SUMMARY: When the team is captured offworld, an injured and self-doubting Daniel becomes their only hope of escape.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Set Season Two.
Jack O'Neill gave Daniel Jackson a withering look as the team members of SG-1 stood in the gate room waiting for the final chevron to engage.
"I mean it, Daniel. Follow my orders and stay with us. No running off every time some rock or pyramid or something takes your fancy." He hurried on as Daniel opened his mouth in protest. "You were lucky last time that the elders were able to convince the parents of those kids that you'd just taken them into the ruins for a little history lesson, not to be sacrificed as they thought."
"You yelling about how you were going to kill me before they could probably didn't reassure them any," Daniel replied sourly. "What's the use of me being on this team if I can't explore and research what we find?"
"You can. When I say so."
"Why do you always get to call the shots?"
Jack led the way up the ramp as the event horizon stabilized. "Because I'm the colonel."
Daniel turned to Samantha Carter. "Come on, Sam. Back me up here," he wheedled. "You of all people know how important exploration of these worlds is."
Sam nodded as she adjusted the chin strap on her helmet. "I agree but I have to side with the colonel on this one. You take too many risks."
"You're only saying that because you're military," Daniel grumbled.
"No more warnings, Daniel, or maybe I'll get the General to find me an archeologist who knows how to take orders." Jack tossed his final comment on the matter over his shoulder then stepped into the wormhole, disappearing before Daniel could think of a suitable stinging reply.
He eyed the Jaffa behind him speculatively. "What do you think, Teal'c? You know how important it is to study what we find, right?"
Teal'c raised an elegant eyebrow and regarded Daniel sombrely. "I will assure Colonel O'Neill that I will accompany you whenever you disobey his orders."
"You're a real diplomat, Teal'c."
Teal’c’s face took on a puzzled frown as Daniel grinned at him. "On the contrary, Daniel Jackson, I am a warrior."
As the four members of SG-1 stepped out of the stargate portal on PR3-491, Daniel continued his diatribe. "And that's another thing no one ever listens to me about, surely a computer that can come up with that many numbers for a planet, could be programmed to give it a name instead."
Jack shook his head. Had Daniel talked all the way through the wormhole? He wouldn't be at all surprised.
As the others gathered their gear, Jack took the opportunity to scout the lay of the land. He liked to do that while they were still close to the DHD. Any nasty surprises and you could be out of there in a flash.
It looked like so many of the other planets they had explored and not unlike their own. The stargate was situated on the crest of a slope, spread out below were vast, lush forests.
"More damn trees!" Jack grumbled.
Everything was covered in a heavy drift of crisp white snow and the chill wind that gusted across the group now and then, heralded more falls to come. Nestled against smaller hillocks in the distance, Jack could just make out what appeared to be a village.
Daniel pulled his anorak closer around him and wiped a smattering of snow from his glasses. "Hate the cold," he grumbled.
"Okay, guys," Jack gathered his team around him, "the sooner we go and check this place out, the sooner we get to go home."
Daniel was hunched over the DHD, muttering quietly to himself. "Jack, there's something written here on the base. I recognize the form, but it might take me a little while to figure out what it actually says."
"On the way home, Daniel," Jack answered.
"But, Jack," Daniel interrupted in an exasperated tone, "it could be important. I've never seen writing like this before on the DHD. It could have significant archeological information about this place or about the gate."
"I said, before we gate out. You'll get your chance. Let's just wind up this recon, see if we can find some new friends, before this weather gets really bad and turns us all into icicles."
"Now, Daniel," Jack cautioned, as he saw Daniel's mouth open in a further retort.
They moved out, Jack on point, Carter in the middle, accompanied by a still complaining Daniel, and the dependable Teal'c watching their backs.
Jack hunched his shoulders into the strong wind that threatened to pull him off his feet. They had only traveled a few miles from the gate, when the skies had suddenly blackened and a raging snowstorm had hit them. O'Neill motioned for the rest of the team to take cover under a canopy of trees.
