Connections Part Ten
By Tammy K
WARNINGS: Violence, some profanity
CATEGORY: Hurt/Comfort, Drama, Angst
SPOILERS: A Hundred Days, Stargate the movie, minor references to Brief Candle, The Broca Divide, Children of the Gods, Cold Lazarus, Need, Solitudes, The Serpent’s Lair
TIME FRAME: Immediately after A Hundred Days
PAIRINGS: A little Jack/Sam UST
SUMMARY: The team’s efforts to deal with the implications of what happened to Jack on Edora are cut short when a highly advanced society with the power to read and control their victims’ minds targets the Colonel and Daniel.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been created for entertainment purposes only and is in no way intended to infringe upon any copyrights associated with Stargate or Stargate SG-1.
All original characters and situations are the property of the author. Please do not archive without permission.
As Major Carter returned their weapons to the armory, Teal'c hurried to the infirmary to check on his teammates.
The Jaffa stopped in front of the observation window, watching as his friends rested quietly inside. He was satisfied to see that O’Neill looked better, his face regaining its’ color as he slept.
Daniel sensed that he was being watched. Looking toward the window, he saw his friend’s silent vigil. He waved from his bed, happy to see a familiar face. The Jaffa raised his hand in greeting then entered quietly.
“Hey Teal'c. It’s great to see you.” Daniel said in a whisper.
“I am pleased to see you are looking well.” Teal'c answered.
“I feel good. Another day or so and I’m outta here.” Daniel’s enthusiasm bubbled over.
“What of O’Neill?” Teal'c asked.
The linguist turned to his friend. Jack had been asleep for an entire day, sometimes mumbling his son’s name, or Daniel’s. “His temperature is still high, but Janet said that he’s gradually recovering.” Jackson explained. It was good news, but it didn’t stop him from worrying.
“I would like to sit with you and Colonel O’Neill.” Teal'c said, waiting for Daniel’s approval.
Jackson smiled. “That would be nice. I know Jack would appreciate it.”
Teal'c found a chair and sat next to the Colonel’s bed. Daniel felt better just having the Jaffa watching over him. Feeling safe and secure for the first time in days, he began to drift off to sleep.
Sam was surprised to see General Hammond waiting for her outside the armory. “General.” She said, straightening.
“At ease, Major. I’m anxious to hear about your trip.” He smiled hopefully.
“Mission accomplished, sir. We even attended a feast in Garan’s honor.”
“A feast. That sounds promising. Anything else?”
Sam knew what the General was asking. “I spoke to Laira and we resolved our problems.” She answered self-consciously.
Hammond nodded, satisfied. “Very good.”
Carter breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the General turn to leave. All the loose ends were tied up.
“And Major…” The General looked back at her.
“Nice work. It will be a few weeks before Colonel O’Neill is ready to resume his duties, so you and the rest of SG-1 will have time to catch up on some things here at the base.”
“Yes, sir. I have a lot of research waiting for me in the lab.” Major Carter had not been able to work in her laboratory for several months. Maybe things could finally get back to normal.
“Take a few days of R&R first. Then report to me for your specific assignment.”
“Thank you, sir.” Major Carter saluted the base commander.
“Dismissed.” General Hammond returned her salute and they parted company.
Carter immediately walked to the infirmary to check on her teammates. She smiled to see Teal'c sitting with Jack and Daniel. Entering silently, Sam moved beside the Jaffa without saying a word. Together they stood sentry over their fallen comrades well into the day.
Daniel rolled on his side and looked at Sam. Carter had fallen asleep in a chair positioned between his and Jack’s beds. The linguist smiled at her calm face. Surveying the entire room, he couldn’t get enough of the sights and sounds of home.
Major Carter awakened under the weight of Daniel’s stare. She returned his broad smile.
“Hi.” Daniel whispered.
“Hi.” Sam answered. She put her hand in his as he moved into a more comfortable position.
“Did you have a good night?” She asked.
“I slept like a baby. I can’t tell you how that feels.” Daniel laughed softly, careful not to disturb his friend. “How’s Jack?” He asked, looking at the man sleeping restlessly beside him.
“The Colonel’s been murmuring on and off all night, but Janet checked on him and she said it was to be expected.”
“After what he’s been through I don’t doubt it.” Daniel’s expression darkened.
They looked at the sleeping man, his breathing becoming more and more labored.
Daniel noticed the white adhesive pad on Sam’s forehead for the first time. He touched his own brow and felt the same bandage. “It’s gone?” He asked.
“Janet removed it last night. That’s why you slept so well.” She was glad to be rid of Nekara’s last reminder.
“Thank goodness for that.”
“Oh my god, I killed my son!” O’Neill suddenly popped up in bed, his voice choked with emotion, tears streaming down his face. Jackson and Carter rushed to their friend’s side.
“It’s OK, Jack, it was just another nightmare.” Daniel whispered as he sat on the bed next to the frantic Colonel.
“Charlie….” O’Neill was dazed.
“He’s gone, sir.” Sam stroked her commanding officer’s greying hair.
“Gone…. Can’t be….” The Colonel’s grief stricken whisper broke Carter’s heart. She wished she could hold him and make the pain go away.
Jack closed his eyes again as the Major and Daniel helped him lay back. Soon he drifted off to sleep. Leaving his friends to worry in silence.
Carter and Jackson returned to Daniel’s bed.
“He’s been up and down like that all night.” Sam said.
Daniel shook his head. “This is going to be a real fight. Solomon forced me to share Jack’s feelings from the day his son died and the sorrow he experienced was unbelievable. I wonder how he ever overcame it the first time.”
“The Colonel has some pretty impressive mental reserves.” Sam added, watching him sleep.
“I hope you’re right, because he’s going to need them.” Jackson laid back, his eyes feeling heavy. Soon he drifted off.
When she was certain that both her friends were sleeping soundly, Carter sank into her chair, exhausted.
