Divided We Fall
"About my earlier behavior. I wasn't myself."
"Oh, Carter, I don't even remember your earlier behavior."
"No, I was infected, too, remember?"
"Right, good, I'm glad."
"By the way, how's the wound?"
"I understand you got stabbed in the stomach."
"Oh, yeah, it's nothing. With any luck, there won't even be a scar."
"Good. I was concerned."
"Sure, if it doesn't heal properly, you'll never wear that sweet little tank top number again."
Curbing a smile, Jack picked up his pace leaving Carter behind. In truth, he was still embarrassed by her actions. His best defense, the only defense in his opinion, was humor. He didn't want the incident to affect his relationship with her. They had a good team.
His eyes drawn to the limping man ahead of him, Jack realized there was another relationship that needed mending. He had contributed a few of the bruises appearing on the pale face. Jack knew Daniel didn't blame him as much as he blamed himself, but that didn't ease his guilt.
Daniel stumbled, saved from a nasty fall by Teal'c's vigilance. The Jaffa's remorse at losing the scientist on the dark side was evident in his constant presence at Daniel's side. The only one who escaped the virus guilt-free was the one who had suffered the most.
"Makepeace," Jack called, drawing the SG-3 marine's notice. "I think you and Johnson can handle it from here. SG-1's returning to Earth. Dr. Jackson needs medical attention."
"Yes, sir," the officer acknowledged.
Hurrying to catch up with his teammate, Jack put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Come on, Daniel, we're going home."
"Don't we need to follow up with Tupelo?" Daniel protested, his right arm wrapped protectively around his waist.
Noticing the gesture for the first time, Jack silently cursed himself for waiting so long to make his decision. "Makepeace and Johnson can handle it." Firmly, but gently, Jack steered his friend toward the Stargate. "Let's go."
When Daniel made no further objections, Jack realized how much the other man was hurting. A healthy Daniel would've insisted on satisfying his curiosity concerning the relevance of bulls in the Minoan culture.
Waving at Carter to join them, Jack continued to berate himself. In addition to the bruises and the slight limp, Daniel's torn clothing was evidence of his ordeal. Jack remembered his own pain when his musculature contorted as the virus took control of his body - and he'd had the benefit of tranquilizers. How much worse had it been for Daniel? Alone, realizing he was turning into the creature his captors had become.
The trail into the forest narrowed, forcing them to walk single file. Jack took point alert for possible attack. It would take Tupelo's people weeks, maybe months to find all the Touched in the dense, dark foliage. Jack hoped he wouldn't have to shoot anyone as they made their escape. He was sorry their initial arrival had caused the death of a Touched male. Now that he knew who these people were, he wondered whose father or son Makepeace had killed to save Jack's life.
From Tupelo's perspective, the SG teams were gods saving them from a curse. Instead of the lives that had been restored to normal, all Jack could see were the losses. His mood was appropriately enhanced by the gloominess of the dark side.
A soft moan behind him made Jack swing around, his weapon ready. But there was no fur-clad Touched waiting to pounce. All his eyes encountered was Teal'c, his arms wrapped around Daniel.
"Daniel Jackson has lost consciousness," the Jaffa informed him.
"Ya think?" Despite the levity of his response, Jack's concern was audible in his voice. Pulling his poncho, he suggested, "We can use this as a stretcher."
"That will be unnecessary," Teal'c said, cradling his friend in his arms. "It is not far. I can carry Daniel Jackson."
Grateful for the man's strength, Jack continued, picking up his pace. He hoped Daniel had lost consciousness due to exhaustion, rather than some hidden injury. When his eyes picked up the silvery gray of the Stargate in the endless green, he sighed with relief.
Carter hurried past him. Shifting her weapon to her left hand, she used the right to punch the address for Earth. Blue waves washed away the darkness.
As soon as the wormhole stabilized, Jack ordered, "Go."
Frowning, Carter hesitated, before reluctantly complying. Jack knew she would have a medical team waiting when they arrived.
Though he knew he would be rebuffed, Jack turned to offer Teal'c support. "Let me help."
"I am not in need of assistance," the Jaffa calmly informed him.
