With shaking hands, Daniel poured himself a coffee, trying not to spill any of the hot liquid onto his fingers. He ignored the constant nagging pain in his head that continued on down his back, gulping half of the hot brew as he made his way back carefully to where he�d spied Jack sitting by himself in a dark corner of the commissary.
He wasn�t surprised seeing Jack here this late at night; Daniel figured he couldn�t sleep either. Jack�s friend Kawalski had just been killed� Daniel had a good idea what Jack was going through. Daniel�s life had just been turned upside down. His wife had been kidnapped and taken as host by an alien.
He�d never been afraid to go to sleep before but had avoided doing so for the past four days. Tonight he�d finally decided to give in to his exhaustion and after tossing and turning for a while, he�d managed to doze off after downing several painkillers. He�d been awakened out of his sleep by a nightmare; his wife�s glowing, alien eyes following him until he fell out of the bed in his panic. He fought to overcome his pain and dizziness while scrabbling for the light switch in the dark.
He was grateful that the harsh light didn�t reveal another dead body like Dr. Nimzicki�s. He�d almost sobbed with relief at finding himself alone in the room. Kawalski was dead and the alien inside that had taken over his body wouldn�t kill anybody else. Teal�c had seen to that.
Daniel had been in both physical pain and mental anguish since he�d woken up in the dungeon on Chulak four days ago, knocked unconscious when he�d been slammed hard against a wall hours earlier by Apophis� hand-device. Daniel had managed to shake off his pain at the time, his thoughts primarily about rescuing his wife. He tried to ignore the fact that she had stood before the false god, protecting him with her body. Then he�d gotten caught up in the adrenaline rush of trying to stay alive and escort a bunch of refugees back to Earth. The aftermath had been difficult; Daniel had been involved in trying to help the refugees find their home planets and sending them through the Stargate.
The pain had been getting increasingly worse since that time. He�d been able to push past the constant headache with handfuls of Tylenol and overlooked the increasing bouts of dizziness and nausea, but exhaustion was now starting to take a toll. His back wasn�t so bad if he didn�t make any sudden moves; he�d seen the bruises in the mirror earlier in the day and had gasped at the discoloration that started from his shoulders and extended past his right hip.
But that wasn�t the end of terrible things that had been plaguing them since their return from Chulak. Just when Daniel had thought he could finally give in to his pain and fatigue, they�d discovered that Kawalski had been infested with a Goa�uld larva, and all their efforts had turned to trying to save his life. Daniel, having thus seen first-hand what his wife must be going through and knowing that this would give him nightmares, had continued avoiding sleep.
So Daniel found himself returning to the commissary for the fifth time that night, drinking cup after cup of coffee in an effort to remain awake.
�Hey,� Daniel said quietly as he stood beside Jack, trying to gauge his friend�s reaction.
Daniel felt so alone and very vulnerable right now, which was why he was trying to reach out to Jack. Maybe he could put forth a bit of sympathy and get a bit of kindness back. He felt guilty trying to use Jack to make himself feel better. Jack had taken him in when he�d returned to Earth feeling lost and depressed� was it only a few days ago? He had brought Daniel to his home and had even given Daniel some of his own clothes to tide him over. That little bit of kindness had meant more than Daniel could ever express, and like a starving puppy, he was looking for more scraps.
Daniel placed his cup of coffee carefully onto the table and sat down slowly, trying not to grimace as his back refused to bend. Jack didn�t look up or acknowledge him, and Daniel really had no idea what to say to him.
Everyone was steering clear of Jack since Kawalski had died. No one really knew Jack all that well and his reputation had preceded him here. Daniel got the impression that although Jack was well respected, many of the people on the base actually feared him. He felt almost as discouraged as Jack. Daniel�s wife was lost to him and even though Jack and Sam had sworn they�d do their best to help get her back, Daniel knew the SGC�s priorities weren�t the same as his.