Daniel smiled broadly as he entered the briefing room. It was so great to be home that he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.
“It’s good to see you, Doctor Jackson.” General Hammond motioned the linguist to a seat across from Major Carter and Teal'c. Doctor Frasier sat on Daniel’s left with the General at the head of the table.
“It’s great to be back, General. I can’t thank all of you enough for rescuing us.” Daniel looked at everyone in turn. Each member of the SGC nodded and smiled.
“Of course. We’re relieved to have you back in one piece.” The General was suddenly all business. “Now let’s try to put all the details together so we can create a threat assessment on Nekara. Since I’m concerned that this cannot wait until Colonel O’Neill is well enough to participate I’ll have to ask you to fill us in, Doctor Jackson.”
“Good, now what can you tell me about the Nekaran military?”
“Chief Solomon had an impressive army of foot soldiers, really more like guards than organized troops.” Jackson began.
“We engaged a handful of their men on Edora and they seemed to be well armed.” Hammond added.
“They had hand-held lasers that were very effective. You saw what they did to Jack’s back and arm. But those were the only weapons we saw.”
“Is that what they used to maintain order among the prisoners?” Hammond asked.
Daniel hesitated, not sure how to explain the nature of his captivity.
“Certainly the threat of being shot was always there, but it was something more than that. Their entire society was built around the exploitation of human prisoners, so they had developed techniques to manage them that didn’t involve weapons.” Daniel could feel his own anxiety level rising as he remembered his time on Nekara.
“What kind of techniques?” The General asked.
“There was an oppressive mental component to their version of captivity separate from the physical restraints. We were always manacled.” Jackson absently rubbed his bandaged wrists. “There was never a time when you could move freely and that went a long way to creating an oppressive atmosphere. They treated us more like livestock than people. Since Solomon wanted me to be his personal slave I was treated pretty well. But you know the Colonel. He made things as difficult for himself as possible. Whenever we were moved from one place to another they would come into our stall and grab Jack, manacling his arms behind his back and dragging him from place to place on a leash. It was very efficient. I think that kind of treatment affected him psychologically, even if he would never admit it. At first he would fight them, but they were so well trained all he ever got were some bruised ribs and a headache.”
The General nodded.
Daniel relayed the events of their captivity as dispassionately as he could. It was difficult to recount the details without getting caught up in the emotions they stirred.
“The Nekaran system was designed to sap a victim’s resolve so he wouldn’t resist. There was a huge man named Cade in our living quarters who we thought was just a fellow inmate, a bully who targeted Jack right away. But now looking back I see that he was really working to keep him off balance. Colonel O’Neill was always recovering from some kind of beating. Add to that the small amount of really rotten food we ate every day and the mental abuse of several days in the Chair and Jack was barely surviving.”
“He tried to concentrate on escape plans, but the Chair was affecting his mind. In fact, one night I was brought back to the stall and he had totally broken with reality. He thought it was the night of his son’s death.”
“So exposure to the Chair had side effects?” Janet asked.
“Solomon told me that repeated use made it more and more difficult for the mind to bounce back to present day reality. The victim would start to believe that the events he was being forced to relive were happening in the present. Certainly Jack was beginning to show signs of that.”
“Could there be permanent damage, Doctor?” The General turned to Frasier.
“It’s too early to tell. Certainly there is that possibility. We’ll have to monitor the Colonel’s reactions for some time to be sure his mind has not been affected.”
“What caused him to recover his link to the present?” Janet asked Daniel.
“A sudden trauma. Cade dunked his head in the oatmeal and that shocked him back to the here and now.”
“Dunked him in oatmeal?” Sam stared in wide-eyed anger.
Daniel immediately regretted having added that humiliating detail, but the cat was out of the bag now. “In order to get our nightly dinner, some kind of greasy oatmeal, Jack had to face Cade and his men. They would dunk his head in it a few times, before Colonel O’Neill would gain the upper hand and take our bowl full of food. I couldn’t do anything to help him because he ordered me to stand by and wait in case he needed help getting back to our stall.” Daniel was embarrassed.
General Hammond could sense the young man’s feelings of guilt. “You did the right thing, son. Sometimes it’s more difficult to stand back and wait than to engage the enemy, but it can be an essential part of a successful operation. If you hadn’t been there for Colonel O’Neill he may not have made it back.”
“Thanks, and I know that’s true, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch. He took those beatings for me. If Jack hadn’t gotten us that food we wouldn’t have survived.” Daniel looked down at the table.
Janet touched his hand. “The Colonel knows that’s the most important thing. He’s trained to do whatever it takes to keep everyone alive.” She whispered.
Daniel nodded, but didn’t look up, desperate to change the subject. “Solomon had uncovered a pyramid ship as you all know, that’s why he targeted us, very few races have encountered the Goa’uld and lived to tell about it.”
Teal'c nodded. He knew of no other races who had learned so much about the Goa’uld.
“The Chief forced Garan and me to excavate the crash site while I demonstrated how to use the weapons inside. Then we found the sarcophagus and I knew exactly why we had been taken.”
Janet perked up. “That explains the Colonel’s condition. I couldn’t understand why all his wounds seemed to have been inflicted within the past few hours. A man who had been through such a long ordeal should have had some older trauma. But he was in the sarcophagus wasn’t he?” She asked.
“Yes he was. Solomon had devised the perfect entertainment presentation. People paid to share Jack’s consciousness while he drowned and was resurrected.”
“My God. How did you escape?” The general said softly.
Sam had tears in her eyes. “Teal'c and I rescued Garan and returned to the arena just in time to capture Arik, the leader of Solomon’s military force. We used the consciousness sharing technology we had brought from a smaller community outside of town and one of it’s citizens, Dayna, helped me enter his mind so we could infiltrate the control room as the Colonel had planned. I accessed the soldier’s memories so I could deactivate the force shield holding our men. Then Colonel O’Neill destroyed the planet’s energy source.”
