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Aftermath, III

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Daniel
I almost fell into the trap. I mean, another couple of seconds and they would have had me. I got off the elevator and something stopped me. I guess I’ve been around Jack long enough to have started developing a sense when something is just not right. And walking toward my apartment, I realize something is wrong, very wrong. The neighbor’s dog is growling. Not barking, just growling.

I always speak softly to Tutti when I walk past her door so she will know who I am. She knows who is supposed to be on this floor and she knows someone is here who isn’t supposed to be.

Good dog, I mentally pat her on the back and casually head for the stairs, glancing out the window at the end of the hall. And that’s when I see the car. Nondescript, easily overlooked. If you ignore the two guys in dark suits casually leaning against the side. They have fed written all over them, do these guys shop together or what?

I force myself to go slowly down the stairs, stopping on the second floor landing to go over my options. Can’t go out the lobby, I’m sure that’s already covered. Garage? Maybe, but I sure as hell can’t get to my Jeep, I’m sure they’re already on that.

But there’s an outside entrance to the back side of the garage for when the garage is full and you have to park somewhere else. I open the door a crack and peer outside, looks clear. Giving a glance back over my shoulder, I dart through, closing it quickly and quietly. Fighting an overwhelming urge to run, I walk leisurely down the street and away from the NID.

There is a large storage rental unit less than two miles from my apartment and I head there. After this thing went down with Makepeace and Maybourne, Jack sat me down and drilled me on having a plan of escape. We both knew I was fairly safe on base. Jack, Teal’c and Sam are just the first names on a long list of folks who have had my back ever since then. For some odd reason (insert Jack’s name here), word got around base that some very bad men wanted to hurt me.

I tried not to notice that someone follows me everywhere. I don’t go anywhere on base without at least one set of eyes on me, even the folks in the commissary got into the act. I mean, what were they were going to do if someone tried to snatch me? Throw meat loaf in their face?

Anyway, I made it to the storage unit and quickly unlocked the large bay that held my escape. I actually got this idea myself, believe it or not, from watching Oprah. I saw this woman who was an obsessive shopper and hid it from her husband by putting things in storage. I think she had six or seven cars in storage.

So I bought this used truck, and stashed it in storage. And in the truck, there is a couple of week’s worth of nonperishable supplies, a case full of clothes, a cheap trac phone and a lot of cash. Jack would flip if he knew I closed one of my savings accounts and put that much cash in a storage unit. But credit cards are traceable, as are my phones and beeper. Global positioning satellites are wonderful most of the time, but I don’t put it past the NID to be able to track me. I use my phone to make two last calls before I erase all the numbers in the phone book and take the batteries out of it and my beeper.

The truck looks like it’s on it’s last legs, but I made sure it was in perfect working order and I come out here every so often and start it, just in case. I pull out and stop to re-lock the bay doors. And away I go.

I hit the McDonald's drive-thru on the way out and deposit my phone and beeper in the trash. I almost wish someone would find them; I can just picture some dumpster diver leading the NID on a merry chase.

Jack
I was in a completely lame meeting when my phone vibrated. Glancing down, I saw it was Daniel. Standing, I excused myself. One of the advantages of being me, people are used to me walking out on them. I tried to call him back, but his phone just rang and rang. Okay, I tell myself, no need to panic. Could be anything, he’s out of range, he’s busy, he…I try not to go there. Then I realized I had a text message. And my blood froze when I saw the one word message. Ice. The acronym for in case of emergency. It was our code word.

Daniel’s in trouble.

I head right for Hammond’s office. His office is swept daily for listening devices so we know it’s clean. I rap sharply and he answers just as quickly. I close the door behind me, glancing over at the other one. I fill him in quickly.

He doesn’t even ask me how I knew, just picks the phone up and makes a couple of calls. I pace impatiently listening unashamedly to his end of the conversation. Daniel didn’t know we had an agent in his building, keeping an eye on things. “Looks like he called it right, Jack. The NID’s sitting outside Dr. Jackson’s building right now. Jennings said his Jeep is in the garage but he’s not there.”

“Is he sure the NID didn’t get Daniel?” I make myself give voice to my greatest fear.

“If they had Dr. Jackson, they would have already left with him. Jennings says they’re still in his apartment, waiting for him. Do you know where he went, Jack?”

I nod my head. “We had a plan, sir.”

“And you didn’t tell me?” I can see he’s pissed.

“With all due respect, sir, I felt the fewer people who knew, the safer it was for Daniel.”

“I take it the rest of SG1 didn’t know either.”

“No, sir.” That’s gonna take quite a bit of explaining. It’s not that we didn’t trust Carter or Teal’c; not telling them was my call, not Daniel’s.

He picked up the phone and had them paged. “So you know where he’s headed, Jack?”

“We had a rendezvous spot picked out. If he can, he’ll head there.”

“And if he can’t?”

“He’ll call me back. I can guarantee he’s already ditched his SGC phone and pager. I know where he’s going, sir, and I’m going after him. With your permission?”

“Jack, the NID will be on you like a duck on a June bug.”

At any other time, his little Texas sayings would tickle the hell out of me. But this is serious. “I can lose them, sir. I’ve done it before.” I lay my phone and beeper on his desk. “I’m going, sir.” I leave the rest of the words unsaid.

Before he can reply, Carter and Teal’c are there. I fill them in quickly.

