Walter Davis hated it when SG-1 was missing. Teams went overdue all the time, and yes, people worried, but it didn’t create the atmosphere of tension that rose up when SG-1 missed their check-ins. General Hammond tended to hover, making everyone in the control room sit up a little straighter just by being there. Doctor Fraiser lingered in the nearby corridors, poised and ready to descend on the gateroom with a full emergency medical team. The mountain seemed to hold its breath.
Far worse, though, was when part of SG-1 was missing. Because then, the other part made everyone’s lives miserable until their team was back together.
This time, it was Major Carter and Teal’c in his hair, what was left of it. He hadn’t been present for the mission report, but his position in the control room let him know a lot of what went on in the mountain, and he knew their last mission had gone to hell in record time. He’d seen Carter and Teal’c come through the gate five days ago, out of breath, stumbling, and singed. Teal’c had been limping heavily, a staff wound on his leg, and Carter had been staggering trying to support him. Everyone had ducked when several energy blasts flew through the gate over their heads.
Carter had given the order to close the iris and Walter remembered hesitating--because the team wasn’t all there yet. It was obvious they were under fire, but he hadn’t been able to believe it for a moment. He’d been so sure it was some kind of mistake, that the Major didn’t realize the others hadn’t arrived yet. Any minute, they’d be coming through, and then he’d close the iris. Any minute now.
She’d had to repeat the order, hollering up at him to close that damn iris now, Sergeant, and he’d jumped and slammed his hand down on the control. He didn’t know much about what had happened; they’d been whisked away to the infirmary and after that it had all been in explained in briefings behind closed doors.
All he knew was Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson were still out there, on the other side of a gate that wouldn’t connect. He could recite the gate address in his sleep by now--Carter insisted he try redialing it what seemed like every five minutes. Okay, more like twice an hour, but when he had a worried, frustrated Major pacing behind him and swearing at the dialing computer, his perception got a little off.
At least she didn’t demand he somehow “fix” the gate. She was perfectly aware the problem wasn’t on their end, unlike some team leaders who got on his back when their people were missing. Still, the constant tension she radiated made the atmosphere in the control room downright unpleasant. And that was just her. He didn’t even want to think about what it was like when Teal’c showed up.
Walter sighed and checked his watch again, but his shift wasn’t up for another hour. Major Carter was scowling at the latest gate diagnostic and muttering under her breath, but at least she wasn’t pacing. For a change. He eyed her surreptitiously and wondered if she’d slept at all since returning from the mission. She had to have, right? Nobody could stay awake for five days straight. Not without killing someone.
He flinched. Damn, for someone so big, that Jaffa could sneak up on you like nobody’s business. “Teal’c,” he said, trying for a pleasant smile. “Hi.”
Teal’c stared at him. “Is something amusing?”
He stopped smiling. “No, uh... I was just...” Crap. Had he mentioned that he hated when part of SG-1 was missing? “Uh, Major Carter, isn’t it time to try dialing the planet again?”
She looked up distractedly, her gaze darting around the room before landing on him. “Right,” she said. “Yes, do that. You know the address?”
Walter bit his tongue to avoid a smart remark. He so did not want to provoke her right now. Or Teal’c, who was quietly, politely, intimidating the hell out of everyone. “Yes, Ma’am,” he said crisply and began inputting the symbols. Beside him, Teal’c loomed a little closer. Walter thought ruefully that the staff blast to the leg certainly hadn’t slowed him down for long. Not that he wanted Teal’c to be hurt, but if he’d been in the infirmary, comfortably recovering, he wouldn’t be here, staring a hole through the back of his head.
They got as far as the fourth chevron--Walter didn’t bother calling them out, as it was too depressing to get up to seven and repeat the same old “failed to lock.” Then the dialing sequence aborted and the gate began spinning on its own.
“What’s that?” Carter asked, darting over to his side. She was nearly thrumming, her eyes too wide, her body in constant, slight motion. He wondered how much coffee she’d had. Maybe she was drinking Doctor Jackson’s usual share, as some kind of weird SG-1 good luck charm.
“Someone is dialing in,” he said. “Closing the iris.”
“No one is due to return at this time,” Teal’c said. “O’Neill and Daniel Jackson may not be in possession of their GDOs. They may be trying to return.”
Walter nodded and shifted uneasily. Was Teal’c suggesting he open the iris to an unknown wormhole? He glanced at Carter, but she was staring intently at the turning gate and didn’t look his way. If she ordered him to open the iris... hell, he wasn’t sure if she was fully competent to give orders at the moment. But he thought if she gave the order, he’d do it. Because he wanted to hope it was them, too.
The wormhole formed behind the iris, and for a long moment, nothing happened. The SFs in the gateroom held their weapons ready and everyone in the control room seemed to lean forward, watching the computer screen to see if a GDO transmission would come through.
There was a brief ping against the iris, and Walter jumped slightly. Carter, beside him, seemed to ratchet up the tension level another couple notches. “Something impacted against the iris,” she pointed out, rather unnecessarily. “Was it...?”
“No, too small,” Walter said, scanning his instruments. “It was tiny, solid... non-organic. Low velocity. Maybe a rock or something.”
There was another impact, then two more in rapid succession. Walter could feel Teal’c frowning at his back. A brief pause, then three more hits, slower this time, evenly spaced. Then three quick ones.
Later, Walter would think it was amazing Carter hadn’t gotten it first. He figured it was only because she was trying so hard to think of a complicated solution to the whole mess that she hadn’t grasped the simple, obvious answer.
“It’s an SOS!” he said, waving at the gate.
Carter drew her breath in quickly and straightened. “Of course! They don’t have GDOs so they’re signaling us the only way they can. Open the iris, Sergeant.”
He hesitated, but only for a moment. Who else but someone from the SGC would know about the iris, and know to throw rocks through the gate to send an SOS? He slapped his hand on the control and the iris slid open. The SF guards raised their weapons and stood ready.
The first things to come through were more rocks. They clattered on the ramp, nine of them thrown in the same pattern as before. The SFs looked at each other in confusion and a couple glanced over their shoulders at the control room. Walter spread his hands and shrugged. Hey, it was the SGC. Compared to some of the crazy things he’d seen, this was nothing.
There was another long pause, during which Walter thought he could hear Carter’s fingernails tearing a furrow in the chair upholstery she was gripping. Then the rest of SG-1 came through the gate at a rapid stumble, Doctor Jackson supporting the Colonel with an arm around his waist.
“Medical team to the gateroom, now!” Major Carter yelled to no one in particular, already thumping down the stairs. Teal’c was right behind her with a steadying hand when she nearly fell at the bottom in her haste. Walter saw one of the other techs hit the medical alarm button, but most of his focus was on the scene below. Jackson and O’Neill were standing, but the Colonel was weaving pretty heavily, and hadn’t stopped leaning on the other man for a second. Which was odd, since Doctor Jackson was the one covered in blood. O’Neill, who was wearing something long and white, didn’t have a drop on him.
Then Fraiser rushed in with her team, and the Colonel was on a stretcher and headed for the door within seconds. Walter craned his neck, watching them all run in the direction of the infirmary, Jackson beside the stretcher with his hand clamped around O’Neill’s wrist.
Behind them, forgotten, the wormhole winked out. The SFs relaxed and lowered their weapons, most of them heading off to wherever they went when they weren’t facing an open wormhole. Grinning, Walter hit the intercom button and paged the General’s office. “Sir?” he said. “I thought you’d want to know--Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson just returned.”
He had to give Hammond credit, the man barely paused before replying crisply, “I assume they’re in the infirmary?”
“Yes, sir.” Walter cut the connection and leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head. He didn’t know the full story, but he knew enough. For now, the mountain could breathe again.
Janet Fraiser was accustomed to difficult patients. She considered her job to be extremely rewarding, and she felt she contributed something important to the entire SGC, so, for the most part, what she had to deal with on a daily basis was worth it. There were times, though, when her patience was tested to the limit. Those times almost always involved SG-1.
With experience, she’d learned the best ways of dealing with them. Like now, she didn’t even try to shoo Sam and Teal’c out of the infirmary while she treated the Colonel and Daniel. It would be a waste of time and effort. Instead, she pinned them against the wall with one of her well-honed authoritative stares and trusted them to stay out of her way.
