Jackfic Archive Story

 

General Analysis - General Jack Year Three - Part Six

by Flatkatsi

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).




General Analysis

The knocking was loud and insistent. I continued to rub my wet hair with the towel in one hand while the other hand collected the Glock from under my pillow. I tucked it into the waistband at the back of my jeans.

I opened the door.

"I've been knocking for ages." He had the nerve to sound annoyed.

"I was in the shower." I waved the damp towel in Daniel's face and he reared back, wrinkling his nose.

"Ewww. Don't put that near me."

"Why?" I waved it again, missing his nose by an inch. "It's wet, not dirty. I did just shower, you know."

"Yes, Jack. It's wet and cold--that's the point. It's freezing out here. Let me in."

I stood my ground. "Is it? I hadn't noticed. I enjoy standing at my front door with bare feet and no shirt on."

"Oh, very funny." He pushed past me and headed straight for the kitchen, pulling a mug from the cupboard and looking around. "Where's the coffee?"

"In my stomach." I pulled the Glock from behind me as I spoke. "I've had breakfast and I didn't cater for unexpected guests"

He gave me a serious look. "Okay, two questions. One--who has a shower after they eat breakfast, and two--why did you have a gun stuck in your pants?"

"Answer to question one--I do. Answer to question two--I do. And it isn't a gun, it's a Glock. Now, if you've finished, I have somewhere to be."

"That's why I came. I got to the base this morning and you weren't there." He chased after me as I walked to my bedroom. "Walter said you've taken a few days leave." I tossed the towel over the rail in the bathroom and pulled a shirt from the closet. "A bit sudden, isn't it?"

"Yep." I buttoned the shirt and picked the shoulder holster from the bed, putting it on before tucking the Glock into it.

"I said we needed to talk yesterday, Jack, and nothing's changed. And since when did you carry a weapon when off duty?"

I took a pair of socks from their drawer and sat on the edge of the bed to slip them on. "Since I became the guy in charge of the SGC, Daniel."

"General Hammond didn't carry one."

I raised an eyebrow. "Didn't he? You sure of that?"

He paused, his expression showing he was a little disturbed by my answer. I bent to my left foot, my right one already encased in its sock.

"So, what's going on?" He had obviously gotten over the shock of the idea George might have carried a concealed weapon.

I was so not in the mood for this conversation and I took a perverse pleasure in not making it any easier for him.

"I'm getting dressed."

One shoe down.

"Yes, Jack." Daniel's voice was downright pissed. "Why have you suddenly taken leave?"

I paused in the process of putting on the second shoe, giving him one of my best glares.

He glared back and crossed his arms. He was getting too good at glaring back these days.

"Daniel, I really do have an appointment." I looked at my watch and swore. "Damn-- one I'm going to be late for."

"Okay, then let me drive you to wherever you're going and we can talk on the way." He didn't let me protest. "You don't have a car waiting and you know you shouldn't be driving. Your arm is barely healed and you look like hell."

"Gee thanks, I appreciate your candour." I pushed myself off the bed, taking my leather jacket from the back of the chair, thinking about his suggestion as I went over to where I had left my wallet, cell phone, and keys. I slid the wallet and phone into their respective pockets and turned back to him. "Okay. You're right, I shouldn't be driving." I tossed the keys to him. "But we go in my truck."

He instinctively caught the keys, looking startled and stared down at them incredulously. "You hate me driving your truck."

I picked the thick folder up from the bedside table and tucked it under my arm. "I'm not going to Peterson in your heap. Come on."

I was locking the door before he spoke again.

"If we're going to Peterson why aren't you in uniform?"

"Because I'm on leave."

"Then why are you going to Peterson?"

I hauled myself up and into the passenger seat, feeling decidedly strange to not be driving. Daniel hopped in with an agility that made me envious and started the engine, giving me a sideways glance as he did so.

I didn't answer him and he gave a small shake of his head as he pulled out of the driveway. We had been driving for several minutes before I took my cell phone from my pocket and pressed the appropriate button.

"Walter, its O'Neill. Please inform Colonel Reynolds and Colonel Carter that Doctor Jackson will be assisting me today."

