Crown Infernal

Slash short story with a side order of angst.
Season: early season 5. ......Pairing: Jack/Daniel

Spoilers: passing references to Crystal Skull,
Absolute Power, Maternal Instinct and Ascension
Length: 8,000 words.......Warnings: none.

Grateful thanks to Eos, my brave alpha,
for de-Britting this and making it better.


Part 1

Daniel had done it again.

On the plus side, the booby-trapped temple was only a couple of hundred yards from the 'Gate. On the minus side, Carter and Teal'c weren't. God alone knew how Daniel had made it out of the temple.

O'Neill had officially been patrolling the perimeter of the site which included the 'Gate, the temple, which was relatively intact, and several other buildings which were in a poor state of repair. The dense forest had encroached at one point, sending exploratory vines through cracks in the wall of one building, but it wasn't threatening enough to be particularly interesting.

Unofficially, he'd been bored out of his mind. So far as they were aware, the whole place had been abandoned for a long time. But, it never did to be complacent. At least strolling around the place had given him something to do in protecting his team from inquisitive squirrels and jay-like birds. And he'd had the satisfaction of knowing that his 'kids' were safe and doing something they enjoyed.

While Daniel was happily doing his 'thing', Carter and Teal'c had taken off on a two mile hike to collect samples of a particular plant only found on P9Z-221. The botany department had requested this so they could examine the species for potential medicinal properties.

As O'Neill was nearing the temple for the umpteenth pass, he thought he heard Daniel's voice and casually turned towards the entrance. Maybe Daniel wanted a helping hand, or better yet, he was packing up and they'd soon be heading home. It was a hot and humid place, what with the over-bright type-F star that was the planet's sun, and a cool shower wouldn't go amiss.

Something was niggling at him, though. Something not quite right. Couldn't immediately put his finger on it - took a few seconds before the penny dropped. With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he realized that Daniel couldn't have known that he was within earshot, yet he hadn't called him on his comm. It had to mean trouble.

He ran towards the temple. Daniel appeared in the doorway. He leaned drunkenly for a moment on one of the pillars supporting the portico. Seeing O'Neill, he lurched towards him - left a bloody hand print on the lichen-spotted column. The same bloody hand stretched towards his C.O.

"Help me! Help... me..." he begged faintly.

He held O'Neill's eyes with a pleading look, his legs buckling in the effort to propel himself forward. Rapidly closing the distance between them, O'Neill just caught him as he fell and lowered him carefully to the ground.

"God, Daniel, what have you done?" he gasped, horrified.

But Daniel didn't respond. He was already unconscious. Blood was coming in thin spurts from a wound in his neck caused by a slender arrow about eight inches long. A second projected from his chest and was no doubt responsible for the gurgling, bubbling sound in Daniel's ragged breathing. A third arrow pierced his left upper arm which was bleeding sluggishly.

No time to lose. Jack ripped off his own jacket - elevated Daniel's head and shoulders - found the pressure point in his neck - pressed hard on it - breathed a sigh of relief as the bleeding slowed and stopped. He thought maybe the arrow had partially obstructed the blood flow from the site, or Daniel would never have made it this far. Maintaining pressure, he hit the comm. button.

"Carter, how far are you from the 'Gate."

"About a klik and a half, sir. We're just thinking of packing up."

"Good, then step on the gas. Daniel's hurt."

"Is it "

"Bad? Yes. Very. O'Neill, out."

He returned his attention to Daniel who was looking horridly pale despite his tan. He was still breathing but with difficulty and his pulse was weak and thready.

"Hang in there, Danny. Don't die on me," he muttered tersely as he fumbled in his utility vest with one hand, finally pulling out a pack of field dressings.

Twisting open the package, he extracted the contents and did his best to create a pressure dressing without disturbing the arrow.

"So far, so good, Danny," he murmured. "Gonna leave you for a couple of minutes. Gotta call in. Mini-Napoleon'll be here before you can say... Whatever. Just don't... uh... don't go away. Okay?"