Her team was already performing the basic first steps, checking vitals and inserting IV lines. Janet did a rapid visual triage and went to Daniel first. Although the Colonel was clearly dizzy and disoriented, he was clean and had no apparent injuries. He also seemed to be reviving quickly now that he was lying down and receiving fluids. Daniel, on the other hand, looked like hell.
Unlike the Colonel, he still had his uniform, bedraggled as it was. He was filthy, caked with an alarming amount of dried blood, and didn’t seem to notice the nurses urging him to lie down. He was still standing beside the Colonel’s bed, staring blankly down at him. Daniel hadn’t let go of him for a second since they’d arrived.
“Daniel,” Janet said quietly. “He’s going to be fine. Please, lie down so I can look at you.”
He didn’t acknowledge her at first, until she tugged gently on his arm, and then he jerked, seeming startled to find her beside him. “Janet,” he said. “You need to look at Jack. He was hurt. They hurt him.”
She nodded, narrowing her eyes at his halting, simple speech patterns. “I will. He’s being taken care of, don’t worry. I need to make sure you’re alright.”
Daniel waved a hand dismissively. “I’m fine. Didn’t touch me. You need to help Jack. Jack’s hurt.”
“I’m okay, Daniel,” Jack said, carefully sitting up. Daniel’s focus immediately snapped back to him.
“Lay back down,” he said. “You’re not okay. You need to let Janet help you.”
“I think that’s my line,” Jack replied. A lot of his color had returned, and although the careful way he moved suggested one hell of a headache, he seemed awake and aware of his surroundings. “Listen, I’m fine, see?” He tapped his chest, plucking at the pristine white garment that reminded Janet of a hospital gown. “All fixed up. You, on the other hand, are not looking so hot.”
Daniel blinked at him, gave his shoulder a halfhearted shove as if to make him lie back down, and then turned to Janet. “He needs a transfusion. He lost a lot of blood. You should examine him, make sure he’s not bleeding anymore.”
“I’ll do that,” she said. “What about you?” She indicated his blood soaked uniform with a pointed look.
“Not mine,” Daniel said flatly. “Jack’s. All his. He was hurt.”
Janet exchanged a worried look with the Colonel. He sighed and looked down at his arm, where Daniel’s hand was still wrapped tightly around his wrist. “You did good, Daniel,” he began, leaning close and making sure Daniel met his eyes. “You got us out of there, and you got us home. Now it’s time to let Doc Fraiser take care of us. Both of us. Which, in case you forgot, includes you.”
“I’m fine,” Daniel said again. He frowned at Janet. “Why isn’t he getting a transfusion? He was bleeding. There was a lot of blood.”
Janet looked over the Colonel’s vitals, and noted that his blood pressure was far below his normal level. His pulse was rapid as his heart worked overtime to supply his body’s needs with a reduced blood supply. She wasn’t sure how he’d lost so much blood with no visible injuries, but that was a mystery for later. “Okay, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give him a transfusion, and you lay down on that bed over there and let us take care of you.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes. “Not making deals. You can’t do that. Can’t make me do something by threatening him. I won’t.”
Janet raised her eyebrows. Well, that suggested all kinds of nasty things had gone on while they were missing. “Daniel, please, listen to me. I’m going to help him, I promise. I just want to help you, too.”
“I’m fine,” Daniel insisted.
Janet sighed. She hated to do it this way, but Daniel was beyond uncooperative and somewhere in the realm of extreme paranoia. He was also pale beneath his layer of grime, shivering noticeably, and swaying on his feet. She could either sedate him, or wait for him to pass out, which was going to happen any minute.
General Hammond chose that moment to enter the infirmary. Everyone turned to look at him, and so it was only a nurse approaching with a bag of whole blood for the Colonel who saw Daniel’s eyes roll back in his head as he crumpled to the floor. Janet heard the heavy thud behind her and turned, shaking her head at the heap of archeologist on her floor.
“Alright, let’s get him up on a bed,” she said. “I’ll be right with you, sir,” she told the General over her shoulder.
“Take your time,” he said a little dazedly. “Colonel? Are you alright?”
“Getting there, sir,” he replied, frowning down at Daniel. “A little confused, though.”
“Can you fill us in on what happened?” the General asked.
Janet helped two orderlies heft Daniel onto a bed and arrange him on his back. She was aware of Sam and Teal’c drawing closer behind her, toeing the line between concerned teammate and underfoot infirmary obstruction.
“I missed most of it,” the Colonel said as Janet felt Daniel’s pulse and thumbed his eyelids, examining his pupils. His breathing was steady, his skin cool and clammy, and his pulse was strong, if a bit fast. Satisfied that he was in no immediate danger, she let her team begin the process of cleaning him up and administering to his basic needs. Until more detailed test results came in, there wasn’t much else they could do. They wheeled Daniel behind a curtained off cubicle to remove his uniform and examine him in privacy.
“You did seem disoriented when you arrived,” Janet said, turning back to him. “What do you remember?”
“Well, the ambush. You two were there for that,” he said, nodding at Sam and Teal’c. “The team was separated, the Jaffa took Daniel and I prisoner; it was the usual shtick. They knew what our GDOs were for. Wanted the codes. Also whatever tactical information they could persuade us to give. We were not forthcoming, they got pissed, knocked us around a little.”
Sam raised her eyebrows at the tattered and bloodied uniform jacket the nurses had cut off Daniel. They were now placing it in a biohazard bag for testing and disposal. “A little?” she inquired.
“I’m not sure how he got like that,” Jack said, wrinkling his nose at the remains of Daniel’s clothes. “From what I remember, they didn’t touch him. The deal was, threaten me, make him watch. Demand some answers, knock me around, threaten some more. You know, the usual.”
Hammond nodded grimly. “Do you know if they got any sensitive information?”
Janet could see the conscious three members of SG-1 stiffen at the implication Daniel would break under pressure, but it was a question the General had to ask. “I doubt it,” the Colonel said after a moment. “The big threat was always that they’d kill me if he didn’t cooperate. They were pretty clueless about the whole torture thing, though. They zatted me nearly at the start and I don’t remember anything after that. When I woke up, I was wearing this,” he tugged distastefully at the flimsy white garment, “and Daniel was nowhere in sight. I was pretty out of it, but I do remember him showing up with a couple Jaffa who were apparently on our side, and being surprised as hell to find me. Alive, anyway. If they killed me, that means they carried out the threat, which means he gave them nothing.”
“Doctor?” Nurse Machiko was at her elbow, handing her a lab report printout. “The immediate results are back on the Colonel’s blood work. Also, Doctor Jackson has a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing life-threatening. It looks like shock and dehydration, mostly.”
“Thank you,” Janet said absently, scanning the blood results. The unit of blood had been hung from the Colonel’s IV pole, but not started yet, pending her approval. She blinked twice at his RBC count and plugged the line into his IV port, starting the blood running into his arm.
Jack leaned back against the bed, after Teal’c raised it into a sitting position, and eyed the tubes feeding clear and red fluids into him. “Did I need that?”
“Oh, I’d say so,” Janet replied. “Daniel was right about that. I’m guessing the blood loss was the cause of your disorientation earlier.”
He nodded and closed his eyes for a long moment, obviously making an effort to open them again. Whatever burst of energy he’d gotten from the influx of fluids was wearing off now.
“He needs to rest,” Janet said firmly, moving between her patients and the others. “I’ll let you know when they’re up for a full debriefing.”
Sam and Teal’c moved around her, each taking up a position beside the Colonel’s bed. Janet sighed and resigned herself to the inevitable. At least this way she could make sure Sam got some sleep in a spare bed, and check on Teal’c’s staff wound. Much as he liked to play the big Jaffa kelnoreem ‘I need no medical attention’ card, he still wasn’t fully recovered.
“Very well,” Hammond said, knowing better than to argue the point with her. “Just one more thing--how did you escape?”
Jack gave a half shrug. “It’s all pretty blurry, sir. Like I said, Daniel showed up with his new Jaffa friends and got us out. Not sure how he swung that one. He wasn’t making a lot of sense at the time, but I thought maybe that was just me.” His worried glance over at Daniel’s bed suggested he’d reconsidered that idea. “Mostly I remember Daniel trying to carry me to the gate and muttering a lot about getting me to the infirmary. Not sure what happened to the Jaffa. I think they went through the gate to somewhere else.” His eyes fell shut again and he slumped against the bed.