Daniel watched as I replaced phone. He stopped at a set of lights and kept his eyes on the red as he spoke.

"Are you going to tell me now?"

I nodded, knowing I had to, and before we got to the base. "Pull over opposite the park."

"Pull over? I thought you were late?"

I frowned. The man never obeyed an order. "Yes, Daniel, I am. Now pull over."

He pulled into a parking spot and we sat for a minute in silence, as I watched a jogger go by.

This wasn't easy for me. I've never been one to let people into my private life.

"I have an appointment with a psychiatrist." I didn't look at him, my eyes remaining firmly fixed on the far distance, but I felt him turn. "I haven't been sleeping well these past few weeks."

He waited, but I needed help here.

Finally he spoke. "Why a psychiatrist?"

His words broke the impasse I had created for myself.

"I've been having nightmares."

"Okay, Jack. I take it these aren't just run of the mill nightmares or you wouldn't be seeing a psychiatrist."

I nodded. "Yeah."

"Can you tell me what they're about?" His voice had lowered to almost a whisper and I couldn't help turning to look at him. I saw exactly what I had been afraid to see. I tried not to react. After all, Daniel is my best friend. Of course he would be worried. He knows my aversion to shrinks.

But it was hard not to close myself off again.

I shook my head. "Not yet."

He didn't argue, just sat there.

"We better get going." I waited until he was back in the traffic before I continued, before I took the next step. "Could you stay and take me home again?"

He moved into the left lane and waited for a gap before taking the turn. "No problem."

It was several minutes before he spoke again. "So, not your normal, everyday, being tortured to death nightmares then?"

"I wish." I even mustered a smile.

We stopped at the base gates and showed our ID, then continued to the parking lot.

"I'll come find you in the Officer's Club when I'm done. Okay?"

He nodded. "I'll be there." I'd already turned away when he called softly, "Jack." I looked back. "Good luck."

I smiled briefly, trying to not show my trepidation. "Yeah, right."

**********

I walked into Doctor Kasanji's office with all the dignity I could muster. "Sorry I'm late." Holding up the folder I'd brought from home, I continued. "You wanted my medical records."

He eyed the thick wad of papers with surprise. "I asked for them to be delivered to me here. I was wondering where they were"

"I had them brought to me instead." And what wonderful morning reading they had made, despite my already knowing what they contained. I had needed a second shower to wash the stench of pain and fear from my skin.

He raised an eyebrow and looked over his glasses in a now familiar pose. "That's unusual to say the least."

"What can I say--I'm an unusual man."

"Indeed." I was unable to conceal my smile at his unconscious Teal'c imitation. "How did you sleep, sir?"

"Fine. And, before you ask, yes I did take the pills, but there is no way I'm going to go down that road."

"You won't need to if we find the cause of your nightmares." He held out a hand. "May I have that, please, General. I'd like to look it over before we start. Commander Coates wasn't exactly forthcoming"

I shook my head and walked to the chair I had used the previous day. I sat, opened the folder in my lap, withdrew a section, and looked back over at him. "Here are the documents relating to my imprisonment in Iraq. Although I don't believe the nightmares are related, I can understand your need to eliminate that possibility. I will give you other records if and when the need arises as we talk."

He didn't speak as he came to join me, taking the opposite seat once again. His face was carefully schooled into a look of unconcern.

As was mine.

He held his hand out and I gave him the papers. He turned to the first page.

Within two minutes he called for coffee. Within five he was throwing me glances and the same looks I always got once someone read the details.

When he finally spoke his voice was remarkably unemotional. "This isn't easy reading. Your treatment at the hands of your captors was particularly brutal. Although I did treat several ex POWs your case is amongst the worst I've seen or heard of. Do you have any explanation as to why you were singled out? I imagine you've asked yourself the same question."

I nodded. "I know exactly why--my lack of cooperation. They didn't like that."

"I think it had more to it than that, sir. I don't believe you were the only prisoner to be uncooperative."

