Category: Angst, H/C, Drama
Rating: R for language and violence
Warnings: Major Danny whumping, Violence

 

She remembers the impact, the sound of it as he slammed against the wall. It ricochets through her brain like some grotesque ping pong game. It scares her still. She tries to ignore the echoes of the collision, of his skull smashing against the brick and of the slow slide downward of his body. But if she hides from the noises, the intruding din of that moment, then she has to think upon the sights, the look of him. 

She squeezes her eyes shut and ignores the shivers raging up and down her spine. It won’t go away, the chills plague her body and she pulls a blanket from the infirmary bed she sits on and tugs it around her shoulders. There is a fury about her, racing and shuttering all at once. Images seem to overlap, blur and blend. She doesn’t want to look around; she doesn’t want to focus on her teammates. Just acknowledging them admits that there is one missing, that one has been left behind. A quake comes over her and she doesn’t react to it. She rides through it like a wave on the ocean forecasting a storm.

Storm.

She wants to cry; she needs to let the pain, the storm wash over her. But she refuses the emotions and she just stares into the blank space before her. She sees the wall again, the red of the brick, the pattern of the brick then she recalls the splatter of the blood on the roughened wall. The light of his eyes then the loss of his light, the stumble of his legs as he falls backward and descends, as the darkness shadows him.

Someone is talking to her but she doesn’t listen. She turns her head and looks away.  Small hands are on her face, trying to make her take notice. Someone adjusts her chin and follows the lack of focus in her eyes. Janet.

“Sam,” Janet says and grips her jaw so hard that Sam almost winces, almost but not quite. She stops herself before she responds, reacting would mean this was real. If she stays perfectly still, if she stays like the stones then time will stop and this will all fade and disappear. Everything will be all right.

Janet is trying to convince her of that now. She’s speaking, “Sam, please Sam. Tell me what happened? What happened on Mare’ehkat?”

The words are too real, too firm and they jar her to this reality and to this place she does not want to be. Tears sting her eyes; her eyes feel like she has been awake for far too long and they are burning, a dry desert burn of the sun. She only mumbles in reply as the tears roll down her face. She can’t answer, the pain is too deep, too close, too real.

“I’m sorry, sir, I can’t get her to respond.” Janet shifts her attention to General Hammond. The Commanding General stands close to the doctor, his face pinched in concentration. If she squints her eyes, Sam is sure she can see the gears of decision intercalate as they move.

“Major Carter? Colonel O’Neill?” He straightens his shoulders and huffs. “Can someone tell me, what the sam hill went on during the mission?”

There is no response and she is suddenly aware of the Colonel sitting on the next bed over. His shoulders are slumped and his whole body seems to curl in on itself. There is something horribly disturbing to her about his demeanor as if she is looking at the shriveling of his soul.

“Doctor, what can you tell me?” Hammond says.

“Not much, sir.”  She swivels to point to Teal’c. He is laying on a gurney, his eyes closed and his face passive. “Teal’c will heal with the help of his symbiote. His injuries were not serious. Neither the Colonel nor the Major have any injuries apart from some minor cuts and scrapes.”

“But emotionally?”

“Emotionally, they’re a mess. All three of them, it reminds me of when Daniel was trapped on Nem’s world.” Janet reviews her chart and taps the pencil she is holding against the metal frame of the clip board.

“Isn’t that when they thought Doctor Jackson was dead but in fact he was being held by the creature that called himself Nem.”

“Correct sir.”

“Do we believe something similar happened to Doctor Jackson this time?”

“No.”

The word is finite and deafening in its simplicity. Both the General and the doctor turn to the Colonel. His eyes lift and Sam bits back a gasp. The dark eyes are flat, glossless, and fogged.

“Colonel O’Neill, do you have some explanation because I damned well would like to hear it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He nods and then says, “They shot him General. They shot Daniel in the head. He’s dead.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The stubble on his face feels wrong. Somehow time had past, though he could not place it. He remains fixed, glued to that one moment in time. He goes over it again and again, seeing the gun, seeing the angle. Now as he thinks back on it, Jack wonders if he could have stopped the assault, if he should have seen the assassin lurking in the hollows of the corridors. He saw nothing, though. He’d been busy – busy allowing his guard to drop, allowing his best friend to be shot in the head. He cringes.

There’s noise all around him now. As the briefing proceeds, he does his duty as any good soldier should. The General sits like a hawk his eyes piercing and probing as he slices through the cacophony of the report to find the truth. But the truth is simple, too simple for Jack. The words surrounding him transform into barriers, fluid barriers like sheets of rain in a down pour, a clamor to impair him and isolate him. In that isolation, the images repeat over and again in his head. Of Daniel crashing against the wall, of the bullet exploding across the room, of the gun being raised, it’s there persistent and ugly.  It replays forward and backwards. He sees it but it is no nightmare; it is real.

