Following The Leader Series - Part 7: Being The Leader
Funny how the
first thing that comes back is the hearing, followed closely by the sense of
taste. Usually it’s that Godawful anaesthetic. Do they take lessons in how to
make it taste so damn nasty and then so thick that it clogs up your pipes,
making you want to gag with it? No anaesthetic this time, but the feeling that
something’s crawled inside there and died hasn’t gone. Can hear the road runner
in the distance too. Its distinct *beep-beep* announcing to all and sundry that
despite life’s many attempts to do away with me, I’m still here.
I can hear
distant voices now. Can’t make out a darned word they’re saying yet, but that’s
hardly a new sensation. Too used to waking up feeling my brain’s been scrambled
and not having the foggiest how it got that way. In my younger days it wouldn’t
have bothered me one bit, back then when the worst I had to recover from was too
many chasers. That was back when life was sweet and nothing could hurt you,
before life’s lessons got learned.
movement nearby and I know someone’s very close, but I can’t feel anything and
that’s strange. Normally someone’s holding my hand when I wake up in this joint.
It’s not something I’d like to advertise outside of SG-1, but we all do it for
each other, to help ground whoever’s coming round. I’d never admit to
appreciating it, but now when it’s not there, I kinda miss it. Where are my
“Jack? Can you
hear me, Jack?”
I’m too tired
to even think of answering him, but at least Danny’s here.
should hear this. This is amazing.”
Oh, yes? Now
where have I heard that one before? Colonel’s executive toy, make and model
reference: Daniel, anthropologist, is in full excite mode.
“If I can get
all of these stories down on tape, it’ll help us so much in understanding how
our own nomadic tribes developed. See where the similarities and the differences
are.” Daniel’s eyes are lit up like Christmas trees, as he struggles to keep up
with Woono. The native babbles on, saying something I can’t understand and
probably wouldn’t be interested in, even if I *did* understand. Daniel can
understand though, that much is obvious by his ‘kid in a candy store’
impression, and he’s enjoying every moment. I’m surprised his note book can keep
pace with him, as he scrawls across page after page, taking copious notes.
we’re staying with remind me of the African Maasai plains peoples. Tall, proud,
dark people, with laughing eyes and even brighter smiles. Their red clothing and
red and blue beaded necklaces contrast against the tone of their skin as they
walk and it’s difficult not to respond to their smiles. Their laughs are
darn-right infectious. Danny says even the language they speak has a lot of
similarities to Maa, the language of the Maasai, so it’s almost positive they’ve
been taken from Earth at some point in the distant past. Everything about the
Nabuui is fast: the way they move, the way they talk and the way they make
friends. It’s as if life’s too fleeting to take their time about it. They seem
to live harsh lives, from what Daniel’s been able to find out so far. Carter’s
already said a lot of the vegetation on the plains is slightly poisonous, so
Daniel’s been asking them about what they eat. A lot of the younger men herd and
hunt for meat down here, whilst the elders farm crops higher up in the hills,
where the ground seems to be ‘badness’ free. Carter reckons the local animals
must have built up an immunity over the years and the tribesmen have gradually
acquired their immunity from being higher up the food chain. Woono agrees,
apparently. Then again, Woono laughs, smiles and agrees with everything.
They have a
very structured social hierarchy, with the oldest people being the decision
makers, so Daniel keeps fielding questions my way. Seems they expect my team to
automatically be subservient to me and it’s an idea I’ve frequently toyed with
myself. Teal’c seems amused by all the attention being sent my way, although
you’d hardly guess it from his face. For once, he’s being ignored, as his skin
colour is very similar to theirs and they have so many tattoos marked on their
skins that his single one is of little consequence, even if it *is* gold. Daniel
and Carter have hardly been able to stop smirking since the Nabuui have assumed
we’re all one family on a journey together. We’ve played happy families before
and it’s almost second nature to slip into these roles on some missions. Me,
husband; Carter, wife; Daniel, brother; and Teal’c, visiting cousin, or blood
brother, or whatever happens to work in that particular society. Sometimes it
just makes life easier, but in others it’s a helluva lot safer. Some places have
some weird ideas about unhitched individuals.
The Nabuui had
been wary of us at first, as we’d stepped out of the gate, but that was
understandable. They’d said no one had used the ring for generations, but once
Daniel started with that soothing voice of his, they were all ears. Well, after
their bright eyes and flashing smiles, that is. Seemed they’d had a run in with
the Goa’uld at some point, but had simply fallen by the wayside in the snakes’
plans for universal domination. No one had taken offence when the slime-heads
had shipped out and no one bothered to send a post card saying ‘wish you were
here’ either. Carter wondered if the toxin getting into the food chain was
something the Goa’uld couldn’t absorb and Daniel was ferreting for information
like a dog unearthing a bone. However, getting the Nabuui to stay on any one
topic of conversation for longer than two minutes seems to be a momentous task.
They bore easily and change topic as the mood takes them.
They remind me
of miniature whirlwinds, a bit like Daniel actually, and for some reason they
like us. They like me, actually, as the leader I guess, and Daniel’s hard pushed
to answer all their questions, as well as trying to get his own in. It’s such a
refreshing change to see him struggling to get a word in edgeways. Perhaps I
ought to take lessons from Woono.
hassling him to ask about mining possibilities. The initial MALP readings
suggested some minerals in the soil could turn out to be something similar to
Naquadah and she’s been flipping her proverbial lid ever since we gated here.
All her tests so far support the MALP’s findings, although there’ll have to be
much more in-depth tests done back at the base.
they’re happy to discuss a treaty with us Jack, enrolling us in their
brotherhood. That means we can then make a trade pact and discuss exchanges of
resources. From what I understand, it’s a rare honour to make a deal with them,
if you’re outside their tribe.”
