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He Ain't Heavy

By Mara_DragonMaster

Adventure

He Ain't Heavy

There was a buzzing sound, and something was tapping his face. Jack frowned and waved his hand, trying to smack it away. It grew more insistent, and the buzzing began to mumble at him, forming partial words.

"–ack...up, ple...?–ome on...rise an...ine...on, Jack. Open your eyes!"

Jack squinted, the light far too bright for his comfort. Daniel's face came into focus, looking down at him, his blue eyes instantly switching from worry to relief. He smiled tightly. "About time. How are you feeling?"

"Like I've got two nails in my head called 'eyes.'" Jack rasped, his tongue thick. He tried rolling it in his mouth to no avail. "Water?"

"Yeah. Yeah," Daniel reached behind him, then Jack's head was carefully lifted and the cool rim of a canteen was pressed to his lips. He drank gratefully, sighing as he leaned back.

"Thanks."

"Sure."

Jack squinted at the archaeologist as he put the canteen away. He looked strained, blood and dirt on his face. He seemed to be moving easily enough, but his jacket and shirt– they were the wrong color– "Crap, Daniel!" Jack tried to push himself up, grimacing as pain suddenly flared up. He instantly stilled. "What happened?"

"What?" Daniel followed the colonel's gaze to his blood soaked jacket and shirt. "Oh–" he said, his voice going flat. "It's not mine."

Before Jack could ask any more questions Daniel began to put things back in his pack. "You got hit in the back. I took care of it while you were unconscious, but–you twisted your knee when you fell–"

"Where's your glasses?"

Daniel paused, hands still clutching his pack. Jack couldn't read his expression: pensive? Guarded? Maybe ill? What on earth had happened back there? "I lost them when– when this," Daniel gestured vaguely at his shirt. "happened."

Jack looked hard at him, noticing how pale he was. "What did happen?" he asked quietly.

At first Daniel didn't answer, roughly closing the pack. "Nothing." he said, and finally looked at Jack, his mouth curving in a small, tense smile. "We got away." He slung the pack and the guns over his shoulder. "But we have to move. We need to make it back to the Stargate." he licked his lips. "Can you walk?"

Jack nodded, setting his jaw. "Yeah."


'Actually, walking was probably not one of your better ideas.' Jack thought to himself, gritting his teeth as they moved through the trees. His back was hurting like crazy, and his knee was threatening to buckle on him. The only thing that kept him going was the solid form supporting him and the strong arm wrapped around his waist. Risking a glance at his companion he noted with some concern the tense, grim set to Daniel's jaw and the fine sheen of perspiration on his face. It was humid, however, and he was loaded with their packs, guns, his heavy SGC jacket, and Jack. That and they'd been walking for at least an hour– maybe more– through scratchy, dense undergrowth. Jack set his jaw and focused on moving his legs, trying to take some of his weight off of Daniel. The archaeologist had enough to carry.

Things began to blur together, until all Jack was aware of was the occasional insect buzzing near his ear and the steady chant he kept going in his head: right leg, left leg, right leg, left leg. As long as he kept moving, he would be okay. Right leg, left leg, right… left…

Suddenly his foot caught on a stone or a tree root, and he went sprawling. There was a loud grunt as something wrapped tightly around his chest, and there was the sensation of missing the ground by a mere few inches. Pain flared through his knee and across his back, stealing his breath from him. He was barely aware of his surroundings, it vaguely registering that his feet were dragging across the ground, and there was an odd, labored gasping sound above him. Then the air suddenly got cooler, and the ground was rising to meet him again. Desperately Jack tried to gain his feet, arms flailing wildly. His elbow connected with something solid and he heard a pained grunt, and the bands across his chest tightened.

"Jack, stop it!" A voice rasped in his ear, its tone desperate. "Stop struggling!"

Daniel. Jack instantly relaxed, recognizing the bands to be arms, and he realized they were under a rocky outcropping. "I have to put you down," Daniel gasped in his ear, his breath hot. "I'm sorry– I have to put you down– I'm so tired–"

Jack didn't fight as he was lowered to the ground, trying to help by taking some of his weight once his hands touched dirt. Once down there was a thud beside him, accompanied by harsh panting. He cracked open his eyes. Daniel sat on the ground in a collapsed heap, chest heaving, eyes tightly shut. His face was white, and Jack could see the tremors running through him. Jack also noticed that the sun had set. It was night.

