Leap of Faith
"I really can't believe I let you talk me into this." His arms folded across his chest, Daniel slouched down in the passenger seat and stared out the window. "I must have been out of my mind."
The source of his irritation snorted indelicately.
"What?" When Jack only responded with a smirk, Daniel straightened up and glared. "What?"
"You don't want to know what."
"Yes, I do."
"No, you really don't."
"Yes, I-- Jack!" Daniel reined in his temper, knowing Jack was deliberately winding him up. "What. Did. That. Mean?"
Jack nodded, stealing a quick glance at Daniel's face before returning his attention to the road. "You're a complete pushover when Fraiser's got you on the good stuff. You'll agree to anything."
"You-- That's absurd!"
Jack smiled, the irritating, smug one that pushed all Daniel's buttons. "Ask anyone. A few of the Doc's happy pills and you might as well change your middle name to Easy."
Daniel shook his head, chuckling. "Where do you come up with this stuff?"
"Ever wonder how you ended up agreeing to participate in that charity auction Carter was running?"
Daniel's laughter dried up. Talk about a low blow. He'd never realized a bunch of women could get so...aggressive. Standing up on that platform amidst the wolf whistles and catcalls, blushing to the roots of his hair, he'd wondered why he'd ever agreed--
"Ah hah! Told ya." Jack was practically hooting with delight.
"I felt sorry for Sam, that's all. Janet roped her into doing that auction and she was having a hard time getting enough...um..."
Daniel scowled. "Participants."
"So, ya just threw yourself to the wolves out of the kindness of your heart, is that right?"
"And I suppose the fact that you were still popping Vicodin for that knife wound had absolutely no bearing on your decision."
"Absolutely n-- I was?"
Jack just looked at him knowingly.
"Even so, that's one instance, Jack. I hardly think--"
"How about when Fraiser railroaded you into tutoring Cassie in Spanish?"
"Wha...? So I spent time helping her out. I've always had a soft spot for her and--"
"And you had a million other things on your plate, including that treaty with the Salamanders."
"Salmandrians." Daniel bit his lip. "Are you saying I was--"
"Stoned on Demerol for the back injury you picked up when that temple wall caved in on you."
"Want another? I got a million of 'em."
"No! Thank you." Daniel turned back to the window, stubbornly concentrating on the blur of trees and wildflowers and ignoring Jack. He rubbed at the relentless throbbing over his left eye, dropping his hand when he caught Jack looking.
"So, you're...uh...still getting headaches?"
Daniel kept his face averted. "Once in a while."
The truth was that ever since Sarah--Osiris, he corrected himself sharply--had zapped him with the ribbon device, headaches had become a daily occurrence. More than two weeks had passed since that disastrous trip to Egypt without noticeable improvement. Enough time for Janet to forcefully express her concern. To General Hammond. Which was part of the reason why he now found himself driving along a mountain road with Jack, headed for a cabin and four days of mandatory downtime.
"Seems like more than once in a while." A long pause. "You've got one now, don't you?"
"I'm fine, Jack." Daniel ground the words out through clenched teeth. "You don't need to worry about me." Why start now?
Jack must have sensed the unspoken. His voice was unusually contrite. "Look, Daniel, I realize I blew it, but you've got to know that I--"
"I really don't want to talk about this."
"Well, that's too bad. Because we really have to talk about this."
"No, we really don't."
"For cryin' out loud, is this what the whole weekend's going to be like?"
Giving up on the scenery, Daniel glared at Jack. "Doesn't have to be. You could turn around right now and take me home. I won't even rat you out to Janet or the General."
Jack's jaw dropped before he smoothly recovered. "What do they have to do with anything?"
"Oh, please! Give me some credit. Janet's been on my case all week, telling me I needed a vacation. And everyone on base knows General Hammond read you the riot act for disabling your cell phone." Daniel narrowed his eyes. "What is this--your penance?"
"Of course not!"
Jack's voice dripped righteous indignation, but the stiffening of his shoulders told Daniel he'd hit at least a nugget of truth. The irritation flowed out of Daniel, leaving him just plain tired.
"I'm serious. You don't have to do this. I can spend the downtime in my own apartment and no one has to be the wiser."
Jack kept his eyes on the road, but his voice gentled. "I'm not doing this because I have to. I'm doing it because I want to. Okay?"
Was it? Not really. Jack had shoved him aside, cut him off when Daniel needed him most. Now he wanted to fix what he'd broken--most likely because the General had issued an ultimatum. Daniel mentally shook his head. Did he really want to open himself up to the possibility of being hurt a second time?
On the other hand, he'd never had a friend like Jack. When things between them had been good, well, Jack had helped him through some terrible times. Wasn't that friendship worth the risk?
"I guess you're right. We do need to talk." He spoke the words with difficulty, low and without inflection. He was afraid Jack would lapse into humor or sarcasm--something about stubborn archeologists and all-knowing colonels. But his friend just blew out a long breath and his shoulders curled.
"Yeah. We really do."
They rode in silence for a while. Daniel let himself drift, mulling over a particularly sticky translation he'd been working on for SG-9. As he slipped into a half doze, the headache receded and the pieces of an especially puzzling passage clicked into place. He jerked upright, eyes wide.
