Jackfic Fiction Archive Story

 

Following The Leader Series - Part 1: Following The Leader

by Elizabeth

 




Following The Leader

As I sit here, by my leader's bedside, I cannot help but feel inadequate in this present emergency. We had returned from our latest mission and O'Neill seemed as if troubled over something. He was far quieter than his normal exuberant self. I was puzzled by his mannerisms, but I am often in that unfortunate position around these Tau'ri and around O'Neill in particular. He is a man of many facets, each one seemingly determined to keep me off balance, something he seems to derive great pleasure from.

As Hammond's First Prime, he holds a role equating to my previous exalted position under Apophis, but I have never felt in awe of him. Before I turned from the false gods I was used to seeing fear in the eyes of those beneath me. Being honest, I must also admit that I enjoyed the adulation I was afforded, at least at first, before the doubts set in. O'Neill has showed me that you do not need to instil fear into those you command, to gain their trust and following. I know that this Air Force of theirs has regulations and codes of conduct, to which soldiers are obliged to adhere to, even though they join voluntarily. However, that is true of any military organisation, if it is to maintain a chain of command. What this particular man has shown me, is that you can also command with compassion for those underneath you. It is something I had never even considered previously.

Jaffa are taught to protect their leaders with their own lives, if necessary. The lower the rank you hold on the field of battle, the less important is your life. This Tau'ri, who will without doubt protect his commanders, will also endow those under him with the same value. It is in direct opposition to the view I previously held and yet, I cannot help but follow his lead in this matter. I have frequently observed how O'Neill will put himself at risk to protect those under his command, even though they are of less strategic value in our battles than he is. In return for this, he unknowingly gains their utmost trust and dedication. It is not his intention to gain their adulation, but I think he also has that. I have seen the way he is quietly worshipped by those who have worked with him. He is fallible and has most certainly lost men under his command before, but his people know he cares about them as individuals and they trust him to do his utmost to protect them.

I wish I knew how to protect him from this.

He twists on the bed once more, muttering quiet words that I am unable to comprehend. I know that he is speaking another one of the Tau'ri's many languages and I wish DanielJackson was here to comfort him. I have never come across a planet before, where the different cultures have never learned to use at least one common language. It makes me wonder how the people of Earth manage to trade so easily, when so few of the inhabitants can understand each other. It is a very complex planet.

My thoughts are interrupted as O'Neill curls and then unfurls on the bed. He appears to be in pain, although I am uncertain whether it is a physical or mental anguish that makes him move so restlessly. I have learned only a little about his past, but enough to know that he has endured great pain and torment in the service of his country. I have suffered much myself, but I have the advantage of my primta to heal physical trauma quickly and I seem to have been spared much else that O'Neill has endured. Cruelty, unfortunately seems to be a constant, no matter where in the universe you are.

It is ironic that these Tau'ri, who would appear on the surface to hold very little in the way of direct threat towards the Goa'uld, have in fact caused so great a damage to their power and esteem. I am constantly amazed by their ability and determination to be effective in the face of greater odds. Especially this Tau'ri. Nowhere have I encountered such a fierce spirit as this one human encompasses. He settles a bit on the bed and I watch, as his chest rapidly raises and lowers, much faster and shallower than is normal for him. The faint sounds of his breathing are a match to this rhythm and I hope that his condition will not deteriorate further.

DoctorFraiser has tried to explain to me what is happening, but she speaks yet another language I cannot understand. Having my primta has negated much learning in the past of the way the body works and I find I am now frequently troubled by this lack of knowledge. MajorCarter and DanielJackson have acquired much more information than I in this field and I must attempt to understand more. These people have shown me many ways of learning and encouraged me to further myself. It is a great gift and I feel humbled by their affection for me. In my previous life I wielded great physical power, but that is as nought to the power my spirit now holds. A true gift bestowed by this man, now incapacitated on the bed before me.

As I watch, his eyes slowly open, but they are unfocused and I know he does not see me. It hurts my spirit greatly that he cannot see my presence and the comfort it may afford him. His head is facing towards me and his hand is resting on the pillow before him, where he restlessly laid it earlier. I can see him struggling to focus his gaze upon himself, as if fixated. He flexes his fingers and I wonder what he is seeing, as his glazed expression fails to focus on the moving digits.

DoctorFraiser has explained that whatever has entered my friend's body is disturbing its normal actions. Functions are being increased, placing a great strain on his system and affecting some of the 'transmitters' in his brain, particularly those which act upon cognitive processes. I know she is concerned about the possibility of his body being unable to cope with the accumulating stresses and failing. This is a possibility which I do not wish to accept. O'Neill is a strong man and I would will him some of my own strength too if I were able.

His eyes have closed again and I mourn their absence. You can tell much about a man from his eyes, as I did with O'Neill upon our first meeting. There is a depth to them that I do not often see in others. Depth and strength that speak of an implacable force of character. One not to be toyed with lightly. His face, so often set in an unassuming pose would have you belie the true depth of his spirit. That is not a mistake I have ever made. I have looked into the glowing eyes of gods and devils and I knew I faced a great man when I saw his. It is truly a shame that his personal life has also suffered great tragedy. It would have been an honour to have watched a child of this man grow to fruition.

