A SENSE OF BELONGING

                                       By: Lyn                                      

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

CATEGORY: Adventure, Drama.

RATING: PG - (V) (L)

SPOILERS: Forever in a day.

SUMMARY: Jack takes Daniel away for a quiet weekend. As usual, our intrepid explorers find trouble right under their noses.

Author's Notes: This one's for friends. Often times, it seems our best friends are our closest family.

Many thanks to Jmas for looking at this one for me. I kind of got lost in the maze.

DISCLAIMER: All characters and property of Stargate SG-1 belong to MGM/UA, World Gekko Corp. and Double Secret Productions. This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment and no money was made from it. Also, no copyright or trademark infringement was intended. Any similarities to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author. Any other characters, the storyline and the story are the property of the author.

"Yo, Daniel. Come on, let's go." Jack O'Neill blew into Daniel Jackson's apartment like a tornado.

The archaeologist moaned loudly and burrowed his head further under the blankets.

"How did I manage to get talked into this?" he muttered.

 "Easy," Jack said, striding into the room and throwing a backpack onto the bed. "I laid a guilt trip on you about never getting out of the complex."

 As Daniel mumbled some more and his tousled blond hair all but disappeared under the bedding, Jack grabbed a handful of the bedspread and pulled the lot to the floor.

"Come on, Danny boy. Get with the program. You have a shower and stuff, and I'll pack your gear and have the coffee percolating by the time you finish shaving."

 Daniel took his time and sat on the side of the bed, stretching and yawning.

"Why couldn't you take Sam or Teal'c? They like all this ranger stuff," Daniel asked.

 "Well, Carter's gone to see her brother. Great, they're talking again, huh? And Teal'c agreed with me that you could do with the fresh air. Maybe it'll help you sleep, too. You're not looking so hot lately, Daniel." There, he'd said it, but would Daniel open up and talk?

"I've just got a few things on my mind, Jack. I'll be fine," Daniel said evasively.

'Yeah,' Jack thought sadly. 'A few things like Sha'uri and her baby son and Skaara and Kasuf, and whenever he could, everybody else's problems as well.'

Daniel seemed to be constantly carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

'Sometimes, for some people,' Jack thought, 'life really sucks.'

~o0o~

Daniel dozed, hunched up against the door of the Jeep. He had to admit the warmth of the sun felt good on his skin and he was desperately tired. He hadn't slept more than a few hours per night since everything had gone so terribly wrong.

"So, Jack," he said quietly. "Where are we going?"

 "Oh, great little place," Jack answered. "No neighbors to speak of, little cabin, bit of fishing. You'll love it."

 "I'm sure I will," Daniel replied, dryly. They drove on in silence for several minutes, then Jack knew he had to broach the subject once more.

 "Daniel?" he ventured.

 "Yeah, Jack," Daniel's voice was sleepy, lulled by the warmth of the sun and the gentle movement of the car.

 "I know you haven't been coping with things so well, buddy. Your nightmares, lack of sleep, it's only natural after, well, after what happened."

 Daniel's head snapped back as though he had been hit and he sat bolt upright in the seat.

"After what happened, Jack?" he interjected. "Why the hell can't you just say it? My wife died, my wife is dead! Why use euphemisms? To protect me, or to save yourself the embarrassment. It won't change anything, Jack. Sha'uri is dead, Sha'uri is dead." Daniel realized with a jolt that he was shouting and tears were coursing unbidden down his cheeks.

"Stop the car, Jack. Please, stop the damn car."

 As Jack pulled the car to a stop in the emergency exit lane, Daniel stumbled from the passenger side, not waiting for the vehicle to come to a complete halt. He walked a few feet from the car and tried to steady his breathing, resting his hands on his knees. He felt the hand on his back, rubbing in gentle circles.

 "Daniel, I'm sorry. Are you okay?" Jack asked.

 Daniel merely nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Jack spoke up again.

 "Hey, buddy, what say we get on? We can talk when we get there, or we can not talk, whatever you want. I'm so sorry, Daniel."

