"...granted, the archways are not smoothly semi-circular as might be seen in, for example, a Roman arch, nor are they as sharply pointed as a gothic arch. These could, in fact, be Tudor arches. Including the ogee, inflexed, and the elliptical arches we've already seen, that makes four distinct types of arch at this site which is highly unusual. The progression of advances in engineering could be indicative of long term occupancy, possibly spanning..."
Colonel Jack O'Neill adjusted his ball cap, letting the endless flow of words fade into the background. Daniel, it seemed, was all atwitter, his enthusiasm pouring directly into the tape recorder held close to his constantly moving lips as he hopped-skipped-bounced from room to decaying room in the temple complex. Right hand resting casually on the stock of his machine pistol clipped to his tac vest, Jack prowled along behind him, like a sheep dog guarding a herd of one.
The temple complex was more like a small city than anything else, spreading over two square miles as it did. There were dozens of buildings of all sizes and shapes and in all stages of disrepair from merely neglected to the completely ruined like the section Carter and Teal'c were playing in. They didn't even have walls, but were digging through foundations and rubble looking for Carter's mysterious energy signature. Despite the overgrowth of vegetation covering the entire site, Carter and Teal'c were in a spot with no trees so there was nothing to shade them from the sun.
Jack and Daniel, meanwhile, toured the ground floor of a three story building. The layout of this place reminded Jack of an office building with a series of rooms opening off either side of a long central hallway. Every room in the building had a large window, now open to the elements, giving them natural light to see by. Despite the bright morning sun, the shady interior remained pleasantly cool.
Although it was one of the best preserved areas of the site with several buildings all in a clump, there was nothing left but the stone walls. The wooden flooring for the upper levels had long since rotted away so Jack could see straight up to the roof. Vines climbed the walls, while grasses and flowers struggled up between the stones in the floor. One room even had a small tree inside it, growing by the window.
"Still, this is several steps beyond the corbel arches seen in the oldest section of this site, and which are often referred to as false arches since the structure doesn't sufficiently redirect the stress bearing loads. Given that this entire site is entirely erected of stone, the weight..."
Jack sighed. Daniel's cheeks were flushed, his eyes were bright and his energy levels were off the scale. Even having to step over assorted debris and piles of mulch that used to be timber didn't slow Daniel down. All that excitement wasted on architecture - architecture - of all things. Jack wouldn't mind seeing some of that passion aimed his way. Had wanted that for a long time now.
And how unfair was it that Daniel could say things like 'stone' and 'erected' right where Jack could hear him? Honestly, didn't that kind of statement just beg for a snappy remark about rock hard erections and wouldn't Daniel like to take a gander at the one Jack had for him? Ideally, Daniel would say 'Hey, what a coincidence!' and happy naked fun times would commence.
Of course, since Daniel had no idea Jack felt that way about him, if Jack ever did say anything, Daniel would probably gape at Jack like a small mouthed bass, all bigs eyes and flapping lips. Then Jack would get some version of the "I love you but not in that way - not that there's anything wrong with that" speech and wouldn't that be awkward.
Jack's attention narrowed sharply when he heard his name, but Daniel wasn't talking to him. Apparently, there was even something called a jack arch, though Daniel hadn't seen an example around here yet. Whatever it was, Jack bet it was useful and strong plus pleasant to look at.
Both Jack and Daniel came to a halt when Teal'c's deep voice issued from their radioes. Jack looked at his watch. Checking in right on schedule. Daniel silenced his running commentary as Jack answered.
Gripping the radio on his shoulder, Jack pressed the send button. "Yeah, T-man. You having fun yet?"
"Indeed. As, I am certain, are you."
Jack smiled. He could picture the subtle twist to the side of Teal'c's mouth that accompanied that statement. "Oh yeah. I now know more about archways, vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses than Frank Lloyd Wrong."
"And I am now well versed in what is apparently a nearly endless list of substances which give off readings similar to naquadah yet which are not remotely related to it."
"So, no joy so far on Carter's search?"