Daniel gave up trying to wipe his glasses and put them in his pocket, squinting shortsightedly over Sam's shoulder at her readout.
"Looks like this weather is coming in real fast, sir, and it appears to be setting in for some time," Sam said.
Jack nodded absently and brushed the snowflakes from his hair. He'd never felt the same about snow since he and Carter had been flung through the second stargate back on Earth - Don't go there, Jack, he chided himself.
He noticed Carter shiver a little and slapped her heartily on the back. "Look on the bright side, Major."
"Bright side, sir?" Carter raised an eyebrow at him.
"This time, we've got Daniel and Teal'c for company."
Daniel hugged his arms about his lean body. "Hate the snow," he muttered.
"Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c broke in. "I suggest we continue to head toward the village in search of shelter."
"Yeah, you're right," Jack agreed. "We've got survival packs, but I don't relish the idea of camping out in this. Let's see if the nice folks can put us up for the night."
As the others moved off, Daniel hunkered down beside his pack. Jack turned back and watched him curiously as he searched through the contents.
"Should have thrown in windshield wipers," Daniel complained as he brushed moisture from his eyelashes with the heel of his hand. "Ah, there they are. I knew I put some in."
Jack watched with amusement mingled with impatience as several candy bars were placed on the ground followed by a small foil blister pack - Daniel's antihistamines - then finally a small travel pack of Kleenex appeared. Sighing happily, Daniel pulled a few tissues loose, blew his nose loudly then proceeded to pack everything away again.
"You okay there?"
"Give me a second. The cold always makes my nose run."
"Daniel, let's go." The humor was gone from Jack's voice and he felt his annoyance building.
Daniel motioned an okay with his hand and began to refasten the catches on his pack. Jack sighed dismissively and jogged to catch up with Sam and Teal'c. "Fine, but don't come running to me if some big, nasty thing with sharp claws and teeth comes after you," he called over his shoulder.
The snow continued to fall, but the harsh wind had abated, leaving an eerie calm pervading.
A snap of twig, a murmur of voices.
Teal'c froze, a finger to his lips. Jack and Sam nodded and Jack signaled for them to move into the cover of the trees. They carefully parted the foliage and both Jack and Sam reached for their side arms at the same time as Jack saw Teal'c’s hand tighten on his staff weapon.
"Shit! Snakeheads! Why did they have to pick this neck of the galaxy for their skiing trip?" Jack hissed, then his eyes widened in dismay. "Oh crap!"
Into the clearing where the serpent guards stood, trotted Daniel, head down, glasses off, still fumbling with his pack.
The only thing saving Daniel from instant death was the element of surprise on both sides. Daniel skidded to a halt and gaped unbelievingly, his hand reaching in an uncoordinated fumble for his weapon.
As the serpent guards rapidly recovered their composure, Teal'c armed his staff weapon and took out the guard nearest to him and Jack threw himself through the gap in the trees and rolled, his gun already up and firing, yelling at Daniel to get down.
Daniel moved with startling alacrity, throwing himself sideways. As Jack triggered his weapon, he realized that he was already too late, a lifetime too late. One of the serpent guard's weapons discharged a split second before Jack's bullet took him in the chest.
Daniel's quick reactions were born as much of relief as they were of fear. Relief that the cavalry had arrived once again to rescue him, and that he wouldn't have to be the one doing the shooting. As he flung himself sideways, he felt an enormous thump in his thigh, like a blow from a giant hand. He hit the ground hard, carried on by the momentum of the blast, the breath knocked from him.
By the time the others had recovered their senses, Daniel was struggling to sit up, blood oozing through his fingers from the gash in his leg. O'Neill rushed to his side.
"Damn it, Daniel!" he ground out harshly.
Daniel flinched involuntarily at the angry tone. "Sorry, not quick enough," he whispered.
Jack shook his head, then kneeled down and placed one hand firmly over the gaping wound, resting the other gently on Daniel's shoulder. "It's okay. Easy does it."
