Jmas Fan Fiction

Title: Day After Day
Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: drama, angst, h/c
Rating: PG
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net

Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc.
Spoilers: Forever in a Day, Children of the Gods, Secrets
Summary: Daniel disappears after Sha'uri's funeral. After Jack finds him, they must deal with even more...
Author's note: I'd written this story before FiaD was shown...I've done some reworking to take these events into account and to set up a sequel, which is well underway. Events within this fic are strictly my own opinions and observations...basically the way I wanted things to be...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One

"God, Daniel...where the hell are you?"

Great, now I'm talking to myself....

Two days and not a trace of him.

From the minute we stepped out of the Stargate, I knew he was going to run. But I thought it would be to his office, just like always...or even to the top of the mountain, we all escape up there...

But as I moved to follow him, I found pieces of his gear scattered along the corridor...headed for the elevator that would take him to the main gate. He wasn't just going into hiding here...he was running away. I tried to call and stop him at the gate, but by the time I'd figured out what was going on and got to a phone, it was too late.

Carter, Fraiser, Teal'c and I split up to search the mountain roads surrounding the complex, my house, Daniel's apartment...anywhere we could think of that he might be running to...

We all know what he's running from....

Sha'uri is dead.

No coming back from this one...no Goa'uld surprises, no sarcophagus, no miracles...

Daniel's search, the search that has been as essential to him as breathing for two and a half years, is over. Sha'uri is back on Abydos, buried six feet beneath the sand.

I remember Daniel's face during that weird burial rite, his eyes hidden from me by his sunglasses...I wish I could have seen them, maybe I would've seen this coming. I only got one good look at his eyes when they were doing that scale thing, but he didn't look up at any of us then.

I just can't understand why he's run away from us. Doesn't he know we're here for him...*I'm* ...here for him? Which is kind of awkward really...I'm here, but where is he? Kind of hard to be *there* for somebody who isn't...there...

There's a lot of stuff between him and Teal'c right now. Intellectually...and maybe even emotionally...Daniel knows that Teal'c did the right thing when he stopped Amaunet just short of killing Daniel. But that doesn't change the fact that in stopping Amaunet, Teal'c also killed Sha'uri. I've never seen Teal'c so...upset. It took a long time for Daniel to learn to trust Teal'c in the first place; I'm afraid that...this time...there's been a hole ripped through that trust that can never be fully mended.

The immediate problem is to *find* Daniel...we can work on the rest of it then.

I figured this morning that I'd drive into the National Park. If he's working so hard to avoid us, he probably wants to avoid people in general. The park's the best place I know to do that...

I ran out of road a long time ago, but I've got a hunch I'm on the right track here; a few years of walking through hell and back teaches you a few things about a guy.

Sure enough, as I come through some dense scrub on what might laughingly be referred to as a road...there's Daniel's car. How the hell he got that little foreign roller skate up in here is beyond me...and I doubt he was in any condition to remember getting here, much less how he did it.

*So where did he go from here?*

I've got some minimal supplies in the back of the Jeep: first aid kit, flashlight, flares, a couple of MRE's *(how'd they get in here?)*, a couple of bottles of water and a pint of something a lot stronger. I pack it all into a backpack I left in here after my last camping trip and pull my personal sidearm out from under the seat, strapping it on as I go.

Looking around Daniel's car, I can see signs of brush recently disturbed and couple of places where he's obviously gone down on his knees...which tells me all I need to know about his state of mind when he got here...

Four days ago Daniel nearly died from that ribbon-device thing Amaunet used on him; Teal'c said if he'd waited any longer, Daniel *would* have died. The only reason Fraiser let him out of the infirmary was to go to Abydos for the funeral. He was supposed to go straight back to the infirmary afterward,...instead, he took off. Now he's been gone for two days, and I doubt if he brought anything with him...

Two days alone with the memory...

*God, I've *got* to find him.*

......................................................................

I've been hiking for a couple of hours now, following the few signs I pick up on along the trail. Daniel's learned a few things over the years about hiding a trail; if he seriously wanted to lose himself out here, he could do it. He isn't trying. He probably doesn't expect any of us to get this close to finding him. He's heading upward. As far as I can tell, he hasn't stopped anywhere to rest..., which means even if he did bring food, he probably hasn't stopped to eat any of it...