The reply came not from Teal'c but from Carter herself. "Every wrong answer helps narrow down the right one, sir. Plus I've collected some great new data about energy signatures." She seemed almost as chipper as Daniel.
"Carter, between you and Daniel, I'm way past my perky limit for the month. Check in again in two hours and try not to sound so cheerful, will ya? O'Neill out."
Daniel raised his eyebrows at Jack. "Perky limit?"
Jack shrugged. "She sounded as bouncy as you look and she didn't even find anything yet."
Daniel's eyes narrowed in disapproval at the comment, but he let it slide. "Well, in science, one often learns as much if not more from experiments that don't go as planned than the ones that do."
"Uh huh." Stepping around a crumbling heap of God knows what, Jack moved ahead to the next room. One look and he knew where Daniel would want to go next. Instead of a window opening, this room had once had a door. Through it, he could see flagstones covering what seemed to be a courtyard since Jack could see a building directly across from them with another doorway, and what looked like walls to either side. The doorway in their building had the same arched top as the windows. The doorway on the other building had a new style.
"Oh, hey!" A hand flashed into his peripheral view as Daniel came up behind him and pointed. "Look Jack! A door!"
Daniel Jackson. Doctor of Archeology. Master of the obvious. Any second now, the Archway Chronicles would resume.
With a faint "snick" the record button on the tape player slid into place as Daniel happily trotted out into the courtyard. "Amazing! Catenary! It's extremely unusual to have so many different styles..."
The courtyard was about one hundred feet long on each side. An ugly statue of a bloated toad-like creature squatted on all fours in the center of the courtyard. Carved from a mottled green stone, it even had bumps on its warty bumps and Jack figured it would be about shoulder height when they reached it.
Jack eyed the empty windows rising up the surrounding walls. Nothing moved but a bird. Still, he lengthened his stride to catch up to Daniel, aware that this would be the perfect place for an ambush if their assessment of P93-87J as uninhabited was wrong.
Daniel was almost at the statue and Jack was two steps away when Daniel flung his hands into the air and stumbled. For a brief heart-stopping second, Jack thought he'd been shot. Adrenaline flooded Jack's system , hyper-extending his senses. He simultaneously lunged to shove Daniel safely to the ground and pulled his weapon up to cover the walls.
But Daniel was already falling before Jack laid a hand on him. With the crystal clarity brought on by the adrenaline rush, Jack saw the toad disappear into the ground which was now opening up beneath Daniel. Too late to stop his own forward momentum all Jack could do was try to control his fall as paving stones dropped out from under his feet and he came crashing down after Daniel.
They fell not onto dirt but into water. With no time to get upright, Jack’s upper body slammed into the surface of the water a fraction of a second after his feet. The impact drove the air from his lungs and shoved water up his nose. Something heavy scraped down his back as something else plunged through the water in front of him. Kicking hard, he aimed for the surface as debris rained down around him, propelling himself halfway out of the water when he breached the surface.
Coughing and spluttering, Jack sucked in a lungful of blessed air and peered frantically through the underground gloom for Daniel. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he saw Daniel’s fingers just above the water, splashing wildly a few feet away, but Daniel himself didn’t appear. Realizing that Daniel must be trapped under the water, Jack grabbed one of Daniel’s hands and dove back under the water.
Moving quickly, he pulled himself down Daniel’s body, feeling around for the snare. Daniel was facing away from him, one of his knees bent and the lower leg caught. Desperately wishing he could see through the murky black water, Jack ran his hands over the debris. At first he thought Daniel might be pinned between two different pieces of wreckage. Daniel must have thought so too, since with his free foot he was pushing hard against the outer piece. A quick exploration with his fingers told him that Daniel’s ankle was actually wedged in an upturned leg of the toad.
Daniel’s movements lost force and slowed and Jack knew time was running out. Pulling with one hand and pushing with the other, Jack shifted Daniel’s ankle sideways toward the toad's heel, shoved Daniel’s toes down and pulled his leg up. By now Daniel was nearly motionless. Flipping so that his booted feet were firmly on the toad, Jack launched himself upward, grabbing Daniel under the arms as he rose, carrying them both to the surface.
