Was it a good thing or a bad thing that he couldn't feel his legs? Was it a good thing or a bad thing that didn't know where he was? Was it a good thing or a bad thing that he was all alone?
It was a bad thing. Especially the part about being alone because he didn't think he should be, and he couldn't remember why. Technically, he did know where he was. He was in a river twenty feet from the shoreline, soaked to the skin, aching all over, cold, and with a splitting headache. Unfortunately, he didn't know *what* river or *what* shoreline--and he still couldn't feel his legs.
His hands scrabbled along the tree branch as he tried to get a grip on the water-slick surface, unable to find a secure hold. The water's rushing current poured over him, threatening to tear his fingers free from the branch he'd found himself wrapped around. The toppled tree, sprawled from the shore into the water, gave him a tenuous and fragile security. He wanted desperately to get away from the torrential force that threatened, if it could loosen his hold, to flatten him against the rocks he could see a short distance away. The sight of the water breaking apart in sprays as it hit the rocks that littered the swollen river told him he didn't want to go there if he had a choice. He grabbed the branch once more, relieved to feel his nails dig into the rough bark, securing him temporarily in place. Only trouble was, he didn't remember how he came to be in such a place, shivering and afraid, holding onto a branch in the middle of a nameless river.
Over the roar of the water he heard a faint call. “Daniel!”
Daniel? Was that him? It didn't matter as long as someone on the shore noticed his predicament.
“Help!”he yelled, and then choked as a spray of water hit him in the face. “I'm here. Someone...someone help m-me.” The chattering off his teeth made the words hard to form. He hoped whoever was on the shore could hear him.
“Hang on,” the person called back. “Teal's getting some rope. Hang on, okay? Don't let go.”
The voice made it a command, one he whole-heartedly wanted to obey. He didn't have any intention of letting go, but his arms were getting so tired, and now he couldn't feel his legs *or* his fingers. Looking down, he could see they still held the branch in front of him, the white knuckles contrasting sharply against the black bark, but he couldn't feel them holding on.
He heard the person on the shore calling again. “What happened?”
Good question. He didn't know. He didn't know much of anything at the moment except for the fact that he was cold and tired, very, very tired.
“Daniel? Keep your head up. Come on, dammit, pull your head up out of the water!”
He must be Daniel. The person must be calling to him. That's nice, he mused. It meant he wasn't alone, and he'd been worried about that. Someone, the person on the shore, must be someone he knew, a colleague or friend, maybe. He wished he could answer the question, but the water kept covering his mouth. He wanted to rest his head against the branch. He wanted to rest—anywhere. The numbness in his legs had spread, from his hands and arms to his chest. Although his chest felt tight, it was a relief not to feel cold anymore. He didn't feel much of anything anymore. At the insistence of the voice on the shore, he pulled his head up out of the water.
“I'm almost there, buddy. Hang on just a minute longer.”
A minute longer. He could do that. He didn't really have anywhere to go for a minute--that he could remember. He could hang on.
A wet face appeared beside him. He shook away the water blurring his vision to see a worried pair of brown eyes looking at him. The arm wrapped around his middle looked strong but he couldn't feel it. He wondered who the man was holding on to him.
“Okay, I've got you. Teal'c's got the other end of the rope and he's going to pull us back, okay? I need you to hold onto me.”
Hold on. He was holding on. To the branch. With his fingers. That's what the man had told him to do.
“Daniel? Can you hear me. Let go of the branch now and hold on to my arms. Can you do that, buddy?”
Buddy. A friend then. A good friend who would brave the cold water of the river to get to him. Well, if he was a good friend he--Daniel--should really try to help him out. He wanted to do as the man said, but he couldn't get his fingers to move no matter how hard he tried. His fingers were frozen to the branch. He blinked the water from his eyes and looked at the white skin of his fingers, willing them to let go.
Suddenly, his mouth was full of water and he couldn't breathe. The water poured over his head.
“Whoa!” The man pulled him out of the water with a jerk. “Keep your head up and don't struggle.” He wasn't struggling; he was trying to let go of the branch when he got pulled under the water.
“Damn!” The voice was sharp in Daniel's ear and his collar felt tight around his neck as the man held him up so that his mouth was free of the water. “Teal'c, give me a little more rope. He's tangled on something.”
Tangled? No, he just couldn't feel his legs. The fact that he was getting water in his mouth was just because he was tired. He wanted the man to get him loose and take him to the shore where he could get dry and warm.
“Daniel?” the man said. “I need you to steady me for a minute, okay? I'm going to wrap the rope around the this branch but you have to keep both of us steady for a minute. Don't let go, or we're both going to get spattered on the rocks.” The man looked at him intently, waiting for him to answer. He must have nodded because the man grasped his sleeve with his left hand while he deftly wrapped the excess rope around the protruding limb. Daniel prayed his fingers had enough strength to keep them both in place.
