Jmas Fan Fiction

 

Title: Architects of Fate
Date: June 28, 2003
Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: drama
Rating: PG13 - language
Pairing: None, ever
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net
Author website: www.ancientsgate.com
Archive: Stargate Fan, Heliopolis, Belle, Place of Our Legacy, Comfort Zone, Alpha Gate
Spoilers: seasons 1 through 7
Summary: A disaster gives all of SG1 pause to contemplate the nature of friendship, family and team
Author's note: Special thanks to Tiv, Lore, and Rowan for help with matters medical, military and grammatical. To Pho for the original notion and the tidbit of information concerning fault lines and Cheyenne Mountain - and the kind permission to run with it. This is a definite what if, unlikely to ever happen but interesting to play with.
Warnings: season seven spoilers up to and including Orpheus, retrospective mention of Daniel’s ascension
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of
Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other
characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the
names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA
Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret
Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not
intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for
entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are
the sole property of the author.


Architects of Fate

By Jmas

Once unyielding stone walls shifted like sand all around them.

They ran… kept running….

Couldn’t stop, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe…

Then there was only darkness.

“Shit…”

Jack woke up coughing, the dust in his mouth and nose refusing to dislodge, refusing to just let him breathe. Moving around carefully, Jack tried to sit up, testing the multitude of aches and pains all over his body for anything more serious than bruises. Jack managed to get himself upright, mindful of the jagged debris he could feel all around him. As his body rose, he could feel dirt and bigger bits of something running down his shirt, stopped in their descent only by the shirt tucked into the waistband of his jeans.

What the hell had happened?

He’d come on base early, cleared through the checkpoints and met with Daniel on level twenty three for morning coffee and breakfast before their scheduled briefing. It was a habit they’d fallen back into all too easily since Daniel’s return from the higher plane, a habit Jack had missed terribly even as he tried to cover its re-emergence with his usual gruff pretense that Daniel needed a keeper. Daniel let him get away with it, just like always, but Jack knew his friend saw through the ruse for exactly what it was. The small somewhat perplexed smiles Daniel wore occasionally when he thought Jack wasn’t looking spoke volumes.

They’d been heading to the locker room when the first rumbling vibrated through the floor. They’d both thought it was the stargate, Jack had even remarked that the dampeners must be off-line before the rumbling had graduated to full out shaking, building to the point where they both realized the gate wasn’t shaking the mountain, the mountain was shaking them. That was when they had run…

Coughing harder, Jack scooted carefully backwards in the darkness. The emergency lighting hadn’t kicked in - where the hell was it? As he groped around seeking something solid to help ground himself, Jack touched a warm wetness…

Daniel?

It had to be Daniel; the corridor had been empty except for the two of them when all hell had started crashing down.

Letting his hand roam carefully over the still form, Jack tracked outward from the wetness - he didn’t have to see to know it was blood. If his nose weren’t so clogged with dust and grit he knew he’d have smelled it. The smell of blood was something he’d learned to recognize, the smell of a friend’s blood was something he knew he’d never forget. He had far too many reasons to be familiar with the smell of Daniel’s.

Jack felt over the dust-encrusted hair, slid his hand across smooth clammy skin over to the small ear he also didn’t have to see to know was Daniel’s, then downward to seek the pulse point at his friend’s jaw.

A little slow. But steady.

“Still alive, good boy. Stay that way, you hear me?” he whispered.

Pulling a handkerchief from the inner pocket of his jacket, he folded it into a bandage and carefully tied it around Daniel’s head hoping his sense of touch was doing more good than harm. Jack slid his jacket off and removed his button up shirt and folded it into a pillow which he carefully slid under Daniel’s head. Once he was done, Jack patted the cool cheek under his hand, inordinately glad for this one good thing amidst what he knew was a very bad situation. Considering half the mountain had just come down on top of them, a head injury was almost certain;he just hoped Daniel’s wound felt worse than it really was. Who knew how long it would be before they could get to the infirmary? Hell, right now he wouldn’t put money on making it to the end of the hall.

He knew he needed to get his bearings, but in the absolute blackness, he wanted to lose Daniel even less. They’d just gotten him back, for crying out loud, and Jack was nowhere near ready to entertain thoughts of losing his best friend again. With a sigh and another cough, Jack decided he wouldn’t get very far in the dark, debris-strewn corridor anyway, and besides he could use another few minutes to catch his breath. Surely the lights would come on soon.

Scraping away the dirt and rocks, Jack settled back against the wall, one hand still holding on to Daniel’s shoulder. He forced a few more coughs from his lungs and finally felt the persistent scratch in his throat ease. He’d have given anything for a drink of water at that moment - or a flashlight. He didn’t want to think about what might have just happened, but there was no way he could keep from it.

Several scenarios vied for the position of most likely to have caused this kind of damage. Either they’d been attacked - not probable but possible - or there had been an earthquake. Neither option left Jack feeling very hopeful.

What he could remember of the damage around them before the lights had gone out had been bad, and just what Jack could feel around him told him it had gotten much worse. An attack from above couldn’t possibly have reached these lower levels so quickly. That left the gate five floors below, but a bomb capable of causing this much damage would surely have collapsed the mountain all around them. An earthquake was more than possible;they drilled for the prospect regularly since Cheyenne lay along a fault line. Just because it had never happened in the six plus years they’d practically lived in the complex didn’t mean it hadn’t happened now.

God, where the hell were the lights?

~*~

Turning down the light rock drifting from her car radio, Sam pulled up to the front gate of Cheyenne Mountain and rolled down her window to check in with the guards. As the duty sergeant grabbed his clipboard and stepped out of his booth and walked in her direction, she smiled.

“Morning, Gary.”

The young sergeant grinned in return, blushing the way he always did when she spoke to him. “Good morning, Major Carter. How’s she running?”

‘She’ was Sam’s vintage 1961 Volvo P1800, coveted by the sergeant from the first day she’d gotten it road worthy and driven it to work. Though Sam swore to the sergeant she’d never sell the car, he seemed to feel a certain proprietorship by proxy toward it just the same.

“Purring like a kitten, Gary, like always.”

With another grin and a covert glance along the golden lines of the vehicle, Gary handed Sam the clipboard to sign.

“Is the general in yet?” she asked as she scribbled her name on the board.

“Not quite an hour ago, Major.”

Nodding, Sam out the car in gear. “He really does work too…”

Sam quieted as she felt something.

It was subtle and low at first, like a stiff wind gently rocking her car. But there wasn’t any wind this morning…

As the sensation built, Sam knew immediately what it was, even as her mind tried to deny the possibility something that had lived in the back of their minds for years had finally happened.

A million scenarios ran through her mind as her car rocked with a force coming from the road beneath her, beneath the mountain itself.

Oh, this was so bad.

~*~

General George Hammond sipped his morning coffee, pulling out the topmost folder from his inbox. He’d come in early specifically to read over these reports before his ten a.m. briefing with SG1.

He’d run into Colonel O’Neill on the elevator on his way down. Considering the other man had gotten off on level eighteen, Hammond was willing to bet his next paycheck Doctor Jackson had either spent the night on base or had arrived at some earlier ungodly hour than he and the colonel had. Their boy really did work too hard and George wished for the hundredth time he could do something about it. While working too hard was hardly something new where Daniel was concerned, George had hoped returning from the dead would have slowed the young scholar down somewhat. He should have known better.

George sat back a moment, remembering the message they’d received from Colonel O’Neill from the mistakenly, but very appropriately termed “City of the Lost”. It had been the city containing the one lost soul they’d all profoundly missed. The entire control room had gone completely silent as George asked the colonel to repeat his message, then it had exploded into a cheer George would have bet could be heard from the planet without benefit of a wormhole. He found himself grinning at the memory even as he noticed his coffee was moving inside its mug. Strange, but not entirely unusual when the Stargate activated.

But the gate wasn’t activating.

Footsteps approaching from the briefing room barely distracted George from his fixed attention on the mug as it started shaking, then slowly moving across the desk…

George was already on his feet when his door opened and Sergeant Davis stepped through with a look of sheer panic in his eyes George had never seen there before as they looked at one another.

Just before the floor rolled under his feet and the lights went out.

~*~

Teal’c awoke with a start. He was still adjusting to the need for sleep and the oddity that was dreaming, but dreams were not what had disturbed him.

The floor beneath him was vibrating, slowly at first then more forcefully until the entire room was shaking around him. Teal’c stretched outward, quickly extinguishing the candles beside him. An electrical hum sparked along the corridor outside his room as he put out the last one and the floor buckled violently.

Teal’c felt himself lose balance and he was thrown to the floor as the room around him became completely dark.

Chapter 2


“Jesus….”

Sergeant Dan Siler turned the fire extinguisher spray toward the newest shower of sparks and flame coming from the main generator. He already knew the system was completely shot; there was no way it could be fixed in their current situation. He already had a crew working on the backup generator, the one that should have kicked in the moment the mains failed.

They needed light, needed it badly. Portable comm units were in scattered use already as people picked themselves up and tried to assess the situation, but they needed light and it was his job to see that SGC always got what it needed.

Siler already knew what had happened, the one unthinkable, unspeakable thing that had lived in the back of his mind from the first day he had signed on as chief technician for the underground complex. He also knew, with the intimate knowledge of almost six years of caring for every broken connection and stressed support on every level from the gateroom up to NORAD, that it could get bad. Worse than bad. Perhaps the single worst loss the SGC had ever suffered, possibly the end of the command entirely.

~*~

With a curse worthy of a Marine, Janet Fraiser kicked the wall of the elevator for the tenth time in as many minutes. It didn’t make her feel any better, but she was unable to express her frustration any other way.

She wasn’t sure why the power was cut, but it couldn’t be good. Although she’d felt the vibrations in the elevator walls she had no way of knowing if it was the elevator itself or something worse. What she did know was that she was stuck in far too small a space with no way of finding out what in hell was happening. If there was an emergency in progress she needed to be on duty, not stuck with nothing but the contents of her purse and a cup of cold take out coffee for company. The so-called emergency phone was dead and useless; she was completely on her own - with no way out.

She’d been so preoccupied with drinking the coffee she wasn’t even sure what level the elevator had reached when the lights went out. The phrase ‘in the dark’ sprang into her mind, causing her to laugh with the shaky realization that she was riding the fine edge of panic.

Sliding to the floor and nervously swiping her sweating hands across her denim-clad knees, Janet drew in long, calming breaths.

She wasn’t scared, not exactly - she just really, really hated the dark.

~*~

Daniel opened his eyes to darkness so complete that he forced himself to blink a few times just to be sure his eyes were actually open. Convinced they were, his second thought was blindness - a thought so disturbing he sat up immediately.

Or tried to…

“Ow…” Daniel felt his head explode into sharp cutting pain as multi-hued sparks bloomed across his vision in a blast of artificial light he could well have done without.

“Daniel?”

His throat was so dry and raw Daniel had to try several times before his voice would work properly.

“Wh’ h’ppened?” Well, almost properly.

Long, cool fingers fumbled across his cheek, patting gentle reassurance.

“Not sure,” Jack admitted in a low voice. “The floor shook, the ceiling started coming down, then the lights went out - in more ways than one.”

It took Daniel far longer to puzzle through Jack’s explanation than he thought it should, but he latched onto the other man’s last statement with a surge of hope.

“Not blind?”

Jack’s hand halted abruptly in its movement, cupping Daniel’s cheek firmly.

“No, Daniel. You’re not blind. It’s darker than hell in here, can’t see light anywhere.”

With a sigh of profound relief, Daniel tried to sit up again.

“No!” Jack stopped him with the word and a firm hand on against his shoulder. “Stay still, Daniel, you’re bleeding. I can’t tell how badly, but you probably shouldn’t move around too soon.”

Daniel settled back, barely nodding against Jack’s hand as it returned to its former place against his cheek. If he were being honest, he really wasn’t feeling so hot anyway - and he wasn’t about to add to Jack’s undoubtedly long list of worries right now by telling him.

There was no doubt in his mind something catastrophic had happened - earthquake, explosion, attack. Whatever it was, it was bad. Daniel was more than passingly familiar with the routine of the base in the pre-dawn hours; there would have been at least a hundred or more people on duty in the lower levels – SFs, technicians, and support staff mostly. NORAD was built on a suspension system, if the problem was a quake or something originating from SGC, they were probably safe. Down here on the lower levels, they had no such safeguard.

