IN FRIENDS WE TRUST

By

ANNIE

Epilogue to Children Of The Gods.

DISCLAIMER: The characters and storylines of Stargate: SG:1 do not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit has been made.

Betated by Lyn. Thanks, sis, for everything. I promise to get those pesky commas right one of these years <g>. and, thank goodness *you* remembered where the clock was! <LOL!>

 

"She's still out there, Jack," Daniel said, the anguish in his voice almost palpable.

"I know. So is Skaara." Jack stared at the stargate, wondering how long it would be before they would go through it again, hopefully next time to find Daniel's wife and her younger brother.

"What do we do?" Daniel asked, the tone still desolate.

"We find them," Jack said surely.

With one last look at the gate the new members of SG:1 turned as one and left the room.

Kowalski was a few steps behind them. Jack waited for him as the others headed off for the infirmary to be checked out before being allowed to shower and go home, or in Teal'c's case, be taken to a room on the base.

"You okay, Kowalski?" Jack asked as the major exited the embarkation room.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, Colonel. I'm just really beat, you know? Think I'll head down to get the medical check out of the way and look in on Feretti before I go home."

Jack eyed his friend. Kowalski did look exhausted, only to be expected under the circumstances. He had, after all, sat with Feretti all night in the infirmary before heading off to Chulak. O'Neill patted Kowalski on the back. "Get some rest, buddy," he said.

"Yes, sir. You too," Kowalski replied, flipping his commanding officer a sketchy salute as he walked away.

~oOo~

O'Neill went looking for the rest of his team when he'd finally finished with all the necessary medical protocol that went with returning through the gate. Although it was still early days, security procedures had been set up quickly to prevent the possibility of any team bringing a contaminant, or worse yet, a Goa'uld back to Earth.

Asking around, he discovered that Teal'c had gone to his new quarters to perform Kelnoreem. This was apparently a form of meditation the Jaffa needed to perform regularly in lieu of sleep. Jack figured there was a lot they still had to learn about what made their new alien teammate tick. He felt rather guilty that Teal'c had to remain on base but the big man had voiced no complaints and in fact, had been fascinated with the television and cable network system that had been installed in his quarters. It would help him become acquainted with his new home, he had told them, though Jack was a little unsure of the educational benefits of some of the programs currently available over the myriad stations the network provided.

Carter had apparently already gone home, saying she intended to sleep for a week. Jack was down with that.

Which left only Daniel. The desolation in the archeologist's voice as he spoke of losing his wife reverberated in Jack's mind. O'Neill had experienced that feeling himself when he'd lost his son and then his wife. He'd taken Daniel to his own home the first night they'd returned from Abydos and Jack hoped that he'd helped the young man just by doing that, and by listening as he'd talked about Sha're and their life together. Deciding that it would be better for Daniel to have company again tonight, the Colonel set out to find him.

When his search turned up no sign of the archeologist, Jack decided Daniel had found somewhere else to be and obviously preferred to be there alone. Shrugging to himself, O'Neill headed to his truck, his mind already thinking ahead to whether he had anything edible in his fridge or cupboards. If memory served him correctly, it would be a choice between noodles or rice, sans any sort of meat or vegetables, so he called into a drivethrough and picked up a burger and fries.

Thankfully, when he got home, there was still beer in the fridge and he grabbed one, popped the cap and drank it down, before sitting down in front of the TV to eat.

He flipped channels desultorily for a while, but anything he would have been interested in watching couldn't seem to hold his concentration tonight. Eventually he found himself staring at the flickering screen, empty beer bottle in hand and his mind filled with concern for Daniel.

For crying out loud! he told himself. The man had survived a year on Abydos without him, had even organized a militia, for God's sake! So why did Jack suddenly feel as if he hadn't tried hard enough to find Daniel before he left the base. He'd known Daniel would be hurting. Hell, Jack had thought his world had ended when he'd come back from Abydos the first time and found Sara had left him.

But at least she'd just left. Somewhere, Sara was living out her life, hopefully happier without Jack in it.

But Sha're! God! Jack could only imagine what horrors Daniel was undergoing just thinking about Sha're right now.

There were times since Jack and Sara had split up when Jack would be cooking dinner and suddenly find himself wondering what Sara was doing at that exact same moment, try to picture it in his head.

Daniel would have to fight against even thinking of that. The very thought of what Sha're was suffering at any moment had to be unbearable to contemplate.

