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Never Leave Your Wingman 7/10

It was amazing—flying under your own power, or at least under the power of a friend with wings.  Below them the forest was a verdant carpet of green, one that continued to get closer and closer as they drifted in a gentle downward spiral. 


“This is unbelievable, Daniel.”


There was no response from his friend and Jack twisted his head, trying to get a look at Daniel.   He couldn’t quite see him, so he called again.  “Daniel?”


And that’s when he became aware of something warm and wet on the back of his arm.  He twisted again, trying to get a better look, and stiffened when he spotted it—blood. 


“Hold… still…”  Daniel’s voice was breathy and weak.


Oh, God... Daniel’s bleeding. 


The forest below them had given way to craggy outcroppings—they weren’t called the ‘Rockies’ for nothing—that were getting closer by the minute.


“Uh, Daniel, we’re losing altitude, buddy!”


Daniel didn’t respond and Jack decided he should be thankful his friend hadn’t let go of him yet.  They drifted over a rocky cliff below as they continued their descent to Earth.  There weren’t exactly open spaces to use as a landing pad up here, and he didn’t know if Daniel was capable of steering them at this point anyway—he was sure it was taking all of his strength to keep them from plummeting to a crash landing. 


There wasn’t much Jack could do about it, either, unless… He spotted a creek tumbling down the side of the mountain and next to it was a small open meadow—just what they needed.  Shifting his weight to one side, he was able to ‘steer’ the two of them towards the clearing. 


Daniel moaned but kept his hold on Jack.  “Help me out here, Daniel.  It’s gonna be a rough landing if you’re not on board for this.”


“’K.” The golden wings lifted, slowing their fall as they approached the clearing. 


Slower and slower, but still a bit fast for Jack’s liking.  “Brace yourself!” 


The ground rushed at them and Jack put his feet out.  There was a jolt as he hit, another one as Daniel’s feet hit the ground, and then they were tumbling together onto the grass, wings and feet and arms twisting until they came to a halt. 


Jack lay breathing heavily through the shooting pain in his left knee.  Shoulda known better than to stick his feet out for a landing.   He slowly rolled to his side and spotted Daniel face-down several feet away.  “Daniel?  You okay?”


Daniel didn’t answer, didn’t even move.  His wings were folded against his back, and Jack could see the red stain trailing down his right side.  He pushed himself to his knees, testing the level of pain, and finding crawling didn’t make it worse, got to his feet.  Other aches and pains made themselves known, but they were minor—his concern was for Daniel.


Stumbling to Daniel’s side, Jack eased himself to his knees again and searched for the source of the blood.  There it was—a small bullet hole, bleeding sluggishly.  Someone had taken a shot at him in the ‘gateroom.


Jack reached out and placed a hand on Daniel’s shoulder only to have a powerful wing impact his head, tossing him to the ground.  Ears ringing, he sat up again and found Daniel pushing himself to his knees in an attempt to stand. 


“Hang on, Daniel—you’ve been shot.”


Pain-filled eyes turned in his direction, narrowing in suspicion as he focused on Jack.  “Leave… me… alone.” 


Not the reaction he’d expected. “Just tryin’ to help.  Why don’t you let me have a look at it?”  Jack nodded towards the wound on Daniel’s side. 


Daniel shook his head as though trying to clear it.  When he looked up, his eyes were clearer.  “Jack?”


“Yeah, it’s me.  Let me help you.”


Daniel didn’t say anything, just nodded his head.  Jack had no idea what was going on with his friend, but he knew he needed to stop that bleeding.  Daniel sat down, wincing, as Jack moved closer. 


“Could you, uh, move your…”  Jack motioned towards the large wing that was partially extended over Daniel’s shoulder.  This was just too weird. 


Daniel complied while Jack searched the pockets of the tac vest he still wore.  He hadn’t had time to take it off before all hell had broken loose in the ‘gateroom.  His radio was still in its pocket—he wasn’t ready to use it just yet, but it was good to know it was there.   He had no doubt Carter and Teal’c would be out looking for them; unfortunately, they wouldn’t be the only ones.