“What are you going to do, sir?”

“I’m going after Daniel.” As if I would do anything else?

“We’re going with you.”

“Carter,”

“We don’t have time to argue, sir. We have to get to Daniel before they do.”

“O’Neill, we waste time. Time Daniel Jackson may not have.”

When he’s right, he’s right. I give them fifteen minutes to gather up some stuff and meet me up top.

“Jack?” I turn back to the general. “Be careful, for God’s sake. These guys are playing for keeps.”

“So am I, sir.”

 

Daniel
In a perverse sense, I am heading for the first place and last place the NID would think to look for me. Minnesota is Jack O’Neill territory, and some folks think that automatically makes it Daniel Jackson territory. But I’ve been to Jack’s Minnesota cabin and almost everyone at the SGC had heard my opinion of that. Loudly. A fishing cabin with no electricity is not my idea of an ideal vacation spot. But no one else knows that I bought a place up there last year.

See, Jack got tired of me bitching about paying so much in taxes. And he pointed out that if I actually owned something, I would be far better off. I must have had some kind of a brain seizure because I agreed to consider buying a place in Minnesota. Jack has a very persuasive nature and I broke down one weekend and we flew up here and looked at the cabin.

But to be totally fair, it is a far cry from Jack’s idea of a cabin. To begin with, it has both electricity and running water, which Jack considers a travesty. I consider it a necessity. It was actually a two story log house that boasted big airy rooms and a stunning view of the lake.

Something called to me when we looked at it and I would have written the realtor a check on the spot if Jack hadn’t gone into negotiating overdrive. I walked through the rooms and left the two of them trying to prove their manhood.

Half an hour later, they were satisfied that they had each gotten the best of each other. I had ‘kicked the tires’ so to speak, and decided to take it for a test drive. We all shook hands like civilized folks and a few weeks later, I was a homeowner. For some reason I really don’t want to delve into, I never told Sam or Teal’c that I owned a place. I’m just not used to sharing much of myself and old habits die hard.

So we agreed to make the house our rendezvous spot. It’s a good two hour drive from Jack’s place and even though the deed is in my name, it’s very unlikely the NID will think to search for me there.

One of the best things about rural America is that local clerk’s offices may be some of the last places on Earth where most paperwork is literally that, paper. Someone would actually have to come to the tiny courthouse and physically search the deeds to find out that one D. Jackson is listed as the owner of a lakeside cabin and surrounding five acres.

It’s better than twelve-hundred miles to the house meaning that I have to stop for the night. I find a nice, clean Motel Six; I just like the idea of someone leaving the light on for me. I check in, pay cash and take my bag and my fast food dinner in with me.

I eat and take a shower, fighting the urge to call Jack or email him on the spiffy laptop I bought on impulse somewhere in Nebraska. I don’t know why I thought I needed the laptop, it’s just that I usually don’t go anywhere without one.

But I also paid cash for it, and being very cautious, I spoke English with an atrocious French accent. Thereby convincing the salesman I was a tourist by making him check that the power connections would work when I got back to good old Paris. What an idiot, I mean, do I even look French?

Way too early the next morning, I’m back on the road. I figure Jack is just a few hours behind me. If Sam and Teal’c have any say, they are riding shotgun, probably bending his ear about not telling them our escape plan.

I haven’t noticed anyone following me, not that I would probably know. Jack always accuses me of wearing danger blinders. I am not totally unaware of how tenuous my safety truly is. I also don’t think the NID would kill me, but they could make me suffer, a thought I’d rather not dwell on.

I decide to drive the rest of the way straight through, so I only stop for gas, coffee and bathroom breaks. About an hour before I get to the cabin, I stop for supplies. These people don’t know me in this little town and I like that fine. They won’t be able to tell anyone anything. I am still fighting the urge to call Jack; I know he will call me when he can.

The drive up to my house is completely undisturbed; the snow is still pristinely beautiful. I release the breath I didn’t know I was holding as I start to unload my truck. I go through the motions automatically, cranking up the heat, turning the water back on, starting the coffeemaker. It will be dark very soon, but I tell myself I am not afraid. Maybe if I keep saying that, I truly will convince myself. I carry my bag into the downstairs bedroom, preparing to set it down when I get a chill up my spine.

“Have a nice drive, Dr. Jackson?”

 

Jack
Carter bent my ear most of the way out of Colorado, reducing me to agreeing that I was an idiot for keeping them in the dark. Yes, I should have told them. Yes, they could have helped. Yes, they care about Daniel as much as I do.

We also agree that we aren’t stopping, we are driving straight through. I don’t know how much of a lead Daniel has on the NID, but it’s a sure bet they’re beating the bushes for him even as we speak.

Then my phone starts ringing. I dig it out hurriedly, only one person has this number.

Daniel
“Aaah, no sudden moves, Dr. Jackson. Put the bag down nice and slow. I’m not Makepeace. I warned him about underestimating you, but he’s a bit hard-headed. Thought you weren’t much of a threat. I understand you put him down quite effectively. I would have quite liked to have seen that.”

“Maybourne.” I slump in apparent defeat.

“Of course. You knew I’d come for you, didn’t you? Besides the fact that you can be quite a help in our operation, there is the satisfaction of having gotten one over on both Hammond and O’Neill. Speaking of him, shall we give him a call? I’m sure he’s on the road even as we speak.”

