Two days later, SG-1 went on another mission, which very quickly went to hell when they ran into a large Jaffa patrol. Vastly outnumbered, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c were pinned down and unable to make it back to the gate. The Jaffa had also taken cover after losing seven of their number and were presently behind the scattered remains of some kind of structure about eight yards to the left of the DHD. They were demanding that SG-1 surrender, which had the team even more worried. This group of Jaffa apparently wanted to take them alive, if possible. Teal'c believed that the Jaffa choosing to take cover and wait meant that more were on their way, and this group had decided to wait for the reinforcements so that SG-1 could be overwhelmed and captured.
Knowing what had to be done, Daniel turned to Sam. "Sam, I think I can make it to the DHD if you and Teal'c draw their attention away from me."
Sam shook her head. "No, Daniel. You'll be out in the open, no cover. And once you start dialing, they'll go after you."
"Well, we can't stay here. If Teal'c's right, more Jaffa could arrive at any minute, then we'll have no chance at all to get to the gate."
Sam knew that Daniel was right. They had no choice. She'd try to make it to the DHD herself, but Daniel was the faster runner, and they both knew it.
"I will go to the Stargate," Teal'c said.
Sam shook her head. "No, Teal'c. You're better with a staff weapon than either one of us, and it'll be a more effective weapon in drawing their attention away from Daniel." She gazed at the man she loved. "Daniel is the best one to go."
Daniel kept hold of her eyes for a long moment, then broke the gaze.
"All right, Teal'c and I will make our way through the trees to the south side of the clearing," Sam told him. "Stay out of sight and don't make a sound. Wait for my call, then circle around to the north and make your dash for the DHD. Contact us just before you make your run so that we can increase fire and keep them focused on us."
"Okay. Just don't accidentally shoot me."
"I'll aim low, Daniel."
"And I will not miss my targets," Teal'c stated.
Daniel nodded shortly. He handed his P-90 to Sam, as well as his remaining clips. "I'll run faster without them," he explained. "Besides, you'll need the ammo." He met Sam's eyes again. "I love you, Sam," he said, knowing it might be the last time he spoke those words.
Sam swallowed the lump that was burning in her throat. "I love you, too, Daniel."
They touched each other's cheeks fleetingly. Then, strengthening her resolve, Sam turned to Teal'c and gestured for him to move out. Daniel ducked low behind the boulder they'd been using for cover and waited as Sam and Teal'c drew the attention of the Jaffa away from his position. It was about ten minutes before Sam's hushed voice came over his radio.
"We're in position, Daniel. Move out."
Keeping low and as silent as possible, Daniel crept through the forest, staying out of sight of the Jaffa in the clearing. He slowly made his way to the spot that he had decided would be the best place for him to start his run to the DHD. Once he was there, he cautiously took a look at the situation. He could see the flash of Teal'c's staff weapon and Sam's P-90 firing from a spot in the woods almost directly across from him on the other side of the clearing. All of the Jaffa had their backs to him and were busy exchanging fire with Daniel's teammates.
"Sam, I'm ready to move," Daniel murmured into his radio.
"Okay, Daniel. On three."
Daniel straightened from his crouching position.
He positioned himself in preparation for his dash.
He took a deep breath.
At the same moment that Daniel burst from the trees, Teal'c started firing madly, ripping up the ground, stone and brush where the Jaffa were taking shelter. Bits of earth, twigs and rock flew at the Jaffa, partially blinding them. At the same time, Sam did likewise with her P-90. The Jaffa could do little more than protect their faces from the debris and try to return fire.
Running faster than he ever had before, Daniel streaked across the clearing, arms, legs and heart pumping rapidly. He slid to a stop at the DHD. Knowing that the second he started dialing, the Jaffa would be aware of his presence, he ducked as low behind the DHD as he could and hit the first two symbols. Immediately, the Jaffa turned and started firing upon him.