I really should have gone back and called for help on this...but I don't want to waste anymore time. Daniel's been alone with this long enough and, like it or not, he's going to talk to me. Nobody should go through something like this alone...

I feel the sudden chill of my own memories and pick up the pace...

*Daniel's not the kind of guy to even think about...

He's been so quiet since...

I mean, look at the stuff he's had to deal with for the past couple of years...

If he managed to keep it all together through all of that...

Of course, at the bottom of all that, he had Sha'uri; her memory, the hope of finding her...

What has he got now?

Us.

Me.

I just hope it's enough...*

It's getting close to sunset...maybe I *should* go back and call in the troops.

'Just a little longer, I've got to be getting close...'

I found a place a while back where it looked like somebody had laid down for awhile; I guess he must've finally run out of steam there and stopped to rest, maybe even sleep...I just hope he's not sick; Fraiser said his whole system was thrown out of whack by that ribbon device...appropriate, I guess...so was his life...

I wish he would've waited a little longer, waited for me at least...

I know better than anyone what he's going through, I could've helped...talked...

I've been avoiding calling out to him; I don't want to spook him into running if he's still in the mood to be alone...

But it's getting late, another hour and it'll be dark...

Another night alone....

"Daniel!"

Chapter Two

*Right, O'Neill...Did you really expect it to be that easy?*

But it makes *me* feel better....

In fact it makes me feel so much better, I do it again.

"Daniel! It's me, Jack!"

Oh, yeah, I definitely feel better now....

I round a stand of boulders and hear a sound...might've been a voice...

"Hi, Jack...."

The voice is sad, raw....drained, yet nearly bursting with pure emotion....

So where is....

Small pebbles tumble down from the boulder, narrowly missing my head and I look up...

Daniel is sitting there on top of the boulder, cross-legged staring off across the valley below us...funny, I thought he hated high places....

He looks like hell....Unshaven, dirty fatigues, weary right down to his soul.

I climb up and sit beside him, but he doesn't look at me...just keeps staring off into space. I don't think he really even sees the vast landscape stretched out before him; his eyes are seeing something else entirely, if they're seeing anything at all....

I don't know what to say at this point, I know what *not* to say...not 'I'm sorry'...not 'I regret your loss'... all the yadda yadda platitudes, for all their good intent, mean essentially nothing when your guts are ripped wide open and your heart's laying on the floor...

I just reach out and put a hand on his shoulder ; just to let him know that I'm here, that I'll *be* here. If he wants to sit here all night, that's what we'll do. If he wants to laugh, cry or shout, that's what we'll do. If he wants to stay here on this mountain for a whole damn month, that's what we'll do.

The only thing I *won't* do is leave him alone with this...

He nods a little, still not looking at me, but his eyes regain a little focus...like he's coming back from wherever he's been...and he looks down at his clasped hands.

"I'm sorry, Jack..."

I want to choke him for that.

God knows, he had reason enough to go crazy and take off like this...he's got nothing to apologize for. But that's Daniel for you...always quicker to see what he's done to others than what others have done to him.

I don't trust myself to say anything yet, so I just squeeze his shoulder tighter...

He gasps a little as if he's coming up from under water and a rush of grief visibly overtakes him...

I pull him closer and just hold on to him. His entire body shudders with the depth of loss, the end of hope...the realization that this time she's really gone. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's cried and I know it won't be the last, but as I sit here rocking him gently in the gathering dark, I try to tell him he never has to do it alone...

By the time he goes quiet, it's completely dark. He's so still that for a moment I think he's gone to sleep, but he finally gives a ragged sigh and raises up slowly...pulling away...

I figure it's time to get practical here...

"We going to spend the night on this rock?"

I feel him shrug under my hand and take that as a positive sign. I dig around in my pack for the flashlight and help him climb down from the boulder, leading him down to a clearing I remember passing earlier. Helping Daniel lean up against a log, I move to gather some wood and start a fire using one of the flares. It's really getting cold now that the sun's gone. I've got a jacket, but Daniel doesn't; when he shucked off everything back at the SGC, he pulled off all but his two shirts. He'll be lucky if he doesn't wind up with pneumonia after two nights up here without so much as a fire.

