"Jack, tell me where it hurts. Jack? I know you're awake."
"Daniel," he whispered. "Head hurts… hangover… God."
"It's okay," Daniel soothed as O'Neill felt the healing device work its magic on his pain. He just wanted to die, wanted it all to end but was too weak to tell them that. He laid there waiting for the pain to go away or for death or whatever was going to happen next. He just didn't care anymore.
He was awakened sometime later by Daniel, who was shaking him and calling to him. "Jack? Wake up Jack. C'mon work with us on this, okay? Jack?"
"What?" he growled. He just needed some sleep. His back was on fire and he didn't want to feel any of it.
"Does anything else still hurt?" Daniel asked.
'Go away Daniel, let me sleep,' Jack wanted to shout. What was the emergency here? He tried to remember, but all he could think about was sleep and the pain in his lower back.
"Jack?" Daniel asked urgently when O'Neill didn't answer. "Please Jack," he begged.
"Daniel?" O'Neill was confused. "What?"
"Are you feeling any pain?" Daniel asked patiently. "I won't leave you alone until you tell me something, I swear it. Where do you hurt?"
"Back," O'Neill said trying to get rid of him. "Hurts…"
"Anything else?" Daniel asked.
"Promised you'd leave me alone," O'Neill grumbled as he felt himself being rolled over onto his stomach.
"Anything else hurt?" O'Neill heard someone else ask, Gallagher, he realized. The pain in his back was starting to ease and he relished in the welcomed warmth flowing through him.
"No. Yes, my legs, something's burning them," he said realizing that if he told them where he hurt the pain would go away. He didn't even care how they managed it, he was damned if he would stop them.
"Does your head still hurt?" Gallagher asked him while prodding his right eye open.
"Ow!" O'Neill yelped, jerking his head back. Please just let me die, he pleaded silently.
"I found another healing device!" he heard someone else say. Carter? "Can we use two at the same time?"
"I don't know; no one's ever needed to have two working at the same time." O'Neill had given up trying to determine who was who and tried once again to let sleep take over.
"Let's wait and see the results of just one before trying both." He realized that they had stopped asking him questions and went back to sleep almost immediately.
The General was finally out of danger and Gallagher was able to collapse onto a bed at last. He had slept fitfully an hour or two at a time for three days straight, not able to relax the whole time due to his worry about O'Neill. The Tok'ra and Sam had taken turns using the device, and at one point, used two at the same time. Sam had found a second device and they used both only when it was absolutely necessary.
O'Neill had been out of it for the most part. They had worked double time when the poison entered his brain. The device worked well in healing those areas before the brain cells died completely, but it was a constant battle involving all five of the healers, who had won in the end. O'Neill woke up with Carter asking him a thousand and one questions to see if any permanent damage had been done. Gallagher figured the General had survived, what with all the growling and grumbling he had put them through as he tried to go back to sleep.
He grinned as he remembered the relief he felt when O'Neill woke up a little while ago demanding food in his most grating way. Daniel had run out to go get him something and every last person on that ship sat there watching him eat with huge grins on their faces, causing O'Neill to stop eating to ask, "What? Do I have food in my teeth?"
Gallagher closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep knowing that Teal'c was staying with O'Neill. Teal'c had suffered from a concussion and a broken wrist during the battle, but he was on the mend and Gallagher was still relieved to know Teal'c was going to survive, as well.
The mission had been a success and they were heading for home having once again saved another world. Nirrti had not only been defeated, but had gone up in a blaze of glory, lighting the whole area. Ba'al was still alive as far as they knew, but Nirrti was dead and that was one less System Lord they needed to eliminate.
Their only worry now was whether Ba'al was following them, which was highly possible. Now that O'Neill was out of the woods, they were going to concentrate on finding any possible detectors, while monitoring space activity at all times. Ba'al had accepted their help in defeating Nirrti, but they still didn't trust him. They were determined to make sure Ba'al didn't find the Tok'ra home world.
Gallagher could feel sleep dragging him down into its grasp and he relaxed his muscles in order to give in to it. He had just dozed off when Corlin, the Tok'ra operative who had spent the last few years on Nirrti's ship, came in and sat down on his bed. "Humph?" he groaned, keeping his eyes closed.
"Gallagher," she whispered, just before she stretched out next to him, laying her hand on his chest. "May I sleep here with you?" She laid her head down on his shoulder and sighed.
His eyes popped open at her words and he stared with surprise as she got comfortable next to him. What is it with the Tok'ra, he thought, remembering his encounter with Anise and her attempts to seduce him back at the SGC. Corlin was pretty, he had to admit, but this was definitely something he wanted to avoid. "There are plenty of other beds on this ship," he told her as he tried to push her off the bed.
