Janet?" Daniel asked.

She gave them a small tight smile and Daniel didn't know if that was  good or bad, unable to read her expression.

"His back, Janet?" Sam stepped closer to Daniel and he tucked an arm around her, drawing as much comfort from her as she was from him.

"Let's sit down." Janet gestured to the chairs.

Daniel's mouth went dry, and his knees seemed weak, as if he'd gone for days without food.

"I will remain standing, DoctorFraiser," Teal'c announced but he stood close to Daniel and rested one hand on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel could imagine Teal'c's strength flowing into his body and straightened in his chair.

"I've already spoken to General Hammond on the phone," Janet explained. "Colonel O'Neill is going to be fine."

At the audible sigh Sam gave, Janet shook her head. "I'm not saying he's going to have an easy time of it, Sam. He has a fractured ulna and a concussion. He was hypothermic and we've managed to raise his body temperature to near normal. We're going to be monitoring him quite closely because it appears he took in quite a bit of water. There's a good chance of him developing pneumonia because of it, although we're giving him some antibiotics to hopefully ward it off."

"What about…?" Daniel moved his fingers in the air. "He wasn't moving his legs at all, Janet."

"His back and legs are severely bruised. The pain must have been agonizing. I'm not going to pull any punches. Colonel O'Neill is looking at a few months of recovery time physically, not to mention the psychological ramifications of what occurred on that planet."

"DoctorFraiser, O'Neill appeared very disoriented as we were returning to the Stargate."

"Yes. His concussion is mild and I suspect the level of disorientation is a combination of the concussion and the mild hypothermia. He was starting to become a little more coherent as we worked on him." Janet looked at each of them in turn, her eyes finally coming to rest on Daniel. "Do any of you have any more questions?"

"May we see him?" Daniel asked, not only for himself but for Sam and Teal'c.

"I'll allow you a quick peek now, and then you can all come back in a few hours." Janet agreed. "Right now he needs rest and we're going to be monitoring him closely. That will be stressful enough."

They followed Janet back into the infirmary to a curtained off area.

"Is it okay to talk to him?" Daniel whispered in Janet's ear as he took in the sight of Jack.

"Just keep it short, Daniel." Janet smiled up at him and stepped back through the curtains, leaving SG-1 gathered around their wounded leader.

"Hey, Jack." Daniel hooked a stool with his foot and sat down near Jack's head, leaning in closer and resting an arm on the bed rail. "I'm here. And so are Sam and Teal'c."

Jack was propped partially on his side, his bruised back bolstered by pillows, his now casted left arm resting on another. IV's that Daniel suspected were antibiotics and warm saline were being fed into a line taped in the crook of Jack's elbow, while a nasal cannula assisted Jack's breathing.

"Danny?" Jack's eyes were only partially open, as if the dim light bothered him, and his voice was a mere thread of its usual self. "All safe?"

"All safe, Jack," Daniel assured him, reaching out to touch Jack's hair. "We're all safe."

"I tried, Daniel. Tried," Jack whispered.

Daniel looked up as some of the monitors attached to Jack began to emit different rhythms. "I know, I know you did." Daniel kept up his soothing stroking of Jack's hair. Janet was back, checking monitors and then leaning over the bed.

"Colonel," Janet spoke in gentle tones, "I'm going to have Daniel and the others leave for a little bit. I want you to close your eyes and rest and before you know it, they'll be back."

The last thought Daniel had as he watched Jack nod his head slowly at Janet's words was that Jack looked so very small in the hospital bed. So very small, a shadow of himself.

"Soon, Jack," Daniel bent close to Jack's ear. "I'll be back soon. Do as Janet says, rest and heal."



"Good evening, Doctor Jackson."

Daniel looked up at the nurse's entrance to the small room Jack had been moved to a few days ago. "Hi, Rich. I'll just wait outside until you're done." He placed the book he was reading on the rolling table.