“What sort of
pact? Does that mean if Carter’s samples pan out we can actually discuss mining
aren’t interested in the lands down here, they’re only interested in hunting the
animals on them. I’m sure that, as long as we’re respectful of how we go about
it, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Good. At long
last, someone who wants to help us without taking chunks out of our hides at the
same time. Actually, what *do* they want from us?”
never developed much in the way of medicines, probably due to not growing many
crops, so I guess that’d be a good place to start.”
“So what have
we gotta do to get into this brotherhood then?”
to chatting with Woono, words occasionally accompanied by very specific hand
movements, as the native cheerfully talks back.
“Seems we have
to smoke a ‘brotherhood stick’ with them and their elders.”
would *that* be?” Smoking a stick sounds to me all too much like some of the
stuff I used to do when I was a lot, no make that a *whole* lot, younger.
“Some kind of
peace pipe, I think, made from the local vegetation.”
“Some of that
vegetation Carter warned us about?”
--- I’m not sure.”
Hum, now why
don’t I like the sound of that?
no other way to make this pact?” Damn. If we didn’t need this stuff so much! Why
is my vision of Carter’s excited face, fiddling with her doohickeys over those
samples, overriding my natural caution here?
“Unfortunately, no, it’s their tradition. Shows we’re not afraid of them and
will meet them on their own terms, or something like that.”
If only we
didn’t need some serious help on the resources side back home, I’d tell them
where to shove their brotherhood stick and it wouldn’t be where the sun was
“Seems like we
don’t have any choice then! OK, we’ll do this, but there’s only gonna be *me*
at me, making those little crease lines above his glasses. “It has to be all of
Um, that would
be a *no* Daniel. Just ‘cause I’m schmuck enough to go through with this, I’m
not dragging anyone else down what could be Hallucinogen Drive.
“No. You tell
him our rules say only the leader can make tribe decisions like that. Tell him,
I don’t know, you’re not old enough or something. I don’t care what, but I’m not
having anyone else smoking stuff when we don’t know what it’ll do to us.”
about if I do it then? I speak the language and can discuss any weird sensations
with them. Check if that’s supposed to happen.” Danny can be a little too keen
to join in sometimes, like his common sense has just hiked off up the nearest
precisely why you’re not going to. You’re the only one who knows the lingo and
can talk us out of any unforeseen problems, if any arise. No one else bar me,
Danny boy. I may need all three of you compus mentus if this goes wrong. OK?”
crestfallen. “OK, Jack, I hear you.”>>>
“Jack? Can you
hear me Jack?”
kid sounds worried. Always worrying about me when all I’m doing is worrying
about him. I wouldn’t have to worry so much, if I could trust him to follow my
orders, when my back’s turned, but no. He’s off before you can say
‘Archaeologist, Anthropologist, Linguist – aaah crap’ and it’s like trying to
net a will-o-the-wisp. He has absolutely no idea of the dangers out there. OK,
that’s not strictly true. He knows a lot of the dangers out there, quite
intimately on some occasions, but he still keeps his enthusiasm in top gear and
his sense of preservation in reverse. He’s suffered so much over the years and I
wish I could take away some of what he’s gone through. Wish I could have been
able to bring Sha’re back, for instance. God knows, I wanted to, but fate’s a
bitch. I know what it’s like to feel loss, such gut-wrenching loss that you
think your stomach’s trying to turn itself inside out. To feel the very physical
reaction to the darkest despair and the blind certainty that daylight is never
gonna shine again. He’s too young to have been put through all that, yet he’s
still got that sparkle in his eyes. The one that says ‘this is an incredible
universe, full of incredible things’. I never wanna see that light die in him.
Me? My lights
died a long time ago. Like some honking great dimmer switch gradually turning
the brilliance down over the years, until there’s nothing left. You can pick
dozens of occasions that contributed, some more dramatic than others, but the
final push came with a single tiny bullet. One small piece of moulded metal, so
feather light that you could balance it on the end of your finger, took the
light of my life away. One small movement of a child’s finger, a matter of a few
millimetres, and it was gone. Six feet of earth ensured one family would never
be able to touch each other again.
I can barely
feel a hand wrapped around mine, ‘cause the sensation’s very faint and I’m not
at all certain. Was it there before and I just didn’t notice? I think the
fingers feel cold, like someone’s been staying still for far too long and hasn’t
been looking after himself. I’d squeeze back if I could get the message from my
brain to my fingers, but no can do. My RNA isn’t up to messaging right now.
Wouldn’t Carter be surprised I know stuff like that? Though I can’t remember
what the hell the letters actually stand for, but any signal being sent down my
arm is being returned ‘Request Not Acceptable’ at the moment.
“Jack? Come on
Jack. Janet says you’ve got to wake up soon, you’ve slept for long enough.”
desperation in his voice and I feel guilty for putting him through even more
worry. There’s a ton of emotion in his voice and I guess he must feel pretty
strongly about me to stay here for so long. I’ve absolutely no idea why. Why
would such a bright spark, who’s forgotten far more than I’m ever likely to
know, be interested in ‘bad-ass and even worse jokes’ O’Neill? Can hardly be for
my eloquence, or chat-up lines!
I can hear a
set of boots approach the bed and can tell instantly by the lighter, shorter
stride that it’s my 2IC, the equally bright Samantha Carter.
she asks in a quiet voice.
Why the hell
do people always whisper around you when you’re ill? Am I ill? Is that what’s
wrong with me?
to think so --- but --- ”
I can hear the
rustle of fabric being pulled close and I imagine Carter holding Daniel to
herself, trying to comfort him. That should be my job, I’m the CO around here.
got to believe her. If she’s sure --- ”
Of course I’m
not bloody sure. I’ve had many a mean smoke in the past, in places my feisty
little Major has only seen referred to on maps. I know the rubbish that goes
into these things and, as for the places they send you to, well you’d better
make sure you’ve got your pilot’s licence ready for takeoff. The going out’s
brilliant, but the landings? Oh boy, some of them can be really rough.
“Well, let me
put it this way, Carter. Do you want to get your hands on more of that dirt
that’s been kicking around your back-pack since we got here?”