All Jack could see was the back of Daniel's head, but he heard him spew out a mouthful of water. Coughing and hacking, Daniel hung limply in Jack's arms. Floating on his back, Jack swept one arm through the water while the other clutched Daniel's passive weight to his chest. Jack, being the one on the bottom, had wavelets lapping at his chin. Below the waterline, Jack was dog paddling like mad, trying to keep them both afloat, but he kept hitting Daniel's dangling legs. If Daniel snapped out of his daze to tread water on his own, they'd be fine until help came since the water wasn't cold enough to make hypothermia a problem.
Every little sound echoed back loudly giving the impression of immensity. Craning his neck, Jack tried to get his bearings. The only light source was the gaping hole in the ceiling about fifteen or twenty feet overhead. Now that his eyes had adjusted, Jack could see that they were in open space which was probably the same size as the courtyard above, though it was hard to be certain, since the light didn't reach far into the velvety darkness all around them. What Jack could see were fat pillars rising from the water up to vaulted ceilings. The pillar nearest them was no more than a stump, jutting out of the water.
Jack had no idea if the pillar had fallen when the roof collapsed just now, or if it had been submerged for centuries. All that mattered was the base of it offered the only dry spot in this watery cellar. Using the grip he'd been taught for water rescues, Jack towed Daniel over to the pillar.
The sides of the stone stump were slick with a rank black mold that made it difficult to find a hand hold. Jack did what he could to support Daniel, pushing him up with a hand under his butt as Daniel scrabbled onto the stone platform. It was good that Daniel was aware enough to follow Jack's orders, but Jack found his quiet compliance disturbing.
The first time Jack tried to pull himself up, something clacked against the rock, poking him in the stomach. His P-90 was still clipped to the harness. Snapping open the clip, he set the weapon on the stump. By now, the adrenaline was fading, leaving his arms feeling liked overcooked spaghetti. Jack managed to wedge the toe of a boot into a crack in the stone for the extra leverage he needed to haul himself up next to Daniel.
Their refuge was a circle of rough rock about five feet in diameter with a decided slope. The incline made it more difficult to sit, but did help the water running off their sopping wet clothes drain back into the pool. They could sit, even stretch their legs out, but they couldn't lie down flat without draping over the edges. They'd be sitting hip to hip as well. Could be worse. Compared to the prospect of treading water for hours on end, this was a little slice of heaven right here.
Now that Daniel wasn't in any immediate danger, Jack could move onto the next item on the agenda - rescue. Jack keyed the mic on his radio. "Carter. Teal'c. Come in." White noise issued from the speaker as he listened for a reply. "This is SG-1 Niner. Mayday. Need immediate assistance." Jack tried several more times but got only static in return.
Great. It was possible that his radio had been damaged in the fall, though Jack doubted it. Daniel sat quietly as Jack reached over to key the radio still on Daniel's shoulder. As Jack expected, there was still no response. This far underground, with the surface above them covered in stone pavement and stone buildings, it was unlikely that the signal could get through. They'd have to wait two hours for check in to pass, then wait for Teal'c and Carter to come find them.
While not directly beneath the light coming from the opening in the ceiling, they were close enough that Jack could get a better look at Daniel. Like Jack, he still wore his tac vest and sat with his knees raised in front of him. His glasses were gone, his right eye was puffy and swollen and there was a goose egg on his forehead above it. A trickle of blood ran down from under his hair down the back of his neck. He cradled his left wrist in his right hand, unfocused eyes staring into the darkness.
A quick search showed they both had their sidearms and canteens. Daniel's utility knife was in place, but Jack's was missing. When Jack started rifling through the pockets in Daniel's tac vest, it took a moment for Daniel to respond.
Blinking myopically as Jack raised his arms out of the way, Daniel asked, "You okay?"
Never pausing in his inventory, Jack said, "I'm okay."