Once more he begins to turn on the bed before me, his arms and legs seemingly unable to remain still. DoctorFraiser returns from her other duties to check on him once more, even though there is a nurse constantly in attendance. She has assured me he is not suffering from a fever, which I am both relieved for and also strangely regretful of. At least I could help bathe and cool him, if he had a fever. I would feel as if I were doing something to aid him, as are my other team-mates. They returned to the planet several hours ago, to try and ascertain what may have happened to our leader. There is only one instance when we were separated and I must hope that this is a clue to curing his condition.

The natives are peaceful and friendly and, although the planet has little to offer us in the way of minerals or technologies, we enjoyed our time and exchanged brief knowledges of each other. DanielJackson seemed to find the experience the most rewarding, having little difficulty translating a language he compared to ancient Russian. The children were, as usual, drawn to the Colonel and he spent many hours playing with them, teaching them the basics of baseball. He did not seem to experience any difficulties communicating with the children, as is usual for this man. However, I suspect he may have actually understood a little of this language and has kept that knowledge a secret from our linguist. Although I am not sure why, I am constantly being forced to re-evaluate his projected level of intelligence. It is just another example of his confusing behaviour.

On the last morning of our stay there, O'Neill disappeared for one more game with a group of youngsters and came back later, muddied and dishevelled. He used humour to explain his unusual appearance with a short explanation about helping a boy to understand Newton's law of gravity. I do not know what this activity entailed, but I suspect that from the slight tears in his clothing that it was an eventful occasion that the child will not forget. My team-mates merely exchanged amused glances and did not comment further at the time.

We packed our belongings away and walked back to the gate in high spirits, although I noticed that O'Neill became withdrawn during the journey. At the time, I attributed it to his regrets at leaving the children behind, as he is often affected thus. As is usual, O'Neill insisted we went through our post mission medical examinations first. He has a multitude of explanations for why he wishes to be last, always covered in humour and usually directed towards the Doctor's skills. However, I feel it is more likely another example of his concern for his team, why he makes sure we are attended to first. I do not know if DoctorFraiser had examined him first, if it would have made any difference, but I regret not ensuring his quiet behaviour was drawn to the Doctor's attention first.

It was during her examination of him, whilst he was sat on the gurney, that O'Neill suddenly lost consciousness. He would have fallen off, if not for her strong grip and my timely assistance. That was yesterday evening and the Colonel has yet to regain awareness. We were put through several additional tests and have been found to be free of the substance that is in O'Neill's bloodstream. This is why my two team-mates have departed for the planet again, at their first light, to speak to the children. Hopefully, they will be able to explain the mystery of what has happened to our commander and friend.

The Doctor is trying yet again to attach heart-monitor leads to him. However, yet again, he fights her off, agitatedly. Many times she has tried to attach respiratory aids, either the nasal canula, or the oxygen mask, yet each time he rips them off. I have queried why she does not sedate him, in order to let us assist him further. She has tried to explain how her tests have shown an unfavourable reaction of the substance in his system to other drugs. It has left her with a difficult choice, as to when to administer help, as even attaching an IV for nutrients has proved impossible. If we cannot find a cure for his condition soon, she will have no option but to risk interfering further. Otherwise he will become severely dehydrated and his body even more imperilled. Once again my lack of medical knowledge prevents me from understanding any further. I merely know that the Doctor is hoping the return of my team will be very soon.

Once the Doctor has stopped trying to attach the medical equipment to him, O'Neill stills slightly again. His eyes open once more and this time his head is facing upwards, so he tries to study the ceiling. His gaze wanders about without purpose and he seems unable to hear the Doctor's persistent calls for his attention. She holds a finger in front of his eyes, but he makes no attempt to follow it with his gaze, his expression quite blank.

How I wish there was some expression in that mobile face. I can see so much in his features when he is not shielding his feelings. He is a warrior, easily the equal in both stature and ability to Bra'tac and I have never regretted giving up my old life to follow him. I have seen his face betray many statements when he is on duty. He can be hard and unyielding towards the enemy, yet convey more comfort towards a pained comrade than their closest friends. He knows what it is to feel pain, more so than I, and he has an instinctive feel for the heart of a person's nature. I have learned to listen to O'Neill's instincts. My senses may be more sensitive than my Tau'ri team-mates, but O'Neill is usually more aware of the atmosphere of a situation. Some part of him warning about danger before the rest of us have realised the potential. I would follow him anywhere.

He mumbles again as his eyes close and I see the concerned look on DoctorFraiser's face as she studies his rapid and beleaguered breathing. She is looking once more towards the oxygen equipment and I know she is wondering whether it is time to force the measures on her patient. I feel she will soon have to make her mind up, as even my untrained medical eyes can see the toll being affected on my friend. I know his rhythms, as I'm sure he knows mine. All it took was one look off this man and we both knew we'd made a connection. Warriors on the opposite sides of battle, yet he threw me a challenge and knew I'd answer him. I can never repay that trust. We may have saved each other's lives many times since, but that initial gift of trust and a new way of life can never be fully repaid.

