Being Brave

By Lyn

EMAIL: Lyn

Notes: Third instalment of the Nightmares Shared series. Many thanks to Annie as always for the stellar beta.

Daniel squirmed uncomfortably in the passenger seat. "Jack? I have to go!"

Jack glanced over at his pint-sized friend. "Again? I thought you said you went before we left."

"I did," Daniel protested. "Then Sara showed up and you talked for ages and now," he grimaced and wriggled some more, "now, I really need to go!"

"We're only a little ways from the campsite. Can you hold on till then?"

"No!"

Jack sighed. "Okay, look, there's a truck stop coming up in a few minutes." He looked over at Daniel where he sat in his booster seat beside him. There'd been a vociferous argument from Daniel on the necessity of the safety device and he'd only backed down when Jack agreed that he could sit up front. "Can you hold on for that long?" he asked. He tried not to grin at the way Daniel was hanging onto his crotch. "Either that or I pull over here and you can pee in the bushes."

"No!" Daniel protested. "Besides, I need to stretch my legs." At Jack's amused look, he added, "I know they're not long legs any more but they still get cramped up."

Jack nodded in empathy. His knees were protesting their enforced inactivity as well. "Works for me." He grinned evilly. "I'll try not to go over any bumps."

"Just remember this is your car we're in," Daniel shot back with a satisfied smirk. "If I can't hold on -" He shrugged dismissively.

"I get the message, Daniel. Just cross your legs or something."

"If I crossed them any more, I'd be a pretzel." Daniel squirmed again, his hand going back to his crotch. "Just hurry."

~o0o~

"Hey there, cutie. What can I get you?" the grey-haired woman behind the counter asked.

Daniel smiled sweetly at her. "I'll take a beer with a tequila chaser."

The woman gave a throaty laugh and Jack looked ready to kill him. Precisely the reaction he'd hoped for.

Jack cuffed him lightly on the back of his head. "Kid's always kidding around. We've got a campsite not far from here." He gave Daniel a smirk. "If Danny hadn't needed to go to the bathroom, we would have been there by now."

Daniel gave Jack a mutinous look. "Don't call me Danny like I'm a little kid!" Sticking his tongue out at Jack in a decidedly child-like manner, he climbed down from his stool. "I don't want anything." He stomped to the exit and pushed the door open. Trust Jack to embarrass him like that! Didn't he realize just how hard he was finding it to adjust to all the little kid stuff? Couldn't even wait five minutes longer to pee! He hated this, hated everything, hated Jack!

"Daniel, wait!"

He ignored Jack's call and stormed outside, running across the parking lot toward the SUV.

"Daniel!"

Hands grabbed him from behind, pulling him into the air, a split second before a car flashed by, its horn tooting loudly. Jack squeezed him tightly then turned him in his arms and pushed him back a little. "What the hell was that about? You almost got run over!"

Daniel stared at him, his chest tight with fear. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I didn't think."

Jack set him down on the ground but kept a tight grip of his hand. "I don't have that many years left, Daniel. Don't scare them all out of me."

Truth was, Daniel didn't know what had made him lose it like that. He felt his face heat. Maybe whatever had downsized him was gradually downsizing his brain as well. Maybe soon, he'd be wearing a diaper and drinking from a bottle…

"Daniel?" Jack touched his shoulder and he looked up. Jack was frowning at him, looking worried. "You okay?"

"Yeah."

Jack squatted down in front of him. "I'm sorry for teasing you in front of the lady." He scrubbed a hand over his face. "This is still kinda new to me too. I mean, I teased you all the time -"

"When I was big," Daniel interjected. He felt his chin start to quiver and determinedly pushed back his tears. "I just can't seem to stop getting upset over nothing."

"It wasn't nothing," Jack said. He held out his arms and Daniel went willingly into his embrace. "It was me being mean and not thinking. I'm sorry." He patted Daniel's back soothingly a few times.

"Okay."

Jack winced as he stood up. "So, do you want something to drink or do you want to wait till we get there?" he asked.

"Let's wait. Will we still have time for you to fish before dinner?" Daniel asked.

Jack checked his watch. "Plenty." He held out his hand and Daniel took it. "Let's get back on the road."