“You know I
do, Sir. We’ve not had much success finding sources of Naquadah and the minerals
I’ve found here seem to have very similar properties.”
not a lot else to be discussed, is there?” Sometimes I can bristle like a
cactus, especially when I don’t particularly like the decisions I’ve had to
“But some of
the plant samples I took earlier show signs of toxins. We’ve no idea what you’d
be subjecting yourself to.”
to be doing OK on it. Woono doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.”
“With all due
respect, Sir, the Nabuui are used to it by now. Their systems have adapted to
the conditions here over a long period of time. What’s OK for them may not be OK
So --- I’d
already figured that one out myself and was hoping the good Major would be so
geared up over her rock collection that she’d forgotten that possibility. Guess
I should have known better. She’s my 2IC and that’s what she’s paid to do. To
keep me as safe as possible and, if I’m down, to take care of the rest of the
and the SGC need the stuff that gets you all fired up. Our so called allies are
about as useful as a fifth wheel when it comes to helping us with technology. If
we’re ever going to get better equipment, and better materials to make them
with, we’ve gotta go out there and find them ourselves. None of those so called
superior race friends of ours are gonna help us where it counts, we’re on our
“I know, Sir.”
Her face shadows for a moment and I know without asking that she’s thinking of
Jacob would help us if he could, but he’s got to follow the Tok’ra rules now.
He’s no longer just your father.”
“I know, Sir,
and I agree with you in principle. It’s just that --- it’s a risk, Sir. That’s
all. It’s a risk.”
about it, with as much time as we’ve been given, and I’m the only one who truly
isn’t needed around here on this safe planet. I’m also the one, as the oldest
and the leader, who they want to do this anyway.
Carter. Which is why there’s only gonna be me doing this. You, Daniel and Teal’c
will just have to take care of everything --- if --- you know ---. Daniel can
speak their lingo, you’re needed to do your chemical magic stuff and Teal’c will
have to do his Atlas routine --- if --- if it’s needed. I’m trusting you to get
them back safe.”
I’m just one
heavily used Colonel, who as per usual, doesn’t have any skills needed here.>>>
doesn’t need you all to stay here you know. You’re not going to help him by
making yourselves ill too.”
I can tell
Fraiser’s losing her patience with them. It’s all in the inflection with the
doctor. There’s even a tempo in her footsteps when she walks. It’s amazing what
you can pick up about people, when you’ve spent as long as I have laid in one of
these damned beds.
orders now. Only one of you in here at a time until the Colonel regains
consciousness. I don’t care how you arrange it, but only one in here whilst the
others eat, rest, or wash, whatever you want to do, as long as you don’t do it
slight tapping of one high heel and I hear a chair being pushed back.
“I’ll go now
Sam, I could do with a shower anyway. I’ll see you later.”
“I will also
leave the infirmary at this time, but I *will* return later.”
I can hear the
sadness in Daniel’s voice and the sheer ‘you try to stop me’ assertiveness of
Teal’c’s, as two sets of feet march away into the distance. At least I know
they’re all safe now, but I still feel alone somehow, separate from what’s going
on. I can’t feel anything around me, no concerned touches, or gentle squeezes
and it’s damned disconcerting. Fraiser’s click-click footsteps recede and I hear
Carter pull her chair closer. I’m still too tired to move and too darned tired
to worry about it.
“I’m so sorry,
Sir. I should have made you listen more, or explained myself better.” There’s a
pause in voice as she probably tries to sort out her thoughts. “Why don’t I
stand up to you more and why are you so stubborn that I can’t get through?”
Perish the thought! I think she may have forgotten the tiny matter of me being
her CO though, that’s why, and shouldn’t it be ‘why are you so stubborn, *Sir*’?
the living daylights out of us back on that planet and you’re still doing a good
job of it now, Sir.”
Ah, we’ve got
the Sir back now. Good. I’ve worked hard for these eagles over the years and
wouldn’t want them overlooked. Not when I can have fun with them, anyway.
“I don’t know
if you can hear me, but Janet says the toxin in the plant leaves you smoked has
had a paralysing effect on your muscles. She seems happy that she’s halted its
progress, but Teal’c, Daniel and I would be a lot happier if you’d just snap out
of it, Sir, and wake up.”
And I guess
now would be a good time too, huh? Sorry Carter, the mind’s willing, but the
body seems to be taking a vacation at the moment. At least that explains why I
can’t move or feel anything though. I think I ought to be a tiny bit worried
about that paralysing bit, but right now I couldn’t give a flying fig. Still
feeling a bit loopy and out of it. I’m sure that’ll change pretty damned soon
though, once I’ve got my act back together, so Fraiser had better be right about
having it under control. She’d also better be able to get rid of the damned
stuff. I can’t even feel if I’ve got any IVs, or catheters in and I’m pretty
darned certain I must have. Guess the funny mushroom stuff has deadened the
nerve endings too, unless that’s the Doc’s happy juice doing that. Hard to tell
quiet and I miss the sound of her voice. God, I’d miss everything about her if
she left. Her smile brightens up my day, even if her technobabble sends my
eardrums into shock. Bet she knows what RNA stands for too, not that one should
bet around Carter. She’s got a mean right hook on her – just ask anyone at
“I feel so
useless, sat here, watching you lying there. What on earth are we doing, risking
so much for --- when no one out there knows, or cares? You joined in that
ceremony, knowing full well it might be dangerous, and no one will ever know,
bar us. What does that say about us?”
I’d sigh if I
could. I’d love to actually, to feel my chest rise, with the extra air I’d
inhaled, and then let it drift out of my nose again. At least I’m not on a
respirator, so I guess my autonomic systems are still on auto-pilot.
thinks waaaay too much. I don’t think enough --- I don’t like to think. Thinking
involves the brain and mine has a tendency to wander down memory lane when I
don’t reign it in. Too many skeletons in the closets and too many damned closets
in the dark corners of my mind. You don’t ever want to clear the cobwebs outta
there. They say the truth will set you free, but that’s never been the case in
my experience. The truth is the last thing that some people need, or ought to
so much more than you think you are, Sir.”
