For once, Jack O'Neill was thankful for one of the unwritten laws of the universe... It wasn't cast in stone by any means, but, eight times out of ten, the Stargate on any given planet was situated near some sort of wooded area. This time that fact had undoubtedly saved their lives - at least for the time being.
Now that the sounds of pursuit were finally fading, he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath. In the periphery of his vision he could see Carter slumping against the trunk of a tree. Exhausted though she was, she had the presence of mind to choose a tree trunk that guarded their rear flank... gasping for breath though she was, she sat there weapon cradled in her arms, ready to spring to action and defend her team-mates. She was a hell of an officer - a hell of a soldier - if they got out of this one in one piece he'd tell her that again.
Proud as he was of Carter, there was one thought uppermost in his mind; that was the fate of one wayward civilian that occupied a bigger place in his heart than was entirely wise. Damn it, how could he not care about a man who threw himself unhesitatingly into the path of enemy fire to protect a team-mate; to protect a friend?
Wincing at the pulling of his aching muscles, Jack staggered to his feet and over to the spot where Teal'c had gently deposited the unconscious body of Daniel Jackson. Jack fell to his knees at Daniel's side and pressed a shaking hand to the younger man's forehead. It was hot and his face was lined with pain - hardly surprising, considering what Daniel had done for him yet again.
The natives had seemed friendly - in retrospect too friendly - but all hindsight was twenty-twenty. They had been pleased to agree to a dialogue and everything had been going great - at first. Daniel had been chattering away a mile a minute with a couple of the settlement leaders, in fact, he'd looked over and caught his eye and grinned at him. Jack stifled a groan as he thought about what happened next.
Who knew that they would choose to arrive on the very day that an obviously well planned uprising was going to swing in to effect? Whoever or whatever ran this universe had a very strange idea of what should constitute a routine mission for his team... this was getting ridiculous... Hammond was going to confine them to the mountain for their own safety soon if they didn't stop falling into situations like this.
Jack's musings were interrupted by Carter calling out in a soft whisper, "How's he doing, sir?"
Jack sighed as he manoeuvred himself so that he was sitting with his back resting against the nearest tree trunk and said, "He's bad. We need to get him back to Doc Fraiser... soon."
"Sir, what happened?!"
Jack grunted his disgust and said, "What didn't?
"One minute Daniel and I were discussing the weather and other equally important topics of conversation, when we suddenly found ourselves in ground zero for the focus of a nice little uprising.
"The conference chamber we were in was stormed by people carrying energy weapons - why is it always energy weapons...? They started firing at our hosts, so Daniel and I did the usual and got them under cover as best we could. We didn't know if they were the good guys or the bad guys; we knew we wouldn't get an answer if they were killed in front of us.
"This didn't sit too well with the people doing the shooting... they aimed at me - or at least I presume they did, I was trying to get our hosts to stay down, my attention was diverted - so our friendly neighbourhood archaeologist knocked me down and took the blast meant for me."
Carter and Teal'c remained silent. The unspoken again in that statement was clear enough. O'Neill was going to be full of guilt and anger till they got Daniel Jackson back to the SGC and fixed up so that Jack could yell at him for being so stupid as to risk his life for him - again.
Teal'c pitched in with a comment of his own. "That still does not explain why - when we encountered you - you were carrying Daniel Jackson and being chased by our hosts' soldiers."
Another patented O'Neill grunt and scowl was their only reply.
"Sir?" said Carter.
"The attackers fled when the soldiers began a counter-strike. The first team of two broke into the conference chamber to find one of the leaders had been injured and that the rest were in shock, yelling and making no sense whatsoever.
"The soldiers decided that we had obviously been working with the insurgents and I knew it was time to get the hell out of there. They weren't listening to reason and nobody seemed to care that Daniel and I had gotten their people out of the line of fire.
Jack gave a feral smile with his next statement. "I sucker punched one of the soldiers, appropriated his weapon and got the drop on his partner. I managed to get myself and Daniel out of the building - just - and then you found us.
"The shooting started again and we got the hell out of there."
Sam and Teal'c exchanged a wordless glance. That was about par for the course in situations like these. One of these days they were going to run out of the luck that they seemed to be imbued with as a team... but not today, thank goodness!
Teal'c tensed and his head cocked to one side. Carter stiffened, she heard it too.
"They're closing in on our position, sir."
Jack was on his feet in an instant, all trace of fatigue banished from his thoughts... he'd curl up and collapse when they were back at the SGC.
"Double time, kiddies. Let's get to the Stargate and get the hell off this planet."
So they did.
Daniel was unconscious for forty-eight hours, but Janet Frasier smiled and assured his anxious team-mates that he would make a full recovery. Inwardly she quaked at how close they had come to losing Daniel for good. Something in Colonel O'Neill's eyes told her that he knew full well what she was keeping from them, and how close to the unthinkable they had been.
After Doctor Jackson woke up, the SGC went through its usual few days of the rest of SG-1 going into full mother-hen mode to make sure that their injured friend was not jostled, hassled, or mussed in any way. Jackson showed his usual forbearance, he knew his team didn't like it when he got hurt. As long as they didn't call out a full medical team for a paper cut he'd endure the (s)mothering...
Two days before they were next scheduled to go off planet, SG-1 congregated at Colonel O'Neill's house for a barbecue. O'Neill dragged Teal'c off to help - the Jaffa was surprisingly good with a pair of barbecue tongs - which left Samantha Carter free to chat to Daniel.
Gently, she chided him, saying, "Why do you keeping risking yourself like that, Daniel? Don't you know what it would do to us to lose you?"
The usually volubly articulate member of their team sighed and muttered under his breath.
"Sorry, Daniel," said Sam. "I didn't catch that."
He looked up from the floor and met her gaze as he said, "I'd do the same for any of you in a heartbeat, and I know any of you would have done the same if you'd been in my place."
Daniel silenced her with a look. He was right and she knew it; they all knew it.
Over dinner Daniel raised his bottle of beer to propose a toast. Jack and Sam followed suit and Teal'c raised his glass of milk. The civilian on their team sent a meaningful gaze to each of them and said, "Not a toast, per se. More an acknowledgement. To you, my friends. To loyalty, and to friendship."
The bottles and glasses clinked together as their promises to each other were reaffirmed.
Jack O'Neill once again surprised his team as he addressed Daniel with a wry grin and said, "I know that, according to Woodrow Wilson, 'Loyalty means nothing unless it has at it's heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice', but do you think you can hold back on the self-sacrifice part for the next few missions? I don't think our hearts can take it if you don't."
Jack smirked as he realised he had finally rendered Daniel Jackson speechless. A notable feat indeed. He chuckled and said, "Close your mouth, Daniel. You'll end up swallowing a bug if you don't."
He turned to look at the rest of his team with an innocent expression on his face as he said, "What?!" They smiled but remained silent. As astounding and as funny as it had been to hear the Colonel coming out with a statement like that; the fact of the matter was, he was right. That definition of loyalty fit them all and as wondrous as it was, it was also terrifying. They'd die to protect each other... but, then again, they always fought to live. Where there was life, there was always hope.
One thing SG-1 did well was turning the hopeless in to the hopeful. They always would. They had too much to lose otherwise.