Peace Offering - part 2
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
The report of the concussion reverberated around the steep walls of the crater. Smoke and dust plumed in great clouds, enveloping the flying bodies and hail of spewed rock.
Jack hardly registered the explosion. He roughly hauled Morten to his feet and let rip with a punch that immediately put the Lieutenant back on the ground even less gracefully. "You son of a bitch!" he yelled.
He took in a satisfied eyeful of the felled man, struggling to breathe, while holding on to the wreckage of his nose and then turned his gaze to the scene of carnage below.
"Sir?" Carter was suddenly at his elbow, clearly waiting his orders.
The handful of Jaffa that had escaped the blast relatively unscathed were already turning their attention towards them. He waved her forward. "Go." Spinning round, he shouted to Teal'c. "Let's find Daniel."
As Teal'c and Carter set off, Jack did a quick scan for Nick. Crap! How had the old man got so far ahead of him?
"Nick! Wait up!" Jack gave chase, fearful for the archaeologist's safety. Nick though, appeared to have mountain goat blood coursing through his veins. He moved nimbly down the treacherous scree while Jack found himself slipping and sliding.
"Nick!" Suddenly Jack's feet went right out from him. He tumbled head over heels and came up hard against an outcrop of rock. As he struggled to his feet he realised he'd lost sight of the old man.
P-90 at the ready, Jack safely finished his descent and began to search the level ground. Smoke billowed, filling his lungs with an acrid stench and the nausea-inducing smell of the dead and dying. Grimacing he untangled two bodies that were covering a third, fearful of what he might find.
The two upper most bodies were older Jaffa, the body underneath - much to Jack's relief - was also a Jaffa, younger than the others. In fact little more than a boy. It didn't take much imagination to figure the older men had been trying to protect the younger one. Jack cursed at the futile sacrifice, suddenly all too aware that the Jaffa were more than just the enemy, that they too were sons, husbands, fathers.
Stop it! This wasn't helping Daniel.
Thick dark smoke swirled around him and then suddenly cleared. Jack blinked, his eyes watering in the polluted air. Wait. There. Was it? Oh God, yes. It was Nick. Kneeling on the ground. A limp, blood-spattered body in his arms.
Something colder than ice wrapped itself around Jack's heart, driving the breath from him, as he approached, suddenly terrified of what he might find.
Oh God, Daniel. He looked dead.
His face, the skin so deathly pale, was streaked with blood and dirt. His short military-style haircut had grown out over the months, but now dark blonde strands were slick with a gory redness. The ridiculous costume he wore had done nothing to protect him from the blast. His chest and legs were a mess, from small abrasions to deeper wounds.
Jack fell to his knees. "Is he...?"
Nick's pain-filled blue eyes turned towards him. "Too late," he whispered, rocking Daniel gently. "Too late."
The words speared into Jack as denial rose. No. Not Daniel. This couldn't be... His hand shook treacherously as he reached towards Daniel's neck. He pulled in a sharp breath, swallowed and steeled himself. Fingers touched skin, still warm despite the chalky pallor. No pulse.
Jack's fingers smeared blood as he moved them. Please God. Please let there be a ... Yes! There. Faint, but steady.
He rocked back on his heels, fighting back the tears of relief that threatened to overwhelm him.
"Too late," Nick repeated.
"He's not dead, Nick."
"Nick!" Jack reached forward and grabbed the man's biceps. "Daniel's not dead."
Comprehension finally flashed into Nick's eyes. His gaze dropped to Daniel's face. "Not dead?"
"No," Jack replied, shucking off his backpack. "But if we want to keep him that way we need to act fast. Do you know any first aid?"
"Of course." Nick's tone was indignant.
Oh yeah. Nick was back alright. "Good. You'll find bandages and antiseptic in my pack. Morphine too should you need it. You do know how to..."
"Yes, yes. I can give an injection." Nick was already reaching for the pack. "What are you going to do?"
Jack turned a steely gaze to where Carter and Teal'c were battling it out with the Jaffa guarding the tel-tak. "We're going to get ourselves a ship. And then we're going to get Daniel the hell out of here."
He looked back down at the unconscious archaeologist and then round at the broken and dead bodies strewn around the site. No sign of Osiris, but the goa'uld had to be here somewhere. His right hand went to his holster and he quickly extracted his revolver, handing it to Nick with a grimace. "Let's hope you don't need to use this."
Nick had bandaged plenty of men in his time. It was impossible to work in dangerous and remote areas without a practical knowledge of first aid. Bandaging Daniel was totally different, though. He felt as though every laceration, every bruise was his own.
Fighting with his own emotions, he worked methodically. Some of Daniel's wounds were little more than abrasions that needed a swab of antiseptic. Others would require more expert attention than he could offer in the field, but at least he could clean out the worst of the dirt and stop some of the bleeding.
"Daniel, Daniel," he chided gently. "See what happens when you ignore an old man's advice and spend your life chasing aliens. And to think I told you I was glad you were right. Foolish boy. Since when did studying archaeology lead to a life as a soldier..."
"...I should never have left you. A boy needs his grandfather. I know that now." He wiped antiseptic over a particularly nasty gash on Daniel's rib cage wincing as he did so. That was going to need stitches. "Oh, Daniel... should never have let you out of my sight. So much trouble..."
"Thought I'd never get over losing your mother. If I lose you too..."
A hand plucked at his sleeve.
"Daniel?" Nick's heart surged with delight as he found Daniel looking at him.
A flicker of confusion marred Daniel's face. "W..ww.where...?"
"Shush, boy." Nick laid a finger against Daniel's lips. "Don't waste your strength talking. You are hurt badly. You got caught in a grenade blast."
Daniel moistened his lips, clearly finding it an effort to talk. "Grenade? You brought Jack?"
Nick ignored the question, more concerned about the lines of pain forming on Daniel's face. "I have morphine....
He turned away, but a blood-splattered hand reached out towards his face, catching his attention. Daniel's words were so soft that Nick had to lean closer to hear them. "I was...afraid you were dead."
Nick grasped Daniel's hand in his own, squeezing the fingers tightly. "It would take more than some parasite with a delusion of grandeur to get rid of me, Daniel. Especially when I knew you needed me. I made the mistake of leaving you to fend for yourself once..."
"Nick, don't." Daniel shook his head, wincing at the movement. "What's past is past."
"I was a terrible grandfather, Daniel. Even insisting on you calling me Nick. I didn't like thinking of myself as old." He looked down at Daniel, and gently pressed his hand to his grandson's pale cheek. "You know if you were ever to want to..." He hesitated feeling suddenly foolish. Daniel seemed to understand, though.
"I'd like that," he whispered. "Grandpa."
"Daniel?" Nick's eyes widened in alarm as Daniel closed his eyes, once more going limp. He tapped Daniel's cheek gently. "Come on, Daniel. Don't give up now."
Eyelids flickered and then opened. Daniel grimaced. "Hurts..."
"I know. But I can help with that." Nick twisted round, fumbling for the morphine and desperately seeking O'Neill with his gaze. A shadow fell across the medical kit. Nick looked up, hoping to see one of SG-1, but instead found himself looking into the face of Osiris.
Jack's arrival at Teal'c's side, together with the news that Daniel was alive, swung the balance against the final pocket of resistance. Within minutes, SG-1 were inside the tel-tak, sweeping the interior for hidden Jaffa.
"All clear sir." Carter finished checking the storage area and joined her team-mates.
Jack nodded in response. "Teal'c get this thing ready to fly. Carter, does this thing have emergency medical supplies. I'd rather use a stretcher to get Daniel back here than have to carry him over my shoulder."
Carter's eyes swept the main area. "There's nothing in here, but there were some pallets in the storage area. Give me a few minutes and I'll get something together."
"I'll be with Daniel," Jack replied, heading towards the door.
Osiris! Jack's heart sank as he saw the distinctive figure of the goa'uld standing over Daniel and Nick. "Hold it right there!"
As he pulled to a halt a few steps away, Sarah's face turned towards him. Jack winced at the sight. Her beautiful complexion was marred with blood and burns, and as Osiris twisted her features into a mask of rage, the result was almost grotesque.
"Jack O'Neill." The goa'uld voice hissed with malevolence and contempt. "I have learned much of you from Daniel."
"Nothing good, I'm sure," Jack retorted, his gaze briefly met Daniel's. "You okay?"
Before Daniel could reply, Osiris took a step closer to him. "Call your people from the tel-tak. Daniel and I are leaving now."
The tip of Jack's P-90 jerked up. "Over my dead body."
A cruel smile cut across Sarah's face. "No, O'Neill. If you do not allow me to leave it will be over Daniel's dead body."
"You stay away from him."
In response Osiris' smile merely hardened.
Jack swallowed as he caught a look of sheer desperation on Daniel's face. "Jack, you don't... Arrrggghhh!"
