Jackfic Fiction Archive Story

 

Following The Leader Series - Part 4: Needing The Leader

by Elizabeth

 


Notes: This is another POV in my ‘Leader’ series. It is my first Danny POV, so feedback would be appreciated and will be replied to. However, no flames please. I can burn my own toast without any help, thank you.

 

*****

 

I WILL NOT LOSE HIM.

 

I cannot. No way. He cannot die.

 

I will not let him go.

 

I WILL NOT LOSE HIM.

 

God, he looks so pale, blood seeping across his uniform, yet still so powerful. He struggles to hold the pain in, his face screwing up with the effort, as he refuses to give in.

 

“Jack? Hang on Jack, I’m getting you out of here.”

 

He groans back at me. A sound I hardly hear over the chorus of enemy chants, the rhythmic thumping of feet accompanying the voices, nearly surrounding us. Under better circumstances I would have enjoyed listening to the sound. Deciphering the words, working out the root of the language, discovering their history and how it relates to Earth, if at all. Now though, it’s just an audible reminder of how much trouble we’re in. How much trouble Jack’s in, if I can’t get us out of here.

 

Where are Sam and Teal’c? They should be back by now. I don’t think I’m enough on my own to protect us anymore – to protect him. I could run for it, Jack’s tried to make me, many times, but I’m not going. God, how could he possibly think I’d leave him? How could he ask, or try to order me? Doesn’t he know how much he means to me?

 

I’ve watched my parents die, their lives crushed out of them in front of me, in scenes that replay many times during my nightmares. It’s the only time I see their faces clearly anymore, in my dreams, not whilst I’m awake. Whilst I’m awake they’re just vague illusions, but during the night they appear in crystal clear images: their eyes; their lips; the feel of their arms around me. No one holds me anymore, except for Jack and Sam. Teal’c cares, but he’s not the tactile type. Most people would think Jack isn’t either, but I know differently. Sam’s like the sister I never had and her holds are gentle and caressing, feather-light. Jack though? There’s nothing gentle about Jack. His words are coarse and his hugs are like being held by a bear. The strength and rough-house caring that is uniquely him.

 

I look down, to where I’m crouching on the ground, where he lies on his side, cursing, moaning, trying to raise himself.

 

“Damnit Daniel, gimme a goddamn hand-up!”

 

He’s angry now, oh yes, he’s good and angry. Angry that I’ve stayed with him and worried that my stubbornness is going to get me killed. He should be lying still, conserving energy, letting me protect him. He’s losing so much blood, but anger and worry over me is giving him another boost of energy.

 

“Damnit Daniel.” He curses again as he forces himself to his knees, biting back a groan as the movement jostles the arrows poking out of him. Ugly caricatures of human cruelty. Evil shards defiling something special, something I hold dear. Something called my friend – Jack.

 

Indians. Possibly Native Americans, gauging by their skimpy leather loin-cloths. Red Indians. Who cares what colour they are, as Jack would say. Something we’d never expected. I can’t say who their ancestors are, as we haven’t been introduced, but they’re certainly not friendly like the Salish, Tonane’s people. I don’t even know what we’ve done to upset them. Are we on holy ground, or something? Did we break some local taboo? The native Indians of American history were highly spiritual, but we haven’t been given a chance to explain ourselves, or retreat away from their lands.

 

Jack settles on his haunches, joining me in looking over the rocks we’re hidden in. He turns his back to me and steadies his P-90, showering the area behind me with ammo. I hadn’t even noticed the natives creeping up behind us, but Jack did. I guess all the noise from in front might have been a deliberate distraction, designed to get my attention whilst they surprised us from the other direction. Not Jack though. He could take on this lot and swallow them for breakfast, as an hors-d’oeuvre to the main event. He’s shaking now though, his arms unsteady as he protects me. I don’t even have the time to check his wounds, as a group of determined locals whoop and holler as they charge from the front once more.