Firing off shots from behind the DHD, Daniel kept trying to dial home, but was having no success. Just then, Sam and Teal'c burst from the trees and began shooting at the Jaffa in earnest. That lessened the weapons fire on Daniel's position, and he managed to hit another symbol. A staff blast nearly took off his arm, and he was forced to duck completely behind the DHD.
"Take cover, Daniel!" Sam shouted through the radio. "Grenade!"
Daniel covered his head and tucked into a tight ball behind the DHD. Seconds later, an explosion a few yards away sent several Jaffa flying. Daniel took advantage of the chaos to hit another three symbols. One more to go. Just one more.
Unfortunately, that's when his luck ran out.
A white-hot pain sliced through Daniel's side, ripping a cry from his lips, and he slumped to the ground.
In horror, Sam saw Daniel get hit. "Daniel!" she screamed.
Her mind burning with the sight, Sam's focus suddenly became hyper acute, and she started firing at the Jaffa with deadly accuracy, every bullet hitting its mark. She completely zoned out, killing the ones who shot Daniel the only thought in her mind.
It was the sudden activation of the Stargate that tore her mind away from the slaughter. Daniel was alive! Shoving the joyful thought from her mind, she called out a warning to Daniel and threw another grenade. The second after it exploded, she threw two smoke grenades. Then she and Teal'c made a run for it, firing into the smoke surrounding the Jaffa. They made it to the DHD to find Daniel slumped against it, face white with pain, a bloody, charred wound in his lower left side, just below his protective vest.
"Oh, God." Sam said in a choked voice.
"I sent the code," the archeologist gasped.
"Colonel Carter, we must hurry!" Teal'c yelled as he continued firing at the Jaffa, some of whom had found their way out of the smoke. As Sam took over shooting at the Jaffa, Teal'c wrapped an arm around Daniel and hoisted him up. The archeologist groaned and nearly passed out from the pain. Clinging to consciousness, he ran the best that he could, Teal'c supporting most of his weight. Sam brought up the rear, spraying bullets at the enemy Jaffa.
And then they were at the gate. As they exited the other side, Daniel's legs gave out. Teal'c lowered him to the ramp.
Sam screamed for a medic, then fell to her knees beside Daniel. "Hang on, Daniel. You're going to be okay."
Just then, Jack came running up to them. "Ah, damn!" he cursed when he saw his friend's wound. "What happened?"
"Jaffa patrol," Sam explained, trying to remain in control. "There were so many of them. We were cut off from the gate. Daniel—"
She was interrupted by the arrival of the medical team. Moving out of the way, she, Jack and Teal'c let them attend to the archeologist. They didn't say anything more as Daniel was lifted onto a gurney and rolled out of the gate room. They followed a few steps behind. In the infirmary, they stayed far enough back to be out of the way, but close enough to see what was going on. Daniel was unconscious, lying limply on the gurney as the doctor and nurses attended to him.
"I'm sorry, but you're going to have to leave," Doctor Brightman said after a few minutes.
"How is he?" Sam asked in a trembling voice.
"He's alive. Other than that, I can't tell you anything this soon. I'll talk to you as soon as we're finished with him."
Reluctantly, Sam, Jack and Teal'c left the infirmary. Sam immediately found a chair and sank down into it, her legs no longer able to support her. She was so scared, absolutely terrified that Daniel was going to die. Oh, God. What if he died? How could she live with losing him?
Sam had no idea how much time had passed when someone sat in a chair beside her. She realized that it was Jack.
"I should have thought of something else," she whispered.
"Something that wouldn't put Daniel at such risk. I knew it was too risky. I should have thought of some other way."
Her name so softly spoken and the touch on her shoulder made her turn to her C.O.
"There was nothing else you could have done, Carter," he said. "Teal'c just filled me in. You did exactly the right thing, the only thing you could have under the circumstances. Teal'c told me that you performed extraordinarily well. He said that he'd never seen you shoot with such accuracy before."
Sam looked off at nothing. "I totally zoned out. All I was thinking about was that they had shot Daniel, and I wanted them dead. I just kept shooting and shooting. It was like they were targets on a firing range."