Daniel suddenly arched in pain, twisting up and away from Nick's frantic attempts to hold him. Folding his arms over his head, his body slammed face down into the dirt.
The P-90 fired. The bullets ricocheting harmlessly off Osiris' shielding. Jack snarled in fury. "Whatever you're doing to him, stop it now."
Amusement rippled across Sarah's face. "What *I* am doing, colonel? No. You are responsible for the pain he is suffering, O'Neill. He is remembering a time when you left him behind."
Horrified Jack stared at Daniel's twisted body. "What the hell are you talking about? I never leave anyone behind."
"Really? That's not how Daniel remembers it."
Understanding suddenly filtered into Jack's brain as he registered the presence of the silver disc in Daniel's temple. "You're torturing him with his own memories?"
Osiris smiled. "It's been so entertaining. I have learned much from these sessions." The Goa'uld paced forward, limping slightly. "He has fought me well, but this time, he has little strength with which to resist me. The images and feelings are very real this time."
"Son of a bitch!"
"Don't you want to know which memory he's enjoying? Let me give you a clue" Sarah's eyes flashed brilliantly as Osiris intensified the hold on Daniel's mind. The archaeologist groaned.
"Can't breathe, " he gasped. "Sorry, Jack, couldn't run... chains..."
"Now do you remember?" Osiris taunted.
Jack shook his head, still barely able to comprehend what was happening.
Osiris' glanced down at Daniel without compassion. "Tell me. How long did he suffer in the mine, before he died?"
Nick looked up at Jack, the unspoken question all too obvious in his eyes.
"The mine?" Jack suddenly realized the source of Daniel's torment, but he had no answer to the question. Had Daniel been dead when Shyla placed him in the sarcophagus? How long had it taken the guards to free him from the rock-fall? He had no idea. They had been dragged away back to work with the sight of Daniel's broken body buried amongst the stones burning their consciences.
Daniel groaned again and shuddered, heaving in ragged breaths. "Jack."
"It is an interesting memory, is it not? The memories that follow are even more intriguing. He has done well to hide them from me for so long. But now I know the hold the sarcophagus can have over him..."
Jack shook his head. "Daniel's not leaving with you," he said defiantly, even though he had no idea how to break the stalemate. As if to emphasise his powerlessness, Daniel emitted another shuddery groan.
The sound of footsteps behind him was startling. Jack risked a glance over his shoulder and was stunned to see Morten weaving towards them. Great. He'd been praying for a miracle but this definitely wasn't what he had in mind.
"Let Jackson go and I'll do his job for you." Morten said nasally, as he stepped forward.
"What?" Jack stared at him.
"Well, I take it my career's pretty much over at the SGC..."
"So, what have I got to lose?"
Osiris approached Morten skeptically. "And what do *you* have to offer?"
"I'm a linguist, like Jackson." Morten puffed his chest proudly.
"Don't kid yourself." Jack snorted with derision.
"Jackson has many... talents." Osiris narrowed Sarah's eyes, glancing teasingly at Jack. "I'm not sure that you could satisfy my needs."
Jack bristled. He was definitely going to have a long talk with Daniel when they got home. "Look, let's get one thing straight... No one is going with you."
Apparently pleased with the responses Jack was subconsciously giving, Osiris continued, "How will you stop me? My Jaffa will have the Stargate surrounded by now. There is no way out for you. First, you will watch your friend die. Then I will kill the rest of you, before taking Daniel back to my ship. The sarcophagus will heal his wounds, and then it will steal his soul, but not before I have enjoyed the pleasure of showing him that you all died in the futile attempt to rescue him... and you can be sure that I will show him exactly the torments you suffered before you begged for the mercy I did not proffer."
"You're not going anywhere." Jack repeated vainly. Where the hell were Carter and Teal'c? A few more minutes and this stand-off was going to result in one very dead archaeologist.
Morten, meanwhile stood his ground as Osiris circled him. "It's not O'Neill's decision to make... it's mine. I'm offering you a trade... my life, for his." He pointed at Daniel who's eyes were tightly shut as he wheezed through the imagined agony of crushed ribs and punctured lungs.
Osiris laughed and raised a gloved hand, the jewel in his palm already glowing. "Your life is worth nothing to me."
A deadly beam of light from the Goa'uld's hand device ensnared Morten, driving him to his knees. Moving as if suspended in treacle, the lieutenant began to bring his gun up. Nick's attention snapped back to Daniel, but the vain hope that Osiris' switch of victim would mean relief for his grandson was shattered. Where moments before Daniel had still been struggling to suck air into his tortured lungs, his crumpled body was now motionless.
Taking advantage of Osiris' distraction, Nick shuffled over to Daniel and lifted him by the shoulders. Trembling with anguish, he turned the unresisting form over and shifted grip to embrace him once more. He studied Daniel's face, somewhere under the bloody flecks and smudges of dirt... buried beneath that mask of agony... was the handsome, youthful face with the eyes of his mother... the face that he'd seen frown with concentration - frequently, scowl with fury - once or twice, quiver with sadness - all too often, light up with joy - all too rarely.
Nick hoped that he'd get the chance to put some of his wrongs to right. He didn't want the last thing he could do for his grandson to be to hold him as he died. He raked an unsteady hand through Daniel's unkempt hair, whispering, "Hang on, boy."
Movement to his right made him jump. It was O'Neill. The Colonel glanced anxiously over at Morten and Osiris then quickly bent over and yanked the memory device from Daniel's temple. Dropping it to the dirt, he ground it beneath his boot before dropping to Daniel' side. A blue tinge coloured Daniel's lips.
"C'mon, Daniel," he hissed urgently, tapping the younger man's cheeks. "It's not real. Let it go."
Nothing. Daniel wasn't breathing. Pulling Daniel from Nick's arms, he tilted the young man's head back and blew a life-giving breath into his body.
There was a burst of gunfire. Automatically, Nick and Jack jerked their heads round to see Morten's battle with Osiris. Blood flowed from a wound on the Goa'uld's shoulder. It looked as though one bullet had found its target but the remaining shots sparked on the curtain of energy as they were absorbed by the personal shield.
Nick could see that Jack was torn between the two situations, but with Morten still managing to fight back on his own, the colonel resumed his focus on Daniel, folding his hands over each other on the bloody chest.
Jack's eyes met Nick's. "Talk to him. Say something to... anything... to bring him back."
Nick stared at Daniel as Jack began chest compressions, his mind whirling. Talk to him? What could he say to jar Daniel back to reality? A memory of his own rose - seven year old Daniel sneaking out of his parent's tent early one morning unaware his grandfather was watching. Nick had virtually scared the lad out of his pants. He dug deep into his reserves and went for it, producing the most authoritative voice he could manage.
"Daniel Jackson. How many times has your mother told you not to go wandering off by yourself? You get back here right this instant!"
Nick could feel O'Neill's gaze on him, lingering, incredulous, even as he continued with the CPR.
For a long moment, there was no change. Then suddenly Daniel pulled in a wretched breath and his eyes opened. "Wha?" The words petered out as he myopically focused on the events around him.
Thank God! Jack allowed himself the briefest of moments to celebrate Daniel's return before turning his attention back to Morten. Despite everything the man was still part of SG-1, and his diversion had just been the catalyst for saving Daniel's life.
His hand found the handle of the knife on his hip. The action was instinctive. Slicing effectively through the Goa'uld's personal shield, the blade buried itself in Osiris' chest, just below the throat.
But Morten was already sagging, a bright burn marking his forehead. Damn, he had figured that he would have a few seconds leeway. Had loyalty to his friend allowed his priorities to get screwed? Could he have left Daniel's resuscitation to Nick? No. Looking at the old man, the usual assertiveness lost in a countenance of fear and shock, Jack knew that he'd been right to place his concentration where he had.
He had saved one life. 'The most important one,' a little voice in his head threw at him, accusingly. No, that wasn't the reason. He had done the right thing. It seemed quite probable to him now that he would have had at least two dead bodies in front of him now, even if he had tried to help Morten first.
Morten's slack body hit the ground with a soft thud.
A shriek of defiance ripped from Osiris', as Sarah's hands were manipulated to pull the knife from her chest.
For a chilling moment, Jack thought the weapon was coming straight back at him. Instead it dropped harmlessly onto the dirt, just a few feet from Osiris and the Goa'uld joined it face down. The ornate robes wafted briefly, until the momentum of the fall faded.
Jack wooshed out a breath. His eyes widened when he noticed the second knife jutting out of Osiris' back.