The words spill out of him. He feels like that robot Harlan made, but a robot devoid of emotion, a robot made of ice. Hammond doesn’t drill him, that isn’t his way. Though he stalks the room like a bird of prey, his words are kind and understanding. It doesn’t matter. No kindness will make the after images clear. The horror of Daniel’s death remains.

But he answers the General, because it is his duty. The words come; he speaks. The General listens. The story gets told.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He was in his element. Walking through the hall, greeting the different parties, Daniel worked the room like an artist might sculpt clay. His words, his action turned the soft clay of the divergent parties into refined shapes of acceptance and understanding.  Talking softly at one point, laughing at another, sympathizing at yet another, his talent to honestly be in the moment and empathize with the warring factions amazed Jack.  If anyone could negotiate a deal to resolve the situation it would be Daniel.

They’d arrived on the planet two days ago and Daniel set in motion a series of meetings to clarify the issues. The problem was clear cut. The fault lay squarely on the SGC’s shoulders. By transplanting the people from P8X-113 to W4T-777 or what would become known as Mare’ehkat, they had created a colossal problem. The world of 113 had been literally falling apart, though Jack was sure that was not the technical term Carter used to explain it. Because of some cosmic whammy, the crushing forces of the planet’s own gravity were tearing the continents apart in a fast forward version of plate tectonics. They promised to help their new found allies and discovered a seemingly unoccupied planet that was suitable. ‘Seemingly’ being the operative word. Though a dozen UAV studies and more than that of human surveys demonstrated that 777 had no indigenous sentient beings and no human colonies left over from the Goa’uld, a human population managed to appear a few months after the final migration. Even with an entire planet to inhabitant, neither side wanted to give up their land.

Sounded strikingly familiar.

It wasn’t pretty. With the blame firmly on SGC’s shoulders, SG1 with Daniel in the lead took on the assignment to figure out and negotiate a plan of peace. Tensions escalated and by the time they arrived several bombings, kidnappings, and incursions in to the other’s territory occurred. When the setting for the talks was announced Daniel balked and voiced his displeasure. Jack pushed him to accept it even though the linguist insisted it was not neutral ground but actually the capital building for the transplanted 113 inhabitants.

Daniel adjusted and now he walked the outer vestibule to check on each of the representatives. He spoke with each in turn, permitting them to voice his or her personal opinions. Jack with his P90 slung over his shoulder and Teal’c with his staff weapon lowered hung back in the crowd. Carter stood a bit apart from them as per his orders. He wanted a clear line of sight on Daniel at all times.

Just in case.

He glanced to Carter and gave her a slight nod. In turn, she smiled back but it was a tight clipped expression. She slipped along the side of the room, mirroring Daniel’s movements as she telegraphed her observations to him from across the room. Her eyes confirmed the all clear and they continued to stand guard over the perfunctory pre-meeting reception. Every few minutes, Jack switched his focus to Carter to get her silent report on the movements in the room. Every few minutes, Carter verified there was nothing to worry about but she remained vigilant. Just in case.

Just in case.

It was then, as his shoulders relaxed, as the grip he kept on his weapon opened a degree, as he balanced back on the balls of his feet that it happened. A faint sound, a click then a pause. His head shot up and he skimmed the room to find Carter. As their gaze met, the danger registered in Carter’s look. He keyed his radio but there was no time.

She screamed, “Daniel.”

Daniel pivoted next to the diplomat for the Mare’ehkat settlers. Jack followed Carter’s line of sight and before he found the assassin he bolted toward Daniel, jostling people out of the way. “Get down. Daniel, get down.”

It was a direct order.

Daniel refused to listen to direct orders.

Daniel never listened to him, was incapable of following a direct order. Instead of dropping to the floor as he was told, Daniel spun toward the diplomat and pushed him out of the line of fire. The pop of a gun sounded and for a second Jack believed it must be a fake gun, a toy. But the percussion of the bullets spattering the brick behind Daniel brought the reality into horrifying focus.

Too many people were in the way; too many voices were calling out. Jack shoved them aside, propelling forward to his friend. Too late, he was too late. The next shot of the gun cracked the air and Daniel jerked, his head twisted in an obscene angle. Blood splattered across his face, he slammed backward and hit the red brick wall. His head crashed against the surface, his eyes were open and the expression only said surprise. There was no pain in those blue eyes that Jack could discern. He only saw a question and then as he dropped the question disappeared, faded and died.

A shriek came out of him. “No!” Jack lifted his weapon and began shouting, “Everybody freeze. Everybody freeze.” He sprayed the ceiling with bullets and the raining stones flakes cascaded down like locusts swarming over the crowd.

He realized then that Teal’c stood by his side and the fire of the staff weapon seared the air. Carter swung around and covered their six. A roar came out of him as he commanded the cacophony to silence. Surrounding and encircling them, guns threatened. There were armed militants in every corner, sneering at him. The whole damned gathering had been infiltrated.

“God damn it, God damn it,” he muttered as he switched his aim.

