A Friend in the Dark
by Maureen Thayer
Categories: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Drama
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Gamekeeper, Holiday, The Tomb
The four members of SG-1 exited the Stargate into a small, stone-walled room, the only illumination being the light from their flashlights.
"Crap. We're underground, aren't we," Jack said.
Considering the events of their last, disastrous mission, his teammates could definitely understand his displeasure. Hopefully, they wouldn't run into another Goa'uld who had been living within the body of a bloodthirsty, carnivorous creature.
"Afraid so, Jack," Daniel responded. "But the air isn't stale, which means that we've got fresh air coming in from somewhere."
Jack took a whiff of the air, smelling dust. "If you can call this fresh."
The beam of Daniel's light fell upon the large entryway that the MALP's infrared camera had already spotted before they came through. He took a step toward it.
"Ah! Daniel, you know the rules," Jack said, stopping him. "Teal'c, take point."
The Jaffa strode forward cautiously, staff weapon raised and ready to be used. Jack went next, then Daniel, Sam taking up the rear. They entered a wide corridor, eyes and ears open for trouble. The corridor ended in another room. Daniel's eyes immediately went to the writing on the wall. He stepped up to one of the walls.
"It looks like Ancient Greek."
"Can you read it?" Sam asked.
"I believe so."
"We can get back to that later," Jack stated firmly.
"O'Neill, there is a staircase," Teal'c said. The others turned to see what the Jaffa's flashlight had revealed.
"Okay, let's see what's on the ground floor. I'm hoping for less dust. Some pretty dancing girls would be nice, too."
As they ascended the stairs, light became visible from above. Reaching the top, they saw that they were inside an ancient structure that had definitely seen better days. Several supporting columns lay cracked and broken on the floor. Huge cracks and holes were in the walls and ceiling. Ahead of them, double doors made of a bronze-like metal stood slightly ajar.
The team slowly approached the doors. Jack peeked outside. Not seeing anyone, he opened one of the doors wider, keeping his weapon raised. It groaned and creaked loudly. Another look outside confirmed that no one was around. The team exited, looking about. They appeared to be in a small canyon. There were the remains of several small structures. Though there were no trees or bushes, the ground was covered with some kind of purplish-green moss, like a living carpet.
As they moved farther away from the main structure, Daniel turned back around. He saw that the building they'd been in was nestled partially within a natural hollow in the side of the canyon wall. Dirt and rocks covered a good portion of the ceiling, most likely from a recent landslide. It was amazing that the structure had survived.
"So, what do you think this place is, Daniel?" Sam asked.
The archeologist looked about. "Well, it's far too small to have been a town." Daniel turned back to the main building, studying it. "My first guess is that this was a temple, but I could be wrong."
Daniel's gaze returned to the evidence of a landslide, then down the canyon further, seeing other evidence of rock falls, a lot of them. He began walking, his eyes mostly on the ground. He was followed by his teammates.
"Is there a problem, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
"Um, maybe." Daniel picked up one of the many rocks and small boulders that littered the ground. "I think there may have been an earthquake here, and pretty recently, I'd say."
"How recently?" Jack asked.
"That's hard to say exactly. There's no moss on this rock." He picked up another rock that was covered with the purplish growth, then his eyes went to the canyon walls. "This moss is growing on the ground, but not on the cliff walls. A lot of these rocks haven't been on the ground long enough for any to grow on them."
"So, what? Days? Weeks? Months?"
Daniel sighed. "I don't know, Jack." He looked at the spot where the rock without moss had been. "Um, definitely not long. There was moss underneath the rock, and it's not turning yellow, so that means it hasn't been covered for long."
"Are you sure it wasn't just a landslide, Daniel?" Sam asked.
"Look around, Sam." He pointed down the canyon a ways. "There's another slide over there," he gestured at another spot, "and one over there as well, and the ground is littered in boulders and rocks for as far as I can see. This moss is clearly very hardy and can take root even on the rocks, yet a whole lot of the rocks I see have no moss. They fell recently. Something had to cause that."
"Okay, you've convinced me," Jack said, "I'm not so anxious to see if we're going to get any aftershocks, so I'm thinking we should pack it in and head back."
Daniel stared at him. "What? We can't leave yet."
"Yes, we can."
"Jack, I need to take a look at that writing. The walls are covered in it."
"Jack, just . . . just twenty minutes, okay? If there's nothing important, we can go."
"Oh, we're going anyway, Daniel, regardless." He paused. "All right, you got twenty minutes." He looked at his watch pointedly.
Daniel hurried back into the main structure.
"Carter, Teal'c, check the perimeter," Jack ordered. "This place looks abandoned, but that doesn't mean someone doesn't come visiting for old times' sake."
"Yes, sir," Sam said. She and Teal'c headed toward the entrance to the canyon.
The minutes passed, Jack occasionally checking his watch. The allotted time was nearly up when Sam and Teal'c returned.
"Okay, let's head back," Jack said.
The three of them entered the main building. They looked around and spotted Daniel by a far wall.
"Time's up, Daniel. We're outta here."
"Jack, I think we need to stay," was the answer, which really didn't surprise anyone.
"Daniel, I don't want to hear it. You said twenty minutes, you got twenty minutes."
"Yes, but that was before I read this."
Muttering "For cryin' out loud," under his breath, Jack joined the archeologist, along with Sam and Teal'c.
