Warnings: Spoilers for "Fire and Water" and "Forever in a Day" / Rated PG-13.
Category
: Angst and H/C

I c e

Colonel Jack O'Neill's gut twisted as he looked out over the white expanse. Snow. Nothing but goddamned snow. No trees. No animals. It all looked so harmless and so peaceful.

But it had already proven to be far from harmless.

Jack sighed heavily and hefted the pack higher on his shoulders, then glanced at Carter to his left. "Okay, let's head to where we left him."

He saw Teal'c flinch almost imperceptibly at the comment. Any one who didn't know the Jaffa would've missed the reaction completely, but Jack knew Teal'c's guilt over leaving Daniel behind was eating at him. No amount of reassurance that Teal'c had done the only thing reasonably possible had been able to convince Teal'c that he had, in fact, done the right thing.

It was nobody's fault. It had just been an accident. Teal'c had traveled the quarter of a mile back to base camp in what had to have been record time, and his report had been concise and stoically-delivered.

"O'Neill! We must hurry. Daniel Jackson requires assistant."

Jack's head snapped up, his chest suddenly tight. He hated hearing those words. He barked at Carter to begin packing the essentials and asked Teal'c to explain what had happened.

Teal'c obeyed, replying with hurried, clipped words. "We were both inside the cavern when the ground suddenly gave way. I was standing near the entrance, several feet away from Daniel Jackson, when the cavern shook. I fell, and my radio became damaged. When I regained my footing, Daniel Jackson was gone, but a large hole filled the ground where he had stood. I could see nothing in the darkness below. I called Daniel Jackson's name, but he did not answer. I had no supplies with which to attempt a rescue, and I left him there to seek your assistance. We must hurry."

Since the Stargate was over a mile away, Jack made the decision to remain planetside and attempt a rescue with his team. They had rope, pulleys, flashlights, and basic medical supplies.

Unfortunately, the weather became their enemy. When they'd first arrived, only a thin layer of snow had carpeted the ground, and they'd decided to make base camp halfway between the cavern Daniel wanted to explore and a silvery frozen lake that Carter wanted to investigate. However, the weather changed quickly. Soon after Teal'c's unexpected return, the hazy sky turned dark, and ice assaulted them from above. They could see nothing through the storm, and they sure as hell wouldn't be able to travel far in it, so they'd had no choice but to wait it out in their thermal shelters.

For seven hours.

Jack swallowed hard, tearing himself from his thoughts. They had to get a move on while the weather was clear. There was no telling when another storm would drop down on them.

Teal'c took the lead, starting on a brisk pace over the snowy terrain. Jack and Carter followed, lifting their legs high with each step to clear the snow. After several minutes, Jack's legs were already burning with fatigue. He knew they were close to the cavern. A quarter of a mile wasn't that far, but in such unforgiving weather, it was taking them much too long.

A few more minutes passed, and Jack sighed with relief when he saw the cavern. It was barely visible, nothing more than a large, white mound against the equally white snow. Only the darkness of the entrance distinguished it from the surroundings.

Teal'c hurried his steps, and Jack gritted his teeth as he forced his own legs to move faster. By the time he reached the cave entrance, he was panting hard. His fingers and toes were flirting with numbness, even though the thermal gloves and socks offered substantial protection from the cold.

He followed Teal'c inside, collapsing to his knees on the soil. Thank god they were out of the snow. Dropping his pack from his shoulders, he rummaged in it and pulled out a flashlight and lantern. Turning on the battery-operated lantern, he set it on the soil.

The cavern was small, about ten feet across and twelve feet deep. The walls were made of rock, lined with a web-like pattern of a silvery mineral. Symbols lay carved in the surface of the rock -- symbols that had instantly captured Daniel's interest.

"Daniel!" Jack's voice echoed back to him. Taking a deep breath, he moved toward the large hole in the center of the cramped cavern.

Teal'c was already at the edge, peering down as he prepared the rope for a descent.

"Teal'c, you stay up here with Carter and hold the rope. I'll go down, find Daniel, and bring him back up, but you two are gonna have to pull us."

"If he has serious injuries, sir..." Carter began.

"I know. I'll do the best I can."

Jack pulled a harness from Teal'c's pack and stepped into it, pulling it up and fastening it over his shoulders. He slipped the rope through the D-ring near his stomach and swung his leg over the rope. Then he turned on the flashlight and let it hang from a ring on the side of the harness.

"Ready, Teal'c?"

The Jaffa nodded, standing away from the hole, the rope held securely in his gloved hands. Carter stood behind him, holding another rope that was attached to Teal'c's waist, acting as an anchor in case Jack and Daniel's combined weight caused Teal'c to slide.

"Okay. Here goes." Jack gently pushed away from the edge of the hole and began a fast descent. He held the rope gripper in his right hand, and used his left hand to hold the rope supporting his leg.