Accepting the fact that Daniel had every right to want to take the time to process everything, to grieve in fact, in private, Jack gave up on the idea of another beer and on the idea of finding anything on television that would hold his interest tonight, and decided to hit the sack and track down his errant archeologist in the morning.

He shucked off his clothes and dropped into bed, falling into a deep, and thankfully, dreamless sleep.

~oOo~

The ringing brought him awake so suddenly that his hand slapped out automatically, seeking out the alarm clock. He felt his hand connect with it, the knock propelling the clock up against the wall and consigning it to instant alarm clock oblivion.

Not so the ringing, however, which continued until his half-conscious brain finally made the connection and he realized it was the phone assaulting his eardrums and he grabbed the receiver up clumsily and barked a hello into the mouthpiece.

"Jack?"

"Who's this? Do you have any idea what time it is?"

There was a sound that could have been a mumbled response to his question then, "Jack, it's me, Daniel."

Jack sat up, pulled his robe off the end of his bed and draped it over his shoulders against the cold midnight chill. "Daniel? You okay?"

"Yes. No." A sigh, then, "Not really. Can you come get me? I'm at the call box on the corner of Aldam and Oakley."

"What's going on, Daniel?" Jack asked, pressing for an answer, for something coherent. "Are you hurt?"

"I got in a fight, Jack. I'm sorry. Look, I shouldn't have called but they took my wallet and my phone. I'm sorry. I'll be fine -"

"Wait!" Jack barked the command out. '"Daniel, I'm coming, all right? I'll be there in fifteen. Are you hurt? Do you need me to call an ambulance?"

"No! No ambulance!" Daniel's voice dropped, the tone weary now. "I'm sorry, Jack. I just want to go ho -."

Jack could hear the desolation in that one cut-off word. "Sit tight, Danny. I'm on my way."

"Thank you," Daniel whispered. He puffed out a sigh tinged with relief. "Thank you."

Jack waited a moment to hear Daniel hang up then jumped to his feet, returning the phone to its cradle as he did so. He dressed quickly in the clothes he'd worn the night before, scooped up his keys and headed for his truck at a run, slamming the door behind him.

~oOo~

Christ, Daniel, not even a full day back on Earth and you're in trouble already? Jack bit down on the edge of impatience marking his thoughts and concentrated on making it safely through the traffic to Daniel's location as quickly as possible. He thought through a dozen different scenarios as he drove, none of which gave him any peace of mind. He kept hearing Daniel's voice, sounding husky and tight as if he was trying to hold something back - pain, perhaps. That thought made Jack flatten his foot further to the gas pedal and he skimmed a couple of orange lights in his headlong rush.

He slammed on the brakes right next to the call box and leaped from the car. Looking into the cubicle, he could see no sign of Daniel. He glanced up and down the street and was about to turn back to the truck when he heard his name called.

"Jack?"

Spinning to his right, Jack saw Daniel's head peering out from behind a Dumpster pushed up against an alley wall. He trotted over and then came to a skidding halt as Daniel pushed himself to his feet, one hand coming out to clutch at the edge of the metal receptacle, a groan passing his lips as he stood.

Even once he was upright, Daniel looked hunched over, his arms wrapped around his ribs in that self-hug Jack had become so familiar with. But this was different. His fingertips were white where they dug into his ribs. There was a gash high on Daniel's forehead, partially hidden by his hair, that was seeping blood sluggishly down his face.

Jack reached a hand out and cupped Daniel's chin, turning it so he could see the wound better. He grimaced as he made out the dirt encrusting it and the blue-black discoloration surrounding Daniel's right eye that foretold the promise of a spectacular black eye come morning.

Looking closer, Jack noticed that Daniel's knuckles were scraped and bloody. Chalk one up for the kid. Looked like he'd at least got in a few good licks of his own.

Suddenly, Daniel's face went impossibly whiter and he turned to one side, his knees buckling under him. Jack managed to grab an elbow and followed him down, keeping the archeologist from hitting the ground too hard. Daniel leaned his weight down on his other arm, his head dropping forward as he retched miserably over and over.

Jack could do nothing except hold him up, his other hand making soothing circles on the younger man's back. Finally the vomiting stopped and Daniel sagged back to rest on his haunches, his chin drooping to his chest as one hand swiped futilely at the mess he'd dribbled on his mouth and shirt.

