I just need to touch him.
Y’know. Put my hand on him. Feel his heart beat. Ground myself to the fact that he is, for the moment, alive and near me.
Not well, however. Far from well. So far from well I’m terrified each breath might be his last.
And that’s what scares me.
What has scared me.
Every time this happens.
Another damned planet. Another damned incident. Another god knows how long stay by Daniel’s bedside.
When did this incredible bond between us first start?
‘Be honest with yourself, O’Neill,’ I lecture myself. ‘He’s seen right through that facade of yours since Abydos.’
I was hurting back then. Losing my son Charlie had been like cutting out the best part of myself on a daily basis. It hurt too much to function. So I didn’t care. Hell, yes, I wanted the Stargate mission. What better way to solve all my problems? Travel to new worlds, eliminate possible dangers, make the earth safe for Democracy and the American way, and write myself a one-way ticket to obilvion by blowing the Stargate -- and myself -- into smithereens. All the bases covered, so to speak.
That is, until Daniel Jackson entered my life.
God. At first he was just ‘too much’, y’know? Too clumsy, too clueless, too argumentative, too non-military. Too damn smart. Too insightful.
I wasn’t counting on a young, brilliant doctor of multiple-ologies throwing a monkey wrench into my plans of self-destruction. Y’see, right from the start, right from that first time on Abydos, Daniel made me start to care about myself.
Because he cared about me. Enough to listen. Enough to try to reason with me. Enough to die for me.
At the time, we were all unaware of the healing powers of the sarcophagus. Dead was dead. And Daniel threw himself in front of that staff weapon to save my life.
Kinda makes a guy grow on you, y’know?
So, Daniel, you *can’t* die for real. You’ve got to open those blue eyes once again.
And see me.
Carter and Teal’c stop by often. By now, they know better than to try to lure me away, so Carter brings junk food, gossip and sympathy, while Teal’c adds his formidable presence and quiet support. Plus, they both spell me during the brief times I leave the infirmary -- to shower,
change clothes, eat an occasional hot meal, or check on the status of things inside the mountain. The three of us -- and several other SGC members -- ensure that Daniel is never alone. Never.
We all know that Daniel’s been alone most of his life. When he and I went to Abydos that first time -- and he found Shau’ri -- it seemed that he was gonna get that happiness he deserved after suffering through a generally sucky life growing up. He’d never need to feel alone again. But he lost her, first to Apophis, then for good. And the child she had by Apophis? The one he delivered, that baby boy he promised her he’d find and keep safe? Well, for all intents and purposes, that boy -- Shifu -- is gone, too. So that leaves us. His little SGC family. And we’re working hard to see he never feels alone again.
Dr. Frasier has been here around the clock. She says it’s because they’re a little short-handed, but I know the truth. She cares as much for Daniel as the rest of us; and would take it as a personal insult if something happened to him under her care.
And things aren’t going too well right now.
I shift in this uncomfortable chair, trying to find some position that’s not so hard on my already numb backside. Taking my hand off Daniel’s arm, I rub the grit out of my bloodshot eyes.
There’s movement in the bed. Daniel frowns, as if missing the feel of my hand, and moves ever so slightly toward me. "Hang on, big guy," I whisper. "Just let me get the sleep out of my eyes."
I shift again in this chair, thinking I’ll ask Carter to bring me a pillow next time she visits. I lean forward on the side of the mattress, close to Daniel’s left side. Careful not to dislodge any of the many tubes feeding in and out of his chest, hand and arm, I place my left hand on his left shoulder, and lightly grip his left hand in my right.
This seems to settle him. The frown goes away, and his head turns toward me. Now, if he’d just open his eyes.
I release the breath I was unaware I was holding, and sigh. He’s hot. Much too hot. This fever has had a hold on him for the past three days -- relentless, insistent -- despite Doc Frasier's best efforts and several rounds of strong antibiotics.
Almost unconsciously, my left hand begins making slow, easy circles on his skin. Touch seems to soothe him.