"Daniel," he muttered, readjusting onto his side. "You didn't drag me all afternoon, did you?"

Daniel's eyes opened, and his mouth parted to answer when he suddenly went grey.

"Whoa!" Jack exclaimed as the blue eyes shut instantly with a moan. He reached out a hand and grasped a knee. "Breathe, Danny. You okay?"

Lowering his head Daniel didn't move for several minutes, breathing carefully, and finally the sickly pallor left his face. When Jack quietly repeated his question he nodded slightly. "I will be." he rasped. "Just– got so tired–"

"Okay," Jack said gently. "Okay. Just breathe for a minute. Then drink some water and rest a bit, alright?"

Daniel nodded vaguely, pushing back until he was leaning against the rock wall. Jack watched him, his forehead creasing with concern. He didn't like the way Daniel was shaking, or the color of his face. His frown deepened when the younger man moved his right arm and winced, pulling it close and holding it. "You okay?" Jack whispered.

"What?" Daniel cracked open one eye, squinting. "Yeah– yeah, I'm– I'll be fine. Just pushed myself too far."

"You dragged two hundred pounds in the blistering heat for over four or five hours." Jack retorted. "With an arm that's obviously not alright."

Daniel closed his eye. "It's just strained. Pulled a muscle during the fight. I'm fine."

Jack squinted again, noticing a splotch of dark, mottled colors appearing on Daniel's jaw. "What's that?" he asked, just as he remembered his elbow connecting with something earlier. He flinched. "Sorry."

Daniel waved his hand wearily.

"Drink some water, Daniel."

At first Jack wasn't sure he had heard. Then Daniel moved, very slowly, twisting the cap off with obvious effort. When he had drank he crawled across the ground to Jack's side. "Your turn." he rasped. Slipping one hand under Jack's head he pressed the rim of the canteen to his mouth. After Jack had drank a few decent sized mouthfuls he waved it away. "Enough," he said. "We have to save what's left."

Daniel reluctantly put it away, then sat staring at Jack with shadowed eyes. "They're looking for us." he said.

Jack closed his eyes, pressing his fingers to them. "How many?"

"I don't know. I haven't heard them for a while, though." Daniel rubbed his face, smearing the dirt. "We should keep watch. I'll take first."

"No; Daniel, you're exhausted." Jack protested firmly, ignoring the pull of sleep. "I'll take first. Get some rest."

"Jack, I'm not injured." Daniel smiled slightly. "I'll take first. I promise I'll wake you in a little while. Okay?"

Jack started to argue again, but his hurt body began to succumb to sleep's call against his wishes, so he grudgingly agreed. "Fine. But you will wake me up and then get some sleep yourself."

"I will." Daniel opened one of the packs and pulled out one blanket, wrapping it around the colonel, then took the other and bundled it beneath Jack's head as a pillow. Within moments Jack was asleep.


His head was buzzing. Jack groaned, turning his head, trying to ignore it, trying to return to the sweet ignorance of sleep, but the buzzing grew, the floor beginning to tilt under him. Cracking open his eyes he blinked, moving his tongue in his mouth. Water. He needed water, just a mouthful. Carefully looking around he realized Daniel and the canteen were both gone.

"Daniel?" Crap. Was that hoarse croaking noise really his voice? There was no answer. Gritting his teeth Jack pushed himself onto his side and up on his elbow. Waiting a moment for the pain to dissipate he looked around. No Daniel. 'Must be out scouting the area.' Jack reassured himself. 'If the Jaffa had come there'd be signs of a fight, and I'd be dead.'

Hearing crackling in the brush, Jack twisted his body and tried to stand. A harsh wave of pain and dizziness rolled over him with the movement and he fell, sprawled on the ground, gasping. Desperately he tried to pull himself together, tried to think past the pain in his knee and his back and focus on getting a breath of air.