"What?" the colonel asked impatiently.
Daniel's arms spread to indicate a section of writing. "This passage talks about an uprising. Apparently, these people revolted against the Goa'uld like the Ancient Egyptians on Earth did. It speaks of-of friends, visitors from far away who understood their plight. These visitors helped them build powerful weapons that enabled them to defeat the evil god that had enslaved them."
That instantly piqued Jack's interest. "Weapons, you say?"
"Yes. From what I've read on the walls so far, this place was more likely a historical archive of sorts rather than a temple. The writing recounts different important events in the history of the people, probably for visitors to read. This building may have originally been filled with books or scrolls."
"So, you think they may have left the weapons behind?"
"I suppose it's possible, although this place was clearly not abandoned suddenly. If it had been, there would be at least some artifacts remaining, but everything is gone. Of course, that could have been done later by people looking for things to sell."
"Or by archeologists."
Daniel gave Jack an unamused glare. "The point is that, if there were weapons, chances are that they're long gone, unless the inhabitants chose not to take them or couldn't for some reason. Of course, we don't know if they were ever in this building. I really need to read the text in that chamber next to the one with the Stargate. It could give us some clues."
Jack frowned. His instincts were telling him that they should get out of there, but the possibility that there were weapons hidden somewhere around here was too important to ignore. Any opportunity to get hold of weapons that could help them in the fight against the Goa'uld needed to be pursued.
"All right," he finally said. "I'll give you a couple of hours. If you don't find anything, we leave. Got it?"
"Yes." The archeologist headed for the stairs.
"Sir, I'm going to take my scanner down there and see if I detect anything," Sam said.
Jack nodded. "All right. Teal'c and I will check the area again."
Sam joined Daniel in the room next to the gate room. Her scanner did not detect any sign of functioning equipment. The same thing was true for the gate room.
"I'm going back up, Daniel," she said. "Find anything interesting yet?"
"Nothing that would be interesting to Jack," he replied. "But I've still got a long way to go."
Sam went back up the stairs and checked the rest of the building with her scanner, finding nothing. She then went outside and started checking the area around the main building and the other structures.
Jack and Teal'c came up to her.
"Anything?" the colonel asked.
"No, sir. Colonel, I've noticed something. Daniel's comments about the moss made me see it. Some of these structures look like they fell quite a while ago. See how the moss is growing on them? But look at that one. A lot of it has no moss, which makes me think that it collapsed recently, probably in that most recent quake. This entire area may be geologically unstable. We could be standing on a fault line."
"Carter, I don't want to hear that. Standing right on top of an alien planet's version of the San Andreas fault does not exactly give me a feeling of security."
"I don't know how I let Daniel talk me into. . . ." Jack's voice trailed off as he felt something beneath his feet and heard a low rumbling.
"Jack! Earthquake!" cried Daniel's voice over the radio.
"Daniel, get out of there!" Jack yelled as he, Sam and Teal'c ran, fleeing toward open ground. The earth began shaking violently, making it hard to keep their feet. The rumbling was nearly deafening. And then there was an even louder sound, like the canyon walls were crashing down upon them.
"Hit the dirt!" Jack yelled. He, Sam and Teal'c flung themselves to the ground and covered their heads.
For endless seconds, the shaking and horrendous noise continued, then everything stilled. Cautiously, the trio lifted their heads.
"Oh my God," Sam gasped.
Jack looked at her face, seeing the horror there. He turned to see what she was looking at. The main building was gone, buried under tons of rocks. A landslide had completely engulfed it.
"Daniel!" Jack yelled into his radio as he scrambled to his feet. "Daniel, come in." The utter silence that followed his call chilled him to the marrow of his bones.
The three members of SG-1 ran to where the building had stood. When they got there, they realized that the structure had not completely collapsed. It was still at least partially intact, just buried.
"The underground chambers may not have collapsed," Sam said in a voice filled with fear but also a measure of hope. "If Daniel was still down there, he may be all right." She got on her radio. "Daniel, it's Sam. Can you hear me?" She paused, hoping to hear his voice. "Daniel, please answer." Nothing.
"Okay, we need to start digging," Jack said, shoving his fear aside.
"Sir, I don't see how just the three of us could hope to dig through that."
"Well, since I don't see any work crews and bulldozers around, the three of us are all we've got. Besides, Teal'c here is worth half a dozen ordinary guys."
"Where should our digging commence?" Teal'c asked.
"Uh, I don't know. I guess where the entrance to the building was, wherever that is."
They all looked at the pile of rubble.
"Sir, look," Sam said, pointing. Sticking out from the debris was a corner of one of the doors.
"Okay, that's where we start," Jack said.
They began with a vengeance. It wasn't long before Jack and Sam were getting tired, but they didn't want to stop. Somewhere beneath all of this was their teammate and friend, and they wouldn't give up until they'd found him. But would they find him alive?
Everyone froze at the sound of a weak voice over the radio.
Jack grabbed his radio and keyed the mic. "Daniel?"
"Are you okay?"
"Not . . . really."
"Daniel, how badly are you injured?" Sam asked.
"I'm . . . not sure. Head and chest hurt, my legs, too. I . . . I can't move. Something heavy is on top of me. I lost my flashlight. Can't see a thing."
"Daniel, we're digging you out," Jack said. "You just have to hang on while we come get you."
