He cleaned the wound as best he could, aware all the time that he was hurting Jack even though he hadn't made a sound. Daniel hoped that the knife hadn't been poisoned - that didn't even bear thinking about. Pushing such thoughts away, he concentrated on the task at hand, pressing one of the gauze pads from the first aid kit as tightly as he could against the wound and then winding a roll of bandage tightly round the pad to try and staunch the flow of blood. Jack actually hissed in pain as he did this and Daniel found himself apologising again.

"Dammit Daniel! Would you quit apologising?" said Jack angrily, his eyes still tightly closed as he tried to concentrate on not passing out in an undignified heap.

Daniel bit his lip as the word 'sorry' threatened to escape again and instead busied himself pinning the end of the bandage and easing Jack's t-shirt back down. As he helped Jack lean back against the cave wall, the colonel reached out and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder. Opening his eyes and trying to focus on Daniel's face he gave a wan smile

"Hey - sorry I yelled at ya." he said softly. Daniel returned the smile and shook his head

"Forget it" he said, knowing already that Jack had simply been lashing out as a reaction to the pain and frustration he was feeling.

Jack closed his eyes again and Daniel got up and quickly set about lighting a fire with the wood he'd collected. He deliberately set it up near the back of the cave, where the walls curved slightly so that the light wouldn't be seen from below. He couldn't help smiling to himself as he did this guess some of that military know-how is rubbing off on me after all, Jack her thought, remembering all the times the colonel had gotten exasperated with him over his lack of soldiering abilities.

Once the fire was going, he went back over to Jack. He noted with concern that he was shivering, a sure sign of shock and blood loss. Daniel knew the wound had been bleeding profusely on the journey here and had probably been doing so since they'd run out of the village. He must have lost an awful lot of blood he thought with a stab of fear and when he reached out his hand to check Jack's forehead he was even more alarmed to discover that he felt cold and clammy. Jack jerked his head away from Daniel's hand and opened his eyes to peer at Daniel blearily.

"It's ok - it's just me" said Daniel, smiling reassuringly and Jack rolled his eyes

"I've been stabbed Daniel, I'm not blind" he retorted and Daniel couldn't help but grin - at least he was still capable of sarcasm, for now anyway.

Aloud he said dryly "Keep it up Jack and I'm going to tell Fraser exactly how bad a patient you were when we get back" he retorted, earning himself a glare

"Just because you're her favourite" grumbled Jack and Daniel smothered a grin at how childlike Jack sounded.

"Come on" he said reaching round to support Jack with one arm under his shoulders "Lets get you nearer the fire".

Jack managed to stand with Daniel's help and he smothered a cry at the agony that erupted in his back at the movement. The truth was he felt terrible, waves of hot and cold washing over him and dizziness assaulting his senses constantly. His back felt like it was on fire and his knees were so weak he knew he'd have fallen if Daniel hadn't been taking his weight. As they staggered to the other side of the cave, he swallowed the wave of nausea that rose in his throat and just managed to avoid bringing up his lunch all over the archaeologist. Daniel kept throwing worried glances at Jack, noting how pale he was and the clench of his jaw that gave away to those who knew him as well as Daniel did, just how much pain he was in.

Finally they were next to the fire and Daniel eased Jack down as gently as possible. Jack was exhausted just walking such a short distance and Daniel realised they had no chance of making it to the Stargate or anywhere else for that matter. They were going to have to hole up here and wait to be rescued - he just hoped they came quickly, before Jack got much worse.

Daniel had taken his jacket off earlier and he now rolled it up into a makeshift pillow. Putting it on the ground next to Jack he gently laid him down so his head was resting on it and then put Jack's own jacket over him to try and add to the warmth of the fire. Jack was beyond protesting at all this now - he barely had the strength to open his eyes and he knew he was in a bad way. The weird thing was, that as dire as the situation, he felt strangely safe and even though he'd never have admitted it out loud, he knew that this was because he trusted Daniel to take care of him.