“Sir?”

“Steady, Carter, steady.”

“Yes, sir.”

One of the militants stepped forward, his gun clutched in a thick fist and raised it to point directly into Jack’s face. “You will not move, Colonel. You will not save these people you brought here.”

The weight of the weapon’s barrel thudded against his temple.

“O’Neill.”

“Stand down, big fella,” Jack released the hold on his weapon, easing his empty hands up. “Listen, I just want to get my team mate there and leave.”

The militant banged the gun’s tip against his forehead. “You will do nothing.” He turned and spoke to one of his comrades. In seconds they were disarmed. The leader nodded his satisfaction then issued further orders to his fellow brother in arms. The militant went to the cowering diplomat curled next to Daniel’s inert body. Yanking the man to his feet, the native dragged him over to his leader.

“You see him,” the leader asked while hitting the cold barrel against Jack’s face. “This is what I think of him.”  Without turning to face his victim, the leader swung the gun around, shot the man in the face and then brought his aim back to Jack. The diplomat fell without a cry to the floor. The leader snickered at Jack, enjoying his disgust. “That is also what I think of you.”

“Fine, but let my team go.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Jack said but his gaze bowed to Daniel’s prone form. The stain of blood over his face, the stark white of his skin.

“You should be surprised, you should be very surprised.” The man smiled and Jack could count his crooked teeth, see his split, dry lips, the grubbiness of his skin. The natives of this world lived in the desert most of the year but came to this part of the land during the driest of the seasons in the desert. The migration led to the discovery of the settlers, the immigrants.

Jack knew this guy’s story, just like he knew the stories of the guys like him back home. It was simple, easy. The number one thing he understood was that they did not do compromise.

“Oh yes, please surprise me.”

“Sir,” Carter’s voice sounded wrong to his ears, halting and breaking. Just the sound of it told him that she was staring at Daniel, was taking it all in.

“Major,” he warned.

“Yes sir.”

He returned his attention to smart ass militant in front of him and said, “You were saying how you were going to regale me with great surprises.”

The leader nudged the gun against Jack’s temple again, gave a short chuckle then said, “A great surprise.  I am going to let you go.”

Several of the hostages gasped out and cried, begging him not to leave them. Jack raised a scarred eyebrow at the native; something had to be awry. No one goes undercover at a diplomatic event to kill key personnel only to let half of the enemy leave.

“Yes, you are surprised.” The leader barked something to the dozen of his fellow soldiers. They laughed as they clutched their weapons, though the light of the laughter never touched their eyes. “I will let you go so that you can leave here and in two days time you will come back with supplies.  Weapons like yours, food and medicine. You come back in two days and none of the rest of these people die.”

“Why do you need weapons? You have guns.”  Jack recognized the guns they were using as the local fire arm.

“They are not as sophisticated as yours. We want superior power over them.”

“Listen, we’ll all pack up right now, all of us will move out.”

The leader ran his tongue over his lips; his hair a mass of tangles flopped over his eyes. “It’s too late for that. They’ve killed too many, maimed too many with their mine devices that they use to protect their borders. When you return, you will negotiate their freedom to leave. With your guns we will guard the Circle so that you cannot return and retaliate.”

“You can bury the Stargate so that we can’t return.”

“How do I know that? This is some trick!” He raised himself up on his toes so that he could look at Jack directly. “You will go now and get our supplies, otherwise the rest of these people in this room dies, then the rest of the invaders in this settlement of yours.”

Jack nodded and raised his hands again to make a show of his willingness to cooperate. “We’ll go. Teal’c get Daniel.” He glanced at his warrior friend and, for the first time, realized Teal’c had taken a shot to the shoulder. Blood spread a deep crimson stain across his chest, down his arm. His stoic team mate only met Jack’s questioning gaze with a slight nod to confirm that he was well, could fulfill his task. To bring home the dead.

Damn.

As the Jaffa moved to pick up their fallen team mate, another of the militant guards blocked his way by pointing a gun at his chest. The leader pursed his lips. “No, you have no need for a dead body. Go or perhaps I should kill another one of your team?”

He heard weapons cocked.  Staring at Daniel the bile rose in his throat nearly gagging him. In a whisper he said, “Fine, we’ll go.”

The last thing he recalled of that moment stirred in his brain. His friend laid alone on an alien planet, dead. Dead. Alone. Abandon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            Hammond listens to the details of the mission; his face pinched and closed. The stark blue of his eyes radiates both compassion for his frontline team and anger for their loss. Jack doesn’t look up at his commanding officer, he doesn’t really look anywhere. He can’t see anything but the blinding rage filling him up, seething in his pores. Hammond gives them words, but the words mean nothing to him.

            He keeps seeing Daniel; he keeps the thought ‘left behind’ just beyond his reach in his mind. He doesn’t want to admit it but it is there like a tarnished medal. He never wanted to earn this medal. He’d left Daniel behind on a mothership once years ago. But he tells himself to this day that was only because he thought he would be dead as well within the day. This is different. Daniel is already dead.