"I attracted the personal attention of the head guard." I leaned across and refilled my cup. "He was annoyed when I didn't react the way he wanted." I took a sip before putting the cup down again. "This has all been gone over ad nauseum. Every time I've been ordered to undertake mandatory psych evaluations after a serious injury or being captured it's brought up again, and frankly Doctor, I wish you would get back to original reason for my visits. The nightmares."

He made a few notes on his pad. "I still contend that the nightmares have a direct relationship to these incidents. You say the head guard took a personal interest in you. I take it you mean in a sexual way? Why do you think that was?"

"Christ! I don't know. He was a sadist bastard and got off on trying to make me scream. Why me? I don't know. Maybe he'd worn out his welcome with anyone else within a hundred miles. Maybe because I was Special Forces. I don't know."

"Perhaps it was because you were an attractive man?"

"I beg your pardon?" The coldness his words provoked was reflected in the iciness of my voice.

Kasanji held up a photo. It was the standard mug shot taken at regular intervals for the personnel file and must have been a good fifteen or more years old.

"You were young, fit, and extremely good looking."

"Your point?"

"Have you ever wondered if you encouraged this response in the guard?"

My throat closed up and I just sat there, totally stunned. This was new. The idea that I'd somehow encouraged that bastard to do what he did...I fought down the bile that rose and struggled to not show any outward sign of my distress.

"You mean I shouldn't have worn that mini skirt to the dance?"

"Humor is a way of avoiding an issue. However, you are correct to a certain extent. Your case is not unlike that of a woman who has been raped and then told she deserved it because of the way she dressed."

"I was wounded when I was brought in. I was half dead and then tortured to within an inch of my life. I hardly think I was attractive to anyone."

"Perhaps that was part of the attraction--your vulnerability. Combined with your refusal to give in he probably found you an appealing challenge. Your very refusal to give up and your continuing to fight aroused him." He waited, clearly expecting some sort of reaction, but I didn't give him one. After a few moments he continued. "You said there were hands holding you down in the nightmares. You felt helpless? Powerless? Just as you were to stop what happened to you in Iraq."

"No." I made a quick halting gesture with my hand. "That's where you're wrong. I never gave in to him or the others. Yes, I was powerless to stop them, but I never allowed myself to think like that. I fought them every step of the way and when I couldn't physically fight them I divorced myself mentally from what they did to me. I never blamed myself for what happened. I know I never ever gave in. Sure I had nightmares afterwards, who wouldn't? But I got through them. You've read the file. You know that." I stood and walked a few steps away before turning back. "Iraq is a part of my past I've grown to accept. What happened can't be changed. I still have occasion nightmares about it, but they're few and far between and usually after something has triggered them. These aren't the same."

"Please sit down, sir."

With a start, I realised I had turned away again and was almost at the office door. I stopped and stared at its dull wooden surface. Another step, a turn of the handle, and I'd be out of here.

"We'll leave your experience as a POW for the moment. Let's explore some other possible triggers for these nightmares."

"Good."

I sat back down, and watched as he flipped his writing pad over. His pen tapped against his teeth again.

"You said yesterday, 'Maybe I'm finally losing it after all the torture. Maybe I've died one time too many.'." He looked up questioningly. "You weren't talking about Iraq?"

I suppose it was too much to hope that he had forgotten that slip. Again I was thankful for the permission I'd been given to use discretion in what I told the doctor.

"There have been several occasions where I have undergone torture." I leafed through the folder I had placed on the low table between us and pulled another section from its protective sleeve. "This is the medical report relating to one of those instances."

I handed it over. He took it, glancing at his watch at the same time.

"Shall I send for some morning tea, sir?"

I didn't know if I could stomach anything but I nodded my agreement for appearances sake and sat back, trying to relax while he made the request.

"I'll read this now, if you don't mind, sir." He wasn't really asking my permission, so I didn't answer, just stretching out as much as possible and shutting my eyes. Although I had managed to get the first unbroken nights sleep in a long time, I found any sleep helped by chemical means wasn't really refreshing. I ignored the quick knock and sound of footsteps, waiting for several minutes after the morning tea was placed on the table before opening my eyes.

Doctor Kasanji was drinking a glass of juice and watching me.

I sat up and repositioned myself in the chair.