"Wait," Jack said, his voice hoarse from disuse. "Daniel, you go home and get some rest."

"Why? I've been sleeping on base. No big deal. I've done it before, Jack."

"And you look like shit, Daniel." Jack moved his right arm to point at Daniel's face causing Rich to take a few steps closer to the bed. "You look in a mirror lately or change your clothes?"

"Guess you're starting to feel better, Jack. Giving fashion advice and all," Daniel mock grumbled but he smiled anyway. Jack's headache wasn't nearly as severe as it had been and Janet seemed quite pleased by Jack's recovery so far. She was even talking about allowing Jack to go home sometime next week. Jack's back was still painful and Daniel knew that there were times that even the medication prescribed didn’t relieve the pain caused by the bruising and strained muscles.

Jack knew Kaie was dead, asking about the boy within twenty four hours of his return to Earth, but whether it was from the pain or was Jack's way of dealing with it, nothing more was said. Jack didn't have much memory of the actual attempt to rescue Kaie. He remembered the boy falling in the water and then waking up in the infirmary. Janet warned Daniel that those memories might be lost forever and Daniel wasn't sure whether that was a curse or a blessing.

"I mean it, Danny," Jack said. "Home, shower, eat, watch some TV or read. I'll still be here in the morning."

Daniel grinned back and pushed his glasses onto the top of his head. "You're right, Jack." He found himself longing for Jack's king size bed and  his own pillow. "I'll see you first thing. Sam and I are doing a presentation at eleven so I should be able to see you a few times. Maybe I could even go over my presentation with you." Daniel was glad the small joke put a smile on Jack's face.

"Please, Daniel. I'm already in pain," Jack joked back. "Then again, the doc keeps bugging me to sleep…"

"First thing, Jack." Daniel couldn't do more than give Jack's shoulder a pat with a witness in the room, but he let his hand linger a moment longer than usual and looked straight into Jack's brown eyes. "Want me to bring you anything?"

Jack's eyes widened a moment and then he frowned. "Guess Doc Fraiser wouldn't approve of beer, huh?"

"Nah, I think that's off the list of approved beverages for awhile, Jack." Daniel shook his head.

"I don't need anything." Jack said. "Just take care, okay?"

"Always, Jack."



"Morning, Sam." Daniel smiled at his teammate as he met her in the hall outside his office. He juggled the magazines and puzzle books he was carrying with the cup of coffee in his other hand as he tried to dig out his key.

"Daniel."

It was all she needed to say. Her tone told the story.

"What happened?" Daniel gave up on the key and put his supplies on the floor.

"Janet has him in intensive care." Sam touched Daniel's arm. "He got sick, pneumonia, very suddenly from what I understand."

"I was with him last night," Daniel said, not really speaking to Sam, the entire situation becoming surreal. He began walking towards the elevators and was vaguely aware of Sam at his side.

"How bad?" He looked at her as he stabbed the buttons.

"It's bad, I think. I don't... I…Daniel, he was getting better." Sam tensed next to him and looked defeated.

When the elevator didn't show up in what Daniel deemed was sufficient time, he motioned for Sam to follow him to the stairs. Jack was going to make it, he thought as he pounded up the stairs. He'd survived the worst; surely pneumonia wasn't going to defeat him now.

"Janet?" Daniel stopped as he stepped through the infirmary doors and saw the doctor headed towards him and Sam. Not good, Daniel thought as he noticed that General Hammond and Teal'c were already there. He looked over her head and realized that he couldn't see Jack, the curtains drawn around one of the beds towards the back of the infirmary.

"What happened? Why didn't anyone call me?" Daniel demanded. "How is he?"

Janet held up her hand to stop the flow of words and Daniel ducked his head. She was the best of the best, accusing Janet of somehow failing in her care of Jack was not going to help Jack get better.