“Leaving the Chair with no power to continue. After a fight or two with the Nekarans we destroyed the sarcophagus and got out of there.” Daniel added.
“I read in Doctor Frasier’s report that both you and the Colonel were subject to a mind scan. What about the sensitive information both of you were forced to provide?” The General asked.
“All of the planet’s advanced technology was rendered useless when the power crystal was destroyed. Even the storage system itself seemed to have been manufactured by a matter manipulator so it did not survive the blast.” Carter answered.
“Very good. What is the status of the army? Is it still at fighting strength?”
“I don’t believe it is. Teal'c and I freed all the other prisoners and they did a pretty good job of destroying what was left of the military. With Solomon and Arik dead and the crystal destroyed I think the Nekarans will have no choice but to reorganize their society into a peaceful agrarian community.” Daniel hoped he was right.
“What about the pyramid ship itself? Is it going to be a problem?”
“It was severely damaged in the crash. I do not believe it can be repaired. There may be a few weapons remaining on board, but the ones they will be able to operate are no more powerful than the laser staffs the citizens already possess.” Teal'c said.
“If they don’t have an organized army, can we expect any further attempts to kidnap our people?” The General asked.
“Probably not. A new leader seemed to hold sway over the people when we left. Actually Nekara will probably make a reliable ally after they finish creating a new government.” Sam added.
“Very well, I’m satisfied that the planet is not an immediate threat to our security so I won’t send anyone else through until further notice.” The general turned to his chief medical officer. “What is the status of our people, Doctor?”
“Daniel has responded well. I treated him intravenously for malnutrition and dehydration. That was successful. As for exhaustion, I’m prescribing a few more days of rest and relaxation. I’m also going to recommend post trauma counseling, but I’ll make that voluntary.”
Daniel smiled in gratitude. He wasn’t sure yet if he wanted to talk to anyone professionally, but he was glad Doctor Frasier had left the option open.
“As for Colonel Makepeace and SG-3, their auditory canals seemed to heal immediately after the orbs were removed, and there have not been any additional symptoms. I’ve scheduled a follow-up exam for later in the week. If that goes as expected, I’ll reactivate them for duty.”
“Good. So there is no indication of permanent damage caused by the orbs?” Hammond asked.
“None. The alien technology seems to have been designed to repair the subject’s mind on the way out. It was an amazing find.”
“We’ll have to discuss what we are going to do with those at a later date. Something like that could be a real problem if it fell into the wrong hands.” The General made a note on his pad to schedule a meeting for the disposition of the orbs.
“Colonel O’Neill is getting stronger all the time. His wounds are healing well and his fever is almost gone. I’m planning to gradually reduce his medication so he will regain consciousness when his body is strong enough to handle the strain. As for his mind, that is going to be more problematic. We all know that the Colonel is not one to share his feelings with professional psychiatrists. I’m going to have to order an evaluation, though before he can return to duty.”
“Of course, doctor. I’ll help you with that one by ordering it myself.” Hammond added, knowing his second in command would follow his orders without the venom that he sometimes unleashed on the chief medical officer.
“Thank you, sir. As for the counseling, I’m not inclined to force the issue at this time. Jack has been through this kind of thing before and I think he has the support system to heal himself, if he uses it.”
The doctor turned to the remainder of SG-1. “He will need a lot of patience from all of us.”
They nodded. It wouldn’t be easy to help the Colonel deal with his feelings, but they would not give up until their friend was back to his sarcastic, grumpy self.
“I’ll monitor his progress over the next month or so and if he isn’t readjusting, I’ll order him into therapy at that time.”
“Very well.” The General made a note to order O’Neill’s mental evaluation in a few weeks. Then he looked around the room. “I want to commend all of you for a job well done. Your performance under incredibly stressful circumstances has been exemplary. SG-1, you are granted two weeks leave starting today. At that time we’ll meet again, hopefully with Colonel O’Neill in attendance, to discuss your duty schedule. Dismissed.”
Major Carter and Doctor Frasier rose to attention as the General left the room. Then Teal'c followed Janet back to the infirmary to sit with O’Neill.
Sam turned to go to the lab when Daniel stopped her. “It must be hard on you.” He said softly.
“What do you mean?” Carter was caught by surprise.
“It can’t be easy to keep your feelings inside at a time like this.”
“My feelings?” Sam was getting angry.
“I first noticed it when we were trying to get to Jack on Edora. We all wanted to bring him home, but for you it was something more, something deeper.” Daniel motioned her to sit next to him.
“You know that’s not possible.” Sam’s voice was harsh as she sat.
The linguist laughed. Leave it to the military to order its’ officers not to fall in love, as if anyone could control such an instinctive emotion. “I know it’s not supposed to happen. But that doesn’t mean anything. I saw how much it hurt you when I told Hammond about Jack’s ordeal. There was more in your eyes than friendly concern. I’m not judging you. I just wanted to know if I could do anything to help.”
Carter stared at the wood grained table, not sure what to say. “Do you think he has any feelings for me?” She whispered after a long moment.
“I don’t think even Jack could answer that question. He’s not exactly self-actualized.”
The Major laughed. “That’s true. It’s for the best anyway. These were extreme situations that forced me to confront some surprising feelings. But now we can get back to work. On Nekara I decided that it was more important to me to be a member of the Colonel’s team than to dwell on something that could never happen.”
Daniel nodded. “I just wanted to offer my ear in case you need to talk.”
Major Carter rose and touched Daniel’s shoulder. “Thank you, I appreciate it.” Then she turned and left. The linguist frowned behind her. He hoped someday that Sam would take the chance and admit her feelings to Jack. She might be surprised to hear his answer.
Colonel O’Neill was afraid to open his eyes. He remembered being wheeled into the infirmary. But what if the escape had been a dream? Would he wake up in their stall, still a captive of Nekara? He didn’t think he could live with that.