"Something to eat?" He held out a plate of what looked like salad sandwiches. "There are doughnuts if you'd prefer."

"Thank you." I took a sandwich and put it on the plate in front of me.

"I have to admit to being confused, sir. The details in this report are somewhat vague. You were captured by an enemy, held for several days and repeatedly tortured. During that time you were clinically dead at least a dozen times and revived using some device that caused an addiction to an unknown drug?"

"That about sums it up, yes."

My whole experience with Ba'al condensed down into two sentences.

"I would like to know more about this drug and its possible effects on the human mind. According to the report it caused hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms akin to those of cocaine addiction."

"Sorry, it's classified. The only information you will see is what is contained in those documents."

He sighed and rubbed a hand over his chin. "Surely you can see my dilemma here, General O'Neill. You're a confirmed drug addict, albeit an unwilling one, and yet you continue not only to be an active member of the Air Force, but have risen to a command position since the incident. You were tortured to the brink of death..."

He paused as I flinched and I growled a quick "Go on" at him.

"Tortured to the brink of death over and over and yet you seek psychiatric help over some bad dreams. It's obvious I don't have the full story and it's impossible to treat you without it."

"That..." I waved a hand at the file he held. "Isn't an issue either."

"And why is that, sir?" I detected a note of exasperation in his normally calm voice.

"Because I dealt with it."

"Dealt with it how?"

"I killed the bastard who did that to me."

He didn't blink. "Effective?"

"Yes, very."

"I could see that it would be."

I smiled coldly. "It certainly provided closure."

He took a bite of a sandwich, chewing it slowly. "You're not hungry?"

"No."

He made another note as he took a second bite. "Are you currently on any form of medication?"

"I was on painkillers for a recent injury until last week."

He raised his eyebrow again. "A recent injury? In combat?"

"Yes, I suffered a severe burn to my right arm and shoulder."

He slammed the notepad on the table, putting the pen on top of it, and put his hands on his knees. For the first time his tone displayed obvious frustration.

"General O'Neill, I can't treat you without all the facts. If I ask the right questions you offer some small modicum of information, but only if I ask the right questions. You don't volunteer anything. Unless you are completely honest with me I have no way of knowing what is important and what isn't. It's like going on a mission with only a fraction of the intel needed. You say your job isn't stressful, but you have now told me you have just suffered an injury, and yet you are a non-combatant senior officer--a base commander here on US soil. The small amount of facts I have managed to elicit give more than enough material for a dozen nightmares a night, but you refuse to acknowledge this and expect me to find some other unrelated cause. Frankly, sir, I doubt I can help you."

"So that's it?"

"Unless you allow me to approach this a different way."

"How so?"

"To begin with, you have to give me full access to your medical records."

"That's difficult, Doctor."

"Sir, can I be frank?"

I nodded. "Go on."

"Commander Coates asked that I report the result of our session to him. I can only assume he is acting under the orders of the President. At this point in time I would have no choice but to recommend you take medical leave for an indefinite period."

In that respect he was correct, so I couldn't argue. I stood. "Let me think on this. I'll call you tomorrow."

"Yes, sir." He stood as well and held out the two files I had given him. "General, please consider what I said carefully. These nightmares may just be the harbingers for something much worse, something you will find your previous coping techniques won't work on. You're not eating, not sleeping. You made the first step in seeking professional help. Don't walk away from that help when it is offered."

I looked him in the eye, seeing his genuine concern, and held out my hand. "I'll be in touch." A firm shake and I finally escaped.

Escaped? Was that what I was doing? Making excuses to refuse to face something I couldn't cope with?

***********

I found Daniel ensconced in a quiet corner of the Officer's Club, his head buried in the Colorado Springs Gazette. He lowered it as I stood across from him.

"No blood spilt?" He smiled. "The doctor's I mean."

"Nope, not a drop. You ready?"

He folded the paper. "Yes. You want to go straight home?"

"Definitely."

It wasn't until we were well on our way back to my house that I broke the silence. I had been surprised, but grateful to Daniel for not asking any of the questions that must have been going through his mind the whole time.

"Thanks for doing this, Daniel."