 

I’ve become a very good shot over the years. My parents would be horrified at how many lives I’ve taken since joining the SGC. They’d have been amazed at the things I’ve seen, of course, but at what price? The price will be Jack if I don’t manage to keep the natives at bay. My baretta hasn’t got the same calamitous effect as his P-90, but I’ve never been able to manage that gun effectively. Jack says all you have to do is point and shoot, but I’ve never found it that easy. I’m selfishly relieved when he swivels round beside me and helps to sweep the charging aliens away. I still cringe each time I see any being flung off their feet like that. The force of the impact sending them flying backwards, to land with a bone-jarring thud on their backs. Their life’s blood spilling from unnatural holes in their bodies. However, the price will be Jack’s life if we can’t keep them back.

 

How could everything have changed so quickly in such a short time?

 

<<<One minute I was studying some strange groupings of rocks. Piles of rocks, man height, nothing unusual about the rocks and large stones themselves, just the fact that they’d been placed there by hand. The land is rocky and wooded, not very well lit by a winter’s sun and quiet, or it was. Too quiet. I should have realised. I should have watched Jack. Thinking back I could tell Jack was ill at ease, his hyper senses on alert with the unnatural quiet. His fingers playing with his weapon, his feet never still, as his gaze roamed constantly around the area, trying to pin down the source of his unease.

 

Instead, I’d been too busy investigating the stones, picking them up one by one, looking for any signs of writings, or markings. Suddenly I was forced down to the ground by a push so hard on my shoulders, I’d been momentarily stunned as I hit the ground.

 

“Wha---?” I managed to say before the loud retort of Jack’s weapon had sounded, spraying the near vicinity with life-taking bullets.

 

Jack had grabbed me by my vest. The vest that he was always trying to make me fill with ordnance, but I insisted on filling with notebooks and video tapes instead.  I was being dragged away, his strong grip pushing me towards the tor we’d seen a few minutes earlier. I’d hardly been able to get to my feet before I felt, rather than saw, the wooden flint-tipped arrows whizzing through the air by us. Whoever the natives were, they were good with their aim, and I felt one go through the sleeve of my jacket. It missed my arm, thank goodness, but it made me agree with Jack’s obvious desire for more speed. Then he’d spun around, jerkily, pushing me further on ahead of him, as he’d steadied himself to cover our retreat.>>>

 

I wish I didn’t have to rely on people like Jack for safety. I’m a civilian, an archaeologist, an anthropologist, a linguist. I live to see the beauty of what people can be and the majesty of what they can achieve. The determination that can make a simple people build cities from mud and clay and build temples to reach to the skies and their Gods. Putting their hopes and fears into solid form. Their hopes for their lives and their fears for their deaths.

 

I see only wonder and awe around me, but Jack? He’s been places and done things I could never imagine in my worst dreams. His past is peppered with darkness, but not like the accidental horror of my parents’ death. No. He’s endured the repugnance of the worst that man can become. It’s not as though he’s told me much about where he’s been, or what he’s done. He doesn’t want to burden anyone with what he sees as his sullied soul. I think he fears it will rub off on us, or some other such foolish idea. He forgets that when he talks in his nightmares I can understand him. I speak each one of the languages he moans in whilst asleep. He doesn’t realise he does this, or that I’m aware of it. He might suspect, but he’ll never ask. It would be too disturbing for him to know how much of his soul he bares whilst sleeping. It would only hurt him and I couldn’t do that. One day, maybe, we’ll have a big discussion about it, but not yet.

 

Please God let us have that discussion, let us live through this day. Please let me get him back alive. How much longer before Sam and Teal’c get back?

 

<<<I was aware of his frantic footsteps, following me as I climbed up the tor and then ducked behind a rise in the rocky outcrop. Only when he collapsed after me did I hear his groan of pain and look at him. Two arrows were sticking out of him, blood leaking down his uniform, turning the green BDU’s a sickly dark shade. One stuck out of his back, in his right shoulder-blade and one in his front, beneath his right collarbone. He was curled up on his left side, still clutching the weapon that had saved our lives. Two more arrows stuck out of the middle of his back-pack, projectiles that would surely have killed him by now, if not for the pack’s protection.>>>

 

Why?

