|Primary Characters:||Jack, Daniel, Sam|
|Description:||Jack and Daniel encounter some aliens, who put them through a treatment that force them to relive their worst moments. The two men end up bonding, but Daniel also reveals his feelings for Sam.|
“Chevron six encoded.”
The flash of light and the blast of energy shot across the room, then the wormhole was open and stable. SG 1 walked up the stairs and into the white, waterlike substance. Seconds later they stepped out on the other side. The sunlight and the temperature was, as shown by the telemetry coming in from the probe, very similar to Earth’s conditions.
Since the Gu’a’ulds preferred to use human hosts, their living conditions couldn’t be all that different from their home planet’s. Just like many of the other planets the teams had explored, it was quiet, and seemingly empty. None of the data transmitted by the probe suggested that there was any indigenous life. The Gu’a’ulds must have left this world a long time ago.
“Ok. Let’s split up. Carter, Teal’c you go that way. Daniel and I’ll check out that plain over there. Meet you back here in an hour.”
The soil was dry and cracked. Apparently the summer had been going on for a long time, withering most of the smaller plant life. O’Neill and Daniel didn’t leave any foot prints. After about 15 minutes of walking, they found some odd stone formations, and Daniel expressed a wish to explore them.
O’Neill would have preferred to walk on for another 15 minutes or so, to be able to scan as much as possible of the planet before having to turn back to the rendez-vous point near the Stargate. But knowing the General often supported Daniel’s views on research, he grudgingly gave in.
“I guess we’ll check those rocks out. Go on. Knock yourself out.”
O’Neill’s low opinion of scientists and scholars in general and Daniel Jackson in particular was well known to the Stargate teams. It was a source of some disappointment to Daniel, who secretly admired the Colonel’s strength and agility, not to mention his natural authority, despite his somewhat unorthodox methods.
There were some apparently fascinating carvings in the rocks, and Daniel was soon totally absorbed by them.
O’Neill walked around impatiently, looking for any signs of technology, or anything else more within his understanding. Those boring old carvings held no interest for the Colonel. He was called back to the situation at hand, by a sound from Daniel. O’Neill turned and was about to rejoin his team mate, but before he had walked many paces in his direction, he saw what had prompted the outburst from the archaeologist.
Some creatures, vaguely humanoid in shape, about the size of Thor’s race, but totally dissimilar had surrounded Daniel and were making an enervating sound, a bit like a buzz or hum. O’Neill grabbed his automatic and was about to draw it. Daniel was making all kinds of efforts at communicating with the creatures, but to O’Neill it didn’t seem as if he was having much luck. There. With a gun in his hand, the Colonel always felt much better.
Daniel saw the gesture out of the corner of his eye, and turned to face the Colonel.
“No, Jack. Don’t. I’m trying to -“
He was interrupted by a blinding flash of light, that seemed to come from the direction of the creatures. O’Neill couldn’t see any weapons, but then he was half-blinded by the light anyway. When his eyes were back to normal again, he studied the situation closer.
Those creatures held their upper extremitites out to him in a way that to O’Neill suggested a threat. That was all he needed. Keeping his aim high, way over those creatures heads, he fired a round of warning shots. Again that blinding light flashed. Darkness rose to engulf them both.
When they came to, they appeared to be indoors. The space they were in had no apparent windows or doors, and no objects anywhere. Daniel and O’Neill were simply lying on the floor close together. O’Neill fumbled for his weapons but they were gone. A quick visual inspection told him Daniel had been similarly stripped. Ttheir radios were gone too.
O’Neill had a throbbing headache behind his left eye, and the beginnings of a temper tantrum coming on. He found that he could sit up, and that there didn’t seem to be much damage done, physically. Daniel too, was getting up, eagerly exploring the room. But he soon gave up and sat down again, his back against the wall. Now he fixed O’Neill with his particularly annoying look. O’Neill cut him off before he had time to begin his lecture.
“I hope this will be a lesson to you. All that bleeding heart communication mumbo-jumbo might be very well back on Earth, but as you can see, not all natives are friendly.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. Whose bright idea was it to start shooting at them anyway?”
“What? They were clearly hostile, so I made a decision to -“
“To anger them further. Great work, Jack.”
“Hold it just a second. Who’s in charge here?”
“Terrific. You see something or some people you don’t immediately understand, and you start blasting away with your guns. Violence’s victory over brains.”
“Brains? Hang on a sec. Are you implying I don’t have as much brains as you do?”
“You said it, not me.”
Before they came to blows, they were interrupted by a whizzing noise. A sort of doorway was opening in the wall behind them and a few of the creatures became visible against the sharp light outside.
After the gloom in the holding cell, both men were blinded again, and before their eyes had time to adjust, O’Neill felt himself move through the air. He fought to stay on the floor, but nothing he could do would change his trajectory. Soon he was outside the door, and Daniel lost sight of him.
Daniel settled down to wait, hoping that his team mate would be returned safely. They had their disagreements, but deep down, Daniel really cared about the Colonel. To his surprise, he didn’t have to wait for very long. The door opened again, and O’Neill was dumped unceremoniously on the floor.
Waiting for a few seconds to see if the creatures were going to remove him too, Daniel watched the door slide shut again, leaving the room in semi-darkness. He hurried over to O’Neill to check on him. To his astonishment he heard the Colonel crying helplessly, like a child.
“What’s wrong, Jack? Are you hurt?”