All he came up with was a roll of tape, so he tore off a piece of his t-shirt to use as a bandage.  Items in hand, he bent down and made a closer examination of the wound.  It was puffy and red—only one hole, which meant the bullet must still be inside.  Not good.  On the upside, the bleeding had slowed considerably, so Jack folded the piece of t-shirt and gently laid it against the wound.  Not the most sanitary, but it’d have to do.


Daniel flinched at the touch and let out a low growl.  Jack looked up to see crystal blue eyes watching him with animosity.  The way Daniel’s behavior fluctuated between wild animal and best friend had Jack on edge.  “It’s okay, I’m almost done.”


Daniel made no further protest; he closed his eyes and lowered his head, so Jack went back to work, securing the cloth with tape.  “We need to let Janet take care of that,” he said when he finished.




“Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say.  That bullet needs to come out, though—sooner rather than later.”




Short and sweet.  Jack found himself missing the long explanations and arguments.  “We at least need to get out of the open.”


Daniel glanced at the sky and then back at Jack.  “Okay.”


“Well, guess I don’t need to worry about you talking my ear off on this trip,” Jack said, offering Daniel a hand up. 


Daniel gave an amused snort and took Jack’s hand.  He pulled himself up, swaying slightly.  Jack placed a hand on Daniel’s elbow, steadying him, as they headed into the trees. 


They wouldn’t be able to hide here forever, and Jack knew that sooner or later he was going to have to try to contact his teammates.  And he knew with equal certainty that someone wouldn’t be happy about it.




Jack kept his eye on Daniel as they picked their way through the trees.  His friend didn’t speak at all as he made his way slowly through the forest, occasionally putting out a hand to lean against a tree.  The cloth Jack had taped to the bullet wound was dark with blood.  All this moving around couldn’t be doing it much good—they needed to find a place to rest.


They’d been hiking a good forty-five minutes when a rock formation off to one side caught Jack’s attention.  Not big enough to be a cave, it was merely a hollowed-out space under a giant boulder, but it would give them a place to rest out of sight from above.


“Daniel—over here.”  He jerked a thumb in the direction of the outcropping. 


Daniel turned pain-filled eyes towards him and then the hollowed rock.  Without a word, he headed for it, his steps slow and unsteady.  Jack reached for his arm, but Daniel pulled away.  “Don’t.”


He put his hands up in a ‘fine, have it your way’ manner and walked next to him at arms length, just in case Daniel took a nose dive.  They made it all the way to the hiding spot before Daniel seemed to just melt to the ground.  Jack rushed in to catch him and found the added bulk more than he’d expected.  He suddenly found himself flat on his back with Daniel draped across him.  Jack wriggled around until his torso was free and sat up. 


Daniel was out—still breathing, but out.  Jack slipped off his tac vest and BDU shirt, folding up the later and placing it on the ground.  Carefully he maneuvered Daniel off of his legs so that he was lying on his stomach, cheek down on the jacket.  The huge wings stayed partially folded on Daniel’s back, and Jack reached out and ran his hand the length of one of the larger feathers.  It was soft and light and he found it amazing that they could keep a person in the air.  He trailed his fingers along the ridge of feathers all the way to where they sprouted from Daniel’s back.  They shuddered slightly as he touched the spot and there was no mistaking their strength.  Nirrti had been right about one thing: they would definitely make an intimidating army.


Of all the things they’d seen in their travels through the ‘gate, this was one of the strangest.  This wasn’t just an alien with wings, it was Daniel.  He tried to wrap his head around what it would be like to have your body altered so drastically.  A tiny seed of fear settled in his stomach—would they be able to fix this?  To change Daniel back?  What if they couldn’t?  There was nowhere his friend would be safe; the NID would be out looking for them even now, and the thought of what they’d do to Daniel if they found him made that seed sit in his stomach like a lead weight.  They really only had one choice—as much as he hated it, Daniel was going to have to go back to Planet Gargoyle. 