He fell further and further, his chest growing tighter with each passing second. Damn, how far down had Daniel fallen? What if...

He stopped that grim thought before he could finish it and concentrated on controlling his descent. He looked down but saw only darkness. The light from the flashlight seemed inconsequential against the ubiquitous blackness.

After several more seconds, the beam from his flashlight reflected against white. Snow. Jack's stomach somersaulted as he increased his descent. He dropped to the snow a bit harder than he should have, but kept himself hooked to the rope. He still had quite a lot of slack to work with.

"Daniel?" he called out in a hushed voice, not wanting to risk a cave-in.

No answer.

Sweeping his tethered flashlight over the area, he saw nothing but white. White on the ground. White on the walls. There were even flakes of silvery-white floating through the air. He wasn't sure how the snow was getting into the lower area of the cavern, so he swept his beam slowly around the interior until he spotted several openings high in the cave walls through which bundles of silvery-white snowflakes were blowing.

The cold seeped through his layers of thermal clothing. There was no sign of Daniel.

Jack looked up. He could see the hole. It was almost glowing from the pale yellow light of the SGC lantern in the cavern above. He gave one tug on the rope to let Teal'c know he had hit the bottom safely.

"Okay, Daniel, where are you?" Jack looked back down. Daniel had to have fallen straight, so he should have landed right about where Jack was standing.

Oh, shit.

Jack swallowed and stepped back, aiming his flashlight at the area. He could see it now, about two feet away from where he'd landed -- a faint depression in the snow about the size of a human body.

Oh, God. No. Don't do this. Don't let him have been buried alive.

He moved forward and carefully dropped to his knees, then pushed one hand through the snow, shoving hard until the icy whiteness rose to his shoulder. His gloved fingers felt something hard.

Hope surged inside him, and he yanked his arm out.

He began digging, using his hands to shovel the snow. It took him about ten minutes of frantic burrowing until the flashlight's swinging beam passed over a glimpse of color -- the faded green of an SGC uniform. The muscles in Jack's arms screamed, but he continued removing snow until, at last, he could see the shape of a human body in the dimness.

"Daniel, please..." Grabbing his flashlight, Jack took a deep breath as he shone the light onto the figure.

He was shocked to stillness when the light revealed the frozen figure of Daniel Jackson, locked in a fetal position, his eyes open and his fingers curled against his chest like withered leaves. In his right hand, he held a braid made of animal hide. Jack had only seen Daniel with the item once, after Sha're's death, and he'd asked about it. Daniel had told him it had been a gift from Sha're to symbolize their bond.

Jack couldn't move. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the frozen, stiff body that used to be his friend. There was nothing but silence and whiteness around him, then his radio cackled to life.

"Colonel?"

Jack flinched out of his paralysis. He closed his eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder radio. "Here." His voice was raspy, hoarse.

"Sir, did you find him? What's going on?"

He swallowed hard. "I found him." He choked on the words. A sob swelled in his throat, and he swallowed again, tasting bile.

"How is he?" Sam's voice drummed from the radio.

Jack blinked back tears.

"Sir?"

He stared at Daniel's too-pale face and his blue-tinged lips. His fingers pressed the transmit button on his radio. "He's dead."

Silence answered him. Jack could just picture the faces of his friends above.

God, Danny...

The Stargate was over a mile away. Logic told him to leave Daniel's body and make the trek back to the gate for retrieval supplies that would make transporting the corpse back to Earth easier.

Fuck logic. Jack had made a promise a long time ago. No one gets left behind...not unless there was no other choice. They'd carry Daniel's body back themselves. It was the only thing they could offer their fallen teammate now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Unscheduled gate activation," the mechanical voice blared from the speakers.

Major Simmons looked up from the monitor. "It's SG-1, sir."

Hammond nodded. "Open the iris."

The titanium circle retracted, revealing the watery surface of the event horizon as the alarm screamed in the background. Hammond trotted down the stairs to the gateroom just as three figures emerged from the wormhole.

He blinked. Four figures. His gaze settled on the still, curled figure of Daniel Jackson held awkwardly in Teal'c's large arms. The archeologist's eyes were open but empty and unmoving.

Oh, dear, God.

He raised a hand. The alarm fell silent.

"Get a medical team in here," Hammond ordered, his voice subdued. He knew there was nothing any doctor could do for the archeologist now.

SG-1 moved to the end of the ramp, fatigue making them sluggish. Their eyes were haunted, their faces lined with grief. Hammond looked into Teal'c's eyes and saw something dark and tormented their.

"What happened?" Hammond whispered, looking to Colonel O'Neill.

Several moments of silence followed Hammond's question, then Jack blinked. "It was an accident, sir. Daniel fell through the snow. We...couldn't get to him in time."