�I�m sorry about Kawalski, Jack,� Daniel said after a moment. Jack simply grunted, staring into his cup. Daniel took a few sips of coffee before going on.
�But I guess � you know � it�s probably for the best.� Daniel rubbed at his forehead, trying to ease the pounding. �I can�t imagine� he�d have wanted it gone, I think. He wouldn�t want to live like that.�
The look Jack gave Daniel made his blood freeze. It was akin to the old Jack of a year ago, cold, unfeeling and suicidal.
�That coming from the man who a few days ago was willing to sacrifice himself to the Goa�uld in order to stay close to his wife?�
�What?� Daniel asked, confused. He remembered saying something to the Jaffa he now knew as Teal�c about that theory. That �something of the host must remain�. For a crazy moment Daniel had been willing to give up everything when he understood there was no hope of rescuing Shau�re. But that time-stopping moment of senselessness had disappeared when he�d realized he had to continue to fight the battle. It wasn�t just about Shau�re, it was about survival as a species.
�And what about your wife, Daniel? You think she�d be better off dead than have that thing curled up inside of her, caressing her spine?�
�No!� Daniel exclaimed, wondering why Jack was saying these things. His head flared in pain and he couldn�t seem to make his thoughts work properly. �I didn�t mean� I just�� He trailed off, his ears humming strangely. He held onto the table as the room swam around him for a moment, Jack�s voice alternating between fading and sounding too loud in the empty room.
��wrong with you. Skaara�s out there.... try and save them, I sure as hell don�t� Apophis will have won.�
Daniel felt the coffee he�d drunk begin to burn his stomach and he swallowed, hoping it wouldn�t make a reappearance before he could manage to find his way to the bathroom. He looked across the shifting room, the exit appearing far away. He pushed away from the table slowly, taking small, even breaths to hold back his nausea.
Standing up was more difficult than he�d expected and he held on tightly to the table�s edge, his back seizing painfully at the movement. He felt a hand on his arm and he managed to focus onto Jack�s face, his brown eyes seeming to reflect worry.
�Are you all right?� Jack inquired. Daniel opened his mouth to answer that he was fine when he suddenly found himself lying flat on the ground with no recollection of how he�d gotten there. He was enveloped in pain and could barely move. Someone was holding his hand and he grabbed onto it like a lifeline as pain filled his head and all coherent thoughts were forced out.
- - - - - -
Daniel slipped in and out of a drugged sleep, fighting nightmares, pain and nausea. He became aware of hands on his forehead stroking away his headache, a soft voice in his ear soothing him when he cried out for his wife, and someone supporting his head when his stomach finally revolted and he began vomiting the last coffee he�d drank. Someone told him to go to sleep and he trusted the familiar voice, no longer fighting the drugs and allowing his exhaustion to claim him.
Daniel woke up curled on his side in misery. The medications he�d been given had finally eased most of his pain but had made him so sleepy and dull-witted that he�d despaired of ever being able to shake the lethargy they�d induced. He didn�t know which was worse, the agony he�d been going through or this listlessness.
He had woken up several times prior to this, and had been informed he had a concussion, severe bruising, and was suffering from exhaustion and lack of food. He giggled softly; thankful for the coffee he�d lived on during the past few days, at least he couldn�t be accused of being dehydrated. His mood shifted again as he thought of the uncomfortable tongue lashing he�d been given by both Doctor Warner and General Hammond for not having reported his injuries. His face burned in embarrassment at the memory.
His visit from Sam earlier hadn�t gone any better because she blamed herself for not noticing Daniel had been so badly hurt. But he had been overjoyed to have woken up and seen her sitting beside his bed, realizing that someone had cared enough to take the time to visit. She hadn�t stayed long, though, and Daniel was sorry to see her leave, even though he�d been too groggy to say much to her.