"What kept you?" Jack asked, looking up to see Teal'c and Carter running over. He checked Morten for any signs of life, shaking his head when he found none. Grief for a fallen comrade dug into his conscience. He'd hardly known Morten, probably hadn't given the guy chance to get close... In his mind it was a temporary placement, just until they got Daniel back. Perhaps Morten had deserved better. But now, his death was filed into that place where all the other battlefield casualties were stored, until he had the time to reconcile them... The living needed him more than those ghosts.
"Sorry, Sir," Carter apologised, shakily. "There were... a couple... of Jaffa... lurking behind the tel-tak..."
Jack didn't need to hear anymore. He doubted they'd had an easy time of dealing with the Jaffa judging by Carter's singed sleeve and the bruised lump forming on the side of Teal'c's forehead, though he hadn't heard a thing. "You okay?"
"Fine, Sir," replied Carter, her breathing finally losing the huffs and puffs of exertion.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed simply.
"Daniel." Carter stooped over the injured man, who was back in his grandfather's arms. "Are you a sight for sore eyes!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Daniel could do no more than look at his team-mate with an overwhelmed expression, tears teetering in the corners of his eyes.
"Hey, it's okay," she said to him, getting down closer and giving him a careful hug.
It felt good with Nick behind him and Sam almost smothering him. He couldn't remember much of what had happened in the last few minutes, but the relief on everyone's faces told him everything he needed to know.
Finally, he felt alive again. The past months of misery were quickly slipping away. The coldness of being alone was thawing... there was a steady and welcome warmth seeping back into his heart.
Sam's voice was as clear as he had wished he could hear it all those times when he'd been studying the artefacts to create the weapon. He would theorise, muttering to himself as he knew he did, but it was with questions in mind that he would've put to Sam, things he thought she would know, or could speculate on. He had imagined her answers, arguing with him at times... but he didn't have to shut his eyes and recall the sound of her voice anymore.
Feeling himself being juggled between pairs of arms, Daniel felt the cloth of a jacket being drawn around his shoulders. It was the first time in months that he'd had anything other than leather clothes... and he used the term loosely... against his skin, but more than the texture of the material, he was drinking in the smell of it... Jack... sandalwood, spice and... well, Jack.
It was the same odour that had been there when he'd wept for Sha'uri. The same as when he'd been pulled into that big bear hug as his hair had been ruffled and that ridiculous nick-name had been uttered with more affection than he'd known in a very long time. The same as in that storeroom... where everything good about his life had so very nearly been ruined...
He hadn't really realized that he'd been shivering, but secure in Jack's jacket he was aware of the change in his physical state.
When he had first regained consciousness he had known there was something bad going down. Usually, his instinct was to talk... question... decipher... understand... and he had tried to, but he was so tired of it all. If more death was going to surround him, he didn't want to be witness to it. It had quashed his normal need to revive quickly and had chilled him more thoroughly than the blood loss or shock could ever conspire to do.
Daniel looked up, finding Nick's old, knowing eyes. Nick was alive! He'd been so worried. Another emotion pushed the grateful happiness of his grandfather's presence... anger. Jack shouldn't have let him come, what if he'd got hurt here?
Come to think of it, how did they know Osiris would be here?
What the hell did it matter? They were here... and he could go home, just like Jack had promised. Daniel slowly twisted his head to find the jacket donor. He tried to smile, but he couldn't be sure that his face had reacted correctly to the command. Summoning the strength he had thought impossible only moments before, he said, "Thanks for coming."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Geez, Daniel, haven't you got it yet? No one... NO ONE... gets away with hurting one of my team. I promised you we'd get you back - you may not have known that, given that you told me I wasn't to try anything that would jeopardize Tollana - but I did. I keep my promises. "It took too long."
"You couldn't do anything while Tollana was under threat." Daniel's tone was forgiving.
The absolution meant nothing to Jack's sense of loyalty, or his commitment to keeping his team safe and well. Daniel's blood was on his hands... literally and figuratively. Unconsciously, he rubbed the ruddy stains on his pants and turned his mind back to practicalities. "Carter, stretcher?"
"All ready, Sir. I'll get it." Carter wheeled round to go back to the ship, but she stopped when Daniel protested.
"No, it's okay, I can walk." He put a hand to the ground to begin pushing himself away from Nick's hold. "Just help me up."
"Lay still, Daniel." Jack and Nick chorused. They looked at each other with curiosity.
Teal'c and Carter's regarded the pair with amusement. How many times did Daniel and Jack do the very same thing?
"I don't need to be carried," Daniel declared defiantly. "I'm fine."
"Daniel, you just died." The reality stuck in Jack's throat as he tried to point out to the younger man, that even if he felt *fine*, did he really expect them to treat him as if he was *fine*.
"Well, it's not like I haven't done it before." Daniel's smart mouthed comment stung more than he could have known and Jack could feel Nick's eyes boring into his person, but he was reluctant to meet the gaze. "Please, Jack. It looks worse than it is." Daniel had already peeled himself out of his grandfather's hold.
Reluctantly, Jack concluded that it was useless to try and talk Daniel out of his independence and he relented. "Come on then, big guy, time to go." He and Carter bent down and helped Daniel to his feet. "Okay?" Jack fixed Daniel with a hard glare that he hoped would show the kid that he really didn't have to prove anything to any of them.
Daniel nodded uncertainly; wincing as they both squeezed him a little tighter than was comfortable.
Nick stood up and moved to Daniel's side and wrapped an arm around his waist. Daniel tried to stifle the hiss that escaped as Nick's hand brushed against one of his many abrasions.
Before Jack could go back on his decision, Daniel spoke.
"She is still alive, isn't she?" Daniel was looking at Osiris' unmoving body, though Jack guessed the younger man was seeing only Sarah as the beautiful woman he had once been involved with.
Teal'c, who had taken a position behind the Goa'uld, confirmed, "Osiris' lives, Daniel Jackson. The symbiote will be able to heal these injuries."
"Can we take her back, Jack?" He looked at Jack beseechingly. "The Tok'Ra could remove Osiris. I owe it to Sarah to try."
"We could use Osiris to get past the guards on the 'gate, Sir." Carter added weight to Daniel's argument and he smiled at her appreciatively.
"Okay." Jack grimaced as he gave in to the request. "Nick, can you manage?"
Nick tightened his arm around Daniel's waist and Jack caught the suddenly clamped-shut eyes and bitten bottom lip that gave him more concern over Daniel's true physical condition.
Fending off the feeling of dread that threatened to break his resolve in letting Daniel have his own way, Jack set to with the rest of his orders. "Right. Teal'c, you take Osiris. Don't take any chances. You know how I hate surprises." Trusting the Jaffa to see to the securing of the Goa'uld, he watched Nick and Daniel get into step with each other.
Slowly, the two archaeologists made for the tel-tak following Teal'c with his burden. Daniel was limping badly and leaning heavily on his grandfather, but Jack was grateful just to see him moving.
Jack caught Carter's eye as he noticed that she was gazing at Daniel and Nick too. "We've got him back, Carter."
"Yes, Sir." Carter nodded. "He shouldn't be walking," she added, the concern in her voice obvious.
"Call that walking?" Jack quipped, trying to dispel her fears as well as his own.
Carter apparently took the hint, because she broke her study of Daniel's poor progress and looked over at Morten. "What now?"
"We get our butts back to the 'gate, but first, we've got some things to take care of here." He crossed to the Lieutenant's body. "I'll see to Morten. You collect all that stuff together." He pointed at the scattered weapon parts.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jack stared at the array of items for a few moments. "What's your opinion, Major?"
"Well, Sir, most of these objects are damaged, I would guess irreparable. As for the pieces that are intact..." Carter hesitated, "shouldn't we take them back with us?"
Jack's slow nod was more one of thoughtfulness than agreement. "I presume you're referring to our standing orders to procure technology."
"Do you really want the likes of Maybourne and Simmons to get their hands on this stuff? You know the more I think about it, the more I agree with the Tollan philosophy... but don't quote me on that!"
Carter laughed. "I see what you mean, Sir. I guess zatting the pieces would be as good as anything, but not all together. We don't know if any of them are volatile."
Jack shot her a perplexed expression. "Volatile?"
"We'll zat them." Jack said firmly. He wasn't going to drag Daniel back out just to see what a few weapon parts did.
Carter quickly made a line up of artefacts and hoped she'd put a safe distance between each of them. She ran back to Jack and they primed their zat guns.
Two lightning bolts crackled across the open space toward the distant metallic objects. Of the first targets, one merely sizzled, the other leapt into the air as it ignited and blew apart with a resounding bang. Carter and Jack ducked, their arms covering their heads as tiny shards of debris and dirt rained down around them.
"Oh yeah, what was that you were saying about 'volatile'?" Jack mumbled as he lifted his head.
There were only two pieces left. They chose one each and were just about to fire, when Daniel and Nick appeared at the doorway of the tel-tak and shouted together, "Not the orb!"