"Oh...No." Doctor Fraiser's soft voice pulled Hammond's attention away from SG-1.

Fraiser and her team -- two orderlies and a nurse -- stood momentarily stunned. The doctor recovered quickly, moving forward to Teal'c and gesturing to the waiting stretcher. "You can set him down there, Teal'c."

The Jaffa looked at her, his face blank, then slowly bowed his head. He walked to the stretcher and, with exquisite care, lowered the hard, rigid body of Daniel Jackson on to the crisp, white sheets.

"The thing in his hand," Jack's rough voice intruded. "Once he's...Once you can get it out, keep it safe. It should be buried with him. On Abydos."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

General Hammond leaned forward, placing his arms on his desk, and studied the solemn face of Doctor Fraiser in the chair across from him.

"Our preliminary determination on the cause of death is suffocation. There are no signs of trauma. From Colonel O'Neill's report and the condition of the body, we've determined that Doctor Jackson fell through the ground and landed in snow several feet deep, which cushioned his fall but, uh..." she took a breath, "burried him alive. Our preliminary exam discovered snow in his nasal passages and esophagus, but we haven't yet performed an autopsy. We have to wait for the body to, uh...thaw out."

Hammond nodded, picturing in his mind the look on Jack's face when he'd found Jackson's body. His stomach threatened to revolt, but he maintained an outward calm.

"Thank you, Doctor. How about the rest of SG-1?"

"They were all suffering from mild hypothermia, but they're going to be fine. I gave Colonel O'Neill and Captain Carter each a mild sedative, and they're resting in the infirmary. Teal'c's symbiote protected him from the affects of the cold, and I released him."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack couldn't sleep. He lay in the infirmary, his thoughts sluggish and his eyelids heavy from Fraiser's sedative. He felt sick...nauseous. He wasn't sure whether it was the sedative or the memory of Daniel's frozen, curled body making him ill.

He closed his eyes, trying to block out the gruesome image that seemed burned on the inside of his eyelids.

Daniel.

What must it have been like for Daniel? Falling into snow, buried alive, cold, suffocating, clawing at the ice, searching for a way out, blinded by darkness, alone...

Stop it! If he imagined any more, he'd lose it and earn himself a visit to Doctor McKenzie.

Jack opened his eyes and turned his head. Carter lay asleep in the neighboring bed, her face pale. Heavy lines in her forehead and around her mouth revealed the stress she'd endured -- the trip through the snow, the shock of finding the body of her friend frozen solid.

And Teal'c. Jack had been awake when Fraiser had released Teal'c. The Jaffa had barely spoken a word since their return to the SGC. Carrying Daniel's body back to the gate had to have been hell for Teal'c, but Daniel's curled figure made it a one-man job, and Teal'c was the strongest among them. That was all moot, anyway, because Teal'c had insisted up front that he be the one to carry Daniel Jackson. He'd said nothing more by way of explanation, but it didn't take a shrink to interpret the expression on Teal'c's face. He'd considered it his duty...his responsibility.

Daniel's body had been as a rigid as a stone statue. Jack had managed to secure the archeologist's body to his harness as Teal'c and Sam had pulled him up.

Just those few moments with Daniel's ice-cold head pressed against Jack's shoulder and his rigid hands curled against Jack's chest had been the hardest, most hellish moments he'd ever experienced.

Damn. Jack sat up abruptly, shaking his head, trying to get the gruesome images out of his mind.

He'd already delivered one eulogy for Daniel. He didn't want to give another one.

Damn you, Jackson. Why the hell did you have to be so interested in that stupid cave, anyway? A bunch of drawings weren't worth your life.

He hopped off the bed, swaying a little as the room seemed to tilt. Reaching out, he grabbed the edge of the mattress to steady himself.

He hadn't even gotten a chance to say goodbye to Daniel. His last words to the young man had been demeaning. A joke.

"Okay, Daniel. Carter and I are going to head back to base camp. Have fun with the pretty pictures."

He'd never told Daniel just how much he respected him, how much Daniel awed him with his every day insights.

Pushing away from the bed, Jack staggered to the infirmary door, making it into the hall, his bare feet slapping against the hard, cold floor. He leaned against the wall as he made his way toward the elevator. The doors parted, and he lurched inside, jabbing the button for the lower level.

He'd say his goodbyes before they cut Daniel up.

The lift descended, almost leaving his stomach on the upper level. He closed his throat, pushing back the nausea, and focused on the changing numbers above the door.

Two floors later, the elevator slowed to a halt, and the doors parted.

Okay, Daniel, now you're going to listen to everything I have to say without interruption.

He careened out of the elevator and made his way to the morgue. Pushing through the door, he spotted the white-coated technician hovering over a computer station. A long table rested in the center of the dimly-lit room with a gray sheet that covered an awkwardly-shaped figure.