"Not . . . planning on going anywhere anytime soon."
"Where exactly are you? Are you still down below?" There was no reply. "Daniel? Daniel!"
"W-what? Sorry. Guess I dozed off there for a second."
Jack turned to Sam. "It sounds like he may have a head injury. We need to keep him talking so he doesn't lose consciousness."
"Sir, if it's just a concussion, it's okay for him to sleep. That whole thing about keeping a concussed person awake is a myth."
"And if it's more than a concussion?"
"I . . . I don't know, sir."
"Then I say we need to keep him awake, just in case. Teal'c and I will keep digging, you talk to him." He keyed the mic again. "Daniel, can you tell me where you are? We need to know where to look when we get in there."
"I'm still in the chamber next to the gate room. I didn't make it out."
"That's okay. It probably saved your life being down there."
As the two men resumed digging, Sam walked away a few dozen yard to where it was quieter.
"Daniel, you still there?" Sam asked.
There was a brief pause. "Yeah. I don't seem to have much of a choice in the matter."
"The colonel thinks it wouldn't be a good idea for you to go to sleep, so I'm going to talk to you, keep you company."
"Thanks. It's a little lonely down here. I wish there was some light."
Sam thought about what it would be like to be all alone in utter darkness, unable to move. She shuddered at the thought.
"It would probably be best for me to do most of the talking," she said. "We don't know how much air you've got."
Daniel made a little sound that Sam realized was a weak, abbreviated laugh.
"What are you laughing about?"
"Oh, I was just thinking that it's a good thing it's me down here and not Jack. If he had no choice but to listen to you techonobabbling for several hours, he'd go off the deep end."
Sam smiled. "Who says I'm going to technobabble? The goal is to keep you awake, not put you to sleep."
"You'd never put me to sleep, Sam, regardless of what you said."
The quietly spoken words warmed Sam's heart.
"So, if not technobabble, what are you going to talk about?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, I don't know. There are lots of things we never talked about very much, our childhoods, friends we've had, school." The realization saddened Sam. She considered Daniel to be her best friend, yet there was so much that they had never shared with each other.
She sat on a fallen piece of one of the small buildings. "So, where should I begin?"
"The beginning?" Daniel suggested.
"Way back then, huh? Okay. Well, you know that I was a military brat. I can't remember living in one place for more than a year during the early years. I hated the constant moves, like most other kids in that situation. It was tough making friends and then having to say goodbye to them. Mark acted out a lot because of it. He and Dad got into more than one argument."
"But you had your family," Daniel said quietly.
"You had to move a lot, but you had your family with you."
Sam was silent. She knew what Daniel was thinking about. Like her, his young life after the death of his parents was filled with frequent moves. But, with Daniel, he wasn't just moving from place to place, he was moving from family to family.
"Yes, I had my family," Sam said, keeping the sadness for her friend out of her voice. "Dad was gone a lot on missions, but there was Mark and Mom . . . until she died."
"Don't talk about that if you don't want to, Sam."
"No, it's okay. I still miss her sometimes, but it was a long time ago."
"I saw her picture in your house. You look a lot like her."
"Yeah, that's what Dad always said."
"My dad said the same thing about me. Except for my eyes. He said I had eyes just like his mother."
Sam couldn't help but think about how beautiful those eyes were. The thought that she might never see them again tore a hole in her heart.
Ruthlessly pushing that thought out of her mind, Sam continued. "Anyway, after Mom was killed, Dad requested a permanent assignment so that he'd be there with us, and we wouldn't have to move anymore. I was finally able to make some friends I could keep. High school was pretty nice, although I certainly wasn't the most popular girl there. I was too much of a science geek."
"It would have been fun to know you back then."
Sam smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, it would. We'd probably have been great friends." Sam had no doubt that she and Daniel would have bonded just like they did the day they met on Abydos.
When Daniel spoke again, his tone had changed. "Sam, aftershock," he warned.
Even as he said the words, the major felt it. Oh no. No, no, no! "Colonel!" she yelled into the radio, and then she ran away from the ruined buildings.
The shaking lasted only a few seconds and wasn't even close to being as violent as the previous quake.
"Daniel, are you all right?" Sam asked as soon at the aftershock had ended. The fact that he didn't answer terrified her. "Daniel?"
"I'm . . . I'm here," he said, coughing. He made a small sound of pain.
"Did you get hurt more?"
"No. I . . . I think I have a broken rib or two. The coughing hurts. There's a lot of dust in the air. Are Jack and Teal'c okay?"
"We're fine, Daniel," Jack replied. "That aftershock may have actually helped us. The pile sitting on top of you shifted away from where we're digging."
"Good. I'm getting tired of lying around down here."
"What, no fascinating squiggles to read?"
"Would if I could, Jack, but my night vision's not that good, even if I did still have my glasses."
Jack and Teal'c got back to the business of digging. Sam returned to her seat.
"So, where was I?" she asked Daniel.
Sam talked about those years. It was in her junior year that she finally made the decision to go to the academy.
"The only reason why it took me so long to make up my mind was because of my lingering anger toward my dad over Mom's death. I'd known a long time before then that I wanted to go to NASA and that, to do that, I'd have to join the Air Force first. Once I finally made up my mind and told him, things got a lot better between us. I eventually completely forgave him."
"I always knew that I was going to be an archeologist," Daniel said quietly. "I never had any doubt in my mind."