I wonder if he knows how much I am in his debt? I doubt it. He does not think in terms like that. He does not even seem to appreciate his own value. How ironic that the Tau'ri First Prime does not consider himself of any worth. Hammond is a great man, but he could never lead from the front, like O'Neill does. It is not Hammond that the Goa'uld talk of, even fear a little. It is O'Neill and his team, but primarily our leader. The rest of us, MajorCarter, DanielJackson and myself would make valuable prizes for any Goa'uld, but O'Neill, as the figurehead and strategist behind SG1 is the greatest prize. I would offer myself to save him if it came to that, but I know he will not allow this and, whilst I follow his command, I must follow his orders. I am not incapable of 'bending a few rules', to use an expression of his, but the heart of my leader would be implacable if I offered myself for him. We are two of a kind in that regard. No, I err with that thought. We are four of a kind, as I know our other team-mates would unhesitatingly feel the same way.

I have been sitting here for several hours now, watching my friend's uncoordinated moves on the bed, struggling with whatever he is seeing in his delusional state. Many times I have pulled the sheets back up over his body as he pushes them away. I am hesitant to restrain him, as I have heard many cryptic remarks about the forms of imprisonment he has endured in the past. I would not wish to add to his discomfort by replicating anything he may have previously experienced. I have tried to hold his hand, as I have seen other Tau'ri doing during times of stress, but he fights me, as he fights everything else that touches him. I feel I am letting him down and my guilt cannot be assuaged.

I can hear the klaxons for an off-world activation and, although I will not leave my leader's side, I hope that it is my team with a cure. Within minutes I can recognise the hurrying footsteps of MajorCarter and DanielJackson. They quickly join me at our friend's side and whisper what they have found. I do not understand why they lower their voices, as O'Neill has ignored every sound around him since his collapse, but it seems to be a Tau'ri mannerism, so I accept it.

Apparently, on that last morning, the Colonel went to the assistance of a child who'd fallen down a ravine. He was the nearest adult that the boy's friends had found and, after following the children's gestures, unhesitatingly climbed down after the boy and returned him safely to the surface. Luckily the child was suffering nothing worse than bruises and lost pride. It appears they wanted the Colonel to follow them back to their home, but the Colonel was aware of the time and wanted to return to us. He was, therefore, unaware of the danger they were childishly trying to warn him about. Some of the bushes he had to climb through were protected by thorns that exude a drug like substance, as a defence mechanism against grazing animals. The natives have given us some of the cure, along with their thanks, and we must now hope that DoctorFraiser can adjust the cure for the Colonel's different physiology.

Two hours later, DoctorFraiser returns to O'Neill's bedside to inject something into his arm. This time I am forced to restrain him and he writhes beside me, attempting to force me away. MajorCarter and DanielJackson help hold his body still and his expression changes from blank to fearful for the few moments it takes for DoctorFraiser to inject the substance. We quickly let go, watching as the Colonel soon calms down again and the Doctor sighs. It seems they have managed to alter the substance gained from the natives and she expects O'Neill to react to the cure shortly. We are all tired and in need of sleep, even I have been unable to partake of Kel'no'reem during this time, but we will not give in now. However long it takes, I know the four of us will stay and watch over our commander, until we know he is faring better.

An hour later and we can all see that his breathing is calming down, slowing to a more natural rhythm. He is not as agitated as previously and he no longer talks in that delirious manner. His face is turned towards us on the pillow and we watch, spell-bound as his eyes slowly open. I have seen his eyes several times over the past few hours and I can see the difference immediately. His pupils are reacting, trying to focus on the Doctor standing beside him. It is obviously hard work for him and he turns his head slightly, looking around him, his previously blank face showing a genuine emotion - confusion. My heart beats with happiness, although it will not show on my face to any casual observer. DoctorFraiser talks to him and he slowly turns back towards her, her voice getting through his dulled senses. I do not think he yet understands her, although she is pleased by his progress to her tests. She manages to get some water into him, placing the straw in his mouth, encouraging him as if a child.

She speaks slowly to him, telling him it is time to go back to sleep and we can see the relief on her face. It is reflected on the faces of my two friends beside me and I feel content. Looking once more towards my leader though, I can see he is still looking confused and gazing around him with growing concern. I lean over towards him and his head turns my direction. Those deep brown eyes focus on my forehead and I see him relax slightly.

"You must rest O'Neill. We are all here. We are all well."

There is the slightest of smiles on his face and his eyes close once more. DanielJackson slaps me on the back and MajorCarter and DoctorFraiser exchange a brief hug. I sit back and know that we can now rest, the time for worrying has now passed.

I allow myself the luxury of looking once more at my peacefully sleeping friend and cannot help but offer my thanks to whatever genuine God may be listening. My cause for staying with the Tau'ri is still here. My reason for continuing the fight with the SGC is still valid. He is no God, no super-being, no all-knowing, or all-powerful essence. He is just a man, one unique and noble individual with beliefs and skills that I will constantly strive to emulate, long after he is gone.

As long as he will allow me, I will continue to follow my leader.

*****The End*****