The pain and shock combined now to send Daniel over the edge. The world tipped sideways, darkness overwhelmed him and he collapsed soundlessly into Jack's arms.
"Teal'c, give me a hand here." Jack pulled the unconscious man closer, cradling Daniel's lolling head on his chest. "Wrap one of those sleeping bags around him."
Carter felt for Daniel's carotid pulse. "It's fairly strong, sir, but rapid. He's losing a lot of blood."
"I thought those staff weapons cauterized the wound?" Jack looked at Teal'c for confirmation as he wiped his bloody hand on his pants but it was Carter who answered him.
"That wasn't a staff weapon, sir, though it looked like one. This wound has been caused by some kind of missile."
Jack nodded, his eyes never leaving Daniel's pallid features. "Damn, this is my fault. I should never have walked off and left him on his own."
He slammed his fist into the ground then took a long, deep breath. Berating his stupidity now was not going to get them out of here. Plenty of time for that when they got Daniel back home. "Get a pressure bandage on that wound, Carter. Teal'c, you and I'll scout around, see if there are any more of these goons about."
Carter nodded and pulled a first aid kit from her backpack. Carefully, Jack eased Daniel back to the snow-covered ground. He pulled the sleeping bag more carefully around the young man's already shivering shoulders before following Teal'c into the forest.
Jack headed right and motioned for Teal'c to go left. He moved slowly, alert for any indication of more guards. He found nothing and could only wonder what the two they had encountered were doing out here on their own. The Goa'uld usually hunted in packs.
By the time he met up with Teal'c and they headed back to Carter and Daniel, dusk was casting deep shadows across the snow and the temperature had dipped alarmingly. "How's he doing, Carter?" Jack asked, looking down at Daniel's pale face. He was startled when Daniel answered quietly.
"I'm okay, Jack, really."
Jack hunched down beside him. The pressure bandage appeared to have slowed the bleeding considerably. "Hey, Daniel, nice to see you awake. We'll have you in an infirmary bed in no time."
Daniel stared at him earnestly, then looked quickly away. He gave a shallow shuddering breath and shivered slightly.
"What is it? Pain, cold?"
"Sorry, Jack, I'm so sorry," Daniel said quietly. "This is all my fault. I'm so stupid, so stupid."
He struggled again to sit up, not able to suppress a groan as the movement jarred his injured leg. Sam placed her hands on his shoulders and tried to gently push him back down.
"Calm down, Daniel. You're going to have that wound bleeding again."
"I don't care," Daniel said hoarsely. "I'm such an idiot."
"Daniel!" Jack spoke firmly. "This is not your fault. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I shouldn't have left you on your own out there."
Daniel flashed him a disgusted look. "Yeah, Jack! Stupid geek scientist needs a babysitter. Shouldn't be on the team at all. Could have gotten you all killed…" Daniel's voice was spiraling now into near hysteria and he shivered uncontrollably, his teeth chattering staccato as he forced out the words.
"Daniel, enough! We'll talk about it later." Jack could see that Daniel was slipping into shock. "Teal'c, we have to get back to the gate."
Teal'c squatted down beside the two men. "It grows dark quickly, O'Neill. I do not believe we should attempt the walk back tonight." He looked meaningfully at Daniel.
Jack caught the gaze, nodded imperceptibly.
"I saw a small hut when we were searching for more guards. It appeared deserted."
"That'll do it then." Jack smiled, hoping he looked more confident than he felt. He put his hand out to assist Daniel to his feet. "I'm not up to a five mile hike in the dark myself." Daniel took the proffered hand but studiously avoided Jack's eyes. "Okay, kids,” Jack said. Teal'c, how about you take point, you know where this hut is. Carter, watch our backs. I'll give Daniel a hand."
"I'm fine. I can manage," Daniel blurted out, already pulling himself unsteadily to his feet. He closed his eyes and swayed a little and Jack immediately reached out a hand to steady him.