Jack swallowed hard and moved to the slab, ignoring the curious look from the technician. Rank had its privileges. Taking a breath, Jack reached out and grabbed the cotton material, then pulled back the sheet to reveal Daniel's head and neck.

"Can you leave me alone for a bit?" Jack asked the technician, not really looking at him.

"Yes, sir. Of course." The man moved away from his computer terminal and hurried out the door.

Jack studied the body of his friend. Daniel lay on his right side, curled in the same fetal position he'd died in. His eyes were still open, staring blankly at the far wall. The blue tinge to his lips had faded, and now he just looked chalky.

"Oh, Daniel. Damnit." Jack placed his hand on Daniel's head, his shaking fingers ruffling the short strands of dark blonde hair.

Daniel was still cold, but no longer frozen. How long had he been covered on the slab... defrosting?

"Hell." Jack closed his eyes briefly. "I'm sorry, Daniel. You deserved better. Much better. I'm sorry I didn't get Sha're back alive for you. I'm sorry you never found the happiness you should have. I'm glad I met you, though. Glad you and I became...friends. Glad you argued with me all those times. Thank you for that."

Jack's throat threatened to close on him, and he paused, taking a moment to get a handle on his emotions.

"Teal'c feels really guilty. You know how he does that. I think he'll be okay, though. In time."

He took a breath, stroking his fingers over Daniel's head. "I hope you've finally found peace. If you're with Sha're now, then you're in a much, much better place, and I guess I should be happy for you." Tears clouded his vision, and he blinked. "I'm gonna miss you, though. I already do. This is a little late, I know, but goodbye. Rest in peace, Daniel Jackson. You deserve it."

The head beneath Jack's hand lurched, and a harsh, gurgling gasp filled the room as Daniel's body suddenly sprung off the table, the shift in weight sending it and Daniel crashing to the floor.

"Shit!" Jack leapt three feet back. Light flooded the room, and he was vaguely aware of footsteps and several panicked voices behind him.

Daniel's nude body was moving across the gray floor in an uncoordinated, slow crawl.

"What the hell?" Jack overcame his stupor and bolted forward at the same time as the technicians.

They converged on Daniel. Jack was first, reaching out. He touched Daniel's arm, and the young man gave a low squall and flinched away, his eyes searching but not looking at anything in particular.

"Daniel?" Jack's shaky voice sounded weak, and he tried again, more confidently this time. "Daniel, easy. It's okay."

Jesus fucking Christ, it's not okay. What the hell's happening here?

"It's okay," he said again.

"Shit, shit, shit," someone chanted. "I'll get Fraiser."

Daniel was shaking, huddled against the wall, hugging himself. His breath came in frightened pants that sounded like the scratch of sandpaper against wood.

"Easy, easy." Jack leaned forward.

Daniel turned his head toward Jack, but his eyes didn't focus.

"That's it," Jack soothed. "I'm right here."

Daniel needed a jacket, at the very least, but Jack's was somewhere back in the infirmary. He glanced over his shoulder, spotting a wide-eyed guard who stiffened suddenly under the scrutiny. "Your jacket. Now!"

The soldier nodded, sliding out of his jacket quickly and hefting it to Jack, apparently reluctant to approach the man who had been a corpse only moments ago.

"Here you go." Jack turned back to Daniel and draped the jacket over his shoulders. "You're home, Daniel, at the SGC. In the uh...infirmary."

Daniel tilted his head, still shaking. "J-Jack." He spoke barely above a whisper, his voice scratchy and hoarse.

"Yeah, right here." Jack waved his hand in front of Daniel's face. No reaction. He swallowed. "You're going to be okay."

"I...can't see."

"It'll pass." He hoped to God he wasn't lying.

"W-What h'ppned?" Daniel was shaking so hard, his teeth chattered.

"You had an accident."

"Smells different."

"What?"

"Than the infirmary."

Jack felt a touch of acid at the back of his throat. "Just my new cologne," he joked weakly, his voice trembling.

"Dear God," a familiar female voice filled the room.

Doctor Fraiser knelt next to Jack, catching his eye for a moment, her face a mask of confusion. She turned her attention quickly to Daniel.

"Doctor Jackson, I'm going to listen to your heart," she warned, then negotiated the tip of the stethoscope around Daniel's arms and placed it against his chest.

After a moment, she removed the instrument and gently grabbed Daniel's chin. "Do you know where you are?"

"I-Infirmary?" Daniel answered shakily, his eyes still drifting aimlessly around the room.

"Yeah, uh, that's right. Very good. Can you tell me your full name?"

"Daniel Jackson."

"How are you feeling? Does anything hurt?"

"C-Cold." Daniel's brow furrowed, and he huddled more tightly into himself, the jacket draped around him like a cloak. "Can't see."