I’m an impulse hugger; Daniel’s an unconscious snuggler. He doesn’t display that much physical contact toward any of us on or off-world, but many’s the time I’ve found him burrowed in next to me -- or Carter -- or Teal’c -- on a night off-world.
He doesn’t know he does it. Most times, we wake up before him. But I don’t think any of us mind much. God knows I don’t.
Dammit, Danny! Open your eyes. Look at me. Please --
Nine lives Jackson, we call him. Around the SGC, he’s known as the man who cheats death. I’m almost beginning to lose count of the number of times he’s died, or been declared dead, or thought dead. And like that proverbial phoenix, he manages to rise from the ashes every time.
But this time feels different.
Maybe it’s because he *has* lost so much, so recently. It’s up to us to convince him to hang on. That he’s wanted. Needed. He needs to know he’s the ‘heart’ of SG1. That we really don’t function as a team -- a family -- without him.
Damn that planet -- that mission -- that brought us to this. Hell, it was just a routine recon. In -- out -- gather some soil samples, check out some ruins, be on our way.
Obscenely simple. I hate to think about it. Unconsciously, I *can’t* stop thinking about it...
The planet was P3X1 something-or-other. ‘Jungle world’, I called it. The heat and humidity slapped us in the face and filled our lungs the minute we stepped foot through the Stargate. Thick undergrowth, trees, vines and surely all matter of creepy-crawly things lurked just yards beyond the gate’s perimeter.
"Lovely", I’d said. "I think my dog tags are melting." Carter just grinned, Teal’c was his usual bubbly self, and Daniel began making a beeline towards an overgrown path before I could stop him, his mind obviously on the ruins.
"Hold on a minute there, Daniel," I’d said, causing him to pause and walk back to the group, a ‘sorry, Jack’ look on his face. We quickly stripped off our outer jackets. I could feel the sweat begin to trickle down between my shoulder blades. I knew my face was already wet, and I
could feel the moisture under my cap.
"It *is* awfully hot, sir," Carter said, taking off her cap and running her fingers through her short blonde hair, making it stand briefly on end. Perspiration was beginning to trickle down the sides of her face. "The humidity is so high, it’s hard to breathe."
"I, too, find it uncomfortable, Major Carter," Teal’c remarked, his usually impassive features marred by sweat. Surprising. Teal’c’s usually the last person to mention any kind of physical discomfort.
I pulled my T-shirt away from my chest, aware that it was already beginning to stick. "Okay, so we’re all in agreement this place doesn’t rank high in the Michelin Guide of must-see vacation spots. Let’s...,"
"Actually, Jack," Daniel interjected, "the climate is really quite similar to the area near Chichen Itza In Mexico." Daniel was tying a bandanna around his head, his boonie hat dangling from its strings down his back. "Maybe more humid, perhaps, but not as many mosquitoes. Wonder if the ruins are anything like the temple there? You know, the Mayans believed..."
I cut him off mid-sentence. "Enough, Daniel," I’d said. "This may all seem fascinating to you, but the rest of us are hot and uncomfortable. Let’s just get this little excursion on the road, okay, campers?"
I shift again in that uncomfortable plastic chair and look over at Daniel. My fingers keep up their caressing motion on his shoulder. Damn! His skin is so hot and dry it’s almost painful.
The coolest part of him is his left hand, where those continuous IV’s chill the skin down to the fingertips. I remember how cold my hand grew whenever I was hooked up to one of those drips. But Daniel’s fever is so high the IV’s merely make his hand comfortably warm. Janet’s mentioned something about the possibility of convulsions and brain damage if she can’t bring his temperature down.
I know that he’s had this fever since before we got back from that godforsaken planet. How long is too long? When does the damage become serious -- or irreversible?
Dammit, Danny! Wake up. Even a lengthy lecture would be better than watching you so still, face flushed with fever. Yeah, talk to me. This time -- I promise I’ll listen.
When did I start cutting him off so abruptly -- as if his opinion didn’t matter? I mean, I always cringed a little -- okay, a lot -- whenever he went into his "Doctor Jackson" mode, but it seemed lately I made a point to be rude, to cut him off, to embarrass him -- and I didn’t care who saw me.
