THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR
FEEDBACK TO: Annie
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG:1 and its characters are the property of Gekko Productions et al. No money has been made from this story (or is likely to be). No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you to Lyn for the beta and helpful suggestions as always and for luring me into the wonderful world of fanfic.
No spoilers. No warnings.
For David, who epitomised friendship and loyalty (07/08/2003)
Colonel Jack O'Neill pushed his way through the people milling about the gate ramp. He stopped briefly and waited while the injured member of SG:5 was loaded onto the gurney in front of him.
"How you doing, Ben?" he asked, placing his hand carefully on the man's arm.
"I'll be okay, sir. It's just a broken leg," Ben Travers smiled weakly back at him, a grimace of pain twisting his face as the medics strapped him in.
"Yeah, sure you will be. Take it easy, okay?" Jack replied, moving aside to let Travers' commanding officer through.
"I'm gonna go with Travers to the infirmary, Colonel O'Neill," Stewart said shortly. "Debrief in say one hour, if that's okay with you, sir?" He speared a glance in the direction of Daniel Jackson, then turned back to Jack. "I want to find out exactly how this happened."
"Yeah, Stewart, we all do. See you in an hour." Jack turned to look to where Daniel had been standing but the archeologist was no longer there.
"Colonel, what the hell happened?" General Hammond asked tersely.
"Not sure yet, sir." O'Neill shrugged. "We were in the caverns, Daniel saw something with glyphs on it and was trying to translate them. Travers was standing next to him. I don't know, someone... " Here he paused, not willing just yet to put Daniel on the spot for what had happened, "maybe one of them touched something, next thing we knew the whole place was coming down around our ears. We all made it out okay but Travers stayed behind to push Daniel out and got his leg crushed under a rock fall. That's all I can tell you, right now, sir, until the debrief. Stewart is going to meet us in the briefing room at 1430."
"Alright, Colonel. Where is Dr. Jackson, by the way?"
Carter spoke up from behind O'Neill. "He's gone to the infirmary to get checked out, sir. I've informed him of the time of the debriefing."
Jack headed out of the gate room and up the stairs. He thought about grabbing a quick shower, but realized he was too tired. He'd get the meeting over with first. He slumped down at the large table and put his head in his hands.
"O'Neill, Dr. Frasier has asked me to remind you to come to the infirmary for your medical examination."
"Yeah, after the debrief, Teal'c. I just need to sit down for a while," Jack replied, not bothering to look up.
"I am sorry, O'Neill. She requests that you go immediately. Her exact words were, 'The Colonel knows the regs. Tell him to get his butt down here or I will come and stretcher him down to the infirmary.' " Jack glanced up at that. The expression on Teal'c's face may have displayed some amusement but it was hard to tell beyond the implacable Jaffa countenance.
"Oh, for crying out loud, the woman's on a power trip. Alright, I'm going." Jack threw his hands up in resignation. "Tell the General I might be a bit late," he said as he left the room.
"I shall do so, O'Neill," Teal'c responded gravely.
By the time Jack had gone through the poking and prodding that followed any return through the stargate and made his way tiredly up the stairs again to the briefing room, both SG teams were assembled. Jack took a seat across from Daniel, looking the archeologist over appraisingly. He was a bit pale and had a bruise on his cheek but appeared otherwise unscathed.
"You okay, Daniel?" Carter asked.
"Yes, I'm fine, Sam, thanks to Travers."
Janet Frasier looked up at that. "Sergeant Travers is going to be just fine, Dr. Jackson. He'll be in a cast and off duty for about 8 weeks, but he was lucky not to be injured more seriously than he was." She smiled reassuringly at Daniel.
"No thanks to you, Jackson," Stewart said accusingly. "What is it with you science geeks? Hasn't anyone ever told you not to touch things until they've been completely checked out?"
"That'll be enough, Captain Stewart," Hammond interjected. "Let's wait until we know the full story before we start laying blame. Dr. Jackson, as you and Sergeant Travers were the ones closest to the incident, why don't you tell us what you think happened?"
Daniel took a deep breath and looked down at the table, a finger tracing a line over the polished surface. Finally, he lifted his head and wrapped both arms around his chest, looking for all the world, Samantha Carter thought sympathetically, like a small boy about to be punished for some infraction.