"We'll check out your eyes. I'm sure it's only temporary. Your body has...had a shock." She looked again at Jack, her face pale. "How long has he been, uh, awake?"

"Just a few minutes."

"W-What happened?" Daniel asked again, still shaking. He reached a hand toward Jack.

"Just like I told you." Jack grabbed the hand. It was cold, and he covered it with both of his. "You've been unconscious. We, uh, didn't expect you to wake up so soon."

"H-Help me."

Jack blinked, tightening his grip. "I'm right here, Daniel."

"Falling." Daniel's brow creased again. "Cold. Can't breathe. Teal'c...Jack..."

"Shhh." Jack shifted, removing one of his hands to slide his arm across Daniel's trembling shoulders. "You're okay. Don't worry. Don't try to think right now."

"Teal'c?"

"He's okay. Everyone's fine."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

General Hammond looked ill standing near the door to the infirmary. "Doctor, how in sam hell did this happen?"

Fraiser shook her head. "I don't know, sir..."

Jack wanted to punch something. "You don't know?" He threw his hands up. "You declared him dead. Dead, doctor. Dead! Fuck, a little longer, and he might have woken up in the middle of his damn autopsy!"

"Easy, Colonel," Hammond cautioned.

Fraiser looked several years older, her face white and her eyes shimmering. "I know," she choked. "I have no clue how this happened. He had no heartbeat, no brain activity. Hell, Colonel, you saw him yourself. He was frozen solid!"

Jack flinched at her words, then shot back. "Well, he obviously wasn't completely dead, now, was he?"

She blinked, looking close to tears. That pushed past Jack's anger. He'd never seen her cry before. Never seen her even get close.

"Look," he said more softly, "I just want to know how this happened. Dear God, I don't ever want it to happen again."

"Me neither." Her shoulders slumped. "I don't know, Colonel. We're running tests now, and we've gotten back some preliminary results from the blood samples we drew when he was first brought back. There's indications of a foreign chemical in his blood, but it could be anything. There were very faint traces of the same substance in yours, Carter's, and Teal'c's blood, but Daniel had much higher levels."

"Aha!" Jack raised a finger. "So that could be it, right? Some weird alien thing that... I don't know... Put Daniel in some kind of stasis, or something. Huh?"

Fraiser shrugged. "Right now, I'd say anything's possible. Even divine intervention." She shook her head, looking very, very tired.

"He's going to be okay, right?"

"As far as I can tell, he's suffered no permanent damage. We've examined his eyes and can find no cause for the blindness, so I'm guessing it's a result of the shock his body experienced and, hopefully, it'll alleviate within a few hours. The biggest problem we're having is keeping him calm. He's uncomfortable, fluctuating between hot and cold. His body seems unable to stably regulate his internal temperature. His skin is especially sensitive. He screamed when we drew the blood samples, and we had to restrain him for that." She took a shaky breath.

"Shit." Jack ran a hand over his face.

"I'm reluctant to give him a sedative, not until I find out more about this foreign chemical in his system."

"Can we at least see him now?" Jack asked. Fraiser had barred all nonmedical visitors until her team could evaluate Jackson's condition. "Teal'c and Sam have been waiting for hours, and right now, I think Teal'c needs to see Daniel more than anyone."

Fraiser nodded. "Okay, but there are a few things you need to know. He's still far from recovered. His whole system seems out of whack, for lack of a more precise term. Like I said, his brain is incapable of stabilizing his body temperature. He's hypersensitive to touch. He feels... Well, I can't imagine what he's feeling physically right now, but I can assure you it isn't good. I haven't given him anything that could ease his symptoms, so he's having to go through this on his own. Once I can find out more about the foreign substance in his system, I'll be in a better position to decide what types of drugs to administer. He's been fluctuating between periods of lucidity and disorientation, so he may not even know you're in the room."

"We'll know," Jack said. "Thanks, Doc." He nodded to the general. "Excuse me, sir."

"Dismissed."

Jack ducked into the hallway. Sam and Teal'c were standing to the right, against the wall. Sam straightened as soon as she saw him while Teal'c simply shifted position.

"Well?" Carter prompted.

"We can go in now, but the doc warned us it might not be pretty. Daniel's not feeling too well...understandably." Jack looked at the Jaffa. "You know, the first thing he did was ask about you, Teal'c. I think it'd really do him good to see that you're all right."

Teal'c bowed his head slightly. "I would like to see him as well."

"Follow me kids." Jack turned, waving his arm for them to follow.

Moving back into the infirmary, Jack and his team brushed past Fraiser and entered the back room. The lights inside were dimmed, and a solitary bed rested with its head against the far wall. Machines purred and beeped to either side, and a lean figure occupied the mattress, covered by a thin, white sheet. A folded, gray blanket lay at the foot of the bed.