"But you ended up being a whole lot more."
Daniel didn't respond to that. "What about the academy? What was that like?"
Sam shared with him some things about her years at the academy and flight school. When she paused and didn't hear anything from Daniel, she got worried that he'd lost consciousness.
There was a short silence before she heard him answer. "I'm here."
She frowned at the tone of his voice. "Daniel, is something wrong?"
"Just . . . just thinking."
There was another pause. "Regrets."
Sam tensed. "Daniel."
"I have a lot of them, you know."
Sam began getting upset. "Daniel, please don't."
"I guess it started with my parents, regretting that I couldn't save them."
"Daniel, there's no way that you could have saved them. Remember that recreation the Keeper made? Nothing you did saved them, and that was with you knowing what was going to happen. You didn't even have that advantage when it really happened."
There was yet another pause. "I never told anyone this, but, for a long time after Mom and Dad were killed, my biggest fear was that I'd die like they did, crushed beneath some heavy object. I used to wonder if they died instantly or if they . . . lingered for a while."
Sam's eyes closed as she swallowed painfully.
"I didn't think it would be like this."
Sam's eyes snapped open. "Daniel, don't talk like that. We're going to get you out of there. You just have to hold out a little longer."
"Sam, I'm bleeding . . . a lot."
Oh no. "Daniel, why didn't you tell us?!"
"Didn't want to worry you more. Besides, it's not like you can do anything about it."
Sam's voice took on a slightly frantic tone. "Can you reach the wound, try to slow the bleeding?"
"No, and . . . and I don't think it's all external."
With a chill, Sam knew what he was saying, that he was bleeding internally as well.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said with a soft sigh. "Shouldn't have told you."
"Don't be sorry, Daniel," Sam responded, trying not to cry. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
"Jack might argue with that."
Sam stilled. There was something very wrong with Daniel's voice. It sounded odd.
"Why do you say that?" There was no answer to her question. "Daniel?"
"What?" Daniel sounded confused.
Sam frowned. "Daniel, are you okay?"
"Um . . . yeah. What . . . was the question?"
Okay, Sam was really getting scared now. Something was definitely wrong. She needed to keep him talking. "I said you had nothing to be sorry for, and you said that the colonel might argue about that. What did you mean?"
"Oh." There was a long pause. "We do that a lot now. It seems like all we ever do is argue. He's angry at me."
Sam felt an ache growing in her chest at the statement and the sadness in the voice that spoke it. "No, he's not, Daniel."
"Yeah . . . he is. He's mad that I'm . . . me."
At the entrance to the building, Jack stopped digging, stunned by what Daniel was saying.
"What do you mean?" Jack heard Sam ask.
"I . . . I get in his face. I tell him we should or shouldn't do something. I don't . . . I don't follow all his orders. He doesn't like that. He wants me to . . . to do just what he tells me to, shut up and follow orders. But . . . but I can't cus that's not . . . who I am. So, he gets angry." There was a long pause. "I don't . . . think he likes me very much."
The last statement hit Jack hard, so hard that he almost couldn't breathe. God, Daniel. You can't really think that, can you?
"Daniel, that's not true!" Sam cried, sounding terribly upset.
"Yeah, I think it is," Daniel said, his voice sounding slightly slurred. "Not surprised, though. Figured it wouldn't . . . last forever. Nothing lasts forever. Sooner or later, everything ends."
Jack closed his eyes tightly against the pain in his heart. God, what had he done? It was true that, over the past year or so, his relationship with Daniel hadn't been very good. They did argue more, and, yes, he got angry at Daniel more often than he used to. But he hadn't realized it had gotten so bad that his friend would think he didn't like him anymore.
"Oh, Daniel," Sam whispered, her voice catching.
Jack was about to say something into his radio when Daniel spoke.
"Going to sleep for a while." His voice sounded very weak and frighteningly distant, as if his mind was no longer fully there.
"No!" Sam exclaimed. "Daniel, you shouldn't sleep."
"Hands don't move right," Daniel mumbled, as if he didn't hear her. "So . . . tired."
"Daniel, don't do this," Sam begged, starting to cry. "You have to hang on." There was no answer. "Daniel!"
Jack got on the radio. "Dammit, Daniel, answer us! Don't you give up on us now! You think I've been mad before? Well, that's nothing compared to how mad I'll be if you quit on us."
There was a long, heart-stopping silence, then, "Mad again. S-sorry, Jack," Daniel whispered, barely audible.
"God, Danny. Don't be sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so damn sorry."
"S'okay. Understand." The last word was spoken on a long, sighing breath.
"Daniel?" There was nothing but silence over the radio. "Daniel, answer me!" Still nothing. "Damn you, Daniel. Don't you do this to us! Don't you let go!"
"Daniel, please!" Sam cried.
Jack turned back to the rubble and fairly flung himself at it, digging with manic desperation. He paid no attention to his hands, which began to bleed, to the sweat that drenched his clothes, his painfully heaving lungs. His entire will was focused on getting to his friend. Teal'c dug with equal single-mindedness, flinging huge pieces of stone like they were made of styrofoam.
Then, suddenly, a small hole appeared. Beyond it lay darkness.
"Carter, we're through!" Jack yelled into his radio. He and Teal'c worked on the opening. By the time Sam got there, they had a hole big enough to crawl through.