No reply. Daniel had a horrible premonition. If O’Neill sounded like this, how severely injured would he be? Quickly, he began a cursory physical examination, but couldn’t find any kind of injuries. Then why this crying? Daniel had no idea what to do. Anxiously, he remained nearby, and awkwardly tried to pat O’Neill’s shoulder from time to time.
“Jack? Come on, you’re not hurt. What’s the matter?”
But he wasn’t getting through to his team mate, and Daniel was forced to helplessly watch the man at his feet go through some private hell without being able to do anything about it.
After about half an hour, O’Neill became more coherent. And finally, Daniel gained some insight into O’Neill’s troubled mind.
The sun was shining. He was in the garden with Sarah. Everything was ok. (Why wouldn’t it be?). But the sunlight dimmed, and from an upstairs room they heard the sound of a shot. Suddenly, he was there, in his son’s room. On the floor, not far from the doorway – NO. No. No. No. No. And the scene played out in his mind again and again.
Somewhere far away someone was calling his name, but he couldn’t focus on the voice. Then someone’s hand reached out and touched him, and for a while he was able to break the connection with the memories rewinding and playing again over and over again in his mind.
“Daniel? It won’t stop. Make it stop.”
“Make what stop?”
“My son. He’s got my gun and -“
“No, Jack. That happened years ago. It’s just you and me here. Honestly.”
But the memories were still too fresh in O’Neill’s mind. He couldn’t pull himself together enough to stop crying, and at this point he was totally unable to worry about the fact that Daniel Jackson was right next to him, witnessing his loss of control.
Daniel wasn’t sure what to do to stem the flood of tears. If it had been anyone but O’Neill, he knew what he would have done, but knowing the Colonel as he did, he hesitated to get too close. In the end, however, he couldn’t bear to see so much pain, and he put his arms around his team mate and held on to him.
“It’s ok, Jack. I’m here. Just try to fight it.”
But it was seemingly hours, before O’Neill was able to pull himself out of the grip of his terrifying memories. He pulled away from Daniel, and moved some distance away. Daniel didn’t say anything. He knew O’Neill’s desperate need to seem strong and self-reliant. But after a few moments, he couldn’t contain himself. What had happened while O’Neill was gone? What had those creatures done to him? And why?
“What happened out there?”
No reply. It was obvious that O’Neill had a hard time reconciling himself to having basically been crying in Daniel’s arms.
“What happened out there? Ok. There was this contraption of some kind. They put like these electrodes on my head and they did something to mess up my mind.”
“I see. Did they give you any indication of why they would do such a thing?”
“What do you think I am? Some kind of interpreter? It’s not like I could make much sense out of those guys buzzing all the time.”
“Ok. But they didn’t hurt you? Physically, I mean?”
O’Neill coughed in embarrassment. Why couldn’t Daniel just leave him alone? Wasn’t this whole sitution painful enough as it was?
“No. I’m ok.”
“Good. We have to think of some way of getting out of here. Any suggestions?”
Actually, O’Neill was grateful to have something less personal to concentrate on. He turned to face Daniel, with a look of something like approval on his face.
“Well, this place doesn’t exactly look promising, but I’ll do my best. What about you? Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions?”
“Not right now. I’ll have to get back to you. Let’s hope Sam and Teal’c are able to find us, or at least to report back to base.”
Of course, O’Neill should have thought about that himself. If only he could snap out of this weakened state. If there was anything he hated, it was losing face like this, and if there was one person in the entire world he hated to have this kind of thing happen with, it was Daniel Jackson. He knew that Teal’c would have given him his privacy, and never referred to the moment again afterwards. And Sam –
No, it was better not to dwell on the blonde captain under his command. Even if she returned his feelings – Actually, he didn’t think Daniel would embarrass him later by bringing this situation up again in conversation, but he would always know that Daniel had seen him like this, and he couldn’t help being bothered by this knowledge.
They didn’t get very far in their planning before the door opened again and this time Daniel was hauled out of the cell. Now he could see for himself the room where the creatures strapped him to the contraption O’Neill had mentioned.
Whatever they did to Daniel, he soon forgot everything about trying to make observations, or even communicating with the creatures. At least the Colonel had been right about one thing. Trying to understand the language of the creatures, if that’s what it was, seemed impossible. Daniel hardly noticed being returned to the holding cell and left there.
Sha’re? Forgive me for not being able to save you. Daniel knew somewhere deep down that Sha’re couldn’t really be here. She had died and there really wasn’t anything more to say about that. But here she was anyway. Her eyes seemed to implore Daniel to save her, and this time, Daniel was sure there was also an unspoken accusation in his wife’s eyes. She seemed to be blaming him for her death. And she was right. Shouldn’t he have been able to do more to save her? To bring her back from the Gu’a’ulds’ slavery?
But instead, he had let her die. And what was far worse than anything else, was that he had never really loved her, not the way a man should love his wife. He had been flattered, overjoyed even, to be given such a lovely wife. No girls had been standing in line to date the geeky young Daniel when he was a teenager. If any of his colleagues of later years had had an interest for him, he had simply not been paying attention. His work had been more important, and he hadn’t really noticed what he was missing, until he had been sent to Abydos.
He couldn’t take it anymore. Sobs broke from him and he was shaking, with the onslaught of grief and guilt. What sort man was he anyway? Couldn’t get a date, had to be given his wife as a sort of gift, and even after being given something that precious, he lost her. He couldn’t hold on to her, and in the end, he couldn’t even save her life. From a distance, O’Neill watched, growing more and more uneasy.