"Daniel? What's wrong?" Jack's voice was sharp with worry, and he kept glancing between Daniel and the road.
"That's it! I can't believe I didn't see it right away. If it wasn't for this damn headache..." Daniel unfastened his seatbelt and turned around, rummaging through the back seat.
"What in the... What are you doing?"
"That tablet SG-9 wanted me to translate--the one that they found on P3X-877? I just realized what the second paragraph is trying to say! When it talks about cattle, that's actually a metaphor for--"
"Are you outta your mind? You almost gave me a heart attack! The way you jumped up, I thought...I thought..." When Daniel peered over his shoulder, Jack scowled. "Never mind what I thought! Put your seatbelt on, we're going through some dangerous turns here."
"I just need my backpack, Jack. I have to get this down in my journal while it's still clear in my head or--" Daniel watched the color drain from Jack's face and his whole body tense. "Jack?"
"Oh my God! Daniel...Daniel, look out! Sit down, he's--"
Brakes squealed. The truck swerved hard to the left, throwing Daniel into the back seat in a jumble of arms and legs. There was a grating screech of metal on metal, and he heard Jack swear as everything around him spun sickeningly. He felt an odd sensation of weightlessness, followed abruptly by the bone-jarring crunch of violent impact. His whole body slammed into something with incredible force. Pinpricks of light burst across his vision and he heard himself scream. Then everything went dark.
Somebody was tap dancing in his skull. With spike heels.
Jack pried open sticky eyes. A bolt of agony shot through his head, wrenching a moan from his throat. He stilled, regrouping, as he assessed the various aches and pains. The headache was massive, muddling his thought processes. His left cheek was on fire, the muscles in his back were contracting in painful little spasms, and his leg... Oh, God, his right leg felt as if it had been torn off at the knee.
Forcing his eyelids open and squinting stubbornly against the glare, he got an up close and personal view of...the driver's side window. Wincing, he cautiously straightened, swearing under his breath when the movement both intensified the beat in his head and stoked the flames burning his cheek. Which, he realized foggily, had been pressed against the splintered glass.
Shoving aside the now-deflated airbag, he let his gaze wander downward, taking in the seatbelt snugged tightly across his chest and the crumpled dashboard pinning his lower leg. Gritting his teeth, he grasped his thigh with both hands and--with much grunting, cursing, and squirming--worked it free. His jeans stretched taut against the badly swollen knee, but no blood stained the fabric. Panting and drenched with sweat, he collapsed against the seat as his vision grayed around the edges.
When the pain settled from a shriek to a dull roar, Jack switched his attention from his own injuries to his surroundings. A chill tingled down his spine as he realized that the SUV, though upright, was tilted sideways at roughly a forty-five degree angle. The driver's side was wedged up against a large pine tree that had caused the door to buckle inward and fractured the glass into a spider web of cracks. No wonder the side of his face hurt--with the airbag deflated, gravity had pulled his head against the broken window.
Jack carefully turned toward the passenger window, where he could glimpse a bit of the steep incline and a whole lot of blue sky. He closed his eyes, steeling himself. He had to get out of the car, and with his door effectively obstructed by the tree, that meant crawling over the gearshift and out the passenger door.
Jack sucked in a sharp
breath and his eyes flew open. Passenger...Daniel! Disjointed flashes
of memory bombarded
him--Daniel, sullen and angry. Daniel, in pain. Daniel, wide-eyed with excitement, unbuckling his safety belt and leaning into the back seat. Unbuckling...
Jack slithered out from under the airbag and steering wheel, wriggling and twisting until he could peer into the back seat. Daniel lay on the floor, crumpled against the driver's side door. One arm was twisted beneath his body, and he was missing both shoes. Blood from a nasty gash above his left eye coated the side of his face from hairline to chin and stained the collar of his once immaculate white tee shirt.
"Daniel?" The name came out in a raspy croak, barely above a whisper. Jack swallowed hard, but all the spit seemed to have left his mouth. "Danny?"
Daniel didn't move, not even a twitch. Jack searched for the rise and fall of his friend's chest, but Daniel was folded into a ball and Jack's vision kept blurring. Oh, God--what if he was dead? What if he'd slipped away, all alone in the crappy back seat of the truck while Jack was still out cold?
His need to reach Daniel, to touch and reassure himself that his friend was alive, blotted out reason. Jack was up on his good knee and doing his damnedest to crawl into the backseat before the pain blindsided him, stealing his breath and narrowing his vision to a mere pinprick of color and light. He fell back into his seat, his head smacking against the broken window with a soft thunk.
Okay, so that wasn't going to work.
When the pain in his knee and head dropped to a bearable level, Jack shoved aside the passenger-side airbag and inched himself across the front seat to the door. It was literally an uphill battle--with the car's angle, gravity naturally pulled him down toward the driver's side. After some trial and error, he found that turning his back toward the passenger door and pushing with his good leg allowed him to scoot toward his goal, while keeping his injured leg relatively straight and immobile.
