Jack kept one hand on Daniel's right elbow as they made their painfully slow way toward the tent entrance. Daniel remained silent, concentrating all his efforts on cradling Sha're close to him and staying on his feet. Holding the material to the side, Jack kept an eye on Daniel as they stepped out into the daylight. It was obvious the brightness of the afternoon sun was painful to Daniel's eyes. Without a sound, Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, then forced them open, staring blankly down at Sha're's still face. He dropped his head so close their faces nearly touched, but he never stopped moving. Jack pulled his own sunglasses down over his eyes, and fingered his radio.
"Carter. Dial it up."
"Yes, sir." Came the crisp reply.
Jack looked back at Daniel. He obviously was in a world of his own, totally oblivious to everything around him. Jack couldn't blame him. Numb was the word that came to mind. He had been totally numb after the doctor had shaken his head across Charlie's bed and Sarah dissolved into wracking sobs in his arms. He hadn't been able to feel anything after that. Sighing, he gripped his friend's arm tighter as Daniel stumbled slightly in the sand. Jack knew that he had to be hurting and extremely dizzy, but he wasn't going to give up.
He had come too far.
Jack looked ahead to the gate. Carter had just dialed it and the vortex whooshed open. She turned to look their way, shading her eyes with her hand. Teal'c stood at her side, solemn and still. They were so close, yet it took them awhile to reach the gate. Jack could tell Daniel was almost at his limit. He was moving slower and stumbling more frequently. Everything about him screamed exhaustion. Jack looked back at Carter and waved her through the gate, mouthing "Tell Hammond."
Carter nodded, grasping his meaning immediately. She spoke quietly to Teal'c and then turned and walked through the gate. Jack could see her shoulders were slumped and she looked ready to cry. But he knew she wouldn't.
Not yet she wouldn't.
Teal'c stayed by the gate, waiting patiently. Jack felt Daniel sway and he moved his hand to his back, using his other to guide him by his elbow now. They made it to the gate. Sighing again, Jack guided him through.
They reached the other side, and Jack heard Teal'c come through behind them. Carter was at the bottom speaking earnestly to Hammond. They both looked up. Carter's stricken look deepened and Jack noted that Hammond looked about as distraught. No one spoke for which Jack was grateful. Janet's med team stood by at the side of the gateroom, saying nothing and not moving. Daniel stumbled again and Jack could feel his arms shaking against his chest. But he wasn't about to take Sha're from Daniel.
The whole situation was surreal. Jack felt like he was in a time dilation field. Everything was moving in slow motion. And it was so quiet. They reached the end of the ramp and started to move to the gurney that was standing by at the ready. Jack wasn't sure what Daniel was going to do next, but he wasn't going to leave him. To his relief, Daniel gravitated to the gurney and together they gently laid Sha're down. No one moved, not even Janet, and again Jack was grateful.
Jack glanced at the doctor. She briefly caught his eye and he could see she had tears in her eyes. She looked from him to Daniel and back again in a silent question. Jack shook his head slightly. Give him time. He silently pleaded. Janet nodded and looked back at Daniel. He was holding his wife's hand, swaying ever so slightly. Jack had no idea how long they stood there, but it finally was long enough that Janet was ready to take charge.
She said softly, "Daniel."
He didn't respond or look at her. She repeated softly, "Daniel, I need to take care of you. My team will take care of Sha're for you." She motioned to two of her orderlies who took careful hold of the gurney. She desperately wanted to cry. But she also desperately wanted to get Daniel laying down. He was about as pale as she'd ever seen him and he was not at all steady on his feet.
He didn't relinquish his hold on Sha're's hand or give any indication of hearing Janet's words. He didn't react when the men started to move the gurney, he just took a step to follow. He could hear Janet talking soothingly to him, but none of her words were making any sense. He frowned, his head aching terribly. There was a dull hum all around him drowning out Janet's words. He felt the gurney move and he tightened his hold on Sha're's hand. He felt Janet touch his shoulder, a gentle pressure. He recognized suddenly that she was trying to pull him away.
Janet stopped speaking abruptly at the whispered word. She frowned and looked from Daniel to Jack. Jack shook his head, not taking his eyes off of his friend. He knew exactly what Daniel meant by that.
"Just let him go with her, Janet."
Although he knew exactly what was flying through the doctor's mind at that moment, to her credit and his immense relief, she nodded, stepping back. He gave her the smallest smile in heartfelt thanks and she nodded again. Jack nodded at the orderlies and the motley group began its downtrodden trek to the morgue.
Jack had never been a part of such a sorrowful procession. No one spoke as they made their way through the quiet hall toward the elevator. He knew Janet was at his elbow, but she was not saying anything. He was still holding Daniel's arm. He saw a few people moving out of their way, looks of shock and sadness spreading across their faces as they respectfully moved aside. The elevator doors opened and they moved inside.
Daniel closed his eyes and Jack felt him lean against him more heavily. Jack's head was throbbing. It was all so wrong. So very, very wrong. This was not the way it was supposed to end. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand.
The elevator doors opened and they slowly made their way down another hallway, then into the deathly stillness of the morgue. Jack felt Daniel shiver. He wanted desperately to get Daniel out of the room and away from the horror of it all. But he knew that was not what Daniel wanted or needed right now. Right now, he needed the time to just come to some sort of comprehension about what had just happened to him.