Daniel was distraught, and there didn’t seem to be anything he could do to help. He had never been much good with this kind of thing, and since losing his son and his wife, he had dealt with emotions by shutting them off completely. Still, he felt Daniel’s pain as his own. Shouldn’t he do something to help? But what? All this mushy emotional stuff was more Sam’s department than his.
“Hey, Daniel. Snap out of it, will you? None of that stuff is real. Come on, Daniel. Get up.”
But he wasn’t getting through, and it was getting more and more difficult to keep his distance. Earlier, when he had been going through the same cycle of pain, Daniel hadn’t hesitated to comfort him. So why was he being such a bastard?
This was at the very least a comrade in arms, even if Daniel never carried much firepower, a valuable member of the team (yes, O’Neill knew that Daniel’s input had been important on a number of missions, even if he chose to ignore that most of the time), and also – O’Neill knew this too, a man who had been trying to be a good friend almost from the start. It wasn’t fair to blame Daniel for his aloofness. After all, the Colonel wasn’t such a cheerful person either. Who knew how difficult it was to spend most of your life studying, living the dry life of a scholar? Maybe Daniel wasn’t such a bad person after all.
“Oh, I suppose I could -“
And he gathered up Daniel in his arms and held him, awkwardly patting his shoulder, and after a moment’s hesitation, his hair.
“There, there. It’s going to be ok. I promise. It wears off after a while. Daniel. Hey. Don’t cry.”
O’Neill felt completely helpless. His touch didn’t seem to have much effect, and neither did his words. What could he say anyway? He didn’t know for sure what was torturing Daniel like this, but it really didn’t matter. All that mattered was for the attack to pass.
Where could the other members of the SG1 team be? For the first time since their capture, O’Neill realized that they too might have been captured. Naturally, General Hammond would send other teams to look for them, but in the meantime they were stuck in here, and these creatures could do anything they wanted to them. And would the other SG teams even be able to find them? For all he knew they might have been taken off world and were anywhere at all in the galaxy.
He forced down the gloomy thought for now, but he knew it would come back to haunt him again, if they weren’t rescued very soon.
After what seemed like an eternity, Daniel once again managed to pull himself together. Jack let him go with a feeling of profound relief. Colonel Jack O’Neill had been cradling another man on his lap. If anyone had seen them like that together – He shuddered at the thought.
Not that he was an altogether unfeeling man. When one of the men or women under his command had some kind of problem that didn’t affect their performance he would always cut them some slack, but this mushy hugging stuff just wasn’t Jack’s thing. Daniel dragged himself away some distance and looked at Jack.
“Why did I let her die?”
O’Neill knew far too well that there was only one person Daniel could be referring to, but he couldn’t stop himself from stalling a little.
Daniel didn’t appear to have heard him, but went on anyway.
“Sha’re. I let her down badly and now she’s gone. Do you think she forgave me?”
This was something O’Neill would never willingly have let himself in for. In fact, he would much rather have faced enemy fire than trying to hold Daniel’s hand through this soul-searching.
“I’m sure she would have. She loved you -“
But that, apparently, wasn’t the right thing to say. Daniel’s face crumpled up, and for a horrible second, O’Neill thought he was going to cry again.
“But I didn’t love her. Not the way a man should love his wife. I was just – Not the way I love Sam.”
Daniel didn’t notice how O’Neill’s face hardened, and the Colonel even seemed to pull away physically, but he didn’t say anything.
“I’m sure you did everything you could. Let it go, Daniel. It was the Gu’a’ulds who took her away from you. There was nothing you could have done.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Daniel, I’m sure. And I’ll tell you something else. Sha’re wouldn’t want you to suffer. When you’re beating yourself up like this, you’re letting those creatures win. Don’t do that. Pull yourself together.”
Amazingly, O’Neill’s rough kindness seemed to help a little. Daniel relaxed and sat back again to wait. For anything that was going to happen to them.
Suddenly, the door opened again, and the creatures were standing outside. Soon they felt themselves floating through the air again. What was going to happen to them now? Colonel O’Neill felt helpless without any kind of weapon. He wasn’t used to situations like this, and when they did happen, he was at a loss as to how to deal with them.
They didn’t see much in the blinding light, but when it faded away, they were on the ground, not far from the Stargate. No bones appeared to be broken, and there was no evidence of any other physical injuries. A uniformed man approached, calling out to the other team members.
“Captain Carter? They’re over here.”
Sam hurried over to the spot the lieutenant was indicating. They had been over the immediate vicinity of the Stargate over and over again, in the past hours. Daniel and Colonel O’Neill simply hadn’t been here the last time they looked. So now they had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. She studied them anxiously for signs of injuries, or any kind of change. They appeared none the worse for wear.
“Are you ok?”
O’Neill and Daniel exchanged looks. What would they say about their ordeal? Naturally, everything had to go into the report, but right now, talking about what they had experienced was a bit too much.
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
Sam gave Daniel her hand and helped him to his feet. After one look at the Colonel she pulled her hand back and let him get up on his own.
“Can you tell me what happened? You’ve been incommunicado for about six hours.”
“Six hours, huh? It seemed longer than that. Well, Carter, I think the report can wait a while longer. How about getting off this world right now?”
Captain Carter considered the suggestion. Naturally, the Colonel outranked her, so whatever he said went. But she couldn’t help wondering why he was being so evasive about what had been going on in this world. These things were not for her to reflect on however, so she just nodded. Once back on Earth, General Hammond could order both men to see Dr Fraiser.
