Well, we're all going home in one piece, if slightly worse for wear. Jack took another sip of the blessedly cool water then closed his eyes and rested back against the wall. His leg was throbbing now he was finally sitting down and he tried to take his mind off the pain by checking on his team and friends.
Funny, I never thought I'd see the day I'd be counting snakeheads amongst my friends, he mused. Granted, these were Tok'ra, and Jacob was almost as close to him as his team but still… It was something he didn't think he'd ever fully get his head around - friendly snakeheads. Then again, he'd never thought he'd be meeting up with aliens on a regular basis at all just a few years ago, so he figured eventually he'd deal with it.
Teal'c had gone back to pilot the ship, the relief on his normally stoic face at their safe return plain to see. Carter was hovering over Jacob, who was holding onto her hand, nodding at whatever she
was whispering in his ear. He still looked god-awful pale, but Marty reassured them that Selmak was already beginning the healing process. It seemed this little jaunt to hell had brought Sam and her dad even closer together. Jack was glad for that.
Speaking of Marty, he'd already busied himself changing the bandage on Jack's leg, offering everyone more water, and generally doing a bang up job of nursemaiding, though Jack noticed his attention seemed to be fixed on Carter most of the time. Jack wasn't sure what to make of that. It would be one hell of a long distance relationship. That left one team member unaccounted for. Jack sat up, biting back a groan as the movement reminded him he had a hole in his thigh, and searched for him.
Daniel was seated away from everyone else, silent, his head bowed, looking as exhausted and battered as the rest of them. As though he was aware of Jack's scrutiny, he looked up and gave him a weary half-smile, but there was a look in his eyes that instantly had Jack concerned. It was a wary, almost guarded expression and there was sadness there too, when there should have been exhilaration at the success of the mission.
Jack waved him over and Daniel hesitated a moment then slid down and walked over. Jack noticed right away that he was holding one arm as though protecting his ribs and immediately wondered if Apophis gave Daniel more attention than the rest of them.
That was a given. Daniel, after all, had been Sha'ré's husband and Jack had no doubt Apophis would have seen him as a rival for her affections. Jack refused to think of her as Amaunet. She had been Daniel's wife, the love of his life, the one thing that kept him going through the Gate when all they'd experienced and witnessed was more than enough for him to want to turn his back on it all. He'd done that once, and to this day Jack wasn't entirely sure what had brought him back to them. He hoped that one day Daniel would tell him about the dreams he'd had when Sha'ré died.
I've never told him, Jack thought, not in actual words at least, that he's the conscience, the heart of the team. He's the one who reminds us why we're out there at all, why we're risking our lives against the monsters who want to enslave anyone who might stand in their way. They were like chalk and cheese in so many ways, he and Daniel, yet he'd become Jack's closest friend, and Jack sometimes mourned that what they did meant Daniel had to sacrifice too often his belief in
the greater good of man, because monsters don't listen to reason and they certainly have no heart.
Daniel groaned softly as he knelt beside Jack, and Jack could see the tight lines at the corners of his mouth and the black circles under his eyes that spoke of running for too long on adrenaline and nothing else. Reaching down, Daniel touched the bandage on Jack's leg, loosening it a little to check beneath the gauze, then wrapped it again, a little more firmly. Jack couldn't help but notice the tremor in his hands.
"Ouch! Will you leave it already, Daniel? Between you and Marty fiddling with it, it hurts more now than when it happened," Jack grumbled.
Daniel rolled his eyes. They both knew Jack didn't mean it, but there was no answering smile, and Jack knew any sarcastic remark he made would be lost on him.
Jack reached out and grasped his hand, studying him intently. "You okay?"
Daniel attempted a smile, but it didn't fool Jack for a minute and he suddenly realized Daniel hadn't said a single word since they got back to the ship. For someone even half as verbose as Daniel, that was a worry. He gave Daniel's hand a shake and speared him with a stern glare. "Daniel?"
"I'm okay, Jack, really. I'm just really tired, you know?" As if to emphasize the point, Daniel pulled his hand from Jack's grasp and scrubbed it over his face. He had a dark bruise coming up on one
cheekbone and Jack's suspicions that Apophis had worked him over came back full force.
"Oh yeah, buddy, I know." Jack nodded in sympathetic understanding then reached up and took Daniel's chin in his hand, tilting his head to get a better look at the purple and red blotching his cheek. "That was quite a risk you took back there," he said, trying to keep the lecturing tone from his voice.