In his line of work, it was a risky business trusting other people. You were taught to rely on yourself, and he'd schooled himself over the years to keep people at a safe distance. If you didn't let anyone get close, then you couldn't get hurt, or let down. If he was truthful with himself, that wasn't just because of his training and the job he did, it had happened mostly after Charlie had died. He'd sworn to himself that he wouldn't care about anyone any more and no one would care about him. It had been working fine until he'd come across a geeky, annoying archaeologist who'd somehow sneaked past those barriers and had forced him to start living again. Jack was in no doubt that if it hadn't been for the Stargate project and, mostly, for Daniel then he would have been dead by now. He'd been taking enormous risks, not caring if he lived or died, but suddenly someone else had taken it upon themselves to risk their lives for him and he'd found himself fighting to live again, almost without realising it.

Daniel's words and actions had stayed with him when he'd first come back from Abydos and he'd gradually begun to live his life again, a little at time. After they'd met up again and the disastrous attack by Apophis, his main mission in life had been helping Daniel to keep going in his search for Sh'are. Before he knew it, he'd found himself genuinely caring about Daniel and he couldn't even tell you exactly when the archaeologist had become his best friend, but there was no doubt in Jack's mind that was exactly what he was. He trusted Daniel completely, and that was something he'd rarely done before, even with Sara. He was so good at hiding his emotions, but somehow Daniel always saw through him and it both scared him and comforted him at the same time. He never could have told Daniel exactly how much their friendship meant to him or how much he cared about him, that wasn't his way, but he hoped somehow Daniel knew.

For his part, Daniel was studying Jack as he lay there silently. The lack of fight at Daniel's 'mothering' frightened him to death. It was a true sign of how badly hurt and how weak Jack was. When he'd first met Colonel Jack O'Neil, Daniel had been dismissive of him as simply another dumb, shoot em up, ask questions later, soldier that he hated so much. But he'd quickly seen that under that military exterior there was a good man with a sharp mind and a brave heart.

However he'd also seen how what had happened to his son had nearly destroyed him and he'd wanted to help somehow, without even knowing why. He'd felt that he'd gotten to know Jack a little better by the time the mission was over and he'd been genuinely pleased to see him when the soldiers had returned to Abydos. Of course, he'd had no idea then just how much he'd come to need Jack in the hellish months that followed.

He'd thought his world had ended when Sh'are was taken, but somehow he'd survived and he knew most of that was down to Jack. He'd seemed to instinctively know when Daniel had needed to talk, when he'd needed to be just left alone or when he'd simply needed someone to sit with to silently to pass the time. He could never thank Jack enough for what he'd done for him, not just then but all the years since then. Daniel had been more or less on his own since his parents died but suddenly this brash Air Force colonel had come into his life and had become without a doubt, the best friend Daniel had ever had. Not that he'd ever told him that of course - Jack would rather be flayed alive than indulge in, as he called it, 'mushy stuff'. Daniel just hoped that Jack knew how much he meant to Daniel and how important their friendship was to him. I'll get you through this Jack he pledged silently I swear I will.

Time seemed to be passing so slowly. It had grown dark outside and when Daniel looked at his watch he saw that nearly 2 hours had passed since their escape from the village. Unfortunately, that still meant 30 minutes until they were overdue back at Stargate command and probably another couple of hours before a search team would be sent through. He looked over at Jack for the millionth time and wasn't encouraged by what he saw.

The colonel was still, except for the shivers that wracked his body now and again, each of which made him draw breath sharply as the tremors jolted his wound. His face was a mask of pain, but Daniel daren't give him any painkillers in his weakened condition. To his credit, Jack hadn't made a single sound of complaint since they'd arrived at the cave, but Daniel almost wished he would. At least that way he'd know he was still with him. Struck by a sudden fear that Jack hadn't moved for the last few minutes, Daniel jumped up and quickly went to Jack's side, feeling the side of his neck for a pulse. Seconds seemed to stretch into eternity, but finally he felt a heartbeat - weak, but still there. Daniel let out a breath he hadn't even been aware he was holding, and leant his head back against the wall, closing his eyes for a moment. Daniel knew Jack couldn't hold out much longer - he'd checked the makeshift bandage a while ago and although the bleeding had slowed it hadn't stopped completely. Daniel had left his hand resting on Jack's shoulder and he opened his eyes as he felt Jack move.