Jack listened for any familiar sounds, trying to confirm that he was back in the SGC. But there was silence. Finally he found the courage to open his eyes.
The Colonel could have cried when he saw Teal'c meditating in a chair next to the bed. It was real! He was back in the SGC! Looking around at the familiar white walls of the infirmary, he had never been happier to be anywhere in his entire life.
Struggling into a seated position, he knocked the call button on the floor, awakening the Jaffa. “Sorry.” He apologized as his friend’s eyes snapped open.
“Colonel, it is good to see you are awake.” The Jaffa moved to his commander’s side quickly. However, it may not be wise for you to be moving around so soon.”
“It’s great to see you, too, Teal'c. And yes, not only is it wise, but it is an absolute necessary for me to be sitting on my own.” Jack felt surprisingly good for a man in his condition. A surge of adrenaline coursed through his veins.
“How long have I been out?” He asked, easing forward.
“A whole week-wow. Frasier’s tough.” O’Neill dangled his long legs off the side of the bed. “Thanks for sitting with me. Are the others alright?”
“They are well. Both MajorCarter and DanielJackson have been on leave while you recuperate.”
“Nifty. I bet they’re both in their offices working like busy little bees.” Jack’s smile was a mile wide.
“They are involved in research projects, but neither is working with any insects.” Teal'c said with a gleam in his eye.
“You are gettin’ so good at that.” O’Neill loved his friend’s new-found sense of humor. “Could you bring me some clothes, I’m outta here.”
“You were badly injured, O’Neill. I do not believe Doctor Frasier will allow you to leave the infirmary so easily.” Teal'c answered-unsure what to do.
“But I’m better now. She’ll have to or I’ll freak. Now please get me my clothes.” It was more like a command now.
“Very Well.” The Jaffa bowed his head and left the room. He had no choice but to go straight to Doctor Frasier’s office, resigning himself to the big showdown.
Janet was hunched over her desk, updating medical reports the old fashioned way. She stopped writing when she saw the Jaffa. “Hello, Teal'c. Is there a problem with the Colonel?” The doctor straightened in her chair.
“No medical crisis has arisen DoctorFrasier, however, ColonelO’Neill has awakened.”
“That’s great news. I’ll be in to examine him as soon as I finish with his progress report.”
“That will probably be too late. He has instructed me to retrieve his clothing so that he may return home. I am certain you will wish to discuss that with him before I do so.”
Janet shook her head in frustration. Jack O’Neill was always such a difficult patient.
“Thank you for coming to get me. I’ll be right there.” She closed and filed her report, then led the way back to the Colonel’s room.
Jack had disconnected all the monitoring equipment and was trying his legs when the door opened.
“I thought you got lost.” He said without looking up.
“Colonel O’Neill.” Janet’s exasperated voice startled him.
“Teal'c tells me you’re planning a getaway.”
“Traitor.” Jack frowned as he shot an angry glance at the Jaffa.
“It seems he cares more about your condition than you do.” Janet continued, her irritation rising. “Teal'c, could you leave us alone.”
The Jaffa nodded and closed the door on his way out.
“How are you feeling, Colonel?” Janet asked, moving closer to examine O’Neill. He backed up, suddenly uneasy in the small room. He didn’t want the doctor to see anything that would hurt his chances to leave.
“I feel great. Now let me go home.” Jack said as he continued to shuffle backwards.
“Colonel, do you really expect me to release you without an honest answer? Sit down so I can take a look at you. Then we’ll talk about your status.”
Jack was suspicious. He knew all the tricks. The Doctor would lull him into a false sense of security so she could slip him a tranquilizer. Then he would wake up strapped to the bed, trapped in the infirmary until she saw fit to release him. He would have to be very careful if he wanted to get out anytime soon.
Doctor Frasier could see the paranoia building in her patient as he backed away. After what Colonel O’Neill had been through she didn’t blame him. “I need you to focus on my voice, Jack. You can trust me. I promise I won’t give you anything or strap you to the bed. But I need to see how your wounds are healing, ok?” She smiled.
Janet’s soothing voice got through, and O’Neill suddenly felt stupid for his paranoia. “Ok.” He whispered, then sat on the bed without another word.
“Thank you. I’ll do this as quickly as I can, then we’ll talk.” Frasier examined her patient’s burns. His arm and back were healing well, and his leg was especially impressive, the infection was gone and the wound was almost closed.
“Colonel, your regenerative powers have become legendary.”
“You know me, a regular medical miracle. Now can I go home.” Jack continued to press.
The doctor was surprised by the speed of Colonel O’Neill’s continuing progress, but she thought he should have a few more days of supervised care to be sure.
“I’d like you to stay until Thursday. Three days, that’s all.” She put on her best pleading smile in hopes that he would give in.
“No.” O’Neill could not accept that answer. He needed some time alone to sort out all the conflicting voices screaming inside his head.
“Why do we always have to do this, Jack. I am the chief medical officer on this base and I can order you to stay.” Janet shot back, frustrated that her friend couldn’t compromise just this once.
“You’ll have to strap me down or tranq me. Otherwise I’m leaving.” Jack was ready to explode. Why couldn’t she just let him decide what was best for Colonel Jack O’Neill?
“I may just do that.” Doctor Frasier was getting mad. Part of her would like nothing better than to strap the insolent Colonel down and force him to stay until he was fully recovered. But she knew that Jack’s biggest fear was that he would breakdown in front of everyone at the base. That’s why he was so desperate to leave.
“Have you been dreaming?” She changed her tact.
“We all dream.” Jack answered matter-of-factly. He really didn’t like where this new line of questioning was headed.
“True. Last night I dreamed Cassie and I were relaxing at the beach when someone started thrashing around in the water. I ran into the surf to help them, but the ocean was like molasses and I had to struggle hard to get to him. When I made it to the victim it was Harry Maybourne so I just turned around and came back to shore.”
