Keeping Something Back
The blood is hot and sticky beneath my fingers, and gushes from the wound in Ferretti's chest no matter how hard I apply pressure. The last hour has been a nightmare; you'd think, after all these months, I'd have gotten used to the scent of blood, charred flesh and gunpowder.
I keep telling myself all of this is part and parcel of being a member of Earth's defence team � a small price to pay in my search for my wife and brother-in-law. Except at times like this, when friends and teammates have been cut down by the enemy and it's a race to the Stargate and home, it's hard to remember exactly why I do all of this.
Give me a cool, quiet tomb and back breaking excavation work, anytime.
Pain in my side flares and my vision begins to fade. I take a deep breath, refusing to give in. Damn Jaffa punched me pretty good; I'm probably going to have one hell of a bruise. I force a few breaths, knowing if I pass out now, Ferretti's surely going to die. The only thing keeping him from bleeding out, is me. Considering how much blood there is all over both of us already, I'm surprised he's still conscious.
"Hand me your weapon." Ferretti reaches down my leg, his fingers fumbling for my holster.
"Don't bother, there's no clean shot." My head clears and I lean harder on my hastily folded jacket which I've pressed against the wound, eliciting a gasp from Ferretti, who continues scrabbling for my gun. We're in a bad spot, the two of us, caught in the crossfire between the Jaffa and SGs-1 and 2. And the Jaffa are between us and our way home. I blink the sweat from my eyes and raise my head just enough to peer at the DHD which is just visible through a small crack one of staff blasts created in the stone wall we've taken cover behind. We�re so close, and yet so far.
"Thank you, by the way."
Ferretti blinks up at me and frowns. "For what?"
"Saving my butt back there."
"Is that what I did?" He laughs, then moans when the motion aggravates sliced muscles. "I thought I was kicking Jaffa butt, not saving yours." After a moment he waves towards the body that took the two of us to bring down. "Too bad he got lucky�"
The pain in my ribs seems to be worsening, and I lean slightly to the side so I can massage it with the inside of my right elbow. Immediately I realize my mistaken when fire runs up along my ribcage and down my hip. I must have made a sound because Ferretti grabs my arm and gives a weak shake.
I force a tight smile and try to meet his worried gaze. The sound of gunfire and staff blasts has faded to a mere whisper of what they were, and there's darkness dancing around the edge of my vision.
"� Fine," I manage to blurt out when Ferretti asks me what's wrong. The pain finally eases enough so that I can relax slightly and I realize I've eased on the pressure against his wound. I press down again, feeling a weakness in my right side. I ignore everything; instead I concentrate on staunching the flow of blood from Ferretti's injury and wonder how long before we can get him home and into Janet's hands. My worry escalates when Ferretti's eyes roll back into his head. "Ferretti?" I squeeze down harder, wanting him to wake up. "Lou?" I ask tentatively. The blood continues to flow, so I figure I haven't lost him yet.
My radio crackles, interrupting the flow of worst-case scenarios which have taken up residence in my mind's eye. Automatically I turn my head to peer at where the rest of our teams are sheltering behind the ruins of what was once a stone building.
"Daniel, we have to make a move now. Carter and Nicholson are down. Teal'c and I are going to give you cover fire from the right; Sorenson and Hyde are gonna go left. You're closest to the DHD. As soon as we start firing, dial the 'gate."
"No!" I yell, unwilling to let go the pressure and use my own radio to respond. "I can't." Ferretti's life depends on me and there's no way I'm going to leave him.
"Damnit, Jackson." The voice yelling back at me belongs to Hyde � a hulking bulk of a marine that makes Teal'c look almost slender in comparison. "If we lose the major because of you�"
Lowering my head in frustration, I swear under my breath because he mistook my reluctance to leave Ferretti for fear. I know the reputation I have; my team trusts me, but there are still quite a few out there who haven't yet accepted a civilian amongst their ranks.
"Jack, I can't leave Ferretti. He's hurt. Bad."
"Daniel, we'll all be hurt bad if you don't dial the damn 'gate!"
There has to be another way � I can't stomach the thought of Ferretti not making it because of me. But Jack said Sam and� damn, was it Sorenson or Nicholson who was hurt? I hate the way my head is feeling, like I've had a bit too much to drink and I can't quite keep hold of my thoughts. My arms are shaking from both the strain of keeping pressure and the tension with the situation.
I jump at a touch on my fingers. Ferretti's conscious, his fingers clawing at mine.
"Go." His voice is but a whisper, but his fingers are strong as they pull mine away from the stab wound to hold my bloody jacket against the seeping blood.