Jack swivelled, fishing in his pockets for a handkerchief. Coming up with it, he held it out to his friend. When Daniel made no move to take it, Jack leaned forward and did the job himself, cleaning Daniel's face and clothing as much as he could.

"What happened, Daniel?" he asked finally.

Daniel was panting, the short breaths interspersed with jagged intakes of breath. He lifted his eyes at last, the blue spiderwebbed with red from the violence of his nausea and Jack watched in shock as tears overflowed the young man's eyes, trickling down his face. Daniel made no move to wipe them away or to answer Jack's question so Jack did the only thing he could think of. He leaned forward and took Daniel into his arms, pressing him firmly against his chest. One hand came up instinctively to cup itself protectively around the back of Daniel's skull and the other began a hypnotic stroking of Daniel's back.

At first the tears were silent, the only sign that Daniel was crying, the mute wetness against Jack's chest and the heaving of Daniel's shoulders but then the sobs became vocal and Jack pulled his friend tighter into his embrace and began whispering a litany of soft comfort as Daniel finally gave voice to his heartbreak and his pain and his fear.

When at last the shuddering sobs had given way to silence and Daniel was quiet in his arms, Jack stood, pulling the archeologist up carefully and holding him against his side as it seemed Daniel might fall again.

"Hospital, Daniel," Jack said, his voice brooking no argument.

Not surprisingly, Daniel shook his head violently, then reached to grasp Jack's forearm as the motion almost took him to his knees again.

"Daniel, you're injured and you're in shock. You need sutures in that gash. You might have cracked ribs. Come on, Danny, you know I'm right. We need to call the cops too."

Daniel finally spoke up, his voice raspy and weak. "I don't have any ID, Jack. No Medicaid or insurance cards." He quirked a weak grin. "Didn't have much need for them on Abydos."

Jack began the task of steering Daniel to the truck, his arm firm around his friend's waist. "So, we tell them the truth. That your wallet got stolen. Come on, Daniel, work with me here, all right? Hammond'll bust me down to airman if I lose you again."

By now they were at the vehicle and Jack managed to get the door open and give Daniel a helping butt-up into the passenger seat, not missing the sharp hiss of pain that escaped the archeologist's mouth at the jolt.

Daniel waited till Jack was behind the wheel before he spoke again. "I don't want to stay, Jack. Please."

"I wasn't about to suggest you should, unless the docs say you need to. Ah!" He held up a warning finger as Daniel began to interrupt then turned back to check the road for traffic through the rear view mirror. "Those are my terms. The doc says you're okay to go, then you're coming home with me, but if they think there's any danger from complications, you're staying, even if I have to sit there all night and baby sit you." He looked round to fix Daniel with a firm look only to find him curled into the corner of the seat, his chin drooping on his chest and his eyes closed. "Glad to see you don't have an argument with that, Dr. Jackson," Jack said softly.

~oOo~

"Colonel O'Neill?"

Jack started awake at the gentle shaking of his shoulder and opened his eyes to see a petite brown-haired woman in a lab coat standing in front of him. He lurched to his feet, rubbing a hand over his face tiredly. "Sorry, must've nodded off. How's Daniel? Can I take him home?"

"Colonel, I'm Dr. Cade. Let's sit for a moment. It's been a long night and I could use a break. I just need to fill you in on your friend's condition and then I'll take you to him."

Jack sat back down, his tiredness abating. "So, how's he doing, really?"

"Did he tell you what happened to him?" the doctor asked. "I have to tell you he's been less than forthcoming with us."

"Not really, just said he'd been mugged, got his wallet and his phone stolen," Jack replied.

"He's refused to let us call the police, said he didn't want to press charges. And there are some irregularities regarding his personal details…" She patted Jack's hand as he began to interrupt. "It's okay, Colonel. We're fairly used to victims of these sorts of attacks not wanting to divulge too much about themselves. Some of them are afraid their attacker will find them, though we try to explain their details will be kept private. In Daniel's case, I feel it's more to do with the fact that there are things he doesn't want to divulge about his personal and his professional life. Look, Colonel, my job is simply to treat your friend. I think that he is suffering from something more than what happened to him tonight. He has, physically speaking, a concussion, fortunately not too severe, and a nasty gash that took 4 stitches. It is under his hairline so what scarring there may be will be hidden, unless he decides on a radical haircut." She took a moment to flash Jack a grin and Jack found himself, despite his exhaustion and his worry over Daniel, smiling back. "Okay, along with that, he has bruised ribs, luckily none broken. He's also in a degree of shock, which as I've already told you, I don't believe is just the product of tonight. What he really needs is to be taken home, cleaned up, given mild painkillers and to have someone who cares about him, listen to him. I think you're just the man for the job, Colonel O'Neill. So, let's go get your friend. You will take care of him, won't you?" She glanced over her shoulder at Jack as she stood.

