"God, Jack. When will you ever learn? You did it again, didn’t you? The thing you’ve been doing constantly since you brought me back from Abydos."
Daniel sighed and removed his glasses. He pinched the bridge of his nose and wiped his hands over his face, scratching his beard. He was bone weary and more worried than he’d ever been in his life. He looked over at the comatose man in the bed, and particularly at the curved white pipe of the ventilator which was sticking unnaturally out of the side of his mouth. The machine hissed rhythmically and Daniel watched Jack’s chest rising and falling as it breathed for him, the hissing making a morbid musical counterpoint to the beeping of the heart monitor. The noises were unnerving, but comforting at the same time, since if they stopped it meant that Jack was dead.
O’Neill had been in a coma for the past week, since they’d returned from P9Q 759. Nothing had prepared them for the savagery of the attack they faced as they went through the ‘gate. The UAV had revealed nothing but large deposits of naqahdah in the area, so SG-1 had assumed – wrongly – that it would be a walk in the park.
The rings began to transport jaffa onto the planet as soon as SG -1 had stepped through the wormhole. Dozens and dozens of soldiers, obviously from ships in orbit above, being transported down by what looked like hundreds of rings. They could only have been fighting for a few minutes after Jack had frantically cried, "Daniel! Dial home!" before they had managed to fend off enough of the jaffa for Daniel to reach the DHD.
The battle had continued as Daniel had dialled, Jack keeping an eye on his every move. Then, just as the wormhole had engaged, Daniel noticed out of the corner of his eye that one of the jaffa was about to shoot Jack in the back. He turned, aiming his Beretta at the heavily armed soldier and shouted to his CO to get down. He hadn’t been quick enough and Jack had caught the full force of a staff weapon blast. Jack had been blown off his feet and landed on his face in the mud with a sickening crunch. Time had stood still as Daniel fired every last round inside the clip of his automatic, cursing the Air Force with each shot that they couldn’t trust him with any sort of meaningful weapon, even now.
The jaffa had flown backwards, landing heavily on the grassy mound behind him, obviously dead. Daniel remembered with a shiver the sense of elation he’d felt as he watched the man die. The adrenaline pumping around his system had given him the extra strength to pull Jack over his shoulder, run up the steps through the wormhole and get him home.
Later, after Janet had given him the all-clear he’d gone straight to Jack’s bedside. Sam had told him that Jack was still in surgery and they weren’t sure if he was going to make it. Daniel had been wracked with guilt. If Jack hadn’t been too busy watching over him, if he’d had a decent weapon to defend himself and Jack with, if…
Sam had grabbed hold of his jacket – in much the same way as Jack would have - hauled him to the commissary and made him drink the coffee. She’d vainly tried to make him feel better. She had told him he couldn’t and shouldn’t blame himself, that it was a risk they took with every mission, that Jack was strong, he’d make it. None of it made any difference to the burning hole of guilt and fear which festered inside him and threatened to consume him altogether.
Of course he blamed himself. He didn’t understand why O’Neill seemed to single him out for special attention. It wasn’t as if Daniel hadn’t saved SG –1 himself more than once in the past. He didn’t think it was because Jack didn’t think he was capable, but then… what else could it be? He’d been nothing but a complete asshole during the past few months, biting Daniel’s head off as soon as he’d opened his mouth. Time and time again Daniel had tried to stop caring about him, tried to stop loving him for the sake of his own sanity. Unfortunately, there was obviously a large and ugly streak of self-destruction inside him, because no matter how hard he tried, and no matter how big a bastard Jack was to him, he couldn’t help loving the guy, couldn’t help wanting him and couldn’t stop fantasising about he and Jack making love.
In the days which followed, there had been steps forward and thankfully smaller slides backward in Jack’s condition. He made it through surgery, but his liver had been damaged and one of his kidneys had been removed. If - and it was a big if at this point - he pulled through, there would be no more off-world adventures for the Colonel. It was just a matter of time, Janet had told him. His condition had stabilised, but he was still in a deep coma and when he woke up would be up to him. There was nothing the medics could do but keep him comfortable. So that’s what Daniel did.