 

Why are we constantly the ones being hurt? I’ve seen each of my friends hurt so many times and sometimes so badly. Teal’c’s lucky and seems to avoid the frequency of injuries that plague the rest of us. Even when he *is* hurt he’s able to heal himself a lot quicker than we can. Sam seems to attract the alien take-overs and the mad computers, but Jack? His body’s covered with so many scars, it’s frightening. It’s mind-numbing to think of one person being put through so much pain and yet still coming back for more. He always comes back to protect us, to protect me. I don’t understand why he thinks either so little of himself, that he constantly puts himself in the way of danger, or that he thinks we’re so valuable that he can’t lose us.

 

Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question. I can no more lose him than he can lose me. We’ve both lost so much over the years, but now we’ve found something worth holding onto again. One day one of us is bound to lose, but please don’t let it be today.

 

Sam and Teal’c should be back by now. They’ve been gone half an hour, to collect samples from the river we heard in the distance, so they can’t be long. Jack doesn’t like to split the team up, but both Sam and I convinced him we’d be safe here. The MALP didn’t spot anything. The UAV didn’t spot anything. We didn’t spot anything. So what was the danger? The danger now is Jack bleeding out beside me. He struggles to remain kneeling upright and I can see his eyes clouding over, even as he continues to scan the area around us. I try to force him down, but he stubbornly refuses to relinquish control, groaning at the pain I inadvertently cause by pushing against him.

 

The first sign of anything unusual was the pile of rocks I’d found. Thinking back on it now, they probably have some sort of religious significance for the populace and I’d played with them, handling them like toys. Oh God, I may have killed Jack. I’m the likely reason the natives suddenly turned on us. Why does everything I touch turn to loss? My parents? Sha’re? My beautiful wife, my lover and friend, despoiled by the parasite that took her from me. Jack is my family now. He’s picked me up when I’ve been down, too many times to mention. He knows what it’s like to feel loss, to feel so down that the only way is up. But who do you turn to for that first hand up? Jack and I turn to each other. Despite the fact that we’re probably as opposite in everything we do or say that it’s possible to get – yet we care. I care now. I care as he topples over beside me, tears of pain leaking out of his eyes as he struggles to raise himself again.

 

“Stay still Jack, you’re making it worse.” Please stay still. Please let me be enough to protect you.

 

“Gotta help --- too many of them ---” He gasps as an arrow catches on the rocks behind him, balling one hand into a fist as the other refuses to let go of the gun.

 

Suddenly there are the distinctive sounds of a staff weapon and a zat gun. I poke my head back up, baretta at the ready again, but I can see the natives running away from the blue streaks that light up their comrades as they’re attacked.

 

“Wha’ happening?” Jack’s barely holding on to consciousness. His attempts to raise himself on his elbows only part-way successful.

 

“It’s OK. It’s Sam and Teal’c. They’ll be here in a moment. I can hold the natives off until then.”

 

I fire again, as another native appears over the distant rise, but Teal’c and Sam are there and somehow the Goa’uld weaponry instils fear where ours do not. They shriek and run like Beelzebub himself is after them and, for once, I don’t care. I care about Jack. He’s lying back down on his side again now, eyes closed, body turning limp, as he’s finally unable to ignore the pain and he drifts away. Please God, don’t let him drift too far. I can hear Sam and Teal’c running across the ground towards us and I quickly remove my back-pack, astonished to see three more arrows poking out of it. I only hope they haven’t damaged anything in the medikit, although as we carry a kit each, it’s not a problem.

 

There’s a shower of gravel as two sets of military boots land beside me and Sam’s in-drawn breath is loud in my ear.

 

“How is he?” she asks as she kneels beside me, inspecting Jack, the evidence of his injuries upright for us all to see.

 

“We must break off these projectiles, before we attempt to move him.” Teal’c says as he reaches forward with his belt knife and proceeds to cut away Jack’s vest and jacket. The thick fabric gives easily in the strong Jaffa’s hands.

 

Soon the fabric around both wounds is removed, leaving a shoulder bare of anything bar his own blood, as it continues to spread around his tanned skin. Sam looks hesitant, as she inspects the injuries up close. I can’t tell how far the arrows have embedded themselves, but there’s no sign of the flint tips, so I can only assume they’re buried inside his bones. I feel sick at the thought. How could Jack keep going through that kind of pain and still be more concerned about me?