Getting out of the car held its own challenge, as once again he worked against gravity. The door wouldn't stay propped open, nearly smashing his fingers when it repeatedly swung shut, and he couldn't lower the electric window--not even when he wasted precious energy sliding back down to the steering wheel and turning the key in the ignition.
By now Jack was teetering on the edge of losing it completely: drenched in sweat, trembling with pain and fatigue, and desperately worried about Daniel.
Just as he was mustering the strength to try the door one more time, inspiration struck. Groping along the side of the passenger seat, he located the small lever and pulled. With a little nudge of his shoulder, the seat obligingly reclined, allowing him to slide over it and into the back seat.
He hesitated, one hand poised over Daniel, afraid of what he might find. Then he saw the shallow rise and fall of his friend's chest, and all the air whooshed out of his lungs. He gingerly pressed three fingers to Daniel's throat, searching for a pulse.
There! Weak and rapid, but Jack's bones turned to water at the flutter under his fingertips. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed 911, not really surprised when the display warned that no signal was available. Jack sat back, chewing on his lip. What to do? Moving Daniel would be taking a huge risk--if his friend had a spinal cord injury, Jack could do irreparable damage.
On the other hand, he couldn't fully assess his friend's condition or offer treatment while he was crumpled in the back seat of a vehicle that could conceivably slide further down the mountain at any moment. Decision made, Jack braced his good leg against the seat, grabbed Daniel under both arms, and pulled. He managed to shift Daniel all of six inches before his leg gave out and his slick palms lost their grip. Daniel slumped on top of him, driving the breath from his lungs and awakening his slumbering knee.
"Shit! Shit! Shit!" His own voice sounded distant, drowned out by the whine in his ears. Jack lay under 180 pounds of boneless archeologist, trying to remember how to breathe. Warm wetness soaked through his tee shirt and the coppery smell of blood made his stomach churn.
How on earth was he going to get Daniel out of the damn car? Where the hell was Teal'c when you needed him? Jack could barely lift Daniel's sold bulk on a good day. Half dizzy, with a bum leg, on an incline...
"Daniel." He buried his fingers in his friend's thick hair and tugged, none too gently. "Damn it, Daniel! You've got to wake up!"
A low moan rumbled against his chest. Jack squirmed upright and slapped Daniel's cheek. "That's it, Dannyboy. I know you're in there."
Daniel's eye fluttered open, then slammed shut, his forehead wrinkling as he moaned again. His hands clenched, scrabbling at Jack's shirt.
"J...Jack?" It was more breath than sound, but it was beautiful to Jack's ears.
"Yeah. Right here."
"Oh, God. Head."
"You took a pretty good knock to the noggin."
Jack frowned, worried not only by the question, but also Daniel's willingness to remain sprawled across his chest. "You don't remember?"
A long pause. "Sssara? H-hand device?"
Well, crap. Obviously the knock on the head had also scrambled Daniel's brains. "No, an accident. Car full of kids ran us off the road. You got thrown around pretty bad, but you're going to be okay." Please don't let that be a lie.
Daniel didn't reply, growing heavier--if that were possible. Jack looked down just in time to see his friend's eye slide shut.
"Daniel? Daniel!" He punctuated his rebuke with a slap to Daniel's cheek.
Daniel's eye popped open and he instinctively recoiled, jerking his head up from the pillow of Jack's chest with a groan. "Wh...why'd ya do that?"
Jack's stomach clenched in remorse at the bewildered hurt in his friend's voice, but he steeled himself, propping his hands against Daniel's shoulders to keep him upright. "You can't fade out on me. We've got to get you out of this car, and I can't do it alone."
"Where are we?"
Damn. So much for explanations--they were a waste of time and energy as long as Daniel wasn't firing on all cylinders. Jack shoved, hefting his friend upright, and slithered out from under him. Daniel grunted, clutching his head and swaying precariously.
"Gonna...gonna be sick." He'd barely finished speaking when he turned his head to the side and noisily did exactly as he'd predicted.
Jack caught hold of Daniel as he started a nosedive toward his own mess. Despite the increasing warmth of the car, Daniel was shivering, his skin cool and clammy.
"Easy, easy. Come on, Daniel, you can do this."
"I know it does, big guy."
Oh, for cryin'... "We're gonna make a break for it now. I need you to follow me. Can you do that?"
Daniel stiffened and his wandering gaze locked onto Jack's face. "Goa'uld?"
"Something like that. Just...follow me, okay?" Whatever works, he thought, watching Daniel drunkenly crawl across the seat. At least the concept of impending danger had spurred Daniel into motion.
The simple trek over the seat and out of the car took an eternity. Daniel puked twice more, and he was so unsteady he kept losing his balance. Once down, it took a lot of poking, prodding, and just plain cruelty on Jack's part to get him moving again. By the time they tumbled out of the truck and onto the rocky ground, Daniel had passed out, and Jack was hanging onto consciousness by a thread.
He manhandled Daniel into the shade from a nearby tree and collapsed beside him. Overhead the sky was a flawless blue broken only by a few wispy clouds. Nice day for a drive, he thought muzzily, and promptly passed out.
Continued in Chapter 2