Jack was aware of someone near him and his brain tried to sift through recent information to work out if he should be worried or not. It felt as if he was floating in darkness, and he was strangely detached from everything. He was aware of the continuous pain in his back and how cold he felt, but he was just so damn weak - with a supreme effort he opened his eyes and managed to focus on the figure next to him. The touch on his shoulder felt reassuring and familiar and his brain finally clicked and knew even before Daniel came into fuzzy focus who sat next to him.

He moved slightly to try and get a better look at the archaeologist but that sent a flare of agony stabbing through his back and he couldn't help groaning. Daniel leant forward, squeezing Jack's shoulder gently

"Easy Jack - don't try and move, ok?" he said soothingly.

Jack grimaced and looked up at him "I think I already .. worked that one out" he managed to gasp and Daniel couldn't stop the soppy grin of relief that came from hearing that deadpan comment who'd have thought I'd miss your sarcasm so much Jack he thought, but aloud he simply said

"Well then try for once to do as your told" and Jack glared at him, albeit weakly.

"Do we have any water?" he croaked and Daniel quickly went over to his pack, returning with the canteen.

"Ok, I'm going to sit you up, but it's probably going to hurt" he said softly.

Jack just rolled his eyes, which Daniel took as confirmation to just get the hell on with it. He took hold of Jack's shoulders and as gently as he could, pulled him upright. He slid in between Jack and the cave wall and pulled him back so that he was resting against his chest. He figured that would be easier on Jack's back than the unforgiving rock and besides, right now he needed the contact and he guessed Jack did too, even though he'd have sworn otherwise.

A sure sign of this was the fact that Jack didn't protest at the position. His eyes were tightly closed and he was trying to ride out the waves of agony from the wound. Daniel reached round with his right hand and took Jack's in his own. The colonel immediately gripped harder than Daniel would have thought possible, but he stifled any complaint knowing Jack's pain was ten times worse. Eventually the grip loosened and silently Daniel put the canteen to Jack's lips, still keeping hold of his other hand. Jack managed a few sips and it felt like nectar to him. His throat was so dry. He leant his head back against Daniel's chest, exhausted by the effort of drinking. Daniel put the canteen down beside them and leant his head back against the wall.

"You know, you're ruining my tough, commanding image here Danny-Boy" said Jack weakly, but there was humour clearly visible in his tone of voice.

Daniel smiled tiredly "What tough commanding image?" he said, unable to resist.

All those who knew Jack O'Neil closely, particularly the members of SG1, knew that you'd find it hard to find a kinder, more caring, more loyal man than Colonel O'Neil and that the tough exterior was just a front built up over the years. Not that any of them would tell him that of course. He could still kick their asses if he wanted to.

As if reading Daniel's thoughts Jack replied "You know, when I'm feeling better, you'll pay for that" he said. Daniel just squeezed his hand

"When you're feeling better, I'll be happy to" he said, unable to disguise the thick emotion in his throat.

Jack squeezed Daniel's hand in return. It suddenly occurred to him how hard this must be for Daniel, he knew how he'd feel - how he'd felt over the years - if it were the archaeologist who was hurt and he was the one sat there unable to do anything.

"Hey - what's with the maudlin tone? This is a walk in the park, remember?" he said as lightly as possible.

Daniel swallowed. Of all things, Jack was trying to make him feel better. Before he could reply, Jack gasped in pain as he shivered again. Daniel could feel how cold Jack was, and he wrapped both his arms round him tightly, trying to convey some body heat and comfort all in one go.

"Just ride it out Jack. Try and breathe through it" he said gently, remembering Dr Fraser telling him the same thing once during one of his many visits to the infirmary.

Jack squeezed his eyes shut, trying to concentrate on breathing. It hurt so badly, part of him just wanted to escape the pain and drift off into the comforting blackness. But he knew he couldn't do that, and one of the reasons was sitting holding him now. He could hear the fear Daniel was trying to so hard to disguise in his voice and he could tell by the way Daniel was holding him how afraid the archaeologist was that he wasn't going to make it. He couldn't just give up. He knew Daniel would blame himself and he couldn't let another human being live with the guilt he'd had to all these years, especially not one he cared about as much as Daniel.