"Daniel." Carter hurried to the side of the bed. Jack and Teal'c followed closely.

Daniel's eyes flicked over them briefly, and he turned his body toward them, then quickly turned back. His legs moved beneath the sheet, seemingly restless. A thin layer of perspiration dotted his forehead, and his cheeks were flushed.

"Hey there." Jack shifted on his feet. He wasn't sure if Daniel had looked at them, and he had no idea what to say to the young man. "Uh, how are you feeling?"

Daniel's brow furrowed, and he squinted at them as though they were perplexing symbols to be deciphered. "Hot." He closed his eyes, and his arm came up to sweep the sheet off of his body, revealing the thin, white gown that covered him. "It's too hot."

Jack smiled, relief flooding through him. There was no doubt about it that time. Daniel had looked at them.

"I will ask Doctor Fraiser to lower the thermostat in this room," Teal'c offered.

"It won't do any good," Fraiser's voice replied.

Jack turned to look at her.

"Like I said, his body is having problems keeping a stable temperature," she continued. "As soon as we lower the temperature in the room, he gets cold. If we cover him with a blanket, he's hot again." Janet stooped next to Daniel's head. "Doctor Jackson." She held up two fingers. "Can you tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?"

He raised his head briefly and squinted at her. "Two."

"That's good." She smiled, and some of the fatigue faded from her face. "That's very good."

"Now, go'way." Daniel rolled to his side away from Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. He began to shiver, and his hand searched for the discarded sheet as he curled into a tight ball.

"Here you go." Sam reached out and pulled the sheet over Daniel.

"My fish need to be fed," Daniel mumbled.

"I'm on it," Jack reassured him. "I'll head to your place tonight." He was grateful to be able to do something concrete for his friend.

"Cold." Daniel's shivering increased. "Blanket. Sha're? Minfudlack."

Janet moved forward and unfolded the blanket, draping it over Daniel. "There you go," she whispered to him, throwing a concerned look at Jack.

"Shukrun," Daniel muttered.

"He does that a lot," Janet explained. "He's mumbled in several different languages."

"He knows enough of them." Jack sighed and leaned his hip against the bed. He looked hard at the petite Doctor. "But you're sure there's no permanent damage? He'll pull through this okay?"

She gave a slow nod. "As far as I can tell, there's no permanent physical damage, but I can't give guarantees, especially not without knowing what that chemical in his system is. At least he's getting better, though. His eyesight's coming back, and that's very reassuring. It tells me that his system is slowly recovering."

"Jack?" Daniel's soft voice stopped the Doctor's report.

"Yeah, Danny." Jack leaned forward. "What is it?"

Daniel rolled on to his back and looked up at Jack, his brow lined with confusion. "There was a cave-in, I think. Teal'c's..."

"Right here," Jack reassured him, stepping aside to allow the Jaffa to move forward.

Teal'c moved closer to the bed. "I am well, Daniel Jackson. I only regret that I was unable to attempt your rescue immediately following the accident."

"Oh." Relief touched Daniel's eyes. "You're okay?"

"I am well, yes."

Daniel nodded, then rolled back to his side, this time facing them. He brought his legs up and curled deeper beneath the blanket until it covered half his head. His trembling increased, then all of a sudden his legs went rigid.

"Daniel?" Fraiser stiffened, alarm on her face.

Daniel curled violently into a tight ball and moaned, rocking back and forth. "God...Hurts....Please."

"Daniel, what is it? Where's the pain? In your stomach?" Fraiser yanked back the blanket and sheet and waved Jack and his team away from the bed.

Jack stumbled back with Carter and Teal'c. Fraiser leaned over Daniel, prying him out of his protective ball. He resisted her, but gradually yielded.

"Take it easy. Try to breathe steadily," Janet instructed. "I'm going to press gently on your abdomen. Tell me where it hurts."

"Everywhere." Daniel closed his eyes, rolling away from her.

"No, you don't." Janet turned him back toward her. "What kind of pain?"

"Owwwww." Daniel reached out with his arm and pushed her away, then rolled to his side.

"Daniel." Janet regained her footing, then waved at Jack and Teal'c. "Help me with him. I think I'm going to need to risk a sedative. I've got to examine him to find out what's causing this."

"On it, Doc." Jack moved forward in sync with Teal'c. He grabbed Daniel's arms and leaned forward, using his weight to hold them against the young man's chest while Teal'c secured Daniel's legs.

"NO! Don't! God, please...." Daniel struggled beneath Jack, tossing his head from side to side.

Jack could feel the heat radiating from the young man, and perspiration made his skin slick.

"Hurry, Doc." Jack clenched his teeth, trying to hold Daniel still without hurting him.

"Got it."