Jack spun round. His zat shot narrowly missing Carter as his finger reflexively twitched. He glared at the archaeologists. "Damn it, Daniel!"
"Sorry, Jack... Sam," Daniel apologized. "But, the orb..." he said, pointing to one of the distant objects, his whole arm shaking with the effort. He seemed to summon all his strength to offer an explanation. "It has to go back to the planet Nick was on, Jack, it sustains the life there."
Deciding he wasn't going to even ask how Daniel knew that, Jack opted for a more practical question. "And how do you propose we get it there? Nick doesn't know the co-ordinates."
"I do." Daniel said quietly.
"I thought you went there by ship." Jack remembered Nick's account of the attack on the planet, the looming presence of the huge pyramid ship in the sky and Osiris' arrival in the temple via transport rings.
"I... we did, but Osiris had a list of destinations for the items required to build the weapon. I saw it on there."
"You... memorized... the co-ordinates?"
"Yes," Daniel admitted sheepishly. "All of them."
"On the chance that you might have to return some of the stolen goods some day?"
"On the chance that I might be able to get a message out as to where Osiris was going." Sadly, Daniel dropped his head. "I couldn't."
Jack stood and stared at his friend. He had hoped that Daniel would never give up on himself... that he would use anything, everything to fight Osiris and whatever plans the Goa'uld had for the universe, but he knew it would come with a price. He had fully expected that cost to be Daniel's life.
Hell, he'd been infuriated with the archaeologist enough times to have threatened to kill him more than once - jokingly of course, well... most of the time, anyway. However, apparently Osiris had more need of Daniel than anyone had guessed and he thanked God for that... but had Daniel really spent the last few months thinking of himself as a failure for not being able to stop Osiris? Another topic for serious talk with the wrongfully guilt laden young man found itself listed in the 'To Do' section of Jack's brain... when they got home.
"Is it safe to transport?" he asked, pushing his concerns for Daniel's state of mind to the side for now.
"Okay, we'll take it." He'd only just got Daniel back and already he was having to listen to wild theories and give in to strange requests. Still, he would probably have done pretty much anything Daniel asked him to do right now, but he wasn't going to let Daniel know that. "Are you sure there isn't any thing else you'd like to load us up with?"
"No... Thanks, Jack."
"Just don't go putting it about that I'm going soft in my old age."
"It's not being soft, Jack." Daniel countered. "It's doing the right thing and I've never known you *not* to want to do that."
Jack was touched by the sentiment, but could find no words to answer.
Carter retrieved the orb and zatted the remaining artefact before heading back to the tel-tak.
When Daniel swayed a little despite Nick's persistent hold on him, Jack reached an arm around the young man's shoulders and helped guide him back inside the ship. "You need to rest... and let Nick take care of the rest of those wounds, okay?"
Daniel nodded slowly, a faint, "'kay, Jack," was lost in a sharp inhalation as he stumbled, jarring his injuries. He leant a little more against Jack's side and Nick glanced at Jack on feeling the slight shift away from him. Jack gave him a placating but tight smile in return. He knows he can rely on me, Nick. I've been there through some tough shit... where were you?
As Daniel was settled on the floor, he gave a low groan. Looking at his pale, drawn features, Jack asked, "Have you had anything for the pain?"
Nick answered him, "I was just about to give Danyel some morphine when Osiris..." he hesitated, patting his pockets, "The med-kit... it's still out there."
"Carter?" Jack could see the Major stowing the orb and what he recognised as being Osiris' ribbon device in her pack. He realized Teal'c must have removed it from the Goa'uld and given it to Carter for safety.
"Give Daniel a shot."
"Yes, Sir." She came over quickly, pulling a med-kit from a pocket in her vest. She knelt beside Daniel and efficiently delivered the injection. "You should be feeling better soon." She smiled at him.
"I feel better *now*, Sam." He smiled, exhaustedly leaning back against the wall.
Jack gently pushed Nick down to sit alongside Daniel. He took the med-kit from Carter and placed it in Nick's large hands. Covertly, Jack indicated to Carter that they should leave the two archaeologists alone for a while.
"So," Jack said as he directed his gaze at the pilot's seat, "where's the snakehead?" He instantly regretted his words upon seeing the flash of raw regret in Daniel's eyes.
"I have secured Osiris in the cargo chamber, O'Neill." Teal'c assured him, continuing to prepare the tel-tak for take-off.
"I am certain, O'Neill."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As the ship approached the Stargate, Jack sighed. "Osiris was right, the Stargate's surrounded. Teal'c, set this thing down as near to the 'gate as you can."
The tel-tak began to descend and the Jaffa turned to watch it land. Jack kept a watchful eye from the side of the window. None of the warriors seemed to be preparing themselves for a possible fight... they were armed with staff weapons, but he would hardly call their current body language as being particularly alert. He guessed they were waiting to see Osiris before making any moves.
Hoping that his hastily concocted plan would succeed, Jack dished out commands in a tone that was both confident and charged. He could almost feel the adrenaline of an expected battle flowing purposefully through his veins.
"We'll use Osiris as a shield and we'll all move together... first to the DHD and then to the Stargate."
"Carter, you'll be in charge of the escape route. Dial home and send the signal."
"Yes, Sir." Carter began checking her P90 out and getting several spare clips in easy to reach pockets.
"Nick, you get Daniel through the 'gate." As an afterthought, he added. "You still got my gun?"
"Only use it if you have to, okay? Concentrate on getting Daniel out of here, let the rest of us worry about the Jaffa... I don't want any heroics." He made a point of fixing them all with his sternest 'this is your Commander speaking' glares.
Now what? You're pushing your luck Danny-boy. How long had he wished to hear those very words, that same uncertain, hesitant... *annoying* voice, badgering him about a trivial part of a plan, or wanting to know if *this* was okay, or whether *that* was the right way to achieve something...? Too long. Funny, how quickly you could wish he'd just shut up again, at least until the crisis had passed...
"Wouldn't it make more sense if I dialled? I mean, Sam can't shoot and dial at the same time..."
"And when did you become the military strategist, Daniel?"
"It's just common sense, isn't it?" Daniel blinked back at Jack.
"And when did you gain that?"
Daniel stared at Jack with an exasperated expression. "Are we really gonna waste time arguing about this?" His face changed as his voice softened. "Actually, Jack, I'd rather like to be the one to dial *home*, if you get my drift."
Jack wondered how Daniel had come to know which button to press to ensure he'd get his own way. To let him down would be like kicking a day old pup. "Yes, Daniel. I do... Okay, new plan... Daniel dials, Carter you still have the GDO." He saw Daniel's gaze become quizzical. "We had to change the codes when you... left."
* * * * * * * *
Teal'c opened the cargo bay door a fraction. Cautiously, he peered in. Osiris was still prostrate on the floor where Teal'c had left the body. Satisfied that the Goa'uld had not had enough time to heal the host, Teal'c moved inside and pulled it upright.
Jack waited for Teal'c to position himself at the front of the group with Osiris clutched against his broad chest. Taking some of the Goa'uld's weight while Teal'c readied his staff weapon, Jack propped his P90 against his left side. It wouldn't be the first time he'd had to shoot with the wrong hand, although it wasn't easy, at least if they shared the burden of Osiris, they could both still help with the covering fire.
Jack's hand hovered on the door release. "Okay, everyone ready?" He was greeted by a bobbing of heads. "Then, let's go home." His eyes engaged with Daniel's briefly in an 'I told you so' kind of way, met by something of an 'I never doubted you' in return.
With the door still opening, Carter quickly tossed grenades to left and right of the Stargate.
As soon as feet met earth, they were running. Bodily, Osiris wasn't much in the way of shelter, but the Jaffa were obviously not happy about shooting in the direction of a God and so the blasts coming the fleeing group's way were thankfully few and far between.
They made it to the DHD and sheltered the archaeologists as Nick supported Daniel while he dialled. The welcome surge of the opening wormhole heralded a new rush of activity. Carter sent the GDO signal between pulses of fire against an advancing and bolder band of Jaffa.
"Nick, Daniel, Carter, go!" The command was as necessarily short as the situation was rapidly deteriorating.
Daniel started as he heard Jack's command. Home was just a few steps away. Oh yes, dear God.
He moved forward as fast as his unsteady legs and weakened state would allow. He wasn't going to get this close to freedom and not make it. His foot slipped off the first step up to the Stargate and he almost gagged as a spear of sheer agony tore through him from the jolt.
Nick was tugging him forward, but as he leant over to catch his breath, digging his fingers tightly into his hips, he glanced behind him. In the absurd upside down view of the world, something caught his attention.
Osiris... the Goa'uld's eyes flashed evilly. Osiris was conscious!
Daniel tried to shout a warning, but it was too late. Osiris' head snapped up, both hands struck out, dislodging the unsuspecting grips and sending both Jack and Teal'c sprawling at the base of the steps.