            Plans are made to extract the living, to strike the enemy. Jack offers advice, directs the strategy. But his mouth is raw, his eyes are blank. He feels dead.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            God.

            Endurance, endure. To suffer, to bear a burden. He awakes with these thoughts running through his brain. Endure, suffer, bear. He kicks out against the pain, the vice wrapped around his head squeezing, closing until he can no longer tolerate it. He moans and a hand touches his shoulder as a low voice tells him to quiet, hush.

            “It is unsafe, my friend.”

            He doesn’t recognize the voice; he doesn’t know where he is. That strange out of place feeling he sometimes gets when he first wakes up in an unfamiliar setting washes over him. Pain streaks through his head; a freight train rams inside his skull, cracking and fragmenting.  Not heeding the advice of the stranger, he cries out again. Pain shreds him.

            God, what the hell happened?

            “No, no,” the voice whispers. “You must remain silent, my friend. I fear if they find out you yet live that they will harm you.” The hand caresses his damp forehead. “I fear that your friends will not return for they think you are dead.”

            Dead?

            The light hurts him as he squints. Like slivers he cracks open his eyes and the nausea whirls the room around him. He clamps his eyes closed again and licks his lips to quell the dizziness.

            “What?” he manages to croak out.

            “You have been shot, my friend.” The tenor of the voice settles in his brain and he recalls a name.

            “Aedean?”

            “Yes, Daniel, it is I.” A hand cups his cheek and the warmth brings on the sickness, the nausea. He struggles to escape the touch but the slight movement of his head intensifies the dizziness. He opens his mouth and a small croak comes out. His breath itself chokes him and he shivers against it.

            “What? What happened?”

            “Stay quiet, my friend. You have been shot in the head.”

            Makes no sense, none of it.

            The words swirl about him, colors flash and flicker. He hears footsteps closing in and Aedean squeezes his shoulder as if to warn him to remain silent. The footsteps recede and Aedean leans down to speak, his tone hushed and hurried. “You have been seriously injured. I believe the bullet did not penetrate your skull but it has grazed you. You have lost a lot of blood and your brain must be seriously injured.”

            Opening his eyes, he cries out against the burn of light as it bits him. Shot. In the head?  None of it makes sense to him; the words splinter like spikes of light from fireworks. He should be dead; he knows that. He should be dead.

            “Shot?” he mouths the word, adding any sound only brings pain.

            “Yes, my friend. You saved our minister though it does not matter since these vile creatures killed him away.”

            “Jack?”

            “As I have said, your people left. They will not come back. We are hostages and will be killed within the next day.”

            Daniel shifts and even this smallest of movements hurts him. “How many?”

            “There are ten souls being held hostage, my friend. They have killed many of us.” Daniel hears him take in a shaken breath. He wishes he could offer some support but he holds no strength, no power. He knows he is fading.

            Grappling, he claws at the floor to sit up. Aedean reaches for him, trying to stop him. “You must not move.  They will know you are alive if you move.”

            “Doesn’t matter,” he gulps out. “Dead already.”  He paws at Aedean and the man grasps his upper arm to pull him to an upright position. Before he is even sitting, a militant notices him.

            “Grathen,” he yells and the apparent leader turns to face the militant standing closest to Daniel.  In a gesture, his survival is broadcast.

            “So you yet live?” The leader smirks at him. “This is an unexpected development.” He squats down on his haunches and reaches for Daniel’s bloody head. He winces and tears come to his eyes. “But a good one.”

            The leader stands and calls over two of his followers. “Get him up. We will go to the Circle. It is time for them to realize we are the ones they must deal with.”

            Rough hands jerk him to his feet. Teetering, Daniel’s legs wobble underneath him. The sudden change in position tilts the world in sharp angles and he lurks forward and vomits down the front of the leader’s shirt.

            “Fuck.” The leader punches him in the face. All connectivity of his joints is lost. He’s falling, crashing, disintegrating but hands seize him to drag him along. Pressure builds again and he vomits. The retching blasts his brain, seems to cause the arteries in his body and head to explode.

            Grathen grabs hold of Daniel’s jaw in a bruising grip, giving him a shake. “You do that again and I will make you eat it.”

            He hyperventilates; the air closes in on him like it is solidifying around him. They haul him down the street toward the Stargate. His vision blurs and the world becomes a jumble of lights, shapes and sounds that don’t fit.

            “Call them,” Grathen orders, shoving Daniel.  He collapses against the DHD – he can’t recall the address, he doesn’t even know if he can speak anymore. But he has too, Aedean and his people are depending on him. They have no other hope.

            He presses the first symbol.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            The surface of the event horizon glimmers. It always reminds him of the ocean at sunrise on the North Shore of Oahu. He smiles as he recalls watching the ocean from the hotel room, Sara lounging in the bed behind him, the sweet languid feeling of their lovemaking still a caress over his skin. But this isn’t the ocean, and Sara has long since been lost.