"Teal'c, Carter, stay here in case there's another quake," Jack ordered.
"No, sir!" Sam said. He stared at her. "Please, sir. I know more first-aid than you do. Daniel might need me."
Jack nodded shortly. "All right. Teal'c, stay here. You may need to dig us all out."
Flashlights in hand, first Jack then Sam crawled through the hole. Teal'c pushed their backpacks through.
What was left of the building seemed to be standing upright by sheer force of will alone. It wouldn't take much for the rest of it to come down. Jack and Sam were forced to move slowly, constantly having to walk around or climb over piles of rubble. It seemed to take forever to get to the staircase leading to the subterranean chamber. When they got there, they were dismayed to see that the stairs had collapsed.
"Daniel?" Sam called down. "Daniel, can you hear us? We're almost there." Her eyes met Jack's when there was no reply.
"We're going to have to get down there with ropes," Jack said, removing his pack. He pulled out the coil of rope.
"Sir, your hands," Sam said.
Jack looked down at his hands and saw that they were bleeding quite a bit.
Sam got the first-aid kit out of her pack. "I need to wrap them. You won't be able to hold onto the rope properly." She hastily wrapped them with some gauze.
Tying one end of the rope to a column that was still upright, Jack tossed the other end down into the hole. He dropped his pack into the chamber below, then began to lower himself, ignoring the pain in his hands. His concern for Daniel was urging him to hurry, but it wouldn't do his friend any good if he fell.
At last, he reached the bottom. He called up to Sam, telling her she could start down. Then he began casting his light about. His blood froze at the sight that was revealed. A huge chunk of the ceiling had fallen – and beneath it was Daniel.
Jack scrambled over the debris separating him from the archeologist. Daniel's face was white and still, his skin cold to the touch. Jack fumbled for a pulse and found one, fast and very weak.
"Oh, God," came a gasped whisper behind Jack. Sam fell to her knees at his side, her face nearly as white as Daniel's. "S-sir?"
"He's alive, Sam, just barely."
Jack looked at the piece of stone that lay on top of Daniel. It was completely covering his legs and lower body. How could he be alive? His entire lower body must be crushed. God.
Trying not to dwell on the devastating injuries Daniel must have, Jack began examining the situation. That's when he discovered something. The entire weight of the stone was not resting on Daniel, but, rather, on other debris, which had kept it from crushing the archeologist beneath its weight. If not for that, he would be dead.
Sam began examining Daniel. It was immediately obvious that he was in severe shock. There was blood on the left side of his face from a wound in his scalp above his temple. The major began carefully running her hands over Daniel's body. When she came to his ribs, she felt something give. At least one was broken, as Daniel had suspected. Her hands continued down, sliding underneath the chunk of stone and down the side of Daniel's right leg. That's when she felt the wetness. She drew her hand back to see that it was covered in blood. She met Jack's eyes.
"Sir," Sam said, a note of helplessness in her voice.
"Don't say it, Carter," Jack ordered. "He is not going to die."
"O'Neill, have you found Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked over the radio.
"Yeah. He's in bad shape, Teal'c. He's pinned under a big slab of stone from the ceiling."
"Do you need my assistance?"
Jack studied the stone. "I'm afraid that not even you could move that thing, big guy. We're going to need help." He turned to Carter. "Go check the gate and see if it's working."
As she rushed off to the chamber that held the Stargate, Jack stripped off his jacket and covered Daniel's upper body. He laid a bandaged hand on archeologist's cold forehead.
"Daniel, you listen to me," he said firmly. "You are going to make it through this. You've been through worse. Hell, you've come back from the dead more than once." Jack picked up Daniel's lax hand and held onto it tightly. "I'm right here, Daniel. I always have been. I know that things haven't been good between us lately, and I'm sorry about that. I have no excuse for it. I'm just . . . I'm just tired, Daniel, so damn tired of the fight. No matter how hard we try, we just can't win. Every victory is only temporary. For every Goa'uld we kill, there are a dozen more to take their place. I just got tired of you telling me what we shouldn't do when more good men keep dying in the fight. You've always been our conscience, Daniel, and I didn't want to listen to that conscience anymore. I just wanted us to win, no matter what it took. But I swear I'll try to do better."
"Sir, I'm at the gate," Sam's voice said over the radio. "It and the DHD both appear to be intact, though the DHD did sustain some damage. Sir, there's no telling what will happen if we get a connection. Even the minute tremor of the gate opening could cause more debris to fall."
"We don't have a choice, Carter. Do it."
Jack got up onto his knees, prepared to shield Daniel's body with his own, if necessary. The seconds passed, then there was the blessed sound of the gate engaging.
"Sir, it worked!" Sam told him.
Jack got on the radio. "Teal'c, come on down. The gate's working, and Carter's getting some help."
As Jack waited, his eyes remained on Daniel's barely moving chest. As long as it continued to rise and fall, there was still a chance.
Teal'c soon arrived and knelt at Jack's side. His face was hard, looking like it was carved from the same stone that imprisoned Daniel. Only the slight twitch in his jaw muscles spoke of the emotion he was feeling.
"His condition is grave," the Jaffa said.
"Yeah. But he's still alive. He hasn't given up yet."
Sam came back in the room. "They'll be sending a team through with equipment. A medical team will be here before then." Her eyes went to Daniel. "How is he doing?"