"Yeah, well, according to Teal'c, you were scoring bull's-eyes all the way. He was quite impressed, and it takes a lot to impress Teal'c."
Sam lifted tear-filled eyes to Jack's. "What if he dies?"
"He's not going to die, Sam. No way is Daniel going to leave you. He's got way too much to live for now."
Sam's tears started to fall. Hesitating only a moment, Jack gathered her into his arms and held her gently, just as he did when she broke down in front of him after Janet Fraiser's death.
'Daniel, don't you make a liar out of me,' Jack told his friend silently. 'Don't you dare leave her. Don't you leave us. Because, if you do, I swear I'll hunt your ghost down and give it hell for eternity.'
A minute or so passed before Sam pulled away from Jack and dried her face.
"I'm sorry," she said in a low voice.
"Hey. No apologizing. You have nothing to apologize for, Carter. What good is a shoulder if it isn't cried on every now and then?"
Sam gave him a watery smile. "Thank you, sir."
"Think nothing of it."
Noticing for the first time that Teal'c was standing a few yards away down the hall, apparently to give them privacy, Sam motioned him over. Without a word, the Jaffa came and took a seat, and the three friends waited for word on the man who meant so much to all of them.
It was about fifteen minutes later when the doctor came out.
"He's going to be all right," she said.
Jack, Sam and Teal'c all breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thankfully, his vest apparently absorbed most of the blast, only the edge of it catching him," Doctor Brightman explained. "There's a lot of tissue damage, but that's all. He'll be out of the infirmary in a few days." She turned to Sam with a small smile. "And, with a lot of TLC, he'll be fully healed in a few weeks."
Sam smiled at her gratefully. "I'll be sure to give him plenty of that."
"We all will," Jack added.
"Yes, I know you will," the doctor said.
"Can we see him?" Sam asked.
"Yes, but don't wake him. He needs the rest."
As soon as she caught sight of Daniel in the infirmary bed, Sam was across the room like a shot. She leaned over him, brushing the hair away from his forehead.
"You're going to be okay, Daniel," she whispered. Then she pressed a long kiss on his forehead. "I love you."
Grabbing a chair, she placed it next to the bed. Gently picking up Daniel's hand, she settled in, prepared to wait until he awakened.
Jack watched Sam as she sat at Daniel's bedside, hand clasped around the archeologist's, eyes fixed firmly on his face. There was a time when Jack would have been the one sitting there. He recalled all the bedside vigils he'd done for Daniel and his other teammates. Now, there was someone else to take his place at Daniel's bedside, someone the archeologist would far rather see when his eyes opened. That thought saddened Jack.
"Sam?" Daniel cried out softly, his head turning restlessly on the pillow.
"Shh, Daniel. I'm here," Sam murmured soothingly, stroking Daniel's face. "We're all fine. We're home, thanks to you. Go to sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up."
Daniel settled down and stilled, his breathing deepening once again.
Jack kept watching, remembering the times that his name was the one Daniel called when he was in pain or semi-conscious, the name Daniel cried when there was danger. That, too, would change, was already changing, as he just witnessed.
Jack knew that he shouldn't be feeling these things, this jealousy toward Sam that she was taking his place as the one that Daniel reached out to first. The truth was that he'd all but lost that facet of his relationship with Daniel a long time ago, the archeologist rarely reached out to him anymore. One of the reasons was Daniel himself. He grew even more independent and self-sufficient in the months and then years following Sha're's death. But the other reason was one for which Jack had no one but himself to blame. He distanced himself from Daniel, and Daniel responded in kind. Even after the archeologist came back from ascension and things got better between them, that close bond they shared in their first years as teammates never fully returned.
Now, Daniel had formed another bond, and Jack suddenly felt like he was no longer needed.
"I'm going to go take care of some stuff," he said to Teal'c. "Let me know when Daniel wakes up."
Jack went to his office, people he saw along the way asking him how Daniel was. He told them all that Daniel was going to be fine.