            “Colonel,” Hammond stands beside him. “Jack.”

            He only nods then turns his attention to the monitor. The sergeant reports that a feed from the MALP they left on 777 is coming through; the link has been established.

            “We have to do this,” Jack said. In his head the echoes of Daniel waver and force him to negotiate with the terrorist. Talk. Daniel always pushed talking to people, as if it would always work, as if people were always willing to listen to reason.

            Hammond nods to the technician and the screen flickers. It is an odd relief against the shimmer of the blue event horizon beyond in the gate room. The fuzz of snowy reception makes it difficult to resolve the images.

            “Walter, boost the gain,” Carter says. She stands behind him, her arms crossed and closed off from everyone. He knows the doctor failed to get her to talk about what happened, about Daniel. He shrugs it off, hell he hasn’t talked to anyone either. Not really.  Only Teal’c has really dealt with it, if you can call sitting in your quarters ‘meditating’ all day dealing with it.

            A quick click of keys instructs the computer then abruptly the screen changes. The refined images appear on the screen. Carter’s intake of breath sends a shiver up his spine and the hairs on his neck creep.

            “Daniel,” Carter whispers through fingers held to her lips.

            Jack curses. Wavering on unsteady legs, Daniel stands in front of the MALP’s camera, a gun aimed at his temple. He looks dead already.  He can’t look at anything else, his gaze freezes on Daniel as his injured friend tries to follow the orders of a madman.

            His words are just whispers as he asks, “Jack? Jack?” Then he falls, literally tumbles to the ground in front of them. His captors grab hold of his collar to haul him to his knees. He looks wretched, thick tears run down his blood stain cheeks but he is not sobbing. Jack knows that kind of pain, when there is no stopping your body from crying out, when there is an absolute sphere of hell surrounding you.

            Jack bristles. He clenches his fists and has to stall himself. He wants to launch right into the screen and kill the bastard holding his friend hostage. Carter places a hand, discrete and light on his arm for just a second as if she read his wants and needs to stop him. He glances at her, gives a quick nod of thanks, then turns back to listen to the piss ant and what his demands are.

            “You come back with the guns and your friend here might not die. You don’t come back with the weapons. I kill him first and send his dismembered body back to you.” The transmission sizzles as if to emphasize the terrorist’s threats.

            Hammond starts to talk, his voice controlled and his temper in check. “We have been commanded by our President not to negotiate with terrorists. If you decide to sit down to the bargaining table again, let those people go, then we will consider working with you through these issues.”

            “You value your friend so little?”

            Daniel is crumpled at the man’s feet, his body quavers and shakes. Jack chokes back bile as the fear bubbles up that he is watching his friend die.

            “It is because we value his life, all life so much that we do not bargain with terrorists.” Hammond pauses for a minute then in his soft Texan style says, “Now, son, do you want to sit down with us and find a solution or do you want to forget about all we can offer you and just end up with a bunch of dead bodies?”

            Jack doubts that will work but to his surprise this actually stops the terrorist. He considers and then nods, “We will talk. Send your people through.  I will release all of the invaders’ diplomats. They will be held in town with the rest of the invaders. But,” he licks his lips and then continues, “he stays with us. He will be our negotiator.”

            Hammond is about to protest but the man foresee this and adds, “There is no other deal I am willing to offer.  This or he dies.”

            The General takes a deep breath, sighs then nods, “My people will come through in fifteen minutes.”

            The wormhole shuts down. They stand in the shadowed light of the control room. Carter stares out at the Stargate, her expression firm, graceless. She looks like she’s aged a dozen years in the last few hours.

            “What can you tell me, Jack and make it fast.”

            At first no coherent thought formulates in Jack’s brain. Ever gear in his head cranks alive and want to turn on the Black Ops training. He wants to kill, he needs to kill. It does not scare him to feel this way; he’s felt this way before – a dozen or so years ago. This was his life. Now he is a changed man, transformed by his friend, his friend who is dying. But he switches into high gear, filling in the gaps he previously left out to be added to his report later.

            The plans have changed. Originally, they were going to go in with a strike force and now they need something different. They need time; they need to save Daniel.

            “On our way back to the Stargate, there were a ton of these bastards crawling all over the settlement. It was mayhem.” He eyes Carter. She isn’t ready to add her voice yet. Images of Daniel in the dirt, suffering, pop into his head. He puts them away; it is a necessity.  He tells himself it is not because he is cold hearted but because he needs this to work, he needs to focus and concentrate on one thing. Rescue.

            “I want you to take SG3 and SG12 with you.” Hammond turns to the sergeant. “Get Doctor Fraiser, I want her to go as well. Get them ready.”  Walter nods and is off without a sound. “Get ready to move out.”

            “Sir, I’d like to take Teal’c.”