“That’s enough,” Janet said, folding her arms. “I need to examine Daniel fully, and they both need to sleep. You two could follow their example,” she added, frowning at Sam and Teal’c.
“I do not require sleep,” Teal’c said in that implacable way. Sam averted her eyes and tried to look like she wasn’t out on her feet.
“Right,” Janet said skeptically. She turned back to the General. “I’ll keep you informed, sir.” Which was a dismissal, but a polite one.
“I’m sure you will, Doctor,” Hammond replied, and took his leave.
“Alright.” Janet dusted her hands together briskly. “Sam, you need to go get a hot meal and some sleep. I mean it.”
“I’ll sleep here,” Sam said quickly, hopping up on the nearest bed.
“I will retrieve a meal,” Teal’c added.
Janet sighed and shook her head as if this wasn’t what she’d wanted all along. “Well... you eat, and then you lay down and get at least six hours. Not negotiable.”
“Sure, Janet,” Sam replied earnestly. “Don’t worry, Teal’c and I will be very quiet. You won’t even know we’re here. Right, Teal’c?”
Sam spread her hands as if to say, ‘see?’
“Mmm-hmm.” Janet watched Teal’c go off in search of something healthy and filling, and waited until Sam lay obediently on the infirmary bed. She made a private bet with herself over whether Sam would actually be awake when Teal’c got back with the food. She doubted it. After a quick check to make sure the Colonel was sleeping peacefully and his IV lines were running well, she slid the curtain shut and moved to Daniel’s side.
A nurse was just finishing with his rudimentary cleanup, and although his hair was still filthy and his fingernails were deeply imbedded with dried blood, he looked much better. He’d been dressed in a set of scrubs and had two bags of saline running into him. His vitals were stable, and his color had improved. It looked like unconsciousness had turned into deep sleep, which was something he’d clearly needed.
Janet put a hand on his forehead, finding him slightly warm but still within a safe range. She picked up his hand and felt his pulse, even though she could see the readout on the screen beside him. She still believed very strongly in hands-on healing, and the power of human touch to help a patient recover. “Hey, Daniel,” she said quietly. He didn’t twitch.
She could hear Teal’c return behind the privacy curtain, and the lack of a greeting suggested she’d won her bet and Sam was already asleep. Nodding to herself, she got a basin of warm water and some soap, and began gently washing Daniel’s hands. There was the rustling sound of Teal’c pulling a blanket over Sam, and the rattle of wheels as he drew their beds a little closer together. Something all of SG-1 did when more than one of them was in the infirmary. She thought of it as their way of circling the wagons.
Finished with Daniel’s hands, she dried them and laid them gently on his chest, then recovered him with the blanket. She opened the curtain between his bed and the others, and saw Teal’c sitting in a chair between Jack and Sam’s beds. He was quietly eating the meal he’d brought. She was unsurprised to see he’d brought only one; he’d correctly anticipated Sam would fall asleep. No slouch in the judgment department, Teal’c.
“How is Daniel Jackson?” he asked quietly.
“Sleeping. I think he’ll be fine.” Physically, she amended to herself. It was anyone’s guess what was going on in his head.
Teal’c inclined his head and returned to his meal. Janet performed a quick check on her patients and headed for her office. With luck, they’d all sleep for several hours and maybe Daniel would wake up acting more like himself. As she walked away, she heard the squeak of wheels and glanced over her shoulder. Teal’c was pulling Daniel’s bed close to join the rest. Janet nodded and smiled. Things were as they should be.
Jack had woken up in the infirmary more times than he cared to think about since he’d been with the SGC. There were certain constants about the experience. The beep of the monitors, the scent of disinfectant and latex, the hushed murmur of those considerate of sleeping patients. The presence of at least one member of his team was also something to be relied on. He’d gotten so familiar with the feel of waking up in the infirmary that he usually knew where he was before he even opened his eyes.
This time was different. The first thing he heard was not the steady beep of the heart monitor, but Daniel’s voice, raised in a rarely heard warning tone.
“I don’t need another MRI,” Daniel snapped.
There was a protesting murmur that Jack couldn’t quite make out. He cracked one eye open and waited for the blur in front of him to resolve itself. There was Daniel, standing beside his bed, looking at someone too far away to make out clearly. Dressed in white, probably a nurse. Jack shook his head slightly, trying to clear it, and winced. He made a mental note--head shaking is bad.
“No, I don’t want a tranquilizer,” Daniel said, addressing the white blur that was slowly coming into focus. Ah, nurse Adams. Tall, solid, fiftyish, and normally afraid of nothing, she was eying Daniel worriedly. “I want to stay right here,” Daniel continued, clearly making an effort to keep his voice level. “Is that so much to ask? I’m not causing any trouble, I’m just sitting here. Can’t you let me do that?”
“Doctor Jackson, please, Doctor Fraiser was quite insistent that you rest.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Could you at least lie down?” Adams cajoled.
“I don’t need to lie down,” Daniel replied through clenched teeth. “I need to stay right here. Why can’t anyone understand that? Am I not speaking English here?”
Adams’ eyes narrowed, and Jack sighed. This was so not going to end well. He figured Daniel was one more pissy remark away from being sedated for his own good. Jack swallowed, trying to generate some moisture in his throat, and took a deep breath. “Hey,” he said. “Trying to sleep here, you mind?”
Daniel turned fast, and Jack felt his hand squeezed. Daniel leaned over him, studying his face, and Jack managed a smile. Daniel tried to smile back. It was less than convincing. “Jack,” he said. “You’re awake.”
“Yeah.” Jack cleared his throat and Daniel immediately grabbed a cup of water off his bedside table, holding it out for Jack with the straw pointed at him.
“You should drink this,” Daniel told him. “You were hurt. Lost a lot of blood. You need to take it easy.”
Jack drank obediently, but batted the cup away when he’d had enough and sat up. Daniel immediately pressed him back down again, lowering him gently to the pillows. “Daniel...” Jack protested, frowning.
“You were... you were hurt,” Daniel insisted. “Stay still. You need to rest.”
“You need to do the same, Doctor Jackson,” Nurse Adams said from behind him. “Now that you’ve seen the Colonel is fine, why don’t you go back to your bed?”
Daniel pretended not to hear her. “How are you feeling, Jack? Do you need anything? Janet said she gave you a transfusion. She even showed me your chart so I could see it noted. Did it help? Do you still feel dizzy? I could talk to them about getting you another unit of blood.”
Jack exchanged a look with the nurse. He got the feeling from her expression that Daniel had been like this pretty much nonstop. “Uh, no thanks,” he said carefully. “I’m doing better. Think I’ve had enough. How about you?”
“I’m fine,” Daniel said quickly. “I was never hurt in the first place. You’re the one who was... um, you know, I’ll get you some food. You should eat something.”
“Tell you what,” Jack replied. “Get us both some food. We’ll do lunch. Or... whatever time it is, we’ll do that.”
Daniel nodded and squeezed his hand again. After a long moment, he let go and took a step back. He watched Jack, his eyes flicking over the monitors, chewing his bottom lip. Jack raised his eyebrows. “Daniel? You going?”
“Sure,” Daniel said. “Yeah, I’m just... right. Going.” He went to the doorway, paused and looked back, then ducked his head and stepped out.
Jack waited a beat, then sat up, pleased to find his dizziness gone. The headache was receding too, and although he still felt cold, he figured that had more to do with the weird flimsy gown he was wearing and the chilly infirmary than any leftover weakness from the blood loss.
The nurse came up to him and performed a quick blood pressure test, then listened to his heartbeat and checked his pupils. Jack put up with it, glad she had at least warmed up the stethoscope first. It must be the middle of the night, if Fraiser wasn’t on duty. Either that or she was busy elsewhere with more urgent patients. It looked like she’d strong-armed Carter and Teal’c into taking off and getting some actual rest before she left, though, because they were nowhere in sight.
“So,” he began when Adams had finished her checks. “How’s Daniel?”
She looked at him over the top of her clipboard. “He’s been better.”