~o0o~

Daniel tried manfully to help Jack set up the tent but his smaller stature and little fingers were just making things more difficult. He plopped down onto his butt in the dirt and watched disconsolately as Jack finished the task himself.

Jack dusted off his hands and gave the tent a critical look then his gaze shifted to Daniel. "Tell you what, why don't you grab us a snack out of the box while I set up the sleeping bags?"

"What did you bring?"

Jack rolled his eyes. "Look and see."

Standing, Daniel scampered over to the car and climbed into the rear. Rummaging through the box, he held a bag aloft. "Peanut butter cookies! My favourite." He rummaged some more then emerged victorious with a candy bar in each hand. "Cool! Thanks, Jack."

"Uh-uh" Jack shook his head. "Put one back. I'm not having you throwing up in my new tent."

Daniel shrugged and tossed one bar back into the box, then clambered down again with his booty held to his chest. He waited while Jack pulled out two fishing rods and a large tackle box from the back. "How come you got two fishing rods?"

"One for you, one for me."

Daniel shook his head. "I don't like fishing, you know that."

"You ever tried it?"

"No, but…"

"Then you don't know, do you?" Jack hefted the tackle box and headed toward the river. "Come on, before it gets too late and we miss out on catching supper."

~o0o~

Daniel had to admit that fishing was pretty fun, as long as he didn't have to bait the hook himself. He certainly didn't want one of those nasty barbs in his finger. He hadn't even thought about the books he'd brought with him until they'd got back to camp. He put the textbook aside now and inhaled the scent of frying fish deeply. His stomach grumbled in anticipation and Jack chuckled.

"All this fresh air is giving you an appetite, Danny boy."

Daniel nodded and smiled back. "It smells great! I'm starving!"

Jack slid a couple of fish fillets onto a plate and added a potato that had been baked in the embers of the fire then handed it over. "Dig in then."

They ate in companionable silence until Daniel realized that his child-sized stomach just couldn't fit anymore in. He put the plate aside and groaned theatrically, holding his belly. "I'm full."

Jack grabbed up Daniel's discarded plate and finished off the meal. "No sense wasting it," he said at Daniel's incredulous look. "Besides, I did all the hard work."

"I caught more fish than you," Daniel retorted.

"Yeah, yeah, only because I let you," Jack said. Daniel yawned widely. "Time for bed," Jack decided.

"Are you coming?" Daniel looked toward the tent with trepidation. He hadn't had a nightmare in a while but out here, alone in a tent…

"Have to clean up the campsite first," Jack said.

"I'll stay and watch." Jack opened his mouth as though he was going to protest then shrugged.

Daniel watched Jack clear away their dishes and put out the fire, his eyes growing heavy. He barely felt Jack sit down beside him but leaned into the warmth of the man beside him, feeling Jack's arm go round his shoulders. He looked up at the sky twinkling with stars. "Do you think you can see Abydos from here?" he asked softly.

"If I had my telescope, we could try. Let's see…" For the next few minutes, Daniel tried to concentrate as Jack pointed out the various constellations but the lure of sleep was too much and he allowed himself to drift off, secure in Jack's arms.

~o0o~

Thick, warm, blood-red liquid filled his mouth and he gagged on the foul taste of it.

"Tell me where the boy is!" a deep, disembodied voice demanded.

"Come on, Daniel," Jack's voice echoed in his head. "Where's the boy? You told me before…"

"No!"

~o0o~

The high-pitched wail of distress tore Jack instantly from sleep and he shot up, totally forgetting he was in a low-roofed tent. He looked around blindly for a moment then scrabbled for the flashlight he'd set beside the sleeping bag for emergencies. Switching it on, he played the beam over the sleeping bag next to him.

Daniel sat up ramrod straight, his eyes wide and staring ahead at something only he could see, his chest heaving, sobs of distress falling from trembling lips. The upper layer of the sleeping bag was clutched up around his chest as though in an attempt to ward some evil off.

Jack clambered out of bed and crawled over to Daniel's side. "Daniel? It's me, Jack." He reached out and touched Daniel's shoulder but the boy set up another round of screaming and flinched away from him.