“Where…where are we?”

As usual, Jack understood Daniel wasn’t doing the clichéd ‘I just got knocked on the head, please clarify my location for me’ question.

“I think we got as far as C corridor. I did a little exploring while you were, ah, out. There’s an intersection back there along the corridor about ten feet. Didn’t want to go any further in the dark.”

Daniel knew that meant Jack didn’t want to wander too far off from him when he was bleeding and unconscious. He couldn’t exactly say he was sorry about it, he couldn’t imagine what it would have been like waking up alone - or rather he could. Actually, he had a rather unique frame of reference for the experience now and it wasn’t one he cared to repeat. Ever.

It was hard to think, but Daniel could remember joking with Jack as they left his office and headed for the elevator and breakfast. He’d had a cup of stale coffee in his hand as they walked, the last of the pot he’d made at three a.m. Jack had known, the way he always seemed to know, that Daniel had pulled another all nighter.

It was an old song and dance with them; Jack getting all gruff and solicitous while Daniel expressed due contrition with an affectionately acid chaser, but he could never quite hide the smile he got just knowing Jack cared enough to bother. It was something they’d taken for granted before, but something Daniel had missed a lot when it stopped happening. After the ‘secret’ mission when Jack had lied to them, after Daniel’s appendix had sidelined him from some major missions, it seemed to Daniel they’d never quite gotten their rhythm back. They’d barely begun to recognize the problem when it was suddenly too late;Colona happened and it had seemed easier to leave than to keep fighting even his own friends to do what was right.

Daniel had neglected to mention to the others just how much of those last days he remembered. It disturbed him to remember the pain, almost as much as it disturbed him to remember how he’d shut his friends out when they were trying to tell him what he now knew without a doubt - that he belonged here with them, that they needed him every bit as much as he needed them.

He and Sam had made a kind of peace over a bottle of very expensive wine and take out a few days after they’d freed Bra’tac and Ry’ac. Once the emergency was over, Daniel had remembered the odd look on Sam’s face in the control room when he’d mused on whether or not he was really where he should be. He’d wanted her to know there wasn’t any question in his mind anymore and they’d had a wonderful evening getting simultaneously tipsy and mushy. He and Teal’c had connected during and after Teal’c’s recovery, and the Jaffa’s own epiphany about his place in the grand scheme of things. He and Jack, though - they were long overdue for a talk.

While Daniel had no doubts at all Jack was glad he was back, the other man tended to skirt around anything to do with Daniel’s ascension. After hearing Teal’c’s story concerning the events surrounding the Jaffa massacre and his ascended role in it, Daniel couldn’t help wondering if he’d done something, or failed to do something, for Jack while he was - away. Eventually Daniel knew he’d have to force the issue. As great as it was to be with his friend again, there was a barrier between them Daniel knew would have to be broken - for both their sakes.

Stretching experimentally, Daniel assessed his condition. His body ached terribly, especially his head and left upper chest. Every inch of him felt bruised but he was fairly sure nothing was broken. His head was the worst, his brain felt much too sluggish for comfort. After two months of living under the worst kind of fog he could imagine - not even knowing who he was, much less able to access his academic knowledge. Daniel hated anything that impeded his thinking.

“Jack?” The hand patted his cheek again to let Daniel know Jack was listening. “You okay?”

A brief laugh and another pat answered him first. “Yeah, Daniel, I’m okay. I was only out a few minutes. Head’s clear, vision - well, at least the dark isn’t moving.“

Daniel nodded, satisfied Jack sounded lucid and strong. While he had no doubt the older man was every bit as bruised as he was, Daniel remembered, sort of, the running, the shattering glass of exploding light fixtures, then had come the pain - then nothing at all.

As bad as things seemed, Daniel was content to know they were both reasonably intact. And at least they weren’t alone. Painfully moving his arm up to find Jack’s hand where it now rested on his shoulder, Daniel patted his own reassurance to his friend. They’d be okay; he had no doubt of it. No doubt at all….

He barely felt his hand go lax against Jack’s as the deeper darkness claimed him once again.


Chapter 3

Dirt and debris rained down from his hair and clothes as Sergeant Walter Davis raised himself up and coughed harshly. His first inane thought was that he should have taken his wife’s advice and worn his uniform sweater this morning. With the power out there would be no ventilation, meaning no heat either. It would be getting really cold before too long.

Davis remembered seeing the general fall backward toward his desk as the floor had rippled between them. It was the last thing he’d seen as the lights flickered then died out completely.

“General Hammond? Sir?”

Cautiously rising to his hands and knees, Davis edged across the floor. Feeling carefully ahead of him inch by frustrating inch, he tested the terrain in front of him before bringing his knees forward. With each minute advance, he hoped to make physical contact with his CO. The fact the general was silent was disturbing enough; the possibility he could be seriously hurt was unthinkable.

He halted suddenly as his hand met nothing. No debris, no general, nothing at all…

~*~

Commander Mitchell Grayson blew out a calming breath as he hung up with the President, barely controlling the urge to tell his Commander-in-Chief that he’d have a lot more news to give if he wasn’t being called to the phone every five minutes to listen to questions there simply weren’t any answers to yet.

NORAD operated on back-up systems totally isolated from those used by the SGC. Power had barely blinked in the main control room when the tremor hit and in less than thirty minutes all systems had been fully operational again. The outer blast doors had closed automatically at the first shake, but as soon as they’d opened he had been inundated not only by his own people wanting to go help SGC, but also a slew of SGC personnel reporting in to find their base under a state of emergency.
Schematics had appeared within minutes and were now tacked all over the walls of his tactics room. A couple of computers had been wired in for use by Major Carter and Lieutenant Simmons so they could run risk assessments for each of the ways they could possibly access the lower levels.

The vents were everyone’s first thought; he’d ordered a team to the top of the mountain and they were dropping video probes down each shaft to assess their safety. The silo doors relied on hydraulics and yet another team was there now. The elevator shafts were also being checked out, they couldn’t run the elevators but they sure as hell could send people down by rope or maintenance ladders - and he had dozens of SGC and NORAD volunteers chomping at the bit to do just that.

The mountain complex had been built for both safety and security under catastrophic conditions - very little short of a direct or near-direct hit by a nuke would faze the interior lower levels. Cheyenne was the ultimate untouchable base - or as near to it as human engineering had to offer,but all the preparations in the world couldn’t guard against an assault by the planet itself.
As soon as it could be done safely help would be on the way, Mitch promised himself and the confirmed one hundred thirty-two people trapped below them. They would not fail their people or their sister base. SGC would survive.

~*~

Siler stifled a relieved sigh as the emergency lights sputtered once then glowed steadily. It was way too soon to relax - there was no way to know just how much of the system was operational, where the lines might have broken or where the light wasn’t reaching at all. But the small blessing of dim red light against the absolute darkness was one he didn’t plan to discount.

They would deal with other things as they came up; for now they needed a crew to make sure the infirmary power system was up in case - more likely when - it was needed.

He was leaving a crew here on the emergency power plant and intended to join the rest of his people on search and rescue. With minimal power restored, they should at least be able to communicate with NORAD from the radio in the control room. They needed to know what they were dealing with, needed to know if they could expect further tremors, and dammit, they needed to know if they could expect help anytime soon.

~*~

“Yes!” As the dim light over her head kicked in, Janet cheered.

The elevator whined once and vibrated, as if it might have considered moving once more, but then went silent again. She was still stuck, but at least she wasn’t stuck in the dark.

Standing up, Janet moved to the elevator door, wondering idly why no one saw fit to stock a crowbar inside the elevator for just such situations, or a step ladder for short people who couldn’t reach the overhead hatch. If - when - she got out and things settled down again, she’d write a safety recommendation. Janet laughed out loud thinking what the general’s response might be, and then sobered…

She’d been awake enough when she signed in to notice some of the names written above hers. The general had arrived about an hour before her, Colonel O’Neill half an hour prior to that. Sergeant Davis and half the control room staff before were already on duty as well. Doctor Jackson had never signed out; a fact she’d noted as both his physician and his friend. He’d only been back a month, human again for three months, and while he was in remarkably excellent physical condition considering all he’d been through, Janet had warned him about pushing his limits.

She could only hope her friends were safe, both above and below the ground. She was trying very hard to convince herself the situation was limited to the mountain, and that Cassie was home safe writing the essay they’d stayed up late researching.

She wanted out of the elevator so badly, wanted to get out and help her friends and patients, and to find a phone that worked so she could put at least one of her fears to rest. It went against her training and, more importantly, her nature not to help when there was a need. In frustration, Janet grabbed the useless emergency phone and used it to beat on the door in the vain hope it would bring someone to help. The lights were on, surely now search and rescue would begin.

“Where the hell is everybody?”

~*~

Teal’c made his way carefully through the debris littering the corridor. As yet, he had found no one else on this level. Very few off duty staff actually stayed on the base overnight unless there was an emergency. Or, as was once again customary in Daniel Jackson’s case since leaving O’Neill’s home for his own abode, they were simply too tired to drive to their homes.

All of the rooms he had searched so far had been empty. The corridors were far too silent. While the base was a sizeable complex there always seemed to be peripheral noises, subtle and familiar sounds of life and purpose. The present quietness was most unnerving.

As he turned the corner leading to the stairs and elevator, a sound caused Teal’c to stop. For a moment he wondered if the excessive stillness was affecting his hearing…

Someone was singing.

It was not an unpleasant sound, a light feminine tenor of sufficient range and modulation as to denote some degree of training. For all his attempts to absorb earth culture, the tune was unfamiliar to him - something about dungeons.

As the song cycled through several more verses, occasionally accompanied by a rhythmic tapping, Teal’c tracked it to the furthest elevator shaft.

Someone was trapped inside.


Chapter 4

The red glow surrounding them dimmed and strengthened erratically, casting eerie shadows over the destruction scattered around what had once been brightly lit solid walls and clean floors. As disturbing as the fluctuating glow was, it beat the hell out of the total blackness they’d been subjected to for so long.

Looking down at Daniel’s face again, almost glowing in its paleness against the murky light, Jack reflected that the restoration of power was a definite case of good news-bad news. Knowing Daniel was hurt and bleeding and actually seeing the source of both were two entirely different things. Beneath the newly changed bandage, the deep gash and dark bruise running along the younger man’s hairline down to his ear made Jack worry about things like fractures and concussions and infections and a lot of other things they were completely unprepared to deal with.

A short walk down the corridor when the lights had first come on had shown him a completely blocked passageway. The side of the corridor had broken loose, the steel and cement breaking away to allow rocks and dirt to pour in and create a new wall between them and the rest of the SGC.

Going back along the corridor they were in now led to storage rooms and to Daniel’s office. Why the hell anyone had thought it was a good idea to isolate Daniel all the way down here by himself anyway? The archaeology and linguistics labs were huddled together a level up, the stairs at the back exit of Daniel’s office being the only connection between them. Jack knew the answer of course, Daniel had wanted it that way even after it had become apparent the need for Daniel’s kind of expertise could not be met by one man alone as hard as he tried to do it all. Even Quinn hadn’t come close to taking up the slack Daniel’s absence had created. For all the Colonan’s highly touted memory, he didn’t have the intuitive gifts of a guy like Daniel.

Jack had checked out the office and the stairs; the office was fine oddly enough, remarkably few artifacts shattered on the floor, but the stairs were just as blocked as the corridor. Even if they weren’t, Jack knew the blast door on the next level would probably have closed and erratic emergency power wouldn’t be enough to get it open.

One good thing, the office had a place where Daniel could lie down comfortably, a first aid kit, blankets, and - if Jack knew his favorite archaeologist at all, a stash of junk food, coffee, a large bottle of Tylenol, and who knew what else squirreled away in the mass of shelves, drawers, and filing cabinets.

As tempted as he was to just hoist Daniel over his shoulder and move him into the other room, Jack worried about exacerbating his friend’s unknown injuries. Daniel was way too out of it for Jack’s comfort. The few times Daniel had been awake, it had been obvious to Jack that coherency was an effort. He didn’t need light to know Daniel was hurting, or that he was being less than truthful about how badly.