"Yeah, I'll do that, Doc. Thank you. You're right. Daniel's been through a lot lately. I can't tell you any more than what he's told you, but I can guarantee he has people who'll be there for him." Jack stretched as he stood, then set off behind the doctor to bring Daniel home.

~oOo~

"You feel up to taking a shower?" Jack asked. He'd grabbed a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt out of his closet for Daniel to put on.

Daniel looked up wearily from his slouched position on the couch. He was leaning forward, elbows on knees and his head resting in the palms of his hands. "Sure. Guess I probably stink, right?" He flashed a faint smile at Jack and then managed to pull himself to his feet, though he couldn't avoid the grimace that crossed his face as he did so.

Jack moved next to him quickly and grabbed an arm. "You don't have to do this alone, Daniel," he said, looking into Daniel's exhausted eyes pointedly. "None of it. You got that. That's why I'm here. Let me help."

Daniel closed his eyes briefly then opened them, his hand coming up to clasp Jack's forearm. "You know, someone, I can't for the life of me remember who, said they were the three most important words in the English language. Thank you, Jack."

"Nada," Jack said quickly.

He helped Daniel into the bathroom and turned on the shower, helping his friend undress and gently manhandling him under the spray. He winced at the bruising that marred the skin of Daniel's chest and back. "You sure you can manage?" he asked.

"I'll be okay, Jack. Thanks."

"All right. I'm gonna leave the door open just in case. You feel up to eating a sandwich - grilled cheese or something? The doc said you shouldn't take the pain meds on an empty stomach but you look like you need a couple right now."

"Grilled cheese would be great. And you're right about the meds. Everything seems to be hurting just now."

"Okay then." Jack gave Daniel one final look to make sure he wasn't going to end up face down on the tiles then left the room and set about making the promised sandwiches.

~oOo~

By the time they'd finished eating and Jack had given Daniel the Tylenol - 3, the archeologist looked ready to fall asleep where he sat. He was still pale and the bruising around the gash on his head had started to become apparent, leeching down into the skin of his forehead, providing a shadowy counterpoint to the mauve discoloration beginning around his right eye.

"How about we get you to bed before you fall asleep on the couch, Dr. Jackson?" Jack asked, moving over to stand in front of Daniel.

"I can sleep here, Jack. I don't want to take your bed."

"I have a guest room, Daniel. It's fine. We can both sleep in a bed tonight, or," Jack glanced at his watch, "should I say this morning?"

"I'm sorry…" Daniel began.

"Will you quit apologizing already? Shit happens. Unfortunately, it seems to mostly happen to you." Jack almost bit his tongue as soon as the words were out of his mouth but Daniel didn't seemed to take offence. "Look, I'll take the guest room tonight. My room has an en suite. It'll be easier for you."

Surprisingly, Daniel didn't argue this time. He just reached an arm out toward Jack and said, "Give me a hand, will you? I'm a bit stiff. Shouldn't have sat still for so long."

Jack clasped the outstretched hand and levered his friend to his feet, keeping hold till Daniel got his legs under him and Jack was sure he wasn't going to fall in a heap. He put an arm around Daniel's waist and helped him into the bedroom, pulling back the covers and then when Daniel was as comfortably settled as he could be, considering the circumstances, pulled the blankets up over Daniel's shoulders and tucked them firmly around and under him.

"You're not gonna kiss me goodnight, are you, Jack?" Daniel asked, for the first time all night, a hint of laughter creeping into his voice.

"If you want," Jack replied, smiling down at him. "It's been a while since there's been anybody in that bed except me."

"No, that's fine, thanks. I'm sure I can cope without it."

Jack turned to leave, pausing at the door and swiveling to point a finger at Daniel. "You need anything, you call. Got that, Jackson?"

"Got it, sir," Daniel said. He closed his eyes.

Jack waited a moment till he was sure Daniel was falling asleep then went to the guestroom and went to bed himself.