"At 0100 hours the nurse checking Colonel O'Neill observed that his temperature had risen to 102 degrees and had difficulty arousing him. Colonel O'Neill reported that he was feeling pressure on his chest." Janet looked at all of them. "Pneumonia has always been a possibility."

"But he was fine last evening when I left," Daniel insisted.

"Yes, I know, Daniel. But you have to remember, Colonel O'Neill has experienced severe trauma. His immune system is compromised making him more vulnerable to infection."

"What is his status now, Doctor?" Hammond asked.

"We have him on antibiotics to treat the pneumonia although it appears that this is a particularly resistant strain. He's on oxygen and his fever has risen. We'll be keeping a close eye on him and doing all we can."

Used to hearing words people didn’t say, Daniel realized that Janet was not giving them any assurances that Jack was going to be fine. She looked tired and worn out and he wondered how many close calls Jack had given her during the night.

"Janet?"

"You can see him, Daniel. Just for a minute though." Janet ran a hand through her hair.

Daniel looked at Sam and Teal'c realizing that they probably needed to see Jack as badly as he did.

"Go, DanielJackson," Teal'c said. "O'Neill needs you."

"I'll take you to him, Daniel." Janet began walking away from them, her heels clicking on the floor, and she paused at the curtains. "I'm sorry, Daniel."

Daniel placed a hand on her shoulder. "I know you're doing everything humanly possible, Janet."

"One minute, Daniel." Janet pulled the curtains back and stepped away.

The nurse by Jack's bed looked up at Daniel's entrance. Jane, Jenny… Daniel's mind went blank when he tried to recall her name. He stepped to the bed on the opposite side of the monitors and the nurse smiled at him.

"Colonel O'Neill." She spoke in a loud voice. "Colonel, Doctor Jackson's here."

Daniel reached over the bed rail and took the fingers of Jack's casted left arm in his, rubbing his thumb over the tips. "Hey there, Jack."

Even with the oxygen mask covering Jack's mouth and nose, assisting his breathing, Daniel could hear the struggle as Jack tried to bring air into mucous-clogged lungs. Jack's fingers were dry and hot underneath Daniel's own and Jack's eyes were only half opened. The little bit of brown Daniel could see appeared dull and glazed.

He squeezed a little on Jack's fingers. "I know you're not feeling so hot."

At that, Jack turned his head a mere fraction in Daniel's direction, although his eyes didn't appear to focus on him. Daniel could see Jack's mouth moving and he bent so close that his ear was nearly against the plastic of the oxygen mask.

"D…D…"

"That's right, Jack. I'm here." He reached up and placed a hand on Jack's forehead, hoping that Jack could see the smile he was giving him. "You need to rest and let Janet and the others take care of you."

Jack's fingers curled around Daniel's for a brief second and then relaxed.

"Daniel?" Janet appeared by his side. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave for awhile. You can come back in an hour."

"You'll call for me if…"

"Yes, Daniel. I'll call."
   
"DanielJackson?" Teal'c's low voice startled Daniel out his half doze by Jack's bedside. "MajorCarter and I would like you to accompany us to dinner in the commissary."

Daniel rubbed at his eyes and placed his glasses back on his nose. "I can't, Teal'c." He looked up at Teal'c and Sam and regretted it as a nasty twinge spasmed his neck muscles. "Sorry, but I just can't." He turned his attention back to Jack who lay motionless except for the steady rise and fall of his chest, his breathing now assisted by a ventilator. He stuck his hand through the railing to stroke the fevered skin of Jack's upper arm. Nothing Janet had tried was bringing down the fever. The vision of Jack under a cooling blanket hours ago still haunted Daniel. "He's so hot. I didn't know you could get so hot."

"Please, Daniel. You're not doing the colonel any good by letting yourself get run down." Sam crouched down in front of him. "He's going to need you when he pulls out of this."

"You know why Janet decided to let me sit here don't you, Sam? It's been forty eight hours and he's not getting better. She doesn't think he's going to make it."