I wish we had more gear.

When the fire's going, I walk over and put my jacket around him. He nods, but just lies there with his eyes closed. It's almost like he's numb; shock, I guess, or something close to it....

I pull out the pint of Southern Comfort and put it into his hand. He looks up at me finally and takes a deep swallow without blinking. I take a healthy swig myself before putting it away. I don't want him to get drunk...it might help for a little while, but it's a bad habit I don't want to see him get started on. I just hope it will loosen up that knot I know he has in his stomach and let him sleep...

He's just sitting there staring into the firelight now looking...lost. He's back from wherever he was up on that rock, but he's a long way from the here and now...

I gather enough wood to keep the fire going for a while and then join Daniel, sitting close enough that he can feel my presence, but far enough not to intrude on his personal space. ..the last thing I want to do right now is crowd him...

His eyes close gradually and his breathing slows and deepens, The Southern Comfort, the warmth from the fire...everything...has finally helped him relax. I'm willing to bet this the first actual sleep he's had in days.

I set my internal monitors, implanting the crucial message to wake at the slightest noise, to keep a portion of my senses on guard for any change in the immediate area...then I sleep.
..................................................

It's well into the night when I hear Daniel's voice call out Sha'uri's name.

Nightmare.

My eyes snap open and I've got a hand on Daniel before the second syllable of her name fades...

He's breathing in deep shuddering gasps, pulling out of the nightmare...seeming to realize that this particular nightmare is real...

I pull him close and talk to him, bringing him painfully back to the despised reality where his wife is really and truly gone...where he can still see the smile on her face as the demon inside her took pleasure in trying to kill him...

He doesn't cry again, just repeats over and over, "Why, Jack?"

*God, Daniel I wish I knew....*

And even if I did know, there's no answer that he'd be willing...or ready...to accept right now...

I don't even know what I'm saying to him, the words aren't important, just the being here...

Daniel's voice finally fades off into sleep...restless and fitful, but sleep. I just sit there holding on to him, one hand on his head, as if by sheer will I could take some of this pain away from him...

A rush of memory floods over me...

*Sha'uri, so sweet and trusting....the light and life in Daniel's eyes every time he looked at her....the wrenching pain of loss written all over his face as he watched his wife turn into a stranger and watched that stranger coldly observe Apophis fling him away like a rag doll...the absolute grief and love on his face as he lay beside her and said goodbye for the last time...*

Only it won't be the last time...

I know Daniel, he'll relive that day a thousand times in his dreams...and nightmares....

I can feel my own chest fill and my eyes overflow...my heart is full of sadness for my best and closest friend, and there's nothing I can do to make it right....

Chapter Three

Daniel's gone.

I'm trying not to get too worried here...I don't think he'll go running off again. So where the hell is he?

My pack is still here and the fire's been stirred up, so I figure he's gone off to use the um...facilities. I get up and dig a bottle of water out of the pack, taking a big swallow to wash the cotton out of my mouth...

A twig snaps behind me....

I start to turn around to talk to Daniel and...

Something hits me across the face...hard...

I'm down on my knees, seeing stars, but manage to turn around enough to see Daniel, tied up and being held by some ugly red-headed guy in full camo...there's another one standing over me...

*Great! Just totally, thoroughly, damnably great!*

What have we gotten ourselves into now?
.......................................................

The redhead pushes Daniel down and he falls against me.

I grab onto him, looking him over quickly to see if he's okay. There's a scrape across his cheek; I don't know if it's from the fall or if they hit him, but he nods to me that he's all right. I take a good look at the two guys standing over us with two very real-looking assault rifles...the kind not generally available to the public at large. The redheaded guy is every bit as big as Teal'c, he looks at us with a kind of cold anticipation that I don't feel a bit happy about. The other guy is smaller, dark-haired and, if anything, his eyes are even colder than Red's...Red *may* be dangerous, this guy definitely is. Whatever these guys are up to here...it's not going to be good for us...