Case in point, the Eurondans. Boy, had I been wrong about them. My mind was so fixed on the military technology they offered so eagerly, I failed to look any deeper. Failed to see that an alliance with them would be like inviting a latter day Hitler and his Gestapo goons right
into our living rooms.
Daniel questioned their motives, didn’t jump to our conclusions, urged us to look outside that convenient box.
So what did I do? Told him to shut up. Now, Daniel’s been many things during our ‘discussions.’ Persistent, insistent, argumentative -- but never rude. Never so careless of my feelings that he’d embarrass me in front of strangers, anyone connected with the SGC or, more importantly, the team. And, now I realize that’s because he cares about me. But here I was, big, bad Colonel Jack ‘keep-your-damn-mouth-shut-Daniel’ O’Neill, effectively shoving him down into the dirt, and then keeping him there
with my boot across his neck.
Luckily, I wised up in time. Later, he said he forgave me. Or words to that effect. But how many times can I keep abusing that friendship -- our relationship -- before he decides I’m just not worth the effort any more?
What if, this time, he dies before I can make it up to him?
I don’t think I could survive that. Not after seeing what he went through on that planet...
We’d started off with Carter on point and Teal’c covering our six. It was slow going; the underbrush tangled our boots and snagged at our trousers and bare arms. Some of the more wicked looking thorns drew blood. We certainly weren’t going to be pretty once we reached the ruins. I hoped we had plenty of Neosporin in our medikits.
After we’d gone about two or three miles into the jungle, I was exhausted. From the looks of my team, none of us were faring well with the heat or the surrounding undergrowth.
"I’d sell my soul for a machete right about now," I said aloud. "These ruins better damn well be worth all this." Carter cast back an understanding glance. Daniel was hacking away at the surrounding brush with his knife, keeping up a running stream of conversation with Carter
-- oh, hell, with anyone who’d listen to him -- about the possible ‘cultural marvel’ we might find just ahead. I kept having to grab his elbow just to keep him on the narrow path and out of the thorns.
"Fer cryin’ out loud, Daniel, watch what you’re doing!" I exclaimed. "You tangle with a few more of those bushes and we’ll be peeling strips of your hide off every branch from here to the ruins and back."
Daniel opened his mouth to apologize. He never got it out.
The attack was so sudden, so fierce and so savage, Daniel didn’t even have time to launch into his usual "We are peaceful travelers" speech.
The trees and nearby bushes seemed alive with screaming, colorfully painted faces as we found ourselves surrounded by what I assumed were members of the ‘indigenous population,’ although the MALP had shown precious little indication of any human habitation.
The noise was deafening. They were on us so quickly we didn’t even have time to raise our weapons. Even Teal’c was caught off-guard.
I had my hands full with a big ugly guy carrying a sharpened bamboo spear. Carter and Teal’c were also occupied. I lost sight of Daniel.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the battle ended. Our attackers slipped back into the jungle as quickly and as silently as they had come. If we’d done any damage, you couldn’t tell. There were no bodies, no nothing.
The silence was just as deafening as the noise. I drew in a deep breath.
"Okay here, Colonel," I heard Carter’s somewhat breathless voice.
"I received a minor shoulder wound from one of their crude bamboo knives, O’Neill." Teal’c’s voice rumbled. "My symbiote is already repairing the damage."
Pulling off my cap, I ran a somewhat shaky hand through my hair. "Would someone mind telling me what the hell that was all about? Daniel, do you have..."
My voice trailed away. Where was Daniel?
"Daniel?" I looked around me. Omigod. "Daniel?" I know my voice edged up an octave.
"Over here, O’Neill," came Teal’c’s voice. Teal’c never sounded worried. He did now.
I was over there in a flash. Dropping to my knees, I whispered, "Daniel?"
He was on his knees, doubled over, arms wrapped tightly around his chest.