It didn’t take the two SG teams who had been detailed to search for the missing SG team members long to return to the Stargate and go through it back to Earth. Just like Sam had predicted, O’Neill and Daniel were ordered to go see dr Fraiser, who subjected them to the most minute physical examinations. Several hours later, Dr Fraiser had the results ready. In the de-briefing, General Hammond asked her about her findings. Sam, Teal’c, O’Neill and Daniel were also present.
“I can’t find anything physically wrong with them, sir. The toxicology report came back empty, and there are no injuries that I can detect. The only unusual findings I can report are some slightly elevated levels of stress hormone in the brain. That’s all.”
“I see. You have no objections to Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson returning to duty at once?”
“That’s not what I said, sir. It seems to me that both patients are exhibiting symptoms attributable to severe stress and emotional trauma. I would recommend they take some time off, and preferably see a psychologist if not a psychiatrist.”
Now O’Neill couldn’t keep quiet anymore.
“Is that an order? I mean about going to a shrink?”
Janet considered the General’s question.
“No. If Colonel O’Neill doesn’t want to, I don’t see that it can do any good. But in the meantime, I’d prefer to keep him on Earth, and off-duty.”
“Well, gentlemen, you heard the doctor. I shall expect your full reports first thing in the morning. In writing. Now, I’d like both of you to tell me in your own words what happened.”
O’Neill seemed to be looking at a point somewhere above the General’s head. For a while it seemed as if he wasn’t going to say anything. In fact it was even doubtful that he had heard a word anyone had said after Dr Fraiser had informed him that he wasn’t going to have to see a psychiatrist. That was another thing Colonel O’Neill detested.
At that moment, Daniel appeared to be totally absorbed in the study of his own hands.
Daniel looked up uncertainly and tried to catch O’Neill’s eye. But the Colonel still stared in the other direction, heedless of the plea in Daniel’s eyes. But when Daniel drew in breath to try and describe the experience, O’Neill interrupted.
“Dr Jackson and I were exploring the planet, when Dr Jackson discovered some rocks with what he appeared to find extremely interesting rock carvings. Then these aliens showed up. They acted in a hostile way, and I decided to fire a round of warning shots. Wait, Daniel. Let me tell this my way, then you can have your say. The aliens gave off some kind of flashing light and we passed out. When we woke up, we were in some kind of cell or holding area. After a while, the aliens returned and removed me from that cell. I was subjected to some kind of treatment.”
“There was this machine that they strapped me into, putting these electrodes on my head. The next thing I knew my mind was all screwed up.”
“In what way?”
Again that evasiveness. O’Neill and Daniel appeared to be considering what to say. Sam was wondering what had really happened, and why it seemed to be such a secret? Or weren’t they sure exactly what had happened to them? This wasn’t like the Colonel or Daniel.
“I kind of had these visions.”
“I see. Doctor Jackson? You were going to say -?”
“In my opinion, the aliens didn’t exactly act in a hostile way to begin with. I was trying to communicate with them, but there didn’t seem to be any way of doing that.”
“That’s all. I have nothing more to add to Colonel O’Neill’s account.”
“Very well. You may go to your quarters.”
“What? If I can’t work, why can’t I go home?”
“I would prefer you to stay here for the time being, Colonel O’Neill.”
“Is that an order?”
“Is it necessary for me to make it an order?”
“Ok. I hear you. See you later, sir.”
“I don’t mind staying here. My place isn’t exactly cosy anyway.”
Sam got up and followed Daniel out of the room. They could both see O’Neill disappearing quickly in the direction of his quarters.
“Wait up, Daniel. Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
But he wouldn’t meet her eyes, and Sam took the hint. For now, he didn’t want to discuss the incident with her. She wouldn’t push. With a worried frown on her face, Sam turned and went into the lab to do some work.
As soon as he saw her leave, Daniel hurried past his own quarters, to find O’Neill. He found him aimlessly sorting through his gear.
O’Neill didn’t sound enthusiastic, and Daniel almost gave up and returned to his own quarters. But he decided to try one more time.
“Would you mind some company?”
A long drawn out pause. Daniel began to think he wasn’t going to get a reply. Then O’Neill slowly turned around and watched Daniel speculatively.
“No. Go ahead.”
Daniel sat down on the chair over by the wall. After moving a few objects back and forth a bit, O’Neill sat down too, on his bunk.
“About what happened -“
“What about it?”
“I don’t know. If I said anything -“
The silence was tense, as if they were waiting for something. But Daniel knew that he had already said too much under the influence of whatever treatment the aliens had put him through. It was too late for silence now.
Again he thought O’Neill wouldn’t reply, but after a much longer pause this time, the Colonel spoke up.
The encouragement included in that terse statement was practically non-existent, but Daniel forced himself to push on anyway.
“I know how you feel about Sam -“
The words came out sharply, almost violently, but didn’t express disbelief so much as a challenge.
“Yes. It’s obvious to anyone who works this closely with both of you.”
“I just can’t deny the way I feel about her. I’m sorry, Jack, but I had to tell you. Now that those aliens messed with my brain, and it came out anyway -“
“You think I don’t know that? Do you really think I’d blame you for feeling that way? If anything you have more right to feel that way than I do.”
“That business about not getting involved with anyone under your command?”
“It might not mean much to you, but it’s the rules that we live by and many of them have saved our lives on more than one occasion. Mine too.”
“But if – I mean, couldn’t one of you ask for a transfer?”
“And leave the Stargate project?”
“Oh. I guess not.”
“Anyway, I have no way of knowing how she feels about me.”
There. It was out in the open. An established fact. They both loved the same woman.