The guy was worse than a frickin' chipmunk with all the crap stashed in there. Spare tapes for the recorder that was somewhere under water were pretty useless to them, as were the two waterlogged note pads, the four pens and the half a pencil. Blister packs of analgesics and antihistamines, however, were winners in the What's It Got In It's Pocketses game.
"Oh. Good." Daniel gave a wobbly nod of his head. "Sam and Teal'c?"
Jack moved on to the cargo pockets in Daniel's BDU pants. Three chocolate power bars would come in handy and the bandana would make a great sling for Daniel's arm if necessary. When Jack pulled the last item out his eyebrows rose in surprise. So that's where his yo-yo was. Guess that was what Daniel had meant last night in camp by "Stop pestering me with that or you'll be sorry."
"Are fine. They weren't with us, remember?" Jack kept his voice light, soothing. Taking out his flashlight, Jack clicked it on with one hand. With his other hand, he held Daniel's chin, turned Daniel's head to face him and shined the light in his eyes.
Daniel snapped his eyes shut and shied away from Jack's touch. "Ow!"
"Sorry, Daniel." Jack put the light away. "You got bonked pretty good on the noggin there. I needed to check your pupils for signs of immediate swelling or pressure in the brain. I'll have to check again later just in case pressure's been building up slowly."
Jack used the light to see where the blood on the back of Daniel's head was coming from. Ah. Just a tiny cut with a small bump under it. Head wounds were notoriously messy, spilling an amazing amount of blood from the smallest of wounds. This one had stopped bleeding already. Jack wiped the blood off of Daniel's neck with the bandana, then stuffed all the useless crap back into Daniel's cargo pocket. He loaded the good stuff into his own pocket.
"Did you find any?" Daniel was sounding more alert, but still not up to par.
"Nope." Picking the light back up, Jack flashed it around them, but it was too weak to penetrate the farthest shadows. Disappointed, he put it away. "Both pupils are equal and reactive to light." He thought it best not to mention the angry red blood pooled up in the white of Daniel's right eye. "I'll check again later, though, so be warned." Popping two acetaminophen from the blister pack, he held them out for Daniel. "Here. Take these."
He handed his canteen to Daniel then examined Daniel's left wrist while he downed the pills. A bruise was blooming at the base of the thumb, and the whole area was puffy. There was nothing obviously broken and Daniel didn't flinch as Jack pressed lightly around it. Okay, it probably took a hit from some of the heavy crap that dropped down with them and smarted like hell for a while, but wasn't broken.
Daniel was taking an interest in their surroundings, though it was obvious his head hurt enough to interfere with thinking. The pain pills might take the edge off a bit, but there really wasn't much Jack could do for him.
"How's your ankle feel?"
Daniel grimaced. "Like that time I stepped into a hole when we were running from the Jaffa on M35-2P9."
"Okay, light sprain there. Better leave your boot on to help contain the swelling."
Daniel sounded tired as he replied. "Don't feel much like taking it off."
Jack jerked one thumb out to indicate their surroundings. "So, looks like the pipes burst and flooded the basement. Kind of a fancy basement, though. Looks like those medieval churches with the fancy vaulted ceilings. Bit on the damp side for the brethren to congregate now."
"Cistern," said Daniel.
"I'm sure they had women, too. Brethren doesn't just mean the guys in the congregation."
Daniel chuckled weakly. "Cistern as in reservoir. This is an underground water storage tank. Did you notice the courtyard up there?"
"I noticed it completely failed at being a courtyard when we stepped on it."
"True, but right before that, I saw that there were drains in the pavement around the statue in the middle." Daniel's face with tight with pain, his speech slow and halting. "The pavement was sloped to direct rainwater to the center and down those drains into this cistern."
"So, basically, we fell down a well?"
"Technically, you were in the lead so you fell down the well. I fell in trying to help you."
Daniel started to roll his eyes, but winced in pain and settled for shrugging instead. "Semantics."
"When I was a kid I used to watch that show about that dog, Lassie. Little Timmy was always falling down wells, just like you."
"That would make you Lassie." Daniel put his hand over his eyes, as though the light, dim as it was, was too bright. "Shouldn't you be up there barking for Sam and Teal'c?"