“I don’t think I will. Cooperate that is. No, don’t believe I will.” I don’t know where I got that cocky attitude. Actually, I do.

“Don’t play innocent with me; I know you and O’Neill cooked this one up between you. You have his cell phone number and you’re going to call him right now.”

“No.”

I couldn’t stop the shudder when I felt the cold steel press ruthlessly against my temple. Suddenly, this has ceased to be a game. “Don’t be stupid, Dr. Jackson. Make the call.”

“You won’t kill me, you said you needed me.”

“Oh, I do need you alive. But undamaged? That’s another story.” He hands me a phone. “Call him.”

Defeated, I dial the phone. And hear Jack call my name. Before I can speak, Maybourne takes the phone back. “O’Neill. Nice to hear your voice.” We both hear Jack on the other end. “Of course he’s here. Who else would be calling you?” The phone is held up to my ear and the gun is right below that. “Speak, Dr. Jackson.”

I try, God, I try to steady my voice, but it just comes out as a breathless whisper. “Jack.”

“Goddammit, Daniel, what happened?”

“What happened, Colonel O’Neill, is that we’ve known where your boy was all along. We could have had him any time we wanted him. It’s become a bit of a game between us, hasn’t it? Breaking each other’s toys. Say goodbye to Dr. Jackson, O’Neill. You won’t be seeing him again.” Maybourne cuts the connection.

Jack
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I fight the urge to throw the phone out the window.

“What is it, sir?” I barely register Carter’s voice.

“It’s Maybourne. He’s got Daniel.” The truck jerks as she slams her foot on the accelerator.

“How far away are we, O’Neill?”

“Too far, Teal’c. Too damn far away.” I keep hearing the absolute terror in Daniel’s voice when he said my name. And I keep hearing the last words Maybourne said. That I’d never see Daniel again.

 

Daniel
I pretend to be cowed as Maybourne prods me into the living room. I’m not just gonna walk out of here with him; I’m not quite that stupid. He has to have a base of operation somewhere on Earth; he can’t get to the Stargate. Unless, my heart freezes, unless he’s somehow gotten access to Asgard beam technology.

If he does, I am well and truly screwed. I’m not being pretentious when I say I’m the best bargaining chip he could ever hope to get. There are a lot of folks who would move heaven and earth to get me back. And the buck stops somewhere around the Oval Office. I just have to stay alive and reasonably healthy until the posse rides out.

“Come on, Maybourne, you know they’re coming after you.”

“I hope so, Dr. Jackson, I certainly hope so. I owe several people big time. Like O’Neill and Hammond for starters. I thought about going after Hammond’s family, but you are a much more satisfying hostage. I just wish I were there at the SGC when Hammond finds out where his golden boy is. God, I’d love to see his face. Wouldn’t you?”

“Not particularly. I don’t get off on that kind of thing.”

“Didn’t get off on Makepeace either, did you?” I can’t hide that shudder either. “It wasn’t anything personal with him, you know that, don’t you? He just wanted to get back at O’Neill. They have some past history or something, evidently. That wouldn’t have anything to do with you, would it?”

Shit, I’d almost forgotten about that! I went off-world with SG3 once and ended up with my face mashed in. Jack went ballistic and made Makepeace’s life a living hell afterwards. And Teal’c and Sam and Hammond and Ferretti and probably a lot of other people, too. So, yeah, Makepeace did have a beef with Jack and using me to get to him must have seemed like a logical option.

And while I’ve been strolling down memory lane, Maybourne has produced a set of handcuffs. “Okay, is that really necessary?”

“Absolutely, Dr. Jackson. As I believe I told you, I don’t underestimate you. You’re far too clever to be running around loose. Now, your hands please.”

I’m trying to stall. I know my chances of escape drop dramatically if I’m restrained. Like I have much of a chance of escape anyway. My best chance is to leave some kind of a trail for Jack to follow. Unfortunately, I’m all out of bread crumbs.

Maybourne tosses me the cuffs and that’s when I make my move. I throw them right back at him, surprising him into staggering backwards. Grabbing my backpack from the floor, I swing it like a Louisville slugger, knocking him down. Still holding my pack, I make a mad dash for the kitchen, knowing the woods are much closer in the back.

I hear Maybourne behind me, but I’m younger, fitter and much better motivated than he is. I know that gun’s gonna fire any second and I make a crazy turn to the right. I’m almost in the woods when the shot hits me high in the back. Christ, that hurt! I didn’t even hear the gun go off. I tumble into some bushes and make myself lie perfectly still.

 

Jack
It’s only been a few minutes since Daniel called me. Carter’s been running at a steady 95 the whole time. I called the general and let him know what was happening. He’s calling out the cavalry. We’ll have a helicopter up here within the hour. But I can’t help thinking that an hour is a long damn time when someone’s life is concerned.

I direct Carter to the exit and then the turn to Daniel’s house. She barrels up the drive as fast as she dares while Teal’c and I check our weapons. I hand her one as she slams the truck into park and we softly pile out, checking Daniel’s truck. It hasn’t been completely unpacked and the hood is rapidly cooling.

I direct them to cover the doors and I go in the front. We all meet in the living room, having found no one home. Daniel’s been here though; the coffeemaker has just finished a fresh pot. Teal’c goes out to check the perimeter without being told to. Carter and I are giving the house another going over when he shouts at me. We rush out the back door and follow his tracks into the woods.

