Almost There by Nancy Richardson
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Category: General
Genres: Angst, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Smarm
Rated: All Ages
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Daniel helps an injured Jack home.

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Story Notes:
This story first appeared in Ancient's Gate XVIII: Falling Inside
Almost There

"We'll rest here."

Rest. I'd laugh if it didn't hurt so much. Clinging to a tree just to stay on my feet isn't my idea of rest, and if he says 'we're almost there' one more time, I'm gonna scream.

"We're almost there."

Okay, you asked for it. "Gerrff." What the hell was that?

"Jack?"

"Just … clearing my throat," I rasp.

"Oh. I thought maybe you were, um, annoyed."

I turn a baleful eye towards my team-mate. He flashes a quick smile and shrugs.

"Well, I have been saying 'we're almost there' for a few hours now."

"Just a few?" I say incredulously.

"I don't want you to worry, Jack. I'll get us home."

Daniel's voice is earnest and his eyes doubly so. He's doing his damndest, and I should be more grateful.

"I know you will, Daniel." And I do know, but whether or not I'll be alive and kicking is another matter.

I let go of the tree with one hand and reach out to cup the side of his face. I see a flicker of panic in his eyes and I know he's painfully aware of the last time I touched him like this, but then he smiles and reaches up to clasp my hand.

"Let's get you more comfortable," he says and gently lowers me to the ground.

"I need to check your bandages, but I'll let you rest for a bit first."

"You'll let me?" I say, raising an eyebrow to a point where Teal'c would be jealous.

He looks a little uncertain and I wonder if I came across angry, but then his face lights up with that smile of his and he carefully eases my legs out in front. I try to help, but he's having none of that.

"Just relax, Jack. Let me do the work."

"You can be a real nag, you know," I say affectionately, but I do as I'm told.

"Learned from the best," he says, his lips twitching upward.

"Think I'll quit while I'm ahead," I murmur. "Not that I'm ahead or anything."

"Rest," Daniel orders.

"Right. Resting. Closing eyes and resting," I mumble.

*********
I wake up to the smell of coffee and I smile before opening my eyes. Who else but Daniel would rustle up coffee in the middle of nowhere.

"Hey sleepyhead."

"Isn't that my line?" I grouse, blinking sleep out of my eyes.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'd rather not think about it," I reply dryly.

"I changed your dressings and retaped your ribs. Everything looks good. Well, as good as can be expected," he amends.

"You changed my dressings?" I murmur, looking down at my array of bandages. "How long was I out?"

"Three hours," Daniel replies.

"Three! For crying out loud, Daniel, it was only supposed to be a rest stop," I grouse, making a futile attempt to stand up. Futile because Daniel is forcing me back down, and with little effort, too.

"Jack, you slept three hours for a reason."

"You drugged me?" I cry incredulously.

"Would I do something like that? Okay, never mind answering that. No, I did not drug you. I didn't have to. You're exhausted, Jack, and you needed the rest."

I slump to the ground with a resounding sigh. Daniel's right … as usual. He's also hiding something … as usual.

"How are you feeling?" I ask.

"Me?"

"No, the rat in your pocket," I drawl.

He scowls then shrugs. "I'm fine."

"You fell down the same damn ridge I did," I remind him.

"But I had something soft to land on. Thank you, by the way," he smiles.

"Yeah, you're welcome," I mutter. "So give."

"It's nothing. Just a few bumps, bruises and scrapes."

I raise my eyebrow. "And?"

"And … maybe a sprained ankle, a pulled muscle in the back, and a sore rib or two," he rattles off, waving his hand in the air.

"Damnit, Daniel." Half-carrying me for miles must have been excruciating for him.

"Jack, I wasn't the one who got hit by that exploding tree. You've got some nasty burns on top of everything else."

Again, he's right. A single bolt of lightning and I had to be right there. Well, better me than Daniel.

"You gonna harp at me all day or give me some of that coffee?" I grouse.

"I don't harp and I don't know if Janet would approve," he frowns.

"Hell, of course she wouldn't approve, but when did that ever stop us?" I retort.

A slow smile brightens Daniel's face, and strangely, everything seems right in the world. I feel a lump form in my throat. I'm one damn lucky bastard, and I can't imagine my life without Daniel in it.

"Okay, but first you need to drink some water and eat something," he relents in a voice so gentle I'm sure he just read my mind.

"I can do that." I am hungry and I am thirsty. I drink some water and then munch on some fruit leather Daniel had hidden away.

"It's a nice change from energy bars," Daniel explains, chewing his own piece.