"Danny?" I laid my hand gently on his curved back. I could feel the tremors running through him. Two pain-filled eyes in a very pale face looked up at me. One blood-stained hand snaked out and clutched at my arm. Blood was also beginning to color the ground around him.
"Jack...I...s-sorry," he gasped out, before falling face forward into the groundcover.
A nurse comes in to check Daniel’s vitals, shaking me out of my daydream. Well, nightmare would be more like it. As she checks his temperature, I catch her eye. She just shakes her head at me.
"Temp’s still 103," she says, "but it hasn’t gone back up in the last four fours. That’s encouraging, Colonel."
"Yeah," I mutter, mainly to myself. "Time to throw a party."
Her smile’s understanding. "Dr. Frasier will be right in to see about starting him on a new round of antibiotics. You need anything before I go, Colonel?"
"How about a pillow? My butt’s killing me," I say, trying to lighten the mood.
It works. She laughs and strips a pillow off a nearby bed. "Here," she says, tossing it at me, "knock yourself out." And then she pulls the curtains back around Daniel’s bed. I look at my watch. Two forty-five a.m. God, these nights are long.
Daniel moves restlessly again as I plop the pillow onto the chair seat. Taking a seat, I grasp his hand, squeezing it slightly, and move my other hand up to brush the stray wisps of hair off his forehead. I can’t help but see the heavy dressings covering the left side of his chest. My heart seizes up as I remember what is under them...
Both Carter and I reached for him at the same time. Easing him over onto his back, I felt my stomach turn over. I heard Carter’s sharp gasp beside me.
Daniel’s chest had been ripped open by one of those bamboo spears. Blood poured from the wound, which started at the center of his breastbone and angled jaggedly down the left side of his chest to a point just below the ribcage. The entire left front and side of his torn T-shirt was crimson.
"Christ, Danny..." I said, not wanting to believe my eyes.
Carter, her face white and her hands trembling, began fumbling in her backpack for a medikit. I did the same, hardly daring to take my eyes off him for a second. Teal’c stood over us, his body tensed as he scanned the nearby area for any sign that our ‘friends’ might return.
"Gu-guess I s-screwed up, huh, J-ja’k?" His eyes pleaded for forgiveness. "Fo - forgot t-to duck."
"Hush, Daniel," I said, but my eyes said, ‘Nothing to forgive, big guy.’ I moved to his head, cradling it on my knees as Carter worked feverishly to stop the bleeding.
I could feel him shaking under my touch. Instinctively I grasped a shoulder and my other hand stroked his forehead. "Easy, Daniel," I said softly, "take it easy. We’ll get you fixed up and back to Doc Frasier before you know it."
He nodded slightly, eyes shut tight, jaw clenched, gnawing his lower lip, trying to keep the pain at bay.
Daniel moans just now, gripping my hand. The pressure’s slight, but it’s more response than I’ve felt in several days. I’m on my feet, ear close to his lips.
"Hey, Danny, it’s me, Jack," I whisper, knowing he probably isn’t waking up, knowing it’s probably just a response to the pain, but still...
Just then, Doctor Frasier walks in.
"What is it, Colonel?" she says, eyes widening. She quickly moves to Daniel’s right side. "Is he awake? Did he say...?"
I meet her glance, wishing I had better news. "Nah, just a moan, Doc. I was just hopin’..."
"I know, Colonel," she says, an understanding look crossing her weary features. "We all are."
She moves over to my side of the bed. "You’re in the way. I need you to move so I can check his vitals."
I take a couple of steps back to give her room to work. She frowns as she notes his temperature.
"This round of antibiotics has at least kept his temperature stable," she says conversationally. She detaches the line feeding the drugs into Daniel’s veins, takes down the empty bags, clears the port with saline,
and gently puts more tape across the line on the back of his hand. "I’ve got them mixing up a stronger batch. Hopefully we can knock whatever this is out of his system."
Janet turns to face me. She always amazes me, so much confidence and iron will wrapped up in such a petite package.
She shoves her hands in her coat pockets, rocks back on her heels and looks up at me with one of those no-nonsense looks I know all too well.