            “Teal’c is still recovering from an injury, Colonel.”

            “Yes sir, but he is still our best fighter any day of the week. I would bet my life on it.”

            His steely determination is set on his face and the General concedes this point. “You have a go. Bring him home, Jack. Bring him home alive.”

           
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            It hasn’t been more than thirty minutes by the time they walk into the room. Jack searches the shadows of the bargaining room, notes the number of armed militants, the type of weapons, the placement of each bastard, the light in the room, the placement of the furniture, the décor.  Anything and everything, he notices, anything and everything that might help him.

            Only Carter, Teal’c and himself are permitted into the room. He argued for Doctor Fraiser but the bastards were adamant. He conceded, but only because he needed to get to Daniel and get this over with as quickly as possible. They’ll need to adjust. He doesn’t know how much time Daniel has, if any.

            Fraiser stays behind, but he knows by her anxious look that she will be right outside the door and would – if necessary – take out the bully guarding the door. She’s that determined and that fierce. He’s glad she’s on their side.

            Though their escort gestures to chairs around the table, they decline. He waits and watches each of the guards. The air prickles and sticks to him like infected slim. He wants to spit, but doesn’t.  He doesn’t know these people, doesn’t know their customs and if Daniel taught him anything it was to be wary of others’ customs and rituals – either of which could get you dead.

            He struggles off the thought and glares at the guards. He figures he can give them the hard-ass Colonel look and they won’t be too insulted, in fact they might be insulted if he doesn’t offer it to them.

            The door at the far end of the room opens. He doesn’t have to wait to get his first glimpse of Daniel. His friend staggers in, leading the natives’ entourage into the simply furnished room.

            Shit. They haven’t even afforded him the luxury of cleaning up. Blood and mud cake his face and the side of his scalp. He looks bone weary as if he has been separated from them for weeks instead of a day. As he closes the gap between them, Jack discerns the path the bullet blazed across his head. Clearly, it grazed him but the jarring event must have caused concussion, contusion or both. A flash of Daniel’s head ricocheting from the bullet’s impact then slamming against the brick wall burns his inner vision. It is a wonder the man is even able to walk at all.

            Even from a short distance, he can see that movement radiates shots of pain through Daniel’s body. He grimaces with each footfall until, mercifully, the bastard holding his arm shoves him into a seat at the table. Daniel drops down, his expression blanking. He hasn’t even acknowledged their presence.

            Carter steps forward without asking permission, but he says nothing. With a furtive glance to the militants around the room, she kneels next to Daniel and touches his arm. “Daniel, Daniel.”

            He blinks once, then twice. Squinting, he looks at her. It takes a moment but recognition shifts over his face. Daniel’s hand reaches for her and she grabs his hand, the tendons tight as she holds him. One of the guards walks over and indicates she should leave.

            Jack doesn’t know who to address. He doesn’t see the smart ass leader he dealt with before. “He needs medical attention.”

            “Maybe that will be an incentive for you,” Smart Ass leader strolls into the room and all Jack can think about is the little piss ant dictators in small South American countries that think being a war lord and killing innocents makes them big dicks. He is certain that they were compensating for other inadequacies and in any other situation he would have made light of it now. But Daniel is sitting before him, filthy and hurting.

            “Sir?” Carter looks up to him and gives him his opening. “I’m not sure he can do this. At the very least, he needs something for the pain.”

            “Listen to her, if you want a fair deal then you need him in better shape.” He wants to seize the guy by the throat and throttle him. He only has his bare hands to kill him with since they brought no obvious weapons with them through the Stargate. He thinks it will be more than enough to get the deed done. “Let us call the Doctor in.”

            Carter stands and with her softest gaze asks, “Please.”

            The leader swaggers over to her and Jack blanches. How much can he endure to get this done? To save Daniel? To save them all?  Carter pinches up her face but with a warning glances tells both Teal’c and Jack to not do anything.  The Smart Ass leader lifts a finger to touch Carter’s cheek. To her credit, Carter never flinches.

            “What will you do? What would you do?”

            Jack knows what he’s asking and it takes all his power to not leap across the table and pummel the idiot. Teal’c goes ridge next to him, the muscles of his body taut. Carter doesn’t move, doesn’t answer – just stares him down. Whatever those eyes told the dick, it works. He stands down.

            “Get the doctor.”

            In seconds, Teal’c ushers Fraiser into the room and she scrabbles to Daniel’s side. It worries him that Daniel has been so silent throughout the exchange. Fraiser and Carter work side by side. He can’t tell what their doing as Fraiser whispers her orders. She cups Daniel’s face in her hand and he closes his eyes, just gently. Jack takes a step back, looks away. The utter despair in Daniel shakes him to the core.

            After Fraiser’s ministrations, the Smart Ass leader gets impatient and forces the proceedings to start. They all sit. Fraiser has cleaned Daniel’s face and head to the best of her ability with the limited tools she has on hand. A bandage swathes his head and an IV drip is taped to his hand. She’s rigged it up to a lamp she dragged from the corner of the room. She sits next to her patient, her eyes wide and searching.