Impulsively, he dropped a gentle kiss on Daniel's brow. Who knew, it might be the last chance he'd ever get. Then he legged it to the D.H.D. and dialed home.

Speaking through the M.A.L.P. link immediately after the wormhole had stabilized, he demanded a resusc. team, stat. And plenty of units of Daniel's blood group. Hammond, as always was in the control room when an unscheduled 'Gate activation was announced.

"Tell them he has three puncture wounds, neck, lung - I think - and left arm."

Seeing the anxiety on O'Neill's face, he wasted no time. "Consider it done. Look after him, Jack."

"Will do, sir. O'Neill out."

He raced back to Daniel as the wormhole disengaged. Daniel was looking grey and dark red blood was dribbling - bubbling - from the corner of his mouth. But he was still breathing. Just. The neck wound seemed to have stabilized. The thoracic wound he was less certain about, other than to keep the missile from moving. Having cautiously padded the wound, he moved on to apply a field dressing to Daniel's arm.

"Stay with me, Danny," he mumbled.

It occurred to him that Daniel might go into shock. It was far from cold, but was it warm enough? O'Neill fetched his back pack, pulled out a foil blanket and carefully covered his team-mate. Now all he could do was watch, and wait.

Sitting down beside him, he took Daniel's unresponsive hand in his, hoping in some way to convey comfort if Daniel had any awareness of what was going on - to let him know that he wasn't alone. He laid two fingers of his other hand on the pulse point in his wrist to reassure himself that the heart was still beating. He was concerned by the faintness of each pulse.

Jack looked at the bloodied hand, weather-bronzed and long-fingered, and rubbed his thumb gently over the back of it... wishing - praying - that once again it would be doing what it should be doing now... digging in the dirt - Daniel doing his thing, happy as a pig in a peach orchard. He smiled sadly to himself.

"Help's on its way, Danny," he began gruffly and, he hoped, reassuringly. "Just a few more minutes, then you'll be fine. Just gotta keep hangin' on. Damn it, Daniel, I know I keep whining when you go on about your rocks - sorry, artefacts... I know they're artefacts... or relics... relics are good too, but God, I wish you were boring the pants off me right now. 'Cos - it isn't all boring. Actually, some of it's quite interesting... when I have the time to listen.

"And I don't know why I'm rambling on at you when you probably can't hear a word I'm saying. Guess it makes me feel a little better - makes me feel like you're still around. Because I want you around. I want you around me. Always...

"Losing people you care about Well, it sucks it just sucks. But you already know that. Losing someone you love... well that's something else, and you know that too, so don't you die on me, ya hear. I won't allow it. Permission denied... Verboten... Taboo... So - get over it Please?"

Daniel gave a faint sigh and his body stilled. For an instant, Jack feared he'd stopped breathing forever, then he gave a cough, spraying a fine mist of blood over Jack's hand, and drew another ragged breath.

"For God's sake, get a move on!" Jack shouted at the unresponsive 'Gate. "Man dying here!" Softly he added, "Two men..."

It seemed that Daniel's breathing was becoming gradually slower and shallower. Jack squeezed his hand, trying to communicate encouragement.

"Come on, Danny, don't give up. Stay with me and I'll take you any museum of your choice. I promise. 'Cause I reckon a week's fishing up at my cabin probably won't be top of your list for sticking around for... Shame really. It's quiet - peaceful. Okay, the mosquitos can be a problem. Sometimes. But anywhere you are, Danny, that's where I want to be." Jack chuckled wryly. "Good job you can't hear me rambling on. Be difficult to keep up the hard-assed colonel image if you knew I could get so Whoa, looks like the cavalry's comin'... Well, it's about time!" he yelled as the chevrons lit up.

Looking down at Daniel again, he realized he was still holding his hand and hastily let go. Suddenly, it was all action. Carter and Teal'c came sprinting along the path out of the trees as Dr. Fraiser and her team came through the newly established wormhole at the double.