The orderlies stopped, snapping the brakes on the gurney and stepping silently away. Janet silently pushed a stool toward Jack. Jack nodded and gently pushed Daniel onto it. He met no resistance. Daniel sat down heavily as if his last measure of strength had just evaporated. He was stroking Sha're's hand gently, studying her face. Jack kept his hand on his shoulder, feeling more than a bit exhausted himself. He started to turn away, looking for another stool.
He turned back immediately at the whisper. "Daniel?"
"Stay. Please." Daniel didn't look at him.
Jack squeezed his shoulder, "Not going anywhere, Daniel."
He felt a hand on his own arm and saw Janet had pulled another stool over. He smiled his thanks and scooted closer to his friend. Janet stepped back toward the door. Jack could see the doorway from where he sat and was not surprised to see Carter and Teal'c behind the glass of the door. A tear was rolling down Carter's cheek. Janet slipped through the door to stand beside Carter and Jack could see her own tears were no longer held in check.
He was thankful that everyone was backing off and giving Daniel the time he so desperately needed. He was also immensely pleased and honored that Daniel wanted him to stay. Words were seldom needed between him and his friend. Their friendship was so close and Jack found himself at a loss again, as he often did, to even begin to comprehend how exactly that had happened. But it didn't matter, really. What mattered was that they both had exactly what they needed. A friend closer than a brother who understood the other on some deep level that words could not express and no one could even really understand.
They sat in complete silence for a few minutes. Jack knew that there was absolutely nothing he could say that would help his friend right now. The best thing, the only thing, was for him to simply be there.
Daniel suddenly sighed and leaned forward, fumbling with his glasses and leaning his aching head onto his arm on the gurney, his other hand still holding Sha're's cold hand. The silence was broken by the sound of his glasses hitting the floor. Jack flinched at the sudden sound but didn't move. He wanted to call Janet and have her drag Daniel to a bed and drug him with something strong for the pain. But he still didn't move.
He could feel Daniel's shoulder's trembling slightly with silent tears. Running his hand across his eyes again he suddenly felt very old. He looked out at the rest of his team. Teal'c looked possessed with guilt. Even his stoic face couldn't hide the deep pain that he was feeling. Jack wanted to tell him it was not his fault, he had done what he had to. He wanted to thank the Jaffa for saving the life of his best friend.
Carter was wiping her eyes and bravely trying to look like the Air Force officer she was. Janet had her arm linked with Sam's. She looked at Jack, every stitch of her being screaming at him to let her come back in and take care of Daniel. Jack again shook his head and she again backed down. Just a little more time. He looked back at Sha're's peaceful face. She really was gorgeous. Life was too unfair.
"Jack." Daniel's voice was muffled.
"Daniel?" Jack leaned closer.
"I'm cold." The words were strained.
"You want to go see Janet now?"
"Yes." Daniel didn't move. "Thank you." Thank you for giving me time and for staying with me, Jack.
Jack knew exactly what Daniel was thinking even though he didn't say it aloud. "You're welcome, Daniel." I'm here for you.
After a few moments, Daniel managed to get his head up again. He took one more look at Sha're's face, squeezed her hand, then dropped his own hand. The first time he had been out of contact with his wife since this disaster had happened, Jack realized. Jack pushed his own stool away, wondering vaguely where Daniel's glasses had landed, then realized it didn't matter anyway.
Daniel's eyes were unfocused and bloodshot. He seemed to be growing paler by the second and as he stood, Jack realized he was even more dizzy and unsteady. They made it almost to the door, Jack supporting Daniel more by the second, when Daniel suddenly lurched to the side, toward a convenient garbage can. Jack held him up when he started puking his guts up. Jack felt sick himself. He looked up; surprised that Janet had not come rushing in. She was standing at the ready, looking more than a little unhappy, but she waited.
After a few moments, Daniel had recovered enough to stand, although Jack noted his eyes were closed. They made it to the door, Janet immediately grabbing Daniel's other arm. Without words, they all made their way to the elevator. The silence was eerie, Jack thought. So few words had been spoken since they had come through the gate that he really was starting to feel his ears ringing.
They made their unsteady way to the infirmary and Daniel needed no prodding to fall onto the first convenient bed. He dropped like a ton of bricks. Jack looked at Janet expectantly. She made a few quick examinations, then sighed.
"He's unconscious, sir."
Jack felt weak suddenly, and was grateful for the chair that was at the side of the bed. He dropped into it heavily, his head dropping to his hands. There were soft voices around him, he could feel movement as Janet busied herself checking Daniel's vital signs. He just let it all surround him like a dream. After an unknown amount of time, he felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently.
He opened his eyes and looked at the bed. Daniel was still dressed, covered with a blanket, dead to the world. He turned his head and saw Carter standing next to him.
"Daniel?" He asked softly.
"Janet gave him something for the headache and nausea, sir. He's going to be asleep for hours." Sam rubbed her neck. "General Hammond wants to see you. I'll stay here."
Jack nodded. He pushed himself to his feet slowly and looked at Carter. She smiled at him sadly. She had cleaned up and, while her eyes were red from many tears, she was in control of herself.