 

~oOo~

It took Jack a moment to remember that he had a guest when he heard movement in the living room. Automatically, his hand had crept to his bedside drawer, where he kept his Smith & Wesson. Before he'd closed his fingers around it, however, his mind woke up and reminded him that Daniel was there and that was more than likely who was prowling around the house in the dark.

He heard a muffled "Ouch" and a thump as Daniel obviously bumped into something in his unfamiliar surroundings. Worried that he'd find an unconscious archeologist on the floor in the morning if he didn't get up and find out what Daniel needed, Jack sighed heavily and climbed out of bed. He looked around for the clock, then remembered he was in the guest room. It was still dark, though, so Jack figured he hadn't been asleep long.

Jack stood in the doorway to the living room, watching his friend silently for a few moments. Daniel had pulled back the curtains a little and was staring out at the pre-dawn sky.

"Daniel?" Jack said quietly, finally moving up to stand next to the younger man.

"I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to wake you," Daniel said, turning to face him, his eyes looking indescribably weary in the subdued lighting of the street light shining through the window.

"Couldn't sleep?" Jack asked. "You in pain?"

"No," Daniel shook his head. "Just thinking about Sha're. I kept finding myself thinking about what she's doing right now and then I suddenly realized that I couldn't… couldn't bear to know." His voice had dropped to a whisper, the words tinged with pain and Jack placed an arm around Daniel's back, pulling his friend closer against his side.

"I'm sorry, Daniel," he said, his own voice dropping in shared anguish. "I wish I could fix this for you right now. I wish we hadn't had to come back to Abydos. Maybe, if we hadn't, then Sha're and Skaara would still be at home, safe with you."

Daniel nodded. "But all the 'if only's' in the world aren't going to change a thing. I - I just miss her so much already, Jack. I should have stayed behind instead of going off to show Sam and you what I'd found. I just had to prove that the great Dr. Daniel Jackson had been right about the pyramids and the Goa'uld. I let my pride get in the way and my family paid for it." His voice was laced with bitterness now. "And I still haven't learned my lesson." He laughed harshly then grabbed at his ribs as his body reminded him he'd been injured just a few hours ago. "Shit," he muttered. "Forgot for a minute there. That's how I got hurt tonight you know. I went to a bar and there were these guys… and they started in on the "nerdy geek" stuff and I totally lost it. Dared them to come outside and take me on. So they did." He snorted a sardonic laugh. "Guess that just goes to prove I wouldn't have been much use against Apophis either."

"Come on, Daniel, you're no geek…" Jack began. "Well, you are, but you're also one hell of a fighter and there's no-one I'd rather have at my back than you. None of us could have stopped Apophis and his goons. For crying out loud, Daniel, look what happened to Feretti and he's a trained soldier."

"Yeah, poor Feretti. I should go see him tomorrow -" Daniel grinned guiltily as he looked out and saw the sun beginning to rise, "Today," he corrected.

"Not till you've got some rest, Daniel. You don't want to scare the poor guy. Do you have any idea how bad you look?"

"That bad, huh?"

Jack looked him over, taking in the bandaged cut above his hairline and the bruising that looked even worse now, in the cold light of almost-day. "That bad," he said firmly.

"Okay. I think I'll go back to bed. Jack, look, I know I've said it before but I am sorry." Daniel turned and taking Jack by surprise, pulled him into a quick hug.

"Yes, you have said it before but it's okay." Jack gave a firm squeeze to Daniel's shoulders then pulled back, holding his friend at arms-length and gazing into his eyes before releasing him. "We will find them, Danny. I promise you that."

Daniel smiled and Jack was glad to see what he hoped was renewed strength and confidence in the archeologist's expression.

"I know we will, Jack," Daniel said, " And somehow we'll find a way of setting them free. If anyone can help me do it, you can." He headed toward the bedroom, still moving stiffly but with a determined set to his shoulders that hadn't been there before.

"Yep. SG:1 is one hell of a team, Daniel. Those lousy snakeheads won't know what's hit 'em," Jack rejoined, patting Daniel's shoulder as he passed by him on the way back to his own bed.

Daniel stopped in the doorway and turned to face O'Neill. "Thanks for everything, Jack. I'm really tired. I think I'll be able to sleep now. Goodnight."

"Night, Daniel. Good thoughts, hey?"

"Yeah, good thoughts. Thanks for being there for me tonight."

"I'll see you in the morning, Danny." Jack looked at the dawn just beginning to cast light through the window. "The real morning," he quipped as he headed back to bed.

The End

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