 

“Allow me.” Teal’c offers, as he moves past Sam to examine the arrows further. His voice shows no sign of distress, but the muscles quivering in his face give a hint of the turmoil going on in his mind. Jack is his friend, just like he’s mine and Sam’s. Jack took him from virtual slavery, giving him independence and the ability to plan his own future. You can almost see the reverence in his eyes when he watches Jack and, without him, I’m sure Teal’c would leave the SGC. It’s not for Earth, per se, that Teal’c fights the Goa’uld. Not that he wouldn’t be fighting them now anyway, but no, he fights alongside us because of Jack. Now he kneels beside his saviour and places both hands, side by side, on the arrow in Jack’s chest, taking a strong, firm grip. It’s a sickly sight, because it’s coated with blood. I watch as he pauses, bracing himself for an action he knows he has no alternative but to perform. One hand is as tight as possible against Jack’s chest. Keeping that one as steady as he can, Teal’c uses force with the other to snap the length of wood off.

 

Jack moans and thrashes wildly with the pain, kicking Sam harshly and she falls backwards awkwardly. Teal’c and I hold him steady, because he still has the other arrow pointing dangerously out of his back.

 

“Jack?” I ask him as he breathes rapidly.

 

“Fuck, what a bitch.” He doesn’t open his eyes, but I think he knows what we’ve done.

 

“I apologise for the pain, O’Neill, but I must also attend to the remaining projectile.”

 

“J--- Just gimme a minute here, OK?”

 

He’s sweating profusely and his hands flex in their all too familiar response. Sam meanwhile has crawled back and is collecting our medikits together out of our back-packs. She extracts a dose of morphine from one and checks the needle for air bubbles, before injecting it straight into his thigh.

 

“Wha---?” Jack opens his eyes and stares at her.

 

“Morphine, Sir.” She stares back, without apology. Jack hates medication with a vengeance, which is probably why she didn’t warn him.

 

“Hate goddamn needles.” He slurs as the drug quickly starts to take effect on his weakened system and his eyes close once more.

 

“I apologise MajorCarter, I should have realised O’Neill might waken. I should have let you attend to him first. Did you injure yourself?”

 

“No, I’m fine, Teal’c. It’s OK. The Colonel’s just got one heck of a kick on him. It should be a lot easier on him now.”

 

Teal’c nods and repeats his previous actions on the remaining arrow. This time Jack moans quietly, but doesn’t wake up. As soon as Teal’c’s finished, he moves out of the way and Sam quickly takes his place. She packs the areas around the arrows with gauze and bandages as tightly as she can. There’s still a good three inches of wood sticking out, both front and back, but it will be easier to carry him back to the gate now. Thank God we aren’t too far from it.

 

“I am sorry we could not render you assistance any sooner, DanielJackson. It was only as we were returning that we were aware of your situation. The natives were most stealthy in their movements.”

 

“I’m just glad you came back when you did.”

 

“Why didn’t you radio for help?” Sam asks as she binds around the arrow stumps, trying not to jar them.

 

“It’d only just happened. We were too busy running and firing to have time to use them. Jack got hit straight away, I think, covering me.”

 

Sam nods in understanding. There’s nothing one can say about Jack’s usual protective behaviour.

 

“Why did the natives attack you?” Teal’c asks as he stares out over the tor, slipping into bodyguard mode now he’s finished his task with Jack. We haven’t heard anything off the natives since they were frightened away, but I don’t know how long that will last.

 

“I wish I knew. I think I touched something sacred to them, those piles of stones, but I’m not certain. There are no markings or symbols on them anywhere, but we were attacked just after that.”

 

“I am perplexed why our Goa’uld weapons are far more successful in repelling the natives than yours.”

 

I’m puzzled about this too. The locals didn’t seem particularly bothered by the sight of their own blood, or their own dead, whereas the blue lightening sent them running away in fright. A lot of Earth’s Native Americans believed everything had a spirit, a ‘manitu’ of its own and would often imbue god-like personae to the different aspects of nature around them.

 

“Maybe they thought the electrical discharge was lightening, come down from the skies. If they allocate deities to the forces of nature, they may believe we’re protected by the lightening god and think they’ve offended it.”

 

“Then our return to the stargate should go unhindered.”