After what seemed like an eternity he began to return to his senses, and he became aware of a voice, and the sensation of being touched, rolled onto his side–

"Jack, I'm so sorry! I'm sorry– I went out to search the area, find some water– I didn't mean to be gone so long– I'm sorry!"

He felt a strong arm pull him up slowly into a sitting position. Jack clenched his teeth, trying not to focus on the movement, when suddenly something cool pushed against his mouth.

"Come on, Jack. Take a drink."

Finding it to be the canteen Jack opened his mouth, drinking greedily before he remembered that they only had one canteen. Then he stopped, pushing it away. "Enough." he croaked. "Thanks."

There was a click as the cap was replaced, and then something tightened around his chest. His brain still feeling sluggish Jack weakly lifted his hand and touched it, and realized that it was one of Daniel's arms. In that same moment he also realized that he was being held against something soft and warm.

"Um– Daniel–" He suddenly became aware of harsh shivers running through the other man's body. He touched one of the hands holding him. "You're freezing!" he rasped.

"It– get's cold here at night." Daniel chattered. His cheek was like ice against Jack's ear. The colonel, moving carefully, pulled his blanket around them both. "I found– a stream not too far from here, filled the– canteen." Daniel's arms tightened for a moment as a shudder ran through him. "On my way back– got cut off by a group of Jaffa soldiers– had to lie in some bushes– 'bout forty-five minutes to an hour before they left." he shuddered again, hissing.

"Crap, Daniel." Jack muttered sympathetically.

"I'm sorry– I didn't mean to leave you so long. I thought– I'd be back– before you woke up–"

"Quiet, Daniel." Jack rasped. He patted a trembling arm. "It's okay. You did good." He felt Daniel's chin drop onto his shoulder wearily.

"There are so many," Daniel's voice dropped an octave, betraying his exhaustion. "So many– and they're all between us and the Stargate–"

"Hey, we'll be okay." Jack whispered. "Right now let's just get through tonight. One step at a time, okay?"

There was the vaguest of nods against his shoulder, then the movement stilled, and Daniel's breathing evened out. Jack let himself smile slightly, tucking the blanket closer around them both, moving carefully. Daniel stirred and moaned, but he did not wake up. Jack settled back, staring out at the twinkling night sky, and began to recite some of his favorite songs in his head. Daniel had been going at full speed for almost– he checked his watch– nine hours, and that was not counting the nine hours he'd been awake before that. Jack could stay awake for a little while; as long as his sleeping friend needed.


A loud crack and explosion roughly snatched Jack from his dream. Hand closing on Daniel's gun he looked around, expecting to see a hoard of Jaffa soldiers surrounding them. They were alone. Another rumbling drew his attention outside, and he realized it was raining, falling down in heavy sheets.

"It's been raining like that for about thirty minutes." a hoarse voice said quietly in his ear. Jack turned his head.

"How long you been up?" he asked, chagrined that he had fallen asleep on his self-imposed watch.

Daniel leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes wearily. "About thirty minutes. I heard something and thought it was rocks moving– that we'd been found– but it was just the rain." He opened one eye, his mouth twitching. "Don't worry. You were only just starting to snore– you weren't asleep that long."

Blinking the last shreds of sleep from his eyes Jack shot him a mock glare and checked his watch. "Daniel, you only got four hours. Why don't you try and sleep some more."

"Eager to be rid of my company so soon, huh?"

"Come on. I doubt anyone will be out chasing us in this–"

Daniel suddenly stiffened. Frowning, Jack was about to ask what was wrong, but then he saw that Daniel was staring intently at something outside on the slope, and he looked. At first he couldn't see anything. Then there was movement between some trees.

Carefully shifting Jack off of himself and against the wall, Daniel picked up one of the rifles and slowly slid across the floor. Jack watched as the archaeologist set himself up under the outcropping and brought the rifle up, setting it against his shoulder and steadying it against the lip of a rock like a professional. Blue eyes narrowed, focusing, taking aim through the gun sight. Then he didn't move. Jack watched and waited, unknowingly holding his breath. For what seemed like an eternity there was silence, neither one moving a muscle.