Daniel merely shrugged. "I saw the communicator and knew I had to give it a shot." He shrugged again. "It worked."
"And the time before that?" Jack asked, referring to him goading Apophis about the death of Amaunet. He remembered thinking at the time that Daniel was signing his death warrant, and the way Carter gaped at him, knew she was thinking the same thing. Daniel didn't seem to care whether Apophis blasted him on the spot, and now he needed to know… Was that what he'd hoped for? Did he really think that without Sha'ré, there was nothing left to live for?
Daniel looked puzzled for a moment then smiled sadly. "Oh, that."
"Yes, that." Suddenly, Jack's emotions caught up with him and he couldn't hold back. "Geez, Daniel, this is Apophis we're talking about! That snake makes Hitler look like the boy next door! What was with baiting him over Amaunet? You have a death wish?" He hated having to give voice to those words. Hell, after Charlie died, Jack had been ready to eat his gun to put an end to the grief and guilt, but he reminded himself that it was this man kneeling beside him who'd showed him there was hope, that life was worth living, even with the sadness and unrelenting pain.
"No!" Daniel said, too quickly. Then, "Yes. Maybe." He groaned and shook his head. "I don't know, Jack." He rubbed at his bruised cheek and then slumped down to sit beside Jack. Raising his knees, he wrapped his arms around them and stared off into space. "When I saw him standing there, gloating, I felt so much rage." His hands fisted around his knees, the knuckles white, and his voice was tight with pain as he continued. "He took everything from me and I wanted him to hurt just as much as I am. Seeing him alive, and knowing she's dead, at that moment, I didn't really care if he killed me, as long as I could see him suffer first. He wasn't satisfied with just taking Sha'ré from me, he had to rape her to further his own disgusting ends."
"The kid," Jack said quietly.
Daniel nodded. "She should have been having our children." He smiled wistfully, and a single tear trickled down his cheek. "She had it all planned, you know? How many girls, how many boys."
Jack reached up and wiped the moisture from Daniel's cheek with his thumb. He shifted his hand to the back of Daniel's neck and squeezed gently, hoping he could convey through actions what he was finding so hard to say - I know. I've been there. If anyone understands, I do. "You're wrong, Daniel. Apophis didn't take everything from you. Sha'ré's still here, in your heart and your memories, and we'll find the boy."
"How?" Daniel turned to look at Jack, his expression at first angry, then bleak. "We don't even know where to look. With all my knowledge, I have no idea even where to begin." He shook his head. "Just one more thing I've failed at. I promised her I'd find him."
"We will," Jack promised him, though he knew it was probably the most foolhardy vow he'd ever made. But Daniel needed something to hang onto right now and that was all he cared about.
Daniel stared at Jack for a long moment then nodded, his eyes a little clearer, and Jack could see his resolve returning. "Yes, we will." He rose and turned back to the others, then reached down and touched Jack's shoulder, squeezing a little. "Thanks for the pep talk, Jack. I needed it."
"De nada." The solemnity was all too much for Jack and he fell back into his customary joking. "Now go and regale Teal'c with your daring exploits," he said gruffly, waving him away. "I'm injured, I'm supposed to be resting."
Daniel gave Jack one of those full-fledged Daniel grins, for just the briefest moment, that said, 'You're so full of shit, Jack' and walked away. Jack let his eyes drift closed, allowing himself to finally relax. "You're welcome, Daniel."
It had been two days since they'd returned from Nétu. Carter was off for a few days with Jacob, visiting her brother, mending fences that had been broken for far too long. Teal'c had done his kel-no-reem thing, and revitalized, was taking a bunch of airmen through self-defense classes.
While Jack wasn't feeling exactly 100 percent, he was antsy enough from trying to keep his butt from going numb in an infirmary bed that he'd convinced Doc Fraiser to spring him. He almost refused the crutches she thrust at him but backed down. Fraiser might be little, but that glare of hers was enough to make Hammond quake in his boots, and Jack just knew it was her way or no way.
It wasn't just boredom and a numb backside that had him eager to get out. There was also the matter of one Doctor Daniel Jackson, who'd left the base the morning after they got back, having checked on everyone first, then headed for home. He hadn't been seen since, and while that shouldn't have been any cause for concern - Hammond had given the team a week off till Jack was back on his feet after all - if it were anyone else but Daniel, Jack figured his alarm bells
wouldn't be clamoring so loudly.