Jack had to contact Carter and Teal’c; he didn’t think there was much chance of Daniel walking—or flying—out of here on his own.   He also knew the minute he used his radio, the NID would be trying to zero in on them, too.  He needed to make sure Carter and Teal’c found them first. 


His top priority, however, was checking Daniel’s wound.  Jack removed the soiled cloth, prepared for a bad reaction from Daniel, and was surprised when he didn’t get it.  The bullet hole was puffy, red and angry-looking.  There was a small dark mass in the center, and as Jack leaned in for a closer look, it slipped out onto the ground.  He recognized it immediately—a bullet.  How the hell had it worked its way out?  Jack shook his head in disbelief.  The hole was still bleeding, and having nothing to clean or sterilize it with, he ripped another piece of fabric and taped it in place over the wound. 


Slipping his tac vest back on, he stood and surveyed the area.  Deciding it was clear, he walked around the outcropping until he found a place that looked easy to climb and began his ascent.  Once at the top of the rock, he scanned the area in all directions. 


He recognized this area—to his right was Sugarloaf Mountain and in the distance, Devil’s Slide.  SG-1 had hiked through here on several occasions.  He had no doubt search teams were already combing the entire area.  Somehow he needed to give Carter and Teal’c a sign to help them locate this position without tipping off the NID.  


Grasping his radio, he pressed the button.  “Carter, Teal’c.”


A couple of seconds ticked by before his radio crackled.  “Sir, are you all right?”


“Peachy.  Just enjoying the view.”


“That’s… good….”


“Yep, got a real sweet view on my right and Netu on my left.” 


Another short pause, then, “Acknowledged.  We’re headed back to the Mountain—our ETA is fifteen minutes.”


“Have a nice flight.”


Jack had no doubt the NID would be trying to pinpoint his coordinates, but at least he knew Carter understood his clues and that she estimated they’d be here in fifteen minutes.  Now, if he could just get Daniel—


The drone of a helicopter interrupted his thoughts.  It was too soon for it to be Carter and Teal’c.  He turned and scrambled back down the boulder, waiting at the bottom.  Overhead the helicopter sped by, obviously not his team; they would have hovered and given him a signal.  Time to get moving.  He quickly headed for the hollow where he’d left Daniel.


Turning the corner, he stopped short as he found the hollow empty.  Suddenly, he was struck from behind and slammed to the ground,  the air knocked from his lungs in a big ‘oomph’.  A heavy weight settled on his back as his arms were roughly grabbed and pressed tightly to the ground. 


“Traitor.”  The word was hissed in his ear.


Jack sucked in a breath, pulling dust with it, and tried to speak.  “N… n… o…”


“Called them.”  The grips on his arms tightened and Jack found he couldn’t get any leverage.  Talk about a speedy recovery; he’d left a totally-out-of-it Daniel only ten minutes ago and now it felt like he had Teal’c on his back. 


“I… called… Carter.”


“Won’t go back.”


“You were… shot.”  Jack so needed to get Daniel off of him so he could take a normal breath.


“Don’t need help.” 


“Off… can’t… breathe.” The weight on his back lifted, but his arms were still held firmly.  “Thanks.”


“You should go.”  


“I’m not leavin’ you, Daniel.” Daniel let go of his arms then and he rolled over, taking stock of his condition and feeling nothing worse than a few bruises.  He sat up, rubbing his arms to get the circulation back. 


 Daniel squatted on his haunches, watching Jack closely.  “Why?”


“Why?  I don’t know, maybe because I’m your best friend?”


Daniel’s grey-tinted forehead wrinkled in confusion.  “Not now.  Not… like this.”


“It doesn’t matter what you look like—I’m still your friend.”  How could Daniel even think that? 