Sam gazed at her C.O. "Sir, I'm sure Daniel doesn't really think that you. . . ." She stopped. "He was just confused and, um. . . ." Her voice trailed off uncomfortably.
Jack didn't reply. He wished she was right, but he didn't think she was. Blood loss and pain had made Daniel say something that was in his heart, something that he'd never have said otherwise. And, if he died, Jack would be hearing those words for the rest of his life.
Not much time had passed when they heard the gate activate. A couple of minutes after that, Janet and a medical team appeared. They all paused for a brief moment upon seeing what lay before them. Then they rushed forward. Jack, Sam and Teal'c moved out of the way as the doctor began examining Daniel. Though their medical knowledge was pretty limited, the teammates knew enough to be alarmed at the vital signs that were being called out. To say that Daniel's blood pressure was low was a gross understatement.
The movements of Janet and the others held an air of intensity and quiet desperation. Daniel's teammates recognized the expression on Janet's face. It was the one she got when a patient was on the edge of death, and she was refusing to accept defeat.
An IV was started, and the three members of SG-1 saw that Janet had brought units of blood with her. An oxygen mask was placed over Daniel's nose and mouth, and he was hooked up to an EKG monitor.
Once all that was done, Janet got to her feet and walked over to Jack, Sam and Teal'c.
"How is he?" the astrophysicist asked.
"He's in critical condition. He's going into hypovolemic shock. What has me equally as concerned is that there is evidence of cerebral hypoxia."
"What's that?" Jack asked.
"It means that not enough oxygen is getting to Daniel's brain, likely due to the severely low blood pressure. We have got to get him to the infirmary. The longer this goes on, the greater the chances are that Daniel will suffer extensive brain damage. And, with the hypovolemic shock, his organs are going to start shutting down."
Sam's heart clenched at the news. Brain damage. Could Daniel survive only to be left with severe disabilities? Would he ever wake up again?
"I've started a transfusion," Janet continued, "but, for every unit we put in, a lot of it is coming right back out. I can't get to the wound to stop the bleeding. If that thing was only on his legs. . . ." She stopped, shaking her head. She didn't have to finish the sentence. They knew that she was talking about amputation. The thought sickened both Sam and Jack, but better to have no legs than to be irreversibly brain damaged – or dead.
The sound of the Stargate activating told everyone that help was on the way to get Daniel out. Soon, several men arrived, carrying equipment. A block and tackle rig was set up, and heavy chains were threaded beneath the stone pinning Daniel to the ground. The ends of the chains were attached to a motorized winch.
"All right. Everyone clear out of the way," Major Arrington said.
As everybody backed up a couple of steps, the winch was started. The chain grew taunt. The winch and rig groaned, and, for a tense moment, it looked as if it wasn't going to be able to lift the stone. But then, inch by torturous inch, the chunk of ceiling began to rise. As she watched, a horrifying image came to Sam's mind of a coverstone hanging by a chain, the chain snapping, and the stone coming crashing down upon the two screaming people beneath it. If the same thing happened here, if that chain broke, Daniel's childhood fear would become a reality.
The stone was about six inches above Daniel's body when they stopped the winch. The medical team rushed forward. With utmost care, Daniel was dragged clear. As the stone was lowered back into place, Janet examined the archeologist's profusely bleeding leg. A pressure bandage was applied, and a backboard was put beneath him. He was then lifted onto a stretcher.
Minutes later, the medical team and SG-1 were home. Daniel was rushed to the infirmary. Hammond told the three other members of his premiere team that the debriefing could wait.
The hours that followed were sheer hell for Daniel's friends. He had been taken into surgery to repair the damage to his leg and to stop the internal hemorrhaging that was evident. General Hammond joined them for a while and was given a preliminary report, but he could tell that the minds of Jack, Sam and Teal'c were on the man who was fighting for his life on the operating table. Jack had been taken into an exam room earlier, where his hands were treated, but he'd barely noticed the pain of the torn flesh or what the nurse said to him.
At last, Janet came out. The trio were instantly on their feet.
"How is he?" Jack asked.
"He hanging on, but he's far from being out of the woods. There was damage to his spleen, which was responsible for some of the blood loss. I was able to save it, but . . . I don't know if it will matter."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, terrified of the answer.
"He lost a lot of blood, Sam. We almost lost him on the table. Between the severe hemorrhaging and the hypoxia, the chances of brain damage are pretty high. Once he's off the ventilator, we'll do an MRI, but. . . ." Her eyes met theirs. "I'm sorry, but we have to be prepared for the possibility that Daniel will not fully recover from this."
The words fell like a ten-ton weight on the three people.
"Can . . . can we see him?" Sam asked in a trembling voice.
"He's in post-op right now. He'll be moved to a room in the ICU shortly. Then you can see him."
As Janet left to return to her patient, Sam sank heavily into a chair. A single tear spilled over and slid down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away. The thought of Daniel with brain damage, of that wonderful, brilliant mind being lost forever, made her want to scream at the unfairness of it. Why him? Why Daniel? He was such a good person. He was the best of all of them. Better that it be her than him.
Jack was thinking the same thing at that moment, wishing that he could switch places with the man he knew in his heart was his best friend, in spite of the contention that existed between them.