“You left him out there?” O’Neill asked, bemused by the image.
“Yup. But he came ashore anyway. The good news was he turned into Harrison Ford when he got there and sat next to me on the beach so all’s well that ends well.”
“Now what did you dream about last night?” She asked, seizing the momentum.
“Care to guess.” O’Neill answered bitterly.
“You’ll have to be more specific.” Doctor Frasier was determined to make her friend open up before she let him go anywhere.
“Did Daniel tell you anything about Nekara?” He asked.
“He said they had a device that could insert someone into your memories, make them believe they were you.” Janet frowned as she thought about the implications.
“That’s true as far as it goes. But the device also forced me to relive the event as if it were happening all over again.” Jack whispered. “This went on over and over again. I have no idea how many times I held my son’s body…” That was as far as he was willing to go.
“My God.” Frasier whispered.
“Right.” Jack could feel anger building inside him. He shouldn’t have to explain this to anyone. “Imagine reliving the worst moment of your life over and over again. It was not my idea of a good time.”
“Did you know what was happening?”
“No. Every time was like the first time all over again.” Jack’s hands were shaking.
Janet gripped his shoulder. “You should talk about it.”
O’Neill pulled back, surprised by her touch. “MacKensie has heard enough of my riveting tales of self destruction. I’ll pass.”
“You could see someone else.” It was Janet’s turn to press.
The Colonel shook his head. “What I need to do is go home. I have to get back to my life. That would do a lot more good than any heart to heart with a shrink.”
He turned to Janet and looked her square in the eyes. The gloves were off. “I’m asking you to do this for me as a friend. Let me go home.”
Doctor Frasier stared into her patient’s fierce brown eyes. They were pleading with her. She remembered looking into those same eyes three years before. She was standing over him in the holding cell when he could barely communicate. He was asking her to experiment on him in order to save the entire base. Now he was making a similar request. Expecting her to forget about all her years of training and allow him to put himself at risk. After all the times he had put his life on the line for them, he deserved a chance to work this out on his own.
“Alright, you win for now. Go home and get better. But I’ll be by to check on you every day. I expect you to stay off that leg and do more than drink beer. Is that understood?” Janet left no room for argument.
“Yes ma’am. I’ll take care of myself. I just need to get out of here.” O’Neill’s smile lit up the room. He could have kissed her!
“But there is a catch, I’ll have to insist that you wait until this afternoon.” Janet was not going to take no for an answer this time. She waved off Jack’s protests.
“That way I can put another good meal in you and do one last in-depth examination. After that, you can go.”
“I guess that will have to do. Thanks.” Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Frasier exchanged a long, knowing look. He felt like she had just saved his life.
“Don’t make me regret this.” Janet smiled and left.
Colonel O’Neill lowered himself back onto the bed. He wished he could have left right now, but a few more hours would be manageable as long as he knew the end was in sight. He stared at the ceiling, trying to reorganize the memories churning around inside his brain. They had been filed away in their own little compartments, out of reach for years. But the last few months had unleashed them all again. It would take a lot of concentration, but he would master the past and put it back where it belonged.
“General Hammond, come in.” Jack moved to get to his feet, but George motioned him to stay in bed.
“I hope I didn’t wake you.” He said as he took a seat.
“Nope. I’m just counting the seconds until I can get out of here.” O’Neill smiled warmly at his CO.
“I’m sure you are. I wanted to see how you were doing before you left. The doctor tells me that your injuries are healing well.”
“I feel great. And I’ll be even better after a good night’s sleep at home.” Jack swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“You know what I’m getting at, son. How are you really doing?” Hammond’s voice was low and concerned.
“Honestly sir, not as good as I’d like to be. I have some things I need to shove back in the closet, but then I’ll be ok.” The General was the closest thing to a father Jack could turn to at a time like this. He couldn’t very well tell his real dad that he had been abducted by aliens.
“I’m sure everyone has already offered you a shoulder to lean on, but I wanted to add mine to the list.” George said.
“I’ll put yours at the top, sir.” Jack smiled and looked down at his dangling feet.
Both men were becoming uncomfortable with the sensitive turn their conversation had taken.
“Well, I’ll let you get ready to go then. In a few weeks the Doctor will authorize an evaluation to be sure you are fit for duty. Then maybe we can get back to work around here.” The General rose.
“I certainly hope so, sir. As for the eval, is there any way I can talk you out of that?” Jack really didn’t want to talk to MacKensie.
“Not this time. You’ve been through a lot in the past six months. It would be hard for anyone to bounce back. I just want to make sure we don’t rush you into active duty before you’re ready. One meeting with Doctor MacKensie should be enough to get you reinstated. I could insist on a long regime of mental treatment. But I’m not going to.”
“Just get better, Jack. Then we can put all this behind us.” They exchanged emotional smiles, then the General left O’Neill sitting alone on the bed.
After a thorough physical examination and one last bland hospital meal, Jack was waiting for Doctor Frasier to give him the thumbs up.
Janet stood over O’Neill’s bed. “You have been an unusually cooperative patient today, Colonel. I’m impressed.”
“Anything to get out of here, Doc. Can I go?” Jack was already moving to his feet.
“I’m satisfied with the results of this last round of tests, so yes you can. I’ll send Nurse Collins in to help you get ready. Then Daniel or Sam can drive you home.”
The Colonel hesitated. “Do me a favor and get a corpsman to do that. I know they mean well, but my friends would want to fuss over me and I really need some time alone.” He had to find a way to restore a level of privacy to his life.
“I understand. But they’ll find out later today when they come to check on you. Then you’re on your own.” Janet made a final notation on O’Neill’s chart as she spoke.
“Fair enough. Thanks, Janet.”
“It’s my pleasure. Besides, if I don’t get you out of here I’ll have a mutiny on my hands.” The doctor smiled and left.