Spreading a blanket he’d retrieved from the office sofa over Daniel, Jack realized suddenly just how far the two of them had come since Daniel’s ‘death’. He had never been able to give Daniel back the pieces of his soul life as part of SG1 had taken away over the years prior to the mission to Colona; it had taken Oma to do that. Against all odds, or maybe not knowing Daniel, their prodigal had returned home, but Jack couldn’t forget how bad things had been before the accident, couldn’t forget that when push came to shove he had effectively left Daniel behind in letting him go.

When Daniel had visited him in Baal’s prison, Jack had almost let the anger he felt toward himself for letting it happen and toward Daniel for leaving overtake him. He’d almost hated Daniel for not helping him die to escape the torture. In the end, Jack pieced together enough to know that Daniel had done something he couldn’t talk about to give him a chance to escape. Learning that Daniel had helped Teal’c after the Jaffa massacre had been the final slot in need of filling, the last bit of certainty he’d needed to understand Daniel would never let them down. In the end, that loyalty had cost Daniel his membership in the Oma Glow Club for Errant Archaeologists, but Jack couldn’t find it in himself to regret it.

Over the time Daniel was gone, Jack had come to recognize the inescapable fact that their friendship was built on foundations that could never be equaled. No one who hadn’t been through what they had, hadn’t stepped through that gate from day one like they had could begin to understand the magnitude of life as part of SG1; no one else could earn that place or that right. He and Daniel connected in ways even they couldn’t fully define and that was something worth having at any cost.

Checking his watch, Jack realized it had been almost seven hours since - whatever it was that had happened. Even if he hadn’t already seen the damage in the corridor, it would have been obvious a quick rescue was out of the question. He’d had a lot of time to think through what might be happening beyond their isolated prison. Siler - true to form - had made power a priority. Hammond would be going nuts trying to get intel and take care of his people. Teal’c would be leading the search and rescue, worrying all the while about what was going on with his team. The infirmary would be juicing up their generator and prepping for casualties; any spare corpsmen on duty would be out doing first aid and triage.

One big concern - offworld teams were due back later in the day, Jack had no idea what the gateroom situation was but prayed it was safe and no emergencies brought them in ahead of schedule. If the iris was closed and there wasn’t enough power to open it or warn them not to come back…

Up topside, assuming NORAD was operational, personnel would be coming on duty, pitching in and trying to help, but Jack knew enough about the mountain to know SGC was on its own for a while.

“Just like us, huh, Daniel?”

Jack looked down on his friend worriedly. He really, really needed Daniel to wake up and be okay. Every scenario he ran in his head told they were far more likely looking at days before rescue instead of hours. There was no way in hell Daniel would be getting proper medical attention anytime soon; he had to be okay.

~*~

Davis jumped involuntarily when the lights came on suddenly, the minimal electrical hum one of the sweetest sounds he’d ever heard in his life. As his eyes adjusted, he peered into the dimness on the other side of the chasm in the floor of what had once been the general’s office. The dim light simply wasn’t enough to show him anything. A look back at the briefing room showed him that the damage there was minimal. The general’s office had apparently taken the brunt of whatever stresses the tremors had caused on this level. He supposed it had something to do with support beams and other things he had no real experience with; they didn’t have many earthquakes in Iowa.

The hole in the floor he’d felt earlier wasn’t as large as he’d feared, but it was big enough a person could have fallen through. The light wasn’t strong enough for Davis to see much in the control room below as he edged forward around the hole toward the general’s desk. Stepping over the remains of the solid maple shelf that had once contained the general’s mementos, Davis hoped some of it could be salvaged; he knew how much some of those things meant to his commanding officer. Once past the shattered wood, he thought he saw something glowing in the red-tinged shadows in the corner…

It was the general.

Cautiously removing the debris covering the older man, Davis hurried to feel for a pulse and sighed in relief as the steady beat thrummed against his fingers.
It was impossible to tell how badly the general was hurt, but he knew he had to get the man out of the unstable room as soon as possible. Considering the gaping hole in the middle of the floor he knew there was no way he’d be able to do it alone. While he wavered over what he should do next, voices carried up to him from the control room below. Someone who could help. Listening closer, Davis recognized the voice briskly directing others on where to begin. The best kind of help; Siler could do anything.

~*~

“Dammit…”

Sam sighed in frustration. She really wanted - no, needed - to be down inside the mountain helping with the rescue effort. She’d very reluctantly allowed Commander Grayson to convince her she could do more for her command by coordinating the effort from above. She hated thinking the reason he wouldn’t allow her to go might have been because she was female, but right now she was feeling pretty damn useless.

Feretti and SG2 were on their way down the south ventilation shaft even now, reporting their progress in fifteen-minute intervals that seemed to take progressively longer to pass. With each report Lieutenant Simmons placed the team’s marker further down the schematic on the wall.

A second team made of two SFs and Griff’s SG5 were setting everything up to belay down the multi-level elevator shaft. The upper section reaching to level fifteen was confirmed solid by virtue of a video feed dropped down as far as level thirteen. There was no way of knowing if the levels below were clear or not until they got down there. If they could travel lower they had permission to do so, if not they would begin their search and rescue wherever they could open an elevator door and gain entrance.

The third team, consisting of two Canadians from the Air Warning Center with experience in underground rescue, as well as high security clearances, and SG7, were trying to open the hydraulic silo doors above the gateroom. The engineers were less than hopeful they’d get them open quickly. Power had been interrupted somewhere along the miles of underground cable leading up to the power plant controlling them. There were manual pumps in place, but assuming they were undamaged and in working order, those doors were massive and pumping the hydraulics would take time - time Sam could only pray her friends and co-workers had to spare.

A light touch on her arm drew Sam’s thoughts out of the dark depths she’d let herself fall into.

Looking up she saw Lieutenant Simmons smiling at her tremulously.

“It’s going to be okay, Major.”

Sam nodded and tried to return the smile, but she couldn’t share the young man’s optimism.

~*~

It was warm….

Well, a lot warmer than it had been the last time he’d been awake enough to notice.

Daniel moved his hand up slowly to meet the softness of fleece - a blanket. It was his blanket in fact; the one with the embroidered Sphinx that Sam had given him as a welcome home gift, rather given back to him; she’d kept it as a memento when he died. But he kept it on the sofa in his office, how had…?

“Jack?”

There was only echoing silence.

With far more effort than it should have taken, Daniel opened his eyes to see a red glow that couldn’t seem to steady itself. He preferred to think the fluctuation had more to do with an electrical problem than with something in his head, but whatever the cause it made his stomach churn. He had to close his eyes and breathe deeply to keep himself from throwing up. After a few long minutes he was able to try again. It was slightly better - sort of.

And where the hell was Jack?

A quick glance up and down the corridor showed him nothing but blurry red walls and scattered debris. No Jack.

Carefully rolling to his side, Daniel tried to push himself up. His head and chest hurt like hell, but he had to find Jack. He actually managed to sit up on his third attempt, but had to stop and close his eyes again when the room veered sharply left without warning. All his blood seemed to rush straight to his already queasy stomach and he had to breathe deeply against the urge to hurl whatever remained of the little he had eaten in the night. The cool air chilled the sweat that broke out all over his body; it helped, sort of….

Deliberately squinting against the glare of the emergency lights, Daniel opened his eyes carefully again. Drawing his knees under his body he pushed himself up to a swaying half-crouch - congratulating himself on the accomplishment in a biting tone that had less to do with time spent around Jack than it did impatience at his own weakness. He’d been knocked on the head too many times in the past for him not to understand he was at the very least concussed, but in the middle of an emergency like this, it was just plain bad timing.

Jack was missing, he could be lying around hurt somewhere, or there may have been another tremor while Daniel had been unhelpfully unconscious. Anything could have happened, dammit…

Lurching to his feet, Daniel aimed for the wall, meeting it slightly more forcefully than he'd meant to.

"Now…which way?"

His office was closest and the blanket he'd woken up to find wrapped around him had come from his office, which meant Jack had been to his office.

"Oh, you are good, Jackson…." Daniel derided himself. The simple chain of logic should not have been so difficult for him to follow. Of course Jack had been in his office, and maybe he'd gone back again after more supplies.

Keeping one hand on the wall both to steady and to ground himself, Daniel concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Muttering impatient encouragement when his limbs saw fit to cooperate with the admittedly semi-coherent signals his brain was sending them. He'd made it about fifty feet, marking the distance by counting the curved wall supports, when he saw his office door - on the other side of the corridor.

"Oh, great…."

In order to cross the ridiculously long distance from his present curved wall to the opposite one, he would have to let go. In ordinary circumstances he wouldn't think twice about it, had done it thousands of times on the five years he'd been with SGC. He just needed to let go - and ignore the fact that the entire corridor was randomly veering downhill. He could do it. Easy.

Take one hand off his supporting wall, Daniel felt himself sway backwards until his shoulder met the cold cement behind him. He had to plant his hands against the curved surface to keep his body upright.

"Right, easy…"

Working up the energy to try again, Daniel looked up quickly at a sudden sound from inside his office. Too quickly, he immediately supposed as the world tilted around him and his vision grayed out just as Jack came into view. Daniel felt himself move reflexively toward his friend, his worry taking precedence over his experience only moments before, felt his arms flailing in search of support he couldn't seem to find…

"Daniel?" The worried, disapproving tone of Jack's voice penetrated the impending fog over Daniel's senses.

'Easy for you, Jack, you knew where you were….' Daniel thought even as his knees gave in to the pull of gravity and the weakness he could no longer keep at bay now that he'd found Jack.

Strong, warm arms came around him then, slowing his descent to the ground then he felt nothing at all.


Chapter 5

Elevator acoustics were really amazing, Janet thought as she started on the third verse of her second song in her command performance. In other circumstances she’d have been enjoying the chance to sing; now it was just a way to calm her nerves and keep from thinking.

A scraping noise stopped her mid-note. Listening hard, she heard it again and called out for help. A muffled voice on the other side had her sighing in relief. At last she was going to be able to go do her job. A metallic screech caused her to jump back from the door as a minute space appeared between her and the outside world. As the space grew larger, a glimmer of gold told her who her rescuer was.

“Teal’c?”

As the space grew even larger, the big Jaffa’s comforting voice replied, “It is I, Doctor Fraiser. You will be free momentarily.”

Janet had to grin at the man’s characteristic unflappability. He made it sound as if she’d simply caught her sleeve and the steady resolve had never been more welcome. Janet busied herself gathering her things, her mind already turning to what she needed to do first.

The infirmary was top priority, she needed to get there and be sure everything was running smoothly. They could tend to any injured they found along the way. She was sure the rescue teams were already transporting patients there, the infirmary had one thing no other area of the base had - its own power supply.

As the door finally widened enough to let her slip through, Janet reached up to give Teal’c a big hug of thanks - and if she held on just a little too long, well, Teal’c had the good grace to not even raise an eyebrow.

~*~

“Careful there!” Siler admonished the pair of SFs bearing the stretcher carrying General Hammond off to the infirmary. While the debris in the control room had been great enough to make him worry about damage to the general’s office, he hadn’t been prepared for the fact that not only had the general already been on base that early, but had been inside his office and had been injured.

Davis’s voice calling down through the broken floor to Siler and his crew had been as steady as it always was in a crisis, but Siler knew the man well enough to read the urgency behind the calm tones. The instability of the room had made rescuing the general a tricky proposition. General Hammond’s treasured briefing room table being sacrificed as a bridge across the gaping hole in the middle of the floor - necessity being the mother Siler generally found her to be. If they all survived this, the general would not be a happy man.

With a quick grip of reassurance to the other man’s shoulder, Siler tried to smile. “He’s gonna be okay, Walt. We need to get to work.”

Davis nodded, “I know, he’s too stubborn not to be.” Visibly gathering his reserves, Davis turned his attention to the task hand. “What’s our communications status?”

“We were just about to test it when you, uh…” Siler pointed toward the hole in the general’s floor and Davis nodded with a tight worried smile.

“So let’s get to it.”

~*~

“Calling NORAD, calling NORAD….This is the SGC Operations center calling NORAD. Is anyone there?”

Mitch was so intent on the radioed reports of the rescue teams, he almost opened his mouth to remind them to keep the chatter down when he caught the looks of wide-eyed disbelief on Carter and Simmons’ faces.

Carter recovered first and informed him, “That’s Sergeant Davis, sir, our operations tech.”