Despite the reassurance, Jack stayed close, ready to catch both his friends if the big man's strength should falter.
The journey through the wormhole seemed particularly long this time. Funny how anxiety could make minutes feel like hours. As Jack expected, Dr. Frasier was entering the Embarkation Room as they stepped onto the ramp. She started examining her patient even before Teal'c laid him on the waiting stretcher.
"How is he?" Jack impatiently demanded.
"His vitals are strong," Frasier revealed, "but I won't know anything until I can do some tests and get x-rays." Waving a hand at the corpsmen, she ordered, "Let's go."
Though he wanted to follow the procession to the infirmary, Jack saw Hammond waiting for them in the control room. "Time to make a report, kids," he said, handing his weapons to the officer in charge of the SGC arsenal.
Jack checked his watch as he anxiously paced the narrow corridor. He had been injured often enough himself to know that every passing minute knocked Daniel's condition down a notch. Cuts and bruises didn't take two hours to treat.
The door to the infirmary finally swung open. Jack almost tripped over the petite doctor in his eagerness to confront her. "How's Daniel?"
"He has a couple of cracked ribs and severe bruising on his face, chest, and abdomen. He was kicked so hard on the left side that his kidney is no longer functioning. The other one is also badly bruised. I've placed him on dialysis to ease the strain."
Jack winced and guiltily turned away. He distinctly remembered kicking Daniel as he was pulled off the younger man. "Will he be all right?"
"He should be." Frasier smiled encouragingly. "He's awake. I'm sure he'd like some company."
Almost knocking her over in his desire to see his friend, Jack brushed past Frasier into the dimly lit room. As the door closed behind him, he heard her admonish his teammates, "One at a time."
His feeling of triumph waned as he regarded the still form on the narrow bed. Machines aligned along the wall beeped softly in resonant discord. Guilt lay heavily on Jack's heart as he slowly approached the bed.
"Jack," Daniel greeted, his voice thick and unsteady.
Pulling a chair close to the bed, Jack sat, putting a comforting hand on a trembling arm. "Easy, Daniel, you're going to be all right."
The two words had been replaying in Jack's mind like a scratched record, but they should've whispered through his lips, not Daniel's. A puzzled frown furrowing his brow, he demanded, "What have you got to be sorry about?"
"Teal'c told me to leave Melosha. If I'd listened, I wouldn't have been captured." Avoiding Jack's eyes, Daniel brokenly admitted, "I left Teal'c without backup. I let you, him, Sam, everyone down."
"Daniel." Jack gently squeezed the arm he was holding, wresting his friend's attention. "You were worried about her. Never apologize for feeling compassionate."
Daniel's eyes met Jack's. "Do you think Teal'c will ever trust me again?"
"Actually," Jack said, one corner of his mouth pulled into a half-smile, "he's wondering the same about you."
"Huh?" Daniel stared at Jack in bewilderment.
"Teal'c thinks he should've prevented your capture."
"It was my own fault. Tell him, Jack."
"I can tell him, but only you can convince him."
"I'll try," Daniel readily agreed.
Speaking with quiet, but desperate firmness, Jack admitted, "Now it's my turn to apologize."
"For what?" The question was spoken in a voice heavy with weariness.
His need for absolution swamping all other emotions, Jack whispered, "I'm sorry for beating the crap out of you."
Bruises stood out on the pale face emphasizing Jack's sin. "If I believed that was you hitting me, Jack, then I'd have to accept responsibility for the things I did on the dark side." His eyes bordered with tears, Daniel softly revealed, "I was with Melosha and never once thought about Sha're."
His guilt only slightly assuaged, Jack didn't dispute the argument. To do so would hurt Daniel far more than his fists had. All he could do was hope those bruises healed fast. Every time he looked at Daniel's face, his culpability was reborn.
Heavy eyelids slowly closed over glazed blue eyes. The long eyelashes cast shadows on the discolored flesh. If only, Jack sighed, there was a way to cover the evidence of his crime. Resting his chin in his hand, a bemused smile on his lips, Jack wondered if he could persuade Daniel to wear makeup for the next few days.