"I don't really know for sure, General. I was trying to translate the glyphs we'd found. I was particularly interested in them because they mentioned Apophis *and* Hathor, which is a rather unusual combination of Goa'uld names to find... " His voice trailed off, obviously understanding that nobody was interested in hearing his theories on this particular riddle right now. He cleared his throat and began again." So anyway, Ben, I mean, Sergeant Travers was standing on my left watching me. He's professed an interest in learning about archeology... He was watching, taking down notes for me. There was a flash of light from somewhere. The next thing I knew the roof was caving in. Ben pushed me ahead of him and when I turned to see if he was okay, I saw he'd been trapped under a rock fall."
"Had you touched anything, pressed anything before this happened?" Hammond asked.
"No, sir. Not that I'm aware of, anyway. The glyphs were remarkably clear. I didn't even need to trace them with my fingers because they were so plain," Daniel answered in a defensive tone.
"Okay, son. Nobody's trying to lay blame on anyone in particular at this stage. Colonel O'Neill, is it possible this was some sort of Goa'uld booby trap?" the General queried, turning to his 2IC.
"Probably, sir. It wouldn't be the first time we've stumbled across one."
Stewart interrupted, a growl in his voice making his words sound menacingly accusing. "Jackson, you gonna sit there and let Travers take the blame for this after he saved your life. The man's been in the military for ten years. He knows not to touch anything until it's checked out properly. Everyone around here knows *your* track record for getting your own team in trouble because you don't know when to keep your hands in your pockets!"
There was a dissenting chorus of voices from Carter, Frasier and even Teal'c at this.
Daniel stared down at the table again, hearing his friends defending him. He glanced up sharply as he realized the one voice that hadn't spoken up in his defense had been his team leader's. O'Neill met his eyes briefly, then just as quickly looked away as General Hammond called them all to order.
"That's enough, people. Let's just settle down. I've had P5X493 taken off the dialing program for now. When Dr. Frasier thinks he is up to it, I'll get a report from Sergeant Travers." He stopped and sent a brief sympathetic smile in Daniel's direction. "In the meantime, I don't want any accusations flying around the base about anybody. Is that clear, Captain?" he asked, flashing a warning look at Stewart, who simply nodded sullenly. "Good. Doctor Frasier, if these people are cleared medically I think it would be a good idea for them all to take a couple of days of down time. What do you think?"
"They're all fine physically, General. I think two days down time would be a very good idea," the doctor answered.
"Okay, then, people. I'll see you back on deck 0900 Thursday. Dismissed."
Carter stood up and walked behind Daniel's chair as she left the room, briefly placing a hand on his shoulder in a sympathetic gesture. He smiled hesitantly at her and then raised a hand in response to Frasier and Teal'c as they said their goodbyes.
Jack stood up and looked hard at Daniel before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
Daniel sighed as he was left alone. He had tried to sort out exactly what had occurred but it had happened so quickly... the flash of light, the roar of falling rock and the sudden flare of pain as a ricocheting stone hit him in the face. Then he'd felt Ben's hand in the small of his back, the choking smell of the dust kicked up by the sudden collapse and the feeling of horror as he'd turned back to see Travers, white-faced, his leg pinned by a huge boulder. He had watched as Teal'c and some of the others had managed to shift the rock enough so O'Neill could get his arms under Travers and pull him free. Daniel shuddered, remembering the injured man's scream of agony as his leg finally came loose of the terrible weight and they saw the blood pouring from the wound. He was sure he hadn't touched any part of the wall the glyphs were on. Maybe he had stood on something - a trigger pad of some sort? He scrubbed a hand through his hair, which was still full of dust and debris. He needed a shower and sleep. He stood and headed for the shower rooms, relieved to find them empty when he entered.
As he dried himself off afterwards, he analyzed Jack's reaction to Stewart's accusation in the briefing room, or at least his lack of reaction. Sure, he and Jack had had their differences of opinion but over the 3 or 4 years they'd known each other they'd gradually come to respect each other for their own particular skills and strengths. He'd thought that was the case, anyway. He decided that the only reason Jack wouldn't have come to his defense was if he believed that Daniel really was at fault.