Returning her smile, Mitch keyed the microphone. “NORAD here, SGC Ops. Commander Grayson speaking. What is your status?”

There was a painfully long pause during which Mitch knew every eye and heart in the room was focused on friends and comrades trapped in the mountain below. He knew because his was too.

“We’re just recovering from a complete power outage, main power is still out, but emergency power is holding. Hammond is unconscious, medical status as yet unknown. Crews are clearing debris and working on finding…survivors. All non-essential personnel are helping in the search or in the infirmary. We need to know how many people are signed in so we can account for them, sir.”

Mitch nodded approval; Davis had a good head on his shoulders. Gesturing for Simmons to retrieve the needed information, Mitch keyed the mike again. “Good job, Sergeant. We’ve got rescue crews rappelling down the elevator shafts now. We’re working on the silo doors, but there’s been some damage to the power systems so it could take a while. Is there anything we can do for you right now, son?”

There was another long, static filled pause before the sergeant asked, “Can you tell us what happened, sir?”

“Bear Creek finally let go. Most of the damage centered right here in the mountain and unfortunately, you guys took the worst of it. You can tell your people their families are safe, not so much as a cracked foundation above ground.

“Thank you, sir, that’s good to know. We’re setting up a command center in the secondary control room, this is one is currently…unsafe. As people dig out, they’re getting on handhelds and checking in. We’ll set up a roster as soon as we have your list.” Another pause. “May I speak freely, sir?”

There was a reason Mitch had kept SGC personnel at the command center rather than his own, discussion of what went on below the mountain was it. “Go ahead, Sergeant, we’re secure.”

“Sergeant Siler just reminded me we’ll need to conserve power as much as possible. We have two teams due back within the next few hours. If we can’t get enough power routed to open the iris, we’ll have to warn them not to come home yet.”

Mitch glanced at Major Carter, this was her area.

“Good idea, Sergeant. Tell Siler there are two completed naquada reactors in my lab. He can use them to power the iris or even the gate if necessary.”

“He hears you, Major. His crews are on their way.”

Simmons returned then with the sign-in sheets so Mitch nodded permission for Major Carter to read it.

“Sergeant Davis, I have the list now, are you ready?”

“Ready, Major.”

“General George Hammond, Lieutenant James Lyle, Airman Jeffrey Ryan, Airman Lena Norman, Sergeant Gabriel Berrios, Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Janet Fraiser MD, Sergeant Daniel Siler, Major Jacob Warner MD, Sergeant Lee Johnson, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Sergeant Lisa Harriman…”

Mitch nodded approvingly at the major’s professionalism as she read the names off. Two of them, he knew, were her team members – and the third lived on base so was almost certainly down below as well. There were one hundred thirty two people in all known to be on duty at the SGC. The only good thing about the entire situation was the timing - another hour and the list of names Major Carter was reading would have been three times as long. As bad as things were, they could have been much worse.

Mitch couldn’t help drawing a comparison between this reading of names and others he’d attended. Except on those past occasions the rosters had been exclusively names of the dead. Mitch swore this wouldn’t be another of those times. He’d do his damnedest to make sure every person behind every name on that list made it out of the darkness of the mountain to walk in daylight once again.

~*~

Jack searched through Daniel’s desk and cabinet drawers with only a modicum of guilt. He knew pre-ascension Daniel’s long standing habit of keeping food stashed away and hoped the habit had continued even after a year of living without the need for little things like sleeping and eating. The haul currently piled on Daniel’s worktable was an odd assortment, but impressive considering Daniel had been back in residence less than a month. Considering the age on some of it, Jack wondered if some weren’t either left over from Quinn or from Daniel’s previous gig in the room - either way someone’s housekeeping skills lacked. Then again without those same skills, their situation would be a lot more dire.

There were a dozen candy bars, some so far out of code they’d qualify as artifacts. Pre-packaged crackers from the commissary, crushed to powder as if they’d absent-mindedly been shoved into a pocket - a scene Jack had witnessed more times than he could count as Daniel got caught up in whatever he was working on and either Jack or another of SG1 would do the shoving in hopes Daniel might actually eat the things. There were ten energy bars – and Jack knew very well time had no meaning for them. There was a box of raisins, three bags of Ramen noodles, and two bags of specialty cookies Jack figured could be traced back to Carter and her obsession with re-bonding to Daniel over chocolate chips. From the backpack in the corner had come five MREs and two granola bars, the good stuff. Add to that Daniel’s usual hefty supply of coffee and tea, along with real cream in the small fridge and some juice boxes meant to placate Janet’s admonishment that Daniel increase his vitamin C intake and they were in good shape. All in all and creatively stretched, they had enough food to last several days - perhaps as long as a week.

More searching had produced three first aid kits, and with water from the tiny bathroom, Jack had cleaned and dressed Daniel’s many cuts and abrasions. The head wound was the worst he could see, but deep mottled bruises along Daniel’s collarbone and down onto his chest had Jack concerned.

Concerned hell - seeing Daniel in that corridor trying to decide whether or not to let go of the wall had scared the shit out of him. As it turned out, Daniel had been right to be indecisive. Even in the dim light, Jack had seen Daniel’s eyes begin to roll up in his head as his knees began to give out. Jack had jumped to keep Daniel from hitting the ground and doing more damage to himself. Then he’d dragged the unconscious man into the office and settled him on the sofa, tucking blankets around his chilled body and praying Daniel’s tough skull wasn’t actually cracked. All the moving wasn’t wise, even in a simple case of simple concussion, if it was something worse…

Jack couldn’t let himself think like that - couldn’t think that every minute that passed placed Daniel’s life in danger, couldn’t consider the last time when it had…

With a sigh, Jack set to work using a metallic coffee mug to heat an MRE on the Bunsen burner he’d found on one of Daniel’s shelves – and what, he wondered, did an archaeologist need with a Bunsen burner? Whatever the reason, the device as a godsend and so was the coffee maker glugging away sluggishly on emergency power to heat water for tea. It had been eight hours now since he’d woken up in the pitch-black corridor, eight hours following a long night of work for Daniel and no breakfast for either of them. They both needed something in their systems. Water, at least, wasn’t a problem, the system was gravity fed from massive protected reservoirs. As long as nothing broke the lines they could be assured of plenty, but all the same Jack had filled every container he could find to hold in reserve.

From the supply closet down the hall, Jack had brought blankets, toilet paper, towels, soap, razors, batteries and flashlights, some of which he’d placed around the room to offset the redness, as well as a cot for himself which was now set up next to Daniel’s sofa. But he had no intention of sleeping until Daniel woke up and showed some sign his brain was working on at least half its cylinders.

Finishing the MRE, Jack dished it out into two more coffee mugs adding water to both. It was a psychological trick, making a little food seem like a lot of food, but in Jack’s experience it worked. Intellectually, he was fairly sure they wouldn’t have to wait too long for rescue, but his instincts pushed for caution and preparation.

The tea was done so Jack took out two more mugs and poured, doctoring Daniel’s heavily with the sugar and cream. Daniel needed all the heat and calories he could get, they both did. With main power out, the heating was also out and the temperature had already dropped considerably. While it wasn’t exactly frigid, it was cold enough Jack could feel a persistent chill settling into his bones. He didn’t remember much from early briefing on ambient temperatures underground, but he remembered enough from cave explorations as a kid to know it would be a long time before either of them was warm again.

~*~

They found three more injured along the way to the infirmary. Fortunately two were reasonably ambulatory and Teal’c was able to carry the third. While he had always been impressed by Doctor Fraiser, Teal’c realized the diminutive woman carried within her small frame a strength and resolve equal to any jaffa. Although she was clearly concerned first and foremost for Cassandra, the demands of her position and profession kept her moving through the debris, intent on making sure they missed no one in their search.

Upon reaching the disturbingly bright infirmary, Teal’c had watched as the doctor had taken charge immediately upon ascertaining that Doctor Warner was occupied in surgery. Wounded were categorized – triaged - and attended to in order of priority. Isolation rooms were converted to sleeping areas for those who received treatment but were unable to join the searching while radios were distributed to who could with instruction given on emergency care. Word had been received that all who were found were to be listed and tracked so Teal’c had assisted in bringing a whiteboard from one of the teaching rooms to write the names of all present, with special notations for those who left again to join the search. The infirmary area was designated ‘home base’ by virtue of its continued power and its proximity to the kitchens, already a team had been sent to bring food and drink.

Teal’c had been disturbed to find General Hammond was among the injured. Although Doctor Fraiser had assured him the general was merely concussed and would awaken soon, Teal’c found their leader’s absence disturbing.

Before setting out once again to search with a team, Teal’c had checked the list of names. Of the one hundred thirty two known to be on base, one hundred and one were accounted for – including three dead. There were still thirty one missing, including O’Neill and Daniel Jackson. Teal’c and his team were gradually making their way toward Daniel Jackson’s office, the last known location of at least one of the pair. Teal’c had no doubt where one was the other would be as well. The ventilation shafts were proving most useful in traversing the different levels quickly, especially as several crucial stairwells were blocked by debris.

Teal’c justified his singular focus on finding his teammates by telling himself that as second in command of the base, O’Neill was needed - which was certainly the truth. But if his heart clenched a little each time he allowed himself to speculate on his friends’ fate, it was no one’s business but his own.


Chapter 6

Something smelled good.

With an effort, Daniel opened his eyes, finding the effort the exercise required vaguely worrisome, and found himself almost nose to nose with Jack. As memory sluggishly filled in the blanks, Daniel made an effort not to move; sudden activities were a definite no-no.

They were in his office. His relative position and perspective telling him he was lying on his sofa, the heavy warmth and heaviness of too many blankets over his body telling him that Jack was in ultra-protector mode.

But something still smelled really, really good….

“Jack…?”

The other man smiled tightly. “The one and only.” A long pause in which Daniel knew his condition was being scrutinized. “How are you feeling?”

Daniel shrugged his shoulder, trying to stay casual even as he recognized he was still as crap at it as he’d been before he’d left.

“Headache. Really bad headache.”

Jack turned away a moment, rummaging through something Daniel couldn’t see. When he turned back, Jack handed him two white pills and a mug of something cloudy and brown Daniel just knew wouldn’t be coffee.

“I’m not sure I should be giving you anything at all, but I don’t think a couple of Tylenol will hurt….”

Daniel smiled in gratitude; at this point anything was welcome. His smile quickly turned into a frown of frustration as he realized his hands weren’t in the mood to cooperate.

With more gentleness than Daniel knew anyone else would expect from Colonel Jack O’Neill, Daniel felt Jack’s hand behind his head, lifting smoothly while the other hand offered first the pills then careful sips of tea. The warm sweetness soothed Daniel’s throat, washing away the gritty feeling all the dust had left behind. Unfortunately, the movement increased his headache and he had to work hard to quell the resulting nausea.

“Guess this isn’t a good time to ask if you’re hungry?” Jack’s teasing tone didn’t mask the underlying concern.

As good as the food smelled, Daniel had a feeling it wasn’t a good idea to eat just yet. He also knew Jack wouldn’t rest himself until Daniel was taken care of.

“Maybe something dry? Works for pregnant women….” Jack raised an eyebrow and smiled, lifting up a few packets of pulverized mush that had once been crackers. “Hm, look in the filing cabinet by the door, back of the C drawer.”

Getting up to check, Jack looked back to ask, “C for crackers?”

Managing a slight grin, Daniel explained, “C for concussion. Considering my usual luck I always used to keep a box on hand. Looks like Jonas didn’t find all my hiding places…maybe those are still there too.”

Jack chuckled as he opened the drawer all the way, rummaging under a pile of papers in the back to reveal a nearly full box of club crackers. “Only a few days out of code, looks like you got home just in time.” Jack’s smile turned into a tight grimace Daniel recognized as his friend battling strong emotion.

“Jack?”

The other man ducked his head, hiding his expression in the simple act of ripping open the plastic. “It’s just…I’m glad you’re back, Daniel.”

Daniel couldn’t help smiling. “I’m glad to hear that, Jack. For a while there I thought maybe…”

“I wasn’t?”

“I’d done something wrong.”

Jack moved closer and sat down, handing the open package of crackers to Daniel, motioning for Daniel to eat. He took a nibble off the corner of the salty square, noticing Jack had looked away again. “Jack?”