“Didn’t feel that way… about my brothers.”


Brothers?  He could feel Daniel slipping away, not just changing physically—his emotional ties to his friends were being stretched like a rubber band.  Jack had to make sure it didn’t snap.  “What about us, Daniel?  Carter and Teal’c and me?  We’re your family; you know we wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.” 


Daniel continued to watch him and Jack tried not to stare too long into the brilliant blue eyes.  Could he read Jack’s thoughts?  Maybe he was waiting for Jack to trust him enough to lay down the truth.  “As for the people on the planet,” Jack shook his head and looked away, “I kept thinking of Euronda.  I was so eager to get what we needed, I didn’t look too closely at them.”  He turned his gaze back to Daniel.  “I was afraid that’s what you were doing this time.  You were so eager to help them but all I could see was how dangerous they might be.  And now here we are.”


“Not bad… desperate.”


“I know that, but it’s hard for me to be sympathetic when they’ve taken my best friend and changed him into someone I don’t recognize anymore, and I’m not just talking about the outside.  I don’t want to lose you, Daniel, but if you stay like this,” he waved a hand at the wings partially extended over his friend’s back, “I’m afraid that’s just what will happen.  Even if we can keep you out of the NID’s grimy hands, you’re having trouble controlling your urges, which would keep you off of SG-1 and probably make you a fugitive.” 


Daniel lowered his head, shoulders slumping and wings folding in on his back.  He was quiet, and Jack let him mull over what he’d said, hoping he could still think rationally and understand the predicament he was in. 


Finally, Daniel lifted his head.  The pain had returned to his eyes and it was then Jack noticed the bandage on his side was saturated again.  “What do you want me to do?”


Jack felt the tension in his body release at Daniel’s words—his friend was still in there somewhere.  The trick would be keeping this part of him—the rational part—engaged.  “You trust me, right?”


Daniel hesitated a second, then nodded.  “Yes.”


“And you trust Carter and Teal’c, too?”


Jack could see Daniel wrestling with the fearful, wild side of himself, but he finally said, “I do.”


“Good.  Because we’re going to take you back to the SGC—”


“No!” Daniel shot to his feet, wings extending to their full length. 


Jack stood more slowly, his hands spread wide.  “Hear me out.  I think our only option here is to take you back through the ‘gate to the planet where you were changed.  You’re going to have to trust us that we can make that happen.”


Daniel covered his face with his hands, hands that slowly tightened into fists.  Jack waited to see which side would win the internal struggle his friend was fighting.  Daniel’s fists flew down to his sides and he let out a growl of frustration that reverberated off the surrounding rocks.  Jack held his ground, even though he wanted to step back, and continued to wait for Daniel to choose. 


Finally, Daniel sank to his knees and pounded the ground with his fists.  Once, twice, three times, and then he stopped.  He looked up at Jack, breathing heavily, his face twisted in pain.  “Help me.”


Jack moved forward and knelt in front of him.  He tentatively reached out and lightly placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.  His friend didn’t pull away—didn’t even flinch—and Jack knew which side had won.  “We will.”


He risked placing a hand on Daniel’s other shoulder, and when he didn’t react, Jack pulled him into a hug.  Daniel’s heart was pounding and tiny shudders ran through his body.  His strength was fading fast. Jack knew they needed to get him back to the SGC and into Janet’s care. 


Jack wasn’t sure how many minutes had passed but figured they had to be about out of time.  “Daniel, Carter and Teal’c are probably only gonna get one chance to pick us up.  We need to move into the open so they can find us.”


Daniel leaned back and nodded his head in agreement.  Jack helped him stand just as the drone of a helicopter drifted to them.  “We gotta move.  They’ll have trouble dropping a ladder to us in these trees—provided they even spot us.”


“They’ll see us.”


“How do you think we’re—”


Daniel spun Jack around and wrapped his arms around him; this time Jack pulled his arms free. 






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