Drawing strength from his friend's embrace Jack managed to ride out the pain until he could breathe almost normally again. Daniel rested his chin on Jack's head, past caring now about keeping up any 'macho' image.

"How you doing?" he said softly and Jack managed a weak smile

"I'm hanging in here, don't worry" he said trying to sound reassuring.

He too was beyond worrying about his image, despite what he'd said earlier. Right now he was scared, more scared than he'd been for a long time. He'd finally found something to live for, a purpose in life. And more than that, he'd found in SG1 the family he'd been missing for a long time. He didn't want to leave that behind and he was fighting as hard as he could to stay alive, but it was so hard. The one thing keeping him going was Daniel and he suddenly wanted to say all the things he should have said over the years, but never had, just in case this was his last chance. He'd never been good at saying how he felt, even with Sara. He'd rather walk over hot coals or jump in front of a bullet - or a knife his brain reminded him ironically - than tell the people he cared about how he really felt about them. But Daniel had been such a good friend to him, he owed him this much if it really was the end. He swallowed, his throat dry

"Listen, Daniel - there's something I want to say" he said softly.

Daniel stayed silent, he'd never heard Jack sound so serious before and he had a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach over what was coming next.

"I'm not good with words, not really, not the important stuff - hell you know that" said Jack trying to lighten the mood a little. "Give me a gun and someone to yell at any day"

Daniel didn't laugh though and Jack pressed on, knowing it was now or never.

"What I'm trying to say is - I want to thank you Daniel, for, for everything. You've been a good friend and I've probably never said that before and I should have. I know we don't always agree about things, in fact we hardly ever agree about anything, but that's not what matters. Our friendship has been… I guess it's one of the things I'm most proud of and it's meant a hell of a lot to me. And so have you"

This last part was so quiet Daniel could barely hear it. He had tears streaming down his face and not just because of what Jack had said to him, but because he was saying it. He knew this meant Jack thought the end was in sight and he was terrified that he was going to lose him.

Taking a deep breath Daniel's voice was steely when he spoke

"So that's it, is it? Thanks for the memories and goodbye?"

Jack frowned in confusion. A pissed off Daniel had not been what he was expecting after laying himself bare like that. He felt his own anger rise

"Now wait a minute. I'm lying here, laying out my innermost feelings and you're yelling at me? All the times you've told me to 'talk about things' and now suddenly… for crying out loud!' Jack shook his head.

At that moment another wave of pain hit him, cutting off any further diatribe he was planning on aiming at Daniel.

Daniel for his part, felt like a complete bastard. He didn't want to yell at Jack, of course he didn't, but right now he needed to give him something to fight for and that meant pissing him off enough to forget he might be taking his last breath then so be it. Jack felt the pain begin to ease off and chanced opening his eyes again. The view of the cave was hazy given the fact his eyes were still watering from the agonising burning in his back, but he could just about make out that it was starting to get dark outside. Great – that'll make it nice and easy for the rescue party to find the well hidden cave entrance he thought.

Trying to put a stop to any negative thoughts about their chances of being rescued, he turned his thoughts back to Daniel again. He'd thought the archaeologist would be pleased, touched, amazed – hell pretty much anything other than 'pissed off'. Well if that's what you get for getting all 'touchy-feely' then you can keep it he thought, a little pissed off himself now. Daniel moved slightly and Jack hissed as his wound protested the movement.

'What, so now you're trying to finish me off yourself?' he said, sarcasm lacing the words heavily.

'Yeah right – I want to help you take the easy way out' said Daniel, his voice uncharacteristically hard and hating himself for having to do this.

'The easy way out? Are you kidding me?' said Jack in disbelief.

Maybe the tension is finally getting to him and his gone completely nuts he thought absently as he waited for Daniel's reply.

'Yes Jack – the easy way out. Just like always' said Daniel I am definitely going to hell for this – right after Jack kills me his mind helpfully noted.

'Now wait just a minute' Daniel didn't give Jack time to finish.