The sky flashed, and a moment later, as the heavy thundering filled the air, there was a loud crack, and one of the two Jaffa fell. The other, creeping up the slope away from his companion, did not notice. Again there was silence, again no movement. Then there was another flash, another roll of thunder, another echoing crack. The second Jaffa fell.

Resisting the urge to give a 'whoop' of triumph, Jack satisfied himself with a quick grin. Daniel had learned better than he had thought. After waiting several minutes, finally satisfied that there were no more, Daniel made his way back. Jack's elation fell when he saw the tight frown and grim set of the mouth. He knew Daniel did not like guns and killing. As Daniel set the gun down and started rummaging through his pack Jack set a hand on his arm.

"Hey."

Daniel hesitantly raised his head. For a moment they looked at each other, and Jack, not knowing what to say, hoped Daniel would understand. He must have, because one corner of his mouth lifted slightly, and a little of the tenseness left his eyes.

"We should move." he said quietly, returning to his pack.

Jack nodded. More would be coming. His nose suddenly wrinkled as Daniel shoved a protein bar into his hand. "Try to eat it, Jack." he said, noticing the colonel's face. "We haven't had anything since yesterday."

"I am going to eat it," Jack muttered as his stomach growled. "I just wish they'd make them taste good, is all."

Daniel's mouth twitched, and he quickly turned his head, pulling a second bar from the pack. In silence the two men ate, in the end rinsing it down with some water. Then the blankets were gathered, folded, and returned to the packs, and those Daniel put over his shoulder with the guns.

Leaning on Daniel as they made their way to the edge of the outcropping, Jack looked around in distaste. "Lovely weather." he commented dryly.

"Look at it this way." Daniel said as they stepped out into the downpour. "The rain will wash away our tracks."

"Right," Jack muttered. "I'll remember that when I try to ring out my underwear."


If there was one thing Colonel O'Neil hated, it was trekking through monsoon-like rain on an alien planet, with mud that came up to his ankles. Not that it was much better on this planet when the sun came out, but at least you weren't drowning. You were just– baking. Okay, so maybe sun wasn't a better option– how about no rain, no sun, just a cloudy sky. There; that sounded appealing. No drowning, no baking. Jack grunted as they fell, again, slipping and sliding in the mud. He ignored the consistent burn he felt in his back, flaring up every time they fell, and tried to ignore the ache in his knee. Conversation; that's what he needed. He and Daniel hadn't said a word since they'd started traveling again, and the silence– broken by the rain and thunder– was starting to aggravate him.

"So," he grunted, hopping a bit as his knee twinged again. "What exactly happened after I was 'staffed down?'"

Daniel glanced at him quickly, then kept his gaze firmly ahead. "I told you: we got away."

"Yeah, I heard that part. How?"

For a moment there was no answer, and Jack waited patiently.

"I killed them."

Jack glanced at his companion, waiting.

"After you got shot– I knocked my Jaffa away and got yours with my gun before the second Jaffa attacked again. He– we rolled around in the dirt, fighting for the knife he pulled, and– this– happened."

Jack looked just in time to see Daniel vaguely gesture at his stained shirt.

"He was above me. When I knifed him."

That explained the state of his jacket. Jack pressed his lips together in a thin line. "Then?" he prodded gently when the silence continued.

Daniel shrugged, and readjusted Jack's arm over his shoulders. "Then I grabbed you and got us the heck out of there."

Jack nodded. "I'm sorry." he said quietly.

Daniel nodded slightly. "Yeah."

Another pause in the conversation. Jack sniffed and looked up. "Seems like the rain is letting up." he said hopefully.

"Thank goodness." Daniel muttered, slipping again.

"Come on, Daniel, look at it this way." Jack quipped. "The rain has washed away our tracks."

Sneaking a sly glance Jack was rewarded with a small grin and a barely discernible shake of the head. Suddenly his knee gave out on him again and Jack stumbled, pulling Daniel down with him. As they struggled back to their feet– most graciously, Jack thought– he wiped a hand across his face, and merely succeeded in smearing more mud over his cheek.

"Heck, even if they could track us," he muttered. "They'd never find us. We'd just lay down and make like a pile of mud."