I meet his eyes and I know at that moment that whatever happens to him, he'll forgive me. What he won't forgive is anybody else losing a life because of him. I understand � damnit, I *do* understand the military mind � I just don't always like it.
And I hate what I have to do.
I nod, then turn back to the stone wall. I reach with fingers, slick with blood, and key the radio.
"I'm in position," I say tersely. Seconds later the firefight doubles in intensity. I keep an eye through the cracks and the moment the Jaffa take cover, I'm off and running.
My legs are shaky and weak. Normally this sensation comes after all is over and done with. It's odd I'm feeling that way now and it's a miracle that I don't fall flat on my face. I do stumble just as I reach the DHD and shrink into as small a ball as I can manage because the Jaffa decide it's time to return fire. Dirt flies as a several blasts hit close by, a few small stones stinging my bare arms as the energy bolts whip around me. I wait as the teams reload their weapons and then I pop my head up two seconds after everyone begins firing again.
I try to ignore the blood soaking my hands as I press down on the glyphs, but the glistening red is downright distracting. One, two, three glyphs lit, and then I duck reflexively as I see a Jaffa stand and aim his weapon right for me. I fall hard on my butt, jarring my teeth and the pain in my ribs explodes. The spots are back, along with an odd hissing sound in my ears. I force my attention back to the fighting but it's too fierce for me to try and stand again.
I've memorized the symbols on the DHDs; I know exactly where the fourth one is. With my back against the stand, I raise my left hand and gently feel the symbol beneath my fingers. I recognize the glyph and realize I'm off by one. I raise my hand higher and press down decisively.
There's a short lull, the quiet almost surreal. I take a chance, stand and nearly fall flat on my face. I catch myself on the edge of the DHD and with my legs threatening to give out, I hit the next three symbols one right after the other without hesitation, then I smack my hand on the center crystal and allow my knees to crumble.
For some reason I've broken out in a sweat. I wipe the back of my bloody hand against my forehead as I listen to the Stargate's whoosh as the wormhole erupts outward. Jack's voice is coming over the radio but the words are meaningless as the hissing sound intensifies. Somewhere a piece of logic tells me he's informing the SGC that we're under fire and that the radio signal will keep the wormhole open for as long as we need it.
In the next flurry of gunfire I hear Jack call my name. Immediately I get to my feet and crouching low, I run back towards where I'd left Ferretti. Jack's voice follows me, along with a string of curses that somehow surprises me. I try and stop myself from falling, aiming for a controlled slide rather than a tumble that I know will hurt. I manage something in-between, falling hard against Ferretti.
I grab his shoulder to steady myself and sit up. He's unconscious, his hands lax against his abdomen. Immediately I grab my weapon, which has fallen from his opened palm and is resting on my bloody jacket. With my other hand I press down hard against his wound.
I see Teal'c run by, someone hanging over his shoulder, his free hand firing shot after shot with his staff weapon. I catch a glimpse of blond hair, and realize it's Sam he's carrying. I send a prayer along behind them, wishing I could follow and cover their six.
Next is Hyde, who's got Nicholson in a fireman's carry. Sorenson is covering his six, firing madly as the three of them head for the 'gate. For a moment I think I'm left by myself, when Jack suddenly appears next to me and grabs Ferretti's shoulders.
"Take his feet."
I hesitate; I don't know what to do with my weapon. Then I holster it, losing precious seconds. I grab Ferretti's feet, gather my legs under me and heave myself up. I stagger, hardly able to hold his weight. For a moment Jack also falters, then readjusts his stance, giving me a chance to get a better grip.
We come out running, my legs still doing that weird wet noodle act. But adrenaline is driving me and with Sorenson covering our butts beside the wormhole, we actually make it into the wormhole in one piece.
Experience and logic has taught me to get the hell away from direct line of fire when coming in hot. Jack veers off the ramp the moment he's clear and I try to follow, except my legs have chosen that exact moment to say, enough is enough.
I fall, hard enough to scrape my elbow on the cement floor and to ram my shin against the last metal step. I roll, tangled with Ferretti's legs, and take a moment before pushing myself up onto my knees.
Someone yells the all clear and the iris closes, shutting out any incoming fire. We're safe, and I'm so tired that I can't even breathe a sigh of relief.
There's blood on the floor and on the metal ramp and stairs. Discarded medical wrappers, an empty syringe, a couple of bloody pressure bandages. I see several sets of bloody footprints which lead around the ramp and I get a bad feeling.
Sam and Sorenson are being wheeled out of the Gateroom. Janet's kneeling beside Ferretti, and even as I manage to sit up, she's ordering him onto a gurney and yelling for people to get him into the infirmary, stat!