Osiris pulled something from the folds of his clothes... a small device of three gems in a triangular configuration... and slipped it over the fingers of his right hand. Daniel thought it looked like what Sam had described after she had been attacked by the Ashrak.
Teal'c started to rise, but was sent reeling by a rippling energy shock from the weapon.
Carter was fully engaged with the Jaffa and could only throw a concerned glance at what was happening below her position near the Stargate. "Nick!" she called. "The gun!"
Daniel looked worriedly around him, everything was going horribly wrong and all he could do was watch as his whole world crumbled around him. Beside him, Nick was fumbling in his pocket, Jack's M9 stuck in the seam.
"No!" Daniel screamed a protest as Osiris picked Jack up by the throat and held him at arms length, smiling cruelly as the man struggled in the strong grasp. His hand went subconsciously to his own neck, rubbing it as he remembered just what that had felt like. With legs that felt like they had turned to jelly and without Nick's aid, it was all Daniel could do to remain standing.
"Daniel." Sarah's siren lilt rang out among the sounds of gun fire and staff weapon blasts. "You are my property and no one else shall have you. I will use this one," Osiris shook Jack with utter contempt, "this human you call 'friend' to show you how futile it is to resist me." Osiris' eyes glowed with a fury even Daniel had not seen the like of before.
The Goa'uld raised the device in front of Jack's face. Transfixed, Daniel could see clearly the three narrow beams, one from each gem, combine into one intense ray that leapt out at Jack's forehead. Immediately the Colonel's defiant thrashing stopped and a more ominous quivering and twitching of his limbs began.
Eyes widening in horror at what has happening to Jack, Daniel shook his head in disbelief. Blood was beginning to trickle from Jack's nose. That had only happened to Daniel on only one of his many brushes with the ribbon device... after Ammonet had tried to kill him and that had happened when they'd got back to the infirmary, not during the attack. God, how close was Jack to...
"Jaaack!" Daniel yelled, helplessly.
"O'Neill does not know you anymore, Daniel... he doesn't even know himself... the man inside this shell exists no more." Osiris taunted Daniel further.
There was a triumphant, "Ha!" from Nick as he finally got the M9 out of his pocket and he brought the barrel up to sight it for a shot at the Goa'uld.
Daniel could see the gun wavering on the periphery of his vision. Come on, Nick, come on.
Two shots left the barrel, but both went wide of the mark... one going a good deal closer to Jack than Osiris. Daniel flinched and heard Nick cursing that maybe after more than half a century his aim wasn't as good as it had been. Jack doesn't have time for the tales of what you did in the war, Nick, do it now!
A resonant hum was building in the device and still Nick hadn't adjusted his aim enough, another shot missed the target, but at least it hadn't been deflected. Daniel surmized that although Osiris had a weapon, he didn't have any shield protection. Bullets would work... they just had to hit the right place.
Trembling, Daniel limped across the couple of feet to his grandfather and plucked the gun from his hand.
A quiet whisper of, "I'm sorry, Sarah," left Daniel's lips. Tears threatened to obscure what little focus he could achieve without his glasses, though he couldn't tell whether they were more for his former lover or for his friend.
He squeezed the trigger. Again and again he fired at Osiris. Soon, nothing of the woman's face and neck could be seen, just blood and more blood, red and blue streaks mingling together.
Jack's body bonelessly hit the ground just seconds before that of Sarah.
Daniel fell to his knees, gun still raised, shivering uncontrollably.
The staff weapon blasts stopped as the Jaffa seemed to realize that something out of the ordinary had happened. A god was dead.
"Come on, Daniel," he felt Carter's hand on his elbow, lifting him. "Before those Jaffa decide to get revenge for the death of their god."
Nick pried the M9 from his frozen fingers and coaxed him up the steps. "Come."
Teal'c called to him, staggering slightly as he got up. "Daniel Jackson, I will bring O'Neill, go through the Stargate."
Letting himself be led, Daniel paused at the Stargate and turned to make sure Teal'c was following. He saw the Jaffa bending over Jack with a hand on his neck. Teal'c's eyes were closed and the look of sorrow on his face spoke volumes.
Carter and Nick stepped forward taking Daniel with them. "No !" he cried, as he felt the incessant pull of the wormhole. The scene vanished as he was whipped into the roller-coaster ride through the stars.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Whoa. Home. At last. Hadn't changed much, Daniel realised. Same old gray walls, pipes and cables, SFs ready to open fire, just in case the signal wasn't sent by SG-1. They stooddown quick as General Hammond bounds up the ramp. Not a sight Daniel saw every day…
A flicker of incredulity passed over Hammond´s face, something like the expression he had when he first set eyes on Daniel some five years ago.
"Doctor Jackson ?"
"Er yes, General ?"
His hands clamped solidly on Daniel´s shoulders as if to confirm he was real. "Welcome home, son." The smile he wore showed genuine happiness and concern. "I'm sorry we couldn't have made it sooner."
"It's okay, General. I understand."
There was movement behind the general that caught Daniel´s attention, the medical team… standard procedure for a return such as he´d just made. He took a quick look back toward the 'gate... where were they ?
"Daniel." Ooof. He received a physical greeting he wasn´t prepared for, especially given the fact he was covered in blood, bruises, bandages and precious little else, but he simply presume the hug had a lot to do with the fact Janet didn't get to give him a proper goodbye.
"I'm okay, Janet." Her face was one of disbelief and Daniel winced. Sha'uri used to have a similar expression when he told her he hadn't really fallen asleep over his translations in the pyramid and missed dinner... again. Sarah was an expert in that particular look too. Funny thing... that was usually over missed meals as well. Anyone would have thought he made a habit of it. Sarah, god...
Daniel presumed his pallor has just turned a very unhealthy shade, judging by the sudden tightening of Sam and Nick's hands on him.
"Let's get you to the infirmary, Daniel. Some of these look pretty nasty." Janet's hand was in the small of his back, an insistent pressure directing him down the ramp. "What happened ?" she asked.
"Osiris attacked Jack with some kind of hand device." He side-stepped away from her as though going one-on-one with a basket-ball player, some of the time in Jack's yard finding a use after all.
"I meant you, Daniel," she said, starting to sound exasperated.
He glanced back again. There's still no one coming through the 'gate. What was keeping them? "Huh ?"
Sam took a step forward, her face concerned. "Daniel got caught in a grenade blast. Nick patched some of his wounds and I gave him a shot of morphine about an hour ago."
Daniel shot her a grateful look for the explanation, his concentration still on the wormhole and he distractedly added. "It's looks worse than it is, Janet, really.”
"Let me be the judge of that. You're the wrong type of Doctor, remember?" She summoned a couple of her largest corpsmen to encourage Daniel´s progress.
Uh-oh - attack from all sides. The pressure in the small of hisback returned, firmer this time, and Sam and Nick laid claim to a shoulder each - all of them determined to get him off the ramp.
"No! I want to wait. Jack... I have to see him." Daniel met their attack with everything in his own personal armour - bringing the huddle of personnel to a dead stop as he dug his heels in and fixed Sam with his most intense doe-eyed frown, wrapping his arms around his middle. The gnawing pain deep in his gut intensified but he ignored it. Everything would be okay when Jack was back. He just had to make them understand how badly he needed to stay here. "I think... I think he might be dead."
His voice seemed to echo like a bell around the 'gate room. Then all hell breaks loose.
A staff blast ionised the air above the team´s heads and vaporized a chunk of concrete wall to the side of the control room window. The Jaffa on the other side of the 'gate had apparently recovered from the stunning blow of losing their god.