And what would
you know about that Carter? She’s hardly been around the block once, compared to
me. Not saying she hasn’t seen action, either on this world, or off it, but what
she’s seen has been in nice contrasting black and white tones. Us, the good guys
and them the bad guys. Nice to understand and compartmentalise. I’m just a worn
out, washed up, on the edge of retiring and very much has been Colonel. I might
have been something once, a force to be reckoned with, but I’m not what’s needed
around here anymore.
weren’t my CO, I’d tell you how stupid you are to risk yourself so willingly.”
It’s my job to
risk myself willingly, to protect her and others like her. People like me are a
dime a dozen, but people of the calibre of her and Daniel are incredibly rare.
That’s why I take my responsibilities so seriously. Everyone under my command,
or protection, is important, but people like Carter and Daniel? Their
intelligence is unique and to be protected at all costs. Without them, our
chances of making a difference out there plummet dramatically. I sometimes
wonder what I did to deserve the team I’ve got. What makes me so unique that I
deserve wonder boy, super brain and the only alien on campus on my team?
“You act as
though you’re nothing special, but I couldn’t keep us as safe as you do. You’re
the best field commander on the base, on any base I’ve ever worked on. Don’t you
realise how important you are to us? *You’re* what holds us all together.”
taken aback by the vehemence of her words and can feel my heart quickening its
pace. To my surprise, *beep-beep* echoes the sentiment and suddenly Carter’s on
her feet beside me, pressing the call button.
let this be bad news, Colonel. Don’t you dare. Do you hear me – don’t you dare!”
footfalls only just precede the Doctor’s lighter ones and I hear Teal’c’s steady
happening? Has O’Neill’s condition changed?”
what is your condition?”
I’d answer if
I could, only gimme a minute here big guy. It’s bad enough being hunched over
the greenery like this in the first place, spewing my guts up, without having an
audience that wants to talk to you about it at the same time.
I wave him
away, back from the overpowering smell and continue heaving for another minute,
until I’m sure there’s nothing left between me and breakfast two days ago. Once
my stomach settles back down again, I crawl away from the offensive mess I’ve
made and settle a few feet away on my butt. My team are instantly around me,
Carter offering me a canteen of water and Daniel passing me a couple of tissues.
I wipe my mouth on the tissues and then take a long gulp of warm water to rinse
my mouth out and spit the taste away. I can still taste the nausea at the back
of my throat, but it’s not as bad as before. I then stuff the tissues in a
pocket. No one litters another one’s planet on my watch, even if they’ve got
disgusting smelling tissues. We’ve just made good and friendly with the natives,
at my expense, sealed a treaty with ‘em and I’m damned if I’m gonna ruin all the
effort I put in, by littering the place up. They might have rules about that
kind of behaviour.
you able to proceed now?”
All I can do
is nod and get shakily to my feet. It’s been four hours since I smoked that
disgusting stuff they gave me. Looked like the biggest honking cigar I’ve ever
seen. It was the kind of green that Daniel usually goes when you show him your
latest festering wound and big enough to play hockey with. We took turns, Woono,
me and a bunch of elders from up in the hills. Carter said they use a plant that
grows on the plains and, from the after-effects I’m getting, guess they use one
with the toxins in. Apparently Woono said it was one of the better batches
they’d made, would send me far away, Daniel translated. Haven’t smoked shit like
that since high school and I wish I hadn’t just now either. Guess my cast iron
constitution isn’t so cast iron anymore.
slightly to one side with my first step and feel Teal’c instantly by my side,
his arm gripping me around the waist.
assist you, O’Neill.” He informs me, after the fact. I’d love to argue, hell I’d
love to be able to stand up on my own two feet right now, but I’m way past
getting my mouth to co-operate. It’s still recovering from the exercise my
throwing up has just given it.
I’d been fine
for the first couple of hours after the Brotherhood Stick. So, everyone had
looked a funny colour for the first hour and the noises they’d come out with had
been anything but words. Hour number two had been a big improvement: Daniel
*did* speak English; Carter *wasn’t* hoisting a reactor about on her back; and
Teal’c’s junior *was* still inside his pouch. Hour number three had me feeling a
little nauseous and a little tingly in my extremities, but nothing that reduced
me to my knees or anything. Hour number four was the killer. I don’t recall ever
being so sick, not even on the worst benders I’d had as a rookie.
I’ve stopped now to heave up over some poor excuse for a shrubbery. The first
couple of times I’d been able to carry on standing, the next couple of times I
was able to get up off my knees by myself. Now I don’t think I can even walk on
my own. I feel Teal’c’s grip getting firmer, as he weaves his fingers into my
belt, and I realise I’m stumbling as I walk. My vision’s dimming down to
concentrating on my feet, hypnotised by the sight of them moving beneath me,
forwards and backwards. There’s a funny whooshing noise in my ears, drowning out
any other sounds and suddenly the ground comes a whole lot closer. I can see
another two sets of boots appear near my face and feel more hands under my
shoulders as the world tips over. There’s the funny coloured green sky above me
for a second or two, before Teal’c’s concerned face replaces it. I try to reach
out with my hands to grasp him, as a pain in my stomach robs me of breath. That
funny tingly feeling in my hands is getting stronger. Teal’c’s lips move, but I
can’t hear a word he says, as everything goes dark and completely silent.>>>
I can feel a
slight tingling sensation in my fingers and try to move them. It’s an incredible
feeling, to *be* able to feel again. A hand is quickly pressed into them, a
large warrior’s hand, like my own.
you trying to move your fingers? They appear to be flexing slightly. Can you
attempt to move them again?”
I try to move
them once more and I can hear the relief in his voice. It’s only a slight
inflection and no one else might have noticed it, but I do.
again successful, O’Neill. Perhaps it is time to attempt to open your eyes.”