 

“Right.” Sam says as she packs everything away again. “I’m finished. Let’s get him home.”

 

I watch as Teal’c reaches down and gently pulls Jack over his shoulders into a fireman’s lift. He makes sure the injured shoulder is uppermost and carefully avoids catching the arrows with the hand he wraps around Jack’s neck and shoulders for support. Sam passes me her zat and collects the staff weapon and Jack’s P-90 for herself. She passes me a quick encouraging smile and jumps down in advance of Teal’c, ready to protect them. I’m left to collect Jack’s back-pack and follow them back down to ground level, taking up the rear position. I keep as good a look out as I can for the natives, even though I’m lacking the rest of the team’s military training to be as efficient as they are. However, I know Sam and Teal’c are on full alert too and I don’t see any sight of the natives on our short walk back to the gate. I’m sorry for the dead ones we have to step through on our way out. They gave us no choice, and I do want to live, but what we did here will always leave a sour taste in my mouth.

 

Once there, Sam dials up whilst I face the other way. There’s no way I’m going to allow any further danger to Jack, but it’s only a few quiet moments later that the OK comes back and Sam urges us through before her.

 

My heart’s pounding with relief once we’re all back on the ramp at the other side and I can already hear the tannoy announcement for a medical team. Sam and I help Teal’c carefully lower Jack to the floor, noticing how the blood is already seeping through the bandages. The General only just manages to get down before Janet’s flying through the doors with a medical team. I often wonder how she manages to get here so quickly, the infirmary’s hardly just down the corridor, but right now I’m just relieved to see her. I’m so busy watching Janet as she assesses Jack, that I barely hear the General’s query as to what happened.

 

“Locals, Sir. They looked a lot like Native Americans.” Sam says as Janet places an oxygen mask on Jack. “Took us all by surprise. The Colonel took two arrows before he and Daniel could get to safety.” She then turns to Janet and explains about the morphine, to which the doctor nods.

 

Hammond sighs and we watch silently, as the orderlies carefully lift Jack onto the gurney, leaving him on his side so as not to jostle the arrows. He hasn’t moved once since Sam gave him the morphine and I don’t know whether to be relieved or worried about that. Janet gives us a slight smile and quickly orders her team out of the room and away from our sight. All I can do now is walk on auto-pilot to the infirmary and our own post-mission medicals.

 

I know Sam and Teal’c are as worried as I am about Jack, but I can’t spare the time to think about them, as we pace around the gurneys in the infirmary. The medicals are so much a part of normal procedure, that I don’t even give them a thought as we’re processed through the system. A injection here, a swab there, all it does is remind me of what they’re doing to Jack. We go for our showers and I think of the nurses sponging the dust and blood off him. We go for a meal and I think of the anaesthetic flooding Jack’s body. We wander about the corridor together outside the OR and I think of his immobile body on the operating table. I think and think and think about --- nothing and I wonder what Jack’s thinking whilst he’s unconscious. We *are* still supposed to dream, aren’t we? I’ve been through that room several times, but I can’t remember if I dreamt anything, or not.

 

“Do you dream when you’re in surgery?” I’m surprised I’ve asked the question out loud.

 

“I don’t know.” Sam says, trying to smile through her own worries. Her hair is still slightly wet from the shower and running her hands through it has left it looking unkempt.

 

“I am sure O’Neill will recover from his injuries.” Teal’c states, seeing straight through my worries.

 

All I can do is nod at them. They’re both as quiet as I am, caught up in their own worries, but at least we’re all worrying here together. I could pass the time counting the minutes dragging by. I could count them in over twenty languages, going forwards or backwards. I could go through the alphabets in the same languages, forwards or backwards. Whatever I try to do though, the sight of Teal’c breaking off those arrows still superimposes everything else. I remember Jack spinning around as he pushed me ahead of him. Was that when he got hit? First in the back and then in the front as he protected me? Why does he keep doing that, putting his body through so much pain for us?

 

The minutes turn into hours and we’re still waiting outside the doors that separate us, just a short distance from our friend, when Janet finally re-emerges. As usual, she’s changed out of her scrubs. I think she does it deliberately, to leave any signs of the horrors she’s just seen out of sight of worried team-members. She smiles at us, but it’s not the relaxed smile we’ve seen on other occasions. This is the reserved smile that says he’s still with us, but not out of danger yet. My heart sinks. I see the same recognition on Sam and Teal’c’s faces and I see Janet’s acknowledgement that we know.