"Yes, but you are in this one." The hand on his chest began to move and he grabbed it while sitting up, pulling her with him.
"Look," he said, "I'm very tired right now. I haven't slept properly in three days and all I want to do right now is crash. Maybe Kanan or Selmac would like to have you visit with them."
"I just want to sleep," she said, staring at him with surprise. "My host is plagued by dreams that terrify us both and we have always found comfort from others when the dreams wake us."
"There's a bed over there," he pointed out. "Why don't you go get comfortable in that one?"
"Do you have terrifying dreams?" she asked him.
"Yes, I do, but they are only dreams. I get over them and go back to sleep. It's not that difficult."
"It is for us," she said, lying back down pulling him with her. She closed her eyes and he marveled at the ease in which she fell asleep. Just like that.
Damned witch, he thought, as he got up and walked over to the other bed and laid down where he, too, fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
He awoke twelve hours later feeling refreshed and ready to face anything. He got up and stretched, then decided to go check on his favorite General. He found Carter hovering over O'Neill, while Daniel was shuffling a deck of cards.
"Gallagher," O'Neill called out, "will you please tell these two mother hens that I am fine and able to get up and walk around without their help?"
"Sure thing General, just as soon as I believe it," Gallagher said, with a smile. He could see that O'Neill was doing much better and that pleased him to no end.
"He's just mad because I beat him two games in a row," Daniel said calmly.
"You should let me win because I almost died," O'Neill groused. "I would do it for you."
"No you wouldn't, and besides you're fine and able to get up without anyone's help, remember?"
"Well, I'm glad you finally agree to it," O'Neill said, getting up off the bed. He didn't get far as Carter pushed him back down.
"Give it another day," she said in a no nonsense voice.
"Jack, I know from experience that there is no getting around it when she gets it in her mind to help you get better," Gallagher said. "You might as well get comfy."
"Power hungry wench!" O'Neill grumbled, as he glared at Carter. "She just wants to be in command again, that's all."
"That's not true," Carter exclaimed, frowning at her CO.
"Well, now you know how I feel," Gallagher said, as he grinned at his former self.
"You in?" Daniel asked, as he started to deal the cards.
"Yeah," Gallagher replied, pulling up a chair and sitting down. "Deal me in."
Jacob and Corlin walked in a few minutes later and Gallagher felt a moment of panic when he saw her. He grimaced at his reaction and went back to studying the cards in his hand.
"Hey Jack, I see you are doing much better," Jacob said, as he came over to give Carter a hug.
"Yes, I am. And I have been trying to convince these people of that fact for the last hour now." He glared at Carter, who just stared at him with a 'You're not going anywhere' look on her face. Just like a married couple, Gallagher thought, as hope welled up in him.
"There's no sign of Ba'al," Jacob announced. "We're thinking it's safe to say he's not following us."
"I agree," said Kanan, who had just walked in. "Other than O'Neill disappearing from his fortress during a battle, Ba'al has no reason of suspecting us of being Tok'ra."
Gallagher looked up from his cards and glanced over at Daniel, who had done the same thing. They stared at each other with concerned faces, having just realized the implications of what Kanan was saying. Crap, Gallagher thought.
"That could pose as a problem," Teal'c said. Gallagher looked around and saw the Jaffa standing in the doorway. This place was a regular Grand Central Station. "Ba'al may come to the same conclusion and come hunt us down."
"It would be difficult," Kanan replied. "We are too far away for any chance of detection now. I believe it is safe to say that we will not be found."
"Gallagher, I would like to hear more about the fact that you are an exact duplicate of O'Neill," Corlin said, changing the subject abruptly.
"Not exact," O'Neill hurried to correct, "and so much for keeping secrets," he said accusingly, as he glared at Jacob and Kanan.
"Will you tell me?" Corlin asked, ignoring all those around her. "I meant to ask you last night when I came to your bed, but I did not get a chance."
"You dog!" O'Neill said to Gallagher, with a big smile on his face. "He's a hit with the ladies – takes that after me," he said smugly to Carter and Jacob.
"Shut up O'Neill, it wasn't like that," Gallagher growled, as Carter, Jacob and Daniel laughed at the General's remark. "You should know that better than anybody," he added, thinking about Anise.
O'Neill just waggled his eyebrows at his clone, leaving Gallagher with a burning desire to smash the General's face in. Instead he went back to his cards, determined to ignore the whole topic.
"He is your clone, O'Neill. Of course he would do as you would," Kanan said, with a confused frown on his face. Gallagher couldn't help but grin at that statement. He supposed it was a little too much to ask that the Tok'ra understand the ego of a Tau'ri male.