"See, I knew there was a reason I liked you," Daniel grunted, leading them to some slightly drier ground. "You always see the bright side of things."

"Yep, that's me; Mr. Positive." Jack glanced up at the sky, squinting, then resumed his attempt to remain upright. "What happened to Sam and Teal'c?" he asked, his voice lowering.

Daniel's voice sounded strained. "After you went down and– you know– happened, Sam radioed back and said they'd made it to the gate and they were going to bring back reinforcements."

"Oh good. Ow!" Jack's exclamation cut short as he bit back some choice words. "Son of a–"

"Knee again?"

"Yeah– wrenched my back that time, too–"

Daniel stopped and helped Jack down. "Let's take a break," he suggested. "Have some water, rewrap your knee–"

Daniel's tone was light, but Jack knew the archaeologist needed the rest as much as he did. Jack squinted, surveying the surrounding area. He heard Daniel moving behind him, the canteen being opened, some rustling in a pack. The rain had stopped completely, and the clouds, their mission of drowning the world obviously completed, began to disappear. Jack blinked in the sudden sunlight.

"Here." The canteen bumped his arm, and Jack took it absently. "How's your back?"

"Fine," Jack said, swallowing a mouthful of water. "Complaining like heck, but fine."

Daniel nodded, crouching in front of Jack, an open pack clutched in his hands. Setting it down beside him, he gingerly reached out one hand and fingered the offending knee. Jack's eyes darkened, but he didn't make a sound, busying himself with drinking more water.

"It's really swollen," Daniel muttered, pulling out a roll of bandages. "Might have a torn ligament– but I don't know."

"Just wrap it up good and tight." Jack hissed, clutching the canteen.

Daniel muttered an apology, and Jack waved a hand impatiently.

"So," Daniel said as he tied the end of the bandage, securing it in place. "Any theories on why Jaffa soldiers would be interested in this place?"

"Naquada." Jack let out the breath he'd been holding, thankful his knee was done.

Daniel's eyebrows scrunched together in a frown. "Naquada? Here?"

Jack nodded, propping himself on his elbows. "Right before the big guys attacked Sam radioed in. She and Teal'c had found an abandoned Naquada mine."

Daniel sat back, wearily resting his arms on his knees. "Figures," he said.

"What does?"

"That both the Jaffa and us would visit the same planet at the same time."

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "Ironic, huh?"

Suddenly there was a small explosion, and mud sprayed them. Falling backwards Jack exclaimed a choice phrase, grabbing one of their guns. Spraying the area in front of him with fire he heard Daniel doing the same behind him. The Jaffa fell, sparks flying from their chestplates where the bullets hit them. They could hear the shouts of a second wave of soldiers.

"Okay, Daniel, let's move!" Jack announced. Daniel was already a step ahead of him, pulling Jack to his feet. They took off into the trees– leaving their packs behind– and none too soon, as more Jaffa arrived.

Jack gasped, forcing his legs to move, his knee screaming at him with every step. Suddenly Daniel jerked to the side, taking him along, and they landed with a thud on the ground. Jack clenched his teeth, clutching his leg, back throbbing. They were behind a large tree, and Daniel had his back against it, gun raised. They listened as the Jaffa drew closer, shouting to one another in their foreign language. Just when it seemed they were about to be discovered Daniel spun out from behind the tree, fire spitting from the end of his gun. For a minute all Jack could hear was the deafening sound of gunfire and explosions and screams. Then all went eerily silent. Hesitantly Jack peeked around the tree.

"You get 'em all?" he whispered.

"Yeah." Daniel lowered the gun, then, one-handed, grabbed Jack's arm and hauled them both to their feet. The colonel's arm over his shoulders, they resumed their flight through the trees– at a slightly slower pace– afraid that more Jaffa were not far behind. Especially with all the racket they had just made.

After a while Jack found himself wishing the rain would come back. As much as he hated wet underwear and mud, it was preferable to sweaty underwear and broiling heat. That and his knee and back were throbbing, the pain growing with every step. Still he forced his legs to keep moving, knowing they couldn't be much further from the Stargate.