They moved out, keeping to the cover of the trees, Daniel limping heavily, his breath coming in short, pain filled gasps.
Sighing with relief as the abandoned hut came into view, Jack stole a glance at the man limping resolutely beside him. Daniel looked out on his feet, his entire body screamed exhaustion, yet he plodded on, concentrating fiercely on putting one foot in front of the other. Twice now, he had stumbled and would have fallen if Jack and Sam hadn't been there to catch him but he steadfastly refused any help beyond Jack's steadying grip on his arm.
The hut was old, damp and dusty, but it offered shelter from the elements and there was a rough stone ringed circle in the middle of the room, which looked as if it had once been used as a fireplace.
Jack ushered Daniel through the broken down door after instructing Teal'c and Carter to try to find some dry kindling. As he stood surveying the room, he barely heard the whisper.
He spun around just as Daniel's exhausted body folded and caught the other man, lowering him gently to the ground. He quickly removed a sleeping bag from its pack and covered Daniel with it. Daniel was wracked by tremors and moaned softly. Jack felt for a pulse, it was rapid and weak. He turned his attention to the leg wound and cursed. "Oh, Jesus."
At sometime during the walk, probably when he had almost fallen, Daniel had reopened the wound. The pressure bandage was a red, sodden mess. "Gotta get you out of here, buddy."
Jack pulled another pad from the first aid kit and pressed it hard against the leg, wincing as Daniel cried out and tried to twist away from him.
"Colonel?" He turned at the sound of Carter's voice.
"It's about time, Major. We've got to get him warmed up and he's opened up the leg wound again."
He stopped abruptly as he saw Sam, then Teal'c, pushed roughly into the room, followed by several large men armed with clubs, roughly hewn knives and axes. Jack raised his hands slowly, but remained kneeling at Daniel's side. "See you found some new friends, Major. What's going on?"
Carter shrugged. "They took us by surprise, sir."
The men were large, broad-shouldered and dressed in leather pants and jackets trimmed with fur. They appeared to be Native Americans, much like the Coast Salish the team had encountered previously, but Jack decided, not nearly as friendly as Tonane and his tribe. Jack decided to take a leaf from Daniel's book. He smiled broadly, hands still held up, palms outward. "Hi there. How you doing?"
He was rewarded with a brutal backhander to his face that sent him hard to the ground. Through the stars crowding his vision, he saw Teal'c tense and move forward.
"No, Teal'c. I'm okay." He held his arm out warning the Jaffa to stay put. Feeling the split in his lip with his tongue, Jack slowly got back up to his knees. The man had now turned to Daniel, ripping the sleeping bag from his shivering body. He ran his eyes over the injured man and prodded at the bleeding wound with his club. Daniel cried out in agony and Jack clenched his hands into fists.
If the bastard hurt him…
The man straightened up and looked again at Jack. "You are the Chief of your tribe?"
"Yeah, you could say that," Jack answered.
"You have come to steal the Masters' gold."
It was a statement, not a question but Jack shook his head vehemently. "That would be a no. We're explorers from Earth - Tau'ri. We come in peace and we'll go in peace."
As he spoke, he edged closer to Daniel. He had seen him return to painful consciousness when the Indian leader had poked at his leg, and he now looked about, his pale features confused and anxious.
"It is forbidden to come through the Chappa-ai. Only the Masters may do so."
"You see, we didn't know that," Carter said.
The Indians whirled to look at her, seemingly shocked to hear a woman's voice and Jack took the opportunity to move swiftly to Daniel's side, one finger on his lips, his other hand reaching to rest on the other man's forehead. He frowned at the icy cold he felt there. Daniel's features were pale and damp with sweat, despite the chill of his skin.
"Only the Masters may receive the gold from our mines. No one else may do so," another Indian intoned as if by rote.
Carter spoke again. "We're sorry, okay? We meant no harm. If you'll just take us back to the gate - the Chappa-ai, we'll leave and not return."