"Trust, me. I barked. No signal. As soon as we miss check in, they'll come looking for us. We'll be out of here in three hours, tops. All we have to do is kick back and pass the time."
Now that the emergency was over and the adrenaline had worn off, Jack could feel every bruise he'd gotten. His mouth tasted nasty and his head hurt - both familiar after effects of the adrenaline rush which he knew from long experience to expect, but never had gotten used to. He'd strained a few muscles here and there, too, making him ache all over. Jack hated the feel of wet clothes clinging heavily to his body, impeding every movement.
Daniel's voice was shaky as he said, "Dizzy. Want to lie down for awhile."
While it worried him that Daniel felt bad enough to admit to it, a nap sounded like a good idea to Jack, too. The only thing they could do for now was wait so they might as well make themselves comfortable while they did it. Besides, he knew Daniel. If Jack didn't lie down, Daniel would be reluctant to, and Daniel definitely needed to sleep.
"It'll be a snug fit, but if we lay on our sides we can do it." Jack would lie there with one eye open until Daniel fell asleep.
Daniel didn't say anything, just lay down facing away from Jack with his knees pulled up into a fetal position. He tucked his bottom arm under his head as a pillow and let the other rest on the surface in front of him. Jack spooned up behind him, trying to put some distance between them, even a couple of inches, but he felt as though he was about to fall off the edge behind him so he scooted forward until their bodies were nestled together. Jack did the arm pillow thing too, but the only comfortable place to put his other arm was over Daniel's waist.
Jack was a little worried that Daniel might find the pseudo-embrace too intimate and ask him to move his arm. Instead, Daniel entwined Jack's fingers with his, shifting so that their arms were aligned, and scootched back a smidge more, pressing himself more firmly into Jack. Jack's face was pressed against the nape of Daniel's neck which smelled of wet cotton and stagnant water with an undertone of dried sweat and Jack loved it.
Fighting the urge to nuzzle into Daniel, Jack couldn't resist a teasing, "Good night, John Boy."
Daniel, drowsy and barely aware, pulled Jack's arm more tightly around him. "Night, Jack. Love you," he replied and immediately fell fast asleep.
Careful not to disturb Daniel, Jack lay still, wide awake and thinking furiously.
Almost three hours later, the only thing he'd determined was that he desperately wanted to hear Daniel say that again when he wasn't concussed. Now if only Jack could figure out a way to make that happen.
Jack moved his lower leg and instantly came to another conclusion. As nice as it had been to spend a couple of hours snugged up against Daniel, Jack's over-taxed muscles had stiffened up. If he didn't move soon, he'd petrify. That probably went double for Daniel who had struggled frantically while trapped under the water. Moving slowly by necessity as much as by choice, Jack gradually disengaged from Daniel and sat up. He rubbed what muscles he could reach, digging in with the heel of his hand to loosen them up as much as he could.
Time to wake Daniel. Quietly saying his name, Jack gently rubbed Daniel's shoulder then slid his hand up to card his fingers through Daniel's hair. Daniel inhaled deeply and squinted up at Jack. He started to roll onto his back but stopped with a hiss of pain.
"Yeah. Me too. Better take your time getting up. But first..." Jack pulled the flashlight out for a quick pupil check.
The bruise around Daniel's right eye had come up while he slept and it was a beaut. The eye itself was swollen almost shut. His lips were pursed together, so Jack knew he was in pain, but he didn't have that pinched look that meant a migraine. Daniel's pupils were fine, so odds were in favor of a concussion versus head trauma. So far so good.
While Daniel haltingly groaned his way upright, Jack tried the radio again. This time, he got an answer.
'Sir! It's good to hear from you sir. When you missed check in we figured we'd better come look for you." Carter sounded worried, but not overly alarmed. She was keeping it together like the professional soldier she was. "Where are you? Are you and Daniel all right?"
"We're a little banged up but we'll be okay, though we'll need to cut this picnic short and pay a visit to Fraiser."