It’s a battle,
and my eyelids feel as though they’re glued together, but I’m fed up of
listening to what’s going on around me and even more fed up of staring at the
insides of my eyelids. Slowly and with stubborn persistence, I finally manage to
raise them half way open. I never thought I’d be so happy to see those tiles
above me. The lights are turned down, so I guess it must be night time in the
infirmary. I still can’t move my head, but I can just make out Teal’c’s solid
presence leaning towards me. There’s the slightest of smiles on his face, as he
looks down on me, his eyes bright and kinda happy looking, for a Jaffa.
“It is good to
see you awake again, my friend.”
I’d try to
reply, or nod my head, but I still can’t get anything else to work and I’m
has confirmed that the toxin is slowly being removed from your body and there is
no need for your concern about that matter.”
He removes his
hand and I feel strangely bereft of the contact, and being able to feel it, but
I guess it’s not important in the grand scheme of things. If the Doc reckons I’m
gonna be OK, I can wait a little longer --- maybe.
notify her that you have awakened.”
something must have shown on my face, because I’m not really keen to get the
medical third degree right now. I just want to relax here, watching one of my
team, knowing we’re all home safe and sound.
did not specify *when* I had to notify her.”
slight lift of his mouth and I know under some circumstances we can read each
other like the proverbial book.
has left the base to check upon each of your houses for security and postal
communications and MajorCarter is busy in her laboratory, studying the mineral
samples she brought back from the Nabuui. She is most excited by her studies,
although she only left after we were assured of your returning health.”
He sounds like
he’s apologising for her, as if I didn’t already know my Major extremely well.
But how well my team know me. Teal’c fills me in without me even having to raise
an eyebrow in query. Just as well though, considering I couldn’t raise one if my
life depended on it right now.
“You have been
in the infirmary for five days. I carried you back to the stargate after you
collapsed and DoctorFraiser was most concerned as to your condition when we
arrived. However, she now appears satisfied by your responses, although she is
eager to see you awake.”
He pauses for
a moment and I wonder what’s going on behind that gold tattoo of his.
that I was not able to undergo that ceremony on your behalf. My prim’ta may have
afforded my system better protection against the poison.”
Huh? And what
about Carter’s theory that the poison could be what drove the Goa’uld away? He’s
kinda conveniently forgetting that bit.
I never did
get around to discussing this peace-pipe thing with him before the event and
maybe I should have. I know I’m the CO and don’t technically need to explain my
orders, but with a small unit like ours it can be deadly important to understand
where we’re all coming from. Teal’c doesn’t always understand the way we do
things round here. Even though he’s had a lot longer than me in military
service, those years haven’t been in the same type of unit as he is now. His
many years of service as a Jaffa have instilled certain rigid concepts of
behaviour in him. Some of that old style of behaviour is reflected in his
reactions to failure, especially when anything happens to his commander. I don’t
mean to suggest he thinks of me as some kind of Apophis, or anything like that.
It’s just that he has a hard time dealing with his feelings, now he’s getting
used to acknowledging them, when he’s unable to prevent something happening to
me. He can still get caught up in that old loop of thinking he’s here to protect
me, although that sense of responsibility has also stretched to cover Carter and
Daniel now too.
running with reduced resources, like four men teams, you have to make the best
use of what you have available. All those years of incredible blunt force power
under Apophis have sometimes prevented him from thinking outside of those
options. Sometimes what you *want* to do isn’t the best way to get a job done. I
had to make a decision on that planet. I was the only one who could be safely
out of commission for the return journey and I needed him safe to bring me back,
if it all went south – as it obviously did.
my face intently, staring at my forehead, and I wonder if it’s obvious how
deeply I’m thinking about matters.
feel assured that you will explain your reasons to me once you are able to do
I think I
actually managed to smile at him then. I’d swear I could feel my lips moving.
“O’Neill, I do
believe sensation is returning to your facial muscles.”
I’m very tired
and my eyes slide closed again, but I stay awake long enough to hear the
clickety-click of Fraiser’s heels approach my bed.
DoctorFraiser. Colonel O’Neill opened his eyes and was able to move his fingers
didn’t call me? Really, Teal’c!” There’s definite annoyance in the voice of the
Doctor and I think Teal’c had better make a run for it, even though he doesn’t
scare easily. The Jaffa who turns and runs away, lives to see the Doc another
day and all that.
In the middle
of the Doctor’s renewed interest in me, I can hear my CO’s voice from the
direction of the doorway. There’s concern and puzzlement in his words as they
boom across the floor, only marginally in advance of his solid body.
happening? Is the Colonel alright?”
happened to the Colonel? Is he alright?”
cold of the wormhole must have brought me round, because now I’m being laid
carefully down on the ramp in the gateroom. There’s a rush of BDUs around me,
moving too fast for my sluggish eyes to follow and someone rolls me over onto my
side. I can feel myself heaving again, but nothing comes out, luckily for the
cleaners. I’d hate to have to clean *that* up around this piece of metalwork.
A set of
airforce uniform pressed trousers kneels down beside me and I feel my CO’s hand
on my shoulder.
“We managed to
make a treaty with the natives, Sir, and got permission to investigate mining
rights. The mineral samples I’ve tested bear out the MALP’s initial findings.
However, the Colonel had to smoke a sort of peace-pipe with the natives to seal
the deal. It looks like the plants had a toxin and the Colonel’s been getting
sicker ever since.”
Major.” He leans a little further down and I can just about focus on his face.
He looks worried and I try to grin back at him, but I’m rapidly losing all sense
of feeling anywhere in my body.
The hand on my
shoulder squeezes slightly and I barely hear his words.
“You take it
easy, Colonel. We’ll soon have you taken care of.”
questing hands on my body and a flurry of white surrounds me, but I’m way past
being able to focus on anything, or hear what’s being said. I feel the
restriction of an oxygen mask being placed on my face, but I’m too tired to
complain about the sensation of being hemmed in by it. Gradually even the feel
of that on my face disappears as I’m lifted onto the gurney. I can’t keep my
eyes open any longer and allow myself to drift, as the motion of being rushed
through the corridors lulls my remaining senses.
good hands, son.” Seems to come from somewhere nearby and I force my eyes open
once more, to see his vague shape receding behind the white coats around me.>>>
good hands, Jack.” There’s an uncomfortable pause and it sounds like old George
is clearing his throat. “Fraiser says she knows what got into your system and
has been busy running all sorts of tests in her lab.” He lets out a tiny laugh.
