AUTHOR: campylobacter / campylobacter
RATING: R/Mature/FRT (language, sexual subject matter)
CATEGORY/GENRE: AU, episode-related; action/adventure, hurt/comfort
WORD COUNT: 3449
CHARACTERS: Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson; Teal'c, Samantha Carter
TIMELINE/SPOILERS: 1x18 "Solitudes"
PROMPTS: via jd_ficathon / jd_ficathon for elder_bonnie A snow planet, Daniel-whump, separated and frozen, no higher than soft R, no character death
SUMMARY/SYNOPSIS/PREMISE: What if Daniel had been stranded in Antarctica with Jack in 1x18 'Solitudes'?
NOTES: Thought this'd be easy dialog-switching, but then I started considering how events would've truly diverged in a chaos-theory multiverse sort of way. Brief reference to Jack/Sara, Daniel/Sha're; surreal UST reference to Sam/Jack, Teal'c/Jack. (Dear Brad Wright: wormholes are not telephone signals kthxbai.)
"Oh... god," a pained groan rose from the level below. "Ow."
Jack's hand, descending on the downstroke of his efforts to chip away at the shelf of ice, stopped at the sound he'd been keeping his ears alert to hear. "Daniel?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't try to climb up here if I were you." He sheathed the knife he'd been using as an ice axe and started down the slope to where the formerly unconscious archaeologist lay. "Your leg's broken."
"Auugh... sure feels broken." His voice was weak, but not slurred, indicating the chance that he'd avoided severe head injury. "And — ow — where are we?"
The colonel arrived at the place where he'd left Daniel nestled in the two thermal blankets he'd scrounged from both their packs. "We're not in Kansas anymore."
Daniel sighed and re-phrased the question. "Why are we in an ice cavern?"
"I was gonna ask Carter the same thing, but she's not here."
"I saw her dial Earth." Daniel slowly propped himself up on his elbows and shook the hair from his eyes to see more of their surroundings. "I saw her go through ahead of us. And Teal'c, too."
Jack didn't bother hiding the grim tone in his answer as he knelt beside him. "He's not here either."
"Then why— how...?" Daniel squinted up at the rime-covered Stargate.
"Here." Jack reached into one of Daniel's vest pockets and handed his eyeglasses to him. The lenses were intact, but the bent frames sat crookedly on Daniel's face when he put them on. "Take it easy. You've been unconscious for almost two hours. But you did break my fall through the 'Gate."
"You're welcome." Daniel winced as he shifted and took a big breath. "I think you cracked my ribs. And what the— what'd you do to my leg?"
"Don't tell Doc Fraiser, but I duct-taped it to the camera tripod."
Daniel tentatively lifted the blanket and peered suspiciously at Jack's improvised splint. "Glad I was unconscious for that."
"You're welcome." Jack batted away Daniel's hands and tucked the blanket back over his legs. "Carter had the med kit. I think I did a fine job without it, considering."
Daniel flopped back down with a huff and a groan. "How can you be so sure they're not here?"
"The only footprints in this place are mine." Jack rubbed his forehead, wishing for once that his gloves covered his fingers.
Daniel switched on the flashlight that Jack had left within reach, and pointed it toward the back of the cavern. "That Gate doesn't look like it has a shield or iris..."
"It doesn't," Jack snapped, unwilling to entertain the possibility that Carter and Teal'c's molecules had all smashed and dispersed against a barrier. "I checked. Also, the radios work, but no one's answering."
"Maybe they got home, but we wound up here? Wherever 'here' is."
"Exactly how does that work, Daniel?" Despite the doubt in his quip, Jack focused on the slim chance that the other half of his team had made it to the SGC and were organizing a search-and-rescue mission.
"Well, we were under some pretty heavy enemy fire," Daniel mused while shining the flashlight beam over the circular punch-outs in the three ice walls behind the Stargate. "Maybe a powerful enough energy blast did something to the wormhole while we were in transit."