I remember the gun on my hip and try to angle around so that Daniel blocks their view...if only they didn't notice it...

Daniel looks emotionally and physically exhausted, but his brain's working as well as ever and he moves to help me conceal the gun.

Red's talking to the other guy in some foreign language...Spanish, I think...and I wonder if that's one of Daniel's twenty-three. From his barely perceptible nod, I'm guessing it is. I keep one eye on the guys with the guns and another on Daniel...after all these years I can read his most minimal facial expressions...when he starts to look worried then *I'll* start getting worried.

Red and his pal are arguing and even I can tell they're arguing about what to do with us...a little frown from Daniel tells me I'm right. My own instincts tell me that the dark one wants to kill us outright, Red seems to be arguing for another option...God knows what...

Daniel looks over at me, his eyes a warning...and I go for the gun, yelling for Daniel to roll away. I shoot to wound, not to kill and they're surprised enough to take cover after I wing the dark-haired guy..

I grab up the pack and turn around to find Daniel already on his feet and ready to go. We dive for the cover of the boulders and I throw back a couple of more shots as a warning and keep going...

*It's not bad enough we have to deal with this kind of stuff off-world...?*

Daniel's having a little trouble keeping his balance with his hands tied behind his back and I fish out my pocketknife as we go. We stop at the next available cover and I cut the ropes. He nods his thanks to me, trying to catch his breath. I'd really like to know what these guys are up to here, but we don't have time to talk about it now.

I spot some better cover off to the left and point to it. Daniel nods and breaks cover at my signal. I'm right on his heels. We conceal ourselves in the deep scrub and hold our breath until Red and the other guy pass us at a dead run...

"What the hell is going on, Daniel?" I keep my voice low and my eyes in the direction the two sleazes disappeared.

He shakes his head, "Something about drugs...They think we saw something we shouldn't have..."

Great.

I glance over at Daniel, looking nearly lost in my jacket. He looks okay for now, but his eyes still have that distant look; he's here and I know he will be for as long as I need him to be, but he's barely hanging on. He's exhausted, probably weak from not eating for at least a couple of days...not to mention everything else he's dealing with....

*Life just sucks on general principal...*

Daniel catches me watching him and shakes his head. "I'm okay, Jack..." His eyes say differently, but I can see that he's in no way ready to talk about it...not that we have time right now anyway. "Don't you think we should be trying to get out of here?"

I can't think of anything to say to that, so I nod and we move out.

Chapter Four

We keep to the trees as much as possible. My first instinct is to head straight for our cars, but that might lead us straight into a trap; we don't know which road Red and company came in on.

*God, I wish to hell I'd told somebody where I was going...*

Daniel's holding up pretty well, but he's a long way from top form...

I broke open one of the MRE's at our last break and he picked at his share...probably just to keep me from nagging. He's too damn quiet....

His body's going through the motions, but his mind....

*How far away is Abydos, anyway?

Life, Fate, God...Somebody...owes Daniel big time...*

The stuff he's already been through in his life is bad enough, but now he gets slammed down by this one and isn't even allowed enough time to *start* to deal with it when life slams him again...

*Strange thing that Daniel doesn't like sports...he sure gets thrown enough curve balls...*

I can see in Daniel's eyes that he's balancing on a thin line; trying to control that soul-deep grief that shouldn't need to be held in...can't be held in. There may not be any visible injury, but there's not a doubt in my mind that my friend is walking wounded...and part of me is just waiting for the other shoe to drop...

I just hope he can keep it together long enough for us to get out of this mess....

There's a clearing up ahead that we're going to have to cross and I scout the woods around it visually. If we can get across, there's a good chance we'll come out just below the cars in a couple of hours. With the dense brush all around the road, it should be easy enough to scope out the area around them and see if it's safe...at the very least, maybe I can slip in and use one of the car phones...

If I know Hammond, he's called out the troops by now, but they have no idea where to even start looking....

Daniel's looking around, too...and I can see the effort it's costing him to stay focused, to hold back the floodgates of emotion and handle the immediate situation...

I want to say something, *do* something, to reassure him, but...

He's too close to falling over that line.