'You know what I'm talking about, and don't pretend that you don't. You were taking the easy route long before we even met. You fully intended to get yourself killed on that first Stargate mission and you're always so busy pushing everyone away. God forbid anyone should actually get close to Jack O'Neil. After all, you've got that image to think about right Jack? It's easy that way isn't it – no one to worry about and no one to worry about you. Well that's the easy way Jack and you're doing it again right now. A few flowery words to try and make yourself feel better and then you just give up. Float away into that pleasant blackness and who cares about us poor idiots left behind who just might actually give damn about you, although god knows why!'

Daniel was practically shouting as he finished, while Jack just sat in stunned silence. Eventually his brain managed to engage his mouth again and when he spoke he was about as angry as Daniel had ever heard him.

'How dare you Daniel! You think I take the easy way out? You think I'm the only one who keeps people at arms length? Well screw you Danny-Boy! You're the one who wanted to be left behind on some godforsaken planet, who wanted me to tell the rest of the world you'd died out there. You're the one runs round, putting his hand in the proverbial fire 'because it's there' and then wondering why everyone else has to haul his ass out of the flames! And you're the one who stood there and made me, me who is supposedly your best friend, be the one to tell Fraser and the others that we had to let you go! Do you have any idea what that was like? Or what the months afterwards were like? Oh sure, you got to be omnipotent, to drop in and out when it suited you. We're the ones who had to live with the fact you died! And now you have the balls to call me selfish?'

Jack was practically gasping for breath when he finished and if he'd been able to see Daniel's face he'd have seen that it was wet with tears. His expression stricken, Daniel didn't even know where to start.

He'd meant to annoy Jack enough to forget that he was supposed to be dying and instead he'd opened up a Pandora's box of hurt and anger that neither of them had dealt with since his return. He'd just assumed that they were ok, that it was all back to normal. He'd never truly allowed himself to think what it must have been like for Jack when he was gone, mostly because he felt kind of guilty about the whole thing. Now he realised just how much he'd hurt him, however unintentionally, and he didn't know where to begin to apologise. At that moment he felt Jack stiffen. For a brief moment he thought that this was it, and his heart froze, but then he heard the same noises Jack's Black Op's trained ears had picked up seconds before. Someone was coming.

Their fight forgotten, Daniel gently eased Jack forward so he could get out from behind him, and lay him back against the cave wall equally as gently. Jack held out his gun and Daniel took it. Acknowledging the silent message in Jack's eyes to be careful, he slipped forward until he could clearly see the cave entrance, stamping out the fire as he went. In the half light the cave entrance was clearly outlined, so he could see whoever appeared long before they saw him. If this was the natives, come to finish the job they'd started so well at the village, Daniel cursed them for not giving him enough time to make it up with Jack before what would probably be both their deaths. He was distracted from any further regrets by the arrival of their visitors. Daniel froze for a second before sagging with relief. He would recognise T'ealc's shadow anywhere.

'Guys – we're in here' he said rushing forward.

T'ealc entered the cave, closely followed by Carter, both of them clearly relieved at having found them at last.

'Jack's hurt and it's bad. We need to get him back to base' said Daniel before they could ask any questions.

Jack was able to briefly acknowledge their arrival with a comment of 'Did you do some sightseeing on the way here or what?' but as T'ealc lifted him he finally gave in to the blackness and slipped into unconsciousness.

Daniel barely remembered the hurried journey back to the gate. He'd run along next to T'ealc, his gaze never leaving Jack's pale face. He'd hardly been aware of Hammond's grateful 'Welcome home' in the gateroom and he'd been barely moved as they sat outside the Sickbay waiting for news. Sam and T'ealc had regarded him worriedly, but refrained from asking what happened, aware they'd get no sense from him till they knew for sure O'Neil would make it.

After a tense couple of hours Fraser had emerged, her smile telling them more than the words she spoke. Jack had come through surgery with no complications and he would soon be back to his usual cantankerous self she'd told them, watching as they released the collective breath they'd been holding. Janet had insisted that Daniel at least get cleaned up before she'd let him back into her pristine Sickbay. She knew it would be a waste of breath to even try to get him to leave until the Colonel was awake, so she settled for at least being sure that the first thing Colonel O'Neil saw when he woke up would not be Daniel covered in Jack's own blood.