“Don’t know what she’s doing myself, but her and Carter ran up a fair steam back
there, when you first came back.” There’s yet another pause, even longer this
time. “Darn it, Jack. I’m sorry. I know I ordered you to do whatever you could
to get those minerals, but I didn’t mean for it to be like this.”
I want to tell
him it’s not his fault. He has his job to do, just the same as I do. The
President wants resources to fuel our battles, so he orders the General and the
General orders me. I want to open my eyes to tell him that, but I don’t know if
that’ll make him uncomfortable, knowing I’m aware of what he’s saying. I also
don’t know if I can talk yet, anyway, so I play possum for the moment instead.
You see, the
difference between our two roles is that I don’t *have* to ask my team to do
something I can’t do myself. I have that luxury in the field, if you can call it
that, which he doesn’t and it makes a hell of a difference with the guilt trips
afterwards. I’m the fulcrum that balances out our orders at one end, with the
job being carried out at the other. I can decide which way to pivot, weighing up
the situation with local knowledge and decide which action is the best way to
go. It might mean choosing who’s the most qualified to get something done, or
who’s the most expendable. They’re never easy decisions, and it’s something you
can only figure out at the time, but the General’s base-bound role doesn’t allow
him even those options.
I know he
agonises each time he sees one of us come back hurt, but there’s nothing he can
do about it, no matter how much he might want to. Out there, at least *I* can
prevent some crap from happening, at least to the rest of my team and that’s all
I’ve done now. There’s nothing heroic about it. I’ve just saved myself a whole
heap of worry over them, by doing the job myself. I was also the most
expendable, so I can justify my decision without thinking too deeply about it.
everyone else’s mission reports back, and Carter assures me those minerals are
worth the effort, but you and I are going to have a little chat when you get out
of here. I’m sure you think you did the right thing out there, but why in the
blue blazes are you so often the one being carried back here, Jack?”
what you pay me the big bucks for?
“You’ve got to
learn to take better care of yourself, son, you’re not getting any younger you
know. You seem to forget how valuable you are to this endeavour. You’re a
Colonel in the United States Air Force, leader of the primary field unit of the
SGC and my second in command. That’s one hell of a job description, Jack, and
I’m not sure anyone else could fill your boots around here.” He chuckles again,
leaning back in the chair. I can hear it squeaking under the weight.
I’m not sure anyone else would *want* my boots. Not with the mileage I’ve put in
them anyway. However, I’m touched by the strength of his words, even if I doubt
I’m as irreplaceable as he thinks. I can hear the distinctive sound of Fraiser’s
heels again coming towards me and I wonder when the Doctor last went home. The
chair scrapes along the floor as Hammond pushes it backwards, to stand up.
“I’d better go
now, Jack. I don’t know if you’ve heard one bean of what I’ve just said, but we
will be having that chat later. You just concentrate on getting out of that
turns around and walks away, leaving me thinking how much stress this job must
put him through. At least out there, I can take my stress out on the enemy, but
who can George take his out on? His pencil sharpener?
As he leaves,
Fraiser’s heels approach my bed. No doubt she’s been waiting for a bit more
privacy, before giving me what is probably a regular check-over.
you awake yet, Colonel O’Neill?”
O’Neill? Colonel, can you hear me?”
from pain helps me surface again in the trauma room and, looking past the oxygen
mask, I see an IV already in my arm. Guess the good Doctor’s quickly got me on
some sort of meds. I’m on one of those gurneys, with the curtains pulled around
me. Nurses are efficiently removing my clothes and I’d like to tell them where
to go, but I’m having problems talking right now. My mouth feels huge and
awkward, like when the dentist has been doing his worst. Fraiser’s busy with her
pen-light, starting her usual response tests.
She mutters to herself, as she moves on to test my nerve reflexes with a pen.
I guess I’m
not quite up to par and I try to apologise. Somehow it seems polite to
acknowledge her efforts.
“What was that
Colonel? What did you say? --- Sorry?”
She looks down
at me and smiles but, even blurry eyed, I can see her troubled, worried eyes.
“You just lie
there, Sir, and relax. Your team have told me what’s happened and, as soon as
their medicals are done, Sam’s going to run some tests on those plants. We’ll
have you right as rain in no time.”
She may think
she’s fooling me, but I know better. Every time we come back through that gate
we run the risk of bringing back something that she wont be able to deal with.
Every return trip is like rolling a die, waiting for the one bug that’ll turn
this base into a mortuary. It’s a lot for one person to have on their shoulders,
especially someone with a child at home.
want to heave again and something must have communicated itself to her, because
she’s quickly helping me roll over.
she urges and one of the nurses reaches over for one of those disposable types
that are always piled up nearby. Fraiser supports me on my side, rubbing my
back, whilst the nurse holds out the bowl for me. There’s nothing left to come
out anyway, bar a mouthful of liquid, but I’m shaking like a leaf by the time
I’ve finished. For crying out loud, when will this be over? Everything’s dimming
again and the sounds around me fade away to nothingness as the Doctor rolls me
onto my back again.
“Damn what is
this? Come on Colonel, stay with me. Can you do that, Sir?”
Soon even her
voice has drifted away in the darkness.>>>
“Are you with
me, Colonel, can you open your eyes? Can you do that for me, Sir?”