 

“We’ve got the arrow-heads out, but they were both deeply embedded and caused a lot of bone damage. We’ve had to remove several tiny fragments and it’s going to take a while for the areas to re-grow, just like in any other fracture. Other internal damage was amazingly minimal and we’ve already replaced the lost blood volume. What I’m really concerned about is infection.”

 

I hate that word. Infection: disease-causing, contamination, invasion, penetration, transmission, communicable. Infecting Jack. How?

 

“On first examination, those flint tips are very dirty and I fully expect bacteria to have entered his system. I’ve taken samples and I’m putting him on antibiotics, but only the next few hours will tell us the extent of anything to worry about.”

 

I’ve heard all that I’m interested in hearing for now and can hardly wait for the OK to go and see him. My feet are actually itching with the need to move.

 

“He’s in the main ward.” Janet says, looking towards me, and Sam and Teal’c quickly follow me into the area.

 

Jack’s lying perfectly still, apparently peacefully sleeping, his hair freshly cleaned and looking as ruffled now as it always does. He’s in one of those dreaded hospital gowns, the ones that will earn the nurses more than a few complaints later on. He’s also wired for sound, as he’d say, as I see all the monitoring equipment. Janet’s certainly taking no chances, until she knows for certain what’s happening inside him.

   

Sam joins me in one of the plastic chairs, but Teal’c prefers to stand guard. I’m not sure if he hates the chairs, as they’ll be a tight fit anyway, or just prefers looking down on people. Anyway, Janet does another check over Jack and then leaves us alone. Well, alone that is except for the equipment and the nurse that’s hovering in the background. I know the readings on the monitors will show up on her nurse’s station too, so she’s still keeping an eye on him without intruding.

 

His right shoulder’s heavily bandaged and a sling is keeping his arm in place. I guess Janet doesn’t want him moving his shoulder accidentally before he comes around properly. How they’re going to keep him immobile afterwards is another story. They don’t call him the bane of the infirmary for nothing.

 

We must have been here for a few hours. I’m not really sure how long, as I think I left my watch in the shower. Wherever it is, I really don’t care, each minute gone is just another minute until I see those brown eyes open again. Hopefully they’ll be free of pain this time. I must remember to collect his watch for him at some point, take care of it until he needs it again. I don’t care how long I’ve been sat here. Time’s relative, isn’t it? Relative to what? Relative to how long he decides to drift wherever he is until he returns to us, to me. SG1 are the only relatives I have now, but Jack? He’s the relative with the capital R.

 

Recalcitrant, rumbustious, reclusive, redoubtable, resilient, raucous, retrospective, reactive, reliable. Recherché - rare.

 

I’ve been through several cups of coffee, although I’m not sure who brought them to me, or what happened to the cups afterwards. I’m caught here, frozen in time until he moves. Come on Jack, I plead. Recumbent - that’s not him. Restive – that’s Jack, he’s always moving, never still. Even in a silent room, in a still meeting, you can hear him moving on the inside. There. I’m sure. A slight lift of the eyelids. It’s not much, but it’s the answer to my prayers.

 

“Jack? Come on Jack, are you in there?”

 

His eyes don’t fully open and he doesn’t seem aware of anything. He seems too content to lie there in that semi-awake state, free from pain and knowledge, but I don’t begrudge him that. Not after what he went through on that planet, protecting me. Janet’s soon here and she’s trying to persuade him to wake up, but he doesn’t respond to her efforts either. After a few moments she gives in. Resistant, that’s our Jack too when he wants to be. His eyes slowly close again and I try my hardest not to be down-hearted about it. We’re nearer to getting him back now than we were earlier and I’m patient --- sometimes, anyway. At least when it’s important. If Jack wants to take a week to wake up, I’ll wait. Only please don’t make it that long.

 

Janet turns around to us.

 

“It shouldn’t be long now. He’s coming out of it nicely, just taking his time.”