It seemed to Daniel that Jack was trying really hard not to say something he knew he had to say.

“No, Daniel, you didn’t do a damn thing wrong.” Finally Jack was looking him in the eye. “You did everything right. You came back and tried to help even though I did fuck-all to keep you around when you….” Jack’s hand painted a swirl in the air.

“Ascended?”

“Died.” Jack’s voice tightened harshly on the word. “You died, Daniel. And not for the first time, I might add. But this one….This one wasn’t sudden. It wasn’t noble. It wasn’t pretty. I sat there for the better part of those seventeen hours and watched you fall apart piece by piece.” Getting up suddenly, Jack paced along the cot sitting beside the sofa. “I just sat there, Daniel, and I couldn’t do a damn thing. When it came right down to it, I couldn’t even say goodbye.”

Daniel shook his head. “The way I remember it, neither could I. But I also remember you were there. I remember….how much it meant to know you, all of you, believed in me even if I couldn’t…”

“Believe in yourself?” Daniel shrugged slightly in confirmation of Jack’s abrupt question. “Don’t you see, Daniel? We put you there. We made you feel as if leaving was the right thing to do. We made you feel like you’d failed here and that going with Oma was the only choice you had left.”

“No, Jack….”

“Wait, Daniel. Let me finish. Maybe it wasn’t directly my fault, our fault. But you can’t tell me there weren’t times you needed more support and we didn’t give it to you. You can’t tell me there weren’t times when you felt like you were pushing uphill against the entire weight of this mountain to do the right thing.”

Daniel couldn’t deny what Jack was saying, he remembered times just like what Jack described. But he also remembered something else. “I felt that way as an ascended, too, Jack. I don’t remember a lot about that time, but I remember that. You want to know what the difference was?”

With a long sigh, Jack returned to his seat and nodded.

Daniel swallowed hard, remembering the past year wasn’t easy, inevitably bringing with it the sense of guilt he’d felt from the time he’d woken up on that planet with no clue of who he was. ”You. All of you. Silly talks over breakfast. Pizza on your roof. Talks in the locker room after a mission. Even when we disagreed on just about everything that happened, we connected…and I knew we’d be okay. That I wasn’t alone…”

“What about ‘doing more this way’?”

“That was the job, Jack. There were a lot of heavy knocks over a very short time, but I never doubted you guys, just me. Helping is important; having the power to change things was a hell of a temptation for someone like me…”

“You think?” Jack murmured lightly and Daniel smiled in return.

“Yeah…but I don’t think I liked having that power. I don’t think I made any kind of difference at all.”

“Now that’s where you’re wrong, Daniel,” Jack offered quietly. “I don’t know what else you did out there in glowy land, but you made a hell of a difference to us…to me. Remember reading the mission report about the time I was captured by Baal?”

Daniel nodded, he’d read all the reports from his time away once his memory of the SGC and his friends started falling into place. Knowing the dangers they’d faced, what they’d experienced - his mind had filled in the blanks between the dispassionate words until he’d known how his friends had felt - and he hated that he hadn’t been there.

“You were there.”

For a moment, Daniel wondered if he’d spoken his thoughts aloud. “What?”

“In that prison. You were with me almost the whole time. More than that, you found a way to get around the rules and get me out of there.”

“I did? Teal’c said I….”

“Helped him, too. And if Carter had been in the same kind of situation, she knows you’d have been there for her too. Just like you broke the rules to warn us about Abydos, then finally broke them to try and save us all.”

Daniel winced. Losing Abydos was still a tender spot on his recovering memory. He had no idea precisely what had happened, just that he had led SG1 there and before all was said and done, the Abydonians were gone.

“You think that’s why I….”

Jack nodded, “Yeah I do. The last time I saw you, before everything went to hell, you were on your way to kick Anubis’ ass. I asked you if you could, and you said you didn’t know. I don’t know what happened next, but Oma was hanging around watching you, Anubis is still around, and you wound up freezing your corporeal nuts off on that planet with no memory.”

“So you think she stopped me, too? Kicked me out?”

“Or something. We may never know that part.” Jack shrugged, then leaned forward and squeezed Daniel’s shoulder.” When it comes right down to it, all that matters is you’re back.”

Daniel felt moisture sting his eyes and tried to cover by nibbling a corner of the forgotten cracker in his hand. He felt as if a weight that had plagued him since he’d opened his eyes in the forest to see Shamda and his sons staring down at him had been lifted. Whatever else he might or might not have done as an ascended, he hadn’t forgotten his friends. He was home again, and there really wasn’t much more he could say to Jack than a raspy, “Me too.”

Pushing aside the crackers, Daniel motioned for Jack to hand him the tea again. Even the small amount he’d managed to eat had left him feeling better. As Jack withdrew the mug, Daniel smiled at him shyly. It wasn’t often Jack dropped his barriers and spoke frankly about his feelings on anything. Daniel took the fact he’d done it now for the honor and compliment it was, but he also knew there was a limit to how long Jack could comfortably sustain it. Daniel knew the better part of being a good friend in return was to give Jack a means to back away gracefully.

“I wish we knew what was happening out there….”

Jack grinned a little crookedly, recognizing Daniel’s tactic. “Too bad we don’t have a radio.”

A radio….

“Jack!” In his excitement, Daniel started to sit up. Even as the pain hit his head and chest, Jack was there and forcing him back down.

“Just stay still, Daniel…”

“No…you don’t understand. A radio. In my backpack…outer pocket…” Daniel pointed toward the shelves behind his desk, trying to catch his breath. Jack rose to retrieve the pack and Daniel tried to explain. “It’s Sam’s …the antenna broke on Erebus after we ringed off the ship. I lent her mine. I’m sure we can find something to…”

As Jack returned with the pack, he motioned for Daniel to lie back. Rummaging in the pack, Jack pulled out various items he scrutinized with increasing amusement: a book, two clips for Daniels automatic, a bandanna and finally chocolate bars. “Good to know some things never change…” he muttered before producing the radio with a flourish, clicking the power switch on then back off to be sure it still worked. “Wire?”

Daniel knew there was packing wire in the storage closet in the blocked stairwell, but it didn’t help them now. Electrical wire…. “The clock radio?”

Daniel watched while Jack cannibalized the appliance with his pocket knife. He was having more trouble catching his breath than he should; all he’d done was sit up. Concentrating on breathing steadily, he closed his eyes and tried to fight his rising anxiety that there was more wrong with him than he’d initially thought. When he felt a little more in control, he opened his eyes to see Jack looking at him worriedly over the stripped copper of the power cord. He tried to smile reassuringly, but he never had been able to lie to Jack so he just shrugged. Whatever was wrong, the sooner they got the radio working, the sooner they could get help.

Jack nodded, clearly unhappy but accepting, then set to work twisting the wire onto the broken antenna. Once that was done, he climbed onto a chair and attached the other end of the wire to one of the metal struts of the overhead lighting fixtures. On the ground again, Jack sat down and turned on the radio with a fingers crossed gesture.

“SG-niner to any SGC personnel.” Long silence broken by intermittent static was the only response. “This is Colonel Jack O’Neill. Can anyone hear me?”

As Jack repeated his message again and again, his voice grew increasingly strident and Daniel realized their situation was more tenuous than he’d let himself believe. He knew the layout around his office intimately. If Jack wasn’t trying to get them out, it was because there was no way out. Meaning the area was unstable, meaning another tremor could….

“O’Neill?”

Jack looked over at Daniel with a grin; both of them would have recognized the voice anywhere.

“Teal’c? Is that you?”

“It is I, O’Neill. It is…good to hear your voice.” Practically a shout for joy in Teal’c-speak. “What of Daniel Jackson?”

“He’s right here with me, Teal’c. We’re in his office. Where are you?”

There was a long pause, then Teal’c’s voice came again. “Presently, I am descending elevator shaft three, one floor above your location.” Daniel smiled, elevator three was the nearest to his office, Teal’c had already been on his way to find them. “We should be there momentarily.”

Jack frowned. “Yeah, about that….” He went on to explain the blockage in both the corridor and the stairwell, confirming Daniel’s previous suspicions.

Teal’c was silent again for long moments before asking, “What is your status, O’Neill?”

“Me, I’m fine, but Daniel’s pretty banged up.” Daniel caught a strange look from Jack before he turned away and continued. “Never thought I’d say this, but I wish Fraiser was here.”

If he’d been feeling better, if he were inclined to disagree, Daniel would have called Jack on his blatant transparency. This was Very Concerned Jack, and Daniel couldn’t find it in himself to disapprove.

Teal’c, of course, didn’t miss the cue either. “Understood, O’Neill. Your signal is not reaching the infirmary, but Sergeant Mendez has relayed your concerns and Doctor Fraiser will be on her way shortly. In the meantime, we will attempt to clear a path to you.”

Jack turned back and smiled crookedly, they both knew Teal’c would work his ass off to get to them. “What the hell happened anyway?”

Daniel was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on Teal’c’s explanation. It had been an earthquake, just as they feared, and most of the damage seemed concentrated on this wing of the complex…also as they’d feared. As Teal’c and Jack talked about numbers, rescue measures, and damage assessment, Daniel felt his eyes slide closed. He heard something about General Hammond, wanted to ask for more information, then felt the package of crackers still in his hand slide off into the floor as he sank into sleep.

~*~

It seemed like the descent had taken forever.

All Lou Feretti wanted was to get down to the SGC and help his friends, but it seemed like Murphy’s Law was in full swing to keep them from doing just that. In the first elevator shaft the elevator car itself had broken away from its tracks to jam the shaft.

His team had moved to shaft two and was finally making good progress. Just a few more feet down and they’d finally be in the SGC portion of the complex. NORAD was somewhat known to the public, though still a carefully revealed secret. SGC was known only to a select few and of those not many were aware of the physical layout. The floors between NORAD and SGC weren’t proper floors at all but a series of utility grids, power stations, reservoirs, air recyclers, and storage areas. Smaller pseudo-levels cut from the living stone of Cheyenne Mountain. The entire base had been built for safety and security in the event of a global nuclear conflict, systems had back up systems and even the back up systems had back ups. The earthquake was a fluke, a supposed impossibility, and something no amount of planning could have prepared them for.

Finally reaching level fifteen, Lou gestured for Pierce and Cooper to use the crowbar in Pierce’s pack to pry the doors open. As the door edged open slowly, Lou was happy to see there was no obvious damage inside. The glow of the emergency lighting made it seem like just another day under alert at the SGC; the more exotic dangers associated with the gate seeming somehow normal in comparison to this unexpected intrusion on their lives.

Lou had heard Siler’s radio reports of localized damage. The power systems had been affected of course, but the actual structural damage was far more limited than any of them had expected. Major Carter had relayed the welcome news that most of their people were safe and holed up in the infirmary area. Only six were still missing, among those Colonel O’Neill and Daniel Jackson.

“Let’s get in there, guys,” he ordered soberly. Pierce moved in first, followed by Cooper then Cheung and Griff, each releasing their harnesses and moving out of the way for the next. Once Griff was clear, Lou stepped in onto the solid floor. He was just about to release his harness when a low, rumbling sound reached his ears. The sound built quickly, intensifying in the elevator shaft until it was so loud Lou couldn’t hear anything else. He barely had time to meet Griff’s worried eyes when the floor beneath him seemed to ripple left then back again…and he was falling.

Chapter 7

“He’s going to be fine, Sergeant.”

Davis appreciated Doctor Fraiser’s words of reassurance offered in passing as she prepared to move out with the rescue team en route to help Doctor Jackson and Colonel O’Neill. He’d entered the infirmary just in time to hear Teal’c relay the colonel’s concerns about Doctor Jackson’s condition. The two were safe for the moment, they even had some food, but the colonel’s instincts were too strong for Doctor Fraiser to ignore.

For the moment the infirmary was calm. Nurses were bandaging minor wounds, finally reaching the end of the triage line. They now had one hundred fifteen of known personnel accounted for, no more dead fortunately. As they now knew the location of Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson, that left fifteen yet to be found. Davis could only hope, as had been the case more often than not during the search and rescue, that it was merely a matter of the power outages and doors that needed to be either pried open or cut through.