He and Daniel probably spent more time in the infirmary when they were healthy than anyone else on base, Jack decided. It was a given that if one of the team was hurt and someone needed to find either one of them, they checked the infirmary first. That wasn't to say that Carter and Teal'c weren't equally as caring when it came to their teammates, but more often than not, if it was Daniel lying in the bed, Jack tended to pull rank and send the others off, promising to let them babysit for a while as soon as he passed out in the chair, and if it was Jack… well, Daniel couldn't pull rank, but the others knew that shifting him from Jack's bedside was like trying to move an elephant.
So, in order to stop the foreboding clanging in his ears, Jack gratefully accepted the crutches from Doc Fraiser and clumsily hightailed it out of the mountain, heading for Daniel's place. There was no reason why the ominous silence that greeted him at Daniel's front door should have been cause for alarm. Daniel was the brooding type. When things bothered him, he headed for his office or his apartment and took cover under darkness until he felt better while Jack would crank the sound system up and let a little light opera or a hockey game drown his troubles. But there was something bothering Jack about the last few days where Daniel was concerned that he just couldn't put his finger on. Maybe, he decided, it was his inability to read the man he thought he knew so well, since their visit to Nétu, that had him quaking a little in his boots.
Nothing ventured, he figured. He pounded on the door and waited… at least three seconds before he yelled. "Daniel? You home?"
Silence greeted him. Jack banged on the door again, and when that garnered no response, pulled out his handy credit card and universal door opener. It wasn't the first time he'd 'let himself in,' but
before he could slide the card home, he heard a shuffling of footsteps, then Daniel's voice.
"Go away, Jack."
Okay, not the welcome he was expecting. "Just came to see how you're doing." When there was no response, he added, "Fraiser gave me a get out of the infirmary free card. Thought we could watch the game on TV, have a beer or two."
"I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
"It's two o'clock in the afternoon! Did you have a party last night and not invite me?"
"Open the door, Daniel."
"Daniel, open the door!"
Jack's patience finally exhausted itself, and his concern climbed into the stratosphere. "Open the door, Daniel, or I'll kick it in with my crutch…" Okay, that didn't sound right. "Just open the damn door!"
Jack had his crutch at the ready, aimed at the handle, when the door opened. Daniel glared at him then turned on his heel and stalked back inside, heading down the steps and into the living room without so much as a 'Hi, how you doing, glad you're okay' glance.
Following him in and down the steps to the living room as nonchalantly as he could, Jack hesitated when Daniel turned to face him. Daniel backed up, almost becoming one with the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. The look was casual enough, but his body language was way off. He was tense, as though ready for flight, and his eyes kept darting to the front door as though seeking a means of escape.
"Why are you here?" Daniel asked, and Jack noticed there was a definite tremor in his voice.
Jack shrugged. "Just thought I'd drop by, see how you're doing. Hey, look!" He waggled one steel support in the air. "I got crutches."
Daniel nodded, but looked as though he thought Jack was about to hit him with it. "So I see. Why are you really here?"
Jack frowned. The situation had gone from bizarre to scary, and the alarm bells were now ringing so loudly in his head, he could barely hear himself think.
A small smile came to Daniel's lips, though there was no humor in it, and he shook his head. "I won't tell you, you know."
Jack took another couple of steps forward. "Okay… Umm, won't tell me what?"
"Where the boy is."
Oh boy. "I didn't ask you where he is."
"Yes, you did, but I'm not going to tell you."
Jack reached out to touch Daniel's forehead and Daniel flinched away. Jack didn't need feel his skin though to know he was burning up. From this close, he could see Daniel's face was flushed with fever and a fine sheen of perspiration coated his forehead. "You're sick, Daniel. We should get you back to the base."
Daniel shook his head and a drop of sweat dribbled from his temple into his eye but he didn't appear to register the sting. Only now did Jack realize Daniel's shirt was wringing wet. Taking another step backward, Daniel came up hard against the wall and froze. "I'm not going anywhere with you. You just want the boy."
"Daniel, you don't know where the boy is! How the hell can I get out of you what you don't know? What the hell is going on here?"
Before Jack could react, Daniel lashed out with his fist and smacked Jack squarely on the nose. Jack yelped and ducked back, wavering uncertainly on his crutches. Pain seared his face, and stars exploded in front of his eyes. Through tears, he saw Daniel's blurry form rush past him and he barely had time to stretch one of the crutches out in front of him. Daniel staggered over the obstacle, and off balance, went down with a thud. He lay ominously still.