"Hey, I'm not Sam. She'd be able to offer a better conjecture if she were here instead of me. And also explain why there are energy vortex holes on the back side of the Gate." He played the light over the Gate symbols next, frowning when he didn't find what he was looking for. "I just hope she and Teal'c made it home instead of getting diverted to another planet."
"Me too." Jack rose slowly from creaky, ice-cooled knees. "Now that you seem okay, I'll get back to digging the DHD out of that huge chunk of ice up there."
"What?" Daniel craned his neck in the direction Jack indicated. "It's frozen in ice? Help me up. I'll lend you a hand."
Jack cocked his head with an amused smirk. "Ya know, ice climbing with one leg's gonna be a challenge."
"Right; however, I can't feel my butt," he groused, attempting to stand on his own. "And I don't want to become fused to the—" A sudden spate of coughing interrupted his protest.
Jack rushed to grab his shoulders and keep him upright. The wheezy, wet quality he heard in the man's hacks just wasn't normal.
"I can do this," Daniel asserted, leaning on him, then balancing himself on his good leg. "The cold numbs the pain."
The climb up to the ice shelf wasn't as daunting as he'd feared. Daniel (heavier than he looked because he was stronger and more muscular than his geeky demeanor led people to believe) pulled himself up the slope with minimal assistance from the colonel. The progress they made chopping away the ice together paid off; after some hours, they'd uncovered the red, central dome of the DHD.
"I feel like I'm violating excavation protocol by not taking ice core samples or recording stratigraphic data," Daniel remarked as he carefully placed a large chunk of ice to the side.
"Oh, for— GAH!"
"What?" Daniel fumbled his knife and looked at Jack in alarm.
"Speaking of excavation..." He shined the flashlight at a spot in the ice. "Looks like a Jaffa-sicle."
Daniel moved to get a closer look at Jack's discovery: a human hand wearing ornate armor was eerily suspended within its encasement of clear ice near the DHD. "Serpent Guard," he muttered, identifying the symbol on the gauntlet. "Flash-frozen tissue preservation, not freeze-dried."
The archaeologist's academic detachment rankled him; not that Jack felt sorry for the Jaffa, but that the prospect of their freezing to death seemed more likely than ever. "Guess we have a food source if we're stranded here after our rations run out."
Daniel scoffed and resumed stabbing the ice with more ferocity. "Teal'c's lucky he's not stranded here with your gallows humor."
"Hey, you're lucky I'm uninjured and found the DHD."
"Lucky? Didn't Sam have the field stove?" Daniel pried free another chunk of ice, and instead of placing it with the others in a neat pile, lobbed it in Jack's general direction. "If she were here with me instead of you, we'd at least be able to melt this ice for drinki—" Another attack of coughing interrupted his tirade.
As a spray of dark red droplets hit the chipped ice in front of Daniel, Jack's retort stuck in his throat. His misgivings returned regarding the suspicious wheezing sounds in Daniel's breathing. "Aw, crap." He crawled over to his friend and wrapped a steadying arm around his shoulders until the coughing stopped, letting physical contact resolve their brief squabble. "A rib must've punctured a lung."
Daniel gasped and nodded. "I should... take a short break."
"Here, use this." Jack fished a cheap plastic lighter from his vest, the occasional non-tobacco-related usefulness of having one handy proven during the years he'd smoked and carried a Zippo. "Melt yourself a nice cup of... lukewarm water."
He chipped away for another hour while Daniel rested on the ice shelf below. "Okay, gonna take five," he called down. "Can't feel my fingers, and that coffee smells good."
Daniel, wearing a boonie hat for warmth, had a small aluminum cup of steaming coffee waiting when Jack finally returned to the little encampment.
"How much butane did you burn to get it this temperature?"
"Get in here," the archaeologist commanded, lifting a blanket in invitation. "Your hands'll warm up faster."