"How was this one injured?" the leader asked, gesturing at Daniel.
"It was an accident," Jack replied quickly.
"We found the bodies of the Masters' guards," the man shouted. "We will not go easily on you if you deceive us." He turned suddenly to Teal'c. "This one bears the mark of the Masters. Are you Metis also?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and looked at Jack. As Jack opened his mouth to answer, Daniel spoke softly.
"M-Metis? It's French, it means half-breed. Comes from the French Indians - Canada. Some tribes took captives from other tribes, used them as slaves." He licked dry lips and closed his eyes, exhausted by the effort.
"We serve no masters," Teal'c explained. "We are free people, peaceful explorers."
"You speak lies," one of the men spat. "Kill them now." Others called their agreement.
"Now, wait just a minute here," Jack shouted. "We've stolen nothing, we want nothing. We're explorers, nothing more. Just point us in the right direction and we'll be out of your hair."
The leader thought for a moment. "It is true we found no gold in your possession, but there is still the matter of the dead guards." He clapped his hands, apparently coming to a decision. "Bind them. Saskat and Riel, you will remain here to guard them. We must seek the guidance of the Masters."
Before the team could react, they were seized, their hands tightly bound behind their backs, and then they were thrown to the ground. Jack struggled to get to his feet as he saw one man roughly drag Daniel to his knees, ignoring his cries of pain.
"Leave him," the elder said. "He is too weak to attempt escape."
The man viciously hit Daniel across the side of his head with the handle of his axe. Daniel dropped like a stone, blood from a gash pooling in his hair, turning it dark red. Then the men turned and left, leaving their two guards watching the captives.
Jack tested his bonds for what seemed the fiftieth time in the past two hours and slumped back against the wall of the hut. Teal'c had been dragged to sit in one corner of the room with Carter in another. Daniel still lay where he'd fallen, his face ashen and bloody, his breathing shallow but mercifully still present. Their guards had argued briefly a short time before and one had left to hunt for food. The other sat near the fire, drinking from a leather flask, and grinning at Carter.
Carter had begged the leering guard to be allowed to check on their unconscious team mate but the threat of a gag and the suggestion that he could take her mind off Daniel's plight had prompted a brusque order from Jack to remain silent. So they sat now, shifting uncomfortably on the hard, cold floor, the silence broken only by the whistle of the wind through the cracked walls of the hut and Saskat's occasional lecherous suggestions to Carter as he got progressively drunker.
Jack looked over to check on Daniel again and realized with a start that he was awake, his eyes staring unwaveringly from an exhausted and bloody face. Daniel slowly reached one hand past his head and clutched at something and Jack realized with a lurch what he was trying to do as he saw Daniel’s hand close over a rock from the fire.
Clutching it grimly to his chest, Daniel somehow managed to get himself shakily onto his stomach and then began to crawl inch by agonizing inch to position himself behind the guard. Jack's mouth went dry as he noticed Daniel biting down on bloody lips to stifle the moans of pain his actions caused.
Jack tore his eyes away from Daniel’s heroic struggle and cleared his throat loudly. "Hey, you. Any chance of a drink of that stuff?"
The guard snorted derisively and waved Jack's comment away. At the same moment, Daniel made a monumental effort to kneel up, swinging the rock down toward Saskat's head. The man sensed the movement behind him and spun… too late. Daniel continued the forward momentum and, screaming with the agony it must have caused, brought the rock crashing down onto the man's temple. The guard dropped to the ground and Daniel collapsed in a heap beside him.
Jack released the breath he'd been holding and called to Daniel, praying he hadn't lost consciousness again. "Daniel, buddy, can you hear me?"
"Way to go, Danny. We're nearly done here. Stay with us."
Teal'c shuffled over and pulled a knife from the unconscious guard’s belt. Sitting back to back with Jack, he managed to saw through the ropes. Then Jack set to work on Teal'c and Carter's bonds. As soon as they were free, he rushed to Daniel's side, leaving Teal'c to secure the guard. Amazingly, Daniel was still conscious, although it was obvious his energy was totally spent.