He looks my way and his eyes confirm my fears...telling me all too clearly to leave well enough alone...

I will.

For now.

*Life just plain sucks.*

....................................................

We break cover at a run and head for the next patch of trees,,,,

We're nearly there when automatic weapons plow up the dust at our feet as the shooter tries to target our range. The next pass comes closer and I urge Daniel to pick up speed as I dive into the bushes...

Daniel flies in beside me and lands heavily. Too heavily?

I look around to see him laying there, breathing hard...

"Daniel?"

Something isn't right....

"C'mon, Jack...they know where we are now...."

That's obvious, but I don't make any comment as we get up and take off again....

I spot a dense patch of scrub and lead Daniel into it. There's less than an hour until dark and we've been running nearly non-stop since daybreak. It's time for a break; after dark, we can check out the cars...

In our first real patch of luck, we discover that the brush conceals a sort of a cave...really just a big overhang of rock, but at this point...I'm not looking down any gift horse's throat.

I push the brush back into place to cover our entry and Daniel collapses underneath the rock. In the fading light, he doesn't look so good.....

"Daniel...?"

He opens his eyes and looks up at me, there's more there than just the shaky control I've witnessed all day...

Daniel pulls a hand from underneath my jacket....

It's covered in blood.

Chapter Five

Dammit....

Daniel's looking paler by the minute as I pull open the jacket to get a better look.

The bullet's gone through his side at an angle...from just below the left ribs in the back and exiting a few inches lower in the front...

Daniel doesn't make a sound; I don't have to tell him how important it is to keep quiet. Now more than ever, it's vital that we don't give our position away....

I pull the little first aid kit out of my pack...not much to work with in here: antiseptic, gauze pads, band aids, tape, thermometer. I open the bottle of antiseptic and give him a warning glance so he knows it's coming. There's a sharp intake of breath as I pour it liberally over the wounds and he digs both hands deep into the ground, but he doesn't make a sound. I tape on the gauze pads, but blood soaks through the thin stuff in seconds...

I pull off my fatigue shirt and then my undershirt, using my pocketknife to cut it into strips. I try to be gentle as I wrap the strips around his body, but by the time I tie it off, Daniel is shaking from the pain and the effort of holding back any sound.

I put my shirt back on and gather him to me as he tries to breathe through the pain...

"You okay?" I whisper it.

*Well, that's a bright question, Jack...*

As I watch in the fading daylight, he nods a little, still trying to breathe. He squeezes my arm tightly and his muscles relax slowly as he visibly wills the pain away. I just hold on to him, there's not much else I *can*do.

For now at least, he's got it under control. He's had more than his share of practice at dealing with pain...

"Jack...?" His voice is low, barely more than a breath of sound.

"Yeah, Danny?" I lean close to hear him.

"You should get out of here...."

*Like hell.....*

He knows me well enough to know what I'm thinking.

"Jack, you have to go while...."

Maybe it's not a good command decision. Maybe it's a purely emotional, and totally selfish decision, but...

*I'm.

Not.

Going.*

"Forget it, Danny. Together or not at all."

His head moves in a brief nod and his hands tighten on my arm as the pain takes over again...

............................................................................

Somewhere along the line, we doze off.

I wake up to the feeling of Daniel shaking against me and heat...fever...

*Murphy's law must work overtime when it comes to us...*

I hold him tighter, trying to share what little body heat I've got. It's colder now than it was last night and we can't risk a fire...

He's getting restless.

"Sha'uri...?" His voice is lost, plaintive; the fever has taken him down into the thoughts he's fought against all day.

I just whisper to him, trying to keep him quiet.

He grips my arm tighter. "She's really gone, isn't she, Jack?" He says it without a trace of hope; the facts he knows, it's the reality he doesn't want to accept.

I rub his back, trying to express what can't really be said...

"Yeah, Danny...She is." He doesn't need it sugar-coated; Daniel is more than a little familiar with dealing with the cold, hard facts of life and he expects me to give him the truth. It's one of the many things I've learned from Daniel...

He gives a little gasp that's almost, but not quite, a sob. "What do I do now, Jack?"