Jack hesitated a moment before scooting himself next to Daniel under the blanket. He sipped the harsh-tasting instant coffee in gratitude, reveling in the warmth of the metal on his fingers and the hot liquid in his throat as Daniel munched on an energy bar. "How's the lung?"
"Not better," Daniel answered. "How's the DHD?"
"Got part of the top tier uncovered." Jack started unwrapping his own energy bar. "I think I've seen the symbols before, but would rather you had a look at them."
"Of course." Daniel patted the little video camera he always brought on missions. "All the symbols on the Gate that I can record from here are familiar, so the seventh must be at the bottom of the ring, under the ice." Then he slumped against Jack's shoulder without a trace of awkwardness, which indicated to Jack that the man needed more medical attention than he let on.
"Get a little more rest," he suggested as he detected Daniel's shivers. "A short nap won't hurt."
"'Kay," came the tired murmur. Daniel, who naturally kept aloof of the macho posturing that was so endemic to military culture, surrendered his normally reserved manner to exhaustion and to the complete trust that Jack wouldn't rebuff him when the chips were down.
It humbled a guy, really. Jack draped an arm around his shoulders. "I'll get back to work once the caffeine kicks in."
When the colonel awoke, he noted that over an hour had passed, bringing their total time stranded in the cavern to sixteen hours — a lot longer than Jack had anticipated. Daniel's wheezing had worsened, although he'd stopped shivering when their combined body heat warmed the air under the blanket. Reluctant to leave the warmth, but determined to get back to the SGC so that Dr. Fraiser could take proper care of Daniel, he gently extricated himself.
"Jack?" Daniel rasped as he awoke.
"Up and at 'em." The false cheer in his voice did little to hide his anxiety. "You rested enough?"
Daniel blinked blearily and tried to sit up; the inevitable coughing echoed around the cavern. When he withdrew his gloved hand from his mouth, a smear of blood darkened his lips. "As I'll ever be," he replied hoarsely, holding up the other hand with half-hearted bravado.
Jack hauled him upright, bracing himself to carry the weight that Daniel's broken leg couldn't bear. "We'll be home soon. Hardest part's over."
The second climb up to the DHD was harder than the first; Daniel's weakened state required Jack to push him up the slope. Once they were settled at the top, the archaeologist took over the "dig", making jokes that weren't funny about excavation techniques he'd never have used in the field. Jack griped that Teal'c would've had the job done in half the time, but they uncovered the rest of the symbols in less than two hours.
"The seventh symbol looks like a single moon or sun over a flat horizon," Daniel said as he filmed what they'd excavated while Jack shined the flashlight over the DHD. "This planet might be nothing but ice."
"How very fascinating, Dr. Jackson. Now dial it up, if you don't mind."
Daniel sighed and handed over the camera. "Hope our GDO transmitters aren't too frozen to work." He pressed the first glyph key. The familiar clank and bright glow of the symbol on the DHD weren't accompanied by a strong, answering thunk on the Gate; instead, Chevron One weakly flickered on with a staticky buzz.
Jack held his breath. It's an old, cold Gate, he reminded himself.
Daniel finished dialing the sequence, visibly relieved every time a chevron lit up. But the thunderous kawoosh of a newly-formed wormhole that usually followed the center dome being pressed failed to happen. What they did hear was a hollow thump and a pulsing, mechanical whine that diminished into silence as no event horizon appeared within the inner ring of the Gate.
"Oh god, no," he muttered under his breath and hung his head in disappointment.
"It looked like you dialed the right address to me, so what the hell's going on?"
"Shit, shit, shit."
Jack didn't like the utter lack of optimism in the man's tone. "That's your academic analysis?"
"I was afraid there wouldn't be enough power to form a wormhole. Shit."
Jack looked at the Gate, majestically rigid and beautiful, all seven chevrons aglow with a frosted amber light. And no fucking wormhole to transport us home. "Would it help if I kicked it? Popped the clutch? Jump-started it with our dying flashlight batteries?"