 Daniel took a deep shuddering breath and scrubbed the tears from his face. Slowly he straightened up and nodded. Jack clapped him on the back and together they walked back to the car.

~o0o~

They had arrived at the cabin a little over an hour before, but Daniel had done nothing more than throw his bag on the bed. He was wandering around the main room now, picking things up, examining them cursorily and putting them back down.

Jack busied himself with loading groceries into the kitchen cupboards. He had not been here since six months or so before Charlie died and the rooms still held bittersweet memories for him. He allowed himself a small smile, they were good memories and Jack wouldn't be without them for anything.

 "So, Daniel," he called. "You up for a hike? See a bit of the countryside?"

 There was no answer. Jack put down the grocery sack and walked into the living room. Daniel stood by the fireplace, a framed photograph in his hands. Jack walked over to join him.

 "Daniel?"

 Daniel traced a finger gently over Charlie's laughing features.

"He was a beautiful boy, Jack. I was just thinking about Sha'uri's son. What he looks like now. Whether he looks like her or…" He stopped, not trusting himself to go on.

 Jack slapped him lightly on the shoulder.

"Come on, city boy. Let's get some fresh air." 

~o0o~

"Come on, enough already," Daniel called, panting.

 Jack was up ahead, striding with ease along the track. He showed no sign that he had heard the call. Sighing, Daniel jogged a little to try to catch up.

"You're a damn showoff, O'Neill," he muttered.

 Movement to his left startled him and he looked around to see a young boy pressing himself into the shadows.

"Hey there, hello," he called.

The child did not answer, but Daniel was close enough to hear panicked breathing. He walked forward slowly, arms out at his sides, trying not to frighten the boy more than he already was.

"It's okay, I won't hurt you," he called. "Are you lost, hurt?"

He finally rounded the trunk of the tree, where the boy huddled in the darkness. Daniel reached out one hand in a welcoming gesture, smiling. Suddenly, he stumbled backwards, his eyes wide with shock.

 Jack jerked to a standstill, and then began to run back the way he had come, even before the gunshot's echo startled the birds from the trees.

"Daniel!" he yelled.

His heart leapt into his mouth as he rounded a bend in the track and saw his friend on his back on the ground. Daniel was moaning and trying to roll away from the pain in his chest, even as his hand clutched at the bloody wound. Jack covered the distance remaining to him in a split second and knelt at his side. Blood flowed freely through Daniel's fingers from a ragged hole high up in the right side of his chest.

"Jesus, Daniel, what the hell happened?"

 Daniel moaned, only just clinging to the edge of consciousness.

"Oh, God, Jack. It hurts, hurts."

 "I know, buddy. You have to let me see," Jack said.

Gently, he pried Daniel's fingers away from the wound. Quickly, he pulled his bandana from his head, balled it up and pressed it firmly to Daniel's chest, pushing the man back to the ground as he struggled to escape his grip.

"What the hell did you walk into, Daniel?"

He cupped Daniel's chin in his hand and urged him softly to focus on his face. Gradually, the blue eyes opened and stared glassily at him. "Daniel, you have to keep pressing on the wound, understand? I need to have a look around."

 Daniel cried out and grabbed weakly for Jack's arm. "No, Jack, boy - gun"

 "Where's the boy, Daniel?" Jack asked urgently, but Daniel was mumbling incoherently now, his ashen features showing the first signs of shock.

Jack stood up and carefully inched his way around the tree in front of him. He took in the scene in front of him, a dilapidated shed and a couple of tents stood a few hundred yards away. Through the shed's partly opened doorway, Jack saw cages stacked. Each cage contained small birds and animals; he could not see any people.

"Shit, Daniel, smugglers? What's going on here?"

 Jack scouted the area for a child but could see no one. Quickly, he returned to Daniel's side. The archaeologist was still moaning dazedly, but had managed to clutch the bandana to his wound. Jack checked it and was relieved to see that the bleeding was easing. He gently raised Daniel into a half - sitting position and swore softly as he realized he could not find an exit wound. The bullet was still buried somewhere deep inside Daniel's chest.