Daniel dressed quickly and headed up to his car. It was cold and raining outside. He couldn't wait to get home and fall into bed, lose himself in the oblivion of sleep and pretend this day had never happened for just a while.
Approaching his car he cursed aloud as he noticed he'd left the headlights on when he'd arrived at the mountain the day before. He tried starting the car anyway, but it was obvious the battery was dead. Damn, now he'd have to go find someone to give him a lift home. He looked around the lot and seeing no one else in the vicinity turned and began trudging wearily back to the security gate. He stepped back quickly and stopped as he caught sight of a vehicle heading towards him, then recognizing Jack's truck began walking again. Judging by Jack's attitude since they'd come back, he was pretty sure O'Neill wouldn't be too keen on driving him home.
"What's up, Daniel?" O'Neill called through the open window, as he slowed his vehicle to keep pace with the archeologist. "Aren't you going home?"
"Battery's flat. I left the lights on. I'm just going to try to get someone to give me a ride. I'll see you in a couple of days." Daniel kept his voice calm as he raised his hand in a wave and continued walking.
"Oh." Jack continued to keep pace with him, then brought the truck to a stop. "Daniel, get in. I'll take you home."
"No, that's fine, Jack, really. I can get one of the base drivers..."
"Daniel, don't be so darn stubborn. Just get in the truck. Hurry up, will ya? I want to get home. "City On The Edge Of Forever" is on Star Trek tonight and I forgot to set the VCR."
Daniel wavered for a moment then abruptly making up his mind, hurried to the passenger door and climbed in. "What version of Star Trek are we talking about here?" he asked, endeavoring to keep his tone light-hearted, as he fastened his seatbelt.
"What do you mean, which one? The original series, of course," Jack retorted as he turned out of the parking lot and onto the highway.
"Of course," Daniel responded absently. "Look, Jack, about what happened today..." he began hesitantly.
"Yeah, Daniel, I've been meaning to ask you since we got back, are you okay?" Jack asked quickly. "Guess you must be or ol' Doc Frasier would have kept you in the infirmary for the entire two days of your down time, right? I swear, Janet's got a thing for you, Danny boy. You can almost see the gleam in her eyes when she knows you've been hurt on a mission."
"Right, Jack. Very funny. That's not exactly what I meant. I was talking about the debrief when Stewart pretty much accused me of causing Ben's injury and you didn't say a word," Daniel responded. He could hear the whiney tone in his voice and wished he'd just kept quiet. He hated sounding self-pitying but that's exactly the way his words had sounded even to his own ears.
"Look, Daniel, don't take it personally, all right? I mean, until we find out how the cave in happened I just thought I should keep my options open, that's all," Jack remarked glibly.
"Keep your options open? What the hell is that supposed to mean? We've been on the same team for close to four years now and you're saying you don't trust me enough to know that I wouldn't have done any thing so stupid as to touch something that hadn't been checked out first?" Daniel's voice was indignant now.
Jack sighed, switching on the windscreen wipers. The rain was falling in great sheets across the road, obscuring all but the first few feet of road in front of them. "Wouldn't be the first time, Daniel," he said finally.
"For God's sake, Jack, are you going to bring up every time I made a mistake since I came back from Abydos and joined the SGC? I suppose you or Carter or Teal'c never had any lapses in judgement in that time?" Daniel said hotly.
"This isn't about me or Carter or Teal'c. It's about you, Daniel. But yes, we've all made mistakes. It's just that sometimes, it seems to me you seem to have more than your share of lapses in judgement. Shit, Daniel, you'd be pissed off if this had been Travers' fault and Carter or one of us had been hurt." Jack turned to glare at Daniel, then turned back to the road hurriedly as a truck flashed its headlights and pulled out to overtake them.
"So, you do think it was something I did," Daniel said accusingly as he turned away to stare out of the window. "Jesus, Jack, watch out. He's too close!" he shouted, swinging back to Jack.