"Hey there," Jack said gently. "Gotta hand it to you, Daniel, just when I think I've got you figured out, you spring something new on me." He squeezed Daniel's cold hand, taking heart in feeling an answering, weak pressure.
"Sir, we have to move quickly, before the others come back," Carter said from her position by the open door.
Jack nodded and turned to Teal'c. "Can you carry Daniel?"
Teal'c bowed his head. "It will be an honor to assist Daniel Jackson."
Daniel protested weakly, attempting to push Jack's hand from his chest. "No, Jack, I can try…"
Jack turned to him. "Sorry, Daniel, not this time. We have got to hustle."
Daniel nodded, his eyes closing already in exhaustion. Teal'c lifted him gently, and Carter quickly wrapped a sleeping bag around him. Together, the team made their way out into the bleak night. Snow was falling once more, blanketing the ground and Jack stood for a moment, regaining his bearings. "Okay, Carter, you've got our six. Let's hightail it the hell out of here."
They had to be close to the stargate, Jack thought but he called a halt anyway, knowing that even Teal'c had to be tiring from their enforced rush through the forest and the added burden of carrying Daniel. He shepherded his team beneath a low-hanging canopy of tree branches, relieved that the snow had stopped falling and a faint pink dawn was beginning to lighten the sky.
Blood trickled from a gash high on Jack's temple where he'd met with an errant tree branch as he attempted to lead the way through the blinding darkness. He stood now and surveyed the way they had come, straining to hear signs of their captors or more serpent guards.
Carter knelt at Daniel's side and tightened the bandage on his leg, eliciting a soft moan of pain from the unconscious man. Teal'c stood and stretched his back then prowled the perimeter of the trees restlessly. A muffled shout from some way off alerted them and Teal'c quickly scrambled to lift Daniel into his arms once more. They set off again, but this time their trek was made considerably easier by the fast approaching light of day.
Jack paused for a moment, resting his hands on his knees. He could see the stargate just beyond, on the crest of the final hill. He waited impatiently for the others to catch up. Carter was breathing heavily as she followed Teal'c up the slope. Teal'c, as always, had barely raised a sweat though Jack knew he had to be almost as exhausted as the rest of them. Daniel had lost consciousness almost immediately upon leaving the warmth of the hut and had been unresponsive ever since. He hung limply now in Teal'c's arms, his breath coming in shuddering gasps.
"Dial us home, Major, and make it fast," Jack said.
They could hear faint sounds of shouting behind them. As the gate roared into life, Jack shepherded the others through the portal before stepping into the liquid vortex himself. He heard Carter shouting for a medic as he hit the ramp on the other side and got to Daniel as Teal'c was gently laying him on a gurney. Doctor Fraiser was already there, issuing orders and pressing her hand to Daniel’s still bleeding thigh. Jack turned to face a questioning look from General Hammond.
"Colonel, what the hell happened?"
Jack wearily rubbed his hands through his hair. "Long story, General. But if it wasn't for Daniel, we probably wouldn't be here."
"Right.” Hammond nodded perfunctorily. “Get cleaned up and checked out. The debriefing can wait until we have news on Doctor Jackson's condition."
"Thank you, sir." Jack saluted and ran to catch up with the others.
"You're going to wear a hole in the floor, sir," Carter said.
"God, it's been four hours, surely they have some news by now," Jack grumbled.
As he spoke, the door opened and Janet Fraiser emerged, still in her scrubs. "You can relax, people. He's going to be fine, given time and a lot of care and rest," she said. "The wound in his leg was nasty. It transversed the muscle and actually grazed the femur. It took a lot of stitches, but with some therapy, it will be okay. We're transfusing him now, we've started him on antibiotics to guard against infection and we've got him on a morphine pump for the pain, so don't expect him to be too lucid."