“I'm going to go down and untangle you. Don't go anywhere until I get back.” The man gave him a quick grin before he took a deep breath and disappeared beneath the water.
Daniel didn't think this was a good idea. The power of the water pounding against him would also be dragging his rescuer away from him. He tried to call out to tell the man it was too dangerous, but the man was gone. Daniel saw the legs give a powerful kick before they disappeared under the water. The rope strained beside him. Another wave of water slammed into him and he choked on it. His vision blurred, spots appearing in front of his eyes even as he tried to keep the rope in sight.
Suddenly, his body felt lighter. His head bobbed out of the water and he was able to take his first full breath since he'd found himself in this mess. Unfortunately, now that he could breathe, he couldn't stop coughing. His lungs needed to get rid of all the water he'd inhaled, each cough making his limbs quiver and his chest ache all the more. The wheezing didn't stop him from watching the rope stretched taut under the water. He wanted the man to come back up. Just as he was about to call out to the other man on the shore to come and rescue his friend, a hand appeared on the rope. A second later the head broke the surface of the water and the rest of the body surged up beside him.
“You okay?” the man gasped. “I had to cut you loose. You were caught on a branch. You're going to need a new pair of pants once we get you out of here.” The man coughed slightly as he unwound the rope from its anchor. “Teal'c? Pull up the slack.” The arm wrapped around his waist again. “Okay, Daniel, let go now.”
Let go. Right. He could do that. Daniel watched the other arm pass in front of him, the hand covering his on the branch. The man pulled one hand off, finger by finger, and then the other. Daniel thought he should help. He tried to pull his hands away.
The man's arm wrapped tighter around his waist. “Dammit, Daniel, did you hear what I said? Don't struggle. In this current if you get away from me, you're going to end up at the bottom of the waterfall.”
He let the man peel his hands off the tree branch and then watched his hands bob on the water in front of him. Try as he might, he couldn't hold on the way he'd been told to, and every time he tried to do as he was told, the man yelled at him. His arms, like his legs wouldn't move.
“Right here. You okay?”
Daniel looked around him. Held in Jack's arms, the river seemed to be moving away from him, and the pressure of the water slamming against him started to ease. Jack held onto him and they moved away from the raging water in the middle of the river to the calmer water by the shore. He didn't understand how they could be moving until he remembered the rope. Someone--Teal'c--must have the other end of the rope.
He was so cold. As relieved as he was to be moving to the shore, he still couldn't feel anything. He could see Jack's arms around him, but he felt only the biting tightness in his ribcage that had been there before. Released from the pounding water, the need to sleep overpowered him and he put his head back on Jack's chest, willing the journey to be over.
“Relax, Daniel. We're almost there.” The voice got a little louder. “Teal'c? Does Carter have the fire started? His lips are blue.”
He couldn't hear the answer. His lips were blue because he was so cold. His eyelids were heavy and he wanted to sleep.
“Don't sleep yet.” Jack shook him so that his head bounced on Jack's chest and his arms jiggled in the water. “You still awake? Daniel? You need to stay awake.”
“A...awake,” he stuttered.
He heard the sound of Jack's boots scraping along the rocks by the shore.
“Son of a bitch, that's cold!” Hands grabbed him and pulled him out of the water. “Teal'c, we need to get him out of these wet clothes. Carter, check him out.”
“Daniel?” That was...that was Sam. “Sir, he's got a gash on his forehead.”
“I saw it. Let's get him by the fire first and then we'll deal with the head. It's not bleeding much anymore. Damn cold water's good for something.”
“Hey, Daniel,” Sam said. “We're going to move you. Take it easy and let us do the work, okay?”
Take it easy? He didn't have much choice. “Sam?” He felt her hand on his cheek. “Cold.”
“I know. We've got a fire going for you in the clearing. Hold on.”
Hold on. There are those words again. Hold on. Let go. Hold on. At the moment he wanted to tell his bones to hold on because he was shaking so hard he thought he was about to fly apart.
“Teal'c, I've got the feet.”
They lifted him, Teal'c holding his shoulders and Jack holding his legs. He tried to still the shivering that had started again with a vengeance once he was out of the water. To his surprise, he felt colder now than when he had in the water. He was afraid that he'd shake himself loose from their grasp as he felt himself floating above the ground. A minute later the light from a roaring fire greeted him, along with a blast of heat that made him shake all the more.
“Let's get these clothes off,” Jack said, laying him on an emergency blanket. “Keep him covered, Carter. We want to keep in as much body heat as possible.”
“Got it, Sir.”
With precision teamwork they stripped Daniel of his clothes, gently rubbing his arms and legs dry. As the circulation returned, Daniel groaned with pain. It stung like a thousand needles piercing his skin. As he bit his lip to keep from crying out, he heard Sam and Jack taking inventory of his injuries.