"It was a joke," Jacob told Kanan. "Don't worry about it too much."
"Are we going to finish this game or what?" Gallagher asked, hoping to move the conversation to safer territory. "I was winning."
"I don't think so Jack," Daniel said. "I'm way ahead of you. I've got you both beat by a long shot."
"Wishful thinking there, Danny Boy," O'Neill scoffed. "You should see the cards I have in my hand."
"Nowhere near as good as the cards I'm holding," Gallagher rushed in to add. "You both should just quit right now to save face."
"No way!" Daniel exclaimed. "Why should I throw in a winning hand? You should quit…."
"Gentleman!" Corlin said, interrupting Daniel in mid stream. "May I suggest that you just continue your game to determine who the winner will be?"
"We were going to," O'Neill said, looking at her as if she had lost her mind.
"Yeah," said Daniel. "What made you think we weren't?" Gallagher just shrugged and shook his head when Daniel turned toward him and gave him a puzzled look.
"You were arguing about who had won the game and …." Corlin began.
"Why don't we just leave these guys alone," Jacob told Corlin, as he grinned at Gallagher. "I don't think I'm up to explaining every single statement and thing these three do. Coming Teal'c?"
"I am used to this," Teal'c replied with a grin. "I will stay here with my friends."
"Hey Jacob, I haven't eaten anything yet," Gallagher said as he swiveled around to look at him. "Would you mind getting me something from the supplies?"
"Yes, I would," Jacob replied with a pointed look. "Get it yourself."
"A pizza sounds good right about now," O'Neill said. "A pizza and beer… You old enough to drink?" he asked Gallagher.
"Technically or officially?" Gallagher replied. "Actually, since I am out in the middle of a galaxy somewhere, I would say it doesn't matter. Can't get arrested out here. Bring it on," he said with gusto.
"He's not old enough," Carter spoke up from her seat next to the General's bed. She had been so quiet up until then that Gallagher had forgotten she was even there.
"Even though I am not the General anymore, I'm still the same age as the old coot," Gallagher said, glaring at her.
"Who you calling an old coot?" O'Neill aimed his indignant glare at Gallagher.
"If the shoe fits, General, sir," Gallagher replied. "Whose turn is it?"
"Mine," said Daniel, as he reached for a card on the bed.
"You are still living in a 19 year-old body," Carter continued. "You're still too young."
"Technicalities," he said, dismissively.
"We do not have this beverage in our supplies," Kanan spoke up, causing the Tau'ri to stop what they were doing to stare at him.
"We know that," said O'Neill. "Hey, you know how to play poker?" he asked, as his face took on a calculating look.
"Uh uh, Jack," Jacob broke in, surprising Gallagher. He had thought Jacob had already left. "You are not getting this Ha'tak, so you can just forget it."
"I don't know what you mean," O'Neill said, trying to look innocent. "I just thought I would teach him about the finer things in life."
"You're still not getting the Ha'tak," Jacob insisted.
"Fine," O'Neill said, as he gave Gallagher a wary look. "Hey, you can't play that card there! He cheats," he grumbled to Carter. "He gets that from you!"
Gallagher protested his innocence while Carter grinned before the implications of what the General said sank in and the Tok'ra expressed total bewilderment by that statement. Jacob just threw up his hands and grabbed the arms of both Corlin and Kanan to drag them out of there, making an attempt to explain the Tau'ri humor as best he could. O'Neill took on the task of soothing Carter's ruffled feathers and Gallagher sat back and felt a contentment flowing through him. He had made the right decision in coming back to the SGC.
His mind drifted to the memory that had manifested into his consciousness and his dreams from the moment he met Shallan. He supposed the memory of her would always be there, just as Sara and Laira, the Edorian woman he had fallen for, were. And Sam, beautiful Colonel Carter, smiling at his jokes and frowning at him when she felt her command was threatened. He would always have those memories of her. Her ministrations and fear for him in Antarctica, jumping him in the locker room when she was infected with an alien virus, grabbing and hugging her to calm his fears when he thought Hathor had killed her in that cryogenic chamber, and the quiet times and stolen kisses when he thought her name was Thera on that ice planet. He loved Sam, just as he loved Sara and Laira, and he knew he shared Kanan's feelings for Shallan. They were a part of him and he drew comfort from these memories, knowing that there would never be a physical side of those relationships for him, not anymore. He could live with that, he thought, with a sad grin. After all, he had his whole life to live all over again.
Yep, he had made the right decision coming back to the SGC. He knew that future missions would be as dangerous as this one, but he was amongst his friends and together they would eliminate their enemies - one by one.