"What happened?" Jack's voice is terse, and he's staring at the remnants of whatever medical emergency had occurred before we came in.
"SG-7 came in hot." Hammond's standing over me, and there's blood splattered on his normally pristine, white shirt. "Three Jaffa followed them through. They got two of our security personnel before we neutralized them."
"How bad?" Jack looks away and stares at Ferretti's blood now on his hands. He wipes his hands on his pants as Janet stands, allowing her medical team to put Ferretti onto a gurney. I grab the strut of the ramp and use it to pull myself up. Even though my knees are still doing weird things, I manage to lock them so I don't embarrass myself and fall down again.
"Four injured," Janet says as she rakes her eyes over Jack and myself, "two of them critical. They're still in surgery." Her gaze stops at the blood that's staining my shirt and pants. I follow her gaze and look down, and at that moment, from the pain in my ribs and the amount of blood that's soaked into my pants and has run down my pants' leg, I realize exactly what's happened. That Jaffa didn't only *get* Ferretti, he got me, too.
"Is Ferretti going to make it?" I try to distract her by shifting the focus on our fallen comrade.
"He's lost a lot of blood." Her glance shifts upwards to my hands, and then to my forehead. "We're a little short handed; hopefully we can stabilize him by the time the operating room's free."
She seems satisfied with what she sees as I scrub my hands along my pants and she hurriedly turns to follows the gurney that's just disappearing out the door. I press my arm against the pain in my ribs, gently at first and then with mounting pressure, doing for myself what I had been doing for Ferretti. Slowly I exit the Gateroom, Jack keeping step with me even though he's talking to General Hammond. I'm shivering, although at this point I'm more comfortable attributing it to post-adrenaline rush than the alternative.
My thoughts twirl in my head, mimicking the walls as they sway side to side. I'm overrun with morbid thoughts � about Ferretti dying; about Sam dying; about me dying. As we stop to stand next to the elevator, I turn to lean my shoulder against the wall, hoping my much needed support appears nonchalant. My gloomy thoughts lead my gaze up the corridor to check for bloody footprints and I'm not disappointed. I see several, most of them thicker and clearer at the far end of the corridor, fading to a few smears around the elevator doors, where we're standing. I'm sure I've contributed to some of those and I fear I still am as my saturated pants stick against my leg. I pity the poor soul who'll have to mop all the blood.
As Jack and I step into the elevator, I realize somewhere along the line, General Hammond has disappeared, replaced by two SFs. I couldn't even say if the general accompanied us to the elevator. I can feel Jack's scrutiny, and I keep my head averted. I bring my spinning thoughts under control for a moment and ask, "Sam?"
"Blow to the head. Staff blast hit the wall and part of it fell on her."
I press my lips together and nod. I want to ask about the marine, but his name still escapes me. That worries me.
We get off the elevator and Jack leads the way to the infirmary, both of us followed by the security detail. I turn the corner and enter into bedlam.
Normally the infirmary is a fairly quiet place. Even when a team goes in for a post-mission check-up, there'll be some quiet bantering in deference to recovering patients, but nothing like what greets us today. Janet is leaning over a bed, yelling instructions to two nurses assisting her. Medical personnel are rushing to and fro, hands full of supplies or equipment, while others surround several more beds. My slowly looping vision makes the whole scenario look nightmarish.
"Oy vey," Jack says quietly under his breath. He stops, looks around, then motions for me to follow him as he points out two empty beds near the door, away from all the commotion.
I go to sit on the nearest bed and realize my clothes will stain the bedding so instead, I head for a chair on the far side of the bed Jack has chosen. I sit down with relief. I would have preferred to lie down, thinking maybe that would stop the room from spinning. Jack, on the other hand, has no such scruples. He not only sits on the bed, but bends his knees and rests the soles of his dirty boots on the blankets.
A nurse hurriedly approaches Jack, clutching a tray on which are various supplies. He waves her away, mumbling something about others needing her care more than him at the moment. She begins to head back, glancing at me as she does. She falters a moment, and I force a smile. I'm sure one of the people in the center of the melange of medical teams is Ferretti, and I can't take the chance of bringing attention to myself in case it might mean someone with medical knowledge taken away from helping someone more critically injured than myself. In any case, I managed to walk here, unlike the three who were carried in. To be honest, I'm cold and thirsty and dizzy � not too bad under the circumstances.
I close my eyes, trying to contain my shivering. The blankets on the bed next to Jack's look inviting, but grabbing them would not only draw attention to me, but would also require more effort than I'm ready to expend at this moment. Instead I wrap my arm around my chest, holding my elbow in close to the now constant throbbing along my ribs and try to ignore the slow warmth that's dripping down my chilled skin.