He drifted off, dreaming of seeing his loved ones watching him with glowing eyes, then leaving him and going through the Stargate while Jack and Sam held him back forcibly. He�d woken up with a shout the moment Jack�s eyes had suddenly glowed. As Daniel instinctively tried to sit up, the movement woke up his abused muscles and he moaned in pain as strong arms pushed him back down onto the bed. He heard people talking around him but one voice broke through the mesh of sounds surrounding him. He cracked open an eye and saw Jack leaning over his bed.
�Welcome back,� Jack said when he saw Daniel looking at him. �Feeling better?�
Daniel nodded, relieved to see a familiar face. Had Jack been to visit him earlier? The memories were vague, but there. He could clearly remember Sam sitting with him, why not Jack?
�Looked like one helluva nightmare,� Jack said conversationally as he leaned back against the chair.
Again Daniel nodded, at a loss for words with the emotions from his dream still close to the surface.
�Good. I�ve been stuck in meetings for the past eight hours so I�m sorry I couldn�t get back to you any sooner.�
Daniel blinked and remained quiet, knowing people always found excuses to stay away when he was sick. He recalled being hospitalized as a child after suffering a viral infection; his foster parents dutifully stopped by once a day whereas the other children in the ward had had someone with them nearly twenty-four hours of each day.
He�d always fended for himself, and had been surprised when he�d fallen ill on Abydos and Shau�re, Skaara and Kasuf had taken turns to sit with him until his fever had broken. He desperately wanted his family back now and would have begged General Hammond to send him back to Abydos had he not instructed those people to bury their gate. Daniel turned his face into his pillow, trying to hide the threatening tears, hating himself for his self-pity and weakness.
�Warner tells me he�ll be releasing you soon, so it�s a good thing your bed is already made up, huh? I figure I can take some work home and baby sit you for a day or two. Or at least until Warner says it�s okay to leave you alone.�
Daniel felt a hand on his head and Jack�s worried voice, �Hey, you okay?�
Embarrassed, Daniel nodded, and felt the hand move down to his nape and squeeze gently. He was surprised that Jack cared, and didn�t mind being burdened with Daniel, again.
�It�s all right,� Jack said softly. �I�m right here. I�m not going anywhere.�
Daniel wondered at Jack�s words until he remembered his nightmare. The details of it were fading, leaving him with feelings of abandonment and futility, and the embarrassing fact that he�d been yelling Jack�s name when he�d woken up.
The weight on his head and neck was soothing and he relaxed under the gentle massage. He must have fallen asleep because he woke up to the sight of Jack sitting back in the chair, reading a magazine. Too tired to talk but feeling incredibly moved by the sight, Daniel closed his eyes and slept some more. He woke up again and saw Jack in the same chair, this time tilted so Jack was balanced on its back legs, leaning against the wall, fast asleep. It felt nice to know someone was there with him, giving him back the feeling of security he thought he�d lost with Shau�re�s abduction.
He woke up again and this time the chair was empty. The feeling of wellbeing suddenly fled and he berated himself for thinking someone had actually cared about him, wondering if it all had been a dream. His head didn�t hurt as much, but his heart was aching. Swallowing back the sadness, he looked around the infirmary. He saw Doctor Warner speaking with somebody and he suddenly realized that somebody was Jack. Daniel couldn�t believe that Jack had stayed with him all this time.
Jack turned and smiled at Daniel when he saw he was awake, and raised his thumb skyward. Daniel hoped that it meant Daniel was good to leave this place. He was anxious to get away and regain his strength for the oncoming battle with the Goa�uld. His wife and brother-in-law were out there. Jack was his friend and he had sworn to help Daniel get them back.
Something of the host remains. It had to. Daniel was hell bent on finding out, one way or the other.
Jack had laid the foundations of their friendship; Daniel was ready to try and help cement it together. He saw Jack and Doctor Warner approach his bed and Daniel smiled.
�Ready to go home, Danny?� Jack asked.
Author's Comments: This had been written for the Our Stargate zine, hand-distributed at a couple of conventions held a couple of years ago. I just found this little ficlet on my hard drive.
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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.