Daniel had buried his face in his hands and continued speaking good old-fashioned Anglo Saxon curses, muffled but still intelligible between coughs.
Jack roared a few curses of his own and kicked chunks of ice off the ledge. "I really miss Carter right now."
"Yeah, me too."
The Gate stood silent, chevrons glowing in the dark as Jack settled Daniel into the nest of blankets a little while later.
"Sorry," Daniel kept mumbling. "So sorry."
"Not your fault." Jack was having second thoughts on having let Daniel over-exert his damaged lung.
"If Sam were here instead of me, you'd be home by now. She'd fix it."
"Hey, stop talking like that. I have no regrets about being stuck here with you." Jack brushed half-frozen, damp strands of hair from Daniel's eyes and fevered forehead. "Just sit tight, and keep your radio on. I'm going topside to do some recon."
"In the dark?"
"All the better to see campfires or streetlights."
"Good thinking," Daniel rasped, huddling deeper into the blankets. "Watch out for weak ice."
"I'll be back as soon as possible. Don't go anywhere." Jack patted the top of Daniel's hat, adjusted his own cap, and headed toward the fissure in the crevasse where the most sunlight had filtered down earlier.
The climb up to the top took the better part of an hour, the better part of the flashlight batteries, and the better part of pain-free knees. Jack broke the monotony of a particularly long belly-crawl by radioing Daniel with knock-knock jokes. Daniel responded tersely, in Morse code. When Jack finally reached the surface, he was startled by how hostile cold could get, and considered going back immediately without looking around.
"I'm on the surface, Daniel," he radioed. "Five minutes. I'll give my eyes five minutes to adjust to the dark before heading back." Jack stamped his boots, stood as tall as his seventy-three-inch frame could stretch, and let his gaze scan his surroundings. A gap in the icy drifts revealed a dim, pale, frozen horizon, not as level as he expected. After a minute, he could discern where the land ended and the sky began. "No streetlights or campfires, but maybe a faint glow over a far ridge sixty or seventy kilometers away; can't be sure." He tilted his head back and took in the alien night sky, wondering if one of the stars was Earth's sun, and if Teal'c, General Hammond, or Sam were doing the same thing, looking upward, searching for him and Daniel.
One of the stars seemed to be moving in a slow, steady path across the others, not like how a jet airplane would travel, but more like a communications satellite. It passed beneath a vaguely familiar cluster of stars.
"Daniel, you're not gonna believe this, but I'm staring at the Southern Cross. The Southern Fucking Cross."
Daniel replied no in Morse.
"I'm not kidding. And that's Centaurus over there. What in the hell...?"
"You're hallucinating Southern Hemisphere constellations," Daniel answered, vocally. "Come back, Jack. Please."
"I'm too damn cold to hallucinate a damn thing. I'm telling you, I haven't seen this sky before, but I know from my star charts that it's gotta be Antarctica we're on. Either that, or Mars has a breathable atmosphere."
"There's the quarter moon, just peeking over some low peaks behind me. May Day, May Day, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill of the United States Air Force. Anyone out there, please come in. Two of us are stranded in a crevasse. May Day, May Day. I'm gonna try all channels, Daniel. Maybe Russians, Japanese, or Australians will hear." He broadcast his message on a dozen channels before concluding that anyone within listening range was probably asleep. "Okay, Daniel, you win. Heading back. Can't feel my lips. I'll try again in the morning."
He took one last look at the five bright stars of the Crux before sliding feet-first into the gap in the ice.
"You know what it's like to have your eyeballs freeze?" he remarked as he stumbled, numb-footed, back into the cavern where he'd left his friend hours before. "It sucks. Daniel?"
The lump beneath the blankets remained silent and unmoving.