The general looked better. While he still hadn’t regained consciousness, his color was improved. He just looked disturbingly old in the hospital gown with all the monitors and wires around him. Intellectually, Davis knew the general was well past retirement age or requirements, but his commanding presence was such that on a day to day basis Davis just didn’t notice the man’s age. It wasn’t something he wanted to think about, an SGC without George Hammond at the helm. He’d never served under a better commander, or a better man. What they did was so important. That they did it as a unit encompassing every man and woman who came into mountain committed to a common purpose was nothing short of miraculous. Under Hammond’s command, they all understood the level of honor and professionalism expected of them, not only as members of their respective services but as representatives of their entire planet, and every single one of them did their damnedest to live up to those expectations.

With a sigh, Davis rose with the intention of going back to the control room to see how much progress had been made on getting the naquada generators online. He’d just made his way to the foot of the general’s bed when a recently familiar rumbling sound stilled every voice in the infirmary…and the ground began to shake.

~*~

“Damn it!”

As the shaking subsided, Commander Grayson’s curse carried loud and clear through the room. While Sam knew the tremor had been barely there for them, she couldn’t help worrying about the effects below. They already knew there was structural damage concentrated on levels eighteen and nineteen on the north axis of the complex - the area including and below Daniel’s office - and the main power plant. The isolation of damage made Sam suspect it was due more to poor quality materials or design than actual stresses from the quake; it would be a long time before they knew for sure.

Sam sighed. The latest news on Daniel had been worrying enough, she knew she wouldn’t be able to breathe freely until they got more news. Sam bit her lip to help keep herself focused. They’d just gotten Daniel back, damned if they’d lose him now. Not if the colonel, or her, or Teal’c, or Janet, or anyone of the people stuck down there had a say in the matter.

“Feretti, what’s your status? Feretti?” The commander’s voice grew more tense as the silence continued. Feretti’s team had just reached level fifteen before the tremor hit, but there’d been no conformation they were inside. “Feretti? Please respond….”

The long silence left too much to the imagination, anything could have happened.

“Feretti? Red team? Please respond.”

Finally Major Griff’s strained voice came back over the speakers. “Little busy here, Commander. Stand by.”

Sam traded concerned looks with Simmons. Griff was a master of plainspoken understatement. ‘A little busy’ could mean anything from a snagged rope to falling ten stories. The minutes stretched out until the air in the room became thick with the apprehension emanating from everyone present.

“Come on, guys….” Sam muttered under her breath. She’d never smoked in her life, but at that moment Sam could understand the appeal of having something – anything – to do with her hands when there was nothing she could physically do at all.

“We’re here. We’re okay…just a little complication….” Feretti’s voice sounded strained and breathless.

Griff’s voice cut in with a biting, “If you call almost falling to your death and nearly bashing your brain in a complication….”

“Feretti?” The commander half grinned at Griff’s comment, but his concern was apparent.

“I’m okay, sir. Ready to move out.”

Grayson nodded. “Good man. Griff, keep an eye on him.”

“Will do, sir.”

Switching channels, Grayson called for Sergeant Siler, almost immediately getting a response. “We’re okay, sir. No additional damage we know of. Still waiting for word from Colonel O’Neill and the teams on their way to them.”

“What’s the word on the missing, Sergeant?”

“We found four more, eleven to go.”

“Good work, Sergeant. Status of the gate?”

“We’ve got it powered up, sir. Iris and stabilizers are wired up. The first team is due back any time now. So we let them come back, sir?”

As Grayson looked to her for advice, Sam nodded. She trusted Siler’s work and there was no way to know what might happen if additional damage occurred. If that happened, there was no way to assure they could get help from offworld allies. If something happened to the Stargate, a lot would change about their lives - and their chances against the goa’uld.

~*~

The stairwells were a mess, slabs of concrete broken away in huge chunks blocking the door that would allow them access to Daniel’s office. The corridor was worse, at least twenty feet of rock and debris. It seemed to Janet that section of the tunnel had taken the brunt of the quake; the damage was much more extensive here than anywhere else she’d seen in the mountain. The damage before them was bad enough; it would take hours to get through.

“Teal’c?” The big man was assessing the situation intently, his eyebrow raised.

“I believe we can facilitate the removal of this debris with zat’nikatel. It will still take some time, but you and I could traverse the ventilation shafts in the interim.”

Janet nodded. As long as she didn’t have to do it alone, she had no problem crawling through the dark shafts. Colonel O’Neill’s last report had her more concerned than ever, given Daniel’s shortness of breath and bruised chest she had a good idea what the problem could be - making it all the more imperative they get to Daniel as soon as humanly, or Jaffa-ly, possible.

Two of their team were dispatched to the armory to retrieve zats while Teal’c and a tech sergeant from Siler’s crew searched down the corridor for a likely ventilation grid. While she waited, Janet rechecked her medical bag then keyed her radio.

“Colonel?”

After a long pause, the colonel’s voice came back quietly, “Yeah, Doc?”

“How’s he doing?”

“I don’t honestly know, Doc. He’s sleeping right now, but his breathing isn’t….right.”

“Uneven chest movement?”

“Yeah, exactly. Doc?”

Janet bit her lip in alarm. The colonel’s answer confirmed her earlier fears. “We’ll be with you as soon as possible, Colonel. In the meantime, I need you to keep a very close eye on him and report any changes. Pulse every ten minutes.”

“Janet?” Even over the radio, Janet could tell the colonel had fallen away and this was just Jack, expressing deep concern for his friend.

“His chest may have sustained more damage than it appears. Possibly a tension pneumothorax.”

“A tear in the lung?” Janet couldn’t hear a trace of the colonel’s customary pretense at not understanding. He was well trained and experienced, she had no doubt he knew the word and what it meant, or could mean, for Daniel.

“Colonel? Do you have a med kit available?”

“I found two in the storage closet down the hall. Why?”

“No, you need a field kit.”

“Daniel’s was in his pack. Janet? What’s going on?”

“If he goes into crisis, you may have to use the large bore needle to extract air from his lungs, Colonel.”

“Oh, shit….” There was a long silence during which Teal’c indicated they were ready to move, then the colonel’s voice came back again. “Just hurry, Doc.”

~*~

Siler sighed heavily. The past twenty four hours had been some of the longest he could remember. If they managed to get the offworld teams back safely, it would be at least one worry off his mind. He was greatly concerned about the dampeners holding with the jury-rigged power supply, but there was no way to know what would happen until someone actually dialed in. They could only wait and hope everything would hold.

At least everyone on base was now accounted for. They’d lost ten people in all, most in the areas near and below Doctor Jackson’s office. Actually, Siler was trying not to think Doctor Jackson could be a possible eleventh casualty; the transmissions he was monitoring sounded pretty damn grim. Siler knew Doctor Fraiser and especially the colonel would do everything in their power to make sure their newly returned friend was safe; he just hoped it would be enough.

The SGC had been a much sadder place without Doctor Jackson around. Sometimes it seemed to him that SG1 had appointed themselves his ghost. Siler had seen them at all hours, haunting the corridors and Doctor Jackson’s office. Even though Quinn worked there after the accident, it had always been Doctor Jackson’s office to SG1. To a lot of them really. They’d go in there and just sit, communing with the spirit of Doctor Jackson left behind in the books and artifacts no one could bear to remove.

Siler knew the colonel would do his damnedest to help their favorite archaeologist. Just like Doctor Fraiser and Teal’c would spare themselves nothing to get there in time.

~*~

Jack had tried to doze lightly earlier, counting on his internal clock – honed over the years to the point where he could force himself awake regularly if necessary – to help him keep watch over Daniel while still getting a modicum of the rest his own body so desperately needed. It had been over twenty four hours since he’d left his warm bed, and he knew even little cat naps would help restore the flagging energy he was sure to need before the crisis was past. It had worked fairly well, until the aftershock had brought him upright and to Daniel’s side in a matter of seconds. After talking to Fraiser, though, there was no way he could even pretend to sleep.

Even if he hadn’t been practiced in the art of creative sleeping, Jack knew the sound of Daniel’s ragged, erratic breathing would have been enough to keep a part of him alert. He’d checked Daniel’s pulse twice in the time since Janet had told him to; it was high.

After talking with Daniel earlier, Jack had found himself contemplating a lot of things, not the least of which was the rightness his life had taken on again. Over the last year, there’d been far too many occasions when he’d considered retiring once and for all. ..or at least finally accepting that promotion Hammond kept dangling at him. Without Daniel, the team had seemed rudderless. Going through the motions without a vital part of what made them who they were. Daniel had said, even when they disagreed over things to do with the job, they still kept that underlying attunement, that knowing beyond doubt who the other was and what to expect from them in a pinch. From Daniel, Jack knew he could always expect his best: his unwavering loyalty, his stubborn inability to give up when all hope seemed lost, and his never-ending compassion when life kicked you in the ass. Jack had really missed those constants, that one sure thing he could depend on in the person of Daniel Jackson, just like he knew he could depend on Teal’c’s steadfast strength and honor, or Carter’s techno-wizardry and tenaciousness. For the first time in over a year, SG1 was whole again and Jack had every intention of keeping it that way.

Teal’c and Fraiser were on their way through the ventilation shafts; Jack had already loosened the bolts on the grid and placed a spare flashlight in the shaft to help them find the right one, but they were still at least one level up and who knew how many twists and turns away. It would be another hour or more for them to get to the office, and even longer for the team in the stairwell to clear the debris.

Shifting over onto his side, Jack watched Daniel as he slept propped on the pillows Janet had insisted would help. They hadn’t much, but it had helped Jack to be able to do something. Daniel hadn’t even stirred, not then and not during the earlier tremor - which had worried Jack even more.

Daniel’s breathing was all wrong, fast and shallow, not steady and deep. There had been plenty of opportunities in the past for Jack to be familiar with the patterns of Daniel’s breathing through unconsciousness, illness, profound exhaustion and even death. Jack would never admit to anyone how he’d sneaked back to the VIP room the night Daniel returned so he could stand in the dark listening to the slow steady breaths as he watched the other man sleep slumped over sideways on the bed, clutching the picture of Sha’re as he dreamed. It had almost physically hurt not to go over and settle Daniel properly on the bed as he would have done a year before. It had hurt to hold back and remember Daniel didn’t really know any of them.

Now though, Jack was more certain than ever that Daniel hadn’t willingly forgotten and that Carter’s theory Daniel may have chosen to become human again was right on the money. Jack just knew Daniel hadn’t given up his identity without a fight; he’d struggled too hard to get it all back in the time since. He’d read every journal and report, picked every brain he could rope into a few minutes of conversation. Daniel had doggedly pursued himself with all of the fervor he’d ever shown an ancient puzzle.

Glancing at his watch, Jack sighed. If Daniel really did have a tear in his lung, then his condition could deteriorate at any moment with no warning. Jack had seen a person die from a collapsed lung once; medical help had arrived just seconds too late. By the time the medic had cut into the man’s chest and tried to tube him, it was too late. The kid hadn’t given up though, forcing air into the man’s chest in a macabre version of CPR - but in the end it hadn’t done any good.

Jack swore to himself as he shook off the memory. That wouldn’t happen to Daniel, no way in hell were they losing him now.

Chapter 8

Mitch Grayson was worried. The offworld teams were due back any moment and Siler was concerned that Carter’s reactors might not fully support the dampeners that kept gate openings from becoming seismic events. With the fault already unstable there was the very real concern additional stress could trigger a more devastating quake. Major Carter was running simulations based on the geologist’s reports. Her best estimate at the moment said everything would be fine if at least half the dampeners held. Then again, Mitch knew from long experience that simulations and reality had a tendency not to agree. If anything could go wrong, it would was a maxim he was intimately familiar with because inevitably it did.

Word had come in finally on Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson. Both were alive but the archaeologist was injured and far from out of the woods if the one-sided chatter from Fraiser to O’Neill was anything to go by. Mitch actually knew O’Neill from Iraq. While they hadn’t served in the same unit for long, Mitch knew O’Neill was the type who never gave up. If there was a chance in a million to save his friend, O’Neill would do whatever it took. O’Neill was the kind of commander every soldier wanted to have on his six.

Mitch had met Jackson a few times too, and the unofficial scuttlebutt had impressed the hell out of him. Mitch had missed the man’s pleasant ‘good mornings’ or distracted smiling waves when they’d passed one another when signing in or out. He’d asked the young scientist just the week before where he’d been so long and received a vague ‘away’ in response. What Doctor Jackson didn’t know – no one knew – was that Mitch had gotten curious and checked the log in records. While Doctor Jackson had signed in only a few days before their exchange at the blast doors, he hadn’t signed out for over a year. “Away” was probably an understatement Mitch didn’t want to analyze too deeply.