"It's all right, Danny, it's Jack," Jack soothed, unwittingly using the diminutive Daniel had so protested about earlier that day. He sat next to the terrified child and drew him gently into his arms.

Daniel stiffened at first and then wrapped both arms tightly around Jack's neck, sobbing loudly.

"Another bad dream, huh?" Jack asked. He felt Daniel nod against his neck. Jack sat for what seemed like hours, gently rocking his young charge, whispering soothing words until he felt the small body relax.

"Okay now?" Jack asked. Again, Daniel shook his head. "Okay. How about you come sleep in my sleeping bag till you're feeling better."

There was a moment's pause then Daniel nodded. Finally, he looked up at Jack. Jack smiled at him and wiped the tears from his cheeks. "Come on, then, up you go." He shone the flashlight on his own rumpled sleeping bag and waited for Daniel to crawl off his lap. He seriously doubted his knees would stand the strain of crawling back over the firm ground with a child clinging to him. Daniel still sat, biting his bottom lip, looking worried. "Daniel?" Jack prodded.

"Will there be enough room?" Daniel asked.

"Sure. You're just a little guy - no offense," he added hastily.

"What about Lumpy?"

"The bed's not lumpy," Jack said, getting more confused by the minute.

"No…" Daniel shook his head, looking somewhat impatient. He gave Jack a patented exasperated Daniel look that no amount of lost years could disguise. "What about Lumpy?" He held up what appeared at first glance in the darkness to be a misshapen… well, lump.

Jack realized now that it had been hidden under the folds of Daniel's sleeping bag. "What the heck is that?"

Daniel held it up for closer inspection. "Lumpy," he said patiently. "Sam gave him to me, in case of the bad dreams.

In the glow from the flashlight, Jack could now see that it was indeed a stuffed animal, a camel, in fact, hence, obviously its name. "Oh." He nodded, feeling a little out of his depth. At times like these, when Daniel was out of sorts, and especially after a nightmare, he seemed to become emotionally more child than adult. It hardly seemed fair to be thinking what a thirty-five year old man was doing dragging around a stuffed… He put out his hand and shook a hoof. "Nice to meet ya, Lumpy."

When Daniel merely smiled and hugged Lumpy to him, Jack scooted over to his own adult-sized sleeping bag with Daniel still in his lap, grumpily telling his protesting knees to quit the complaints. Finally, after several minutes of shifting around in the bed, with Daniel arranging Lumpy just so, the boy finally settled down, curled up on his side facing Jack.

Jack watched Daniel watching him, his eyelids blinking slowly, his breaths evening out, his eyes finally closing and staying shut. He stayed awake a long time after, just watching Daniel sleep, before drifting off himself.

~o0o~

Jack awoke to stifling heat. Daniel lay draped over him, snoring like a freight train from an open mouth, a puddle of drool forming on Jack's t-shirt… again. Lumpy was clutched in Daniel's right hand, sandwiched between his and Jack's chests.

Carefully, Jack slid the sleeping boy off him and sat up, then crawled out of bed and out of the tent. The morning was crisp but clear, a perfect day for a stroll beside the river, maybe a little more fishing in the afternoon.

Taking advantage of Daniel's fatigue, Jack went about his morning ablutions and then got set up to cook breakfast. He looked up from his task when he glimpsed movement at the tent opening out the corner of his eye. "Morning, sleepy head. Ready for breakfast?"

Daniel nodded, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Lumpy was cradled in one arm, looking decidedly self-satisfied.

Jack made sure the bacon was burned to Daniel's exacting desires then dished up a plate, adding scrambled eggs and toast. Daniel set Lumpy beside him on the ground and devoured the meal like a starving man.

"Gonna need to buy you new clothes the way you're putting away the food, Junior."

There was only the slightest frown on Daniel's face at Jack's slip before he seemed to dismiss it for being exactly that. He reached over and gulped juice from his tumbler then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "What are we gonna do today?" he asked.

"Well, I thought a walk would be nice," Jack began. He poured hot water from the pot over the fire into a plastic bucket, squirted in dish soap and began to wash the dishes. Daniel, without coaxing, picked up the dishtowel and began to dry the plates as Jack held them out to him. "Can we explore?" he asked. He pointed to the hills a short way off. "Might be caves and stuff."