"Can you tell us what transpired, O'Neill?"
"Oh, Daniel managed to find an early example of an indoor swimming pool."
Even though he knew they couldn't see it, Jack couldn't help gesturing, waving his hand. "Never mind, Carter. The floor gave way and dropped us on our asses in some underground chamber full of water." Jack heard Daniel's muttered correction. "Daniel says it's a cistern. Bring lots of rope - we're about 20 feet down."
"We have nearly arrived at your last known location now and will need to double back to camp to obtain rope. Can you tell us exactly where you are?"
"Just keep following our tracks, big guy. When you get to a paved courtyard surrounded by buildings, look for the big hole in the ground. And try not to find us the hard way. Two of us down here is bad enough. Let's not make it unanimous."
"Understood. We'll be there shortly. Carter out."
Jack used the time to help massage away the kinks in Daniel's muscles as best he could. With only Teal'c and Carter up there to haul them out, Daniel would have to be able to help in his own rescue, even if it was nothing more than holding onto the rope as they pulled him up.
Naturally, Carter was as good as her word. When she and Teal'c returned, the first thing they had to determine was how safe the remaining surface of the courtyard was. The weight of Teal'c and Carter up top added to the weight of the person being hauled up could easily overstress the floor and cause another collapse.
Eventually, Jack directed his team mates to the section directly above the closest pillar. While that meant a further collapse would be far less likely, thus making the rescue attempt safer, it also meant that Jack and Daniel would have to get back into the water and swim a good twenty feet to reach the rope. Then, one at a time they would shimmy into a makeshift climbing harness while treading water, and then hang on for the ride up. Both men were already sore and exhausted and even after their extraction they still had the long walk home to look forward to.
At least everything went as planned. Jack sent Daniel up the rope first since he was in the worst shape. Daniel's bum ankle kept them walking at a snail's pace but Jack didn't care. He didn't have the energy for his usual loping stride and he could feel sore muscles pulling with every movement. While they did help Carter and Teal'c break camp, in deference to their battered condition, neither Jack nor Daniel carried any of the extra gear out. Teal'c loaded himself down with the bulk of it and Carter carried her pack as well as Daniel's. Jack carried his pack and hovered by Daniel's side, helping him along.
It was one of the longest damn walks Jack had ever taken. By the time he and Daniel were ensconced in Doctor Fraiser's infirmary on adjoining beds, Jack was totally drained. It took every bit of strength he had left just to sit up straight and co-operate with the exams. Daniel was so far gone that he laid down every chance he got.
Finally, finally, finally, Fraiser was ready to discharge them. Draping her stethoscope around her neck, she tucked her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. Standing between their beds, she addressed them both.
"Well, Daniel, the Colonel's field assessment of your condition was right on the money. In addition to the bumps and bruises, you've got a mild concussion and a sprained ankle. For the ankle - stay off your feet for the next forty eight hours, keep the compression bandage on, keep it elevated, and ice it every three to four hours, but for no more than twenty minutes at a time. If you do need to move around, use crutches. The pharmacy will dispense those along with your meds. For the headache you'll have codeine. For the muscle aches, take ibuprofen."
Daniel didn't open his eyes as Fraiser spoke, but Jack could tell he was paying attention as his frown got deeper the longer she spoke. Daniel looked extra frowny for a second at the word 'crutch'. Jack understood the feeling since recuperating made him grumpy, too. At least his list was shorter than Daniel's.
"Colonel, you should be fine with ibuprofen. And I'm putting you both on broad spectrum antibiotics for ten days since there's no way of knowing what was brewing in that water. Colonel, you're on medical leave for the next three days. Daniel, you're on definite leave for a week at which time I'll reevaluate the ankle and we'll see when you might be able to go on light duty."
Jack nodded. "Daniel, I'll drive you home."
"Actually, Colonel, an airman will drive you two home. Neither of you is in any shape to get behind the wheel."
Daniel was extra frowny again. "What about my car?"
Smiling, Fraiser reached over to pat Daniel's arm. "Sam and Teal'c have already offered to get your vehicles back to your houses, so don't worry about that."