            They sit in silence, staring at one another. The room bubbles with tension. No one speaks. The guards shift from foot to foot. Then a voice breaks the surface, rippling the tension.

            “So, shall we begin?” Daniel says.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Through the muck and fog of pain, he understands what needs to be done, what has to be done. The pain sharpens his focus, brings to light so much more than what he first saw.  He knows this is not about the settlers; he over heard enough to know it is about clans and warfare that had been going on long before they entered this world. He tries to work the mediation with words, but they will not come.  They are clumsy in his mouth and his tongue is thick and slow.

            He looks at Jack and knows he is failing but he never sees it in his friend’s eyes. Concern lives there; he shutters as another bout of pain streaks through his brain. Dizziness waves over him and he braces himself against the table’s edge to stop the spinning of the world.

            He makes a startling statement as Grathen demands weapons to ward off any intruders. “How many other clans are you at war with?”

            Grathen says nothing. He clutches his fists and chews on his split lip. He spits out, “Our internal affairs are none of your business.”

            Jack glowers at Grathen then gives a questioning look at Daniel. He answers the unspoken question, “Grathen’s clan, the O’taten, have been at war with neighboring clans for some time now.” He halts, the ringing of his own voice intensifies the pain.  Janet pats his arm and checks his pulse. “It wasn’t, isn’t about.” He starts again losing his place, “Grathen wants weapons to fight other clans, not the settlers.”

            Grathen growls and yells, “It is our business what we do with the weapons. You only need to know that we will kill all of the settlers and all of you, if you do not give us what we need.”

            “So, you did a little bait and switch maneuver?” Jack says, crossing his arms.  Tipping his chair back, he smiles at Daniel. “Our showing up here was kind of a good thing for you. You took advantage of the situation.”

            Pounding on the table, Grathen responds, “You will give us what we want.” He glares at one of his comrades and the guard steps forward. Before anyone can react, the man seizes Daniel by the collar, pushes Janet away. She stumbles into Grathen but recovers yet does not move away.  The guard presses a knife to Daniel’s throat.

Grathen says, “No more talk, no more negotiation. He dies if you do not give us what we want.”

Jack mets his eyes; there are unspoken words there. Comfort, friendship even regret. Daniel nods to his friend, understanding all, accepting all. With a slight flicker of his gaze to Janet, Jack addresses Grathen, “I guess then, you’ll have to kill him.”

Outrage pours from Grathen; he is stuttering words while gulping for air. “You would, you can’t. What kind of? You must, you must.”

It happens too fast for his addled brain to conceive. Janet spins around and jabs a syringe full of something into Grathen’s arm as Teal’c crosses the room, throws the guard off him and twists the guard’s neck. He hears a sickening pop. As he grapples for purchase, he glimpses Janet throw Jack Grathen’s weapon as the leader drops to his knees then falls unconscious in a heap on the floor.

Both Jack and Teal’c are armed now. Carter runs to Daniel’s side as Janet kneels next to him. They lower him to the floor. Before anyone converges on them, Jack races to Grathen, yanks the limp man up and wraps an arm around his neck.

He aims the gun, Grathen’s gun, at the militants. “Now you deal with me. Now I’m the negotiator.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            Daniel sits up in the bed, the fine cotton of the sheets bristles against his skin. The lights in the room are dim, little noise except for the melodic beep of monitors greets him. He’s hypersensitive to just about everything. The brain injury itself, the gun shot wound that really wasn’t a wound but a graze is healing but the impact injury ~ the contusion~ and concussion will take more time. It could be days, it may be months.

            Janet reassures him the swelling of his brain has receded, the blood decreased. He has already been confined to the bed for more than a week. At least the room isn’t spinning anymore, he thinks and smiles a little.

            “Well that’s nice to see,” Sam walks into the room. Her hands are in her pockets and she is hunching her shoulders. There is a brightness about her that no one else can project.

            He bows his head then allows himself to relax into the cushion of the pillows.

            “Can I get you anything today?”

            “Pie,” he says.

            “You want pie?” She frowns.

            “Yeah, yes.” He considers his request again and nods. “Yes, pie.”

            “Any reason?”

            “I figure getting shot in the head is reason enough.”

            She purses her lips, tilts her head and then says, “Agreed.” Leaning over him, she lightly kisses his forehead. “Be back in five.”

            Before she leaves, he whispers, “Thank you Sam.”

            “Wait until you taste the pie,” she laughs.

            “No,” he answers and turns his head to look at her. It is still hard to move and she knows what it costs him to do so. “For what you did back there, for standing Grathen down.”

            “I’d do it again in a heart beat.”

            Their eyes met and an understanding is formed. She nods again and disappears down the corridor.