As he entered his office, he shut the door, then sank behind the desk. Closing his eyes, he rested his forehead on his hands, suddenly feeling isolated and alone.
Daniel slowly emerged from the darkness. The sounds around him were familiar and told him that he was in the infirmary. Someone's hand was in his, a small hand that he had come to know intimately over the past few weeks.
"Sam?" he murmured in a weak, raspy voice, his eyes cracking open to see her beloved face close to his.
"Hey," she said softly, giving him a smile.
Daniel swallowed, trying to ease the dryness in his throat.
"Are you thirsty?" Sam asked.
Receiving a nod, she poured some water and held up his head as he drank. Once he was settled back on the pillow, he looked at her closely.
"You okay? Teal'c?"
"We're both fine, Daniel. And you're going to be fine, too. You got lucky, no internal damage this time."
"I didn't feel especially lucky when I got hit." He searched Sam's eyes. "I was afraid I was going to die and leave you alone."
Tears instantly sprang into Sam's eyes. "I was afraid of that, too," she whispered. She blinked the moisture away. "But you're going to be okay. You did really good, Daniel." Sam smiled weakly. "I think you should have been a track star. That was quite a run you made."
"Well, I had a lot of practice when I was a kid running away from all the bullies."
Sam's smile firmed for a moment, then disappeared completely. She lifted Daniel's hand to her cheek. "I love you, Daniel."
Daniel tightened his grip on her hand. "I know. I love you, too, more than anything."
Doctor Brightman came over. "Hello, Doctor Jackson. How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess, considering. Side hurts."
"Well, that's to be expected. Now that you're awake, I'll increase your pain medication."
"How long will I have to stay here?"
"Perhaps three or four days. After that, you'll be restricted to bed rest and very light physical activity until that wound is sufficiently healed. No organs were injured, but you suffered some extensive tissue damage, and you are going to be in considerable pain for a while."
"Compared to some of the pain I've suffered in the past, this is nothing," Daniel told her. He felt Sam clutch at his hand tightly.
"I know," the doctor responded softly.
She gave him a brief examination, checking the wound for any sign of infection. Satisfied, she told him to get some more rest and left to attend to other patients.
Not ready to go back to sleep yet, Daniel had Sam raise the head of his bed, though it made his side hurt a little more.
"Where are the guys?" he asked her.
"Teal'c left just a little while ago. He should be back soon. I think General O'Neill is in his office."
Something flickered in Daniel's eyes, a brief flash of sadness quickly hidden.
"You miss him, don't you," Sam said gently.
Daniel looked down at his hands. "Yeah, I guess I do. Now that he's the base commander, we don't get to see him very often and usually only for a few minutes when we do. I miss him on SG-1."
"So do I."
A fleeting smile lifted the corners of Daniel's face. "Remember when he was constantly going to your lab or my office and bugging us because he was bored?"
Sam smiled in remembrance. "It used to drive me nuts."
"Me too, though I learned a little trick early on."
"If I was really busy and didn't have any time to spare for him, I'd just start explaining in detail what I was working on, and Jack would usually leave pretty quickly."
Sam let out a laugh.
Daniel's expression changed, turned melancholy. "I didn't do that very often." He stared off at some distant point. "Jack and I aren't nearly as close now as we were a long time ago, during those first two or three years, but since I descended, we've been doing better than we were that last year or so before I left. Sometimes, though, I've really wished that. . . ."
"That you could break through those walls of his and get inside?"
Daniel stared at Sam. "Now who's the mind reader?"
"I understand how you feel, Daniel. Before Dad became a Tok'ra, there were a lot of times that I felt the same way."
Daniel sighed. "I don't think that Jack and I will ever get back what we had in the beginning. Too many things have happened since then. I'm not the same person I was back then, and neither is he. But. . . ." A shadow fell over Daniel's face, and he didn't say anything for a few seconds. "I never much liked being called Danny once I got into my teens. In the beginning, whenever Jack called me that, it could be a little irritating, though not nearly as much as 'Danny Boy' was. But I finally figured out that he didn't call me that because he thought of me as less than an adult."