Sam lurched away from Daniel, pulling her P90 up in readiness against any unwelcome visitors.With no semblance of composure, Teal'c and O'Neill were pitched out onto the ramp. Both rolled in a jumble of limbs and collided harshly with the illuminated guard-rail. One of the lights smashed in an impressive shower of sparks. "Jack !" Daniel wrenched him self from Nick's stabilizing grasp and wavered ungainly back up the ramp, swearing as he realised his legs were refusing to obey his brain´s commands. Janet's overtook him in a second, dropping to Jack´s side. God! Daniel desperately hoped she learnt something from all the times he´d come back suffering from an attack by the ribbon device. Then again, he wasn´t even sure she´d even been listening when he´d tried to tell her about what had happened, as she'd given him the once over while waiting for Teal'c and Jack to come through ? Would it make any difference if she had ? Were the effects of this weapon anything like he´d endured too many times before ? Daniel stumbled forward. "Janet, is he… ?" His question was cut off as large hands clamped around his arms. "Doctor Jackson, please… come with us to the infirmary, the medic insisted. Twisting wildly in an effort to get free, Daniel yelled, "Let me go !" "Daniel Jackson." Teal'c's voice was loud and reproachful as he faced Daniel, ending the archaeologist´s protest. "You cannot help Colonel O'Neill." "But…" "He would want you to get treatment for your injuries. You will only be in the way. You must let Doctor Fraiser work." Medics began loading O'Neill onto a gurney, but Daniel still resisted, trying to see between them, "Janet…" "Infirmary, Daniel. Now." Fraiser bustled past him, squeezing herself between the corpsmen to continue her ministrations. Her calls for tests, medications and samples hung in the air even as the gurney was rushed from the embarkation room. God, Jack. Please. Don't make all this be for nothing. What was the point ? Osiris couldn't win… How unfair would that be ? Ha, *fair*. Since when has life ever been *fair* to Daniel Jackson ? He shook his head, wishing he had never given Nick that message. Okay, so he´d still be a slave and Tollana would likely be no more than an extra cloud of dust in the cosmic ether, but at least Jack would be alive… "SG-1, report to the infirmary," General Hammond called. Daniel couldn´t move. Even Teal'c's gentle push didn´t help. Hammond's deep Texan accent emphasized his statement. "That includes you, Doctor Jackson." Daniel´s head jerked up. Okay, okay. He´d got the point. He sighed heavily. SG-1… includes you… the words filtered through the mounting wave of defeat. Had they never given up hope ? He was still part of the team… the family. They had never let go. One step… then another… Slow at first, then with Nick's help the motion is more fluid. Daniel was walking. For a few moments he hadn´t wanted to follow that gurney, afraid of what he might find. Now, he really *had* to know.
Daniel tried to shrug off the hands that were gently yet firmly pressing him back against the infirmary pillow.
"Doctor Jackson, please."
He treated the nurse to a blistering glare and once again attempted to get off the bed. "Leave me alone! I want to see Jack."
He knew he was being unreasonable. Knew too that he should just lie back and give himself up to her ministrations. He hurt all over despite the medication Sam had given him on the journey back to the SGC - a dozen or more lacerations were vying for his attention like bee stings. The anguished gnawing in his stomach had gradually become a dull ache in his low abdomen that was now threatening to turn into a full blown cramp. The promise of more morphine or even those magical, albeit hard-to-swallow, pills of Janet's was more than a bit tempting.
The only problem was that he couldn't afford the luxury of being doped up on happy juice right now. Why the hell wouldn't they open the curtain? He needed to see Jack. Needed to know he was alright. That Osiris hadn't somehow managed to carry out that final threat to reduce Jack to an empty husk, stealing his very soul. Make that two souls. For if Jack was lost, Daniel wasn't sure he'd be able to continue on alone.
The nurse was the epitome of professional calm. "Colonel O'Neill is getting the best of care, Doctor Jackson."
"And what would you know of that?" Daniel snarled. "God!" He threw his head back on the pillow with more force than he intended. "He's been ribboned for Christ's sake. If anyone knows what that's like, it's me. I need to be with him." He still thought of what Jack had been through as being tortured with the ribbon device, even though it had been a different weapon that Osiris had used. The symptoms he'd witness Jack suffer seemed pretty similar to those he remembered his own body going through. He guessed the final outcome of either device was also the same.
"Doctor Jackson, I need to take your vital signs. If you continue to resist, I will have to ask Doctor Fraiser to sedate you."
Something snapped inside Daniel. Just who the hell did this nurse think she was to threaten him? He'd sold himself into slavery, spent three months living on his wits, trying to stay one step ahead of Osiris and frequently paying a painful price for his stubborn resistance, been on the receiving end of a grenade blast and been fooled into thinking he was dying in Shyla's mine again. And then, to cap it all, Osiris had tried to kill Jack right in front of him. Why couldn't this idiot understand he didn't give a damn about his physical pain - he needed to assuage his emotional hurt. And right now that meant he needed to be with Jack.
He looked the nurse in the eye as he swung his legs off the bed. "If you don't get the hell out of my way..."
She was calling for Fraiser before he even finished his sentence.
The curtain swished open and shut as Janet appeared. She cut the nurse's explanation off with a raised hand. "It's alright, nurse, I'll take over." She fixed Daniel with a sharp eye as the nurse backed away. Her mouth was a taut line. "That's enough Daniel."
Daniel, however, refused to be intimidated. "I want to see Jack."
"You can see Colonel O'Neill after I've assessed your condition."
He pulled in a couple of quick, shallow breaths. "No. I will see him now. You can assess me after."
Janet arched an eyebrow as she produced a hypodermic, flicking off the top and tapping the barrel with one finger.
"You know you're not going to give me that," Daniel said, with ill-tempered confidence. "Let me see Jack."
Janet held his gaze as she nodded to the nurse, who quickly stepped forward and swabbed Daniel's forearm. Daniel's jaw dropped. Oh boy. Janet was serious. She really was going to pump him full of sedative. With a sick feeling, Daniel came to the conclusion Jack's condition must be critical. Why else was Janet so determined to prevent him from seeing him?
"Janet." The bravado vanished from Daniel's voice. "Please. Don't give me that." He began to push himself off the bed only to stop and gasp as a sudden sharp pain knifed through his abdomen straight to his groin.
"Daniel?" Janet snatched up his wrist as he fell back against the pillows. He was unable to resist as a second nurse swiftly swung his legs back onto the bed and started slicing through the tattered remains of the foul slave clothing with a pair of scissors. A blood pressure cuff was secured around his other arm, the tightening uncomfortable as it did its work.
Daniel didn't miss the frown on Janet's as she dropped his wrist and turned her attention to his abdomen.
"Is this bruising?" she asked, pressing her fingers against his dirt-encrusted skin.
He let rip a string of Abydonian curses as pain speared through him at her touch.
"I'll take that as a yes," she said, glancing towards the nurse.
"Blood pressure's low," the nurse informed.
Janet didn't even blink as she started to bark orders.
Daniel heard the mention of an IV, opened his mouth to protest that he still wanted to see Jack and discovered he couldn't speak. He saw Janet's eyes widen in dismay and knew he was in trouble even as she shouted.
"He's bleeding internally. Damn it - he's crashing!"
Darkness was rushing at him with the savagery of a wild animal. A voice was shouting for someone to get Doctor Warner. Somebody yelled 'prep for surgery'. Pain in the back of his hand - sharp and acute, despite the agony in his belly. And then the world began to move.
Somehow Daniel managed to turn his head as his bed rumbled over the rough floor. Lethargy was spreading rapidly through his limbs now, stealing him of his resolve. If he could just hold on - yes, there. His gaze fell on Jack lying motionless on a bed, surrounded by medical staff and equipment.
Daniel's fingers flexed - the movement a futile attempt to reach for Jack. The infirmary doors crashed open. The bed jarred. And Daniel stopped fighting.
Daniel flapped irritably at the hand tapping his cheek. Please God, it couldn't be his watch already. He was tired, too tired to open his eyes.
"Sam's turn. Wake Sam."
"Doctor Jackson, it's time to wake up now."
He groaned softly and cracked one eye open, trying to remember where he was. Which planet? Which mission? A face floated into view - gentle brown eyes, dark hair tied back into a severe bun. Crisp white clothing. Whoever it was smiled and he found himself responding automatically, only to feel suddenly bereft as the gaze broke away and was directed over his head.
"Doctor Fraiser. He's awake."
A second face appeared. This one more familiar. Ah, Janet.
Oh. That meant... He took a deep breath, wincing at the pull on his muscles. Oh yes. Disinfectant. He was in the infirmary. Oh crap. Suddenly memory flooded back. He tried to push the oxygen mask from his face, but a hand caught his and firmly placed his arm back on the bed.
"Jack?" The name sounded more like a croak, but fortunately Janet seemed to understand.
Daniel felt his fingers being squeezed as she leaned closer.
"Colonel O'Neill is going to be just fine. As are you, despite trying to scare us half to death."
He blinked, trying to remember. He had a vague memory of an agonising pain in his belly and everyone shouting around him. Everything seemed so long ago. Putting every effort into the action, he somehow managed to return the grip Janet had on his hand with pressure of his own.
"Everything's going to be just fine, Daniel."
He smiled and closed his eyes. At last, he could sleep peacefully.
Jack groaned loudly as he came too. Janet's face floated in front of him, nauseatingly out of focus.
"Bitch," he muttered.
Janet's eyes widened with amused admonishment. "That's hardly the way to greet a lady."
Jack grimaced. " Osiris. Not you." He shivered at the memory as his eyes began to focus. "Thought I'd finally met one goa'uld too many."
A sympathetic look washed Janet's face. "You're going to be just fine, colonel."
He raised his eyebrows to reflect just how sceptical he was about that, given the pain throbbing through his head. So this was what Daniel had suffered? Oh crap, Daniel. He started to struggle upright.