"We've gotta get out of here, buddy," he whispered.

 He froze as he heard the snick of a round being chambered behind him. Slowly, he swiveled around, a huge bear of a man stood six feet away, his gun aimed unwaveringly at them. Clinging to his leg, eyes wide in fear, was a dirty, disheveled boy, about ten years old. The man handed the gun to an equally dirty smaller man and reached down to ruffle the hair of the trembling child.

"You done good, Danny, real good, son," he said.

~o0o~

The small man motioned toward Jack and Daniel with his gun.

"What are we going to do with them, Bill?" he said.

 The big man answered slowly. "I don't know yet, Jim. Let's get them into the barn. I'll have to speak to the boss. We'll have to find out how much they know."

He gestured at Jack. "You a ranger, man?"

 Jack shook his head. "No way. Look, we're just sightseeing, doing a little hiking. My friend here is badly hurt. I've got to get him to a hospital."

 "Looks like you saw too many sights. Lucky Danny here saw your friend snooping around and stopped him." Again he ruffled the boy's hair.

 "Look, we weren't snooping, we were just hiking. He needs a doctor," Jack said, desperately. He motioned again at Daniel, who lay still now, but moaned softly in pain.

 The man shrugged. "Whatever. You saw too much. Get him up."

 Jack sighed and bent over Daniel, maybe he'd get an opportunity to get the drop on the guy. Who was he kidding? Daniel was in no condition to make a run for it and he certainly wasn't leaving him behind.

"Come on, Danny. You've got to help me here."

H e placed an arm under Daniel's shoulders and slowly lifted him to his feet. As gentle as he was, he heard the wounded man suck in his breath through clenched teeth. Jack steadied him and they made their way toward the shed. Every time Daniel stumbled, Bill took a perverse delight in prodding him forward with the gun. By the time they reached the rundown shack, Jack was almost carrying Daniel's unconscious body. He noticed that the chest wound was bleeding again, the blood trickling steadily down Daniel's limply hanging arm. Jack gritted his teeth.

'God, what a mess,' he thought. 'A child no more than ten with a gun?' He closed his eyes tightly against the vision of Charlie's bloodied face. 'Just concentrate on getting out of here.'

~o0o~

The two men were pushed roughly into the shed. Jack lost his grip on Daniel, who collapsed to the ground with a pain filled cry. Jack was dragged away from the barely conscious man and forced to sit with his arms around a wooden support beam. Bill bent and snapped a pair of handcuffs tightly around his wrists.

 "Hey!" he shouted, "Could you leave the hands attached to the arms, pal."

The comment earned him a fist to the mouth and he tasted blood. He tensed as he saw the smaller man approach Daniel.

"Why don't you leave him alone. He's hurt, he can't do anything."

 The man ignored him and pulled lengths of rope from a pile in the corner and tossed them to Bill. Daniel eyed him apprehensively. His chest was pounding, marching in rhythm with his rapidly beating heart and he felt cold and exhausted. Bill pulled Daniel's arms behind his back, taking no notice of his screams of agony. Jack watched with cold rage as the man pushed him back to the ground and turned to the young boy.

"You've proved yourself, Danny. Keep an eye on them for a bit."

 "But, pop, I don't think I can," Danny said fearfully.

 "Come on son, you stopped them on your own. Time you earned your keep anyway. Me and Jim are gonna eat and talk to the boss. They can't hurt you. We'll be right next door."

With a last check of their captives' bonds, the two men left. With a sigh, Jack slumped to the ground and looked over at Daniel. The injured man lay on his side, his eyes closed and his breath coming in short, pained gasps. Jack thought the bleeding had slowed again, but he knew he had to get Daniel to a hospital quickly. He looked around the shed, but realized there was nothing he could use to break loose. He looked over at the boy, sitting close to the doorway, his eyes wide and unblinking.