And I lose my breath when I see the crimson on the snow.

“Can you track it, Teal’c?”

“Indeed I can.” We don’t say what we both think. If he can, then so can Maybourne.

Suddenly, my phone starts chirping. My hands feel frozen as I dig it out. “Daniel?”

A long breath, then, “Jack?”

“Dammit, Daniel, where are you?”

“Woods?”

“Daniel, are you hurt?” Please say no, please tell me that’s Maybourne’s blood.

“Yeah, he got me good. Don’t remember it hurting this much, Jack.”

“Daniel, stay with me. Teal’c and I, we’re coming after you. Find a place to hide and stay there, you hear me? Daniel?”

“Yeah, hide and seek. Gotcha. Only, Jack? Could you make it snappy? I missed lunch.” The phone goes dead.

“Daniel? Daniel? Are you still there? Goddammit!” I punch the buttons on the phone and wish it were Maybourne’s face.

Daniel
I wanted nothing more than to keep the phone on, grabbing the faint thread of comfort Jack’s voice offered. But I heard Maybourne crashing through the woods; could the man make any more noise? Geez, even I know enough not to go careening around like some kind of wild animal. Unless it was an animal and not Maybourne?

I shrink into the bower of leaves in the tree I managed to climb and chided myself for being stupid. Most animals don’t climb trees, do they? And none of them pack a gun, I think as I peek out and realize I am practically on top of him. Wishing I had something to drop on his head, I force myself to stay still and pray that I’ve stopped bleeding.

The best I could manage for a bandage was to tie a shirt I dug out of my backpack around and around my shoulder, packing it with a couple of pairs of socks, immobilizing my left arm, which I can no longer use.

Not quite as good as Janet would do but, hey, considering I had to use one hand and my teeth to tie the knots, I’m pretty proud of it. I’m also cold and wet and growing increasingly weak from the blood loss and the fact that I wasn’t kidding about missing lunch.

Anyway, I’ve had plenty of time to think while I’ve been hiding up here. I know that I have to get my wound properly bandaged and I’m gonna need another person for that. I know Jack told me to stay put, but logic tells me I will be dead from shock, hypothermia or Maybourne long before they find me.

I know why Jack likes Minnesota, it is full of characters. And I happen to have one for a neighbor. There’s another cabin a couple of miles from me, actually the only cabin for several miles. It actually qualifies as a cabin, sans power and running water. What it does have is a kind of crazy old lady that everyone calls Sid. Don’t know if that’s her name and don’t really care. But she is a throwback to the sixties and is so anti-establishment, I look conservative compared to her.

I wait till I’m satisfied Maybourne is well and truly gone and climb/slide/fall out of the tree. And I head for Sid. If I tell her that a government agent shot me, not only will she patch me up, she’ll probably loan me a gun to shoot him with. The local talk is that she keeps plenty of firepower at her place. I’m hoping that gossip is not just idle.

 

Jack
As much as I want to head straight out for Daniel, I know we have to have a plan. So we fall back to the house and Teal’c and I start gearing up. I waste precious time arguing with Carter that someone needs to stay at the house and brief search and rescue when they get here.

Besides, we’re gonna need a warm place to bring him back to get him patched up. We split the weapons up, I miss my P90, and the nine-mil seems almost wimpy by comparison.

I call Hammond back and advise him that they can land a chopper right in Daniel’s yard, the fool who owned this place before had a spot cleared for a barn before he spent part of a winter here and sped down to warmer confines. I show Carter the spot and we park my truck and Daniel’s so that we can illuminate it with headlights if they don’t make it before dark. Personally, I’m not waiting; I’m leaving in the next five minutes.

Somewhere out there in the already dark woods is a wounded Daniel with a madman after him. And I’m the madman after him.

 

Daniel
Time starts to waver for me. It feels like I have been out here a very long time, possibly hours. I just know that it’s very dark, very cold and I’m very scared. I also know that I can’t quit, something tells me that if I stop, I’m caught. Maybourne is in a world of hurt now and he knows it and that makes him desperate. He kidnapped me, which pissed Jack off and then shot me in the back, which will piss Jack off even more.

I have to assume Teal’c and Sam are with him and if all three of them are pissed off, Maybourne is so dead. I use that image to push me onwards, imagining my pals killing Maybourne in some very inventive ways. I stop when I realize I am enjoying this way too much, must be shock setting in.

I freeze when I hear a rustling in the woods. Shit, it’s him! I find a very large tree and scamper behind it. The only advantage to the heaviness of the woods is that the ground isn’t snow-covered, most of that is in the trees. So he can’t track me through the snow. He may be following my blood trail, though, I think I’m bleeding again. I hold my breath as I hear him walk within feet of me. Jack will kill me if I let myself get captured before he gets a shot at Maybourne. He is so close I can hear him breathe and I bite my lip to keep myself as silent as possible.

If Maybourne were smart, he’d hunker down and wait for daylight. But who said he was smart? I force myself to wait a full five minutes before I head out again. I think I’m close to Sid’s place. I just hope she doesn’t shoot first and ask questions later.

 

I can’t die here, I can’t die here. I keep chanting that over and over, trying to make myself go on. I will never, ever hear the end of it if I die here in the woods of Jack’s beloved Minnesota. He’s probably already cursing me for causing the destruction of the natural flora and fauna, what with all the folks who must, by now, be traipsing through these woods.