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. He was finally going home.
As Colonel O’Neill laced up his left boot he suddenly sensed someone watching. Looking up, Jack was surprised to see Robert Makepeace leaning against the door.
“I hear you’re heading home, sir.” He said sheepishly, waiting for an invitation to enter.
“I sure am, and it couldn’t be soon enough. How are you doing?” Jack asked, sensing the awkwardness between them.
“I’m ok. Doctor Frasier said the orb left no permanent damage.”
“Good to hear.” O’Neill smiled, so happy to be leaving he could burst.
“Do you need a ride home?” Makepeace asked, eager to spend some time with the Colonel.
“Actually I do. But are you sure you’re up to it? The last time you were at my house it didn’t go so well.” Colonel O’Neill stood, pulling his leather jacket over his good arm.
“The Doctor gave me a clean bill of health and restored my team to active duty.” Makepeace looked down, embarrassed.
“Then that’s good enough for me.” Jack led the way, limping with the aid of a cane.
Colonel Makepeace walked out of the elevator on the parking level and straight to his vehicle. Jack stopped and whistled in appreciation at the deluxe black pickup. “Sweet. I didn’t know you had such great taste in trucks.”
“Oh yeah, it’s one of a kind.” Robert unlocked the passenger door and walked around to the driver’s side.
O’Neill hesitated at the high running board, with one good arm and one good leg he didn’t think he could pull himself up without opening some stitches.
“Could you give me a hand over here. It’s a little high for an old man.” He hated asking for help, but he really didn’t have a choice.
“Don’t see any old men here.” Makepeace joked as he boosted the Colonel up into the cab.
“Well I certainly feel like one these days. Stiff as a board and sore all over.” Jack was lighthearted, but he saw his friend flinch at the mention of his injuries. ‘Feeling guilty I guess’, he assumed.
Soon they were driving out of the main entrance and onto the highway.
“So how are you really doing, Bob?” Jack asked after a long silence.
Makepeace stared at the road, uncomfortable with the truth. “Alright I guess. I really don’t remember much of what happened.”
“I know what you mean. I have no idea what I did when that thing was calling the shots in my head.”
“When we gated to Nekara there was an armed troop waiting for us. They must have known we were coming.” The memory stirred Bob’s anger all over again.
“I think they had the SGC under surveillance for several months. They couldn’t make a move until I got back from Edora. You guys gave them a great way to get to us without coming through the gate.” Jack added.
“Right. We were so outnumbered that we laid down our weapons. I regret that.”
“Don’t second guess yourself. I would have done the same thing.” O’Neill said warmly.
“They were real pros, we were cuffed and kneeling before we knew what was happening. That’s when they put that orb in my ear. The next thing I remember is walking through the gate like nothing happened. Then after the doctor checked us out and sent us home I had an overwhelming need to pick up the rest of my team and go to your house. It’s really spotty after that.” Makepeace stopped, embarrassed again.
“You guys did look pretty out of it when you came to visit. But seriously Bob, don’t eat yourself up about all this. I know you had no control. Hell, I walked right into their laps myself. That orb could make a person do anything. It’s a damn shame.” The Colonel took great solace in the notion that the Nekaran system of kidnapping and torture had been shot to hell when he blew up the crystal.
“I read Jackson’s report. I know what happened to you on Nekara, and I feel responsible.”
“I’d be mad if you didn’t feel a little guilty about what they put us through. But you have to let it go, just like I do.” Jack smiled at his own greeting card advice. If only you really could wrap life’s hardships up into such neat rhetorical packages.
“I guess you’re right, sir. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am about everything that’s happened.” Colonel Makepeace felt better having expressed his feelings.
“Apology accepted.” Jack saw his home in the distance. “And just in time, here we are.”
Robert parked in the Colonel’s driveway and helped him out onto the grass by the door.
“Thanks, Bob. I’ll see you back at work in a few weeks. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, sir.” Makepeace smiled and got back in his truck, leaving his friend at the door, relieved that he had not held a grudge.
This time Colonel Jack O’Neill stood at his front door staring at the wooden panels because he was overcome with joy. Finally turning the key, he limped inside.
Jack threw his keys on the stand, hung up his coat, all the usual things. But this time they seemed to mean more. He had survived again. Alive to fight another day. He looked over every room, taking in all the little pieces of his life. Satisfied that everything was in order, he limped upstairs to take a shower.
Dressed in khakis and an oversized Air Force sweatshirt, the Colonel made himself a can of chicken noodle soup and a cup of black coffee and sat on the living room sofa.
After subsisting on that awful Nekaran oatmeal and a week of hospital food, the simple lunch tasted like it came from the best restaurant in town. He threw out the box of Quaker oats he had found in the pantry. No more of that!
Jack watched TV absently as he ate. Looking around the room, his gaze fell on the photos standing on the mantle. Suddenly an image flashed in his mind, Charlie’s head covered with blood. The panic and horror was real again. He retched at the sickening smell of blood and powder, throwing his soup bowl to the floor. The memories were so vivid. He remembered picking up his bleeding son, the boy’s body cold and clammy. The slippery blood flowing from Charlie’s head wound made it hard to hold on as he bolted down the steps, blind with fear.
Sitting in his living room all these years later Jack felt like it was happening all over again. He struggled to pull himself back to the present, but the newly rediscovered feelings were too strong.
O’Neill stumbled to a photo of Charlie in his baseball uniform and clutched it to his chest. He sank to the floor, weeping as he had that night in the hospital corridor.
Some time later the front door opened.
Daniel smiled apologetically. “You must have forgotten to lock it.” The linguist said as he waited for an invitation to enter.
Jack’s appearance left his friend shaken. Hair rumpled, face streaked with tears. He was sitting on the floor in front of the mantle, a small wooden box in his lap.
“Can I come in?” He finally asked.
Jack didn’t move.