He sent away every nurse who came to give Jack a bed-bath, or turn him to prevent bed-sores, insisting on doing those things himself. Sam, Teal’c, Janet, even the General would come down periodically to try to reason with him, make him go home and rest, but their pleas were for naught. Janet reluctantly arranged a cot in the room for him to sleep on and the only times he left Jack’s side were to shower and change, when Sam or Janet insisted that if he didn’t, his clothes would walk off to the laundry by themselves.
Other members of the SGC would visit, bring Jack things, talk to him, tell him jokes, but Daniel’s dedication had amazed everyone. "That’s some buddy the Colonel has there," they’d say. "O’Neill doesn’t deserve him!" was another oft used comment, but that one usually came from the Marines. They had no idea that Daniel was in love with him, but then neither did Jack. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the fact that one day soon, Jack would wake up and be okay. He had to be, there was no other way this could go.
"When will you realise I don’t need you to watch over me? I’m a big boy now, Jack. I can take care of myself. You could have died, you dumb bastard, then what would I do?" Daniel continued to admonish him while rubbing the back of Jack’s hand with his thumb.
The hand he was rubbing turned in his grasp and linked its fingers with Daniel’s. Daniel snapped back in shock and looked at Jack’s face. His eyes were open and he was trying to speak.
"NO! Jack, don’t. Let me get Janet. I’ll be right back." He raced off down the corridor yelling for Doctor Fraiser, a nurse, anybody to come and help Jack get rid of the respirator.
Janet and a nurse ran with him back to Jack’s room, where Janet immediately took charge.
"Okay Colonel, we’re going to remove the respirator now. Just cough when I tell you. It’ll be a little uncomfortable, but it’ll only last a second. Then don’t try to talk straight away. It’ll take a while for your throat to recover. Blink twice if you understand me."
Jack answered in the affirmative. Without thinking, Daniel held his hand as he coughed and Janet slowly pulled the tube out, then he gave Jack a cup of ice chips to soothe the soreness.
Janet sent the nurse away and checked his pulse. "You gave us quite a scare there, Colonel. I’m more used to having Daniel visit," she smiled. "Take it easy now, and I’ll be back later to see how you’re doing."
"Daniel, don’t tire him out, okay?"
"Understood," Daniel replied, never taking his eyes away from the Colonel’s face.
Janet patted him affectionately on the shoulder and left, closing the door softly behind her.
Jack and Daniel looked at each other for a long moment before Daniel began to speak, tears brightening his eyes, his hand still gently holding Jack’s. Jack didn’t think he’d ever seen them look so beautiful and it didn’t occur to him to let Daniel’s hand go. He kind of liked it there. Daniel was quite a sight to wake up to, even though he did look tired and drawn...and bearded. The smile on his face, which was unsuccessfully trying to mask the tears, tugged at the strings of Jack’s heart.
"God, Jack. That was close."
Jack merely squeezed his hand.
"I thought I’d lost you," he sniffed.
Jack smiled, squeezing his hand harder and shook his head slowly.
"Never," he mouthed.
"This is weird," Daniel smiled. "All the time you were sleeping, I was talking to you and getting no answer, but I expected that. I’m not used to you being quiet when you’re awake. I’m used to you biting my head off with a sarcastic comment."
"No more of that," Jack whispered.
"Don’t try to talk, Jack. Leave it a while."
Jack nodded and closed his eyes, sending a wave a panic through Daniel.
"Jack! Jack! Are you okay?"
The older man opened his eyes again and smiled, "I’m okay, Danny. I’m not slipping away. I’m just a little tired is all. You worry too much."
"Yeah, I guess I do," Daniel smiled. "Can’t help it. You just bring out this ‘mother hen’ streak in me."
"Welcome to my world," Jack whispered, smiling back at him. "Come down here a second."
Daniel leaned in close to listen to what Jack had to say.
"Thanks. For everything," Jack whispered and kissed him softly on the cheek.
Daniel pulled back in surprise, his mouth dropping open.