*Just ask me a tough one...*

Nothing I can say will make the pain go away. Nothing's going to *make* it go away. From my own experience, there's only one thing I know to say that may even make a difference...

"You never forget."

I can feel him nodding against me...he understands. I try to tell him that it's a day-to-day thing...that some days are harder than others...and it never really goes away. It just gets to a point of familiarity; a shadow of pain that becomes a part of the soul. He knows this already...it's been a part of him from the day he watched his parents disappear beneath a rush of crashing stone. He just needs to know that, this time, he's got us here to help...

"You aren't alone anymore, Daniel," I whisper. "You've got another family now...and we're here...whenever, whatever...we're here..."

He squeezes my arm again, but not in pain this time...

He knows.

I just hope it helps...

"I promised her, Jack..."

That gets my attention. "Sha'uri? What promise, Daniel?"

His body tenses and his voice is full of emotion, "To find the boy...I promised I'd do it..."

The boy? Kasuf told me that was why Daniel had gone back when the rest of us were trying to pull out...but when did he make that promise? Amaunet was in control the whole time in that tent, wasn't she?

There's a noise off to our left and I know before it happens that they're coming in after us. I finger the trigger of my gun, but realize I've only got four bullets. If I shoot, I have to shoot to kill... Daniel's too badly hurt to run for it again. Daniel reaches for my hand, pushing the gun down and I hope I'm reading his signal right.

He's got a plan...

Chapter Six

The Spanish...Mexican...Blackie shines his flashlight into my eyes, then down at Daniel.

He says something to us...reaching for my gun, and motioning for us to get up.

I try to be careful, but Daniel finally does cry out in pain...no real need to be quiet now...

Daniel leans heavily on me as Blackie motions for us to move out ahead of him.

I wonder where the other guy is? They must've split up to search for us.

Daniel tries to lift some of his weight off of me...and I tense up. What's he got in mind and why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to like it?

We travel a few more minutes and suddenly Daniel stumbles. Blackie curses...I know enough Spanish to know those words...and moves forward like he's trying to help and Daniel raises suddenly, pushing Blackie over and collapsing on top of him...

"Go, Jack..!"

*Dammit..*

I waver for a few seconds, but I know this may be our only chance...so does Daniel.

I take off into the trees, cursing the stupid, courageous move my friend just made. I've got to get some help up here...

I'm so close to the cars, I make that my first priority.

........................................................

I finally come into sight of the cars as the first grey light of dawn begins to break. I don't see anything at first, then I spot a movement in the brush just in front of Daniel's car...I guess this is where Red disappeared to.

I move as carefully as I can to come out behind his position.

I can see him there crouching in the bushes, eyes trained on the vehicles. I've got to take him down...

I reach down and pick up a stone off the ground, throwing it in the direction of the cars. Just like in the movies, the guy spins around thinking something's over there. I creep up slowly and club him across the back of the neck with locked hands and hear a satisfying thud just before he drops to the ground.

I take off my belt and tie his hands quickly. Daniel's keys are still in his car so I use them to lock the unconscious tough guy in the trunk.

One down, one to go...

I use Daniel's car phone to call Hammond, filling him in quickly...That done and knowing help's on the way, I take possession of Red's assault rifle and head back up the mountain...

...........................................................................

It's easy enough to track them....

Daniel's leaving a blood trail...jumping Blackie must've broken everything loose.

I spot a couple of places where the ground is disturbed and there's a lot more blood...

Daniel's not going to make it much further...

I pick up the pace.

*This is getting to be a bad habit....*

Chapter Seven

I come to a clearing close to where Daniel and I spent the first night...

There's a tent here, all kinds of gear. This must be where Red and his pal have been camped. A whole damn National Forest and I choose to camp next to a couple of drug runners....

I watch for a while, but don't see any signs that anybody's been here recently. I move in cautiously, trying to scan the perimeter and the camp at the same time, when I hear a low moan from the trees...

Sensing a trap, I move cautiously toward the sound....

It's Daniel...dumped there on the ground, bleeding and barely conscious...

I still don't see anything and my alarm bells are going off all over the place, but I can't leave him here.

"Daniel...?"

He's barely conscious, but registers the fact that I'm here.