Daniel hadn't opened his eyes yet, so he missed the hesitation as she almost said something more.
Silently, Jack mouthed a question at Janet. "Can he drive?"
She shook her head.
That's what Jack thought. It was Daniel's right ankle that was injured which meant he couldn't work the pedals. A Daniel deprived of his vehicular independence was a pissy Daniel. Fraiser was smart to postpone that particular bit of bad news. Daniel was definitely off his game from the concussion since that consequence hadn't even occurred to him yet.
Daniel was asleep by the time Teal'c brought their civilian clothes from the locker room. Pulling the privacy curtain around his bed, Jack changed first, moving with all the grace and alacrity of centenarian.
Shutting the curtain around Daniel's bed, Jack woke Daniel by the simple expedient of touching his shoulder calling his name. Daniel made Jack look spry in comparison, having difficulty changing clothes even with Jack's help. When Jack suggested that Daniel stay with him at first, Daniel didn't argue.
Jack took charge of their medicines and walked an unsteady Daniel, tottering on crutches, up to the waiting car. The instant Daniel's butt hit the seat, he was asleep again. Jack lasted to the front gate of Cheyenne Mountain. The next thing he knew, the driver was pulling into his driveway. With the driver's help, Jack got Daniel out of the car and into the house.
"Hang onto to him for a second," Jack said to the airman.
After putting the bag with their prescriptions on the dining table, Jack came back to hold Daniel's arm, steadying him, and dismissed the airman. It was a slow trip down the hall to the guest bedroom. It was barely six o'clock in the evening but Jack helped Daniel peel down to his briefs and got him settled under the covers. Once he was sure Daniel was sleeping soundly, Jack went to his own room and did the same.
Jack snapped awake, the echo of a noise rolling through his head. That sounded like...
He was already on his way to the guest room when it repeated, a breathless gasping and the restless rustling of sheets. He didn't bother with the light, as he hurried Daniel's side.
"Daniel." Jack leaned over the bed, shaking Daniel's shoulder. "Daniel. Hey. Wake up. It's okay. You're okay."
Panting heavily, Daniel woke, clutching at Jack's arm. "Couldn't...couldn't breathe."
"I know, buddy." Jack rubbed soothing circles on Daniel's chest and felt him shudder. "It's over. You're okay now. Scoot over."
"You slept soundly enough right after it happened when I was with you. Maybe it will help. Besides, this way I won't have so far to come if you do have another nightmare."
Daniel mulled it over then crabbed sideways with hips and shoulders to make room for Jack in the queen sized bed. Jack slid under the sheet, very aware that he was in his boxers, Daniel was in his briefs, with acres of bare skin on display. Jack lay on his back like Daniel, taking care not to intrude in Daniel's personal space. Despite what Daniel had let slip earlier, Jack didn't want to take advantage of the situation.
Okay, Jack was taking advantage of the situation in a way, just by being here in the bed, but honestly? He would have offered this regardless. God knows, Jack understood the value of a little comfort from a friend during a rough patch and nearly drowning the way Daniel had definitely counted as a rough patch. He guessed what he meant was, he didn't want to put the moves on Daniel since Daniel didn't know that Jack knew how Daniel felt about Jack, and Daniel certainly didn't know that Jack loved him back.
Jack ran that thought through his mind a couple of times, wondering if it made as much sense as he thought it did but was too tired to follow his own train of thought. He had a feeling it had gotten away from him. Regardless, using information which Daniel didn't even know he'd let slip felt too much like cheating. And Jack didn't like cheaters.
Jack knew Daniel was on the cusp of sleep when Daniel violently jerked awake. Jack thought the sense memory of falling had overtaken Daniel, causing him to jerk as he tried to catch himself. Jack stroked Daniel's arm then took his hand away. A few minutes later, Daniel was on the verge of sleep again, but once more wrenched himself out of it. Jack rolled onto his side bringing him closer to Daniel. Jack put his hand on Daniel's chest, reveling at the feel of warm skin under his palm..