Jack backed off, not wanting to get in the way, as the emergency team set to work with practiced efficiency. He put Dr. Fraiser in the picture in as few words as possible, then went over to Carter and Teal'c. If anything, his explanation to them was even briefer. He felt strangely exhausted, like he'd just gone twelve rounds with Iron Mike Tyson.

Abruptly, he turned away and went over to the entrance to the temple. There he sat down sharply on the shallow steps. His legs felt like they'd turned to rubber. He leaned against one of the columns and sighed deeply, running the fingers of one hand through his hair. Then he laid his forearms across his bent knees, and rested his head on them as though to shut out the world. He could do no more. It was up to the medics now.

He didn't react as two pairs of familiar footfalls came over. Two people sat down beside him. Sam and Teal'c recognized and respected his need for silence - relative silence anyway - and made no attempt at conversation. Jack was grateful for their understanding.

For the umpteenth time in his career, O'Neill was sitting in the infirmary at Daniel's bedside. There was something soothing yet unsettling about the regular beep and hiss of the life support system and monitors. The unvarying wavy patterns of the glowing green trails across the screens was reassuring though.

But for all the tubes and wires - and the fact that they were in the S.G.C. - Jack would have taken Daniel's hand again, stroked it, squeezed it gently. He wasn't good at verbal communication of feelings, but he so wanted Daniel to know that he was there for him and the physical contact might have gotten through to him at some level.

They were on base though, so Jack kept his hands to himself. Daniel had survived surgery well and his vital signs were stronger now so there was every hope that the come-back kid was going to make it again. The life support was more to give his system a rest while it recovered than because of imminent danger to life, though unnecessary physical stress could change that status.

The worrying thing was that he was still comatose and showed no signs of returning to consciousness, but maybe that was his body's way of healing itself. Jack had no way of telling. All the post op. scans had come back normal. Which was good. So now, Jack was stuck with another bedside vigil.


Jack jumped almost imperceptibly at Janet's soft voice. He'd resisted the hypnotic rhythm of the life support machines as long as he could, but eventually his weak-willed eye-lids had given up the struggle.

" 'm not asleep," he mumbled. "Just resting my eyes."

"Sure y'are, Colonel, and you'll rest them a whole lot better in bed."

Jack opened his eyes then. "I'm okay," he protested. "Mug of coffee - I'll be fine."

"Who's the doctor here, Colonel? And no, that is not a trick question."

Jack sighed. "You are."

"Right, so I'll say whether you're okay or not. There's nothing you can do here right now. Teal'c's going to stay with Daniel. Sam will drive you home and we'll call you the instant there's any change."

"That won't be necessary, Doc. I'll just crash here on the base."

Janet raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Very well, but I don't want to see you back in my infirmary before 0600. Be advised that I will prescribe you a sedative if I think you need it, so don't think you can sneak back in when you think the coast's clear."

Jack knew when he was confronted by superior forces and capitulated. He also knew when Janet's shift ended and planned to do precisely what she suspected - cat-nap for a couple of hours and then return once she'd gone home. But nature was on Janet's side. Almost as soon as he laid down, he fell into sleep and into the land of nightmare which gave him an all-too-realistic re-enactment of the mission to P9Z-221.

It seemed to happen in slow motion and with immense clarity. He heard Daniel's initial cry for help, distorted, deep and long drawn out, like an old vinyl disc played at the wrong speed. He accelerated towards the temple, yet it seemed like a slo-mo replay - like he was running through treacle. His heartbeat, slow and heavy, thumped in his ears.

His eyes dwelt on the fluted columns that bore the grubby stains of centuries of weather - on the mottled pattern of lichens on the columns. There were several types, he noticed, some bright gold, some green and gray like military camouflage, still others that were rusty red. Then his eyes drifted to the doorway and the sound of sluggish footsteps, muffled by the drifts of ancient dust on the floor.