A sudden commotion startles me, forcing me from a near-doze. My head is aching as I squint to bring into focus the small crowd of people rushing towards me. They're pushing one of the infirmary beds and as it whizzes past, I get a glimpse of red and clear tubes hanging from bags � the red colour bright and vivid against the light green of the bedding and the pale figure enveloped within it.
With the departure of Ferretti and his medical succorers, the infirmary is suddenly quiet except for some low-pitched buzzing. I look around, trying to find the source of the noise. The tension has eased in the room, the nurses now attending to Teal'c and the other two members of SG-2. I'm surprised when nobody seems concerned with the strange sound.
Halleluiah. I pinpoint the annoying buzzing sound to Jack's voice.
"Jack?" I'm a bit taken aback at the lack of strength in my voice.
Jack's staring at me with an odd look on his face. His gaze sharpens as his eyes rake my body. He swears suddenly when he glances at the floor.
Feeling confused, I follow his gaze downwards and see that Ferretti's blood has dripped off my BDUs and has formed a puddle on the floor on the right side of my chair. I try to see where it's coming from and realize it's dripping off the seat of my chair. My pants are saturated with it, and even as I try to figure out how the blood got there, Jack's getting off the bed and yelling in my ear.
I raise my head to ask him to shush when everything tilts sideways. I'm no longer cold, but hot now. The motion makes me nauseous and I thrust my hands out to try and stop the movement. Jack's still yelling as I see his body begin to lean sideways. Then there's a painful jarring against my knees which reverberates into my ribs. My vision has darkened, the heat beginning to fade. The last thing I hear is a surprisingly gentle voice against my ear.
"Don't worry, I gotcha."
- - - - - -
I hear music somewhere far away. It's soft, soothing, with a double rhythmic percussion which is faintly familiar. I float in the music, half-asleep, partly aware of people talking around me. It's not until I wake up a little more that I realize I'm not in my bed.
I should be worried that I've been sleeping in the company of others � if for any other reason, it's in bad taste � but I'm not. I'm content to just lie here, listen, and just... be.
"...Past experience or anything," someone was saying, the voice melodic and keeping pace with the music. "He did, after all, save the major's life." I decide the voice is Janet's.
"And nearly at everyone else's expense."
Okay, that growl is definitely Jack's.
"With the blood loss and shock, it's not surprising that he wasn't thinking clearly. He was focused on trying to help someone and he had a hard time getting out of that mind set. I'm sure you've seen these things happen before, sir, maybe even experienced it yourself?"
"Yeah, yeah, I have. I know, that's not what's bugging me. I saw he was pale and quiet, which isn't like him at all. I thought it was shock from... you know, because of what happened to Ferretti. I should have known what was happening�"
At that moment I realize it's me they're talking about. I must have made a noise, because Jack stops talking and calls my name.
I can't resist. There's some quality in his voice that gets to me. I crack open an eye, feeling oddly sluggish and dopey. I can't quite make out the form beside my bed but I do recognize the air force blue shade of clothing Jack's wearing.
"Well, well, look who's awake."
I follow the uniform up until I can fix on Jack's face. I've lost the dreamy feeling, the music has fled and I realize somehow my brain latched onto the heartbeat monitor and used that as a base for the symphony bouncing around in my head. My eyes are gummy and itchy, my mouth is dry and pasty and for some reason I feel filthy.
"Jack?" I squint up at him and realize Teal'c is standing next to the chair Jack's sitting on. "Teal'c," I add in greeting. My memory slowly returns and I realize the reason I felt dirty is because my body thinks it's covered in blood. I can still smell it and I raise my hands, looking for confirmation.
I'm clean, there's not a trace of blood on my hands; not under my nails, not in the whorls on my knuckles or folds of skin on my wrists or in and around the bandage affixing the IV to the back of one hand. I turn my hands first one way, then the other and feel a twinge on my right side as I do so.
"Daniel?" There's worry in that voice. Sam's voice. I lower my hands, my brain finally making the connection that clean hands means Janet's nurses have cleaned me up. Now *that* brings a flush to my face and I wonder exactly how much of me they actually scrubbed. I force my muddled thoughts aside and turn my head the other way to look at Sam.
There's an angry looking bruise on her temple and forehead and she's got a black eye. It looks painful, and I'm surprised she's allowed out of bed. Then I see she's actually wearing scrubs and sitting, cross-legged, on the bed next to mine and I realize she's still a patient here.
There's movement to my left and I turn my head again in time to see Janet moving closer to Jack. He gives me another one of those looks, then smiles at me.