The minutes– or hours– dragged on, and suddenly Jack realized that his brain no longer seemed to be functioning, and that he had been stumbling every third step for quite a while, his knee threatening to mutiny. Black fringed his vision, heat making him feel like his hands and feet and head were swelling. He felt a hard band around his waist, tightening every time he slipped, holding him up. Panting Jack licked his lips and tasted moisture and salt. He thought he remembered drinking some water at some point, and he knew they didn't have much left, so he resisted the urge to ask for more and focused on moving. 'There's plenty of water back on base.' he told himself.

The next thing he knew the ground was rushing towards him, and his vision went black.

When Jack once again returned to the real world he was confused. There was the sense of being suspended in the air, and yet he was somehow still moving, bouncing slightly yet held in one place. He kept his eyes closed, letting his over-heated, sluggish mind catch up. He had been walking, leaning on Daniel. He had gotten tired, and then way too hot as the sun rose– he remembered his vision going black, his knees hitting the ground– then nothing. Suddenly whatever was under him jerked, stumbling, and there was a clenched grunt. Aware once more of his surroundings Jack cracked his eyes open. He was draped over Daniel's shoulders. Jack frowned, then groaned when the younger man stumbled again; he could feel the body beneath him shivering slightly with exhaustion.

"Jack?" Their momentum slowed, and Jack felt himself sliding down, hands grasping his jacket, until he lay on his back. A flushed, sweaty face appeared above him. "You awake?"

"I'd better be awake and not dreaming," Jack croaked. "Otherwise I'd better be seeing my wife Sara instead of you."

"Why?"

"She's a heck of a lot prettier."

There was a hoarse chuckle, then the sound of the canteen being being opened reached Jack's ears. "Here; drink a little."

The water was warm, but it slid down his throat in that beautiful way that only water could. After a few mouthfuls Daniel pulled it away. "Sorry, but there's only enough left for one more stop later on."

"Didn't you drink any?" Jack frowned up at him.

Daniel replace the cap. "Earlier. You were still out of it."

Jack nodded, then closed his eyes. "How long?" he whispered.

"How long what?"

"How long was I out, how long till we reach the gate–"

There was a slow breath. "About– about three hours," Daniel said slowly. "And, providing we don't meet any more Jaffa, probably another four or five."

Jack rubbed his eyes with his fingers, shielding them from the overly bright sun. "Okay." he finally said, trying to ignore the heavy ache in the many injured parts of his body. "Give me one more second and I'll be ready to start walking again."

An almost silent snort reached his ears. "Jack, your knee kept collapsing on you earlier."

"Your point being?" Jack waved irritably at an insect buzzing in his face.

"You can't walk. And if you force yourself you'll damage it more, probably permanently."

Squinting, Jack glared up at him. "And you think you can carry me another four to five hours in this heat?"

"I'll do my best." Daniel wiped a dirty hand across his face. "I'll take breaks, okay?" he said when Jack started to protest.

Eyes narrowed, Jack clamped his mouth shut. Normally he would get into one of their famous Jack-and-Daniel arguments, but he saw the deceivingly quiet set to Daniel's jaw, and he recognized that right now was not the time to let his pride rear its ugly head.

As usual he didn't have to say anything. Daniel saw the look in his eyes, and immediately crouched, bending low to once again haul Jack onto his shoulders. Biting back a groan as his back protested– screamed and cursed, actually– Jack tried to help as best he could, and tried not to notice the trembling of Daniel's legs as he stood, once more, under Jack's weight.

As before time quickly lost all meaning. The ground, the only thing Jack could easily see, became a blur of dirt, rocks, and grass. Strange, haunting bird calls sounded around them every once in a while, interrupting the steady rhythm of labored breaths. As the sun beat down on them Jack began to drift away, lulled by the motion of Daniel beneath him and the fever of his injuries.

At some point Daniel woke him, urging him to drink more water, and he did so, not realizing in his half-conscious state that he was drinking the last they had. Jack felt Daniel pick him up, laying across his friend's shoulders like a yoke, and then he drifted off to sleep once more.