"Might be bears in them thar caves," Jack said. "Just kidding," he added at Daniel's look of alarm. "No bears around here." He thought for a moment. It seemed only fair to give Daniel some freedom of choice in what they did. "Sure, why not. Go get dressed and don't forget to brush your teeth."

~o0o~

They'd chosen a gently sloping path to the top, rather than the steep climb from the other end suggested by Daniel. It was not, Jack replied huffily to Daniel's sarcastic rejoinder, because of his poor old knees (emphasis on the old) but because they'd be able to view the scenery better. No way was Jack admitting that Daniel was even partly right about his knees.

The path was fairly wide and the drop not overly steep but Jack warned Daniel to stay to the far side. The kid had run into enough trouble as an adult. There was no way he was facing the doc's ire if he took a banged up Daniel back to the base. Daniel had insisted on bringing Lumpy along for the stroll, now that the cat… or camel, as it were, was out of the bag. He'd walked along, pointing out the birds and plantlife to the stuffed animal, pausing at times as though he was actually getting a response from the toy. Jack didn't mind. In fact, he was glad to let Daniel indulge in some kid time. Daniel had enough adult-sized worries residing in that little head. If he could forget them for a while and just be the little boy he now was, all the better. He stopped and looked back. Daniel had fallen behind again, his attention apparently taken by a plant or rock or something else. The child Daniel seemed as fascinated with the natural world as the adult.

Jack was starting to get bored with the hike. He knew he had a short attention span, didn't need Daniel reminding him of it though. He thought longingly of the river and the fish just waiting to be caught, of the cold beer sitting in the icebox… maybe he could think of a suitable bribe to lure Daniel down to the river. "Daniel," he called. "Shake a leg, huh?"

There was no reply. Shaking his head, Jack turned back the way they'd come. He rounded a bend in the path to see Daniel hanging over the edge of the path, his butt in the air, his hands stretched toward the ground below.

"Daniel!" Jack forgot his weariness. He ran forward, grabbing Daniel by his wildly waving ankles and hauled him backwards.

Daniel thrashed in his grip. "No! Jack, let me go!"

Jack caught hold of Daniel's shoulders and shook him gently. "Settle down!" he admonished. He regretted his harsh tone when Daniel's eyes filled with tears that overflowed down his cheeks. "What's wrong, buddy?"

"Lumpy!" Daniel wailed. "I was just looking over the side to see how far up we were. I tripped on a rock and Lumpy - Lumpy fell!"

"Crap!" Jack straightened. "Stay here," he admonished Daniel. Daniel nodded and swiped at his nose with his hand. Walking over to the edge, Jack leaned over slightly and looked down. Lumpy lay about halfway down, looking none the worse for wear.

"Is he okay?" Daniel asked from beside him.

"I thought I told you to stay over there," Jack groused.

"I'm worried about Lumpy."

"He's fine," Jack said. "I suppose you expect me to go get him." It wasn't a question.

"We - we can't leave him there!" Fresh tears welled in Daniel's eyes.

"I'm going, I'm going!" Jack shook a finger at Daniel. "Don't move from this spot."

Daniel sketched a salute. "I won't."

Carefully, Jack made his way down to the fallen Lumpy. He was almost there when his foot skidded on a loose rock, his knee twisted painfully and then he was falling, somersaulting down past Lumpy, bouncing and skidding, his hands scrabbling frantically for a hold on something to stop his descent. His head slammed solidly into the ground as he was tossed forward and he felt nothing more.

~o0o~

"Jack?" Tentatively, Daniel shook Jack's nearest shoulder then slapped at his cheek when Jack's head lolled lifelessly from side to side at the movement. "Jack! Stop fooling around!" he shouted tearfully.

There was a big lump on Jack's forehead that was already beginning to purple. His leg was twisted strangely away from his body and he was very still. "Jack?" Daniel whispered.

He scanned their surroundings but there was no one in sight. Jack said he'd chosen this spot because there were never many people around. He said it was where he came when he wanted to do some real fishing and needed time on his own. Daniel shivered. He suddenly felt very small. He clutched Lumpy more tightly to him and gave into his fears, sobbing into Lumpy's soft coat. What if Jack never woke up?