Did it make Daniel feel any better? He didn’t think so. Like O’Neill had said, the important thing was how Sam felt. And why would she return his feelings or O’Neill’s? She was just as likely to love someone else, or no one at all at this time. But it appeared O’Neill had been reading his mind. His next words seemed to point eerily in that direction.
“Listen, Daniel, go see her now. Talk to her. This waiting isn’t doing either one of us any good. Wouldn’t it be better to know, and be done with it?”
“Do you think so?”
“Yes, I do.”
The Colonel’s voice didn’t sound half as determined as he no doubt tried to make it. Definitely not the way he sounded when giving an order, while on a mission.
Daniel thought over the suggestion, and realized that now that his feelings were no secret anymore, there was no turning back. Either he told Sam how he felt about her, or gave up on her forever.
Neither alternative felt very appealing. He could count the times he had declared his love for a woman on the fingers of one hand. And though he didn’t want to dwell on the fact, he hadn’t been very successful even on those few occasions.
But that was the past. Things were different now, or at least he tried to tell himself that. Working on the Stargate project had helped him open up, and practice his social skills far more than ever before.
Sam and he seemed to connect and understand each other, but for all he knew, she might be acting that way around all men, and for that matter all women. After all, Sam was a very friendly and outgoing person. But Daniel didn’t want to consider that interpretation.
“Ok. You’re right. That’s the only thing I can do.”
Now that his suggestion was being followed, O’Neill almost wished he hadn’t made it in the first place. But he knew this was the way it had to be. No matter how much he wished things could be different.
Daniel got up to leave, but in the doorway he turned and watched his friend searchingly. Could he really do this to Jack?
“Go on. Get going. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Jack. You don’t know how much that means to me.”
“Yes, yes. Will you leave already, or do I have to throw you out?”
“Alright. Thanks again.”
O’Neill’s face didn’t encourage any more small talk, so Daniel just left. If only he could steady his nerves enough not to make a fool of himself with Sam.
He found her still working on the Tok’ra devices, completely absorbed in her work.
“Oh, hello, Daniel. Feeling better, I hope?”
“Uh, yes. Are you busy? I could come back later.”
Sam’s fingers pressed a key on one of the devices and looked up.
“No. That’s ok. I’m about done for today. Come in. Or would you rather go somewhere else?”
“I said, we could go somewhere and talk.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
“We could go to the mess hall. But I think it will be a bit crowded this time of night. How about my quarters?”
“Oh. Yes, let’s do that.”
It was almost as if Sam had read his mind. Could she have any idea of what he wanted to discuss with her? That wasn’t possible, surely? And if by some remote chance she did, how could he know that what she was going to tell him was what he wanted to hear? Maybe she wanted to spare him the humiliation of being rejected in public.
He didn’t know how women did it, but somehow they always managed to make their bare quarters seem more like a home than any man was capable of. This room was exactly the same as Daniel’s own, whenever he spent time on the base, yet Sam had managed to transform it, into something far comfortable. He wasn’t sure what the difference was, but he could feel it clearly. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there wasn’t any clothes strewn all over the furniture, like in most of the other rooms, Daniel’s own included.
“Why don’t you sit down? I’ll just go -“
Sam indicated the bathroom. She was only gone for a minute or so, but when she returned, the change was obvious, even to Daniel’s untrained eyes. Her face looked even more beautiful, and she must have done something to her hair, but Daniel couldn’t guess what it was.
“Daniel what happened out there? I was so worried about you – About both of you. You seem so changed, but you were only gone for about 6 hours. And Janet says you haven’t been injured in any way, or drugged or anything like that.”
“No. They didn’t hurt us at all. At least not physically.”
“Then what did they do?”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now, Sam. Please.”
She appeared to think his statement over, then she smiled, though she couldn’t keep a worried frown from creasing her face.
“Ok. I’m just glad to have you back in one piece. You and the Colonel.”
“Yes. Sam -“
“I was thinking -“
No, this was no good. How did you tell a woman you love her? Daniel had no idea how other men did, but for him there was no other way than simply saying it.
“Sam, I love you.”
Again that unsettling scrutiny, then finally her features relaxed into her usual warm Sam-smile.
“Oh, Daniel, I thought you’d never have the courage to tell me.”
“Come on, it’s been written all over you for I don’t know how long. But I was beginning to think that you’d never get as far as to actually say it to my face.”
He should have known that Sam was far more clever than any of them. There really wasn’t anything she didn’t know. But telling her was only half the battle, and there was also the matter of O’Neill.
“I didn’t know how to say it. Especially since Jack -“
Sam’s face clouded over, and Daniel experienced a sinking feeling. She did love Jack. All this agonizing had been for nothing. But he was interrupted in his train of thought.
“I know how Jack feels about me. And I’m really sorry for him. But I can’t feel the same way about him.”
“Why? I can’t believe you’re saying this. Because I love someone else, naturally. What other reason could there be?”
She didn’t love Jack. There was still hope. But Daniel was afraid to hear the rest so he started talking quickly. Well, actually, babbling.
“That rule that says an officer can’t be involved with someone of a lower rank?”
Sam appeared far more inclined to dismiss the rules that O’Neill had clung to so desperately. Now she was smiling again, and there was a look in her eyes that could only be described as teasing. What was she going to say now? Daniel wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but could find no way of postpoing the relevation he was dreading and hoping for equally.
“Well – Aren’t you going to ask me who it is?”
“Martouf? He meant a lot to me, and I suspect I meant even more to him. At least Jolinar did, and indirectly he came to care about me too. But Martouf’s not the person I love. I suppose I’m going to have to say it myself. But you know the answer already. Why are men such cowards?”