"You must be exhausted, Colonel," she says, in a tone that dares me to argue with her. "As Daniel’s doctor, at this point I could impose a ‘no visitors’ rule, but we both know how well you follow orders you don’t like."
I flash a half-hearted grin at her.
"Ya think?" I say. "Sorry. Unless the snakeheads are comin’ through the Stargate -- *our* Stargate -- I ain’t budging from this chair."
Janet sighs. "I expected as much. Still, Colonel, you could use that bed next to Daniel’s. I’ll draw the curtains around both and see that you’re not disturbed for the next hour or so."
"The offer’s tempting, Doc," I say. "I’ll think about it."
I think she knows that was as close to a ‘yes’ as she’s gonna get. I sit back down in the chair. Janet’s hand grasps my shoulder.
"It’s 0300 now," she says, glancing at her watch. "I’ll be back to start Daniel on his next round of antibiotics at 0430. I’ll see to it you’re not disturbed. But be sure to press the call button if you need me."
She leans over and whispers in my ear, "I know you’re worried about him, Colonel. We all are. But don’t make yourself sick. I don’t want to have to take care of both of you." She adds, with a teasing note, "I can make that an order, mister. Don’t make me have to."
I nod, barely hearing her draw the curtains. I’m too busy staring at the slight rise and fall of Daniel’s chest beneath that thick covering of bandages.
Carter managed to bandage most of the damage, although she went through several steri-packs before the bleeding was somewhat under control. Too many, to my way of thinking. We had nothing around with which to fashion
a stretcher. Because of the narrow path, we were gonna have to walk Daniel out of here. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Going in had been rough. Getting back to the Stargate was gonna be difficult. I never thought it would be damn near impossible.
It had taken us close to two hours to fight our way this far into the jungle. But, since we’d left a ragged, but pretty distinct path behind us, backtracking shouldn’t be a problem.
Yeah, right. And pigs have started flying this year.
It was if we’d angered some planet god. I could swear the brush was growing back in front of our eyes, almost obliterating the path we’d made. The air grew hotter, thicker. I didn’t think it was possible, but just putting one foot in front of the other made us gasp for breath.
The ground under our feet grew spongy, making it difficult to walk without feeling you were gonna sink up to your ankles in swamp at any minute. Insects -- mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and some weird little guys
with stingers like bees swarmed around us, leaving big red welts on the skin wherever they landed.
And, to top it off, it began to rain. That slow, irritating drizzle-like rain which does nothing but soak you to the skin, make you miserable and make it damn difficult to see. Especially if you’re wearing glasses.
We stayed bunched together, stopping every few feet to re-hack our way back through the undergrowth. Carter and I took turns on point. Teal’c guarded our backs. She and I took turns helping Daniel. If we were finding it so difficult, I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to
try walking with your chest on fire. I don’t know how he was managing to breathe, let alone move.
I never heard him complain. Maybe it was inner strength, maybe he just didn’t have the energy. Maybe it was just him.
Dammit, Danny! Open your eyes. Look at me. I...I...
I just wish there was something else I could do.
Most people assume I keep these vigils because we’re friends. Well, of course we are. But, Carter’s a friend. So’re Teal’c, and Hammond, and Frasier. Plus Ferritti, Siler, Simmons, Davis, Harriman and several other people who work at this complex.
And, while they’ve also done the same for me the many times I’ve wound up in the infirmary, Daniel’s worried blue eyes are usually the first things I see when I come to.
And I’ve never spent all night -- or several nights -- at their bedsides. Like I have at Daniel’s. And Daniel at mine.
So what makes him so special?
I dunno. Go figure. I guess it’s true about opposites attracting, or some such line of bullshit. Hell, I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill, man of action. Y’know, career military, Black Ops, ex-husband, former father,
sports-lovin’, beer-drinkin’ hell-raiser. So when did I let a gentle, soft-spoken, way too smart, much too pacifistic, much too -- decent -- guy like Daniel Jackson get under my skin?