Reaching out with his free hand, he pressed it to Jack's neck and felt a reassuring thrumming against his fingers. Next he placed his hand over Jack's heart. His chest rose and fell rhythmically but still he didn't stir. There was a lump in Jack's shirt pocket, and, with a surge of hope, Daniel pulled the object out. Jack's cell phone! He opened the cover and stared forlornly at the smashed screen.

"I'm scared," Daniel whispered to Lumpy. He had to do something, he knew that. If he just stayed here next to Jack, they might be here all night or longer. Frozen in shock by the sight of Jack's fall, it had taken a while before Daniel had been able to force himself to move and run back down the path. Lumpy had been dislodged by Jack's tumble past him and lay just out of reach of Jack's outstretched hand. Daniel had been trying to wake Jack up for the longest time, and already the afternoon shadows were lengthening, heralding dusk. What if nobody came? What if Jack died before help arrived? Daniel shook his head. He couldn't let that happen… but he was so scared, and he was just a little kid…

Get with the program, Jackson, he could hear Jack saying in his head. You're not really a kid, he reminded himself, just built like one. You're a professor of Archeology and an explorer. You've been to other worlds, fought the Goa'uld, you've died and come back to life - He shivered again. He really wished he hadn't thought about that last part.

"Jack?" He shook Jack's shoulder again but there was still no response. His mind made up, he stood and looked back to where he knew the campsite was. If help wasn't coming to them, he'd go for help. He thought for a moment then carefully placed Lumpy on Jack's chest. "You look after Jack," he told his stuffed friend. "I'll be back soon."

~o0o~

He was so stupid! Daniel stared down to where his feet dangled far from the car pedals. Even if he could remember how to drive, he couldn't reach the accelerator or the brake, let alone see out the windscreen. Frustrated, he thumped his fist on the steering wheel in a pretty good Jack imitation. He thought for a moment. The truck stop hadn't seemed that far from the campsite. Of course they'd been travelling in a car but still… Just the other day, depressed and angry with one more thing his five year old body couldn't do, Daniel had read a story in the newspaper about a little girl in Australia who'd walked for miles through the bush in bare feet to get help for her badly injured father. It had given him hope that the only thing stopping him from doing most of the things he had done as an adult was his own fear.

He climbed out of the car, took a final look toward the hills where Jack lay, relying on him to bring back help, and began to walk. It wasn't getting dark yet, but he felt very alone in the silence surrounding him, and he tried to ignore the sensation of the gnarled tree trunks closing in him, of their branches reaching out to trap him in their clutches. He heard the snap of a twig in the bushes beyond the path and froze. When he heard nothing more, he walked on.

He found himself in another dilemma once he reached the road. Which way was the truck stop? Being stuck in a booster seat, barely able to see over the dash, had its drawbacks, and he hadn't really been taking notice anyway. Feeling tears burn his eyes, he looked to the right and then to the left. Maybe he could wait here for someone to come along? What if they didn't? What if they told him they'd help and then kidnapped him?

He wrapped his arms about his body. It was getting colder now. Jack would be cold too… and Lumpy. Daniel looked up at the sky. Where was the sun? Right there. He squinted at it, shielding his eyes. The sun had been in front of them on the trip to the campsite. He'd had to pull the visor down to shield the glare. He looked back up the road, waiting for a moment to let his eyes recover. Feeling more confident, he set out in what he was sure was the right direction.

~o0o~

The pounding in Jack's head would no longer be ignored. He stirred, groaning, cracking open his eyes and slamming them shut just as quickly when the sun's glare sliced through his skull.

His memory came back piecemeal at first and then with greater clarity. Lumpy had fallen, Daniel was crying and… good ol' Jack O'Neill, hero to kids and stuffed animals had tried to save the day, only to end up falling head over ass down the hill.

Taking it more slowly this time, he opened his eyes. His head throbbed pretty badly but his sight was clear. In fact, if he looked down, there was something laying on his chest. Jack lifted it up. Not something, Lumpy. Which meant… "Daniel!"