And then there’s the added insult of having contaminated the pristine beauty by bleeding all over everywhere. Because I am now bleeding again and quite heavily. If I don’t make it to Sid’s in a very short span of time, who finds me first is going to be of no importance whatsoever unless one of them is carting a sarcophagus around.

Just as I’m about to call it a life, I see that the woods seem to be lightening up. Calling on reserves of energy that are almost totally gone, I stagger toward what looks like a cabin and pound on the door. When the door opens, I pitch forward.

 

Jack
I know it’s stupid trying to track Daniel in these woods at night, but I can’t call it. I can’t say, let’s pack it in and start back in the morning. Because my gut is telling me, there’s no morning for Daniel.

Search and rescue are on their way with dogs, the blood ought to make him easy to track. Teal’c is doing a decent enough job tracking him. Unfortunately, we both realize Maybourne is between us and Daniel; we’ve been tracking both of them steadily for the past two hours.

Besides, I tell myself, it’s almost dawn anyway. Yeah, in like five hours, you idiot. Think, think, think. Daniel’s not heading back to his house; he has to figure Maybourne might do that and just lay in wait for him there. They found Maybourne’s truck hidden just up the road from Daniel’s house; Carter informed me that there were drugs of unknown origin there.

Obviously, he had plans for Daniel that did not include a hot dinner and maybe some conversation. Well, maybe conversation, but not the polite kind. I thought I detected something else in Carter’s voice but since we were not on a secure channel, I couldn’t ask her.

I have messaged him a couple of times with no response. I haven’t dared to try to call Daniel for hear he doesn’t have his phone on vibrate. I’m petrified that would zero Maybourne in on his location. No, I’ll just let him call me. I know he will, when he can, when he’s safe.

 

Daniel
I awake to a feeling of overwhelming fear that has me struggling upwards. “Careful, boy, you’re gonna hurt yourself.” Okay, I don’t want to do that, do I? Because somewhere, I have the recollection that I’ve already been there, done that.

Vaguely, I become aware that I am, in fact, in a bed, wrapped in something that feels suspiciously like blankets. Can you hallucinate warmth and comfort? “Up to talking?”

I finally realize that really is someone speaking to me. “Yeah.” Great conversation starter there, genius. Might as well go with the tried and true. “Where am I?”

“In my cabin, boy.”

“Sid?”

“Do I know you, boy?”

“Daniel, I’m Daniel.” I leave off the peaceful explorer bit.

“The Daniel these folks are all looking for?”

I do rocket up at that. “Who’s looking for me?”

“I’ve heard them in the woods all night.” I then become aware of a tinny squawking noise. Squinting, because I seem to have lost yet another pair of glasses, I make the connection and realize that even though her cabin may not have the comforts of home, Sid has a police scanner.

“Batteries.” I giggle to myself, riding the waves of pain.

I feel a not so gentle hand on my face. “Stay with me, boy. Who’s after you? What son of a bitch shot you?”

“The son of a bitch shot me?” This seems to be news to me.

“Might apt description, considering he shot you in the back. Who did it, boy? Terrorist, doped-up thief?”

I quote Sam. “God dammed government idiot.”

She crows with delight. “I knew it, I knew it! Bunch of money-hungry land grabbers, probably. Trying to steal your land, boy?”

“Trying to kill me,” I murmur. “Grab your gun, will ya? Get me one, too.”

“Don’t you worry, boy, I’m loaded for bear. I don’t think you’re quite up to handling a gun right now.”

I hear her gasp when I grab her arm. “You don’t know what he’s capable of. He’ll kill you to get me.” The horror dawns when I realize I’ve put her in danger. “Gotta get outta here. Not safe.”

“Not going anywhere, boy. Here,” she slides what seems to be an enormously large, but surprisingly light gun into my hand. “Can you fire that thing?”

“Hell, yes.” I’ve never actually fired one, but a gun’s a gun, right?

“Okay, Wyatt. Let’s get ready for the bad guys.”

 

We hear him way before he kicks the door in. “Damned idiot, doesn’t even know how to be covert.” When Maybourne walks in the door, he finds me lying, apparently unconscious on the bunk.

Then he finds himself with a double barrel shoved purposefully in his spine. He tries to talk his way out of it. “Shut up, you son of a bitch.” Sid jabs him again. “He the one who shot you, Wyatt?”

“That’d be him.” I slowly raise the revolver out from under the blanket. “Hello, Maybourne.” He eyes the shaking gun. “I wouldn’t try it. My aim is terrible. I might have to shoot you...how many bullets does this thing hold?”

“Six,” Sid provides helpfully.

“Six times. I might have to shoot you six times. And that would probably hurt like hell.” I cover him while Sid gleefully ties him up; she is thoroughly enjoying herself as she trusses him to the chair. Then she drops on to the bunk beside me, fussing when I insist on sitting up. I relent by resting my head on her shoulder.

“We make a helluva team, Wyatt.”

“That we do. Wyatt and Sid, that just has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”

“Can’t I just..?” She points her shotgun at Maybourne, who winces visibly.

God, I swear, she’s just like Jack. “No.”

“Just once.”

“No!”

“I’ll just wing him, how’s that?”

I fight to make my voice authoritative, but I fail miserably. The next “No,” comes out more like a whine.

Suddenly the cabin door bursts open again and we both automatically raise our weapons.