            He thinks he’s awake as he waits for her to return but when he blinks his eyes, the pie sits on his bedside table with a little note. He doesn’t touch the note, reading is too painful. Janet assures him it will get better with time. He believes her; he believes in Janet.

            He hears someone clear his throat and without even looking he says, “Hey Jack.”

            “Daniel.”

            “Was it supposed to happen like that? Was Janet always your plan?”

            “Maybe, maybe not.” Jack pushes off from the door frame he is leaning against and comes to sit down next to his bed. He picks up the fork uninvited and scrapes a piece off the pie.  Munching, he nods. “Good stuff.  Not pecan but still good.”

            “You had a back up plan, right?”

            Jack shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not.”

            They haven’t told him the entire resolution, only that the immigrants had agreed to leave. The transfer was nearly complete and the warring clans on 777 had asked for their help to resolve the situation. While it was not the policy of the SGC to get involved in internal affairs of another culture, they were willing to work with the clans to discuss the finer points of negotiation. They had requested Daniel. Jack had ~under no uncertain terms ~ stated no. They countered with a second choice ~ Jack. That was still under negotiation. It still made Daniel smile.

            “Fraiser says you can blow this popsicle stand soon.”

            “She told me once the swelling is down a bit more that she’ll release me.” Daniel pulls at the sheet. He is not ready to face the world just yet. Something deep inside him hurts like he has been betrayed. He realizes Jack worries over him, worries that Daniel blames him. He doesn’t. He blames himself. He was overly confident, didn’t assess the situation, didn’t read it right from the start. Lost in himself, he sighs.

            “Hey,” Jack says.

            “Hey yourself.”

            “You’ll stay with me,” Jack murmurs. “Fraiser doesn’t want you alone.”

            “I know.” He looks down at his hands lying in his lap. He still has some slight numbness due to the contusion but it is decreasing, every day it was getting better. How come he still feels lost?

            A rough hand covers his and a quick squeeze solidifies him. Looking up, he meets Jacks gaze. “Daniel, whatever it took we were willing to do it, to get you back.”

            He pauses a moment before he answers, “I know Jack, I know. That’s what scares me.”

            “Why?”

            “Teal’c came back with a wound to help me. Sam, she nearly had to.” Even now he cannot say the words. “She was willing if she had to. And you Jack, you went Black Ops and I know how you hate that, don’t want to be that anymore.”

            “Yeah a kinder, gentler colonel,” he says with disdain.

            “It isn’t funny.”

            Jack stands from his chair and stares him straight in the eye. “No, it isn’t funny Daniel. It’s what we do, for each other, for our team, for our family. You understand now?”

            The hardened look on Jack’s face paradoxically calms him, sets him to rights again. Family. He nods as he teases out a thread from the blanket on his lap.

            “You gonna eat that pie or what?” Jack asks after a moment’s comfortable silence.

            Daniel only laughs.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            Teal’c stands by the infirmary door, observing O’Neill and Daniel Jackson. Their camaraderie is easy and fluid. They match each other and challenge each other all at once. It is good they have one another, they balance each other.

            He feels a presence next to his elbow and he looks down to see Doctor Fraiser watching him. She gives him her softest smile and he appreciates it.

            “You can go in. Daniel is much better today.”

            “I will afford O’Neill and Daniel Jackson some time before I will visit.”  Teal’c turns his attention to the petite doctor. “He will make a full recovery?”

            “I believe so. The CT scans are looking better and better. While the gun shot caused a concussion, the impact with the brick wall caused the contusion, bruising the brain at both the site of impact and the opposite hemisphere as his brain hit the inside of his skull.” She glances at Daniel Jackson and then turns back to him. “It’s a wonder he was able to talk and walk. The contusion was rated moderate instead of severe because of that. He is making a remarkable recovery and given time, he will with a lot of help make a full recovery.”

            Teal’c reverts his attention to the doctor and states, “He would not have had this chance had it not been for your bravery.”

            As she peers up at him, he recognizes an admiration in her features. He does not speak his mind often but now he must. “I believe we would have failed had it not been for your quick action.”

            “I was fairly certain Colonel O’Neill wanted me to be ready to act. The rest well.” She lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug. “Well we all did our part.”

            He bows to her. “Indeed.”

            She stops a moment before she continues, “Teal’c would you like to go and get some breakfast, I’m famished. I think I could eat a horse.”

            He lifts a brow and says, “I would be honored to accompany you. I do not believe though that you could eat a horse.”

            She scoffs. “You’d be surprised.”

            He lends her his elbow and Doctor Fraiser takes his arm. They begin to walk toward the mess. “There are times that I believe O’Neill is frightened of you, Doctor Fraiser.”

            She bits back a grin and says, “That’s just a ruse, Teal’c, a show ~ but don’t tell him.”

            “I will not.”

            They get onto the elevator and as it starts its steady drop, he murmurs, “There are times, Doctor Fraiser, you frighten me.”

            And at that, she just laughs.
THE END

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