Actions Speak Louder
There's nothing I can say, nothing I can do. As Sam efficiently bandages Daniel's wounds, keeping up a comforting stream of quiet dialogue all the while, I lie here on the makeshift stretcher Teal'c fashioned for me earlier this afternoon and watch the events going on around me through frustrated eyes.
This shouldn't be happening; it shouldn't be like this. I should have been up and mobile during the time when Daniel got hurt, should have been doing my damned job so that my best friend wouldn't be sitting there now with blood streaming down his chest from half a dozen lacerations. If I had been on my feet, had been on point and protecting my team like I'm supposed to...
Dammit, I need to MOVE, to get the hell up off this stretcher and go check on Daniel's condition; but all I can do is lie here like a giant, inanimate block of wood, my vocal chords straining to emit even the barest semblance of a coherent word--maybe a curse or plea or something in between. Daniel seems to be okay; he's a little pale but sitting up fine on his own and talking to Sam in low tones, his voice calm as he inspects Sam's handiwork with approving eyes. But even with this evidence of my own eyes telling me he's not badly injured, I need to hear it from the man himself, need to look directly into his guileless blue gaze and assure myself he's not gonna keel over halfway to the 'gate due to blood loss or internal injuries.
"He is fine, O'Neill." Teal'c's soothing rumble sounds above me,and I manage--with herculean effort--to swivel my eyeballs just enough to take in the Jaffa's solidly muscled form looming over my right shoulder. I try again to form words, to voice my worry and anger and severe displeasure at the state of this mission; but all that gets past my frozen lips is an unintelligible grunt.
"Major Carter and I have ascertained that there should be enough moonlight to make it safely back to the stargate if we choose to keep moving, rather than making camp here for the night. Barring any further...encounters...with the native population, we should have both Daniel Jackson and yourself in Dr. Fraiser's capable hands sometime within the next three hours."
Teal'c's expression is a bit difficult to read in the fading light of evening, especially since his dark face is cast in the shadows of twilight falling around us; but the expression in his watchful eyes is one of quiet confidence,and I wish I could draw forth the energy to let him know how much that means to me right now. But all I can do is speak with my eyes, try to send both a message of thanks and agreement as well as a question...
"Daniel Jackson will soon be able to tell you for himself that he is fine." Teal'c's tone is a mix of patience and mild rebuke as he correctly reads the nagging anxiety still alive in my eyes; and since my shoulders are currently refusing to cooperate, I send him the visual equivalent of an apologetic shrug by managing to lift one eyelid the barest fraction.
"It's been almost three hours since you got hit by that blow dart, Colonel; we can't be sure how long this paralysis will last, but hopefully it will start wearing off by the time we get back to the base." Carter has come up unannounced while my gaze was fixed on Teal'c,and now she leans over me from my other side and gives me a reassuring smile. "And Daniel really is okay, sir. Luckily the old guy who swiped at him with that knife WAS old; he wasn't strong enough or agile enough to really do Daniel any serious damage. Just some admittedly nasty-looking but thankfully superficial scratches. I don't even think he'll need stitches."
Can't Daniel tell me these things HIMSELF? I want to snap; but Sam always enjoys delivering good news, and who is Daniel to deprive her of some small smidgeon of pleasure on this stupid screw-up of a mission? Still, even as my eyes attempt to telegraph acceptance of Carter's report, I groan inwardly with the frustration of being unable to turn my head and peer around her to the man still sitting over on that big rock some five feet away, his head lowered slightly as he concentrates on buttoning his shirt over the layers of white bandages hidden beneath it.
Get your ass over here, Jackson, I want to growl at him; let me see just how fit you are to finish the journey back to the stargate, how well you'll be able to manuever in the dark with those slashes burning and trickling blood with every mile...I want to bark orders at Sam and Teal'c, want to be sure they know Daniel is NOT to have a turn carrying my damned stretcher. I know they won't let him, I know that they know their business every bit as much as I know mine; and God knows we've been through crap like this enough damned times to have the routine down pat. But I won't rest fully, won't feel completely satisfied, till I see all four of us safely on the other side of the 'gate and Janet telling Daniel he's fine. I just hope and pray this damned paralyzing drug the not-so-friendly natives here shot into me IS temporary; the thought of spending the rest of my life collecting dust in some bed somewhere is not a happy one to dwell on for the remaining miles back to the base.