How long he remained asleep Jack didn't know, but he was suddenly pulled from a sweet dream of pizza and hockey games by a change in his partner. The soldier in him recognized it, the split second pause, the tense coiling of muscles. Daniel let go of Jack's arm, which he had pulled across his shoulder, and raised his gun. Without warning he sprang forward, the earth exploding where they had been, and then they were surrounded by angry voices and showers of sparks. Seeing a handgun tucked in Daniel's waist band Jack grabbed it. It was just in time, a Jaffa coming at them from behind. A moment later he was down, and Jack was silently saluting himself.

Daniel, meanwhile, had laid down a barrage of fire. The moment there was a reprieve he took off, running as fast as he could. Jack gave up trying to brace himself and went limp, bumping against the sweat-soaked back as Daniel's legs pumped beneath them, his breathing quickly becoming erratic and dangerously labored. Jack gritted his teeth, praying they would make it to the gate as more blasts erupted around them. Daniel spun around, gun blaring, sweeping it in a long arc as he turned. Then they were running again.

Jack suddenly became aware of the trees thinning, and then they disappeared altogether. They had reached the clearing! His crow of triumph changed to grunt as Daniel stumbled, falling to one knee. He pushed off again, his legs shaking beneath them. Shouts came from the trees and he picked up speed. Jack kept his eye on the treeline, trying to ignore the worry that was growing as he listened to Daniel's painful breathing and felt the adrenaline rushing through him. Then he saw the first of the Jaffa appear out of the trees, and raised his gun, preparing to shoot.

Daniel's abrupt stop threw him forward– or backward, he supposed– knocking his chin hard into Daniel's back. "Ow," he complained, testing the now-bleeding inside of his cheek. The sound of the chevrons coming to life quickly distracted him, and he returned his attention to the Jaffa soldiers making their way towards them. They were too far away for anyone to take a shot, but that would change in a few seconds.

"Daniel, hurry it up!" Jack shouted above the noise of the gate.

One of the closest Jaffa raised his staff weapon, getting off two shots before Jack was able to take him down. As more soldiers came closer he began shooting again, but there were more Jaffa than he could handle on his own.

"Daniel!!"

The Stargate roared to life, its blue wave one of the most beautiful things Jack had ever seen. Before the wave had retracted Daniel turned around, gun blazing, mowing down the first and second line of Jaffa. Then he turned and ran.

"You send our signal?" Jack shouted, the closed iris suddenly coming to mind.

No words, just a nod he felt against his side.

Time suddenly slowed down. Jack shot randomly, unable to aim as he bounced up and down, praying that some of his bullets actually hit something, and Daniel kept running, finally reaching the steps and taking them two at a time. The Jaffa were shooting again, many of their shots coming dangerously close. They reached the Stargate. Daniel pushed off. Several staff blasts came way too close– there was a pained yell–

The next few seconds were a crazy blur, and then they were falling onto something hard and cold, and there was a loud grating sound behind them as the iris closed.

Jack lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, unblinking. Not that he was in shock; it just seemed like a good thing to do at the moment– no movement– no hot sun– no staff weapons– pure bliss. Until he heard a strange rasping sound, like something dragging, and then felt a hand clamp onto his shoulder.

"Jack?"

Who was that?

"Jack?"

Daniel. Daniel's voice. Good grief, was that hoarse, sandpaper sound Daniel's voice?

"Jack!"

"I'm here;" Jack monotoned. "I think." He looked down at himself to be sure. "Yep, I'm here."

There was a harsh cough. "You okay?"

Jack looked up, and found himself staring into a face he barely recognized. Daniel looked like he had rolled around in mud and then in a patch of thorns, sweat rolling down his face– which was white as a sheet.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Which surprised him, considering.

The tenseness drained from Daniel's features, and he nodded slightly. Eyes closing wearily he laid his head down, his grip on Jack's shoulder loosening.

Correction: his hand went completely limp.

"Daniel?" Silence. Frowning Jack reached up and touched Daniel's hair. "Daniel?" There was no response. Jack pushed a little, turning Daniel's head slightly and bringing his face into view. "Crap!"

"Colonel O'Neil?"

"Crap!"

"Colonel O'Neil, are you alright?"