He watched Fraiser plunge the needle into Daniel's upper arm. Daniel stiffened, and a strangled, distressed cry bubbled from his throat. His eyes locked with Jack's, wide and accusing. Then, almost immediately, Daniel weakened, and his eyelids drifted closed. Within a few minutes, he was limp, and slowly, Jack and Teal'c released their holds.

"Damn." Jack stepped back and ran a shaky hand over his face.

One of the machines started screaming, and Fraiser spun toward it. The green line on the EKG fluctuated wildly.

"No, no, no!" Fraiser exploded into action, running out of the room as she called for assistance.

Seconds later, she returned with a syringe in her hand. A nurse trailed close behind.

"What's happening, Doc?" Jack's voice shook.

The machine's alarm continued to wail.

"He's crashing. Damn!" She straightened Daniel's arm and inserted the needle quickly into the crook of his elbow. "Come on. Come on." Once the vial was empty, she withdrew the needle, tossing it into the red sharps bin next to the bed. Then she whipped her stethoscope off her shoulders and placed the end against Daniel's chest, cocking her head as she listened. "That's it....Nurse, turn off that alarm, please?"

"Yes, Doctor."

The nurse complied quickly, and the alarm dropped to silence. Jack studied the green EKG line, counting the steady beeps, and after ten, he released a relieved breath.

"Okay." Janet straightened and looked at them, slightly out of breath. "No sedatives."

Jack nodded shakily. "What was the second thing you gave him?"

"Epinephrine to stimulate his heart." She glanced at Daniel, who now lay peacefully on the bed. "He's stable again. We're going to have to hold off on all drugs, no matter how much pain he's in, until we can find out what's in his system."

"No argument from me." Jack ran a hand through his hair. "I'd like you to keep him alive, thank you."

Fraiser's face fell, and she turned quickly away, studying one of the machines. "I think it's best if you three get some sleep. You can come back in the morning and see Daniel."

"Okay, Doc," Jack said gently. He gestured toward the door. Sam gave Daniel a final, lingering look before heading toward the exit after Teal'c.

Jack remained behind. "Doc?"

"Yes?" She finally looked at him, her face once again stoically professional.

"Thanks for keeping him alive."

She smiled softly. "I'm trying my best, Colonel."

"I'd like to stay with him a little longer, then I'll head off to feed his fish and get some rest."

She seemed to hesitate, then nodded. "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was dark and cold. The coldness pressed in on him, snaking down his throat and filling his nose. He couldn't breathe. He tried to claw at the coldness, but it trapped his arms, and he couldn't move. He couldn't breath. Couldn't scream. His lungs burned. His chest ached. Tears swelled beneath his eyelids. His head felt ready to explode. The fire in his chest grew, and he tried to kick, but even his legs were held firm by the ice around him.

"Daniel..."

He turned toward the voice, quivering with the need for air.

"Take it easy. You're dreaming."

The cold on his arms turned warm, soothing. Hands? Suddenly the air around him was hot, almost scorching.

He needed to breathe! He kicked, surprised to find his legs suddenly free.

"Easy! Easy! Come on. Wake up!"

Wake up? Wake up. Wake up. Breathe!

A hand batted his cheek. Then again, harder, and he opened his eyes to a soft glowing room. His lungs seemed to snap, and suddenly he was sucking in air, gulping it greedily. He tasted a salty wetness and felt a warm touch wipe at his cheeks.

"That's it."

A familiar face, topped with graying hair, swam into view above him, brown eyes pinched with concern. "You're okay now."

Jack? Daniel swallowed, expecting to feel the coldness slither down his throat, but there was nothing but air and a hint of that salty wetness.

"You doing okay now?"

The weight of Jack's hand came down on Daniel's shoulder, and he closed his eyes, losing himself to the sensation. He managed a shallow nod.

But, God, he was hot.

"That's it. Get some sleep. I'm going to have to go soon myself. Fraiser said I have til midnight, then I'm out. I'll feed your fish tonight. Okay?"

Daniel gave another nod, shifting beneath the scratchy material covering him, trying to escape the oppressive heat.

He really wished someone would turn on the air conditioning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack woke to an obnoxious melody close to his left ear. He opened his eyes and glared at the watch on his wrist, then squinted at the numbers. 7:00 a.m.

With a groan, he rolled, and suddenly found himself in a brief free-fall before crashing to the floor.

"Shit!" He sat bolt upright and pressed a button on his watch to silence the alarm. Blinking, he looked around, wondering why he wasn't in his bed.

Oh. Right. Daniel's apartment. He'd come to feed the fish and decided to stay the night. He'd obviously crashed on the couch. Damn, he must be getting old. He didn't even remember falling asleep.

And it was seven in the morning already? He straightened. Daniel! Scrambling to his feet, he hurried to the phone, quickly dialing the SGC infirmary. A woman answered, and he identified himself and asked to speak with Fraiser. Moment's later, the doctor came on the line.