"Colonel, please." Janet pressed his shoulders back to the pillow.
"Is sleeping like a baby right here." Janet stepped aside so Jack could see the slumbering archaeologist.
"Give him a couple of weeks to get over the surgery..."
"Surgery?" Jack's face went pale.
"He took a severe blow to the abdomen at some point. Probably when he got caught in that grenade blast. Could've been a large piece of blunt shrapnel or the impact of being thrown through the air. Whatever, he crashed on me just as I was diagnosing him." She flinched, as though realising Jack probably hadn't needed to know quite so much so soon. "He's going to be fine, colonel."
Jack looked past her uncertainly. Okay, so apart from the bruises and lacerations visible on his face and upper body, Daniel looked like he was sleeping peacefully. But what scars had three months as a slave to Osiris left on the younger man's soul? As though reading his mind, Janet gave his fingers a light squeeze.
"What Daniel needs most, colonel is to be with people who care for him. As soon as you're both fit enough to leave the infirmary, I'll be recommending some downtime for SG-1."
"Fresh air and fishing?"
Janet smiled. "Just what the doctor orders."
Jack smiled - "Sounds like heaven" - then closed his eyes and let sleep reclaim him.
The next time Daniel awoke he found yet another pair of brown eyes watching him. Only these ones were in the bed next door, and were framed by a face sporting an angry-looking forehead burn.
"Sleeping beauty awakes," Jack grumbled good-naturedly. He was lying on his side, knees pulled up to chest beneath his blankets. "About time. I've been going crazy lying here with nothing to do expect listen to you snore."
"It's good to see you too," Daniel replied, feeling a smile tug at his lips. He moved cautiously, feeling the pull of a wound. Hissing quietly he eventually manoeuvred himself so he mirrored Jack's position. "So... you okay?"
Jack grimaced. "Feel like somebody drilled a hole in my head with a blunt spoon."
"You get used to it," Daniel replied casually.
It was Jack's turn to shake his head, although his expression said he immediately regretted the action. "Daniel," he said firmly. "I have no desire to get used this, okay."
Daniel shot him a brief smile. "Okay. I think I could live without seeing you being ribboned again, too."
A long moment of silence fell between them, each contemplating what might have been.
"So..." Jack began. "You okay?"
Daniel considered for a moment. "I've... had better days."
"You scared Doc Fraiser half to death. Not to mention Carter and Teal'c."
"Not you though, huh?"
"For once, Daniel, no. I was blissfully unaware of the crisis until I came to and found you doing a corpse impression in the bed next to me."
"I thought you said I was snoring."
"Today you've been snoring. Yesterday you were doing the Snow White poisoned apple routine."
A smile tugged at Daniel's lips. "Sorry."
"So you should be."
There was another silence as Daniel shifted his legs, trying to find a more comfortable position. The IV in the back of his hand was a sure indicator the worst of the pain was being numbed artificially, but he still felt he'd done twenty rounds with a boxer. As he pulled a face, unable to find a way to lie that didn't make some part of him ache, he caught Jack wincing in sympathy.
"Coming to find me." Another shake of Jack's head. Another grimace. "You should stop doing that," Daniel offered.
Jack ignored the last remark. "Hell, Daniel. I promised you, didn't I? I never break a promise. Besides - the way I see it, I should be thanking you. I thought I was toast." He wrinkled his reddened forehead. "Quite literally. Anyway - if you want to thank anyone, it should be Nick. He was the one who told us where to find you and got the message about Osiris' bluff back to us."
"Talking of Nick," Daniel's expression brightened as he saw his grandfather hurrying across the infirmary.
"At last, you are awake, Danyel." Nick beamed down at him. "Are you well?"
Daniel considered a moment. "I will be. Thanks to you."
Nick made an impatient noise. "Good. Good. I was afraid you would wake too late."
"Too late?" Daniel frowned. "Too late for what."
A flicker of sadness drifted over the old man's face. "I have come to say goodbye."
"You're leaving?" Daniel's voice cracked with emotion. "Already?"
Jack found himself wincing as disappointment abruptly claimed Daniel's features.
It was exactly like when he'd gotten called back to duty early and hadn't been able to take Charlie to the game as he'd promised. That pitiful pout had lived with him a lo-o-o-ong time... He hoped Nick would be similarly haunted, but he doubted it. It seemed the old man had always managed to ride rough shod with Daniel's feelings. Even if it wasn't done on purpose, the thought of it left a bitter taste in Jack's mouth.
At least Nick had the good grace to appear as upset as Daniel was by the idea of him leaving as he nodded slowly, confirming his intention. "The orb must go back."
"Of course." Daniel mumbled.
"Do you remember the co-ordinates?" Nick held out a notepad and pencil.
"If I said 'no', I don't suppose you'd stay?" Daniel asked with the blatant hopefulness of a five year old.
"No, Danyel, I would go to the original planet where you found the skull. Quetzalcoatl would take me back, but it would be quicker with your help. Further delay could be devastating."
Daniel succumbed to the reasoned explanation with a weary sigh and took the pencil. Resolutely, he began forming the glyphs on the paper.
Jack couldn't let Nick get away without saying something to instigate remorse. "So, it's more important to get that thing back to... wherever, than spending some quality time with your grandson?"
"Danyel understands." Nick straightened up and puffed his chest, assuredly.
Watching as Daniel's bowed head ducked lower over his writing, Jack surmised that the young man indeed acknowledged the logic of the argument but not necessarily the apparent lack of compassion. "I bet he always does. Not that you'd give him much choice." Jack was satisfied with the wrinkling of Nick's brow as he absorbed the biting comment.
Daniel finished the symbols and looked up. "He's right, Jack. When I stole the orb from those people, I condemned them and their planet to death. Nick has to replace it." The strong sentiment was tinged with more than a hint of resignation in Daniel's voice. He handed the notepad and pencil back to Nick. "I hope there hasn't been too much damage done."
"The sooner the orb is back in its rightful place, the sooner the planet can begin to regenerate." Nick leaned over Daniel's bed, carefully folding his arms around the young man, avoiding getting tangled in the IV and monitor wires. "Now, you must rest and recover too."
"We'll make sure he does," Jack told Nick firmly.
"I am relying on you to, Colonel."
Jack swallowed a further reprimand about Nick always depending on someone else to pick up the pieces of a broken heart after running out on his responsibilities, again, but he knew that to keep going on about it would likely hurt Daniel's feelings more.
"I will be back to see you soon, Danyel." Nick smiled.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Daniel curling up on himself. A defensive posture no doubt spawned in those early days of isolation and used for surrogate comfort in all the subsequent times of despair.
"Goodbye, Gra... Nick."
Nick's face showed a trace of regret. Way to go, Danny! But Jack sensed no victory. Daniel's fingers fluttered a poor attempt at a 'goodbye' wave, but his smile was even less convincing as his lips made a tight line. Was that the movements pulling on his wounds or had some fundamental wall just been hastily erected against a deeper pain? Jack found his annoyingly persistent headache worsening with the stress of it all.
The old man retreated, uttering a low "Goodbye..."
Jack could see Daniel's eyes closing, wetness clinging to the long lashes. "You don't think he'll be back, do you?" he asked softly.
Daniel peered at him briefly through half open eyelids. "It wouldn't be the first time."
Regarding his young friend slipping into an uneasy slumber, Jack sighed. There was a lot of healing to be done - physically and emotionally. Nothing new there then...
He settled back to try to sleep away the after effects of the traumatic mission, when a sudden thought came to him. He pressed the call button by the side of the bed. "Get me Major Carter," he told the responding nurse.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jack waited anxiously in the control room. The iris was open, what was taking them so long?
He could feel the headache threatening to return, but couldn't tell whether it was due to Osiris' weapon or the anticipation.
While Daniel had slept he had asked Carter to accompany Nick to the planet. She was to use some excuse overloaded with scientific mumbo jumbo about wanting to monitor the effects of the orb as it regenerated the planet, or something like that. However, the real object of the exercise was to try and get the old man back to the SGC as quick as possible after he had delivered the device to its home.
It hadn't been easy to get the Nick to accept, until General Hammond had denied him permission to go unless Carter went with him for his protection. The MALP had been sent through and showed a world in chaos. The conditions on the planet were hostile in every sense of the word. The weather, the stability of the ground and Nick's former hosts all appeared to be in turmoil.
Reluctantly, Nick had accepted that Carter would be going with him.
That was yesterday morning, less than two hours after Daniel had awoken properly from his enforced sleep following surgery. Now it was a little after 7pm, Daniel was back asleep. Jack had been discharged from the infirmary and had been on his way to Hammond's office to request permission to go find Carter and Nick, when the klaxons had gone off heralding the arrival of Stargate activity. He had diverted to the control room, arriving just in time to hear that it was SG-1's GDO signal being received.