“I saw that.” Jack glanced in the direction Daniel had gone. He hadn’t looked terrible, exactly--he wasn’t swaying anymore and his hands had stopped shaking. But he had been pale, and there was a tightness to his face, a certain set to his mouth that had Jack worried. Not to mention the weird, clingy attitude. He got that it was hard for Daniel to see him hurt, much more so since they’d become lovers a few months ago. It was hard for him to see anything happen to Daniel, too. This level of hovering solicitude was ringing all kinds of alarms.
“Why the fuss about making him lie down?” Jack asked. “I thought he wasn’t injured.”
Adams sighed. “Well, no, but we’re concerned about some of his vital signs. His blood pressure, for example, has shot way up. He’s not quite tracking verbally--he loses the thread of a conversation, he’s distracted, edgy. He only slept a couple hours, when clearly he needed much more, and he hasn’t eaten. If he keeps pushing himself like this, another collapse is inevitable.”
Jack nodded. Until he figured out what the hell had happened on that planet, he wouldn’t know what was going on in Daniel’s head. Of course, right now, Daniel was the only one who knew what had happened, and he didn’t exactly seem eager to talk about it.
“Maybe he’ll eat with me,” Jack said.
“I certainly hope so,” she replied. “See if you can get him to get some more sleep, too.”
“No problem.” Jack hoped he sounded confident. “Look, do you think you could...” He flicked his fingers toward the door and tilted his head meaningfully.
Adams smiled and gathered up her equipment. “Good luck, Colonel,” she said on her way out. “You’ll need it.”
Jack gave her a cocky grin. “We’ll be fine.” Once she was gone, he raised the bed so he could lean back against it, arranged some pillows, and put his game face on.
After a few minutes, Daniel came back in, laden with two trays of cafeteria food. Jack sighed when he saw one tray carrying the ubiquitous bowl of broth and cup of jello. Infirmary food, gah. The other had a muffin and a cup of coffee.
“Where did the nurse go?” Daniel asked as he set the trays down. He scanned Jack’s monitors again and looked around the room. “Did she leave you alone?”
“It’s fine, Daniel,” Jack said quickly. He pulled the tray with the muffin toward his lap. “That’s mine, right?”
Daniel frowned. “No, this one is yours.” He switched trays before Jack could object. “You were hurt. You need to start slowly.”
Jack considered arguing, but decided to pick his battles. “You know, I’m wondering about that,” he said between bites of jello. “You keep saying I was hurt, but I don’t have a mark on me. What happened there?”
Daniel began untangling Jack’s IV line. He was down to a single bag of saline on slow drip, just to keep the line open. Daniel tapped it a few times, frowning at the little digital control device. “You need the fluids,” he muttered, seemingly more to himself than Jack.
“I thought we were eating together.”
“I’m not really that hungry,” Daniel replied. He went around to Jack’s other side and picked up his chart, flipping through the pages rapidly. “They only gave you two units of blood total. Are you sure you don’t feel dizzy anymore? I would have thought you’d need more than that.”
“Your muffin is getting cold.”
“You can have it.”
“Daniel. Sit down.”
Daniel frowned but did as he was told. He watched Jack eat for a few minutes, then picked up his coffee cup and took a drink. Jack seriously doubted Daniel was supposed to have coffee, but he reminded himself he was picking his battles, and that was one he’d never win.
“So,” Jack said after a while, pushing his tray away.
Daniel pushed it back. “You need to finish.”
“No,” Jack said levelly, “I need some answers. What happened on that planet?”
“You were there,” Daniel said, looking away. “You don’t remember?”
“I was unconscious for most of it. Why don’t you fill me in on what I missed?”
Daniel shrugged. “Not much to fill in. They asked questions, hurt you, then... um, then some more. Then they took you away. I didn’t see you for a couple days. I guess they had a sarcophagus to heal you. I found some Jaffa who were part of the resistance movement. Told them I knew Teal’c. They got us out.”
Jack twirled one hand. “And? That’s it?”
“Pretty much?” Jack repeated, raising his eyebrows. “You don’t have anything else to add?”
“What else do you want? I already told you what happened. It’s not that complicated.” Daniel stood up and went to the foot of his bed, then began adjusting the blanket, tucking it in neatly.
“How about, who were these Jaffa? What, did they just show up? Did you go looking for them? And aren’t you missing a few days? We were there for five, you said you didn’t see me for two--there’s no way a zat blast knocked me out for three days.”
Daniel gave him a haunted look and folded his arms tightly. “That’s when you were... hurt. They, ah... they were pretty rough. You had some serious injuries. Maybe that’s why you don’t remember.”
“I think I’d remember something,” Jack countered. “And how did you get my blood all over you? Did they take a break and leave us together or something?”
Daniel abruptly slapped the flat of his palm on the little metal table at the end of the bed. “It doesn’t matter! Look, we’re not there anymore, we got out. You’re going to be fine. It’s over. So just forget it.”
Jack stared at him. “Is that what you’re planning to tell Hammond, too? We’re out and it doesn’t matter how it happened?”
“No, I... I don’t know.” Daniel ran a hand through his hair, still lank and grimy. Somehow Jack wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t even had a shower yet.
“Then let’s figure it out,” Jack said softly. “We were both there, right? We’re both giving the report. We’ll just compare notes and decide what happened.”
Daniel slowly lifted his head, meeting Jack’s eyes. “Get our story straight? Is that what you’re suggesting?”
“Not at all. I’m just saying I know what kind of information Hammond needs. And what kind he doesn’t. If you fill me in, we can give a... concise report.”
“I didn’t tell them anything, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Daniel said. “You don’t need to cover up for me.”
“I wasn’t thinking that,” Jack said honestly. “And if you had given them something, I wouldn’t cover it up. That’s the kind of thing the General needs to know. He doesn’t need the nasty details, though. You don’t have to drag out exactly what they did for the whole team to hear.”
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, and his shoulders sagged. “That’s... that’s good.” He moved to sit beside Jack again, absently fiddling with the sheet and tugging it snugly around his legs.
Jack laid his hand over one of Daniel’s, holding it still. “Hey. Like you said, it’s over, right? We’re both going to be fine.”
Daniel nodded and turned his hand over, lacing his fingers with Jack’s. Jack glanced automatically toward the corner, where the security camera was, and smiled when he saw the privacy curtain partly blocked its view. Only his sheet covered legs and part of Daniel’s back would be visible.
“You want me to tell you,” Daniel said flatly. “You think I need to.”
“No. I think you’d be perfectly fine dealing with it on your own.” Daniel looked up in surprise and Jack smiled ruefully at him. “You’re good at dealing with crap like this.”
Daniel looked down at their hands and stroked a finger along the inside of Jack’s wrist. “Practice makes perfect.”
“Yeah. But, Daniel... I do want you to tell me.” He held a hand up, stilling Daniel’s reply. “Not because I think you need to. Because I need to know. It happened to me. It was my body they were... doing whatever they did. I don’t remember any of it. For all I know, they could have... well, let’s just say I can imagine a lot of nasty shit. And unless you tell me what did happen, I’m going to keep imagining it. I need to know.”
Daniel looked at him for a long moment, and Jack met his eyes. He squeezed Daniel’s hand and waited. If he pushed any further now, this wasn’t going to work. Daniel needed to believe he was doing it solely for Jack. And yes, Jack did want to know because it was his body they’d been messing with, but he also knew this was his best bet for getting Daniel to talk.
Sneaky, manipulative, duplicitous--yes, but he didn’t know what else to do. If he sat back and gave Daniel space and never pressed him, then Daniel would never talk about it. He’d learned that after Sha’re had died and Daniel had withdrawn emotionally from everything for months. If Jack hadn’t pushed then, he was pretty sure Daniel never would have come back to them.
“Okay,” Daniel finally said. “That’s fair. You do have a right to know.”
Jack nodded, checked the security camera again, and leaned in, wrapping a hand around the back of Daniel’s neck. He let their foreheads rest together for a moment. He could hear Daniel swallow, and feel the slight shiver that prickled down his back.
“You never woke up after they zatted you,” Daniel began. Their faces close, Jack could feel the fluttering against his cheek as Daniel took a deep breath and blinked several times, rapidly. “I think that was for the best.”