Panicked when there was no response, Jack surged up from the ground. Bile rose in his throat and he retched violently for a few minutes, certain his head was going to come right off his shoulders. The vomiting finally eased and he took a couple of slow, deep breaths. His headache was fading a little but he noticed his right leg was hurting rather badly. Surely Daniel hadn't tried to climb down… He scanned the area anxiously but saw no sign of the child. "Daniel!" he yelled. "Daniel, where are you?"

Nothing answered but the bushes shaking in the breeze. It was late afternoon, a chill beginning to pervade the air. He'd fallen at least three hours ago. His cell phone lay beside him but a quick glance showed that it was damaged beyond repair.

Grasping Lumpy in one hand, his thoughts only on finding Daniel, Jack staggered up on shaky legs, only to collapse back to the ground when his knee gave out on him. "Damn it, Daniel! Where are you?"

Jack forced himself up again, biting his lip against the agony in his leg. Slowly, he began to limp back toward the campsite.

~o0o~

"Four hundred…" Or was it five hundred? Daniel had begun to count his steps in an effort to keep the fatigue at bay, but it wasn't working. He was so tired but he knew if he stopped walking now, he'd never be able to start again. He kept his head down, staring at his feet, willing them to keep moving, just one more step after the other.

"Hey there, cutie. What on earth are you doing out here all alone?"

The voice was slightly familiar. Daniel looked up to see a car idling on the road beside him. He hadn't even heard it. Squinting into the dim interior, he saw a plump woman frowning at him.

Right, his dazed mind supplied, the woman from the truck stop.

"Honey? What's wrong? What happened?" The woman bustled out of the car and rushed over to him. Bending down, she rested her hands on his shoulders. "Daniel, right? Where's your dad?"

The concerned look in her warm brown eyes and the sheer relief at not being alone anymore broke the dam on Daniel's tears and they flooded his eyes, dripping in rivulets down his cheeks. His words came out in a rush, pushed from a throat so tight, he could scarcely make them heard. "Jack fell! He's hurt. He wouldn't wake up. I tried. It's all my fault."

"Oh, honey." He was lifted into her arms and wrapped in a tight embrace and thirty-five or not, he allowed himself the comfort of it, burying his head against her neck and continuing to cry.

"Let's get you back to the truck stop. We'll call the police from there -"

"No!" Daniel pulled back in her arms. "We have to go to Jack!" He pointed back the way he'd come. "It's just back there. Do you have a cell phone?"

"Sure."

"You can call the police when we get back to Jack."

She stared at him for a long moment, a frown creasing her forehead. Finally, she gave him a final squeeze and settled him on her hip while she opened the passenger door. "Okay, sweetie. We'll do it your way."

~o0o~

Jack barely saved himself from collapsing once more. He could see their tent from here. Not much further to go. Trepidation filled him when he saw no signs of life at the campsite. "Daniel!"

He took one staggering step after another, willing himself to keep moving. A car swept into the camp, skidding to a screeching halt in front of him. Thank god! "I need help," Jack yelled hoarsely. "I've lost… I can't find my son!"

"Jack!" The passenger door opened and a small whirlwind emerged, racing toward him, throwing itself into Jack's arms. Jack's knee refused to take that kind of strain and he collapsed back onto the ground, hanging on tightly to Daniel.

"Daniel? Thank god!" Jack framed Daniel's grimy face with his hands, checking to see if he was all right. "Are you okay?"

The woman from the truck stop was beside them now, helping Jack to sit up with one hand while she held her cell phone to her ear with the other.

Daniel nodded, a grin splitting his exhausted face from ear to ear. "I couldn't wake you up so I went for help. I had to walk a long way but then Maggie found me."

"You walked?" Jack pulled Daniel back into his arms, relishing in the solid feel of Daniel squirming against him.

"Not so tight, Jack," Daniel protested, "you're squishing Lumpy!"

"Lumpy?" Maggie asked. She'd finished her call and was now kneeling beside them, watching the reunion with a big smile.

"Ahh," Jack pulled Lumpy out and handed him off to Daniel, who engulfed his beloved camel in a bear hug, "not mine," Jack assured her. "Just looking after him for Daniel."

"Sure, I understand," Maggie said with a twinkle in her eye. "Right," she said, getting down to business, "Rescue fellas should be here in about thirty minutes. How about we make you comfortable, and get you cleaned up." This last was directed at Daniel with a stern wag of her finger. "I'll get you both some water. Daniel's a little dehydrated," she said to Jack. "Apart from that, he's fine, far as I can tell." She reached out and ruffled Daniel's hair. "He's a brave little boy."