“You’re in.” He said short, wiping the tears from his face with a shaky hand.
“Right…I guess I am. We came to see how you were and Janet said you had already gone home. Why didn’t you let us know?” Daniel asked, walking toward his friend.
“Wanted a little privacy.” Jack said, his attention riveted on the box in front of him.
“Are you alright?” Daniel asked. Fear was rising in his stomach.
“Dumb question, of course you’re not alright.” Jackson slowly moved closer to O’Neill, careful not to overwhelm the fragile Colonel.
“Give the man a cigar.” O’Neill’s voice was bitter and quiet.
As the linguist stood before his friend he saw what Jack was concentrating on. The box held a small pistol.
“My god. What’s going on here, Jack?” Daniel’s heart fell.
“Do you know what this is?” Colonel O’Neill asked, still not looking up from the weapon.
“No. Why don’t you come over here to the sofa? Sitting on the floor like that can’t be good for your leg.” Jackson wanted desperately to get him away from the gun.
Jack looked at him for the first time. “It’s the gun that killed my son.”
The linguist took a deep breath. That’s what he was afraid of.
“They returned it to me after the police investigation and I couldn’t seem to get rid of it.” O’Neill continued.
Daniel sat on the chair in front of the sofa, hoping to move his injured friend off the cold floor. “Seriously, you should come over here so you don’t aggravate your leg.”
The Colonel absently struggled to his feet and gently put the box on the coffee table in front of the sofa where he sat down.
Jack picked up the weapon and held it in his good hand. It was heavy and cold. He shivered at the tragedy it represented.
“You have to give yourself a chance to get better, you know. It’s gonna take some time to put those memories back where they belong.” Daniel tried to hide his desperation.
“There’s a news flash.” Jack was angry at the intrusion.
“For once in your life you could let someone help you.” O’Neill’s shattered expression was heartbreaking. Jackson couldn’t stand to see the invincible Colonel looking so vulnerable.
“Unless you can get inside my brain there’s nothing you can do.” Colonel O’Neill barked.
“I can listen.”
“You’re an archeologist, not a head shrinker.” Jack turned back to the black object in his hand. He wondered what it would feel like to squeeze the trigger.
“I can’t imagine what you must be going through, here. But I do know what it’s like to have bad memories brought back to life. Solomon strapped me to that chair and made me relive my own death. I can feel the fear and pain like it happened yesterday. But you have to fight it. This happened years ago.” Daniel tried desperately to reason with his friend, sensing that he was starting to look at the gun as an option.
“I know when it happened.” Jack snapped at the linguist. “But it feels like I just buried my son today.” His voice was getting louder.
The door opened again. This time Sam and Teal’c entered with two bags of groceries.
“I need to get a bolt for that door.” Jack was exasperated by his friends’ knack for interfering in his life.
“Hi Colonel. We brought you some supplies.” Sam said with hesitation at the look on her CO’s face.
“Carter, Teal'c. I see you’re all in this together. Why am I not surprised.”
“Like it or not, here we are, Jack.” Daniel found his own voice rising. He was determined to force his friend to accept their support.
Sam gasped when she saw the gun. “Is everything alright?” She asked softly, fear welling up inside. Daniel shook his head hoping they would leave the two men alone. Sam nodded, leading Teal'c into the kitchen without another word.
O’Neill sat quietly looking at Daniel. His glare boring a hole through the archeologist.
“What now, Dr. Freud?” Jack asked, his voice hard and angry.
“Well, you ARE on the couch…” Daniel smiled, refusing to let the Colonel bully him into giving up.
“So I am, here’s a good story for you: After we put my only child in the ground I wanted to die.” O’Neill’s tone was nasty. Now he wanted to make the archeologist suffer for invading his privacy.
Daniel looked at the floor, he thought of the bleak, emotionless man who was willing to destroy an entire planet to commit suicide.
Jack shook his head.
“You only saw the last hurrah. I had been tying to whack myself for months. In fact, the closest I ever came was on the day General West’s lackeys showed up at my home to tell me I had been reactivated to lead the original Abydos mission. I was sitting on Charlie’s bed with this gun in my hand, ready to blow my brains out.”
Jack almost laughed at the absurdity of the memory.
Daniel’s eyes filled with tears, he hadn’t realized just how desperate his friend had been. “I’m sorry.” He said softly. Jack just glared at him.
“You wanted to hear the truth. Well there it is.” O’Neill’s eyes turned harsh. “Now here’s the big question, knowing that the loss of my son had pushed me that far before, how do you know I won’t end up sucking on my sidearm again?”
Jackson was silent.
“Because you have us this time, sir.” Sam said as she and Teal'c returned from the kitchen.
Jack looked at her. He took strength from the determination in her eyes.
“That’s right. In all the things I’ve heard about your breakdown I don’t remember anything about support from your friends.” Daniel sat next to Jack on the sofa.
“That’s because I didn’t have anyone left. By that point I had pushed them all away. Even Sara.” Jack remembered punishing the people who tried to help him overcome his grief.
“That’s why this time it’s going to be different. You can’t push us away.” Sam said, sitting on Jack’s other side. Teal'c sat next to her, making it a tight fit.
“We are your friends, O’Neill, regardless of your behavior.” He said.
“I can be pretty tough.” He said, smiling now.
“So what else is new.” Daniel said.
“We’ve faced Apophis, I think we can stand up to you, sir.” Major Carter smiled.
O’Neill hesitated. Looking at his closest friends all squeezed together on the couch, he decided that there might be hope yet. He smiled weakly and put the gun back in the box.
“OK, you win, but don’t expect too much. I felt fine when I left the mountain, but then all those memories hit me like a ton of bricks. “I can’t promise I won’t start to lose control again…” O’Neill added.
“If you do, we’ll be here to get you back on track.” Jackson’s eyes were wet with tears and he shook with relief.
“No matter what it takes.” Sam added.