Jack tried to chuckle but started coughing and Daniel was immediately there with his ice-chips. After sucking a few, he spoke again, his voice gradually returning. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that. Forget I did it."
"Why would I want to do that?" Daniel asked, once the shock of being kissed by the man he loved had worn off, even as the heat of Jack’s kiss still lingered on his skin.
Now it was Jack’s turn to look surprised, "Well, I thought…I mean I didn’t think you…are we… Is something happening here?"
"I…I don’t know, is it?"
"Daniel…while I was in the coma I…well, it was weird. I kinda kept drifting. Sometimes I’d be able to hear you talking to me. I mean…I could feel it when you were here and…I’d know when you weren’t somehow. Ah shit, this makes no sense."
"It’s okay, Jack. Take your time," Daniel replied continuing to hold his CO’s hand like it was the most natural thing in the world.
"I had these…dreams. I guess they must have been dreams. I saw Oma."
"Yeah? And what did she have to say?" the younger man smiled.
" She said…I don’t quite know how, but…she said we should be together. That we belonged to each other, even if we didn’t know it yet."
"You mean…as in…"
Jack nodded. "As in I’m yours, Daniel. Everything I am. Heart, soul, body, the whole nine yards."
"And how do you feel about that?"
"Right now I’m not sure how I feel about anything. Except this pain in my back, which hurts like a motherfucker, by the way."
"Do you want me to get Janet?"
Jack shook his head, "Nah, she’ll dope me up ‘til I can’t think straight and for this, for once, I need to think straight. What do you think about it?"
"I think we should listen to her."
"Yeah?" Jack answered, grinning.
Jack put his hand up to stroke Daniel’s bearded face, then snaked it around his neck to pull him in closer. Their dry lips barely touched, but the kiss held infinite promise and Daniel was reluctant to pull away.
"You up for this? It’s not gonna be easy y’know," Jack asked him, tentatively.
"I’m willing to try. I love you, Jack," Daniel answered, simply.
Jack smiled, real happiness shining from his brown eyes.
"I love you too, Daniel."
Daniel leaned down and licked Jack’s lips to moisten them, then kissed him, opening his mouth and sucking Jack’s bottom lip softly.
"Mmmm," Jack moaned, then slipped his tongue inside Daniel’s mouth to gently explore it.
Daniel broke the kiss and grinned, "Good?"
"Very nice. You taste… Ow!"
Jack dropped his head back on the pillow and winced.
"Fucking catheter! Have you any idea how painful it is getting a hard on with one of those fuckers in your dick? Ow! Shit!"
Daniel was beside himself with guilt. "Christ, Jack. I completely forgot. I’m so sorry! Do you want me to get Janet?"
Jack snapped his eyes open and looked at him incredulously, "And tell her what? ‘Hey Doc, I was just playing tonsil hockey with the Colonel down there, and now his catheter’s making a protest about how much I’m turning him on’. Oh…that’s better. All I have to do is think about the Doc and how she’d react to that bit of news and that’s done the trick."
For all the sympathy he felt, Daniel couldn’t help but smile. "Even with you trapped in a hospital bed I can’t get anywhere, can I?"
Jack smiled weakly through his discomfort. "Not yet, but give me time, Danny. Give me time. I’ll make it worth the wait, I promise."
Daniel frowned suddenly, "What about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’?"
"What about it?"
"If anyone found out about us, it could ruin your career."
Jack lay back and sighed. "Y’know what? Fuck ‘em. I’ve spent my whole adult life in this man’s Air Force. I've done my share and a few other guys shares too. We’ve saved the world, dammit. You, me, Carter and Teal’c. More than once. I’m not going to let you go, Daniel. If this thing works out between us, you’ve got me for life. Can you handle that?"
The younger man smiled. "Just watch me."
Jack nodded, "Well, good. Now, would you do two things for me?"
"Go get me a cuppa coffee and ask Janet to get this damned catheter out so I can take a proper leak…and so next time you kiss me, I can get the full benefit," he grinned.
Daniel chuckled and moved towards the door. Just as he got to it, he turned.
"By the way, Jack. Welcome back."
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