Shit. It just happened. All I know is, I don’t often treat him like a best friend. I’m dominating, curt, sarcastic, sometimes cruel, usually rude. And, whaddya know? He likes me in spite of myself.
We’d covered less than a mile when I called for a halt. Glancing at my watch, I saw that six hours had passed since we’d been ambushed.
"Do you think it is wise to stop, O’Neill?" Teal’c asked, his eyes continually searching the jungle surrounding him. I knew what he knew -- that we had been constantly shadowed. Right now, though, I was finding it difficult to think straight.
I’d been shouldering most of Daniel’s weight the last two hours, and I needed a breather. Carter didn’t look much better. I didn’t like the growing stain I was seeing on Daniel’s BDUs. That meant the would had re-opened. And I didn’t like the heat that was starting to radiate off him.
"Sorry, Teal’c" I gasped out. "Your old Colonel needs a break. Major, we need to take a look at Daniel."
The gauze pads and tape Carter had used to bind up the wound were saturated with blood, but we soon learned there was no point in changing them; the relenting rain quickly soaked the new bandages Carter pulled from her backpack, making them virtually useless.
Carter laid a hand on Daniel’s forehead.
"He’s got a fever, Sir," she said.
I’d felt Daniel growing feverish about an hour after I started helping him. Carter wasn’t telling me anything new.
"Yeah, he’s been burning up about the last half hour, Major." I muttered, busily stuffing the rain-soaked gauze pads into my backpack. "Come on, kids, let’s get a move on."
I had begun to get Daniel to his feet when I felt a strong hand on my shoulder.
"We are no longer being followed, O’Neill," Teal’c’s commanding voice said. "I think it would be wise if I carried DanielJackson and you watch our backs. We will make better time this way."
For some reason, I didn’t want to let Daniel go -- didn’t want to lose that closeness. But Teal’c was right. The sooner we got him to the Stargate, the better.
Teal’c carried Daniel easily. After a short distance I heard a small, weak voice say, "Shau’ri? Kasuf?" Damn, he was becoming delirious. I heard Teal’c reply softly, almost tenderly, "They are not here, DanielJackson. Rest now, and soon we will get you home."
We did make better time. In just under an hour, we spotted the Stargate.
"Colonel...? Colonel...? Colonel O’Neill...? Jack...?"
I jerk awake at the sound of my first name. Must have dozed off. Last thing I remember is sitting by Daniel’s bedside.
I blinked my eyes several times and Janet Frasier's face came into view.
Klaxons started going off in my sleep-fogged brain.
‘Oh, God, Danny?’ I think, ‘It’s too soon -- I’m not ready -- ‘
"Oh, Christ," I say aloud, "has something happened?"
She places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Easy does it, Colonel. Nothing’s changed. You just fell asleep. And," she says, "I need you to move again."
I get out of my chair, watching as she moves briskly around the bed.
She hangs two new bags from the I.V. pole and hooks them up to the port in Daniel’s hand. "Super-drugs," she smiles at me. "Guaranteed to scare any germ away."
She pulls in a cart loaded with instruments, bandages and tape, and nods toward the curtain pulled partially around the bed.
"I need to change his dressing, Colonel," Doctor Frasier says. "You in or out?"
I draw in a sharp breath. "Go ahead, Doc," I say. "I’ve seen worse."
But not lately. And not by much.
My stomach lurches as Janet eases the soiled pads off Daniel’s chest. The wound is longer than I remember, deeper than I remember, and angry, infected. Red streaks fan off in all directions and the cut is puffy. The skin around the wound is bruised and tender-looking. I think it
"It’s looking better," Janet says.
"Coulda fooled me," I say.
Doc Frasier bustles around in her usual cool, competent manner. Ever the professional. She’s not fooling me one bit. I see how her eyes keep looking at Daniel’s face as she watches for signs of pain. How she keeps worrying her bottom lip -- a trait I swear she picked up from Daniel --
as she cleans and rebandages the wound.