Out of the inky darkness within came Daniel, slowly emerging as though from a cube of black jello. Jack noted the arrows - crimson, fletched in various shades of green - saw the blood pumping in slender scarlet arcs, catching occasional glints of the sun through the canopy of tall trees - saw the red stains spreading downwards across his B.D.U.

His attention moved to Daniel's hand, slowly making contact with the nearest column, the blood squeezing out between flesh and masonry before soaking in to create the bloody hand print.

He watched the ultimate effort surmounting the pain on Daniel's face and in his eyes as he pushed against the column to drive himself forward - watched the hand slide with infinite slowness a little way across and down, smearing the print, changing the lichen pattern - saw the blooded hand, spotted with the gritty residue of stone and lichen, reaching out, and the pleading eyes.

"Help me! Help... me..."

Then the slow motion collapse into Jack's arms. The vision faded out and Jack thought, between sleeping and waking, that he was indeed awakening. Then it seemed like someone had pressed reset in his brain and the scene began to play through again, only this time it was playing yet more slowly and in greater detail.

The ending was slightly different though. As Daniel fell forward into his arms, he sensed rather than a saw the faintest of mist. It flew towards him, blurred by its speed. As it passed - by him or through him? - it felt immensely cold. He fell, or rather, rolled over backwards, waking up on the floor, cold and shivery. It was 08.59. Damn. How had that happened?

He picked himself up off the floor, thought about showering, decided against in spite of the attractive thought of the hot water, and hurried back to the infirmary. His concern was too great for him to consider his personal comfort.

No one had called him. He wasn't sure if this was good or bad. A bit of both, he suspected. Daniel must surely be alive; they would certainly have woken him if not. He didn't think Daniel could have regained consciousness though - unless... He had obviously been more deeply asleep than normal. Maybe they had paged him and he'd slept through it?

When he arrived in the infirmary, he found a few things had changed. Sam had taken over from Teal'c at Daniel's bedside, Daniel's head had sprouted a number of wires attached to electrodes and Janet was looking frankly puzzled.

"How is he?" Jack asked brusquely.

"That's the thing. I really don't know. He's still very weak, obviously, but his vital signs are good. I would've expected some sign of rousing from this - well, for want of a better word, coma."

Jack and Sam turned questioning looks on her.

"His brainwave activity is different from what I would expect from someone who is in a coma," she explained. "Generally speaking, I'd expect mainly delta waves under 3.5 hertz. It was 3.2 hertz when I set up the monitoring equipment last night, just after you left, Colonel. Shortly after, there was a theta burst at 6.9 hertz, which made me think he was beginning to come round, but we couldn't get him to respond to any stimuli."

"That doesn't sound too good," Sam said.

"More confusing than actually bad. At least there was heightened brain activity. We just didn't seem to be able to get through to it. But then, when I did my final check just before midnight when my shift ended, I found a massive gamma wave spike at 42 hertz."

"Forty-two, huh?" Jack said, nodding sagely. "The answer to life, the universe and everything ?" He tailed off. "Sorry, Doc.," he added, taking in Janet's wince.

"It's all right, colonel. I appreciate your aversion to anything scientific," Janet responded while Sam bit back a grin.

"So what does the gamma spike signify?" she asked.

"Well it shows an immense amount of brain activity. Beta waves, around 30 hertz, occur when someone has strongly focused attention. Happens when someone enters a hypnotic trance too. Gamma waves operate at a higher frequency still. Now, after the gamma spike, Daniel's brain activity shifted to a borderline alpha-theta state associated with dreaming or daydreaming, where the brain produces creative imagery. According to the printout, this continued right through the night like this until about ten minutes ago when it lapsed back into delta rhythms at 3.1 hertz."

"So he's back where he started?" Sam said glumly.

"Well, we're certainly not giving up hope just yet. 'Nil desperandum'! "


"Don't despair, Colonel, don't despair."

Part 2

Crown Infernal