Like his teammates, Teal'c also wished that he could be in Daniel's place, even if he did not have a symbiote that would heal him. Years ago, the Jaffa had sworn to protect Daniel's life at all cost, to give his life, if necessary, for the man who, against all odds, had befriended him. But Daniel Jackson was strong, far stronger than many others Teal'c had known. Though the odds were against him, Teal'c was determined to believe that his friend would recover.
In silence, the teammates waited to be allowed to see Daniel. Finally, a nurse came out and led them to his room. The archeologist was hooked up to several monitors and IV's and was on a respirator. It tore Sam apart seeing him looking so fragile.
As she and Jack settled in chairs on either side of the bed, Teal'c took up a position at the foot. Sam's hand reached out and brushed through the hair lying across his brow. He felt cold.
"We're here, Daniel," she said, laying a hand over his.
Jack stared at Daniel's face. It looked so pale and lifeless, as if he was already gone, and the body before them was just an empty shell.
'Dammit, Daniel. You can't do this to us. You can't leave us like this.'
The minutes ticked by in silent vigil. They'd been there for around fifteen minutes when a request that they come to the briefing room came over the PA. Though they did not want to leave their teammate's side, they could not ignore the request.
Hammond met them in the briefing room.
"Doctor Fraiser has filled me in on Doctor Jackson's condition," he said. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that my prayers are with him."
In the debriefing that followed, the three members of SG-1 recounted the events on the planet.
"We shouldn't have stayed," Jack said. "I should have ordered us to return home. That's what my instincts were telling me to do."
"With our primary mandate being the search for advanced weapons to use against the Goa'uld, you made the correct call, Colonel," Hammond told him. "That earthquake was just bad luck."
"If the weapons do still exist in that place, they are beyond our reach now," Teal'c stated. "It would be too dangerous to return."
"Frankly, I don't give a damn if there are weapons there," Jack said, surprising everyone. The search for weapons against the Goa'uld had already cost a lot of lives, and Daniel's life could be the next one lost.
Hammond looked at them all sympathetically. They had not yet showered and were covered with dust and dirt. Jack looked exhausted, which was no wonder.
"All right. That's all for now," the general said. "Go get cleaned up and something to eat. And you should all get some rest as well."
An hour later, having showered and gotten a quick bite to eat, Sam, Jack and Teal'c returned to Daniel's room. Janet came in a short while later.
"Any improvement?" Sam asked her.
"He's still very weak, but his condition has stabilized a bit. To be honest, he's very lucky to be alive, considering the amount of blood loss and the delay in treatment."
"Luck had nothing to do with it," Jack said.
"Daniel Jackson is a man of great strength and determination," Teal'c declared, "and a great will to survive. A lesser man would have perished."
Janet smiled softly and nodded. "Yes, you're right." She looked down at her patient. "And he's still fighting. None of us are giving up on him. He's cheated death too many times for us to do that." The doctor studied their faces. "You should all get some rest, especially you, Colonel."
"Are you? You spent hours digging through that rubble. Nurse Waters told me that your hands were a mess."
"A few cuts and scrapes," Jack insisted. "I'm not leaving."
Janet frowned. "I could order you to go."
Jack glared at her. "And I could still refuse."
Janet sighed in defeat. She knew that all three of them were terribly worried about Daniel and didn't want to leave him.
"All right," she said. "How about if I have some cots brought in?"
"Thanks, Janet," Sam said.
A while later, three cots were brought into the room. Teal'c sat on one cross-legged and began Kel'no'reem as Sam and Jack lay down on theirs. Jack really didn't want to go to sleep, but the moment he was horizontal, his tiredness overwhelmed him and closed over his mind.
He was awakened with a start an hour later by a nightmare in which Daniel had been crushed to death beneath the falling ceiling. He sat up, scrubbing his face with his hands. A glance at Sam and Teal'c showed him that the major was still sleeping, and the Jaffa was still in the midst of Kel'no'reem.
Jack got to his feet and walked up to the bed. Illogically, he'd hoped that Daniel's eyes would be open and aware, but it appeared that nothing had changed.
'Daniel, if you don't wake up, how am I going to admit to you that I've been a jackass?' He could almost hear the archeologist's voice replying, "I already know that, Jack. You don't have to tell me."
A small sound drew Jack's mind from his thoughts. His eyes snapped to Daniel's face just in time to see the man's eyelids flutter.
"Carter. Teal'c," Jack called.
Sam was immediately awake. "What is it, sir?" she asked, sitting up as Teal'c uncurled his legs and set his feet on the floor.
There was no need for Jack to reply for, just then, Daniel's hand moved, lifting a few inches. With a gasp, Sam was on her feet and at the side of the bed. Teal'c returned to his place at the foot of the bed.
"Daniel?" Sam inquired.
The archeologist's eyes open, looking confused and slightly glassy. He blinked a few times. Then, suddenly, his eyes filled with panic. Flailing hands grabbed for the tube in his throat, and he began making gagging sounds. An alarm on the monitor started wailing.
Jack grabbed Daniel's hands. "Whoa, whoa! Daniel, settle down! You're on a respirator. It's okay."
Janet and two nurses came running in and saw what was happening. Sam moved out of the way for them.
Janet grabbed Daniel's face between her hands and locked eyes with his. "Daniel, calm down. You need to calm down. There's a ventilator tube in your throat. Shh. It's all right."
Daniel slowly relaxed, the panic leaving his eyes.