Jack felt him pulling back and let him go, giving his shoulder one last squeeze. Daniel took his hand again and began tracing his fingers, stroking his palm. One thumb pressed his wrist, over his pulse point. Daniel kept his head down, focusing intently on their hands.
“They had a knife. Long, sharp. They set up a pattern pretty fast. Ask me a question, cut you when I didn’t answer. They started with your face.”
Jack winced and watched the top of Daniel’s head. He never looked up.
“Your hands next. They, ah... they made me get close. Showed me. They were... it wasn’t just shallow cuts. They were doing permanent damage. Ruining you. I wanted to tell them, you know? Anything to make them stop. But we both saw the bombs they had. If I gave them the iris codes...”
“You did the right thing,” Jack said quietly.
Daniel’s fingers wrapped tightly around his for a moment, then went back to the steady, hypnotic stroking. “The right thing sucks sometimes,” he said.
“Hell, yes,” Jack muttered. “But you hung in there.”
Daniel made a noncommittal sound. “They went lower after that. Your feet. They cut the tendons at the backs of your heels. Told me you’d never walk again. Told me I was doing this to you, causing this by not giving them what they wanted. By then, I was just glad the blood loss was keeping you unconscious. I didn’t want you to feel what they were doing.”
Jack nodded and wished he hadn’t eaten so much, even if it was only broth and jello.
“They, ah... started getting serious then. Your belly. Stabbing, sometimes deep. Your, ah...” He shifted uncomfortably and waved at Jack’s groin.
Jack drew his legs together reflexively. “Glad I missed that.”
“It went on for a long time. They’d do serious damage, and then they’d back off, let me try to... to fix it, somehow. You were bleeding from so many places, and I didn’t have any bandages or even water to clean you up. I was trying to wad your shirt up and press it over the worst spots, but it was so... there was no way. I mean, I knew that, but I kept thinking, if I could just take care of you long enough, Sam and Teal’c would show up and we’d get you back to the infirmary and you’d be okay. I had this picture in my head of you lying in one of these beds, all clean and bandaged and healing. I thought, if I could just get to that, everything would be alright.”
He fell quiet for a little while, and Jack let him take the time to gather himself. He understood some things a little better now, Daniel’s behavior making more sense, but he had the uneasy feeling he still hadn’t heard the worst of it.
“They gave me enough time to get really... well, desperate, and then they came back. Said they’d give me the first aid kits out of our packs. All I had to do was cooperate a little bit. I think... I think that was the closest I came to giving up. Which is stupid, isn’t it? You were way beyond what those little kits could do. But by then I was so...” He shook his head, then brought Jack’s hand up to his face and stroked the knuckles against his cheek.
“It’s a classic move,” Jack said. He turned his hand, lifting Daniel’s chin. Daniel was surprisingly dry-eyed. Not ready to let go yet. “Offer hope. After a certain point, it becomes more motivating than the threat of more pain.”
Daniel nodded. “It was very effective. They didn’t even give me a chance to answer... I guess I was so used to saying no it was automatic. They let me think about it. ‘Take your time,’ they said. But then one of them slashed you across the stomach before he left. ‘Just not too much time,’ he said. Because you didn’t have too much time left.”
“It’s okay to be tempted,” Jack told him. “Anyone would be. If it was you being hurt and me watching...” He shivered and shook his head. “I don’t like to think about how long I could hold out.”
“I think I would have broken,” Daniel said very quietly. He was staring down at their hands again, clutching Jack’s tightly. “If they’d come back in time.”
Jack swallowed. “In time...?”
“I tried.” Daniel lifted his head and fixed Jack with a pleading look. “You have to understand that. I did all I could. There was just too much blood. That last cut, before they left... I could see your insides. I knew, then... hell, I knew before then, but I think that’s when I really felt hopeless. You got so cold, and I was leaning over you, feeling for your breathing. I remember the bleeding slowed down, and I thought, that’s good, right? I thought maybe you were getting better.”
Jack shook his head slightly. Daniel had enough basic field medical training to know better. Of course, Daniel hadn’t been thinking so clearly by that point.
“I didn’t notice at first, when you stopped breathing.” Daniel was holding his hand again, spreading his fingers and then curling them, as if testing their function. “You’d been so quiet, and you were barely breathing at all for so long, and then... then you weren’t. But I kept trying. I did CPR for... for a long time. I was doing the chest compressions, and you were just so... there was nothing to push against, you know? You were so broken up, so ruined and I knew once I stopped I’d have to... to face it.”
Jack watched as Daniel kneaded his hand, and waited for him to find his voice again. If he’d had to watch Daniel die, sit there and be helpless to stop it... Jack shook himself, closing his eyes tightly for a moment. Better not to think about it.
“They had to pull me off you when they came back. I wasn’t really doing much by that point--my arms had gone all weak and I was dizzy, trying to breathe for both of us, but I think I fought them when they made me stop. I don’t know... things were kind of blurry after that. I remember them laughing. Telling me I waited too long. They kicked you a few times and you kind of... flopped over and I yelled at them to stop. Hadn’t they done enough?”
“Hey,” Jack said when Daniel grew quiet for a long moment. “I’m right here, you know. Feeling much better.”
Daniel looked up at him and traced the line of his jaw with one fingertip. “They left me with your body for two... maybe three days, I don’t know. I’ve never... I mean, I’ve seen people killed, seen blood and death before, but never...” He closed his eyes and swallowed. “I thought you’d be different, somehow. Special. Exempt from the... from what happens to someone after they die. The whole... um, physical... the... oh--” He turned suddenly and bolted for the bathroom.
Jack grimaced at the sounds coming from the open door. He’d had the unpleasant experience of being trapped with a dead body for about a week when he’d been a prisoner of war and his cellmate had died. It wasn’t something he liked to remember, and he hadn’t even known the man. To see that happen to someone he really cared about, to lose the illusions of a clean, tidy ending... his stomach knotted in sympathy with Daniel.
Eventually, Daniel came back, scrubbing his mouth with one trembling hand. He drank a little of Jack’s water and sank into the chair. “Thought I’d gotten all that out of my system back in the cell,” he muttered. Then he folded his arms on the bed and rested his head on them.
Jack ran his fingers through Daniel’s hair for a couple minutes, stroking the back of his neck. “You’re done now,” he said. “You told me the worst of it. Uphill from there, right?”
Daniel’s head moved slightly under his hand. “Pretty much. I kind of... skipped a little after that, in my mind. I know they took you... your body away, and then I was alone for a while. Not sure how long. Some different Jaffa came and asked me some questions. They were interested in Teal’c, they’d heard of him and wanted to know if I knew him. They wanted to be free. And I guess I knew this was my best opportunity of getting out of there, but by then, I didn’t really care.”
“But you made it happen anyway,” Jack replied, trying to encourage him.
Daniel shrugged. “It was mostly the Jaffa that made it happen. They’d been looking for the right time to escape, and apparently, with us there and the others arguing over what to do with me, things were just confused enough. They wanted to take me with them because the fuss over my disappearance would be a good distraction. I remember they said they’d be back later, at night, and before they left one of them said ‘Sorry about the other one.’ Like an afterthought.”
“They didn’t know I was alive?”
“I’m not sure if they knew then, or if they found out later. I was just following them down the corridor, pretending to be their prisoner, and they took me into another little room and you were lying there. All in white. I thought they were going to bury you and then I saw you were breathing.” Daniel lifted his head then, studying Jack’s face. “I thought I’d lost it. That I was hallucinating, or maybe dreaming.”
“I remember you looking really surprised,” Jack said. “Did we just walk out of there?”
“Mostly. I think. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the details, to tell you the truth. I think I was more than half convinced none of it was really happening and I was still back in the cell, having some kind of breakdown.” He gave a thin little laugh that Jack supposed was meant to make him think Daniel was joking. “The Jaffa walked us around like they had every business doing it. Eventually they had to zat a few people. There was some running for the gate and hiding behind some trees while they took out more guards. They wanted me to remember their names, Tal’nac and Shon’at, so I could tell Teal’c. They cared about gaining his respect. So I guess you could say Teal’c got us out.”
Jack tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes, trying to recall their escape. There was a vague memory of being propped against a tree and Daniel right in front of him, patting him all over and telling him in a hoarse whisper that he’d be alright. “You know, if they put me in a sarcophagus, why was I still so...” He twirled one finger beside his ear. “Spacey.”