"Daniel? Hey! Don't hog the covers." Jack crouched and pulled away a layer to reveal a shivering, clammy, and alarmingly pale face. "Aw, crap. Stay with me, big guy. We can hold on until the morning, when it's easier to radio for help." He set aside his gear and crawled under the blankets, carefully wrapping his arms around the man.
"Tarc-tica," Daniel murmured. "Two Gates, one planet..."
"Yeah, that's weird." Jack arranged the blankets securely around the both of them and pressed closer, hoping he wasn't chilling Daniel with the coldness that still clung from his excursion. "Gotta ask Teal'c about that when we see him. Sleep now."
Sometime in the night, Jack felt warm enough to drift to sleep, after Daniel's shivering had abated. Sara cradled his head, whispered soothing words, letting him know that she was expecting him home despite his piercing headache and the road signs in Arabic. Carter pressed her ass closer into Jack's groin, assuring him that the stiffness of his erection conformed to military protocol. Teal'c cupped Jack's hand over his penis, complimenting O'Neill's expansive capacity to love so well that he could love more than one at a time.
"Sha're," murmured Daniel.
In a half-awakened state, still mired by dream-logic, Jack imagined Daniel's beautiful wife placing Jack's hand over his friend's groin as he spooned him. Angels. Surrounded by angels who loved and did not judge, holding the killing cold at bay.
But they faded, their voices growing dim, their names drifting from dream-logic to physical logic, their embraces truncated by cultural convention, until Jack became aware that he lay on his side with Daniel's back nestled against his chest, Daniel's rump fitted against his erection, and Daniel's hand cupping Jack's over his crotch. He pulled his hand away, slowly, with the speed of sleep, trying to return to a dreamless country of half-angels without names.
"Jack," Daniel murmured, and pulled Jack's hand to where it had been.
He sighed and settled, sharing warmth, sharing proof that Daniel was still alive. And that was enough.
They hadn't been aware that the Stargate had been emitting a low frequency hum until it suddenly ceased and the chevrons stopped glowing, the abrupt silence and blinding darkness waking them at the same time. Then the ominous but familiar sounds of the inner ring grinding as it rotated to engage and lock the first chevron rousted them fully. They stared in mute surprise as the chevrons sequentially engaged, locked, and a kawoosh roared into the cavern with a bright blue cascade of light.
"Holy cr-ALP!" Jack exclaimed as a MALP trundled through the event horizon.
Sir? Is that you and Daniel? the amplified voice of Jack's second-in-command sounded from a transmitter on the vehicle.
"I love that woman," sighed Jack.
"Me too," choked Daniel, smiling broadly for the first time in twenty-four hours. He clasped Jack in a victorious hug that set himself hacking violently.
"Carter, over here!" he shouted, waving the arm that wasn't holding up Daniel. "It's about damned time."
The MALP creaked and turned its camera lens toward them. Sorry, sir. We'd've reached you sooner if we didn't have to repair the Gate first and establish a temporary base on Argos when we temporarily disabled the SGC Gate.
Teal'c strode through the event horizon, carrying his staff weapon. "O'Neill. Daniel Jackson. It is good to see you both alive and well."
"Not so well, T. Daniel's got a broken leg, punctured lung, and we're both frostbitten in places we can't even feel. But you! You're a sight for sore eyeballs."
"Major Castleman, this is Teal'c, requesting medical personnel and a gurney," Teal'c spoke into his radio. "As well as cold weather gear."
"Welcome to Antarctica." Jack rose on wobbly legs. "We need Carter over here to fix the DHD. And some shovels and ice axes."
Antarctica? she repeated.
"You figured out how to rescue us, but you don't know where we are?"
"Captain Carter is still recuperating from her concussion," Teal’c said softly, and removed his BDU jacket to drape it over Daniel.
I'm checking telemetry now, sir. A pause. Oh my gosh.
"Yep, two Gates, one planet, Carter." Jack sat back down and helped Teal'c support Daniel between them. "There's no place like home."
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