"It's okay, Daniel," he whispered. "I've got you."
This time, Jack left his hand where it was. This time, Daniel went right to sleep and slept soundly until morning.
Over the next three days, they fell into a routine measured out in pill schedules and ice packs, with Jack recovering more quickly than Daniel. They did lot of resting up, sitting in the den watching TV and squabbling over possession of the remote. Daniel borrowed Jack's clothes since they hadn't stopped at his apartment. As promised Carter and Teal'c had dropped by the next day with their vehicles. Fraiser had come along both to check up on her patients and to drive Carter and Teal'c back. The brief visit from their friends was enjoyable, but wore Daniel out.
Whether it was a nap, or to turn in for the night, if Daniel headed to his bed, Jack went with him. Daniel didn't seem to mind at all. "You coming?" he would say and wait for Jack to join him. Daniel would reach out for Jack once they lay down, needing to touch him somewhere. The back of Daniel's wrist would rest against Jack's ribs, or his fingertips would whisper across Jack's shoulder. Earlier that day, they had woken from their nap spooned up together, only this time Daniel was holding Jack in front of him. Jack swore he'd felt Daniel's lips ghosting over the nape of his neck as he woke.
Though they had spent more time awake the third day than they had the day before, eventually Jack turned off the television and the lights and they headed down the hallway together for the night. Daniel, being Daniel, had ditched the crutches pretty much the moment he got them. Jack, being Jack, had let him. Daniel led the way, setting the pace as Jack followed behind him.
Ever since Daniel had let the L-word slip, Jack had been thinking. Hard. He hadn't come to any decisions because this wasn't an issue of logic or reason. This was about emotions and the senses and the strongest emotion Jack felt besides love was fear. Fear that he was wrong, that Daniel hadn't said what Jack thought he had heard. Fear that Daniel had said it, but hadn't meant it in the way Jack hoped. Fear that Daniel did mean it, but wasn't ready to admit it. Fear that he would lose Daniel forever if he said the wrong thing in return. Chiding himself for his indecision he tried to firm up his resolve.
Ahead of him, Daniel reached the doorway to the guest room. Impulsively, Jack reached out, and lightly gripped Daniel's upper arm.
Daniel turned to look at him expectantly.
"How about we sleep in my room tonight?" Jack's heart was racing, and his mouth was dry. He hoped Daniel would understand what Jack was proposing.
"Are you...offering me your bed, Jack?" Daniel's breathing seemed faster, shallower than it had a moment ago.
"If I was, would you say yes?" Anxiety pressed against Jack's chest. Please say yes. Please say yes.
"Only if you were in it." Daniel's smile was tentative and Jack wondered how much of what had kept Daniel quiet was fear, too.
Slipping his hand down Daniel's arm, Jack twined their fingers together and Daniel's smile lit up his face.
"For you, Daniel? Always."
Jack leaned forward to press a soft kiss against Daniel's mouth. Daniel's lips trembled against his and Jack recognized it as nerves because he was pretty certain his were doing the same. Jack stroked his free hand along Daniel's jaw, enjoying the feel of the stubble scratching against the pads of his fingertips. Locking eyes with Daniel, he saw hope, desire, and love looking back at him. Sometimes eyes weren't just the windows to the soul, Jack thought, they were mirrors too because he was sure that Daniel was seeing the same thing in his eyes.
Jack kissed Daniel again. "Come on," he said, "let's go to bed."
Holding Daniel's hand as they slowly made their way to Jack's bed, Jack was overcome by a rush of affection for Daniel. Given Daniel's condition, they probably wouldn't do much more than they had on previous nights. But now Jack could touch Daniel, hold him, caress him the way he had wanted to for so long. Jack would be more than content with that.
|Genres:||Challenge, First Time, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||A watery peril brings Jack and Daniel closer together|
The call for pinch hitters for the J/D Ficathon went out on Wednesday and I volunteered. I started writing Wednesday evening and finished the story LATE Saturday evening. My trusty betas Mare, Barb, and AnnO worked on the fly so that this story could be ready ASAP