“I don’t know. Maybe because you were so badly hurt, or maybe because you were... dead for a while before you were put inside. The technology has limits. After all, you still needed a blood transfusion even though the damage was fixed.” He gave Jack a rueful smile. “This probably means you won’t have the withdrawal. I think it only does that if you use it when you don’t need it, and you really needed it.”
“Yeah.” Jack watched as Daniel rested his head on his arms again. “So, basically, Teal’c and his free-the-Jaffa movement paid off. He’ll be glad to hear it.” He rubbed the back of Daniel’s neck, then his shoulders. “I can give the full report. No one expects you to just bounce back from something like this.”
“I can do it,” Daniel protested, his words muffled by the blanket pressed against his cheek.
That seemed to be enough of an answer, since Daniel’s shoulders grew looser under his fingers, and his breathing slowed. Jack smiled and hoped this counted as getting Daniel to lie down. Fraiser never seemed to count sleeping while sitting beside someone else’s bed as real sleep, but Jack, who had slept in very strange and uncomfortable places over the course of his career, figured any sleep was better than none. So he’d managed to get Daniel to talk about it, and rest, although the eating thing hadn’t really panned out. Two out of three wasn’t bad.
If Daniel’s vitals looked better in the morning when Fraiser showed up--and Jack was betting they would--then they’d probably both be released. Jack thought he was probably in better shape than Daniel at this point, not that Daniel would see it that way. No, Daniel would insist on taking care of him for a while, giving him everything he asked for and insisting he lay around and relax. Jack would have to allow Daniel to pamper him. It was a tough job, but he felt confident he could handle it.
Getting out of the mountain was an exercise in careful maneuvering. Their escape from the infirmary was secured by a combination of Jack’s persistence and Daniel’s cooperation with eating and keeping down a decent meal. His long nap slumped over Jack’s bed, his hand still loosely clasping Jack’s, had also helped. He felt better, and it showed. Fraiser might have balked if she’d known the sheer amount of damage Jack had suffered, but Jack figured he was good as new, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. He’d glossed over the details a little--okay, a lot--and Fraiser had caved to his relentless pestering and Daniel’s clear need to get out of what was essentially a little room twenty-eight floors underground.
The debriefing required a more delicate touch. He had a few words with Hammond beforehand, stating the bare facts of what had happened. Hammond was far from stupid, and when Jack handled the majority of the report, he didn’t ask why. The torture and interrogation was covered with Daniel’s assertion that he’d given them nothing, and after that, they concentrated on the rescuing Jaffa.
Tal’nac and Shon’at had known the necessary codes to the locking system that kept the inner ring of the gate from turning, which was what had been frustrating Sam and her gate techs for days. It wasn’t as sophisticated as the iris as far as Stargate defense systems went, but it did keep anyone from dialing in. Or out, for that matter. Plans were made to add the two Jaffa to the resistance and recognize their efforts with the appropriate status. Daniel was able to remember they had fled to Chulak, where Bra’tac was still based, and Teal’c said he’d contact his old mentor and fill him in.
Jack knew that Carter and Teal’c didn’t miss the things that were left out, but they were smart enough not to ask. Daniel was very self-contained, looking mostly down at his hands on the briefing table. He didn’t notice the concerned looks Carter sent his way, or the way Teal’c’s face softened slightly when he watched him. Jack was pleased with his team for knowing when to step back. The briefing room was hardly the place for them to press Daniel.
He was sure, within the next few days, Carter and Teal’c would each go to Daniel and offer support in their own ways. Carter would bring cookies and seek his advice on some interesting scientific problem, engaging his mind and making him feel valued. Teal’c would offer to share kelnoreem and listen.
Fraiser was kind enough to recommend three days off to rest and recover. The General pushed back their next mission by a day to accommodate their leave. They’d been lucky enough to avoid a mandatory session with the base psychiatrist, mostly because the full story was still just between Jack and Daniel. Jack planned on keeping it that way. He had his own therapy in mind.
They were out by late morning. Daniel headed straight for his car in the parking lot. “I’m driving,” he said. Jack raised his eyebrows but got obediently into the passenger seat. Apparently taking separate vehicles was not an option.
The ride was quiet. Daniel had the windows down, despite the early November bite to the air. He drove one-handed, the other resting on Jack’s knee. Jack covered it with his own and Daniel glanced at him with a faint smile. They went to Jack’s house. When they spent the night together, it was usually there. They didn’t risk it often--the appearance of impropriety was what the regs called it, and it was enough to cause trouble if anyone noticed. Jack had the feeling they would be risking it for the next three nights, at least, and he was glad. It was Daniel who insisted on a high degree of discretion, worried as he was for Jack’s career. Jack knew there were more important things.
Daniel opened the door for them with his key and led the way into the house. Jack followed, wondering just how long Daniel would need to be in charge. Daniel took his coat off and hung it up, then set his keys on the counter and seemed to run out of steam, standing in the hallway and looking around vaguely.
“Hey,” Jack said, coming up behind him. He slipped his arms around Daniel’s waist and rested his chin on Daniel’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Daniel replied quietly. He turned and put his palms on Jack’s chest, then slid them up, lacing his fingers behind Jack’s neck. He leaned close and Jack tilted his head slightly, waiting. But to his surprise, Daniel didn’t kiss him. Instead he stroked one thumb over the scar in his eyebrow, then over the smaller one just below his ear. “It didn’t fix these,” he murmured.
Jack shrugged. “They were already healed.”
Daniel just looked at him with that intent, slightly desperate focus. Like if he looked away for even a second, Jack would disappear. “I think... I think you cut it close this time. Very close,” he said eventually.
Jack wasn’t sure you could call actually dying a close call. Seemed like that was more than close, but Daniel was probably not in the mood to argue semantics, so he just nodded and said, “Yeah.”
“If they’d waited much longer to put you in the sarcophagus...” Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, then leaned in, brushing his cheek against the line of Jack’s jaw. Jack tightened his arms and pulled Daniel close, and they stood like that in the hall for a long time.
Eventually, Daniel stepped back, giving Jack a quick, light kiss on the corner of his mouth on his way. He ran a hand through his hair and grimaced. “I need a shower. Never did get one at the mountain.”
“You just like those sponge baths in the infirmary.”
Daniel snorted. “Right, Jack.” He took a couple steps down the hall, then glanced back over his shoulder. “You coming?”
Jack grinned. “Now you’re talking.”
Jack was eager for a real shower himself. Apparently whoever had removed him when the sarcophagus had finished had also cleaned and dressed him (and wasn’t that a pleasant thought, being bathed by some strange Jaffa while unconscious) but he still had that sticky, itchy feeling that came from being in the infirmary, taped to tubes and touched by various medical personnel. If he felt vaguely unclean, he figured Daniel had to be doubly anxious to wash off the last traces of his blood and the dirt of that planet.
Daniel stripped quickly, not looking at him, and started the water running in Jack’s big, glass walled shower. He turned to pull a couple towels from the shelf and paused, watching as Jack slid his pants down. Jack raised his eyebrows and spread his hands. “Still the same old me,” he said. He pinched the slight softness at his belly and sighed. “Pity the miracle box couldn’t get rid of this.”
Daniel shook his head. He pressed one hand to Jack’s chest, then slid his palm slowly down, bumping over each rib, feeling the pale, smooth skin of his belly, then the ridge of one hip. “No,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Jack looked at Daniel’s sleekly muscled chest and taut skin, and his own scarred, older body, gray hair and all. “You’re blind, you know.”
“No.” Daniel brushed his knuckles over Jack’s cheek, then down his neck, squeezing his shoulder. “I know what I see.” He lifted Jack’s dog tags over his head and set them beside the sink. Then he tugged Jack’s elbow, guiding him into the shower.
Showering with Daniel was usually one of two things. Either soapy, slippery fun involving creative uses for conditioner, or oh-crap-we-slept-in quick and efficient to save time. This time, Jack found himself on the receiving end of a slow, thorough washing. Daniel was intent, purposeful, and refused to be dissuaded from his task no matter how Jack tried to entice him to more recreational activities.