Jack
The last thing I expected when Teal’c and I rush the cabin is to be staring down the barrel of an over-and-under aimed at us with deadly precision by a tiny slip of a woman and a Colt held with a decided shake by a horribly pale Daniel. Who promptly passes out after muttering, “Jack.”

“Daniel!” I leap forward, instinctively moving the gun out of his limp hand. “Daniel?” I unwrap the blankets, looking for wounds I don’t find. Until I raise him up. His back is bloody.

“He’s gonna need some sewing up. That bullet’s still in there. I take it you’re the good guys.” She finally, reluctantly lowers her gun.

“Yes, ma’am.” My eyes never leave him.

“Well, you better get someone in here to take care of Wyatt. I’ve done what I can for him.”

“O’Neill, a helicopter is at Daniel Jackson’s house. A rescue team should be here momentarily.” We both hear the high pitched whine of a snowmobile.

I look over and realize belatedly that Maybourne is tied to a chair. I leap up only to be caught by Teal’c. “O’Neill, you do Daniel Jackson no favor by killing Maybourne.”

“I wanted to shoot the son of a bitch,” Sid offers. “Save the taxpayers the cost of a trial. Wyatt wouldn’t let me,” she sulks.

“Wyatt?”

“Came bursting in here. Shot in the back, ready to take a stand against the bad guys, trying to protect me and him with no gun. Had a nice touch with the Colt, though, just like Wyatt did. I always had a soft spot for those Earp boys,” she confides.

*

The next hour is a whirl of confusion. The medical team arrives and do a cursory examination of Daniel, whom I’ve seen look much better, I can tell you. Teal’c and I help load him on the snowmobile and the driver takes one look at me and doesn’t even try to tell me I can’t go with them.

T stays behind to keep Sid from killing Maybourne until Air Force folks arrive to take him to a nice dark cell somewhere. And they’d better hope I never find out where it is, because I will kill him the next time I see him, I promised him that as I followed Daniel out.

The helicopter is ready and waiting and it only takes a few minutes to load Daniel. Unfortunately, this is where my journey ends. They absolutely will not let me ride with him, pointing out that any extra weight slows them down and Daniel cannot afford the time. He has been running around with a bullet stuck in him for far too many hours. I stand there and watch Daniel disappear under a wave of medical personnel, working feverishly as the chopper takes him away.

However, Hammond has been on the horn and a military chopper lands minutes after the rescue chopper took off, they must have passed each other in the air. A shitload of SFs hop off and head for Maybourne, who has been brought to Daniel’s house. Teal’c, Carter and I hop on the chopper and head into the night sky

The hospital graciously lets us land the chopper at their pad, provided it’s only there for a couple of minutes. It’s not even that long, we bail out and it takes off again. And there’s someone there to meet us and we run for the surgical floor, where Daniel’s already under the knife.

The tiny nurse on duty tells us that Daniel never regained consciousness and that’s probably a good thing. Carter disappears and pops back up in no time with food and drink. Women can sniff out places like cafeterias and shoe stores; I think it’s bred into them genetically.

Now that we know Daniel is safe and in good hands, we all breathe a sigh of relief and I make myself down a couple of sandwiches and several cups of coffee. I wonder if someone remembered to turn off Daniel’s coffeemaker? If not, that’s gonna be some stout brew there.

Thinking about stuff like that keeps me from thinking about the hard stuff. Like that I failed to protect Daniel, that it was a really stupid idea to send him to the wilds of Minnesota. I should have put him…where? I mean, where on Earth would he have been safe? Another planet? We know that Maybourne’s bunch had access to beaming technology, so realistically, if they ever figured out how to use it, they could probably have gotten to him no matter where he was.

I’ve always been able to focus on several things at one time, so it scares me that I was so focused on Daniel there in that cabin that Maybourne’s presence didn’t even register.

I feel a soft hand on my arm; Carter’s kneeling in front of me. “Don’t do this to yourself, sir. You did everything you could to protect him.”

“Yeah, I did a bang-up job.” I let my head rest on hers for just a second, figuring she needs the comfort as much as I do. “I sent him up here, Carter, miles away from where any of us could get to him.”

“You thought it was the right decision. And so did Daniel, or he would never have agreed to it.”

“Risk assessment is not, nor has it ever been, his field.”

“Daniel knows you were doing what you thought was best for him. That’s all we can do, sir, is do our best.” I allow my chin to rest on her for just a second and she wraps her arms around me when I start to shudder. “You have to believe he’s going to be alright, you have to believe that. He needs us to believe that for him right now.”

I fight to take a breath that’s not ragged, try to get myself under control. “Boy, Janet’s gonna kill him. Shit! I need to call her.”

“Give me your phone, sir, I’ll make the call.”

*

Daniel has been in surgery for hours. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Finally, the dawn is streaking in the windows and the waiting room contains only Air Force personnel when the surgeon walks in. “I assume you’re all here for Dr. Jackson? I’m Dr. Gloria Randall. He made it through surgery. The bullet clipped the collarbone, breaking it.
The good news is that it missed the lung. He’s lost a tremendous amount of blood and the risk of infection is our biggest worry. I won’t lie to you; his chances are not great at this point. If he makes it through the next twenty-four hours, things will look a lot more favorable. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on him, I promise you. If he has any family, I suggest you contact them.”

I make myself speak. “I need to see him.”