"It was because you were like a brother to him," Sam finished.
Daniel's eyes fell to the sheets. "He hasn't called me Danny in a very long time."
Out of sight of his two teammates, Teal'c listened to Daniel's words. Deciding that visiting his friend could wait, the Jaffa turned and left the infirmary, heading to O'Neill's office. He found the general bent over a file, pen in hand.
Jack looked up at the Jaffa. "Come on in, T." He returned his gaze to the file.
Teal'c shut the door and stepped up to the desk. "I wish to speak to you regarding Daniel Jackson."
Jack immediately looked up. "Is he okay?"
"He is as well as can be expected for someone with his injury. He has regained consciousness."
"Oh. Well, that's good."
Teal'c stared at Jack, his face assuming the stern expression it so often had in the past. "I wish to know why you are not at his side."
Surprised by the question, Jack frowned. "Now that I'm the base commander, I have a lot less free time, Teal'c. There are things I need to get done."
"Things that are more important than being with an injured friend?"
Angered by the Jaffa's chastisement, but also shamed by it, Jack opened his mouth to reprimand Teal'c, but didn't get the chance.
"In years past, if Daniel Jackson had been injured like this, you would not have left his side unless you had no choice or until you saw for yourself that he would be well," Teal'c said. "Only a few months ago, you sat and watched over him for hours after you were forced to shoot him. Months earlier, you visited him often as he recovered from the torture and gunshot wound he suffered at the hands of the Honduran rebels. Before that, you refused to leave the observation room as Daniel Jackson was taken over by the twelve minds that had been downloaded into him by Pharrin of the Stromos. Why do you now keep yourself from his presence?"
Jack's eyes fell away from Teal'c's. He got up and moved off to a corner of the room. "I just figured that he didn't need me to be there anymore," he said, not turning around.
"Why would you believe such a thing?"
"He's got Sam, now, Teal'c."
Teal'c frowned at Jack. "You believe that, now that Daniel Jackson has Colonel Carter as a lover, he no longer needs his other friends?"
Jack turned around. "No, of course not. He just doesn't need me in the way he used to. He's got Sam to give him comfort now, to talk to, to be there when he needs someone."
"Was Colonel Carter not always there to give him such things?"
"Yeah, it's just different now. She is the one he needs most in his life."
"This is true. The love that Daniel Jackson and Colonel Carter share is very deep and strong, and I believe that Daniel Jackson needs that love greatly." The Jaffa looked at Jack piercingly. "But I believe that he also needs you. You are his brother, not by blood, but in his heart. We are all Daniel Jackson's family, the only one that he has. It is wrong of you to deny him the company of his brother because you mistakenly believe that he no longer has any need of you. Just now, before I left the infirmary, Daniel Jackson was talking about you, wishing to know why you were not there."
That made Jack feel like a selfish jerk. "He was?"
"Indeed. He was deeply saddened that you were not with him. He feels that you no longer care as you once did."
Okay, now Jack felt like a real worm. Daniel believed that he didn't care anymore?
"He wishes that you would again call him . . . Danny," Teal'c said, landing the final blow to Jack's self-respect.
Jack O'Neill felt his heart crack open. He'd had no idea Daniel felt like this.
Without a word, he moved past Teal'c and out the door, not seeing the faint, satisfied smile that crossed the Jaffa's face.
When Jack entered the infirmary, he saw that Daniel was sitting up and that Sam was there with him.
"Hey, Daniel," Jack said as he came forward. "Teal'c just told me that you were awake."
"Hi, Jack," Daniel greeted, the expression on his face making it clear that he was happy to see the general.
"So, how ya feelin'?"
"Not too bad. As far as staff wounds go, this isn't the worst I've had."