Daniel stood under the hot water with his eyes closed desperately trying to shut out the images and words from the last few hours. He knew he'd never been closer to losing Jack, even after all the near-misses they'd had in the past, but it wasn't just that that was getting to him. He couldn't stop thinking about the pain in Jack's voice as he'd yelled at him about how hard it been after Daniel had 'died'. He'd known of course, on some level, that it must have been hard. Hell, he could easily imagine how he'd have felt in the same situation, but it was like it hadn't fully registered with him. When he'd first come back there was so much to deal with, not least getting his memories back, and then Jack had just seemed so pleased he was back.. They'd kind of slipped back into their old routine without a thought. And now Daniel had blown it all to hell again. Sure, Jack was alive and maybe, just maybe, the argument he'd been having with Daniel had fuelled an anger strong enough to keep him going until help arrived. But at what cost? Could they get past words said in anger? Or in Daniel's case, desperation? He sighed, and realised that for the last few minutes he'd been standing in lukewarm water. Great - now to top it all I'll probably give myself pneumonia he thought. Pulling himself together, he quickly finished washing and within 10 minutes was back in the infirmary, hair still dripping. Janet acknowledged his arrival with a smile and nodded her assent that he could sit with Jack.

He moved almost hesitantly towards Jack's bed, sitting down with as little noise as possible. Logically he knew Jack wouldn't come round for hours yet, but still. He took in every detail - the paleness of Jack's face, the lines of pain evident even in sleep, the numerous wires and tubes currently helping keep him alive. With a sudden flash of clarity he realised with a shock that Jack was starting to look, well, old. He knew of course that O'Neil was in his late 40s, but Jack was so active and young at heart that it didn't really register. But now he truly looked at him, Daniel realised that the last few years had taken their toll on O'Neil. He'd been through a hell of a lot lately, and Daniel realised with a pang that he hadn't helped matters by 'dying' and coming back. He'd faced Jack's mortality today in frightening clarity, and he suddenly understood fully just how hard it must have been when he'd asked Jack to let him go. The truth of the matter was, Jack was the best friend he'd ever had. He was family. And despite their differences, he knew Jack felt the same about him. It was the one thing he knew without question - even when things got crazy, he could rely on Jack. But could Jack rely on him? Had he really been there for him, like he should have, over the last few years? He knew that he sometimes got so caught up in situations, that he couldn't always see the bigger picture and that it was O'Neil who had to make the hard decisions that ultimately saved lives. And he'd been so excited about the whole idea of 'ascending' that his mind had glossed over the reality of what he was doing to Jack and the others. He felt ashamed now, and even more so after the whole B'aal incident. He'd been so adamant about the rules of ascension that he'd been able to do no more for Jack than sit and watch as he was tortured again and again. And when Jack had asked him to do the very same thing Daniel had asked him, what had he done? That's right - refused. Way to go, Daniel he thought bitterly.

By every rights, Jack should be pissed at him. Well, I think you've certainly achieved that now, if it wasn't the case already the helpful voice in his head noted dryly. Great - now even his subconscious was annoyed with him. Daniel rubbed his hands over his face tiredly. He felt wrung out, like he'd been to hell and back which, in truth, he had. Facing his own death was one thing, it had happened before and he'd learnt to deal with it, but facing Jack's.. He didn't know what he'd do without him. Which he knew sounded incredibly sappy, as Jack would say, but he couldn't help it - it was the truth. He'd lost everyone he ever cared about, except Jack, and now that was what scared him most. Next to Sha're, Jack was the person who meant most to him in the whole world, and yet ironically he was the person Daniel had treated most badly recently. Slouching back in the chair, Daniel vowed that from now on it would be different. He'd talk to Jack when he woke up and make him see that he understood how royally he'd screwed up, but that it would never happen again. With that slightly more comforting thought in his head, Daniel felt his eyes closing and within seconds, he was soundly asleep.