And, when she finishes, she reaches up and lightly strokes the short, sweat-dampened hair off Daniel’s forehead before placing one hand there, the other checking the pulse at his left wrist. Oh, yeah, she isn’t
involved with *this* patient. Not much.
Let’s face it. Daniel, with his quiet, unassuming,
‘I-don’t-want-to-be-a-bother’ manner, has wormed his way past the defenses and into the hearts of more people in this complex than he could ever imagine. Sure, the fact that he’s a real good-lookin’ kid has most of the female hearts aflutter, but it’s just his plain outright decent "Daniel-ness" that’s earned him the respect of guys like Gen. Hammond, Major Davis, Ferretti, Simmons, Siler and Harriman, and -- I’ll admit it -- his old CO. Hell, rumor has it even Robert "Give-’em-hell" Makepeace had a small soft spot for Daniel, although I guess we’d never really know that for sure.
And no stupid wound from a damned bamboo spear is going to snuff out the brightest light at SGC.
Dr. Frasier eyes me again, starts to say something, thinks the better of it, and places her hand on my shoulder.
"I’m headed for a cup of coffee. In my office. Freshly brewed. Can I talk you into a cup, Colonel?" she says.
Her eyes say "please".
I allow myself a small smile. "Now how could I possibly turn down such an invitation?"
I slump down in the spare chair in her tiny office -- a chair only marginally more comfortable than the one I’ve had my ass planted on for the last four days.
The doc pours me a cup, hands it to me, and pours herself one. She looks -- for lack of a better word -- thoroughly whupped. I know we joke about setting up a "Daniel Jackson" wing for the infirmary, but this time I don’t feel like laughing. Neither does she.
She sits across her desk from me, one hand clutching the styrofoam cup, the other running a hand through her hair. Then she looks at me. I don’t like what I’m seeing in her eyes.
"What’s up, Janet?" I say, dropping our usual military formalities. "It’s Jack. Talk to me."
She sighs. A heavy, bone-jarring, weary-down-to-her-painted-toenails sigh.
"It’s times like these I wish I’d never become a doctor." She says it so softly I almost don’t hear her. Janet is one of the most competent, aggressive medical professionals I’ve ever met. A stickler for protocol,
thorough, intuitive, and perhaps the one person on this post more stubborn than me. When she has a particularly tough case -- or a particularly difficult patient -- she’s like a terrier. She grabs the problem by the pant leg and refuses to let go.
Oh, God. Does she think it’s time to let go?
"He’s tough, Janet," I say, willing us both to believe it. "He’s been through worse -- you know that."
"I know, Jack," she says, her eyes heavy. "And I don’t know what makes this time so different. But," she swallows, blinking away tears, "it is."
She leans forward, elbows on the desk, clutching her coffee. "Oh, it’s not the wound, per se. That’s actually looking better, although I know *you* don’t think so..." here she allows herself a small smile. "It’s that damned fever. It’s leeching away every ounce of strength -- of
fight -- Daniel has. It just doesn’t want to let go. I don’t know how much more he can take."
My stomach lurches, tying itself into an even tighter knot. "Hey," I say, trying to sound upbeat. "Didn’t you say something about this last batch of stuff you hung being ‘super drugs’? Guaranteed to scare any germ away?"
"Jack," she says. "If this batch isn’t the answer, we’ve exhausted all means to fight this fever. There’s nothing left. If the drugs don’t work, and this fever continues unchecked, he’ll either die, or be severely brain-damaged. And in Danny’s case, I’d say death was
preferable." She looks at me, eyes too bright. "Wouldn’t you?"
I’ve been doing okay -- well, that’s a lie, not really okay, but close to what passes for okay -- until she says those words. Then my mind explodes. Hell, no, none of this is preferable! To never hear Daniel expound at length about some ‘marvelous’ find, to not see his face light up, his eyes shine? To never again see that smile, which has been so absent from his face lately. To never again watch him push those glasses back up his nose when they’d come perilously close to slipping off? No, damnit, none of this is preferable!
"Aw, shit, Janet," I implore. "It’s not -- we can’t -- you’re not suggesting -- just what *are* you saying?"