“Please say it. I need to hear it.”
“Ok. You idiot, it’s you I love, no one else.”
Daniel couldn’t believe he was hearing this. Maybe he was still lying in the holding cell on that other world dreaming, hoping against all hope. But he knew this was real. Sam had told him she loved him. The image of Sha’re shimmered before his eyes, but Jack had been right, it was over. There was nothing he could have done, and Sha’re wouldn’t want him to be unhappy.
He couldn’t believe he was doing it, but he reached out and pulled Sam into his arms. Now he couldn’t see Sha’re anymore. Her image was being replaced by Sam. Just like he had known, Sam’s kiss tasted more sweetly than any he had ever experienced. The pain from earlier was washed away in the rush of joy sweeping over him.
Outside in the corridor the person who had been listening to their private conversation felt his heart constrict in his chest. It was a while before he was able to collect himself enough to silently return to his own quarters. So it was over. Sam had never loved him.
Suddenly, he couldn’t stay inside the base anymore. He needed to be outdoors, to feel the wind on his face, the chill of night to replace the pain he felt with some other sensation.
O’Neill ran blindly towards the exit. The guards stared in consternation at the Colonel, but they didn’t have the authority to question his movements. Neither did they think to report the unusual behavior to General Hammond.
By morning, O’Neill was standing outside his ex-wife’s house, wondering if he could knock on the door. Why had he ended up here? That hadn’t been his intention. All he had wanted to was to get as far away from the base as possible. And now he was here, feeling like a teenager trying to catch a glimpse of an ex-girlfriend who had meant more to him than any of the others.
Suddenly he couldn’t bear the silence and the loneliness anymore. The worst that could happen was that Sarah would send him away again. If she did, at least he would get to see her again, and hear her voice.
This early in the morning, Sarah’s hair always looked like no hairbrush could make much impact on it. Even without make-up, Jack thought she was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen, not counting Sam.
“Jack? Is anything wrong?”
“No. Is this a bad time?”
“No. Come in.”
He couldn’t read anything from her voice or her face. Not that he ever could. But there was a time, when he didn’t have to. Back when he and Sarah took things for granted, never knowing how fragile their lives were.
“I was just making coffee. Want a cup?”
“Yes, would you like something to eat with your coffee?”
“You won’t mind if I have some myself, I guess?”
“What? No, of course not. I don’t want to get in your way.”
Sarah moved about the kitchen, finishing the last preparations, then sat down and had her breakfast in silence. He thought he could detect some sideways glances from her direction, but he wasn’t sure. When she was done, she put away the marmalade and cleared away the dirty dishes. Then she sat down again.
He had always loved their kitchen. Her kitchen now. The light in here was special, not like anywhere else he’d been. But the past wasn’t why he had come. He didn’t know exactly why he had, but the past was something he wasn’t prepared to bring up unless she forced him to.
“I don’t know how to -“
“Not that you need an excuse. You’re always welcome here, you know that.”
He hadn’t expected that. It was far more generous than he deserved. Her voice had actually sounded warm, though the dark shadows in her eyes never left. Before he could think of a way to go on, she spoke up again.
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong? You look shaken somehow.”
“Well, we ran into some trouble -“
General Hammond would have his head if he revealed more about the classified Stargate project than he already had, so he bit off the sentence. Sarah didn’t appear to have noticed.
“I can’t tell you any details but I guess you could say the enemy used some kind of mind control or brainwashing -“
The sudden alarm on her face almost convinced him that she still cared a little about him. Hurriedly he amended the statement, to save her from worrying.
“It’s not permanent. But it made me remember things. Very vividly.”
There was no need to specify what things. He and Sarah shared those memories and though he sometimes managed to force down the images, he knew she couldn’t. But he could tell she didn’t understand, so he tried to find the words to explain how it had felt. Not the pain of loss and guilt, but the prolonged exposure to the vivid images burning into his brain.
“It just went on and on for what seemed like hours. I didn’t just remember, Sarah. The images came back and played out in my mind over and over again.”
Now she did see, and to his surprise, her hand shot out and for a brief moment squeezed his. He never ceased to be amazed how good most women were. Good, kind, loving. Far more than he’d ever deserved, even before –
“I – I’m really sorry, Jack. That must have been -“
She didn’t finish the sentence, and he thought she was being far more sympathetic than he deserved. Knowing her as he did, even now, when they had been apart for so long, he knew those images hardly ever stopped playing in her mind. He had done that to her.
So how could she forgive him? Because he knew she had. He only wished he could do the same. But forgiveness was something he couldn’t allow himself. He didn’t deserve that, or her kindness. It was time he banished the concern from her eyes. Time she knew what kind of man he was.
“There’s something else I need to tell you.”
The look she gave him told him she had never had any illusions. It was almost as if she could sense what he was about to say. But that was nonsense. Or was it? Hadn’t she always known more about everything than he did?
And now there was no encouragement. She was content to wait for him to get to the reason for his arrival on her doorstep.
“There’s someone I’ve – Someone I thought I loved.”
“I see. You thought?”
“I don’t know anymore. Anyway, my feelings weren’t returned and -“
“Oh, I understand. She turned you down, and now you come running back to me with your tail between your legs.”
Her voice sounded so bitter it occurred to him that in all these years, when her pain and her silence had driven him away, when her distance had made it impossible to continue the relationship, she had been hoping for him to make a move. To come back to her, despite everything.