Jack nodded and gave both Daniel and Lumpy another hug just because. "More than you know, Maggie. More than you know."

~o0o~

Seated on a chair in the nurses' station, Daniel balanced the phone receiver in one hand and clutched Lumpy tightly with the other. Jack had been taken up to surgery a short time before to have his knee fixed - again. The doctor said he also had a mild concussion but apart from that, he was going to be fine. Jack had insisted that Daniel be checked out as well and the pretty lady doctor had pronounced him to be dehydrated and fatigued, with a couple of grazes on his hands and knees that Daniel couldn't even remember getting. Maggie had insisted on staying with him once Jack was whisked away and as much as Daniel was grateful for her reassuring presence and kindness, he felt suddenly bereft. When he told Maggie he needed to phone a friend, she carried him straight to the nurses' station and plonked him down on the seat.

His fingers couldn't seem to find the right numbers and he'd fumbled for a short time, almost crying again in sheer frustration before Maggie had taken over in her no-nonsense fashion.

"You're tuckered out, sweetie," she said, with her hand poised over the phone pad. "What's the number?"

Finally, the phone was answered. "General Hammond, please. It's Daniel Jackson." Daniel smiled innocently at the astonished look on Maggie's face. He shrugged. "I know some people," he said enigmatically.

"Hammond."

The overwhelming relief at hearing the familiar voice opened the floodgates once more and Daniel's words spewed out in a rush, recounting how he'd let Lumpy fall, how Jack had tried to rescue him, of watching Jack tumble down the hill, not being able to wake him up, of walking and walking and walking…

"Doctor Jackson!" The authority in Hammond's voice brought the verbal onslaught to an abrupt halt. Daniel took a gulping breath. "Daniel," Hammond said, his voice kind and sounding worried. "Start at the beginning, son. Tell me what happened?"

Daniel did and by the time he'd finished, Maggie was dabbing at tears he didn't know had fallen and wiping at a few of her own.

"All right, son," Hammond said, "you just stay put. Major Carter and Teal'c are on their way."

~o0o~

The hospital room was silent and dim, lit only by the soft glow of a bedside lamp. One of the two beds was occupied by a slightly drug-addled, feeling absolutely no pain Jack O'Neill. The other bed was empty, though the ruffled bedclothes indicated the tossing and turning of its occupant.

Daniel hadn't been able to sleep, as exhausted as he was. His thoughts wouldn't switch off, going round and round in his head, and every time he closed his eyes, he saw Jack disappearing from sight down the hill, heard his own screams of panic.

He sat now beside Jack, watching his friend sleep, his eyes growing heavy, his body jerking him awake every time he relaxed.

"Daniel?" Jack's voice sounded rough and dry.

"Jack! You awake?"

"No, I talk in my sleep all the time." Daniel smiled at the welcome sarcastic rejoinder. It meant Jack was feeling better. Jack shifted carefully in the bed, wincing a little and looked over at him. "Why are you sitting there, instead of tucked into bed?"

Daniel shrugged and played with one of Lumpy's ears. "Not tired," he said.

"C'mere." Jack held out his arms.

"Won't I hurt your knee?" Daniel asked, even as he was scrambling willingly into Jack's bed.

"I'll be fine," Jack assured him.

Daniel shifted around for a bit, being careful not to knock Jack's knee, finally finding a comfortable spot, nestled in Jack's embrace, his head resting on Jack's chest. Jack's hand stroked up and down his back, setting up a hypnotic rhythm that had him drifting at last toward slumber.

Daniel pressed a kiss to Lumpy's nose then reached up as far as he could and kissed the tip of Jack's chin. "Even though all this bad stuff happened," he said drowsily, settling back to sleep, "I'm glad we came."

He felt Jack's lips touch the top of his head. "Me too, Danny, me too."

Daniel roused himself for just a moment. "Maybe next time I should leave Lumpy at home."

"Nah," Jack pushed Daniel's head back down to rest on his chest, "wouldn't be the same without Lumpy."

END

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