It’s not as
difficult to respond this time and I’m rewarded by the sight of her petite face,
peering down at me.
back.” She positively beams down at me. She turns away for a brief moment,
before I feel a straw against my lips. “Slowly.” She instructs needlessly, as I
gently sip a few mouthfuls. I take the moment to look around and investigate my
situation further. I can still hear *beep-beep*, but the oxygen mask has been
replaced by a nasal cannula, which is a lot easier to cope with. I can also feel
IVs, monitor leads and that little pulse-ox clip on my finger now. I’ve never
been so pleased to be aware of those tiny annoyances, in stark contrast to
previous visits here. I take a few more sips and turn my head away when I’m
done. The effort is hard work, but I’m childishly thrilled that I can actually
feel myself moving again. My surprise must have shown on my face, because the
Doc’s still smiling as she puts the glass back.
“Most of the
toxin is out of your system now and all your motor functions seem to be coming
back on-line. It’ll take a while and won’t happen overnight, but I don’t foresee
any long-term problems, Sir. You’ve just got to be patient.”
“That’s me.” I
manage to say in the weakest, croakiest voice I’ve ever possessed and she laughs
with you being *a* patient.”
what? You’ve been a patient, or you’re still likely to be one?” Her eyes are
still laughing at me, although I can see the dark circles underneath them now I
can focus more. “You’ve been here six days now and I think I’ll reserve
judgement on how much longer you’ll be here, for a few more yet. Let’s just say
you’ve got a lot of recovering to do before you can get out of that bed. --- And
that’s not open to debate.” She smiles down at me again and I have an inkling of
the worries she must have had over me.
circles are bothering me, because I know I’m the reason for them. She should be
home with Cassie, not here nursing foolish old Colonels who willingly let
themselves get poisoned. I wonder how she does it, balancing her career with
Cassie at home? Granted, we help out as often as we can and Cassie treats us all
as an extended family, but how much of that burden do we actually relieve?
Fraiser looks so young to be running all this, although she started out as early
as I did in my field. I know, ‘cause I’ve read her record and darned impressive
it is too. She might be five foot nothing, but what there is of her is as
volatile as any explosive I’ve ever handled.
ask, although this little chat is wearing me down fast.
fine. Sam and Daniel have been taking turns in looking after her. In fact she’s
spent the last two days, over the weekend, here on base. She’s been spoilt
rotten. The only thing bothering her is you, so I suggest you rest up and then
you’ll be out of here all the quicker. Cassie has plans for a beach party that
includes you as the guest of honour.”
an offer I can’t refuse.” I manage to whisper, as I study the various machines
keeping tabs on me.
can’t, because *I’d* have to answer to her otherwise and you don’t want to know
how bad a scene that can be with a teenager.”
I guess I must
have made a small sigh about that, because yes, I *would* like to know how it
feels to create a scene with your own teenager. It’s something I’ll never get
the chance to do now. Fraiser’s face blanches as she realises what she’s said
and I feel even more guilty now for heaping that on her too.
“Oh, I’m so
sorry, Jack, I don’t know how I managed to say that.”
sorry. I’m glad you have Cassie, but I’m really tired now Janet. I think I’d
like to go back to sleep, if that’s OK.” I’ve just about used up all my energy
on that one sentence, but we both know I’ve just made an excuse up to end the
discussion with good grace. She nods her head and silently retreats away from
me. Soon I’m left alone with my thoughts of what could have been and they follow
me back into dreamland.
Dad’ me, young man. Up those stairs, now, or you wont be going anywhere
tomorrow, with anyone.”
defiantly back at me, before he looks past me and his face quickly changes from
frowning into smiling. Then he storms up the stairs without a backwards glance
Mike,” I say to Sara’s dad, who’s just walked up behind me, “it’s a helluva
difficult enough job laying down the law, without you undoing all my hard work.”
“Ahh, come on
Jack. You were never not gonna take him to the game, why not admit it? You’re a
push-over and everyone knows it, Charlie too.”
about that?” ‘Cause I’m not.>>>
did you, or did you not break Thomas’s hockey stick?”
“It was an
accident, Dad, honest.” He stares down at the floor, refusing to meet my eyes.
“Then why did
Thomas tell his mum you did it on purpose?”
“I dunno. He’s
always saying stuff like that.”
“I thought you
two were friends?”
Look, can I play out again now, Dad?” He says, trying to change the subject.
“Not until you
tell me the truth.”
there with his arms crossed, O’Neill stubbornness personified, and refuses to
say another word.>>>
wanna go, Dad.”
Charlie. I’ve gotta go away again and your mom’s had this shopping day with her
friends planned for weeks. We don’t have the time. There’ll be another chance.”
saying that. You’re always going away. Why can’t you stop home like other Dads?”
He looks at me with such hurt in his young eyes, that I cringe.
I know he
wanted to go to the rodeo, but the drive’s too far. Sara will only just be back
in time before I have to leave as it is. If it wasn’t for outfits for a friend’s
wedding, she wouldn’t have gone at all.
saying that too.” The words are barely whispered, before he turns away and walks
out of the house, pulling the door shut behind him.
“I’ll make it
up to you, Charlie. I promise.” I say to the closed door, knowing I have to go
and pack again, hoping he’ll have forgiven me by the time I’m next home.>>>
beautiful warm sunny day and we’re sitting outside together, enjoying each
other’s company. Sara cuddles up to me and I feel the familiar tingling that
precedes arousal as we grin at the school photos. Charlie’s playing somewhere
nearby and nothing could be any better in my world. Nothing could harm us.
Nothing could touch us. Nothing could taint this sweet life I had.
happen to us.
disturb my world.
small hand on my shoulder, gently shaking me awake, and the young female voice
cuts through my dreams.
eyes are hardly open, before she’s putting her arms around my neck and leaning
into me. I know she’s being restrained, as she doesn’t hug me with anything like
her usual exuberance. Probably because I’m doing a good impression of a
porcupine, with all the things attached to me, even if the nasal cannula seems
to have disappeared. Pity *beep-beep* didn’t get lost too, but at least we’re
having a bad dream.”
Crap. It’s bad
enough that the infirmary staff get to witness them at times, without anyone
else seeing me like this too, especially a youngster like Cassie. I want her to
look at me as someone who can protect her, not someone who’s weak enough to have
nightmares whenever they shut their eyes.