Sam took his hand in hers, gripping it tightly. "When have you ever given up on him, Daniel?"

"I don't think he wants to fight it this time, Sam. I think that this time it's been too much." Daniel finally said the words he'd been thinking for the past day aloud. "He's too tired to keep fighting."

She was silent, as was Teal'c. Daniel watched as Sam got up and pulled another chair close to the bed and reached out to touch Jack's leg and  Teal'c stationed himself on Jack's other side.

"We will help him fight, DanielJackson," Teal'c announced and placed his hand on Jack's head. "We will fight since he cannot."

It was just the bone-numbing weariness, Daniel told himself as he felt tears stinging his eyes.

"Thank you," he whispered.

The three of them kept watch during the long hours of the night. Janet came by more and more frequently, ordering different medications and studying the printouts of the monitors intently.

He knew the odds although Janet had never given them. Daniel could read them in the determined set of her jaw, in the tears that glittered when she thought no one was looking. Jack's recovery was no longer a certainty, it was an if. And an if that carried consequences: brain damage from the high fever that they had not been able to reduce, damage to other organs, back problems that would curtail Jack's ability to go off-world, and those were just the physical possibilities.

"You're in there, Jack." Daniel leaned so close he could speak directly into Jack's ear. "Come back to us. I know you're so tired. I know. But I'm here. I won't let you face any of it alone.  * We're * here. We will get you through it. I swear to you."

Daniel closed his eyes, pressing his lips to the heated skin on Jack's temple, heedless of his team members hovering just inches away. He wondered if Jack was already so far gone from them that nothing they did could reach him; if even now, Jack was walking through a meadow towards a lake with two smiling boys at his side telling them about all the fish they were going to catch.

He let his head drop to the bed and rest beside Jack's, unsure of what it was he needed to do. He lifted his head and saw that Jack's eyes were once again partially opened.

"Jack?" Daniel whispered in his lover's ear, but there was no response and he knew that he needed to let go.

"I'm here, Jack. I won't leave." Daniel clasped Jack's limp fingers in his. "I am not going to leave you. But Jack, if you need to go, I
understand. I love you and I understand."

A small sob came from Sam's direction and when Daniel lifted his eyes he saw Teal'c swallowing hard. Daniel focused on Jack once more using the minutes he had left with his lover to memorize every nuance of Jack's face.



The clock ticked and the same stubbornness that served Jack so well in the field served him now in the battle taking place on one lone b in the infirmary.

Daniel watched Janet as she studied the monitors. Teal'c stood motionless, his eyes closed, deep in meditation. Sam was asleep, her head pillowed on her arm. Daniel wanted to ask Janet what all her machinery told her but wasn't sure he wanted to hear an answer. Jack breathed. That was enough for now.

"Daniel?" Janet whispered as she stood on the opposite side of the bed.

He dragged his eyes to her face. "Do you think he can hear me? Is he there anymore?"

"There is brain wave activity, Daniel. I don't know how…"

Daniel nodded and rubbed his hand across Jack's fingers. "I told him it was okay to let go if he needed to."

"Yes," Janet said. "I understand, Daniel."

He turned his head as she leaned in closer to Jack, pulling back his eyelids and shining her penlight in them.

"I'm done, Daniel," Janet whispered once more. "I'll be back in a few minutes." He could hear the tears in her voice even though he couldn't see any in her eyes. Janet's voice went nasal and the words came out thickly as if she spoke past a lump in her throat.

Daniel could only nod, beyond words himself and he closed his eyes. But as soon as the sound of her heels receded he lowered the rail closest to Jack's head and put his head on the pillow next to his lover's.

"I love you, Jack. I love you. I want you to rest now. The fighting's over. You've fought so hard and it's okay to rest, my warrior. Rest now and find peace." Daniel kissed Jack's temple once, then placed his hand over Jack's heart and closed his eyes to wait with Jack.