“He's got one hell of a bruise on his back, Sir.”
“Yeah. He must have hit one of the rocks in the river before he got himself hung up on that tree branch. I don't feel any broken bones, though. That's a good thing.”
The needle pricks turned to a stinging that was almost a burn. He ached all over. In the water he'd been worried about not feeling anything. Now he felt everything.
When they were done drying him off, they dressed him again in the warmest clothes they had with them, and wrapped him up in a second emergency blanket and a sleeping bag. The material felt course and harsh against his sensitive skin, but he was relieved to feel again. For a while in the river, he'd wondered if he was paralyzed.
Jack and Teal'c helped him to sit up. He struggled for a minute, not wanting to move from the warmth of the blankets until he saw Sam hold a cup to his lips. “Drink this slowly, Daniel. It'll help warm you up.”
He reached up to hold the cup only to have his hands batted away.
“Let me hold it. You're shaking so much, you'd probably knock the cup right out of my hands. Just drink. A little at a time.”
He contented himself with wrapping his hands loosely around Sam's, startled by how hot her hands felt against his. The tea in the cup felt hot as well as it slid down his throat, sending a wave of soothing warmth from his stomach all the way to his toes. For the first time in what might have been hours, he started to feel warm. The shivering lessened and his muscles twitched as they warmed up. The warmth also made his hands drop to his sides and his eyelids droop. He let himself lean into the solid weight behind him--Teal'c he thought, struggling to keep his eyes open. Then he pulled away, trying to stay upright, knowing that if he stayed in that position against the warm shoulder of his friend, he would fall asleep. He wasn't supposed to do that. Jack had told him to stay awake.
He felt drops of water falling onto his face. Lifting his eyes, he saw Jack, with his hair and clothes still dripping from his swim, standing over him. “Wet,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I don't mind Carter seeing *you* naked, but I'm not really ready for her to see me naked.”
“You haven't got anything I haven't seen before...Sir.”
“I have a whole let less of what you've seen before, Carter, after that refreshing dip in the river. That's why I don't want you to see me...you know.”
A snort from Sam told Daniel she knew very well.
“Jack.” He struggled to raise his hand. “Get changed.”
“I will,” he said. “As soon as we get you straightened out.” Jack looked at his second-in-command.
“I don't think he has a serious concussion, Sir. His pupils are equal and reactive—if a little slow. Janet's going to want to put in a couple of stitches in his head when we get home, but I don't think it's serious.”
Not serious. That's good. His head still hurt, though, and his chest.
“And the shaking?” Jack asked.
“He's warming up. The shivering is a good sign. It's the body's way of regulating its own temperature. We've given him warm liquids, and we're working on bringing up his core temperature,” she said gesturing to the layers of sleeping bags. “He's getting the feeling back in his arms and legs. His hands feel warmer, too.”
Warmer? His hands were freezing. Sam's hands were the warm ones. Her hands felt hot. He shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts and hissed as the movement pulled the cut on his head.
“Daniel? You okay. Hang in their, buddy.” Jack knelt beside him.
Hang in there, hold on, let go. He felt like he was being thrown around in the river again. He wished they'd make up their minds. The pounding in his head and the ache in his muscles made him feel irritable. He was about to tell them so when the shivering suddenly stopped. The pressure in his chest eased as if an iron band had been released. Daniel opened his mouth to talk and let out a huge yawn instead.
Jack chuckled. “Our company not exciting enough for you?”
“Tired,” he managed to say.
“I'll bet,” Jack said. “You can sleep now. You're fine, and we'll have you home by morning.”
“Sleep,” Daniel muttered. “Shouldn't sleep. Need to stay awake.”
Jack's hand on his made him look up. An occasional drop of water slid down Jack's face and Daniel saw the shaking in Jack's body as well. He opened his mouth to tell Jack to go and get changed when Jack squeezed his hand.
“Let go, Daniel, and get some sleep. You don't need to stay awake anymore. You're going to be fine.”
Let go. Hold on. Stay awake. Get some sleep. None of the orders made any sense.
Another face splitting yawn escaped him and Jack's hand squeezed his a little harder.
The warmth of the blankets made his limbs heavy, and his head heavy, too. He felt himself eased to the ground, the sleeping bag tucked in tight around him. Let go. Jack told him to let go. He was safe on shore of a river that he'd remember the name of in the morning. His body ached, but he was warm and dry. More importantly, he wasn't alone. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were right there beside him. Let go, Jack said. He could do that.
As long as Jack held on.
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Challenge, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||Daniel's trapped in a raging river.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Written in response to a DFR challenge. Thanks, Donna, for a great plot bunny!
Feedback is always welcome and appreciated!
Feedback is always welcome and appreciated!