"Christ," Jack swore, pulling at the wheel as the truck loomed in his side view mirror. "Idiot! What the hell is he trying to do? Hang on, Daniel!" He swung his vehicle over to the right as far as possible, feeling the tires slipping in the loose mud and gravel of the shoulder, then a jolt as the back of the truck made contact with his. There was a brief moment of dizzying incomprehension as it seemed as if the whole world had tilted on its axis and then they were falling, spinning over and over, slamming around the inside of the truck like crash dummies. Jack felt an enormous thump on the side of his head and then he tumbled into blackness.
It was pain that woke him. He could feel a crushing weight on his legs and he struggled, panic stricken, trying to pull them free. The movement sent flares of white-hot agony through his body, and he groaned.
"Jack, don't move. Try to stay still."
"Daniel? God, are you all right?" Jack turned his head, then clenched his eyes shut as the dashboard light was switched on, causing pain to flare in his head.
"At least something still works," Daniel muttered.
Jack opened his eyes again warily, feeling the headache receding a little as his eyes became accustomed to the light. He blinked, trying to clear his vision and succeeded in finally focusing on the archeologist's face.
The left side of Daniel's face was covered in blood from a gash somewhere near his temple. He held a wad of tissues to the cut, wincing as he pressed hard on it.
"Danny? You hurt bad?" Jack husked out.
"Not as bad as you," Daniel replied grimly. He pulled the tissues away from the wound, relieved to see that the bleeding was slowing. He had a massive headache, he'd lost his glasses and he felt as if every single bone in his body, right down to his toes, was bruised. He knew he had a concussion at the very least. He felt dizzy if he moved his head too quickly, but in comparison with Jack, he'd got off lightly.
"How bad?" Jack asked, reaching a hand toward Daniel's face.
"I told you, I'm okay. Cuts and bruises and a concussion probably. Just lay still and let me try to work out how I can get us out of here."
Jack's legs were pinned firmly under the collapsed dashboard of the truck. *Probably broken, too* Daniel thought. He could see blood staining the fabric of O'Neill's jeans. Jack had a bruise already forming on the side of his head just above his ear, and Daniel shuddered to think what other injuries his friend may have suffered that he couldn't see. There was no way for him to make room between the pinned legs and the dash to put pressure on the wounds. He could only hope the force that was holding Jack in place was also providing a pressure bandage of sorts, keeping blood loss to a minimum while, hopefully, not cutting off the blood supply completely.
Jack suddenly moaned, twisting his head from side to side, sweat beading on his forehead.
"Easy, Jack. I'll get us both out of here somehow, okay. Try not to move." Daniel's hand went out instinctively to stroke along Jack's arm and he felt his fingers grasped in a convulsive grip.
"Sorry," Jack muttered. "Spasm. It'll pass in a minute."
"It's all right, Jack. You don't have to apologize." Daniel's pulse suddenly thundered in his ears, robbing him of coherent thought. The inside of the truck swam in front of him and he tried in vain to choke back the bile that was clogging his throat. He turned, pushing the passenger door open, and leaned out, retching violently.
"Daniel?" O'Neill reached out a hand and snagged the back of Jackson's coat. "All right?" he asked worriedly.
Daniel spat out the remnants of his nausea and wiped his mouth roughly on the sleeve of his jacket. "I'm okay, Jack. Sorry. Must be the bang on the head."
"Rest, Daniel." Jack pulled Daniel back toward him with as much strength as he could muster, despite the pain that tore at him as he did so.
"I can't, Jack. I have to find a way to get help."
"Sorry... my fault." Jack's voice was becoming weaker, his head lolling on his chest.
"Stay with me, Jack, please," Daniel implored. "It wasn't your fault. It was a stupid accident, that's all." He took O'Neill's cold hand in his once more and desperately tried to rub some warmth into it.
"You sticking up for me, Danny? Didn't do that for you, did I?"
"It doesn't matter now, Jack. Just let me think for a minute." Damn, of course, his phone. Why hadn't he thought of it earlier. He patted his pockets and looked around the cab but could see no sign of it. It must have fallen out somewhere during their tumble down the hill. He searched Jack's pockets, relief flooding through him as he found O'Neill's phone in an inside jacket pocket. His euphoria quickly turned to despair when he realized he couldn't get a signal. He tucked it into his jeans pocket anyway. If he could get back above the hillside he might be able to call for help.