I'm not sure what he just said, but I nod slowly in agreement.

"Jack?"

I look up and frown at Daniel's worried countenance.

"What?" I ask.

"You seem … far away," he says, waving his fingers in the air.

"I'm just a little woozy. Probably too much sleep."

"Jack, how many fingers am I holding up?"

I stare at his hand and then squint as his fingers morph from one to two then back to one.

"One … I think. Yes, definitely one," I reply. "Am I right?"

Daniel's brow creases. "Yes, but you might have a concussion. I'm sorry, I thought I found everything," he says as he reaches for my head. "Maybe I shouldn't have let you sleep so long."

I hear the chastisement in his voice and I shake my head. "I'm fine. See, better already," I add, but Daniel's not buying it. His fingers deftly probe every millimetre of my head.

"Ever thought of being a masseuse?" I tease.

"Been there done that."

"What?" I cry in amazement.

"Kidding. Just testing your reflexes," he murmurs, still mapping my head.

"Keep doing that and I'm going to get a hard-on," I mutter.

"What?" Daniel cries, releasing my head.

"Just testing your reflexes," I chuckle.

"Ass," he mutters then quickly finishes his examination. "Well, I can't find anything," he frowns.

"Good because my head is about the only thing that doesn't hurt," I grumble. "So, do I get my coffee now?"

"Half a cup," Daniel replies. "If your stomach handles that, I may give you the other half."

I glare at him, but he's clearly not going to be intimidated, not that I've ever seen him intimidated

"Got any more of that fruit leather?" I ask.

He smiles and fishes another piece from his pocket. I reach for it, but he pulls it away from my grasp and unwraps it for me. I bite my tongue and accept the proffered treat.

*****

By the time we reach our next rest stop, I'm feeling shitty, cranky, and exhausted. Daniel is unusually quiet, but considering the number of times I snapped at him, I'm not surprised. Yep, I can be a real ass at times. As much as he can annoy the hell out of me, I can't stand a quiet Daniel. It's not natural.

"You don't look so good," I mutter, testing the water.

"Must be the company I keep," he grunts in reply.

Ouch. Okay, I deserve that.

"Sorry, I didn't mean that," Daniel says waving his hand listlessly.

"Hey, I deserved it."

"No, you didn't," he says wearily. "This is taking longer than it should. God, I hope I didn't get my bearings screwed up."

"Are you kidding me?" I say incredulously. "Crap, you're like a homing pigeon."

He looks at me in surprise.

"It's true," I reiterate. "Hell, even Teal'c is impressed."

He smiles and ducks his head. I know he's pleased and, once again, I feel warm inside. Daniel means a lot to me and I should let him know how much, but I've never been good at that sort of thing. He knows it, too, which is why my simple praise of his sense of direction put that smile on his face.

"Daniel, we both need some rest, but you need it more. Close your eyes for an hour or so."

"Are you sure?"

He definitely needs some rest. He's not even trying to argue.

"Positive. I had my snooze, remember? Just lying here is good enough for me," I say.

"Okay, but if you need me–"

"Trust me; I'll wake you up real quick."

"But gently," he frowns.

"I promise," I chuckle.

He lays down, closes his eyes and within seconds, he's out like a light. The poor guy must have been going on pure adrenalin.

I sit back and watch him sleep. I always enjoyed watching Charlie and Sara sleep. Any problems or anxieties I had would take a back seat. No one or no thing was more important to me than my wife and son, and nothing gave me greater satisfaction or a greater sense of well-being than to see them at peace. I feel the same way about Daniel. Carter and Teal'c are special, too, of course, but Daniel … there's something about Daniel. There always has been. He gives so much of himself and gets so damn little in return. Not that he complains. He's like the Energizer Bunny: he just keeps going and going. Hell, even death doesn't stop him. He's fearless and he scares the hell out of me. Sometimes I wish I never met him because then I wouldn't have to experience the sick feeling of dread I get when he's missing or injured. A team leader should never have favourites, but Daniel's wormed his way to a place in my heart where few people ever get. Sure, he drives me crazy and sometimes I want to smack him upside the head, but when all's said and done, I love him. A lot. Daniel wears his heart on his sleeve and that leaves him vulnerable to a lot of misery and heartache. God knows, he's gotten his fair share from me: this little outing for example. I've said some pretty mean-spirited things to him. It's a bad habit I have of lashing out at those trying to help me when I'm in pain or incapacitated in some way. I hate being helpless. I hate it with a passion. Everyone does, but I take it a little too personally and God help the poor bastard who tries to help me. Of course, ninety-nine percent of the time that poor bastard is Daniel. Crap, sometimes I really hate myself.