He thought perhaps the tears he couldn't release awake had come unbidden in sleep, although Daniel couldn't remember falling asleep. The pillow beneath his cheek was damp, wet, and smelled of medicine and illness. Daniel pushed himself up and straightened his glasses, only to see a familiar pair of brown eyes focusing on him, sleepy but aware.

"Jack!" Daniel shouted. He was aware of Sam almost falling off her chair, Teal'c suddenly coming to attention and Jack's hand coming up towards his throat and the ventilator tube.

"No, Jack. No. Don't do that. Don't touch. Doctor Fraiser had to help you breathe." Daniel laughed, nearly giddy. He captured Jack's hand in his. "You're going to be fine, Jack." He rushed to reassure as Jack's forehead wrinkled in a frown and eyes locked on Daniel's. "Do you understand me? Can you understand? You've been sick but you're going to get better."

Jack moved his hand in Daniel's, squeezing Daniel's fingers with a weak grasp.

Janet came into the small area with a contingent of nurses, Daniel and the others soon pushed out of the way in the sudden hub-bub of taking care of Jack.

They stood just outside the curtains. Sam looked at Daniel, shock warring with relief.

"He's okay. Daniel, the colonel is okay." She repeated the words again, as if she couldn't believe that Jack had pulled through.

Daniel gathered Sam in an embrace, feeling her tears of relief wetting his shirt. He looked over her head at Teal'c who was smiling.

"I believe it would be wise to partake of sustenance now, DanielJackson. You have not eaten for far too long." Teal'c touched Sam's hair and then Daniel's shoulder. "You have fought a battle also."

Daniel nodded distractedly, looking at the curtains, hearing voices but not knowing what was going on. Truth be told, he was afraid to leave. Maybe all of this was a dream. But a moment later, Janet pushed the curtains aside and came out smiling. A smile that Daniel knew meant Jack would not die, that Jack would survive and grow well. She wiped at her face and then studied them.

"The fever's broken, and I'd say we're over the crisis. He's sleeping now, and I'd suggest that all of you do the same." She moved closer, reaching out to rest a small hand on Daniel's forearm. "Get some rest, Daniel. He's going to need you later."

"We are going to eat a meal, DoctorFraiser," Teal'c informed her. "I believe that DanielJackson has not eaten for far too long."

"Yes, Teal'c. That is a very good idea." Janet smiled and patted Daniel's arm. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get back to Colonel O'Neill."

The walk from the infirmary to the commissary was dreamlike. Daniel felt almost as if he was floating as he followed Teal'c and Sam. He sat at a table and wondered how food could appear by magic until he realized that Teal'c had gotten a plate for him.

"Eat, DanielJackson," Teal'c said in a voice that he must have practiced on a young Rya'c.

Daniel bit back the urge to say, 'yes, sir,' and took a bite of the tuna casserole. He swallowed and suddenly he was ravenous.  He looked down at an empty plate and didn't remember eating all of it. Teal'c and Sam were talking, their voices mingling with the others in the large room. Daniel placed his elbow on the table, propping his head in his hand as he listened to the swirl of voices. He closed his eyes, no longer able to keep them open and finally allowed himself the rest he craved.



"Jack? We're home." Daniel turned off the engine of Jack's truck. As he suspected it might, the trip from the infirmary to Jack's house had worn out his lover. Jack's head rested against the passenger's side window, allowing Daniel to study his face. In the harsh winter sunlight, the two weeks Jack had spent in the infirmary were apparent in his pale skin. Sunglasses hid Jack's eyes, but Daniel knew the deep sadness that lurked there even when Jack's mouth was smiling. Waking a sleeping Jack was always a chancy proposition, and Daniel had learned almost from their first mission together that shaking Jack's shoulder wasn't the best way to arouse a special ops colonel. He'd become very creative over the years, but this time, Daniel knew that merely a touch on Jack's leg would do the trick and that Jack's still sluggish reflexes would keep him safe from an arm across the neck.