A vivid image flashed through Jack's mind of Daniel lying on the deck of Apophis' ship, half his upper chest a charred ruin. The image made Jack's stomach clench. "Yeah, well, you're right about that," he said, keeping his tone light. "But you still had us pretty worried for a while. If my hair wasn't already solid grey, I'd have gotten a few new grey ones."
Daniel looked at him searchingly.
Sensing that the two men needed to be alone for a while, Sam stood up. "Daniel, I'm going to go get myself something to eat. I'll be back later."
"Sure, Sam. See you later."
After she left, Jack took the chair she had vacated. He and Daniel were quiet for a few seconds.
"Teal'c and Carter told me about what happened on the mission," the older man finally said.
"Sam made the right call, Jack," Daniel immediately stated.
"Yes, she did. She did exactly what I would have done if I'd been in her position. In the debriefing, she told me that you were the one who originally suggested the plan."
Daniel's eyes dropped to his hands. "She didn't want to do it."
"No, I should imagine that she didn't. I wouldn't have wanted to either since I'd have known that it would put you in extreme danger. I'd probably have chosen to make the run myself."
"I'm a faster runner than Sam, and I can dial faster."
Jack nodded. "Which is why you were the best one to do it. To be honest, Carter showed more sense than I would have in that situation."
"What do you mean?"
"You're a faster runner than I am, too, Daniel, and you can dial up the gate a whole lot faster than me, but I'd still have insisted on doing it myself."
"Until I beat you over the head with the fact that I was the more logical choice."
"Yeah." Jack stared into his friend's face. "Your performance on that mission could not have been better, Daniel. You stayed cool and did what each of you had to, managing to make it back home alive despite overwhelming odds. I have every intention of telling that to the president." Jack leaned forward in his chair. "Daniel, even if I'd had doubts before that you and Carter could still work effectively as a team – which I didn't – I certainly wouldn't anymore. You both proved yourself on this mission." He reached out and rested a firm hand on his friend's forearm. Surprised, Daniel looked down at it. "You did real good, Danny," Jack uttered softly.
Daniel's head shot up, shocked eyes staring into Jack's. For a moment, Jack let Daniel in, lowering the walls and letting his friend see how much he still cared.
Daniel felt something break loose inside his chest, a weight lifting off him. The tiniest glimmer of tears in his eyes, he gave his friend a bright, happy smile.
"Thank you," he murmured.
Jack squeezed his arm, then patted it. Putting a cheerful expression on his face, the general leaned back in his chair. "So, when's the doc letting you out?"
Daniel regained control of his emotions and cleared his throat of the lump that had formed there. "Three or four days."
"Knowing you, it'll be two."
"Could be. I could always start stealing the other patients' Jell-O again to make sure of it."
Jack chuckled in amusement. He'd always suspected that Daniel stole the Jell-O deliberately to make the SGC's new physician kick him out of the infirmary after Jack shot him.
The general made a sudden decision. "Hey, after you're all healed up, how about if I take a day off, and we go do something, just the two of us? It's been a while since we did that."
The smile was back on Daniel's face. "Okay. I'd like that."
"Um, Carter can come along, too, if you really want."
Daniel shook his head. "Sam and I spend plenty of time together. Just the two of us would be . . . good."
Jack gave a sharp nod, delighted that Daniel wanted to spend time with him. "Then it's a plan." He got to his feet. "Well, I'd better get back to that lovely stack of paperwork on my desk. I swear, Daniel, the paperwork's gonna kill me. Someday, you'll come into my office and find me crushed beneath a pile of it."
Daniel smiled. "Don't worry, Jack. We'll find a sarcophagus and revive you."
Jack made a face. "I'm not so sure you'd be doing me a favor, Daniel. You know, sometimes, being a System Lord must be nice. No paperwork."
Daniel became serious. "They may not have paperwork, Jack, but they also don't have something else."
"Friends to give them a helping hand when needed."
Jack gazed at Daniel. "You're right there, Danny Boy." A small smile came to his face. "You know, thinking about it, I am one lucky son of a gun."
"Me too, Jack. Me too."