She shakes her head emphatically. “He’s in no shape for visitors.”

I’ll bully if I have to. “Dr. Jackson was kidnapped and shot by a United States government employee. We need to know why. He will not be left alone for even a second. He will be guarded at all times by Air Force personnel, his life may still be in danger.” She starts to protest, but she dug the bullet out; she has to know he was shot in the back.

“This is non-negotiable. Dr. Jackson is a highly placed civilian consultant under my command. His safety is my concern, not yours. Now, I suggest you take me to him, or the next time that phone rings,” I point to the nurse’s station, “the President of the United States will be on the other end.”

She tries to stare me down but I’ve had way more experience at this than she has, not to mention the fact that it’s Daniel I’m fighting for. Finally, she relents and motions for me to follow her. “This way...”

“Colonel Jack O’Neill.” For Daniel’s sake, I can make nice, too. “Daniel’s not just a member of my team, he’s a close friend. You’re probably gonna get sick of seeing us before this is over with.”

She softens, as I hoped she would. I like the fact that she was ready to fight for Daniel, even though she only knew him as a body she had cut open. I can pretty much forgive anyone who is nice to Daniel.

She stops in surprise to see two SF’s standing at attention. I return their salute, breathing a sigh of relief knowing that they’ve got Daniel covered. No one gets in here without these guys knowing who they are and what they’re doing. “You will not try to wake him up and you will not question him, is that understood?” If she were a foot shorter and red-headed, I’d swear she was Fraiser’s sister.

“Yes, ma’am, I understand.” I grab her arm as she walks out. “Thanks. Thanks for saving Daniel.”

She grins unexpectedly, her tired green eyes flashing. “I haven’t saved him yet. But I’m damn sure gonna try.”

 

*

 

The twenty four hours have come and gone, but just by forty-five minutes. Dr. Gloria says he’s still holding on, his vitals haven’t slipped. He is starting to get restless and that’s a very good sign. I turn the newspaper to the sports page and start to read Daniel the baseball scores, bitching about one of the trades.

“I don’t care.” I slowly lower the paper and smile when I see a pair of bleary, confused, Daniel-blue eyes.

“Daniel, everyone cares about baseball.” Trust Daniel not to wake up with the ‘where am I, what happened’ thing.

“Not me. Read my horoscope.”

“Okay, I need to let the doc know that you’re awake.” I pop my head out the door and whisper to a passing nurse to fetch Dr. Gloria. “Alright, birthday is?”

“July 8th, Cancer.”

I knew that, I was just checking. “Oh, yeah. Here we go. ‘You will be taking some badly needed down time. Take advantage of this opportunity to let your cares go and recover your emotional balance. Go fishing.’”

“You’re making that up.”

“No, I’m not, swear to God, that’s what it says.” I turn as Dr. Gloria rushes in. “Doc, tell him what his horoscope says.”

She leans over him with a smile. “Hi, there, I’m Dr. Randall, but you can call me Dr. Gloria. I’m just gonna ask you a couple of questions.”

“Daniel Jackson, July 8th.”

“So you know the drill.”
“Daniel, Jack, Gloria,” he points his finger, “and I assume Sam and T are around somewhere.” He’s breathless by the time he finishes speaking.

“Plus a dozen or so other of your closest friends. I haven’t seen so many uniforms since my brother was in the Boy Scouts. So, Daniel, how do you feel?”

“Weak, tired, kinda fuzzy.”

“Pain?”

“Shoulder.”

I grab the hand he tries to raise. And then forget to let go. “Bad boy, what have I told you about touching?”

“Daniel, do you remember what happened?”

“God dammed government idiot shot me.”

I can’t hold back the grin that splits my face. “Yeah, that’s my boy. Don’t worry, Daniel, we got him.”

“Sid?”

“Oh, she’s a media darling. Especially since she described your escapades to the press.” I pause. “Wyatt.”

“Huh?”

“She thinks you’re Wyatt Earp. And she thinks the two of you should take your Wild West Show on the road.”

“Cool, can I wait until I get out of the hospital?”

 

*

It’s over a week before Dr. Gloria relinquishes her favorite patient. And he’s not going any further than a Minnesota cabin. Sam and Teal’c and the rest of the gang have returned to Colorado, but I told Hammond I wasn’t coming back until Daniel came with me. I’m not taking any more chances. We don’t know if Maybourne acted alone; he’s clammed up. So Daniel gets me with him everywhere he goes. And he’ll just have to like it.

I’m getting the look from him before we make it to the cabin. That back-off look. I know he doesn’t remember a lot of what happened out there, but I do, which has led to the hovering mode.

I have every agonizing hour burned into my memory. The crazy drive up here, that heart-stopping phone call, the frantic search through the woods, the hours of simply not knowing, then the interminable time at the hospital until he woke up. Dr. Gloria kind of fell for him, like everyone else. Yeah, whatever, stand in line, gals. She and the nursing staff couldn’t do enough for him, once he flashed the big blues and the sweet smile. Putty in his hands, is what they were.

Unlike me, I don’t let him manipulate me. No, sir, not at all. I mean, I only stopped for lunch because he looked peaky. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he had been without coffee longer than I thought humanly possible.

By the time we got to the cabin, he’d just about had all the excitement he could stand for one day. Although I know he hates it, I take his arm and help him in. If I didn’t think he’d kill me, I’d carry him over the threshold. But I don’t think he’d appreciate the joke. So I settle for keeping him firmly in hand as I slowly lead him to the sofa and help him get comfortable there.