"Danny?" Jack murmured at the touch on his knee. Pushing himself up from his semi-slouched position, he looked over at Daniel.

"We're home, Jack," Daniel gestured. "Stay put. I'm coming around to help you out." He shook Jack's knee a little when Jack frowned and sighed loudly. "Hey. How many times have you done this for me? Give me the chance to return the favor." He smiled to take away the sting of his words relieved at the small smile that Jack returned to him.

Daniel pulled his own bag from the back, slinging it over one shoulder as he walked to Jack's side of the truck.

Jack had the door opened and was already out and waiting.

"What?" he asked as Daniel shook his head. "Let's get inside."

Slipping an arm around Jack's waist, Daniel felt the tense muscles in Jack's back as the other man tried to keep himself from leaning into his lover for support. Daniel gave a mental sigh. There was no point in arguing with Jack. May as well just provide the pain pills when Jack needed them later on.

"Bed or couch, Jack?" Daniel asked as he opened the door. He looked over at Jack who stood sweating and out of breath. Jack's right hand was clenched into a fist; frustration with his slow recovery rate and fear of being weak fueling an inner anger.

"Come on," Daniel kept his voice calm, soft,  as he guided Jack into the house. He heard Jack's grunt as he took the two steps down into the living room.

"Couch is fine, Daniel," Jack muttered. He sat down, breathing hard from the exertion.

Daniel tossed his bag on a chair and sat down on the coffee table facing Jack. He placed his hands over Jack's own. Jack stared at their hands and Daniel suspected that Jack couldn't meet his eyes.

"Hey," Daniel whispered. "I want to be here. You okay with that?"

Jack didn't answer for a long while. Daniel listened to the clock ticking, to Jack's breathing slowing to a normal rhythm and waited looking down onto Jack's silver hair, thinking it had somehow turned even more silver in the time since Breaghah.

A deep breath and a tightening of Jack's right hand on his alerted him as Jack looked up, staring into Daniel's eyes with need. "Yeah, Danny. I'm okay with that."

Daniel smiled. "Good."

They sat motionless for a moment and then Jack's stomach rumbled causing both of them to laugh.

"Soup and some sandwiches?" Daniel asked, getting up after patting Jack's knees. The painkillers sometimes upset Jack's stomach and Daniel didn't think Jack wanted to go through the process of losing his lunch.

"Sounds good." Jack leaned his head against the back of the couch, closing his eyes and falling asleep within seconds.

Daniel didn't move, watching Jack sleep for a few minutes. He hesitated, unsure if he should risk moving Jack into a more comfortable position and  waking him in the process or if he should allow Jack to stay as he was. Jack wasn't sleeping well despite the medications Janet provided, a mixture of guilt and pain Daniel knew. For know, Jack looked relaxed. Daniel decided that a few more minutes in that position weren't going to hurt. Maybe by the time he started the soup, Jack would be deeply asleep and he could move him without Jack's waking.  He pulled the afghan from the end of the couch, placing it over Jack. Daniel froze as Jack mumbled something in his sleep and then relaxed as Jack slipped into a deep healing slumber. Placing a kiss on the silver hair, Daniel walked towards the kitchen. Jack wanted soup; Daniel was going to make him homemade.



"Good soup, Daniel." Jack pushed his bowl away and reached for another sandwich.

Gathering up their bowls, Daniel motioned towards the kettle still simmering on the stove. "More?"

Jack shook his head and swallowed. "I'm full." He grimaced as Daniel placed three pills in front of him along with a full glass of water.
 
"Daniel."

"Jack." Daniel pointed.

"I'm not this bad when you're sick." Jack grumbled. Nevertheless he put the pills in his mouth and downed them with the water.

"Hah!" Daniel shook his head and folded his arms over his chest. "What about the time I had bronchitis and you insisted that I wear a parka to go to work?"