"Welcome back. How are you feeling?"
"Janet." My voice cracks and I lick my lips; my tongue is thick and swollen in my mouth. "Tired." I close my eyes a moment as Janet looks over at the readouts on the medical equipment. I may have dozed off because I feel a touch to my cheek. Janet's smiling at me, and she holds up a spoon.
"Want some ice chips?"
I'm not sure exactly what these are but I nod. She digs the spoon into a cup and comes out with slivers of ice, and places the spoon in my mouth. They're cool and wet and refreshing and my mouth explodes with freshness. I let the ice melt for a bit and then crunch them, anxious for more.
She smiles again and places both spoon and cup in my hand, and I eagerly dig out some more. I keep my attention focused on the ice chips, uncomfortable with the silence of my teammates.
"Well, you're doing pretty good." Janet takes a moment to write something in my chart, but she looks up and also smiles at me. For a moment there's only the sound of the medical equipment and the pen scratching on the paper. "Your temperature's slightly elevated but hopefully the antibiotics will keep any infection at bay. You lost a lot of blood; I'm surprised you managed to keep going for as long as you did."
The mention of blood brings back Ferretti's injury with an uncomfortable clenching of fear in my abdomen.
"Ferretti?" I ask, swallowing hard and hoping the water in my stomach doesn't try to make a reappearance.
"He's going to be fine, thanks to you." Janet reaches over and squeezes my leg, then gives Jack one of her warning looks. "Five minutes." She smiles at me again and moves away.
"CaptainCarter and CaptainNicholson will also make a complete recovery." Teal'c reaches for the cup of ice chips sitting on my abdomen and places it on a small table on wheels, next to the bed, and pushes it close. He inclines his head when I thank him. I hadn't realized how cold my fingers had gotten where they'd circled the cup.
"Sam? You okay?"
"Bruises and a concussion. I'll be fine once this headache goes away." She gives me a lopsided smile and I can see even how that little gesture hurt.
Jack clears his throat and I turn to look at him again. I'm getting dizzy, moving my head back and forth. And tired. My eyes feel heavy and my thoughts have started slowing down again.
"Daniel," Jack says after a moment, his voice coming out as a strident hiss. "If you ever keep something like this from us again, so help me, God, I'll�"
Jack shuts up as Hyde stops by my bed. As sleepy as I feel right now, I don't miss the fact that he startled Jack. The marine is standing by the foot of my bed, a large grin on his face.
"You know, I've seen road kill that looked better than you do." He laughs, the sound shrill after the hushed voices of my teammates. "Even the major looks less like a corpse than�"
Hyde quickly grows serious at Jack's warning growl. "I just wanted to thank you for what you did for the major. The doc, she told us he nearly didn't make it � another couple of minutes and he'd be... well, anyways, thanks. If you hadn't gone back, well..."
There's something disturbing about seeing a man of his size and demeanour looking at you with such earnest gratitude when you're used to curses and insults. It's a relief when he points a finger towards me and snarls, "Major Ferretti says if Colonel O'Neill doesn't kick your butt across the length of the Gateroom next time you pull a stunt like that, he'll do it himself." Hyde grins. "Of course, that'll only happen once he's back on his feet. It'll give the colonel plenty of time to chew your ear off first." Hyde chuckles as he turns around and leaves.
"He's right, you know." Jack's voice is gentle. "You saved Lou's life, and almost lost your own in the process. What the hell were you thinking?"
I ponder his words a moment, allowing my eyes to close. Somehow in the dreamscape of my memories, what I'd done to myself in order to ensure attention wasn't taken away from those who'd been injured, seemed right. And at the same time, I knew it had been wrong.
"I wasn't thinking." My words are slurred, my lips and tongue are having problems forming them. I want to look at Jack, see the expression on his face, but my eyelids feel like they're made out of concrete and I can't get them to open.
"Exactly. I hope you do think before trying a stunt like this again. Otherwise I *will* kick your butt all over the Gateroom."
I've got one foot into the realm of Morpheus and I fight a little to keep from sliding totally into sleep. I feel the corner of my lip try to stretch into a smile, but I've just about lost all control of my body. I drift, half-hearing words and sounds as my brain seems to be lagging behind a few seconds.
No, I'm not, but I only think the words as Jack continues to talk softly. I let the sound of his voice pull me under the rest of the way, feeling good about myself. Yeah, people got hurt, but nobody died. I'd made a difference; and for once in my life, I feel like I belong.
Author's Comments: Ann-Marie, this one is dedicated to you. And a huge thank you to devra for both giving me the idea and making my stories the best the can be.
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.