While he knew the facts of what the Stargate was about, he wasn’t privy to details - and most of the time that was more than okay with him. Still it was strange how a man could disappear for so long then drop right back into his life complete with furniture stored and transported by the SGC. It was almost like Jackson had come back from the dead or something.

Mitch scoffed under his breath at the absurdity, earning him a curious look from Major Carter.

“Nothing, Major. Just an impossible thought.”

“Yes, sir…”

The major nodded and turned back to her computer models as Mitch suppressed a shiver. An impossible thought, it had to be.

~*~

As he gradually became aware of his surroundings again, Hammond remembered the shaking in his office, then not much else. The beeping noises and low voices nearby clued him in on his current location. Infirmary. Obviously something bad had happened.

With a lot more effort than he expected it to take, George opened one eye and then the other, blinking away the gritty feeling it caused. One glance confirmed his guess; he was definitely in the infirmary. Through a crack in the curtains surrounding his bed, George could see a pair of nurses wrapping an airman’s wrist across the aisle.

Rather than disturb people who obviously had better things to do, George levered himself up carefully on one arm, then pulled himself upright using the bed rail, pausing to let the dizziness pass. Swinging his legs off the bed, he moved his limbs carefully, reassuring himself everything was in working order except his head. He was fairly sure he had a concussion, even vaguely remembered being shaken awake a few times, but he’d been down that road before.

The chair beside his bed held a stack of clothing, his spare uniform from his office, Davis no doubt. George had a flash of the sergeant standing at the door to his office before the lights had gone out, he had a feeling he owed the man a lot more than the thoughtfulness of a clean uniform.

Sliding gingerly off the bed, George stood and tested his bearings. With caution born of past experience, he retrieved the clothing, placed it on the bed, and began to dress. Something bad had happened to the SGC, and he damn well wasn’t going to lie around waiting for someone to tell him what it was.

~*~

The gentle shaking penetrated Daniel’s sleep first, then the feeling of something or someone standing near. Daniel opened his eyes to see Jack looming over him, a blanket spread over his head between his hands, shielding both of them with hands braced against the wall, legs holding the sofa in place.

Aftershock?

Suppressing his first impulse to jump up and help, Daniel gripped the sofa to keep himself from slipping off. For all Jack’s effort each jarring motion sent waves of pain through his head and chest, he almost felt seasick. Daniel could hear bits of dirt and debris hitting the taut blanket Jack held over them, but he didn’t hear anything to compare to the first quake. As the shaking died away, Jack smiled down at him reassuringly before peeking out to see if it was really over.

Slowly, Jack stood, pulling away the blanket carefully so the dirt on it didn’t fall on Daniel or his own cot.

“Over?”

Jack nodded cautiously. “Think so. At least there was a warning this time.”

“This time?”

Jack poured two cups of water and sat down on his cot. “Yeah, you slept through the other one.”

Wincing an apology as he took the water Jack offered, Daniel motioned for Jack to explain.

“The last one was a real aftershock, this one was SG12 coming in. Some of the stabilizers are offline so we got rattled a bit. SG6 is due in the next half hour, so schedule ahead.”

With a smile, Daniel acknowledged the humor. “ Any more damage?”

“A little,” Jack shrugged. “More stuff in the corridor, but the rescue team in the stairwell is fine, worked up until the warning came. I didn’t hear anything else fall this time so they should be back to work soon. Teal’c and Doc are on their way through the ventilation system, shouldn’t be long now.”

“Teal’c and Janet? Why?”

Jack just gave Daniel a long, patient look, then urged him to drink his water. With an answering smile, Daniel brought the cup to his lips and took a sip, he’d been asleep a long time and his throat was painfully dry.

He’d really, really missed this part of Jack. Missed having someone who could simultaneously make him feel wanted, exasperated, and all of ten years old again. Only Jack. Swallowing, Daniel suddenly felt the water go wrong, then he was coughing…

God, it hurt.

More pain than he could remember since the worst part of his ‘death’, before the drugs helped disassociate him from his body and he spent more and more time in his dream state with Oma than hanging on to life. He remembered his friends speaking to him, remembered feeling their pain and regard, but he was too far gone to reach back and give them the comfort and assurance he wanted.

He felt Jack holding him steady, carefully bracing his back and chest, rubbing his throat to ease the spasms. The touch was reassuring, strong - just like Jack.

As the pain subsided, Daniel closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing steadily - only to find he couldn’t.

~*~

Teal’c was pleased with their progress, but wished they could go much faster. The last report from O’Neill prior to the aftershock had left Doctor Fraiser tight-lipped and withdrawn with a renewed determination that Teal’c recognized. The doctor was gravely concerned for Daniel Jackson.

They had just reached the vertical junction where they could drop down to level eighteen. Once they got down, Teal’c estimated fifteen to twenty minutes more of crawling would place them at the vent opening on Daniel Jackson’s office. As he swung his lower body over the shaft, Teal’c looked his companion. The diminutive woman was clearly tired, but her face was set in a tight expression that told him her physical state was the last thing on her mind. All that mattered to her in that moment was getting to her patient before his condition became critical. It was a goal he shared wholeheartedly.

Levering himself over the shaft, Teal’c dropped carefully down to the next level twelve feet below. Reaching up, he took the medical pack the doctor extended down by its carry strap and placed it on the floor behind him.

“Use caution, Doctor Fraiser,” he urged as she copied his movements, first sitting then dropping her legs over the side of the shaft. Turning over onto her stomach, she edged herself down until she was dangling by her hands. Teal’c reached up and placed his hands on her hips to control her descent, but before they could complete the maneuver the metal walls began to shake and she lost her grip.

Quickly shifting his grip, Teal’c caught a handful of the doctor’s jacket and pulled her toward him. Staggering backward into the wall, he let the small woman slip down to her feet as they and the wall stopped moving.

“Well that that was interesting,” the doctor smiled shakily as she regained her equilibrium. “Thank you, Teal’c.”

Inclining his head in acknowledgement, Teal’c motioned toward the tunnel they needed to traverse. “Shall we proceed?”

As he watched, Doctor Fraiser visibly gathered her seemingly limitless resolve and ducked down to resume their journey. Only a few more minutes and they would finally be able to help their friend.

“Doc!”

The urgent tone of O’Neill’s voice stopped them both immediately and the doctor keyed her radio.

“Colonel?”

“Janet, it’s happening. He can’t breathe…”

Teal’c felt O’Neill’s words like a physical indictment of failure. They were near, but as yet too far away to be of use in this crisis. It was up to O’Neill now. Teal’c saw the doctor swallow hard against her own strong emotions before she responded to O’Neill.

“It’s okay, Colonel. We knew this could happen. You have to stay calm for Daniel now and listen to me.”

There was a slight pause during which Teal’c could envision O’Neill gathering his own considerable strength of will to defeat the panic Teal’c knew the man must be feeling.

“Okay, Janet, tell me what to do.”

Chapter 9


‘Get him sitting, Colonel.’

Check, no problem there, the coughing had brought Daniel upright in a hurry, it only took a moment to turn the man around and prop him in place with the pillows. It was a lot harder for Jack to let watch his friend gasp for breath that wasn’t getting where it needed to be.

‘Get the large bore needle you set aside earlier, then tape, sterile wipes, scissors, and a glove from the kit.’

Check, all laid out on the cot beside him.

‘Cut the finger off the glove and tape it over the needle, once you get it inserted you’ll need to cut a small slit in the end of the finger so it will act as a valve.’

Check, weird looking, but check.

‘Cut Daniel’s shirt open and listen to both sides of his chest.’

Check. Scary as hell to hear nothing at all from one lung, but done.

‘Use your fingers to feel down from the collarbone on the affected side to the third and fourth ribs as near in a line with the nipple as possible, clean the area, then insert the needle at a careful ninety degree angle. This is going to hurt like hell, so make it as fast and smooth as you can.’

Oh, shit, way easier said than done.

Jack looked up to meet Daniel’s gaze, seeing the trust there even through the barely controlled panic at not being able to draw a free breath. There was a moment of instant understanding between then, Daniel was scared shitless, but he was fighting to stay alive and he was counting on Jack to make it happen. There were no drugs this time, no glowy savior waiting in the wings - Daniel’s life was in Jack’s hands and he truly believed in Jack’s ability to pull off this miracle for him.

With a deep breath, Jack tightened his lips in an expression that might have been a smile in other circumstances, then nodded a promise, “You aren’t going anywhere this time, Daniel. You hear me?”

With a wince of apology, he pushed the thick needle in and tried not to notice the way Daniel’s hands dug into his thighs or the trickle of blood making its way down his chin as he bit into his cheek. The gush of air Janet had told him to expect was one of the sweetest sounds Jack had ever heard.

“I’m sorry, Daniel, I know it hurts, but Janet said you have to breathe deep now,” Jack said urgently, using his free hand to hold Daniel’s face still, forcing him to look only at Jack. “Come on, Daniel. Breathe…”

As Jack watched, Daniel made an effort to calm himself and get his body to cooperate in what should have been an instinctive function. As Daniel drew his first deep breath, he grabbed on to Jack’s leg as the pain of the simple act of drawing air into his lungs brought tears to his eyes. It clearly hurt like hell, but Daniel did it, one deep breath then another. In and out, in and out. The bluish cast to his lips began to fade and the relieved look on his face gave Jack all the reason he needed to know he’d done things right.

Patting Daniel’s cheek, Jack breathed his own deep sigh.

“Good job, Danny, just keep doing what you’re doing…” Reaching for the radio, he announced, “He’s okay, Doc. He’s breathing easier.”

Jack smiled at Daniel who nodded back in affirmation. The simple words belied the ordeal they’d both experienced over the past few minutes, but they understood what they meant and that was all that mattered.

“Good news, Colonel. Well done. He should be fine now until we get there. Just tape down the needle like I told you and keep him upright and still. No food or drink for now. Teal’c says we should be there within ten minutes.”

“Got it, Doc.” Jack started to key off, then added, “Janet?”

“Yes, Colonel?”

“Thanks.”

There was a long silence then Janet replied, “Yes, sir,” her voice revealing her emotion.

Looking down at the needle he was still holding securely to Daniel’s chest, Jack considered the logistics of taping it in place. As hard as it had been to hurt Daniel for the sake of helping him, Jack knew that bit of metal and plastic with the taped on finger of a rubber glove was the only thing keeping Daniel breathing properly.

“Sorry about the shirt,” he joked as he used his teeth to pull a length of tape out. He needed more hands.

Daniel smiled tightly in return, his eyes dancing in amusement even through his discomfort. “S’okay, I’ve got ten more just like it.”

Laughing as much at his own relief as Daniel’s bad joke, Jack nodded and made a show of trying to cut the tape one handed while trying to ignore the shaking of his hand as he finally managed it and started applying the tape to the wad of bandaging Janet had said to place around the needle sticking out of Daniel’s chest. The adrenaline that had fueled him through the many crises of the day was crashing on him big time. Blinking hard to fight off the emotional release he knew was imminent, Jack didn’t see Daniel’s hand move to close over his until it had done so.

“Thank you, Jack…” he whispered. “I think I owe you another one.”

Jack shook his head and turned his hand until he could take Daniel’s firmly in return. “No, Daniel. You don’t owe me a thing you haven’t paid a dozen times over in advance. This friendship thing isn’t about owing. It never has been and I think you know that even if you don’t remember all of it.”

Jack saw Daniel accept his words with a nod as his eyes closed, forcing a tear from the corner of one eye. Reaching up to swipe it away with his thumb, Jack held on to the solid reality of his friend for a long moment. Daniel was really and truly back, living life as tenaciously as ever, maybe even more so than before. And for the first time in a longer than Jack could remember, it felt like everything was going to be okay.

~*~

‘He’s okay, Doc. He’s breathing easier.’

There were ten people in the auxiliary control room with Davis, including General Hammond, and he felt the relief pour out from each body that had been held at tense attention since the colonel’s first call that Doctor Jackson was in trouble.