Finally, the event horizon fluctuated and someone appeared.
Carter descended the ramp, alone. Looking up at the control room, she found Jack's expectant eyes. Sadly, she shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.
"Dammit." Jack cursed loudly. "What's wrong with that man?"
Couldn't Nick see how much Daniel needed him? No, perhaps 'needed' wasn't quite the right word... Nick wasn't essential to him picking up the pieces and getting on with his life... Daniel had already been there, done that; it wasn't that kind of 'need'. It was just... well, did Nick know anything of what Daniel had been through the last few years? Geez, the guy had been married and widowed, let alone the rest, he'd even died... oh, waaay too many times. Would Nick be at all interested, or care? Maybe not, he'd let the poor kid deal with the loss of his parents on his own... abandoned Daniel when he really had *needed* Nick. What did one more time matter to him? Bastard.
For a few moments, Jack contemplated going after Nick himself. Tell him what it means to be 'family'. Would that do any good? Probably not... and if Daniel ever found out he'd be furious. Daniel didn't realize just how transparent he was.
Oh sure, he'd be all 'I got along fine without him before' but everyone could see the hurt, the betrayal he felt. He hadn't been up to disguising it at all in the infirmary yesterday, but today had been a different story. Yeah, like hell he's not bothered that Nick didn't come back when he'd promised, he wasn't reading that book that was held up in front of his face. He reads fast and those pages were turning too slowly... a cover up... but it didn't fool me. That's why he's so useless at cards... Daniel can't bluff, just too damn honest for his own good.
So, as Nick is pretty much a lost cause in my book, I'll remind *Daniel* what 'family' is instead. Doc said she'd insist on some down time for us and I know just the place to go...
* * * * * * * * * * *
There was a distinct chill to the evening, a sure indication that Summer was turning to Fall. The sound of loons drifted eerily across the lake, competing with the soft rustling from the high foliage of the pines moved by occasional flurries of crisp air down the mountain.
Jack wandered out of the cabin, roughly scrubbing a hand through his hair. Surprised to find that not only had he slept most of the afternoon away, but that he still required so much rest after more than two weeks since his little run in with Osiris. He scanned his surroundings for his missing companion.
At the end of the jetty, silhouetted against a striped backdrop of black and orange as the sunset shone in bright lines between the tall straight trunks of the firs, was a hunched figure.
As Jack approached he could hear the soft sloshing sounds of feet gently kicking in the water.
"You okay?" Jack got down beside Daniel and dangled his feet over the edge as well. The coldness momentarily stole his breath.
Keeping his voice deliberately light and belying his real concern, Jack jokingly scolded the younger man. "You know Fraiser will have both our hides if you get frostbite. We're supposed to be recuperating, not making ourselves worse."
He really wanted Daniel to get everything off his chest before they went back to the SGC and if this was the way he'd be relaxed enough to do it, then to hell with Fraiser. She could deal with any medical complications as a matter of course, but Daniel's state of mind was less easily repaired.
"I killed her, Jack." Daniel's tone was one of intolerable misery.
"Ah." So now he knew which particular sorrow he was going to be helping Daniel deal with today. It was the one he'd been dreading the most.
They'd already done the 'great disappearing grandfather', the 'what atrocities I saw and played a part in on my summer vacation', the 'God you were almost killed, Jack', the 'poor Lieutenant Morten - why did he have to die saving someone he didn't even know, but wouldn't have liked if he had'... and now here it was, after a week of trying to avoid the subject. Sarah.
"I wanted so much to free her from that nightmare." Daniel gazed out across the lake, the deep amber glow of the evening sun, glinting in the tears rolling steadily down his face. "But I failed her just like I failed Sha'uri."
"You didn't fail anyone, Daniel. No one could have done more to rescue them. Besides, you *saved* me." Jack leant forward to look earnestly into Daniel's dazzling eyes. "For which, by the way, I am eternally grateful."
"So you said, already."
"It's worth saying again."
"I couldn't let Osiris kill you."
"That's good to know."
"But it doesn't make me proud of what I had to do."
"I'm not expecting you to be. Killing someone is not an easy thing for anyone to do, you know, Daniel. Even those of us who've been trained to do it."
Daniel looked at him in disbelief.
"Don't you think I've felt guilty when I've had to take someone's life?" Jack continued.
"I... I never really thought about it, I guess." Daniel's head dipped momentarily and came back up with a face full of remorse. "God, that sounds so shallow... Sorry. It's just... well, she... Sarah... she was special, you know? We..."
"You can't afford to let it get to you, but that's not to say it doesn't touch your soul. Luckily, most of the situations I've been in have either been 'kill or be killed'. I've never had to shoot someone who was special to me. I think you're entitled to feel lousy."
"Really?" Blinking heavily, Daniel turned back to looking out over the water. It was gleaming redder in the low sun. It was an eerie sight and reminded Daniel of Osiris' parting speech about the rivers of Earth. Thankfully, that wasn't going to happen now... not by Osiris' hand at any rate.
"Yes, really, Daniel." Jack put an arm around Daniel's shoulder. "But don't dwell on it too long, okay? You did what you had to do. Try to remember that you killed *Osiris* and that unfortunately Sarah just got in the way."
"You know, even if you're not proud of yourself, I am. You did real good out there and I don't just mean because you saved my life. You held it together long enough to not only get back to us, but to save the universe from the threat of that weapon and eliminate Osiris into the bargain." Jack felt satisfied that he had turned the conversation around from inadequacy to achievement and decided to change track. "So, when are you going to visit Nick?"
"I'm not sure, exactly, " Daniel replied with a distance to his voice that matched the vagueness of his answer.
"I thought you wanted him to stay."
"But?" Daniel raised his eyebrows.
"Come on, the Daniel Jackson I know wouldn't bear a grudge."
"Right, " Jack drawled and brushed Daniel's shoulder off with his hand.
"What are you doing?"
"Thought you might need some help getting rid of that chip there."
"I will, as long as you quit with the little boy lost looks and get over it. I'm thinking you didn't let him beat you before."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Daniel huffed.
"Oh yes you do. You're angry 'cause Nick went back to that planet... that he chose his work over you... again." Jack watched as Daniel's frown deepened. "Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying you aren't entitled to be..."
"I'm not angry." Daniel said a little too firmly, then paused. "I was hurt," he conceded. "At first, but those people needed that device. I do wish he'd come back after he'd returned it, though." Even more sadly, he added, "Nick is just used to not having commitments other than his work."
"That sucks." Jack commented bluntly.
"Yes, it does, but for a while I was in danger of going the same way... until the Stargate project changed all that. Sha'uri knew a completely different 'me' to who Sarah had lived with for two years."
"I don't think it had so much with who you were as with who they were, Daniel. You'd only just met Sha'uri when you leapt in front of that staff weapon to save my life, I don't think she could have changed you all that much, the part of you who puts others first has always been there. It's a damned shame Nick isn't the same."
"He never was the world's best grandfather."
"But he *is* family."
"I know that, I just wish that *he* did. I will go and see him, one day, but for now, I've got all the family I need right here, Jack."
"Sure you do, Danny. I'm glad you realize that's what we are, it's taken long enough."
"It takes time to let people get close. There always seems to be something waiting around the corner to snatch them away. Like when you all went to help Thor against the replicators. Do you have any idea how it felt to be left behind?"
"We didn't do it on purpose. As I recall you couldn't even sit up without causing yourself agonizing pain."
"Thanks. I *so* needed reminding of that." Daniel subconsciously held his most recent abdominal scar.
"And just for the record, I do happen to know how you felt, maybe... You did agree to become a slave to Osiris and leave us wondering what the hell was going to happen to you."
"I'm sorry. I just couldn't let the Tollans get wiped out because of me."
"Of course not, and it had nothing to do with seeing an opportunity to get Sarah back...?" Jack probed.
"Er, kind of." Admitted Daniel, guiltily.
"See? You did everything you could... Now are you done with beating yourself up?"
"I suppose... for today."
"Good, 'cause it's time to eat." Jack climbed to his feet and extended a hand down for Daniel to pull himself up.
"I'm not very hungry."
"You will be when you see the cake Carter brought over."
"Oh, yeah." Jack sighed covetously.
"Wow, what did we do to deserve that?"
"We made it back, Danny... all of us." He guided the younger man back to the cabin.
"Sounds like a good enough reason to me." Daniel agreed.
"Indeed." Teal'c's booming voice startled Daniel as he and Carter stepped out of the shadows of the log building.
The four friends shared a lingering embrace, before retiring inside to enjoy large slices of home-made chocolate cake, a few beers and each others company.
A loud toast could be heard all around the moonlit lake as bottles clanked together... "Welcome home, Daniel!"
Loved it or hated it? Click my sig and let me know!