"That's it. Relax. Don't fight it." Janet gave him a gentle smile. "There you go." She looked at the readings on the ventilator, pleased at what she was seeing. She turned back to Daniel. "Okay, I think we can dispense with the ventilator. Once we turn it off, if you feel like you're having trouble, you let me know immediately, all right?"
Daniel gave her a nod.
One of the nurses went to the ventilator and turned it off, and Janet disconnected the endotracheal tube from the tubes going to the machine.
Janet watched Daniel closely. "Try to breathe normally, but not too deeply. You have a couple of broken ribs." He followed her instructions. "You doing all right? No difficulty?" He gave her a nod. "Okay, I think we'll go ahead and take that tube out, then. It's going to hurt a bit, and it'll make you want to gag, but you need to do what I tell you, all right?"
Janet explained what she was going to do and what Daniel should do. Once she was certain he understood and was ready, she set about removing the endotracheal tube. It came out freely, and Daniel started coughing, his throat feeling raw and abused.
"Go get some ice," Janet instructed one of the nurses. She turned back to her patient, smiling at him. "You're doing great, Daniel. I know your throat's sore, but that will pass. We'll give you some ice to soothe it.
"What—" he began to croak.
"No, don't talk yet."
The nurse came back in, and Janet fed Daniel a few spoonfuls of ice. It felt wonderful to his throat.
"Enough?" she asked. He nodded. She put the cup on the table. "Do you remember what happened?"
Daniel's eyes moved away from hers, a frown on his face. Then it cleared in remembrance. "Earthquake. Building collapsed," he rasped.
"Yeah," Jack said. "We finally managed to get to you, but you had half the ceiling on top of you."
"The gate and DHD were working, and we called for help," Sam explained.
Daniel sighed, his eyes closing. "Thought I was going to die."
The whispered words upset both Sam and Jack.
"You almost did, Daniel," the colonel said, "but that legendary Daniel Jackson stubbornness refused to give up."
"You have defeated death once again," Teal'c stated.
Janet could see that the archeologist was drifting off. "Get some sleep, Daniel. It's the best thing for you." Seconds later, he was out. The doctor turned to his teammates. "He'll probably sleep for a few hours."
Sam's eyes met hers. "Is he all right, Janet?"
She smiled. "Yes, I believe he is, Sam. It'll be a while before he's fully healed, but I have confidence that he'll make a complete recovery." She looked at all three of them. "And, now, I'm putting my foot down and insisting that you all go get some real sleep. Daniel isn't going anywhere."
The teammates didn't argue. A huge weight had been lifted from their hearts. Daniel was going to be all right.
Four hours had passed when Sam slipped back into Daniel's room. Coming up to the bed, she gazed down at her friend. Some of the color had returned to his face. She ran her fingers through his hair, then leaned over and kissed his temple as she had once long ago when he was trapped within Machello's failing body. Daniel stirred beneath the touch, and his eyes fluttered open.
Sam smiled down at him. "Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess. Sore. Chest hurts, and my leg."
"I can imagine so. On top of those broken ribs, they had to operate to repair your spleen. And that leg was pretty torn up. I talked to Janet before coming in here, and she said that, though you've got some physical therapy in your future, you should be fine. They did an MRI while you were asleep, and everything looked good." All semblance of a smile vanished. "It could have been so much worse. You lost a lot of blood, Daniel. You almost didn't make it."
"I know." Daniel searched Sam's eyes. "Thank you."
"For talking to me. Some of my memories are fuzzy. I don't really remember everything, but I remember you talking to me. It made me feel . . . not so alone."
Sam's throat tightened, and she couldn't speak. So, she nodded instead, giving Daniel a watery smile.
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light," Daniel murmured.
"It's something Helen Keller said. Toward the end, I really didn't think I was going to make it. I knew that I was bleeding to death. I was all by myself in the dark," Daniel's eyes went to the door, and Sam turned to see Jack and Teal'c standing there, "but I knew that I wasn't really alone."
"Damn right you weren't," Jack declared, walking up to the bed.
"We were with you, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, "not in body, but in spirit."
Daniel smiled. "I know." Then he frowned. "I can't remember everything I said near the end. The last thing I recall was telling you about the bleeding."
Sam and Jack exchanged a glance.
"Did I say something else?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, but it doesn't matter," Jack replied, knowing that Daniel would be appalled if he knew what he'd said. Those words Daniel uttered would never have been spoken, if he had been in his in his right mind. Yet they had been spoken, and the feelings behind them were real.
Daniel yawned. "I don't know why I'm so tired. How long have I been sleeping?"
"Apparently, not long enough," Jack answered. He patted the younger man's shoulder. "You get some more rest. We'll be back in the morning."
"Okay." Daniel closed his eyes.
The three teammates headed for the door, Jack trailing behind. He paused before going through. "Daniel?"
"Hmm?" The archeologist's eyes opened.
"Sometimes, things look really dark . . . in more ways than one." Jack met Daniel's eyes. "But you need to know that, no matter how dark things seem to be, you have friends there in the dark with you."
Daniel searched his eyes for a long moment. Then he smiled softly, understanding. "I know, Jack. The same goes for you."
Jack also smiled, giving him a nod. "Good night, Daniel."
Daniel watched the door close behind the older man. He closed his eyes, the smile still on his face, thinking that, maybe, it wasn't so dark after all.