The rain was still coming down but Daniel thought it was less heavy now than when they'd gone off the road. He glanced at his watch. It was broken. He had no idea how long ago the accident had happened. He couldn't believe that the truck driver hadn't seen them go over the edge of the road and hoped forlornly that perhaps he'd gone for help. But it was dark now and he knew that they must have already been here for several hours. Jack probably wouldn't last the night in the cold if he waited to go for help until the morning.
He looked across at O'Neill and saw he'd passed out. That might be best for now, considering how much pain he had to be suffering. Daniel checked the pulse in Jack's throat. It was fast but relatively strong. He bent his mouth close to Jack's ear and whispered, "I'm going to go for help. I don't know if you can hear me or not, but if you can, hang in there, okay? Just hang on. I'll be back for you. Don't you dare quit on me. Nobody gets left behind, Jack, remember?" He shrugged himself out of his coat and placed it around Jack, tucking the sleeves as firmly as he could underneath. He knew he'd probably freeze his ass off without it but at least he'd be on the move, while Jack would be lying here unable to do anything to keep himself warm. O'Neill was already shocky, Daniel knew. The cold could easily kill him before help arrived.
He pushed himself from the truck, casting around to get his bearings. The combination of dizziness from the concussion and the loss of his glasses made it difficult for him to see clearly more than a few feet in front of him but he could see the hill stretching up at a reasonably easy gradient to the lip of the road above. They were about fifteen feet down the slope, he thought. The incline looked slippery and he figured he'd probably slide back a foot for every two he managed to climb, but he could see no other alternative. He glanced back at Jack's unconscious form once more, and then ignoring the rain soaking him through to the skin and the thudding pain at his temples, began to climb.
He'd been right about the climb. He dug his hands as deep into the mud as he could but could find no purchase for his feet and they slithered behind him. He had to use his abused stomach and shoulder muscles to drag his body up the hill. He slid back several feet more than once. Each time he did, he had to force himself to make a renewed effort to keep climbing. His head felt as if it weighed a ton, lights intermittently flashed at the edges of his vision and it would have been so easy to simply put his head down in the mud and sleep. But he kept doggedly crawling up the slope. Nausea roiled in his gut and he had to stop a couple of times to throw up. Every time that happened, he wanted to lay down and give up, until he forced a picture of Jack, trapped in his metal prison, into his mind, and his body automatically began the ascent again.
Daniel had no idea how long he climbed. Time became unimportant, one moment telescoping seamlessly into the next. By the time he reached for a handhold in the mud and found his hand touching asphalt instead, his whole body screamed for surcease from the pain. Feeling the roadway beneath his scrabbling fingertips, he gave a convulsive gasp and heaved himself onto the tarmac. He lay still for minutes, panting from the exertion. Flopping over onto his back he hazily watched the rain continuing to drift down until the lack of movement began to chill him and he forced himself upright. He pulled the phone from his pants pocket, hoping desperately that it hadn't been damaged during one of his many slips. His heart lurched as the face lit up and he punched in the numbers for the SGC, finding himself almost incoherent with relief as he heard someone answer. He gave the details of their location as well as he could and then let himself fall back to the blacktop again. His eyes drifted shut and he finally allowed himself to give in to unconsciousness, no longer feeling the rain soaking through his already drenched clothes or the pain from his injuries.
He was warm and lying on something soft. Daniel pushed his heavy eyelids open, wincing at the light above his head. He stretched experimentally, then grunted as the damaged parts of his body made themselves known with a vengeance.
"Take it slowly, Daniel."
He recognized Janet's voice and turned towards her.
"Ssh. Colonel O'Neill's going to be okay," she said as if reading his mind. "He's got a couple of nasty breaks in his legs and a hairline fracture of the skull, but he was lucky you were there to get help for him as quickly as you did. You've got a concussion, a few stitches in that stubborn head of yours and an incipient case of pneumonia from exposure. So you just rest until I give you the word, okay, Doctor Jackson?"
"Can I see Jack?" he asked huskily, surprised at the soreness in his throat and chest.
"He's still out from the anesthetic, and you need a lot more sleep, Daniel." She injected something into the IV in his hand and brushed his hair back from his forehead. "Rest for a while. I promise you can see him just as soon as you're both up to it, okay?"