It had been a long day and night and day; it was heading on to midmorning already. Hours full of losses - in lives and to their ‘home’. With General Hammond back at the helm, Davis felt the sense of family prevalent to the SGC, never more evident than in this current situation, wash over him and he smiled to himself. The general was back where he belonged, guiding them through the continuing crisis with a steady hand, despite his aching head. It had taken Doctor Warner less than an hour to realize his ranking patient had flown the coop. He’d shown up with a stern look any of them would have feared but had left along after dispensing instructions to Davis and Siler, as well as a prescription he just happened to have in his pocket.

It was nearly time for SG6 and Davis knew he’d have to relay the warning soon, but for a few more precious seconds he thought it was more important to let the good news salve their weary souls. Once again and, as usual, against all odds, the colonel and Doctor Jackson had pulled off a real live miracle right when they needed one.

As people began stirring from their positions, heading back to work in preparation for the incoming team, the lights flickered then steadied. Main power was back online.

A subdued cheer went up in the control room, a chorus of ‘all rights’, then the general spoke up, “Let’s get back to work, people. We’ve got people to get home.”

None of them needed an explanation to know the general wasn’t just talking about SG6.

~*~

Mitch watched in empathy as the SGC personnel took in the news of Doctor Jackson’s condition with varying degrees of happiness, tears, and heads bowed to offer thanks. Major Carter was trying very hard to maintain her composure, but even Mitch could see the effort it cost her not to start laughing or crying or both.

Taking a totally unnecessary-to-the-situation file from the stack in front of him, Mitch handed it to her, “Could you take this to Seaver in the main control room, Major?” He added more quietly “And take your time.”

With a grateful smile, she took the folder and left the room just short of double time.

“Commander Grayson?”

It was George Hammond’s voice.

“George? Is that you?”

“It’s me, Mitch. How are things up there?”

Mitch had to laugh, anyone would think they were out on the links. “We’re doing fine. And you?”

“Better now with the good news and with power restored. Mind sending someone to check the elevators, I just ordered the shafts clear.”

“Elevator one is off its track, so that one’s a no go, but we’ll do some test runs on the other. Do you think evacuation is necessary?”

“No, no. The worst damage is pretty localized. Siler doesn’t think there’s any danger once we get that section clear, but as soon as we’re able the engineers need to confirm. Once we get the elevators operating, these folks need a break but I don’t think we need to run for the exits. None of our medical cases are critical now that help has reached Doctor Jackson.”

Mitch nodded to himself, George’s plan sounded reasonable and based on knowledgeable data. “You guys were damn lucky down there.”

“Luck is one word, Mitch.”

And Mitch didn’t need to ask George what the other words were, he knew them extremely well. Words like determination, family, dedication, and honor. Words that didn’t let people give up even when things looked hopeless, words that had and would always continue to bring people out of the dark places of the earth and into the light of day.

~*~

Daniel was one lucky sonuvabitch. Of course, with Daniel, you never quite knew if it was luck or something else. Lou smiled down at the archaeologist they’d just settled onto a stretcher with its back raised to keep him upright.

When the lights had come back up, Hammond had come over the loudspeaker with an update. Feretti and his team were already on their way to Daniel’s office after hearing Doctor Fraiser’s side of the crisis. They’d arrived just in time to clear the last of the debris in the stairwell. By the time they’d gotten inside, Fraiser was there and clucking over Daniel like a mama cat with one kitten. Hell, Jack wasn’t much better. Or Teal’c, or any of his own team. Lou, of course, knew he’d never be so obvious.

Jack looked almost as bad as Daniel, he was moving slow like he’d run a marathon. In a way he had, Lou figured. He’d kept the two of them safe, warm, and fed. He’d stepped up and done what he had to do when Daniel got in trouble. Couldn’t ask for more than that.

“You sure he’s up for this, Doc?”

Or maybe Jack could.

“I’m sure, Colonel, he’s fine for the time being but we need to get him to the infirmary asap.”

“Well what if…”

“Colonel, he’s going to be fine. He won’t be fine if we keep wasting time worrying about whether he’s fine or not.”

“But…”

“Jack?” Ah, Lou knew Daniel wouldn’t stay silent too long.

“Daniel? Everything okay?”

“No, Jack, I’ve got this persistent bug in my ear and I really need to pee.”

That pulled the big, bad colonel up short. Jack just looked at Daniel for minute then grinned.

“So shut up and get this show on the road?”

Daniel shrugged, “Something like that, yeah….”

Lou watched Jack’s fond regard for Daniel in full display, just short of being sappy, and decided to rescue the man before he embarrassed himself.

“So what say we get this train on the move?”

Lou motioned for his team to grab the handles on the stretcher and wasn’t a bit surprised when two were shifted out of position by Teal’c and Jack. Fraiser favored him with a grateful smile and they were moving.

~*~

What a difference a day made. Sam stood in the doorway of the private infirmary room and watched the colonel and Daniel where they lay on their respective beds, the colonel having been found out by Janet for the extensive bruising on his back he’d neglected to mention. The two men were talking and joking quietly to one another, the colonel being careful to keep his side of the conversation dominant so Daniel didn’t overtax himself. The chest tube in place was slowly re-expanding his lung and Janet was more than optimistic Daniel would recover completely.

It had taken a full day after main power was restored to get the elevators functioning reliably. The engineers had been the first passengers down and they’d confirmed the base was secure with the exception of the damaged areas. Feretti and his team had taken it upon themselves to pack up Daniel’s office and put his things in storage. It would be a month or more before repairs were finished, complete with newly reconfigured support systems. The colonel was currently trying, yet again, to talk Daniel into taking a new office far away from his current one. Sam refrained from telling him what he already knew; the fact the area around Daniel’s office had taken the hardest hit in this crisis was purely a coincidence, it could have been anywhere, including the colonel’s own office. The fact that there’d been any damage at all was a fluke, if the fault had shifted even a few inches in the other direction, the mountain complex would barely have noticed it happening.

Daniel was taking it all in stride; he seemed pretty happy actually. Sam wondered what ghosts might have been laid to rest while he and the colonel were trapped together, but she figured it didn’t really matter. The two of them had obviously reached a meeting of minds, and maybe of hearts, and were definitely happy about the result. She was just glad her team had all come through it alive.

Being so near and yet so far from the dramas her friends experienced had taught Sam a valuable lesson; there was nothing more important in her life than her team. All the ups and downs of the past six years had made her appreciate it, but this had made her value it above anything else she could think of except her family. Some things were too important to screw around with, and her team was the biggest one she could think of. What they had was unique, probably unprecedented in many ways, and much too precious to lose.

“Carter?” The colonel’s voice pulled Sam out of her reverie.

“Sir?”

“Don’t just stand there, come on in and explain to this guy why an office next to yours is so much better for him.”

“Jack….”

Sam laughed and moved into the room. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to get in the middle of their argument or not, but she couldn’t think of anything she’d rather do than be right where she was.

~*~

The laughter from within O’Neill and Daniel Jackson’s room was a balm to Teal’c’s weary body and soul. The stresses of the past few days had worn on him far more than he’d expected. Though he physically did not need kel’no’reem any longer, Daniel Jackson had helped him realize his spirit could still benefit. There simply had not been time.

He and Daniel Jackson had shared the discovery of belonging not long ago. It was something Teal’c realized he should have known all along, but like many lessons it had taken loss for it to be fully realized. This world might not be his home, but the people in that room - along with people like Janet Fraiser and General Hammond, were as much his family as his friends, family by choice if not by blood. It had been a very long few days, but they were over now. His friends were safe, his second home was damaged but safe, all was right in his world.

As he reached the door, Teal’c stood outside a moment, drinking in the sight of O’Neill teasing Daniel Jackson about his propensity for hoarding food.

“I swear to God, Carter, you could’ve lived a year on what I found down there.”

Major Carter laughed from her seat beside Daniel Jackson, squeezing the hand she held in her own. “Well if worse had come to worst, you could have eaten the fish.”

O’Neill favored the major with a baleful look. “Those salt water wannabes? No one would get that desperate, Carter.”

“Well there was that time on…” Daniel Jackson offered.

Sensing he would never have a better opportunity to ‘get one over’ on his friends, “Do you not recall the Blue Worm Incident, O’Neill?”

Major Carter and Daniel Jackson were looking at him in barely concealed amusement as O’Neill struggled to maintain his composure. “Teal’c….”

“If memory serves, you mentioned oregano.”

O’Neill lay back and waved a hand in defeat as the other two dissolved in laughter, cautious slightly breathless laughter in Daniel Jackson’s case, but a most pleasing sound to them all.

“I’m surrounded, completely surrounded….” O’Neill moaned dramatically, even as his eyes sought out Daniel Jackson and nodded approval of his obvious joy.

There was really only one response Teal’c could make and so he did.

“Indeed.”

~*~

There had never been a more perfect day - at least not in recent memory. Daniel smiled inwardly at his own joke. Considering a year of his life was nothing but a blank and there were still occasional small holes in his memory before that, he couldn’t really be sure. But this was close enough. He felt uplifted, he felt needed and wanted, and, more importantly, he felt loved. What could be more perfect than that?

He wanted to tell his friends somehow, wanted to share this precious realization and let them in on the secret, but looking at their shining eyes he thought perhaps they already knew. In fact he was almost sure of it.

As Sam leaned down to kiss him on the cheek before leaving, he caught her gaze in a moment of understanding. She knew.

“Goodnight, Daniel. Goodnight, Sir.”

“Night, Carter, keep the troops in line.”

“Count on me, sir.” She giggled as she waved on last time at Daniel and disappeared out the door.

“O’Neill, Daniel Jackson, rest well.”

“Thank you, Teal’c,” Daniel offered, knowing Teal’c would understand he meant the words to cover more than just goodnight wishes.

Teal’c bowed deeply in acknowledgement and left.

Beside him, Jack was smiling up at the ceiling.

“What?”

“What what, Daniel?”

“You’re thinking something…”

Jack shook his head in denial. “Me? I never think, you know that.”

Daniel just rolled his eyes. Jack liked people to believe he was as deep as a puddle in the desert, but Daniel knew his friend better than that. “Never mind, don’t want to know anyway….”

Silence descended on the room as Daniel did a slow countdown in his head, he barely made it to eight when Jack spilled it.

“I was just wondering what we could get into while we have all this time off. What with you recovering and the repairs, Hammond figures we’ll be grounded most of the next month.”

“A month? No, I’ll be ready in a week, tops.” Daniel realized his optimism would carry more weight if his voice didn’t sound like he was ninety. The yawn didn’t help matters either.

“So what say we all go fishing when Fraiser springs you out of here.”

Daniel nodded as his eyes closed, “Sure, some time in the woods sounds good. I really haven’t had time…”

“To just enjoy being alive again?” Jack offered seriously.

Peeking out of one eye to meet Jack’s earnest expression, Daniel nodded again. He should have known Jack would understand. “Yeah….need some of that….” Daniel let his eye close again and tried to smile as he felt himself already drifting.

“We need that, too, Daniel,” Jack whispered, probably thinking Daniel was already asleep.

Daniel just let himself drift away, wrapped in the feeling of truly being home again.

~*~

Life was good. Hell, better than good it was pretty damn terrific. Daniel was alive and snoring right beside him, his back was better - Fraiser was just being her usual overly cautious self. Or maybe she just knew Jack would have been right here in this room anyway, or torn between duty and wanting to be here. Either way, Jack wasn’t in any hurry to be sprung this time, he had a vested interest in his patient’s recovery after all.

Lying back and turning the light over his bed on dim, Jack sighed. It had been a hell of an experience, but if he never had to do something like that again he’d die a happy man. If he never had to watch Daniel struggle to live again he’d die even happier. One thing the experience of the past few days, the last year really, had shown him it was that family was worth going through any kind of hell to hang on to. It was a weird kind of family, but after seven years of knowing Daniel, six of being part of SG1, Jack knew in his heart his team was as much a family as any he’d ever been a part of. There was no substitute for the real thing, and this was it. Some things transcended the norms the rest of the world held as acceptable, some things were just meant to be the way they were. SG1 was one of those things and Jack couldn’t imagine anything better or more important or more meaningful than what he had right now.

Jack figured he was getting too old for the American dream in its usual form, to tell the truth, he didn’t think he had it in him to try all that again. In the end though, what he had with his friends was a damn fine approximation and he was okay with that.

More than okay.

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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