"Okay, people," Daniel murmurs, rising suddenly to his feet and coming over to join the party; his eyes are weary but blessedly alert behind the smudged lenses of his glasses, and as he rolls his sleeves down and absently buttons the cuffs, his gaze goes from Sam to Teal'c with quietly sardonic humor.
"Since Jack seems temporarily--and might I add, UNCHARACTERISTICALLY--at a loss for words, I guess I get to do the honors of speaking on his behalf." Hiding a small grimace of discomfort, Daniel crouches on his haunches next to me and stretches out a long,slender finger to touch my cheek.
"Mind if I translate, Jack?" he asks, his tone one of good-humored teasing with a strangely gentle expression behind it. It's a look that I swear is meant for me alone; and as I do my best to inject a baleful expression of displeasure into my eyes at my involuntary silence, he gives me a quiet half smile and slides his finger lightly across my mute mouth, as if reminding me that THIS time he will have the last word.
"I believe, guys, that if Jack could speak right now, he would say something along the lines of 'For crying out loud, why are we all just sitting--er, or LYING, as the case may be--around when there are crazed natives with knives and blow guns somewhere behind us and a full moon rising and the 'gate only four miles or so ahead?"
"That does sound like something O'Neill might say," Teal'c agrees, one brow lifting in quiet consideration; and as Sam sends me a half-amused, half-apologetic grin, Daniel taps my chin to regain my attention and continues thoughtfully.
"And in line with that thread of thought, I believe Jack would also like for me to make the point he is unable to make himself at this juncture...namely, a little less conversation and a little more action. Does that sound right to you, Jack, is that what you'd say now if you could?" Daniel's eyes are steady on mine, the seemingly nonchalant tone of his words belied by the light of quiet concern seeping out from under his cavalier statement. Briefly, very briefly, he sends me the familiar secret code he and I have always shared during times of crisis--the mute but perfectly understood exchange that goes something like this: Are you REALLY okay--Yes,dammit,I'm fine--But you always say that--Cause I really AM fine,dammit--Are you sure YOU'RE fine--Are you sure YOU are--Are we really gonna be okay?--Yes. Yes, Jack, you will be okay; yes, Daniel, you will be okay. We won't let it be any other way; we're going back through the damned 'gate and things will start working again on this damned frozen body of mine, and once my MOUTH is mobile again, Daniel is gonna get one hell of a reaming out for taking such stupid chances,standing over me like a mother lion and defending me the way he did when I fell and couldn't move anymore...
"Ah-ah-ah," Daniel chides now, his subtly amused blue gaze telling me he knows just what I'm thinking. "A little less conversation, Jack; time to move, now."
"Intriguing, is it not, how even without the use of his vocal chords, O'Neill yet manages to speak most eloquently," Teal'c adds, his dark eyes glinting as he begins adjusting my inert body on the stretcher to be sure I won't roll off once he and Carter lift it from the ground.
"Well, some people do have very expressive eyes, Teal'c," Sam offers as she presses a quick hand against my neck to test my pulse rate. Her wide blue eyes are suspiciously innocent as she adds casually: "I just never knew eyes could express four-letter words so clearly. Really, Colonel, your mom should wash your mouth out with soap for that last one. I'm shocked, just shocked."
Another groan escapes me, this one promising an untold wealth of payback time ahead; and as Carter and the others move off to ready the packs and equipment for the remainder of our journey home, I let my eyes fasten onto the darkening sky overhead and find a strange comfort in the banter that my team mates pass back and forth in between well-practiced murmurs of instructions and reminders concerning breaking camp. I realize--in fact, I can clearly see--that behind their seeming unconcern for my condition lies a very real concern, a very real determination to get both Daniel and me back home as quickly and as safely as possible; and as I suddenly feel the slightest ghost of a tingle of sensation in my left pinkie finger, I allow my eyes to slide closed as a sensation of relief and peace slides over me. Without saying a word, I just shared a complete conversation with the three friends I care most about in this universe; and as they gear up for action and bring us all home, I know that everything really will be all right.