Shit! Please don't let me have hurt him, Jack thought.
Hobbling over to Daniel's side, Jack crouched down, extending a shaky hand to touch the hot skin. Daniel's eyes were open, blinking sluggishly as though awakening from a dream. "Jack?" he whispered.
"I'm here. Just lie still."
"Yeah, I'm real." Jack looked around frantically for the phone only to see it upstairs opposite the front door. He was reluctant to leave Daniel even for a minute in case he got it into his head to run
again. Then, cursing his stupidity, he remembered his cell phone and pulled it from his pocket, stabbing at the numbers. His nose was throbbing like a son of a bitch but his vision was clearing at least.
"Can't tell…" Daniel said. "Can't tell what's real."
Jack stroked a hand over Daniel's sweat-damp hair. "It's okay. You're going to be fine." A few curt orders had him quickly transferred to Doc Fraiser and he hurriedly apprised her of Daniel's condition.
She listened then quickly snapped out a reply in her usual no-nonsense manner. "I'll be there in twenty minutes, Colonel. In the meantime, try sponging him with tepid water to keep his fever down."
"Will do." Jack thumbed the phone off and tossed it aside. He was about to get up to find a bowl and washcloth when Daniel suddenly drew his knees up to his belly, moaning in pain. "Daniel, what is it?"
"Oh god," Daniel groaned. He surged up suddenly, using Jack's hands and shirt as leverage. "Gonna be sick."
Jack helped him up the rest of the way, biting back his own groan of pain as his injured thigh protested the strain. Daniel clung to him like a limpet as they made their way into the bathroom. Jack just got him positioned over the bowl a scant second before he started heaving. Jack's own stomach was doing somersaults in sympathy and he fought to hold his nausea at bay. It wasn't just the awful retching, but the smell and sight of what Daniel was bringing up that had him wishing for a second toilet bowl. "God, Daniel, what have you been eating?"
Then it hit him. The blood of Sokar. He remembered the sour, lingering nausea that had lasted for the last couple of days, abating only as recently as that morning. Daniel, with his sensitivity to pretty much all things foreign, could well have had a severe reaction to whatever the hell the potent substance was.
The vomiting eased and Daniel slumped against Jack's leg, panting for breath. Jack reached down to help him to his feet, wanting to get him to the bedroom and lying down, but before he could complete the motion, Daniel's eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed into Jack's arms.
Jack was on his feet the moment Janet exited the infirmary. He hobbled over to her with Teal'c at his back. "How is he?" he asked without preamble. "You figure out what's wrong with him?"
Fraiser held up a small hand for silence. She swiped her other hand across her brow, brushing back stray strands of hair. "He's resting comfortably. I've given him something for the cramps and nausea and started him on some intravenous antibiotics. As for what's wrong with him, I think you were right."
"I was?" Jack shook his head at the sheer improbability of that. "So it was that blood stuff they forced down our throats?"
"Yes, except in Doctor Jackson's case, his hypersensitivity to foreign substances caused an infection to set in. His antihistamine medication wasn't strong enough to alleviate the allergens in his system therefore -"
Jack held up a hand, cutting off her long-winded, entirely too technical to understand recitation. Sometimes he wondered if she and Daniel had been separated at birth. "So, he's going to be okay?"
She smiled. "Yes, Colonel, he's going to be fine. He's lucky you decided to check in on him. He's pretty dehydrated and his fever was dangerously high."
Jack didn't want to go there. He'd already spent most of the waiting time trying to force back images of what he might have found, had he arrived at Daniel's place just a few hours later. "Can we see him?" he asked.
"For a few minutes," Janet replied. "He's drowsy, and I want him to get as much rest as possible."
"I promise we won't keep him up," Jack said solemnly. He looked at Teal'c when the Jaffa laid a hand on his arm.
"I will visit Daniel Jackson in the morning when he has rested," Teal'c said. "It is probably best if just one of us visits him at a time."
"I'll tell him you said hi," Jack said. He turned back to Janet. "Thanks, Doc."
"Just doing my job, Colonel," Fraiser said, "though I'd prefer not to see Doctor Jackson in here again for anything other than his scheduled physicals. He spends entirely too much time here."
"Preaching to the choir, Doc." Jack stepped past her and walked into the infirmary.