“Do not worry, O’Neill. We will care for you.” Teal'c promised.
“I know you will.” Jack smiled, he was so grateful for his friends. With such dedicated support he just might be able to handle it. All he had to do was stay strong and let distance be his best friend. It was time to get started, including a change of subject. “Enough about me. Since you’ve all been so kind as to interrupt my first night home, I assume you have some kind of activities planned.”
“Well…we did bring something to take your mind off your troubles.” Daniel nodded to Sam, who pulled a VHS tape out of her bag.
“A movie-sweet!” The Colonel sat up straight, a gleam in his eye.
Carter took the remote control and changed the channel. Then she turned on the VCR, popped the tape inside, and pushed play.
“It’s not about aliens is it?” O’Neill grumbled.
“No. It’s one of your favorites, sir.” Sam said as she reclaimed her seat.
O’Neill heard the familiar music and smiled with glee.
“Larry, Moe, and Curly! Now that’s entertainment!” He settled in for a night with the Three Stooges, one of his favorites.
Soon they were all laughing uncontrollably as the Stooges bounced from one mishap to another.
“This was just what the doctor ordered.” Jack laughed. “Thanks, guys.”
“It was our pleasure. We all needed to unwind-believe me.” Daniel said, thrilled to see his friend smiling again.
“I have one question O’Neill. Why do Larry and Curly allow Moe to continue to abuse them, even though they have done nothing wrong?” Teal'c asked, baffled by the program’s appeal.
“I guess they figure Moe means well.” Jack said, smiling at his team.
“I’ll explain it to you Teal'c, if you come with me to make some popcorn.” Jackson pulled himself free of the tight fitting group and led the Jaffa to the kitchen.
Sam thanked the linguist for leaving her alone with her CO. It was time to put their problems to rest. “Sir, I have to apologize.” She began.
“For what, Carter? The tape is great.” Jack was too absorbed by the screen to have any idea what the Major was talking about.
“Not that-I knew you loved the Three Stooges. I should never have brought up Laira at the BBQ. It was our first day together after all that time and I ruined it.” She took a deep breath, expecting the Colonel to say something. When he remained silent she saw no option but to continue. “What I’m trying to say, sir, is that I’m sorry for the way I treated you. I was out of line.”
Colonel O’Neill pulled himself away from the Stooges and looked into his second in command’s blue eyes. “Yes you were. But I know you were under a lot of pressure. Daniel told me how hard you worked to get to me. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. And believe me, I know how tough it can be to think straight when everyone expects you to save the day.” Jack smiled.
“Thank you, sir. When we finally found you I felt like you had betrayed us.” Sam could only look at the floor. She was ashamed.
“You had a right to feel betrayed-I did move on. But not because I wanted to, I felt like it was the only way to survive.”
“I had a lot of time to think about all that, sir and I know how hard you worked to dig up the gate. I was wrong to jump to conclusions so quickly.” Sam stopped short of telling him about the Chair. It would be too much for him to deal with today.
“Alright, apology accepted. Now let’s forget about that one.” O’Neill smiled as he took Carter’s hand in his. “When I was trapped in the Chair I started to lose it, I mean I had no idea where I was, heck I didn’t even recognize Daniel. But then a voice brought me back. Your voice gave me hope that there might be a way out.” They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment. “Thank you.” He whispered gently as he leaned in closer to her lips. Suddenly he wanted to kiss her.
Suddenly Jack let out a long loud laugh as Curly tried to open a can of corned beef with an axe, sending the contents flying all over Larry and Moe. Sam laughed too. The moment for romance had passed. They had silently dealt with it and filed it away.
“Carter, did you know that you can learn a lot about people by watching the Stooges with them.” Jack announced, pulling the conversation back to a safe topic.
“Really, I haven’t heard that one, sir.”
“Sure you can. For instance, who’s your favorite Stooge?” He asked.
Carter thought about it. “Larry I guess.”
“See-that says you’re eager to please, always ready to obey orders.”
Daniel and Teal'c returned. The linguist was carrying a bowl of popcorn and Teal'c had four glasses of Coke on a TV tray.
“Daniel, who’s your favorite Stooge?” Jack asked, taking the soda with a nod to Teal'c.
“Who’s your favorite stooge?” The Colonel asked again, trying to be patient.
Jackson grinned. “Why?” He offered Jack and Sam a bowl of popcorn.
“For cryin’ out loud! Just answer the question!” O’Neill ordered with mock frustration.
“Curly.” Daniel blurted.
The Colonel turned smugly back to his second in command. “See-that shows he’s a sucker for a lost cause.”
“I beg your pardon?” The young man was confused.
“Colonel O’Neill says you can tell a lot about a person by who their favorite Stooge is.” Carter explained.
“Really…OK Jack, who is your favorite?”
The older man thought about it. “Moe.” He answered.
“That figures.” Daniel laughed. O’Neill bounced a fist off the top of his friend’s head, laughing too. Jackson countered with two fingers to the eyes, easily blocked by the Colonel.
They all shook with laughter. Sam put her head on Jack’s shoulder and he put his arm around Daniel’s back. The members of SG-1 settled back onto the couch, contented and safe in each other’s company.
“So can you answer that question for me now?” Daniel asked as he munched on a handful of buttery popcorn.
“What question is that?” The Colonel asked, taking a kernel of corn from his friend’s fist.
“Have you figured out your place on the team?” Jackson saw The Three Musketeers still lying on the table in front of them.
Colonel Jonathan O’Neill closed his eyes and put his head back on the overstuffed sofa. Over the past week or so he had realized that he didn’t just leave Edora because it was his duty to come back to Earth. There was more to it than that. Surrounded by friends and family, these were the connections that made him who he was. He could leave the planet, but that didn’t change a thing. And after all that had happened, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Right here, Danny boy, right here.” He answered with a warm smile, enjoying a quiet night with his closest friends. He was finally home.