Jack told himself not to feel... well, unappealing. Yes, Daniel was slowly, carefully, methodically washing every inch of his skin. Yes, usually Daniel getting up close and personal with his naked body resulted in Daniel wanting Jack to do the same to him. But Daniel’s mind was clearly not in a sexual place right now, and given what he’d been through, Jack couldn’t blame him. Daniel would get back to that place eventually. For now, Jack would have to try and control his natural reaction to the slick, relentless glide of Daniel’s fingertips on his skin.
When Daniel began carefully massaging shower gel into his inner thighs for the third time, Jack decided self-control only went so far. “Daniel?” he said in a tight voice.
“Hmm?” Daniel didn’t look up, a line of concentration between his eyebrows.
“I think I’m clean. So either stop that, or finish it.”
Daniel gave him a sneaky little smile. “Oh, multiple choice, is it? I think I’ll go with option B.”
Before Jack could ask which one was option B, Daniel was applying the shower gel in a way Jack was certain the manufacturers had not intended. “Oh,” he grunted as Daniel stroked him rapidly. They stood close, Daniel’s head resting on his shoulder as he worked by feel, his mouth doing all kinds of interesting things to Jack’s neck. Jack hunched his shoulders as Daniel wandered up to his earlobe, a spot that was almost too sensitive for him. Jack was aware of the steady pelting of water on his back and shoulders, and the texture of Daniel’s skin against his chest. The smell of the shower gel and the taste of Daniel’s shoulder.
Jack was coming before he even realized how close he was and he wobbled a little, his knees threatening mutiny. Daniel chuckled and supported him, pressing fierce little kisses to his hair. “Liked that, did you?” he asked, sounding very pleased with himself.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Jack replied. He gave a long sigh and licked a little water from where Daniel’s shoulder joined his neck. When he reached down to return the favor, Daniel caught his wrist and gently steered him away.
“I’m not really... I just wanted to take care of you,” he said. His voice tried to be light and didn’t quite make it.
“Okay,” Jack said, as if it were no big deal. “How about we finish up before we turn into prunes?”
Daniel laughed softly and relaxed against him, nuzzling his shoulder. “Good plan.” He turned and grabbed a bottle of shampoo--he’d been so focused on Jack he still hadn’t washed the grit from his hair.
Jack took the bottle away before Daniel could pour some into his hand. “Ah! My turn.” He circled one finger imperatively, waiting for Daniel to turn around. Daniel looked a little exasperated and turned grudgingly, but Jack caught him smiling before he presented a view of his back.
Jack knew perfectly well Daniel loved scalp massage, particularly when he had a headache, which the odds were pretty good for right now. He took his time, rubbing in firm little circles through Daniel’s short, water-spiked hair, grinning at the way Daniel squirmed and leaned into his hands, sighing happily. Jack moved down his neck, kneading the tight muscles, and then his shoulders, which he supposed were way beyond hair washing territory but Daniel wasn’t complaining.
They left the shower only when the water began to run cold and Daniel had been washed nearly as thoroughly as Jack. Daniel beat him to the towels and insisted on drying him first, working with the same concentrated expression he’d had before. Then he wrapped Jack in a thick robe and shooed him in the direction of the bedroom. Jack grumbled as he went, catching Daniel’s rolled eyes in the bathroom mirror. He wasn’t like this when Daniel had been hurt, was he? He paid a little extra attention, yeah, but he didn’t... well, baby him, right? Jack was sure he wasn’t this bad. Mostly sure.
He opened a dresser drawer and began poking around for something comfortable to wear around the house. He’d just pulled out an old pair of jeans when Daniel came up beside him. He had a towel wrapped around his waist, but the rest of him was pink and scrubbed and still a little damp. Jack couldn’t help a long, appreciative look.
“What are you doing?” Daniel asked.
Jack waved the jeans slightly. “Well, normally after one showers, one puts clothes on. It’s this weird local custom we have here on Earth, maybe you’ve heard of it?”
“I thought you were going to lie down for a while.”
Jack gave a pointed look to the beside clock. “It’s the middle of the day.”
“You were awake for a while last night in the infirmary, talking with me. And you still need to rest.”
This could work, if he played it right. “Tell you what. Why don’t we both lie down for a while?”
Daniel drew his eyebrows together and pursed his lips. “Your command of psychology is truly stunning, Jack.”
Jack spread his hands, offering a tight lipped smile. “Transparent, I know. But if you want me to lie down, that’s the deal.”
“Why do you have to do that?” Daniel asked, folding his arms. “Is it so hard to let me take care of you?”
Jack paused, swallowing his immediate smartass response. He’d been hoping Daniel would grumble and mutter and do exactly what he wanted, winding up in bed with him and getting some much needed rest. This was a sudden deviation from his plan that he hadn’t counted on. “No...” he said slowly. “It’s not hard. I like it, actually. You’re pretty handy to have around when I want someone to bring me a beer.” He smiled. Daniel did not. Apparently he should have swallowed his second smartass response, too.
“Jack...” Daniel shook his head, looking away. “I wish you’d... just let me do this, alright? I need to do this.”
“What do you need to do?” Jack asked quietly, dropping the joking tone.
Daniel shrugged. “I don’t know. Fix things. Make you... better, I guess.”
“Hey.” Jack stepped close, slipping his arms loosely around Daniel’s waist. He let their chests press together, and after a moment, Daniel sighed and leaned on him, resting his cheek on Jack’s shoulder. “Don’t need to fix me,” Jack murmured. “I’m not broken, remember?”
Jack didn’t have an answer for that. He could tell Daniel that he’d done his best back on that planet, he’d kept Jack alive as long as he could, but the bottom line was he’d died, and Daniel hadn’t been able to stop it happening. Nothing was going to change that. The task had been impossible--nobody could have saved him, but that didn’t stop Daniel from seeing it as a failure.
“Okay,” Jack said. “I’ll lay down.”
Daniel relaxed noticeably in his arms, and he nodded, his chin rubbing Jack’s shirt. “Thank you.”
“I’d like it if you joined me.”
Daniel pulled back far enough to frown at him. “If you’re going to give me another ultimatum--”
“Nah,” Jack said quickly. “Just a request.” He gave Daniel a crooked little smile and a quick kiss. “We basically just had sex in the shower, right?” Another kiss, smiling against Daniel’s mouth. “What ever happened to cuddling?”
Daniel’s eyebrows got very high. “Did I just hear Colonel Jack O’Neill say the word ‘cuddling?’”
“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone.”
And that, finally, got a smile out of him. “Fine, we’ll cuddle. But I’m not sleeping.”
“Of course,” Jack said. He stuffed the jeans back in the dresser and shrugged his robe off. He was aware of Daniel watching his ass on the way to bed, and he smiled to himself. Maybe Daniel would be bouncing back a little faster than he’d thought. “You joining me?” he asked, holding the covers up.
Daniel dropped the towel from around his waist, and Jack’s eyes automatically dropped downward for a moment. Daniel laughed softly. “Dirty old man.”
“Eh, you love me anyway,” Jack said as Daniel slid into bed beside him.
“Hmm.” Daniel rolled over and hooked one leg between Jack’s, burrowing in until his breath tickled Jack’s neck. “Yeah, I do.”
Jack grinned, wriggled a little until he was completely comfortable, and closed his eyes. “Me too,” he said. He felt Daniel’s lips curl into a smile against his skin.
Jack surprised himself sleeping heavily for about three hours. He’d gotten into bed mostly to please Daniel, and assumed he’d have a quick catnap or not sleep at all. He hadn’t thought he was tired. Maybe Daniel had a point with the resting thing. He’d been dead for at least two days, after all. Something like that was bound to take it out of a guy, and a sarcophagus could only do so much. Of course, the long hot shower and the recent orgasm had probably helped.
He woke to find Daniel plastered to his side, a position he often took after a particularly hairy mission. He’d wriggled downward, all but buried under the blankets, only a few tufts of hair visible. His arms were wrapped around Jack’s ribs and his cheek was leaving whisker burn just under Jack’s collarbone.
Getting out of bed without waking Daniel required the careful substitution of a pillow for him to squeeze, and the inch by inch extrication of his own body from Daniel’s grasp. Half the time, if Jack woke first and Daniel was holding on like that, he’d just lie in bed and let his mind drift rather than make the effort of getting away. Daniel was pleasantly heavy and solid, and Jack liked the way the weight felt on his chest, making him lift Daniel a little with every breath.