The ward was its usual hive of activity, though the bustling of the medical staff was muted as though in deference to the patients. The bed at the far end of the room was curtained off and Jack headed straight for it. Pulling open the screens just enough to allow him access, he sidled in and stood, carefully studying the sleeping man. Daniel was still as pale as when he'd collapsed in Jack's arms, but the flush of fever on his cheeks seemed less florid. He was breathing slowly, evenly, and the jerky, almost convulsive movements that had assailed him in the throes of his hallucinations had receded to the occasional twitch of an arm or leg and the rapid movement of his eyes beneath the lids. Not fully back then, Jack decided. It looked as though the nightmares still had a hold on him.
Jack sank into the chair placed conveniently at the bedside, wincing when the chair legs scraped against the floor.
Daniel shifted and sighed, muttering something incomprehensible. Jack froze, but Daniel's drowsy blue eyes opened anyway. His gaze seemed to fix immediately on Jack, though for a moment, there seemed no real awareness there. Then he blinked and groaned softly, one hand reaching up to rub at his forehead. "Please don't tell me you got me drunk," he croaked.
Jack frowned, self-righteously offended. "Pretty hard to get someone drunk on microbrew, Daniel," he groused.
"So, what hit me?"
Jack leaned forward and rested his arms on the safety rail of the bed, feeling a certain smugness now the horror and worry of the last few hours was gone. "The blood of Sokar," he intoned knowledgably. "Seems those allergy thingies in your blood didn't like the taste."
Daniel's face screwed up. "God, don't remind me. I barely managed to keep from throwing up over Apophis' shoes." He was silent for a moment, his eyes studying Jack intently then he spoke again. "I've been having these weird dreams."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Worse than LSD, that stuff. Not that I've tried LSD, mind you, just from what I've heard about it. You were hallucinating. Quite a cool thing to have on hand if you need to get
information from somebody." He thought a moment. "Remind me to make sure it stays out of the reports. Don't want the NID getting their hands on it."
"You kept asking me where the boy was but I wouldn't tell you," Daniel said.
"Seems Apophis wanted something different out of all of us, and that crap just tapped into the right part of our memories." Jack swallowed past the lump that rose suddenly in his throat, remembering Charlie, the gunshot. Tears stung his eyes. "Anyway," he rushed on, "all's well that ends well and all that. Oh, Teal'c says he'll come visit you tomorrow."
"I was hoping to be out of here by then." Daniel grimaced, then shifted forward a little. "Nurse Johnson's on duty," he whispered. "She's a sweet girl, but every time I'm in here, she's always hovering over me with this dazed look on her face."
"She's obviously dazzled by your good looks and charm," Jack said sagely. "Anyway, there's no way the doc's gonna let you out of here till she's drained every last drop of blood from you that she can. I think she's storing it in that little refrigerator in her office. Thirsty little vampire."
Daniel grinned but the smile fell from his face almost as quickly as it formed. "How's your nose? I didn't dream that, did I?"
"Ah, no." Jack's usual sarcasm came to the fore but he held it in check. The look in Daniel's eyes was so apologetic that he didn't want to cause him any more anxiety than he'd already suffered. He reached up and prodded gently at the flesh around his nose, wincing for good measure. "I'll live," he said in an aggrieved tone. "Barely touched me."
"Oh, well, that's good."
The obvious disappointment in Daniel's tone surprised Jack. "What? You were hoping you'd broken it?"
"No! But I was at least hoping my fighting skills had improved somewhat," Daniel replied.
Jack reached out and lifted Daniel's gown a little, ignoring the surprised "Hey!" of protest from him. He ran a finger gently over the vivid bruise on Daniel's ribcage. "Seems to me you fight just fine, when it counts," he said. He pulled the gown back down and rested his hand, just for a moment, on Daniel's still too warm forehead. "Get some sleep. Fraiser's gonna kick me out if I keep you awake."
Daniel stared at him for a second then shifted his gaze to the ceiling. "I have to confess that sleeping's not high up there on my list of priorities right now. Too many nightmares."
Jack pressed a finger of each hand lightly to Daniel's eyelids. "Go to sleep," he whispered. "I'll stay. God knows what kind of stunts Nurse Johnson might get up to if I'm not here."
Daniel yawned. "You don't mind? I mean, I'll understand after everything that happened-"
"Shut up, Daniel." Jack sighed when Daniel's eyes popped open again. "After everything that happened, this is where I want to be."