What a fool he was. Long before he ever met Sam he had loved Sarah, and now he was beginning to think that all he had ever sought from Sam was something to blot out the images in his mind. To make him forget the pain he and Sarah shared. As if that was ever going to be possible.
And by running away, he had made things worse. They should have sorted things out together. He could have refused to let himself be pushed away, seeing through her mask of indifference and not given up so easily.
If Daniel felt guilty for what had happened to his wife, what about this? Daniel wasn’t responsible for what had happened to Sha’re, but everything that had happened to Sarah had been her husband’s fault. Not some aliens.
“No. At first I didn’t know why I came back here. But I do now. I also remembered what we once had. Please tell me it’s not too late.”
“You come here telling me that you love another woman and you expect me to take you back as if nothing’s happened?”
“I didn’t say I love her. I said I thought I did. In those visions, just before – You were there and I felt again what I felt then. I want that back, Sarah. Don’t tell me you don’t want it too.”
“No. I can’t tell you that. I wanted it. All the time since it happened, I’ve wanted you to see through my pretense. I kept hoping you’d understand that I needed you to get me through it all. But you just left. And now – You just can’t expect me to ignore the fact that you “think” you love some other woman.”
“I’m sorry, Sarah, I’ve really made a mess of things, haven’t I?”
“Tell me more about this woman.”
“She’s a captain under my command. We work together on this project.”
“Ok. What else?”
“She’s a scientist, extremely brilliant. Used to drive me crazy, but then I thought I saw something else in her.”
“If you thought so, how can you be so sure you didn’t?”
“Because – and you don’t have to believe this – when I saw you again, I realized that whatever I thought I saw it was nothing compared to what you and I had. What I hope we can have again.”
“You’ve never lied to me before, Jack, but I still don’t think I can just accept this wild tale without some kind of proof I can trust you.”
“I don’t know what else I can tell you. Do you want me to go? I’m probably in violation of some code or other right now, so maybe I should call back to base.”
“You just walked out? This doesn’t sound like you, Jack. It was always work first ever since we met.”
“That’s where I was wrong. If you give me another chance it won’t be like that, I swear.”
“Don’t promise anything you can’t keep. No, I don’t want you to go. But you won’t be court-martialled over this, will you?”
“I don’t think so. They’re used to my little quirks by now.”
She actually smiled at that, and that was far more than he had expected after the way he had treated her.
“Tell me about you. What have you been doing? Any news?”
“Acually, there is. I was going to call you and ask you a favor, actually.”
“What? I’ll do anything.”
“Would you look after the house for me? Well, for us really.”
“Why? Where are you going?”
“I’m going back to work. For the CIA.”
“You heard me. They tried to recruit me in the past. Remember when we met, I always said I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life in uniform. When they asked me again, I thought there was no reason to say no.”
“Where will you be stationed?”
“You know I can’t tell you that. But at first I’ll be in DC, catching up on my physical training. And they’ll probably want to teach me a thing or two about electronics too. A thing or two has happened since I last worked in the field.”
“Please don’t do this, Sarah. I need you. Don’t go.”
“You expect me to sacrifice my career, for what? Do you want us to live together again?”
“No. Yes. That’s not what I meant. I just don’t want you so far away. Hang on a sec. I just got an idea. Maybe I should make that call to General Hammond anyway.”
“We need a friendly CIA contact. You could be the liaison officer stationed at the base.”
“You think I want to exchange the work of a CIA field agent for what? Going down into some airbase in the Cheyenne mountains. What could you possibly be doing there that compares? Is it something to do with astronomy?”
“In a way. But I promise you, this is the most fascinating project we’ve ever been involved in. We, the people of Earth. Not just me and the others of the team. I swear. But I can’t tell you more before clearing this with Hammond.”
“Say I accepted. Would you really be able to get me stationed out there?”
“I think so. Sarah, this is the best idea I’ve ever had. Please let me ask Hammond about it.”
Despite herself, Sarah was beginning to feel moved by his enthusiasm.
“You can guarantee this will be more interesting than working in the field?”
“Yes. You won’t be disappointed, I know. This is way beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I can’t wait to tell you about it.”
“And if I do get stationed at the base, what then? You’re not allowed to have a relationship with anyone under your command.”
“No. But you won’t be under my command. In a way, we’ll all be under your command. But it’s not the same. I’m willing to bet that though we can’t exactly advertise the fact that we’re – involved – no one would mind. There are no rules that apply.”
“Ok. Call your General. But what if I do agree to take you back, say we want to have another child?”
O’Neill caught himself staring at Sarah as if he’d never seen her before. That was something he never allowed himself to even dream about. Another child. Could she really be serious?
“Are you serious? I never thought -“
“Of course I’m serious. I’m not getting any younger and neither are you.”
And she reached out and ruffled his greying hair a little. This was the old Sarah, the one he could hardly remember. O’Neill’s harsh features softened a little into a smile.
“Yes, say we do. What about it?”
“Who’s going to give up his or her career?”
“Neither one of us. I swear. I’ll get the General to reschedule my work and you’d be doing desk duty mostly anyway. You and me could both work part time and share the responsibilities.”
“Well, you certainly have changed. This isn’t something I ever thought I’d hear you say.”
“I’ll call General Hammond now. Ok?”
“Ok. But about the relationship, I won’t promise anything more than that I’ll give you a chance. We’ll take it from there, ok?”