"Yes– no– forget me, Janet, I just need a bandaid. Check Daniel!"

The petite brunette bent over the motionless form, brow knotting in concern as she checked vitals. "Bring stretchers!" she called, motioning to the orderlies.

"What?" Jack pushed himself onto his elbows, ignoring the pain that movement caused. "What's wrong with him?"

"I need to examine him more in the infirmary, but he's bleeding pretty bad."

Jack pushed the nurses away as they bent over him.

"Looks like he got hit by a staff blast in the leg." Janet said as Daniel was picked up and set on a stretcher. "Back of his right thigh."

"And I sense an 'and' or 'but?'" Jack pushed the nurses away again, smacking at their hands.

Janet shoved her hands in the pockets of her white coat. "Well, it looks like there's some other contributing factors to his collapse– that leg wound wasn't bad enough to cause him to lose consciousness that quickly–"

"Well, don't stand there, go find out what else is wrong with him and fix it so I can kill him!"

"Colonel O'Neil…"

"Carrying me for hours and hours in that heat… leave me alone and put that needle away!… the little–"

"Colonel, if you don't stop and let my nurses take care of you I will sedate you!"

Jack snapped his mouth shut, though Janet could tell from his eyes that his verbal rampage against the archaeologist was still going on in his head.


Jack sipped at his water, relishing the cool air and the softness of his bed. After thoroughly examining him Janet had been pleased to announce he did not need surgery– on his back or his knee. Just a soft cast and a really big bandaid. And lots of water and rest.

Daniel lay in a neighboring hospital bed, still sleeping. Janet had just finished with him and was checking his I.V.

"So?"

Janet turned at Jack's question, smiled, finished checking Daniel's I.V., and came over. "Well," she said, hands in her coat pockets. "The staff wound is not as bad as I thought; all that was needed was a good cleaning and a bandage. But he was ever so slightly dehydrated and suffering from exhaustion, and he'll be wearing a sling for a while."

Jack frowned. "Why– Oh, right." he said, remembering the night before. "Pulled shoulder muscle."

"Actually, dislocated shoulder." Janet corrected. "He'd apparently set it himself, but it's going to be sore for a while."

Jack nodded, glancing at his sleeping neighbor. "So he's going to be alright?"

Janet nodded with a smile. "Lots of sleep and a little while longer on the I.V. and he'll be just fine."

"Janet…?"

The doctor turned towards the hoarse whisper, hurrying over to the bed. "Welcome back, Dr. Jackson." she said. "How are you feeling?"

Jack craned his head and saw Daniel stir slightly, eyes barely open. "Jack?"

"He's fine." Janet touched his forehead with the back of her hand, checking his temperature. "He's awake in the next bed."

Daniel nodded faintly, and then his eyes closed. He looked completely drained. "I'm so tired…"

"Well, duh!" Jack butted in. "You dragged my butt through searing heat for two days and hardly drinking any water– which you LIED to me about, by the way– of course you're tired! And it serves you right!"

The eyes didn't open, but small smile crossed his face. "Hi, Jack."

"'Hi' back, you–"

"Okay, Colonel, I think that's enough scolding for today." Janet announced, her eyes twinkling despite the warning in her tone. "Now I want both of you to get some sleep, okay? I mean it!" she shot a stern glare in Jack's direction.

Jack lifted his hand in a sharp salute.

Once the clicking of her shoes had faded, Jack turned back to his companion. Daniel opened his eyes. "So." Jack said.

Daniel looked at him. "So,"

"Sam and Teal'c were here earlier," Jack said, settling back into his pillow. "Janet had to threaten them both with an early physical to get them to leave."

There was a chuckle. "Sounds normal." A moment of silence stretched between them. "Hey, did Sam say where our reinforcements were the last two days?"

"Yeah– apparently every time they sent a probe through it got shot to pieces by enemy fire, so it was deemed 'too hazardous to attempt a rescue mission.'" Jack said. "According to Sam she and Teal'c were about to go back on their own when we popped through."

There was a faint nod, then slow, even breathing. Jack lifted his head. "Daniel?"

"Hmm…"

"You asleep?"

"Hmm…"

"Okay. Just checking."

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