 

Sam sighs beside me. Sometimes knowing so much about medicine for a non-medical person must be difficult. I’m glad my knowledge stretches to using a Band-Aid and no further. What I don’t know I can’t worry about. Teal’c’s a different matter. For so many years he was restricted to learning only that which served his master. Now he soaks up information like the proverbial sponge, even though unfamiliarity with the terminology slows him down.

 

Hammond wanders into the infirmary a few minutes later. It’s the first time he’s had free to check up on Jack and he’s obviously concerned about how he’s doing. Janet has a word with him and the General asks if he can have a quick briefing with us about the mission.

 

“I’m staying here.” I reply and Sam pats my shoulder. There’s no way Jack’s going to wake up alone, if I can help it. I’m half waiting for Hammond to order us all, but he nods his head instead and I’m quickly left alone at Jack’s bedside.

 

I watch as he starts to move and his eyes flicker open. The nurse disappears, telling me she’s going to get the Doctor. Jack’s automatically trying to raise himself upwards, the movements hindered by his lack of co-ordination and the sling on his arm. He doesn’t even seem to be aware of his shoulder as he moves about.

 

“Jack, what are you doing? Lie still.”

 

“Dan’l?” He slurs, his eyes glazed over, as he slowly turns his head my way.

 

“I’m here Jack. Now lie down.” I’m on my feet beside him now, trying to force him gently back down on to the pillows. Already he’s swinging his legs out of the bed and my heart-rate’s increasing with each movement. Why does he always pick moments when there’s no help around to cause trouble?

 

“No --- gun --- Where’s gun?”

 

Then it strikes me. He doesn’t realise he’s back on the base. He still thinks we’re on the planet. He’s leaning forward now, into my arms thank God, but he’s swaying and I hope he doesn’t fall off the bed.

 

“Jack, they’re gone. Sam and Teal’c got rid of the natives. You’re safe now.”

 

He’s leaning his head against my chest, but he moves back to look up at me.

 

“Dan’l? Safe?”

 

“Yes, I’m safe. Now we’ve got to get you back into this bed, or Janet will have my hide.”

 

“Doc? Here?” It seems he can only manage one word sentences and I’m grateful to see a flurry of white, as our CMO appears on the other side of the bed.

 

“I see you’re up to your usual tricks, Colonel.” She greets, helping me to ease him back down in the bed. He’s completely non-resistant and his eyes close as his head meets the pillows.

 

“How’re you feeling, Sir?”

 

“Hot.”

 

There is a slight sheen on his forehead now and Janet’s quick to check his temperature. She tutts and adjusts the dial on the IV.

 

“You’re running a slight temperature, but the antibiotics should kick in soon. Why don’t you go back to sleep? You should feel much better later on.”

 

Jack opens his eyes to me once more, as Janet tucks the sheets in around him again.

 

“Dan’l? OK?”

 

“Yes Jack, we’re all OK. Go back to sleep. We’ll be here when you wake up.”

 

His eyes close again and Janet smiles at me, as he drifts away to wherever he goes in his sleep.

 

“I thought he’d probably get an infection, but I’m sure the antibiotics will deal with it.”

 

“What if they don’t?” I can’t help asking, brusquely, worriedly. I can’t look her in the face, as I continue to watch my friend, who lies so peaceful beneath us.

 

“Then we’ll try something else. Don’t borrow trouble Daniel, when there’s no reason to assume the worse.”

 

“I’m sorry. It’s just that he’s ---.”

 

“Important to you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“He’s important to a lot of other people too, you know. Even though he doesn’t realise it.”

 

“Yes.” I can’t help laughing slightly at what she’s said. Jack’s nowhere near as dumb as he likes to make out, but sometimes he can’t see the wood for the trees. He spends so much time taking care of us, that he makes it very difficult for us to take care of him in return. It never even crosses his mind that we would *want* to take care of him. He’s certainly going to need taking care of now though, with his arm out of commission. His right arm at that. Oh I know he can shoot a gun with his left, just as good as his right, but manage a knife and fork? That’s one of those little domestic things that’ll get overlooked as soon as he’s out of here.

 

Sam and Teal’c return in a few minutes and we fill them in on Jack’s latest escape attempt. Sam laughs, but the action is designed to cover her concern.