“Ok. Sarah, you don’t know how much this means to me. You’ve given me a whole new life.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as that. Go on. Make that call. I need to get dressed and straighten out my hair. But I guess I’ll need to have it cut short if I’m going to work with you people.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll ask General Hammond to make an exception in your case. Besides, if the CIA doesn’t demand short hair, why should we? You’re not a flyboy.”
“Thank you for noticing.”
O’Neill could hardly believe it. Sarah was smiling again, and though he didn’t know it, he was smiling back at her, like the young Jack had, so many years ago. Before she disappeared, he reached out and pulled her into his arms for just a moment. At first she tensed up, but when she realized he wasn’t going to kiss her, she relaxed into his strong arms and held on to him in return. Before letting her go he let his lips lightly brush her hair.
When he had finished the call, he was still smiling. The General had had quite a few things to say about his unauthorized absence from the base, but he noted that at no time during the conversation was the word AWOL mentioned. He just stood there, saying, yes, sir, no, sir, until the General had to stop to catch his breath.
O’Neill used the momentary lull in the conversation to bring up his suggestion. After thinking the matter through carefully, the General gave his approval and promised he would get in touch with the appropriate office at the CIA. But there didn’t seem to be any doubt as to his eventual success. He finished by promising to get back to Colonel O’Neill as soon as he had anything to tell him. There were no signs of surprise when O’Neill told him at what number he could be reached.
“Oh, Jack -“
“I’ve changed my mind about you staying here at the base. Stay with your wife. I won’t expect you or her at work until you’ve had some R &R. Will a week do?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“That will be all, Colonel.”
O’Neill realized that he had been holding the silent receiver in his hand for at least two full minutes and hurriedly hung up. Sarah would be down by now, wondering what he was up to. And she was. She was in the kitchen, doing the dishes from breakfast.
“Let me do that.”
She turned and stared at him, raising her eyebrows in astonishment. Sarah was never astonished. But this was something she had never expected. This was a new and very changed Jack.
“Ok. But don’t break anything.”
“If I do, I’ll pay for it. But I can do the dishes, you know. What did you think I did at my place? Throw the dirty ones away and buy new ones?”
“Something like that, I guess.”
“You’re being unfair. Sit down and let’s talk. The General will call me back as soon as he’s managed to reach one of your bosses. But he thought it was a great idea. You’ll see, we’ll be working together soon.”
“Ok. When do you need to get back?”
“The General told me to take a week off. And he said I could stay here with you.”
“Was that an order?”
“You know, I do believe it was. And we couldn’t disobey a direct order, could we?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. Well, I’ll be upstairs getting the guest room ready. Let me know when you hear from the General, ok?”
“Will do. But I wouldn’t want you to go through all that trouble on my account.”
“You don’t want to sleep in the guest room? But I wouldn’t dream of letting you sleep on the couch.”
“The couch? Oh, that’s ok.”
“You’re a very bad actor, Jack. The couch wasn’t quite what you had in mind, was it?”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“No, I guess not. And where should a husband sleep, but in bed right next to his wife? Alright, you win. I’ll stay here and enjoy the show instead. Watch it. That cup is – correction – was – a gift from your mother.”
“Sorry. I’ll just call her and have her send another one. I happen to know she’s got the entire house filled with that set. More than one set actually.”
“Don’t worry about it. I have about two sets myself. Actually, I think you’re quite good. It’s not as if I’m a much better housekeeper myself, as you probably remember.”
“Well, now that you mention it – I wasn’t going to but -“
“You know what, Jack, you’re not a gentleman. It’s not polite to tell your wife she’s no good as a housekeeper.”
“Who said I was a gentleman? There. It’s done. Only one cup broken, that’s quite a record.”
“I should have known. Well, I guess it’s more fun to have a man around the house who isn’t a gentleman. No, Jack, let me go. I need to do a thousand things today, and you need to get over to your place and pack. If you’re serious about staying here.”
“Of course I’m serious. Yes, ma’am.”
Jack even made a mock salute, before letting go of Sarah with the other arm.
“See you later.”
He felt a completely new man compared to how he had been that morning. A new and almost happy man. If he had really loved Sam, as he had believed he had until he had seen Sarah again, he wouldn’t have been able to forget her this quickly.
Now he realized that deep down he had never stopped considering Sarah as his wife and the woman he loved. The scars the pain of losing their son had left them with would always be there, but he now saw that no one else could help him, and no one else would have been able to help Sarah. This was where the healing had to start.
He was glad he had given Daniel the push that had finally made him speak to Sam. In fact, he wished them all the happiness in the world. When he saw Daniel again, he’d tell him that. Something told him it would mean a lot to the shy scholar. And he couldn’t wait to begin working with Sarah. The adventure of the Stargate was something he should have been able to share with her from the start.
But it wasn’t too late. He could show her everything to do with the project. And he knew she would be as filled with wonder as he had become. Suddenly the future didn’t look bleak anymore. Anything could happen. Anything good. Maybe there was more pain to come, but if so, they would face it together. He would never run again. This was where he belonged. With Sarah, his wife. As he hurried out to his car to obey her order, there was a smile on his face.
What he didn’t know was that Sarah too was smiling indulgently as she saw him leave. His return to her had meant as much to her, even though she wasn’t willing to be as open about it. But she had only agreed to work with him because he had seemed to be so excited about the prospect. At least she would still be a CIA agent, and it really didn’t matter where she worked.
She thought it would be a good idea to work together again, like they had when they first met. Becoming a housewife had been a mistake. If her mother had looked after their son – But she wouldn’t think about that now. It was too late for recriminations. Now it was time to look forward, not backwards. Jack had come back to her, and that was really all she had ever asked.