She gets up from the desk and walks around toward me. Her hand reaches out to grasp my shoulder and I flinch, moving away. Not now, Janet, don’t touch me, please. I’ll - I’ll lose it. And I can’t do that now.
She sees the movement, and her hand drops to her side. Instead, she moves in next to me, her backside resting on her desk as she leans against it, crossing her arms across her chest.
"What I’m saying, Jack, is that we may not be able to help Daniel this time. I should know in the next hour or so whether these antibiotics will help. Beyond that, well, I guess I’m just fresh out of miracles." She sounds bitter; that sarcastic edge to her voice is so unlike her.
Then she adds softly. "I hurt, too, Jack. He’s special to me, too."
Aw, hell. I stand up, gather her into my arms, and we both have a good, quiet cry. Sheer exhaustion has a lot to do with our states of mind, but I’d be lying if I said we aren’t both grieving for a man we care for a whole helluva lot.
She pulls away first, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands. She pulls a tissue out of a box of Kleenex on her desk and blows noisily. "Sorry...," she starts to say.
"Don’t." I stop her mid-sentence. "I know. Me, too."
She hugs me to her again, quickly, fiercely. Whispers in my ear. "He *will* get better, Jack. He *has* to. I -- you -- we all need him."
I take her face in my hands and gently kiss her forehead. "Thanks. Janet," I say quietly.
I leave her office and make my way back to Daniel’s bedside.
The infirmary is quiet. Daniel is the only patient. The nurses have again drawn the curtains to afford both of us some privacy.
The only light on is a small low-wattage lamp at the head of Daniel’s bed, bathing his fever-flushed face in gentle light. Dampness makes his hair darker, and he’s been restless; the covers not quite as tightly tucked as they had been earlier.
My chair awaits me. I sit down with a heavy sigh. And take his hand in mine again.
This is it. All or nothing. The doc says the next hour will tell.
I look at the hand I’m holding. Careful not to jar the I.V., I trace a couple of the veins on the back of his hand. His fingers -- long, slender, calluses on the fingertips from years of digs, of running his hands over countless tablets, parchments, runes -- trying to decipher
their mysteries. His hand seems a bit cooler, but when I place my hand on his left shoulder, the skin is still dry and hot.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the inside of a church. One here on earth, that is. I’ve given most of that up since -- since Charlie died. But I can’t help thinking that, if anyone up there is listening, this would be one helluva time for one of those miracles I’ve read about in those awful tabloids Teal’c loves so much.
If it’s true that ‘only the good die young’, Daniel should never have made it this far in life. Most of us who work here in Cheyenne Mountain are decent people. Hell, we wouldn’t be putting our asses on the line
every day if we didn’t have some kind of faith in the basic decentness of mankind. But Daniel? Daniel lives the Golden Rule every day of his life. He’s argumentative and stubborn, sure. He hates the Goa'uld with a passion and can be a royal pain in the ass -- but his heart is pure. He loves without reservation, forgives without condition, and I can’t think of a nobler, more unselfish person on the face of the earth.
So, maybe, this time, some power will cut him some slack.
I sit here, lightly holding Daniel’s hand in mine, rocking slowly back and forth, lost in thought...
* * * * *
Something smells starchy. My back aches. I’ve got a crick in my neck. And something is touching my head. Feels like fingers lightly carding through my hair. Cool fingers.
I slowly open my eyes and I’m eyeballing the blanket on Daniel’s bed. Musta fallen asleep again. I still feel that weight, so I slowly turn my head.
And look into the sleepy, half-open blue eyes of Daniel Jackson.
"Hey, Jack," he says softly.
My eyes fill with unbidden tears. It’s his fingers I feel in my hair.
"Hey, Danny," I say back.
It’s gonna be a great day.
|Summary:||Jack’s musings at an all-too-familiar infirmary bedside|
AUTHOR’S NOTES: Thanks to those wonderful SG-1 fanfic writers who have given me inspiration to write and post. Feedback is welcome and requested.