Ok - smell of antiseptic: check. Beeping of complicated-sounding machines: check. Feeling of pleasant haziness, which will no doubt wear off at some point: check. Yep, I'm definitely in the Infirmary.. Again. Having helpfully clarified all this for him, before he was even properly awake, Jack's mind now set itself to the task of opening his eyes. Having closed them rapidly again at the stab of pain in his head from the lights, Jack tried it again more cautiously and this time the stabbing pain reduced itself to an annoying throb that he could at least live with. Blinking the last remnants of haziness from his eyes, Jack found himself staring at the ceiling. You'd think they could have more interesting ceiling tiles he thought idly, as he waited for the world to come into focus anytime soon. Having solved the problem of vision, he now turned his head slowly to the side attempting to locate the noise that was currently rattling in his skull like an express train. A sleeping, and more importantly snoring, Daniel Jackson came into view. Jack smiled at the sight, which was as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning. If Jack was in the infirmary, then Daniel would be there when he woke up and vice versa. That was how it was. Although, that said, the snoring he could do without right now.. He tried to get Daniel's attention but his throat felt drier than a desert.

After a few coughs and swallows he managed to gather enough voice for a loudly whispered 'Daniel!'. Daniel woke with a start, nearly falling off the chair in the process. Jack would have laughed if it didn't feel like his insides were currently held together with sticky tape. Daniel blinked owlishly as he tried to work out where he was and what had woken him. It took a few seconds but he finally registered that Jack was not only awake, but looking at him with amusement.

'You look like I feel' said O'Neil dryly and Daniel felt a ridiculously huge smile of relief on his face to hear Jack's voice again.

'It's good to see you too' said Daniel dryly, still grinning inanely at him.

'So I take it the cavalry finally arrived' said Jack, shifting sightly to try and get more comfortable and wincing as he realised that having your insides rearranged by a knife meant comfortable was not an option.

'Yeah, Sam & T'ealc got to us just in time. Any longer and..'

Daniel stopped, unable to continue past the lump in his throat as he thought of how close it had been.

'Hey' said Jack, reaching out and putting his hand on Daniel's arm. 'I'm still here, remember'.

Daniel shook his head 'No thanks to me' he said tightly, taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes agitatedly.

Jack's brow furrowed 'What the hell do you mean, no thanks to you? I seem to recall you being the one keeping me alive in that cave' he said in disbelief.

Daniel shook his head 'If I hadn't screwed up you wouldn't have got hurt in the first place. And I couldn't even get you out of there properly, all I could do was sit and watch while you bled to death'

Daniel stopped, getting up out of his chair to pace the room. Jack shifted again so he could keep Daniel in sight and this time ignored the stab of pain it caused him.

'Ok, first off – it was not your fault I got stabbed. I didn't know anything was wrong anymore than you did, and you know how untrusting I am. And secondly – no one could have managed to get us out of there, not outnumbered 50 to 1 and having to literally carry me out of there. You got us to a safe place, kept me alive, and kept your head till help arrived. In my book that means you saved my life Daniel' he said.

Daniel stopped pacing and slumped back down in the chair, refusing to meet Jack's gaze.

'That's not what it feels like Jack. I just felt so useless sitting there, not being able to do anything. And it's not just that. What you said, about what happened when I ascended'. Jack cut him off with a wave of his hand.

'Look Daniel, I was in pain and I was pretty out of it and it really wasn't the time to be talking about that stuff. Just forget it, ok?' he said firmly, but now it was Daniel's turn to shake his head.

'That's just it Jack - I can't. We should have talked about this long before now, but we don't do that sort of thing do we? And where does it get us? We just end up burying all the important stuff until it comes pouring out, or until it's too late. You nearly died Jack. And there's so much I would have regretted not saying to you'.

Jack shifted uncomfortably 'Oh, come on Daniel. Do we really have to do this?' he said and Daniel finally looked up at him.

Jack was taken aback by the amount of pain in Daniel's eyes, and he swallowed.

'Ok, fine. What do you want us to talk about?'. Daniel looked at him in surprise.

Jack O'Neil was hardly the touchy-feely type and to have him actually agree to talking about 'feelings' was somewhat of a miracle. Put on the spot he struggled to find a place to start. In the silence Jack waited patiently. As much as he hated this stuff, part of him knew it was long overdue. And the last few hours had made him realise, again, how precarious their lives were and it occurred to him that perhaps there were some things that needed to be said. After Daniel had 'died' he'd found himself running through things in his head, regretting all the missed opportunities, but the trouble was as soon as Daniel came back it was easy to just go back to the way things were and old habits were hard to break. Eventually Daniel cleared his throat, trying to find a place to start.