"Where's Blackie?" I ask, still scanning the woods around us.

He licks dry lips, clearly making an effort to tell me. "I think...he's...um...he's....gone. Grabbed something from...." His hand waves weakly toward the camp. "Left..."

I nod in relief, still cautiously looking around. "I've got the other one locked in the trunk of your car."

He smiles a little at that and starts to cough, grabbing his side. The blood's run down his pant leg and soaked through...

"Hang on, Danny..." I tell him, reaching out my hand to give him something to hold on to..

The coughing passes and he lies there so quietly that I think he's passed out.

"Jack....help....?"

I don't know if he's asking if I got help or if he needs my help, but I go ahead and answer the first. "I got Hammond on the car phone...help's on the way."

He nods again. He's shivering now, so I go over to the tent and bring back a blanket. He looks....bad, worse than bad....

"Jack?" He's looking at me with eyes full of pain, full of things usually left unsaid between us, full of a weariness that just wants to let go...

It scares me. "Daniel, don't you go giving up on me...."

He smiles once, tears so near the surface that I absurdly wonder why they don't fall...then his eyes close.

"Daniel?"

I hear a chopper nearing the mountain and move back to the clearing to set off the last flare in my pack...

Running back to Daniel, I feel for a pulse...

Weak...terribly weak....

That look he had in his eyes haunts me....

It looked like he was saying goodbye...

"Daniel, you can't quit on me. That's an order!"

I just hope it's one he'll obey...


Chapter Eight

A week of sitting here in the infirmary watching Doc and her crew fight for Daniel's life hasn't done much for my mood. The bullet itself didn't cause that much damage, missing the major organs, but the blood loss and the infection are what nearly killed him...

That and the fact that he didn't seem to care if he lived or not...

One of the many things that has always impressed me so much about Daniel is his singular ability to hang on, that sheer stubborn determination to fight back no matter what life threw at him.

This time Daniel didn't seem to have any fight left in him...

The one sure thing that had always kept Daniel fighting...Sha'uri...was gone and he didn't seem able to focus on a life beyond that fact...

So I talked. Talked like I never have before. Non-stop. Talked about life. Love. Hope. Family. Friendship. Memories....

Daniel was just so exhausted, weak from losing so much blood and from fighting the fever that didn't seem to want to let him go....

It wasn't until I started talking about the people we'd helped and the people still out there that needed our help, that Daniel had showed any spark of interest. Skaara is still out there...along with countless others who need us...need *him*... to keep fighting.

*I* need him to keep fighting.

A long time ago, I called him the conscience of our team and that hasn't changed. He's taught all of us how to find that part of ourselves that he so expressively stays in touch with...our hearts. We started down this road together, I want us to *keep* traveling down it the same way...

He got so bad there for a while, I got scared...and when I get scared, I yell. So I started yelling at him. I reminded him of the promise he'd made to his wife...not beginning to understand what it meant...just that it was something for him to hold on to...

With that measureless capacity for empathy that is so uniquely a part of Daniel...he pulled out of the dark places his mind seemed to be trapped in...not for himself, but for us...and for others the Goa'uld have hurt as much as they've hurt him...for the child his wife had by another man...

I sat there watching his eyes come back as if from very far away...looking at me like I was the only solid anchor left in his life...Then I held him when the full weight of realization came crashing down once again and he cried with all the meager energy he could muster...falling asleep as his grief gave way to the weakness of his body...

It wasn't the first time, it won't be the last...but I hope he knows whenever he needs me I'll be there...we all will...

I have to work hard to control a deep and abiding rage against the Goa'uld for everything they've taken from my young friend...He's not so young as he once was; I've watched the weight of life settle on him over time and now I hate the look of ageless sadness that looks back at me from Daniel's eyes...

When Doc lets him out of here, I'm going to make him go with me to the ocean. The ocean is a very good place to rediscover something lost inside yourself...

I'm just hoping Daniel can find what he's lost..

I'm just hoping it's still there....

For almost three years Daniel's hope had a name...Sha'uri. Sha'uri may be dead, but everything in me is praying that Daniel's hope will survive...and that somehow, day after day, he finds a way to keep it alive....

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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