“I have them
too.” She says quietly, disturbing my thoughts.
I shuffle further away from her, so that I can see her better and try to sit up
a bit more. At least there’s a bit of strength in my arms again, although I fail
miserably at rearranging the pillows behind me. Cassie seems to take the
opportunity to gather her thoughts and helps to plump the pillows for me. She
reaches around me so carefully, that I think she’s picking up on Fraiser’s
talents for nursing.
“Sit here.” I
instruct her, patting the now empty side of the bed, next to where’s she’s
raises herself onto the bed and sits beside me, as I wrap my arms around her,
pulling her close, mindful of the IV that’s still attached. Placing a gentle
kiss on the top of her head, as she leans into me, I wait for her to start.
“I never met
him --- Charlie.”
My hand stops
its slow caress of her arm for just a moment, before commencing again.
didn’t. He died many years before we found you.”
She nods her
head and cuddles closer for a moment.
love him, don’t you?”
“Of course I
do. I’ll never stop. Why?” I keep my voice soft and continue to hold her close.
Cassie is someone else who’s suffered far too much for one so young.
“I miss them.”
She doesn’t say who, but it’s not hard to figure that one out. She covers up a
slight sniffle before continuing. “My parents --- my family and friends.”
hurts so bad that they’re all dead. --- It’s not as though I don’t love Janet
and you and Sam and everyone else, but I loved them first and I don’t think I
ever told them. Now they’re gone and I miss them so much.”
sweetheart, but they knew you loved them. Families always do.”
know you loved him?”
deep down I know he did, it’s just so difficult sometimes to remember the good
times. He’d just started that stage of challenging everything I said, just like
most kids do. All those images of fighting with him come back, but I can hardly
help Cassie by thinking about those.
although we used to argue a lot.”
“I used to
argue with my parents too. I always wanted to do things my way, never what they
wanted to do, or when they wanted to do it. Now I wish I’d listened to them
more. Sometimes I can hardly remember how they sounded. I can hear them in my
dreams, but it’s all gone when I wake up.”
the same. He had my stubborn streak, but we have to remember the good times.
Even during his worst tantrums, if he was in trouble, he’d come to me. His mom
was great to cuddle if he hurt himself, but any other challenges he’d bring to
“I used to go
on long walks with my father. He’d take me places and show me things. Things I
can’t even remember any more. I just remember being with him, holding his hand,
“I used to
love carrying Charlie on my shoulders, until he got too big to let me.” I can’t
help the sigh that escapes. I don’t want to heap anything else on Cassie. I’m
supposed to be helping her out here and if it wasn’t for my bad dreams she
probably wouldn’t be so upset in the first place.
doesn’t it?” She pulls away to look me in the face and I’m grateful I still have
at least one youngster in my life to watch over. The crystal entity wasn’t my
son, the Reetou Charlie couldn’t stay, Merrin had to go back, but at least I can
take some solace in Cassie’s presence.
“Yeah, but at
least we have each other, right?”
“I’m glad I
have you and Janet, Jack. You understand.”
“We *all* care
for you Cassie.” I want to say Danny understands all too well what it’s like to
lose his family too, but that’s up to Danny to discuss. I can’t do that for him.
“I know, but
the others aren’t you. I can tell you things and you make it feel better. You’ll
not leave me, will you?” She lies back down against me, her arms snaking around
my chest again. Once more, ever so careful of the monitor leads attached to me.
sweetheart. I’ll be here for as long as you need me.”
Janet’s going to be so mad I woke you up. I promised her I wouldn’t.”
The truth is I
*am* tired again. I’ll be so grateful when I get my strength back and can get
outta this joint. At least I’ve managed to stay awake long enough to have a
decent conversation this time.
about I go back to sleep and then she’ll never know?”
a little and snuggles down even further. I’ve a funny feeling we’re both going
to be asleep in moments. Her mother’s probably going to have a fit, but I’m
relaxing too much under the warmth of Cassie’s hold to worry about it.
leave us Jack, we all need you too much. They might not tell you, but I know
everyone here cares about you. You’re special.”
I’m not sure
why, but when children say things they seem easier to believe in. Youngsters see
things in such simple terms, in black and white. They’ve not yet learned about
the different shades of grey in-between and often see right through any façade
that an adult presents to them.
“We all are,
Cassie. Janet, Sam, Danny, Teal’c, Hammond. They’re all important. You are too.”
the one who keeps us all together, Jack. You’re the one who always helps us when
things go wrong.”
What? Bull in
china shop O’Neill? I can’t help the yawn that escapes, as I try to come up with
an answer for her.
Jack. Sorry, you should get back to sleep. I’ll stay here and keep you company
till Janet gets back.”
“OK.” I give
her a tight squeeze and can’t help but close my eyes and drift off again,
surrounded by the total acceptance of her affection.
later, I’m vaguely disturbed by voices near the bed.
they look sweet?”
Daniel. You’ll wake them.”
DanielJackson, DoctorFraiser has said that ColonelO’Neill still needs much rest
before he can be released to our care.”
“Did Janet see
them like this?”
“Yes, she was
with the General too. Pity I don’t have my camera with me. Just thinking of the
blackmail I could hold over him sends my pulse racing.”
“I would not
allow you to do such a thing DanielJackson. O’Neill has done nothing to warrant
“Of course he
hasn’t Teal’c. I’m just kidding, that’s all. Although I could still kick his
butt for scaring us like that.”
“I’ll say Amen
“Why would one
say Amen? Is there a religious ceremony involved that I have missed?”
I hear the
voices recede into the distance again, as the sound of plastic chairs being
moved joins them. It’s just too much of an effort to acknowledge their presence.
Cassie’s still wrapped around me and my team are nearby, relaxing and joking. My
life’s not perfect and never will be again, but I won’t complain. What I have is
precious and I’ll always do whatever I have to in order to keep them safe. They
can kick my butt, but I’ll always lay it on the line to protect them. They’re
the special ones and no one can tell me any differently.