 

“Then we shall remain here until O’Neill is sufficiently recovered to be left unattended.”

 

The next few hours pass in a blur. Teal’c tried to get me to go for something to eat, but Sam ended up bringing me a sandwich back instead. I think I went to the bathroom. I guess all that coffee going in had to come out sooner, or later, but I don’t really recall when. I’ve been sat here so long, I think I’ve become moulded to the chair.

 

Then finally he opens his eyes again. This time there’s more awareness in them. He’s still running a slight fever, but Janet’s confirmed it’s responding to the drugs and doesn’t seem too worried. I’ll stop worrying once we’ve got him out of here and back home where he belongs.

 

“Hi kids.” He whispers, as he looks us over. “You look like you’re at a wake. Who died?”

 

Typical Jack O’Neill. We’ve been sat here for hours, worrying ourselves sick over him and he brushes it all under the carpet with a dozen words.

 

“No one has died, O’Neill. We were merely concerned as to your health.”

 

“My health’s fine, now help me sit up.”

 

He’s fidgeting about, trying to find the control to the bed-head, which is currently dangling off the side. He’s obviously as weak as the proverbial kitten and his hair is still plastered to his forehead with sweat.

 

“Ow! Crap!” He says as he suddenly realises why it’s not such a good idea to make any sudden movements. “Damn cocktail sticks.” He moans, staring at his shoulder. “I mean, how many times do damn aliens have to perforate me?”

 

“Just settle down will you?” I scold him as I adjust the bed, until he tells me it’s OK.

 

He shuts his eyes and it’s at this time that Janet comes back in. She’s been watching us for a minute, giving us a bit of time together before she intruded. She’s probably ticked so many things off her checklist just watching us and I’m not surprised she does nothing more than scan the monitors.

 

“Feeling better now, Colonel?”

 

“Better than what?” He asks, as he opens sleepy eyes to her.

 

“You were hot before, running a fever, but it’s coming down now.”

 

“Oh --- yeah ---” It’s obvious he doesn’t remember anything about the last time he woke up, but that’s hardly surprising. He’s barely got the energy to keep his eyes open now and they keep sliding shut, despite his best efforts.

 

“Well, you’re going to be with us for a few days. We got the arrow-heads out, but they did a bit of bone splintering and we’re going to have to keep your shoulder immobile until it heals again.”

 

“Where are the pictures?”

 

I’ve never understood Jack’s need to know what’s going on whilst he’s in the infirmary. I know he doesn’t like to lose control and maybe this is just a part of that. By understanding what’s being done to him, he doesn’t feel left in the dark. He can monitor his progress, give names to procedures and file them in his head somewhere.

 

“You can see the x-rays later, you don’t really need any bed-time reading right now.”

 

“Awww, mum.” He moans, as his voice gets steadily quieter. “The guys are round to play.”

 

“I do not think you are strong enough for recreation at the moment, O’Neill.”

 

“We can play later, Sir.”

 

“Yes. Get some sleep Jack. We’ll be here when you wake up.”

 

He opens sleepy eyes at me once more. “Getting that feeling of déjà vu, here Danny.” Maybe he remembers something after all. “Go and get some rest. I can see the bags

under those eyes from here.”

 

“I don’t have bags under my eyes.”

 

Teal’c moves over towards me and starts to inspect my face, giving Jack a puzzled look which he fails to focus on completely.

 

“Teal’c, Sam, get him outta here, will ya?” Jack gives his best command face, but it’s lacking anything like his usual vigour.

 

“We’ve tried, Sir.” “We have attempted to many times, O’Neill.”

 

“I’m fine.” I defend myself, feeling as if I’m being ganged up on. I have the crazy desire to stamp my foot, only my legs are having problems with pins and needles as I stand up.

 

“Yeah, and I’m a monkey’s uncle.” Jack says with a smile on his face, as his eyes close for the final time during this encounter.

 

Janet quickly checks the monitors once more and smiles at us. Her silence is all I need to hear now. Jack’s back and I didn’t lose him after all.

 

“That’s a space-monkey’s uncle.” I tell him, hearing Sam’s slight laughter as she and Teal’c follow me out.

 

 

*****The End*****