Normally he’d be perfectly happy to lie there and let Daniel sleep undisturbed, but he really had to pee. So he made the switch with the pillow, careful not to lift the covers off Daniel and expose his skin to the cooler air of the bedroom, which was a sure way to wake him up. Daniel mumbled a little and curled around the pillow, kneading it with his fingers, but his eyes stayed firmly shut and he was still again by the time Jack got out of the bathroom.
He watched Daniel sleep for a few minutes, pleased to see the worry lines smoothed out, his body limp and sprawling. He adjusted the curtain so the afternoon sun wouldn’t fall on Daniel’s face, pulled on the pair of jeans he’d chosen earlier, then went downstairs in search of some real food. Fraiser still wanted him to take it easy with meals, pointing out that he hadn’t eaten normally in over a week. Broth and jello apparently didn’t count, and the toast he’d had for breakfast was only supposed to be a starting point. She’d been adamant about avoiding anything overly spicy, greasy, or heavy.
Jack poked around in the fridge, grimaced at the milk, and found some hot dog buns that weren’t too stale. Hot dogs were easy to slap together, thanks to his favorite kitchen appliance, the microwave. He supposed that technically, they were a little greasy, but he was only having two and only with a little mustard, no onions or chili, and that seemed like close enough to following the rules. Fraiser most likely expected him to bend those rules anyway, and weighted them on the conservative side accordingly.
He ate standing by the counter, and thought about the time Carter had tried to explain exactly how a microwave worked to him. He’d gotten most of the lesson, but it had been fun to stare at her blankly and watch her try to find simpler ways to put things. He wasn’t sure whether to be pleased with her earnest efforts, or bothered that she really believed he was that dense.
Jack rinsed his plate and wandered back into the bathroom to brush his teeth. It had been over a week for that as well, and it was a relief to get rid of the scummy feeling in his mouth. Then he went to the living room and flopped down on the couch. His TiVo, which had to be the best invention known to man, had faithfully recorded The Simpsons, a hockey game, and a couple National Geographic specials for him. He turned the sound down so Daniel wouldn’t be disturbed and settled in. He had three days off to rest and recuperate, and for once, he was going to do exactly that.
Daniel came out about an hour later and stood at the end of the couch, looking at him. Jack paused his show and nodded to Daniel. “Hey. Sleep well?”
“You got out of bed.”
“Yeah...” Jack said, twirling his fingers. “And?”
Daniel shook his head slightly, looking away. “Nothing. I was just... surprised when you weren’t there.”
Jack looked him up and down carefully. He’d put sweat pants on, but his exposed skin was glistening in the light, damp with sweat. The worry lines were back around his eyes, and he hadn’t moved from his place at the end of the couch, shifting from one foot to the other and avoiding Jack’s gaze.
“Have a seat,” Jack said, patting the cushion beside him.
Daniel nodded and sat carefully, staring straight ahead. Jack rested an arm around his shoulders, and Daniel’s eyes closed for a moment. He swallowed, then turned, pulling Jack close and steering his head down to rest on Daniel’s shoulder. Jack felt fingers running through his hair in steady, rapid movements, and he wondered if he’d just become Daniel’s personal worry stone.
“Bad dream?” Jack guessed.
Daniel nodded, pressing a quick, dry kiss to Jack’s forehead. His hands were stroking Jack all over, testing the texture of his skin, absent, constant motion. Jack caught his wrists, then laced their fingers together, stilling Daniel’s compulsive movements. Then he let go, and Daniel ran his hands over him again, but more slowly. Jack relaxed into the long, firm caresses. He could get used to this.
After he was satisfied Jack was healthy and intact, Daniel sighed and pulled back a little, allowing Jack to lift his head and look him in the eyes. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I’m just...”
Daniel nodded. “Something like that.”
Jack kissed him with light, teasing pressure until he felt Daniel smile against his mouth. “I’m fine,” he said.
“I know.” Daniel’s reply was fast, automatic. He sought out Jack’s hand and began stretching his fingers again, rubbing his palm. He gently pressed each fingertip, watching the nail turn momentarily white, then pink again. “They pulled your nails. One of the first things they did.”
Jack grimaced. “Ouch.” He’d had that done before when he was awake to appreciate the experience, and it hurt like hell. Which, he supposed, was the whole point.
“Funny that the sarcophagus would grow them back this way. So neat. They look manicured.” Daniel tilted his hand back and forth, then brought it to his face and rubbed the knuckles along his cheek. Jack had seen that gesture so many times since he’d woken in the infirmary that he was beginning to think Daniel had some kind of fixation with his hands. Maybe because that’s where the Jaffa had started. Maybe there was something about his hands being whole meaning the rest of him was whole and healthy as well. Or maybe he was over analyzing and Daniel just liked his hands.
Jack gave a little chuckle and Daniel looked up. “What?” he asked.
“I’m actually thinking too hard. Never thought I’d see the day.”
Daniel’s brows drew together in confusion, but he apparently decided not to ask. Instead he kissed Jack’s palm, and stroked the back of his hand over his cheek again. “Feels the same to me,” he said. “You didn’t get any nerve damage, did you? Does it still work for you?”
Jack smiled slowly. “Oh, it works for me just fine.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help a brief flash of grin. “You know what I mean.”
“There’s no nerve damage, trust me. I think I would have noticed any numb spots when we were in the shower. As I recall, you did some extensive responsiveness testing.”
“That’s good,” Daniel said seriously, either missing or choosing to ignore his innuendo. Probably the second one, Jack thought. Daniel could be single-minded that way, which was sometimes a very good thing. Jack had certainly appreciated his focus in the shower.
There was a stretch of quiet while Jack wondered if Daniel had finished talking, and Daniel made interesting patterns on his bare chest with his fingertips. He seemed fascinated by the line of Jack’s sternum, and the little hook shaped scar on his shoulder, a souvenir of a long ago shrapnel wound. Jack was kind of pleased that he’d kept all his scars. He’d earned them, after all.
“So...” Jack said after a while.
“Did you eat?” Daniel glanced at him to ask the question, and then went back to closely examining his chest. Jack could feel breath warming his skin.
“Yeah. Um, Daniel, are you headed somewhere with this? Because if you are, maybe we could take it somewhere else. I’d prefer to not wind up steam cleaning the couch again.”
Daniel blinked as if Jack had just said something totally nonsensical. “What did you have? Did you feel sick at all?”
Jack sighed. “Hot dogs. And I felt fine.”
“Hot dogs aren’t very healthy.”
“Right. Sorry.” Daniel reached for Jack’s hand again, but pulled back, ducking his head. “I don’t mean to be so... clingy.”
Jack cupped the back of his neck with his hand, smiling when Daniel immediately turned and kissed the inside of his wrist. “No problem. Kinda fun, actually.”
“Hmm.” Daniel gave him a sheepish look. “Seems like it’d be annoying.”
“Nah. Do you get annoyed when I give you a little extra attention after an injury?”
“A little extra attention? Jack, you hover like a mother bear.”
Jack affected an insulted expression. “I think I hover more like a Blackhawk helicopter.”
“Yes, because that’s much better,” Daniel said, chuckling. “And no, I don’t mind. Mostly. I understand why you do it.”
“You do now.”
“I’ve never died in front of you,” Daniel replied a little defensively. “Since we’ve been together, anyway.”
“You’ve come close. You’ve risked it.”
Daniel frowned and leaned back. “You know I only take risks if I really believe it’s worth it. And I know we’ve had this argument before. Why are you bringing it up now?”
“I’m not...” Jack sighed, shaking his head. “Look, I don’t want to start a fight. I guess I’m just saying I get it. I’ve been there. So if you want to hover, it’s fine with me.”
“Oh.” Daniel stared at him for a moment, then smiled, leaning close again. “Sorry. Touchy subject, I guess. So you don’t mind if I’m just a bit obsessed with you for a while?”
“It’s nice to come out ahead of your artifacts for once.”
Daniel snorted and settled more comfortably against his side. “You may rethink that when I can’t keep my hands off your skin for any length of time.”
Jack grinned and thought of long showers. “Not exactly a downside.”
Daniel smiled, kissed his shoulder, and picked his hand up again.
January 19 – 25, 2005
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