She looked at Jack. "Your chair's waiting. He's been asking for you."
Sam stepped forward. "Janet, can we…" Her hands fluttered somewhat aimlessly, encompassing herself and Teal'c but the doctor seemed to get the message. She nodded and pushed open the infirmary door.
"Five minutes, Major then let him get some rest. I promise he's going to be fine."
Jack walked slowly into the curtained-off alcove, his eyes taking in Daniel's ashen face, the gash on his cheek, now stitched, but still stark in comparison. His leg was suspended in a splint, a huge bandage concealing the terrible damage done. Sam was the first to step up to Daniel's side and she lifted his lax hand and squeezed it gently.
Blue eyes dulled with drugs and pain opened slowly to half-mast then slid shut again but a small smile turned up the corners of Daniel's mouth. "Sam."
"Hey, Daniel." Carter stroked the hair back from his face. "Janet says you're going to be fine."
"Mm-hmm," Daniel agreed equably. "You guys 'kay?" The words fell lazily from his lips and Jack could not hold back a smile. A stoned Daniel was a sight to behold.
"We are unharmed, Daniel Jackson, thanks to you." Teal'c acknowledged the brevity of his words with a small bow.
Daniel waved a limp hand in the air. "No problem. Nothing to it." His eyes closed once more and a gentle snoring issued from his mouth.
Sam grinned. "Don't think we'll be getting anything else out of him tonight."
"Nothing sensible anyway," Jack snorted, dropping into the chair beside the bed with a sigh.
"I'm going to go clean up, sir and get ready for the briefing."
Jack nodded, feeling his exhaustion creeping up on him now that he knew Daniel was all right. "Okay. I'll just sit here for a while in case he wakes up and needs something."
"The nursing staff—"
"Are very capable but don't speak drugged Daniel-speak."
Carter raised an eyebrow. "You do?"
"I taught it to him first night back from Abydos. Go, Carter. Come get me when the briefing's on."
"Yes, sir. Teal'c?"
"I will return to my quarters for Kel-no-reem. I will meet you in the briefing room in two hours."
Sam gave the sleeping Daniel a light kiss to his forehead and followed Teal'c out of the infirmary. O'Neill settled himself more comfortably, snagging a pillow from an adjoining gurney to press against his aching back and began the long wait.
The voice was breathless, almost a sigh, but Jack shot forward at the sound. He reached for Daniel's hand. "I'm here, Daniel."
"Yeah, thanks to you, everyone's fine."
"Sorry, Jack, all my fault," Daniel said.
"Will you quit that, Daniel?" Jack said, exasperated. "It wasn't your fault. It's not always your fault. Sometimes shit just happens."
There was a long silence but then Daniel jerked awake once more, hissing through clenched teeth at the movement. Jack waylaid Daniel’s hands as they reached toward his injured leg and settled them back under the covers.
"It's okay. I'm right here. Go back to sleep."
"I figured out the writing - on the DHD." Daniel's voice was fading fast, but his eyes glittered in the glow of the bedside lamp as he struggled to stay awake.
"Yeah, Daniel, what did it say?"
"It was kind of a take on 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here'. A warning that if you come through the Chappa-ai, you will never return to your homeland, and you will remain there in the service of the gods."
"Yep, downright welcoming bunch, that's for sure. I'll get the General to take 'em off the party invitation list."
A small smile quirked Daniel's lips and he drifted off again until Jack shook his shoulder. "Hmm?"
Jack leaned in close, his lips brushing Daniel's ear. "This team is not a team without you, you know that, don't you?" He pressed a finger to Daniel's lips as the other man began to shake his head. "SG-1 is you, Carter, Teal'c and me. I fought damn hard to get you and Teal'c onto my team and Carter had to fight damn hard to get me to want her on board. I am not giving up that fight easily. Do you understand?"
At Daniel's small, weary smile of agreement, he nodded and settled back in his chair, satisfied. "Good. Go to sleep, Daniel."
"Good night, Daniel."