Once I see that he’s as comfy as he’s gonna get, I putter around doing little chores. Taking his bag into the bedroom, starting a pot of coffee, checking the contents of the refrigerator, all the while I’m keeping a sharp eye on the fast failing Daniel.

He’s gone from sitting up to wearily laying his head against the arm of the sofa. I’d love to get him into bed, but he’s already vetoed that idea more than once. But I’m nothing if not persistent. “Daniel?”

“Jack? Help.”

I leap over to kneel in front of him. “What’s wrong, honey?”

I know he’s seriously in distress when he doesn’t even call me on the ‘honey’ thing. “I think I need to lie down.”

Okay, at least he’s man enough to admit it. He lets me practically lift him up off the couch and ease him down the hall, thanking God this house has a first-floor bedroom. Those stairs would be hell on him in his state. I expertly shuck his clothes and pour him into a pair of pajama bottoms, I know there’s no way he’s gonna get the shirt on over the sling. I can’t stop the wince at the myriad of color I can see. I look at him and he looks away.

I scoot around behind him and ease the sling aside, with shaking lips softly trace the stitches, let him know without words how attractive he is to me. We are both shuddering within seconds and I force myself to stop, threading my arms around that wonderful body, fighting the urge to slam him down and take him hard and fast.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” he whispers.

“For what?” I let my lips sneak across that gorgeous throat.

“I...I know I scared you.”

“Damn right you did. And if you do it again, I am so gonna make you pay.” I feel him finally, finally relax and I know he’s on the verge of sleep. “Shhh.” I tighten my arms around him and rock him gently. “It’s okay, I’ve got you, you’re safe.”

I pitch my voice low and just talk nonsense to him until I feel his head fall heavy and trusting on my shoulder. I love holding him as he sleeps; we had been together for a while before he relaxed enough to actually sleep next to me. I hated every morning when I woke up and found he had left me alone.

For Daniel, the sex was the easy part. The opening his heart up to me was the hard part. I had to work on him a long time before he realized it wasn’t just about sex, although that is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Daniel doesn’t think like a typical guy.

Most of us, when it comes to relationships, think with our dicks. He confounds the odds by using his head. Which is why he needed to be persuaded we could work and why he still doesn’t see what I see when I look at him.

I could wax lyrical about the eyes and the lips and the face, but he still wouldn’t get it. That it’s the whole package I love, the eyes and the lips and the face and the brain and the heart and all that other stuff. I wanted to get into his head, as well as getting into his pants. And that hadn’t happened since Sara. But I wanted to know him, really know him, in a way no one else had ever known him.

And I do. I know what he looks like when he’s drifting off to sleep, when he’s fighting the nightmares to wake up. When he steps out of the shower. When he’s working on a difficult translation that’s eluding him. When he glances across the dinner table at me and quirks one corner of his mouth, making that little dimple dance.

I slowly slide my way out from under him and away, lay him gently down, pulling the covers over him with a kiss. I have him just where I want him, soft and sprawled under the covers. If only I were under there with him, it would be damn near perfect. I sigh and leave the door slightly open so I can hear him.

 

Several hours pass before I reluctantly try to wake him. But he is way past time for pain medication, not to mention the antibiotics. I sit beside him and shake him. It takes awhile but his eyes finally squint up at me.

“Have a nice nap, Dr. Jackson?”

“God!” He bolts upright and I grab him instinctively.

“Daniel? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He’s gasping for breath, fighting me as I try to calm him. “Just...give me a minute, okay?”

I ease him back down, stroking his hair. My alarm grows when I see a tear slide down his face. “Daniel?

“Scared.”

Yeah, me, too. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Not particularly.” He tries to pull away from me, thoroughly ashamed of the tears. I won’t let him.

“Not going anywhere, baby, I’m right here. Just gonna sit here with you.” I patiently wait for him to give me a sign. When he can’t control himself anymore, when his breath shudders, I catch him as he springs up; I guide his head onto my shoulder, letting him turn his face away from mine so we can both pretend he isn’t crying.

“God, Jack, I was so scared!”

“Yes, I know you were. And you were so brave.” This is a voice I haven’t used in years, trying to soothe away the nightmares. My fingers tremble as I wipe the tears from his face.

“Brave?” His voice wavers.

“Yes, you were.” I guess the drugs can wait a little while longer. “You gonna tell me what happened?”

He sits up, finally, reluctantly, tells me what he can remember. I know from personal experience that just talking about it, settling it in your mind helps. “Did you just say the words ‘Louisville slugger’?” I brush the hair back from his forehead, plant a kiss there.

“Mmm, why?”

Baseball figured nowhere in Daniel’s childhood. No Little League, no baseball card collection, no child-sized fielder’s glove or cleats. “Didn’t think you knew what a Louisville slugger was.”

“Baseball bat. Usually made of ash. Manufactured in...”

I stop his mouth with mine. “Was there a baseball documentary on the History Channel?”

He laughs softly, then stops abruptly. “God, that hurt!”

And the drugs can wait no longer. “Medicine time, slugger.” He grimaces but takes his pills like a good boy. And I know I should leave him, let him rest, but he feels so damn right as he drowses in my arms.

I think we’re just gonna sit here like this for awhile.