 "Hey there, Danny. How you doing?" Jack said.

The boy simply stared at him. Jack tried again.

"See my partner there? His name is Danny, too. Actually, he prefers Daniel, but I call him Danny sometimes just to tease him," he smiled.

 Danny spoke quietly. "I didn't mean to hurt him. He scared me and I tripped. I didn't mean to hurt him." Tears began to track a white trail down his dirty face.

 "It's okay, buddy," Jack said. "Your dad shouldn't have given you the gun. Kids shouldn't have guns."

 "He's not my dad," Danny said quickly. "My parents died when I was small. He was a friend of my dad's. I had nowhere else to go, so the legal people said I had to live with him." He paused a moment. "He scares me, he gets drunk and angry." 

"Danny," Jack spoke forcefully. "Daniel is badly hurt. I need to get him to a hospital. I'd like to take you with us. I won't let anything bad happen to you again."

 "I can't," Danny wailed. " He'll find us."

 "No, he won't. I promise I'll keep you safe."

 "Jack," Daniel whispered, his voice sounding breathless and shaky.

 "Daniel, it's okay, buddy. How are you feeling?" Jack asked.He took in the pallid features and trembling form.

 "Don't feel so good, Jack," Daniel said. "My chest hurts, hard to breathe."

 "I know, Daniel. Just rest. I'll have us out of here soon."

 "Make it real soon, Jack," Daniel's eyes closed.

 Danny watched the two men for a moment, then coming to a decision, raced for the door.

~o0o~

Jack shifted and tried to find a comfortable spot on the ground. He looked over again at his injured friend. Daniel was awake now, but he looked feverish and Jack knew that the bullet in his chest had probably infected the area.

Bill was back, sitting sullenly at a table, staring at a cell phone as though willing it to ring. He was still unsure what to do with his captives.

 "I could do with some water for my friend and me," Jack said, hopefully.

 "Danny," Bill called.

The boy came quickly. Bill nodded at Jack and Daniel."Give 'em some water. Not too much."

Danny nodded and raced off, returning rapidly with a small plastic tumbler filled with water. He knelt, blocking Jack's body from Bill's view and passed the cup first to Jack.

 "No," Jack said, but the boy pushed the cup hard at him. As Jack accepted it, he felt the child push something small and cold into his hand. He looked down and saw a handcuff key. He nodded at Danny and drank a sip of water. Carefully, Danny fitted the key into the lock and snicked it open. Jack spoke loudly to Daniel, hoping to cover the sound.

"So, Daniel, when this is over, what's say you and I get in some fishing?"

At the same time, he held the key up so Daniel could see it. The man nodded, but suddenly began to cough in harsh, racking breaths. Bill jumped up, startled and walked over to where Daniel lay, choking and gasping. He leaned over him, attempting to roll him over onto his back to get a better look. In the same instant, Jack whipped the handcuff loose of his wrist, then the beam and threw himself toward Bill. The big man sensed the movement just as Jack threw a roundhouse swing at his head, the cuffs connecting with his throat. Bill collapsed without a sound and Jack quickly dragged him to the post and cuffed him to it, then returned to Daniel's side. He placed his hand on his friend's forehead, the intense heat he felt there confirming his suspicions of infection. He checked the chest wound, to his relief, it was no longer bleeding, but the edges were puffy and angry red lines radiated from them. He untied the rope binding his hands.

"Come on, Daniel, we're out of here. Party's over," he said.Gently he began to lift Daniel's shoulders from the ground.

 "No, Jack," Daniel said weakly, his eyes closing in exhaustion. "I'll never make it. You go before the other one gets here."

 "Sorry," Jack said firmly. "You know my rules. I don't go without you."

Jack could see how weak and ill his friend was and knew that their chances of getting far on foot were miniscule, but he also knew he could not leave him behind again. He lifted Daniel to his feet, anchoring his arm about his shoulder as Daniel moaned and sagged against him. Suddenly, he felt him supported from the other side. Danny looked from Jack to Daniel.