'Ok, well I guess the first thing I want to do is apologise. I never really thought just what I was asking when I wanted you to let me ascend. And I should have done more when you were stuck in B'aal's prison as well. What he was doing to you – the rules about ascension shouldn't have mattered, helping my friend should. And since I got back. Everything's just been so busy we never really got a chance to talk about things. And I'm sorry for that too. Because the truth is..' Daniel swallowed, and looked down at the ground again unable to face Jack while he talked about this stuff.

'The truth is, you've been there for me ever since that first mission to Abydos. I'd never have survived losing Sh'are, not once but twice, if it weren't for you. You've been a great friend and I know I haven't always made things easy, and we don't always agree on everything, but you're my best friend Jack. You're my family. And I'm not sure I could take it if anything happened to you'

Now it was Jack's turn to swallow as he took in what Daniel had said. It wasn't that he'd ever doubted their friendship, but so much had happened over the last 10 years and sometimes it was hard to separate their working relationship from their personal one. Tempers frayed and things got said that shouldn't have, like in the cave. Realising that Daniel was probably waiting for some kind of response Jack cleared his throat.

'Look Daniel, you don't have anything to apologise to me for. When you ascended it's not like you had a choice and I'd rather have had you omnipotent than actually dead. And as for what happened with B'aal? There was nothing you could have done and truth is it helped just having you there'.

Daniel looked up at this in surprise and Jack found himself looking away awkwardly. He so hated talking about this stuff, but since he was on a roll he might as well continue.

'All that matters is that you came back in the end, and that's all I really care about. You know I wouldn't even be here right now if it hadn't been for what you did for me on that first mission and when it comes down to it, you're my best friend too Daniel. And as for losing me, I'm pretty hard to get rid of you know'

The last part he said with the patented Jack O'Neil grin and Daniel found himself grinning back. He felt like a weight had been lifted, better than he had in ages, and at last there wasn't any need to say anything else. Naturally it was Jack who broke the moment first, rolling his eyes

'Please tell me we don't have to hug now do we?' he said in mock horror and Daniel chuckled.

'No I think we're good. Anymore of this and I'm going to think I came back with some sort of replica'.

'Hey, I'll have you know you can't replicate perfection' said Jack cockily and now it was Daniel's turn to roll his eyes.

At that point Jack couldn't hold back a yawn and Daniel stood up.

'I'd better let you get some rest before Janet has my hide for tiring you out' he said.

'Coward' said Jack but he couldn't deny he was literally half asleep already.

'So I'll see you later then ok?' said Daniel, and Jack nodded

'Sure, but do me a favour and see if you can bring some decent food with you will ya? You know what the stuff you get in here is like'

Daniel shook his head fondly 'I'll see what I can do'.

As he began to walk away Jack suddenly reached out and grabbed Daniel's arm. Daniel turned round and looked at Jack with concern.

'What is it? Do you need me to get Janet?' Jack shook his head and simply locked his gaze with Daniel.

'Thank you' he said softly, and Daniel understood Jack was talking about more than just what had happened on the planet.

Unable to respond he just nodded and Jack could see clearly everything Daniel was feeling. On impulse Daniel suddenly leaned forward and hugged Jack, gently so as not to hurt him any more. Jack was taken aback for a moment but then returned the hug. Daniel stood up again and ducked his head, a little embarrassed, as he stepped back.

'Night Jack' he said softly and Jack smiled

'Night Danny-boy' he said and closed his eyes.

Within seconds he was asleep and Daniel stopped in the doorway and looked back for a moment. He smiled to himself, thanking whoever was out there once again for keeping Jack here with them.

However many differences of opinion they might have, however many tough situations they got themselves into, Daniel could face all of it as long as he had Jack there with him. With a smile he headed out of the infirmary for a hot shower and long overdue sleep, knowing that in the morning Jack would still be there. And that was good enough for him.