He nodded carefully, then was mortified to feel hot tears leak from his eyes and trail down his cheeks. He turned his head into the pillow, biting back a sob of relief.
"It's alright, Daniel. You've had a rough time. Go to sleep now." Janet stayed until she was sure he was asleep, then she went to the waiting area and called to Teal'c.
"He's sleeping now, Teal'c, but I think it would be good for him to wake up and see a friend at his side."
The Jaffa inclined his head gently. "I shall sit with DanielJackson as long as he needs me," he assured the doctor.
"Thank you, Teal'c. I'll be in my office if he needs anything."
"Hey, Jack, how are you?" Daniel asked as Teal'c pushed his wheelchair into O'Neill's cubicle. Jack looked pale and there were dark circles under his eyes. Both legs were encased in plaster, one to the knee, the other to the thigh. An IV was still connected to a vein in his wrist. Teal'c maneuvered the chair next to Jack's bed, then left them alone.
"I'm okay, Daniel. What about you? The doc tells me you got a dose of pneumonia from climbing up that hill in the rain."
"Yeah, apparently, but I'm fine, now. See, not even an IV." Daniel raised his arm and waggled it at Jack.
Jack eyed him critically. There was a newly sutured wound just above Daniel's hairline. The hair had been trimmed around it, making him look like a kid who'd been barbered by an older sibling with a pair of scissors.
"Had your hair cut?" Jack asked casually.
"Yeah. Why? What's wrong with it?" Daniel responded, trying unsuccessfully to keep a smile off his face.
"Oh, nothing. Just wondered." Jack's face broke into a huge grin at the repartee. He reached a hand out to pat Daniel's knee. "I'm glad you're okay, Daniel."
"Me too, Jack. That you are, I mean. Jack?"
"Daniel?" Jack said at the same time.
"You first," Daniel said.
"No, that's fine," Jack answered.
The silence stretched between them.
"Daniel, listen," Jack began, "I was wrong not to trust you, okay. You've been with us long enough to know not to touch anything unless you thought it was safe. It was a booby trap, pure and simple. The thing is, though, that no matter what I thought, I shouldn't have left you out there spinning in the wind while Stewart tried to pin everything on you."
"It's all right, Jack, really. I understand," Daniel said quietly.
"No, it's not all right and you don't understand," Jack said, rearing up on his pillows. "I heard you, you know." He kept his eyes firmly on Daniel's. "I heard you telling me to hang on. That no one gets left behind. Jesus, I'm sorry, Daniel. I left you behind that day, didn't I? Just assumed that you must have made a mistake."
"It's fine, Jack. It happens, you know?" Daniel murmured. "Maybe I did do something wrong, touch something without even thinking about it. I don't remember clearly."
"You're missing the point, Daniel. Maybe you did, maybe Travers did. Maybe it was just a Goa'uld trap that we walked straight into. But I should have at least supported you, backed you up. I immediately assumed the worst. Daniel, I'm sorry. It's just that every time something bad goes down, it always seems to be you in the thick of it. You always seem to cop the worst of it. I hate seeing any of my kids get hurt, Daniel. I'm supposed to watch out for you. When that cave-in happened, I looked behind me and all I knew was that you and Travers weren't out. I heard someone scream and I didn't know who it was. I felt guilty afterwards because I was glad it wasn't you."
Daniel looked down at Jack's hand still resting on his knee. "So, are we okay now, Jack?" he asked. "You know Travers has told General Hammond he can't remember touching anything and he didn't think I did either. I don't want to go back to feeling like I'm on trial every time I go out with SG:1, like I used to in the early days. I really need to know that you trust me."
"I do, Daniel. We'll work it out, okay? We have before. We can do it again, can't we?" Jack's voice sounded almost imploring.
"Yes, we can work it out, Jack. There's just one thing though."
"What's that?" Jack asked, as he flopped back to the pillow, exhausted.
"Next time you want to offer me a ride home... just don't, okay?" Daniel said, smiling. "I think I'd just as soon walk."
"Hey, you know what they say, Danny boy? That's what friends are for," Jack replied, his smile as wide as Daniel's.