 "I can come with you, right?" he asked.

 "You bet," Jack answered. "Do you know where the other one is?"

 "He's gone into town to make a call. The cell phone won't work out here," Danny replied.

 "Ah yes, the wonders of the electronic age. Let's see if we can put some distance between us and them. "He looked at Daniel. "You up for this?"

Daniel looked out on his feet but he nodded. "If I slow you down too much, promise you'll take Danny and go?"

 "I already told you, it's not gonna happen," Jack said.

 "Please, Jack, promise me," Daniel repeated.

"Yeah, yeah, alright already, whatever," Jack answered.

 Danny spoke again. "There's another car here. I'll show you." 

Jack grinned. "Things just keep getting better and better. Lead the way, Danny boy."

~o0o~

Jack glanced in the rear vision mirror and allowed a small smile to touch his lips. Danny was gently stroking Daniel's forehead and murmuring soft, soothing words as Daniel moaned in pain. Danny caught Jack's eyes. "He's not going to die, is he? I didn't mean to hurt him."

 Jack shook his head. "He's going to be fine as soon as we can get him to a hospital." He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. Daniel had not regained consciousness since they had put him into the car, his head resting on the boy's lap. "The police will take care of Bill and Jim, too."

 "What about me?" Danny whispered.

 "Don't worry, Danny. We'll get you fixed up somewhere safe," Jack said.

 "Will you come to see me?"

 "Are you kidding?" Jack said. "You're an official member of my team now."

 The boy smiled shyly. "Jack, could you call me Daniel? I never really liked being called Danny."

 "Two Daniel's, huh? I don't know if I like where that could lead, but sure, if that's what you want."

~o0o~

Jack moved quietly in the chair. He could never understand why hospitals had armchairs that were so damned uncomfortable. 'Probably to keep you from hanging around and getting in the way.' he thought. 'Fat chance they had of shifting him, at least not until Daniel woke up and he knew he'd be okay.'

Daniel lay on his back, his breathing quiet now, an oxygen mask covering his pale face. The bullet had nicked the upper lobe of his right lung and buried itself in the flesh near his spine. It had been removed in surgery and the internal damage repaired. He still shivered from the fever racking his body, and the doctors were administering high doses of IV antibiotics to halt the severe infection.

The bundle on Jack's lap stirred, mumbling and Jack spoke soft, soothing words. Little Daniel had refused to leave Jack's side, begging to be allowed to stay until Daniel awoke. The kid was still in shock over the previous day's happenings and Jack had to admit he could use the comforting himself. He'd promised to deliver the child to Social Services personally later in the day.

He heard Daniel moan and shift in the bed. He leaned forward, grasping the young man's hand. "Hey there, buddy. It's about time you woke up," he whispered.

 "Jack?" Daniel turned his head and tried to focus bleary eyes. "Where are we?"

 "Local hospital, Daniel. You're going to be fine, just as soon as you get some rest and let the antibiotics do their stuff. How are you feeling?"

Jack felt the boy on his lap stir and sit forward, leaning toward the man in the bed.

 "I'm hot, it's hard to breathe," Daniel said, his eyes drifting closed again.

 "Yeah, well, you have an infection and the bullet took a chunk out of your lung."

Daniel nodded, eyes still closed.

 "Daniel," the little boy said, placing his small hand over Daniel’s large one. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

 Daniel opened his weary eyes and smiled at him. "Hey, it's okay. You were scared. I know what it's like to be scared and lonely."

 "Yeah?" Daniel asked. 

"Yeah, but you don't have to be afraid any more. Jack will make sure you go stay with real nice people, and you'll never be alone because you've got us to look out for you. Jack's real good at helping people feel like they belong."

Daniel smiled at his friend.

 "Can I have a pet, Jack?" Little Daniel asked, turning puppy dog eyes on him.

 Jack groaned. 'The kid was starting to act like his namesake already.'

 FIN

 

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