"How is he?" he asked immediately, his gut tight as he waited for the answer.

Fraiser's voice was strong, and she sounded like she'd managed some sleep herself. "Much better, Colonel, and we've made some headway on analyzing that chemical in Daniel's system."

"I'm on my way."

"Drive carefully, sir. There's no rush."

Jack hung up the phone, grinning madly. That was the best damn news he'd had in a long time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jack arrived at the infirmary less than half an hour later. Sam and Teal'c had already beaten him there, and he found them both at Daniel's bedside next to Fraiser. The patient was awake, wide-eyed and looking much better all around.

"Jack?" Daniel's face brightened.

"Well, good morning. Your fish are fed and your plants watered."

"Oh." Daniel looked surprised. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Jack looked from Carter to Teal'c. "So, how long have you two been here?"

"About ten minutes, sir," Carter answered.

"Yes, they were as eager as you, Colonel, to check on Doctor Jackson."

Daniel looked away, a hint of color in his cheeks. "It's good to see you all." He looked back at them. "I must admit to being a bit confused. Janet told me the gist of what happened, but the last thing I remember clearly is falling through the ground."

"Yeah, well," Jack shifted uncomfortably, "what exactly did Fraiser tell you?"

Daniel looked away briefly, swallowing. "Well, I died." He looked back at Jack. "I was frozen, but, uh, when I, uh, thawed out, I somehow came back to life." He swallowed again, hard. "I can honestly say I don't remember any of that, thank God."

"Thank God," Jack agreed, looking at Fraiser.

"He was asking, Colonel," she explained, "and he seemed much better, so I saw no reason to withhold the information from him."

"I nagged her," Daniel confessed. "The nurses were looking at me weird. I wondered why."

"Okay," Jack nodded. "You have a right to know, I agree." He looked again at Fraiser. "So, what's with the chemical."

"Right." She smiled. "Well, we've got it's chemical formula. It's silicon-based, but we don't know exactly how it functions. We found it not only in Daniel's bloodstream, but also in the ice we removed from his, uh, throat." She threw an apologetic glance at Daniel, who maintained a remarkably detached and even somewhat interested expression. "Anyway," she continued, "my best guess is that the chemical acts as a type of cryogenic compound. Normally, when cells freeze, ice crystals form in the cytoplasm that tear up the cell. This compound prevents those crystals from forming, and when the subject thaws, the chemical acts as a type of silicon-based catalyst that promotes the surge of adrenaline through the victim's system to jump start his heart, so to speak." She shook her head. "It's absolutely incredibly. Don't ask me how Daniel's brain function returned. I haven't even begun to figure that one out yet. This compound is so different from anything we've seen on Earth. We've already sent it out for further research."

"That's incredible, Janet." Carter's face lit up. "The applications for such a compound would be, well..."

"Wow."

All eyes turned to Daniel, and he shook his head in disbelief, then looked up at them. "I really am lucky to be alive, and I guess I owe you guys some thanks."

"Yep." Jack slapped a hand on Daniel's shoulder, eyeing Teal'c in the periphery of his vision. The Jaffa had remained suspiciously silent. "And can you do us all a favor and tell Teal'c you don't blame him."

"Huh?" Daniel's brow furrowed. "Blame him for what? Did he, uh, push me?" An uncertain smile flickered across his lips.

Teal'c's eyes widened. "I would never do such a thing, Daniel Jackson!"

"Good to know." Daniel looked from Jack to Teal'c. "So, what are you feeling guilty about?"

"It was my duty to protect you while you conducted your studies. I failed."

"Oh, that." Daniel tilted his head and raised one hand to rub his temple. "Well, uh....If I just asked you to stop feeling guilty because it would make me feel better, would you?"

Teal'c nodded once. "If it will make you feel better, then I will stop feeling guilty."

"Just like that?" Jack raised his eyebrows. "I've been spending the past I-don't-know-how-many days trying to convince you to get over this guilt trip, making some pretty damn persuasive arguments, I might add, and Daniel's 'I'll feel better' speech does it for you?"

Teal'c nodded again. "It does."

Jack looked heavenward. "Go figure."

"Jack?"

Jack looked back at Daniel. "Yeah?"

The young man smiled shyly at him. "Thank you."

"For?" Jack prodded gently, feeling his own smile blossoming.

"I think I remember a dream, and, well, you were there, so I'm not sure whether it was a dream...but thank you either way."

Jack's chest filled with warmth. "You're welcome, Daniel. Oh, and..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out Sha're's braid. "Here. I wanted to make sure you didn't lose this."

Daniel's smile grew, a rare sight, and his eyes flicked bashfully to Sam and Teal'c. He reached out slowly and took the braid from Jack's grip, his fingers curling around the soft material.

"Thank you, Jack."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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