"It was cold," Jack slid his chair back from the table.

"It was fifty degrees, Jack." Daniel placed their bowls in the dishwasher. "Fifty."

"You wore it." Jack smiled.

"Yes I did." Daniel smiled back. He bent down to kiss Jack's head and then pushed at his shoulder. "But only because I had an important meeting with General Hammond and you wouldn't let me out the apartment unless I put it on."

"Hey, I'm a caring kind of guy." Jack got up, ready to follow Daniel and froze.

"Jack?" Daniel put an arm around Jack's waist.

"A minute here, Daniel." Jack leaned into him for more than a few minutes, riding out the pain from stiffened muscles.

"Janet said a hot bath would help. Let's get you up to the bedroom and I'll fill the tub for you." Daniel began a slow walk, Jack shuffling beside him, Jack's hand gripping his shoulder. "Come on, just a few more steps."

Daniel helped Jack stretch out on the king size bed and then went into the bathroom. He sat on the toilet while the water filled the tub, holding his head in his hands and praying for strength.

   

"Kaie!"

The scream startled Daniel out of sleep. He reached up, fumbling for the light switch, turning it on to the dimmest setting.

Jack was tangled in the blankets beside him, clutching one of his pillows to his chest and breathing heavily.

"No, no, no." Jack moved his head back and forth on the sweat soaked pillow, his eyes tightly shut.

"Jack," Daniel touched a bare shoulder. "Jack, come on. It's Daniel. Wake up."

"I'm sorry, I’m sorry." Jack turned away from him and curled around the pillow.

Daniel got out of bed and knelt down on the floor, facing Jack. He rubbed Jack's arm above the cast. "Hey, Jack. You're home. Time to wake up here."

There were a few more incoherent words. Daniel moved his hand to Jack's cheek. "You're home."

Jack's eyes popped open and he looked at Daniel without recognition. "He's dead. Oh God, I think he's dead." He pushed the pillow away and it fell to the floor.

"Jack," Daniel got up and sat on the bed. "Hey." He kept up his soothing stroking as Jack's breathing slowed.

"Daniel?" Jack flung up an arm over his eyes. "Nightmare."

"Yeah." Daniel moved his hand to Jack's chest, Jack's heart still pounding under his hand. "About Kaie." He didn't add 'again,' although in the week since Jack had been home almost every night's sleep had been punctuated by a nightmare or two. Sometimes Daniel was able to simply rub Jack's back as if he was a frightened child and soothe him back into a deeper sleep, but other nights Daniel had to shout his lover's name until Jack woke.

"About Kaie." Jack sat up, scrubbing his hands through his hair. Daniel crawled over his legs and settled beside him.

Daniel waited while Jack's gaze skittered around the room and then he waited while Jack stared at his hands. The silence stretched between them, the only sound their breathing and a far off siren.

"I couldn't save him." The words, when they came, were a whisper.

"No." Daniel rubbed Jack's thigh, kneading tight muscles.

"Another father losing his son." Jack refused to look at Daniel,
choosing to study the moonlight coming through the curtains.

"You did what you could, Jack. No one blames you for Kaie's death."

"He was under my care, Daniel."

"And you did your best to save his life," Daniel continued.

"Tell that to Kaie, Daniel." Jack lay down, turning his back to Daniel. "I'm tired. I'm going back to sleep."

Daniel was silent as he turned off the light.

"Sleeping isn't going to make his death go away, Jack," Daniel said into the darkness. "It was * not * your fault." He reached out to touch Jack's back, his heart sinking when Jack moved away.

"Let me in," he mouthed. "Let me in." Daniel didn't move until he heard Jack begin to snore. Then he got up, pulled on his robe, and sat on the floor, watching Jack as dawn slowly crept across the room. Jack's physical pain would heal, but Daniel didn't know where to begin to heal the pain in Jack's soul.

Continue on to Part Two

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babs, 2003.
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Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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