****

"Jack?"

"What?" I murmur, swatting at the offending hand nudging me.

"We should get moving."

Moving? What … oh crap.

"Damnit, I fell asleep, didn't I?" I mutter, sitting up gingerly.

"Afraid so. You're snoring woke me up," Daniel chuckles.

"Sorry."

"That's okay. I got a good hour's sleep. I feel a lot better."

"That's great," I say pleased. It is great because I feel like shit and he's going to need all his strength to deal with me.

"I wish you could say the same," he says sadly.

Daniel's sincerity both heartens and dismays me.

"You shouldn't be stuck with this," I growl.

"With what?"

"This!" I exclaim, gesturing to my pathetic figure. "A CO is supposed to be in charge. I should be helping you."

"Ah, so you'd rather I was the one injured?"

"No, damnit! That's not what I meant." He damn well knows it, too. That glint in his eye is a dead giveaway.

"Jack, if it makes you feel any better, I'm not helping my CO, I'm helping my best friend."

I stare at him then shake my head.

"Oh sure, hit a guy when he's down," I grumble.

"I take my punches when and where I can," he grins.

I smile and reach out my hand. Daniel grasps it and slowly pulls me up into a standing position, trying not to grunt with the effort. He may be feeling better, but hauling my ass around is definitely causing him pain. I'm familiar with the pain lines on Daniel's face, and right now, they're telling me he's in a whole lot of hurt.

"You need to lose weight," he gasps, trying to hide his discomfort behind humour.

"Actually, you do," I say, leaning on him heavily. "About 200 pounds worth."

He's giving me that look that could cut glass.

"We stay together," he says in a clipped voice.

"I'm just saying."

"Well, you said it, now just shut up and start walking."

"Jeez, you're a grouch," I mumble.

"Learned from the best," he mumbles in return.

I laugh and ruffle his hair. I can't help myself.

"Take us home, Danny."

He smiles and some of the pain vanishes from his face.

"What?" I frown.

"You haven't called me that in a long time," he says quietly.

"Oh," I shrug. "Not out loud, anyway."

He looks thoughtfully at me for a moment and then nods.

"Let's go," he says, grasping me around the waist. "We're almost there."

I groan at the worn out phrase and lurch forward.

"I really mean it, Jack. We're almost there."

I glance sideways and his eyes are twinkling.

"I did a little recon while you were asleep. I saw Marge."

I look at him like he's lost his marbles. He's grinning from ear to ear and then it hits me.

"My tree!" I exclaim. The tree I took great delight in and insisted Daniel take pictures of; a tree growing out of a rock and looking exactly like Marge Simpsons hair, only green.

"Yes, the Marge tree," he confirms, still grinning.

"Hell, we're almost there," I cry.

"If you ever decide to start moving," he retorts dryly.

"I'll race you, I challenge," teetering on my feet.

"Right," he says dubiously. "You know, the smart thing to do would be for you to stay here while I go to the Stargate, dial home and get help."

"Hell, who said we were smart?" I grunt. "Besides, you got me this far, you're not ditching me now." I know Daniel wants to finish this his way, and I want him to do it, too. He's put up with a lot of crap from me. He's always stood by me, and I don't just mean this little jaunt, either.

"The thought never crossed my mind," Daniel replies.

"See what I mean?" I smile, tapping my forehead.

"But I am smart enough to know General Hammond isn't going to be pleased when he sees the state we're in," Daniel said. "You assured him the two of us would be fine on our own, and as you're the CO, you're going to have to explain."

"Oh sure, now I'm the CO," I grouse.

"Come on, Marge is waiting," he smiles.

******

We're both leaning heavily on the DHD, taking a welcome rest when Daniel looks at me and smiles.

"Don't say–"

"We're almost there," he grins.

"Ow," I groan, as I make a half-hearted attempt to swat him on the side of the head. "I feel like crap," I grimace.

"You look like crap," Daniel concurs.

"You're no poster boy for health yourself," I mutter.

"Hammond will take that into account, right?" he asks.

"Yeah, but it will be a long time before he lets us out on our own again."

"That might be a good thing, considering," Daniel sighs.

"Maybe, but when you think about it, we did pretty damn good," I say. "Or rather, you did pretty damn good."

Daniel gives me that pleased but self-conscious look that never fails to move me. I smile and clasp his shoulder.

"Dial us home, Danny."
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