"What?"

"This." I gestured vaguely at the dash. "Driving me. Waiting."

"You're welcome." He paused and gave me a quick glance. "Want to talk about it?"

Did I? I hadn't made up my mind when he spoke again.

"Did it help--seeing the doctor?"

"No, not really. He doesn't know what we do."

"The SGC, you mean?"

"Yeah I can tell him about the SGC if I think it's necessary, but I don't know if it's the right move."

"Does he need to know?"

"He'll have to. He wants to see my complete medical file."

Daniel pulled the truck around a slow moving car and picked up the pace. "There would be some things in your records that would be hard to explain unless he knew all of the details."

"Exactly. He's seen some of them, and he already thinks I'm a homicidal, homosexual, drug addict."

We had reached a residential area and Daniel slowed once more as we wove our way through the suburban back streets.

"Homicidal I can understand. Drug addict--well, we've both been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. But homosexual?"

His tone was carefully neutral. Too careful.

I don't know what possessed me, but there rose a sudden urge to let some of the secrets loose, here where I was in control of the situation.

"It's the nightmares. They're of a man. Touching me."

"Touching?"

"The doctor thinks they're related to what happened in Iraq."

The truck did a sharp left turn and moved away from the direction of my house. Daniel's hands were clenched tight on the wheel.

"Where are you going?"

"If you want to do this right, I can't drive and talk at the same time."

"You're doing fine."

"No, Jack. You obviously want to talk so the question is: do you want it done right or not?"

I wanted to talk? Since when did Jack O'Neill want to talk?

Since I realised I couldn't do this on my own.

The fact we had stopped registered on me and I looked up, startled to find us back at the park we'd stopped at on the way to Peterson.

"Come on." Daniel didn't give me a chance to argue, opening the door and jumping out. He stood waiting. As soon as I got down and shut the door behind me he started walking, heading for the trees across from the small lake.

"Where are we going?"

"Somewhere private. Where we won't be disturbed."

"And we couldn't have gone home?"

He looked back at me over his shoulder. "There's too many distractions there. Too many memories. We need somewhere neutral."

I gave him a fierce glare, completely wasted on his back. "Since when did you become so insightful in a shrinky fashion?"

"I've had my fair share of experiences with psychiatrists, Jack. Plus it's commonsense."

I shut up, feeling like I was being pulled along by a hurricane, with no escape.

There was that word again--escape. That was my natural reaction to anything vaguely touching on the personal. Run, escape, hide. The complete opposite to the way I lived my life. I was always prepared to meet a physical enemy head on--why not a mental one?

Because I was scared of what would be exposed.

**********

Daniel stopped, his head turning as he scanned the area around us. This far into the trees the grass had been left to grow long and wild where the ground sloped gently away to touch the edge of the lake. Several large rocks lay scattered around and, with a small grunt of satisfaction, he moved to one of them and sat, his back propped against it.

He looked up at me expectantly. "Well?"

I sighed and came over to where he sat, finding my own personal rock next to his. A duck gave an indignant quack and waddled off to the water, dropping into it with a slash and swimming away.

"I better not get duck poop on my jeans." I gave the dirt around me a quick once over.

"Tell me about the dreams." Daniel clearly wasn't going to let me get off topic. He was like a predator that had sensed his prey's vulnerability. I had opened the door a notch and he was determined to get inside.

I gave him a quick run down of the whole nightmare thing, wondering if I should just tape it and play it back to whoever asked. It seemed to have gone from something I was keeping to myself to something everyone knew about in the space of a few days.

He was quiet while I spoke, asking no questions. The whole time he was drawing little lines in the dust with a stick he'd picked up from the ground beside him.

"Sounds like a Fetch."

Well, that certainly wasn't the response I expected.

"Fetch what?"

"It's an Irish folktale, Jack. I would have thought you would be familiar with it."

"I may be called O'Neill, Daniel, but my family's been here for five generations. And this isn't any cutesy fairytale creature."

"I didn't say it was. Actually, not a lot of fairytale creatures are cute. I'll give you an example..."

"Ah!" I raised a hand. "Not interested."

He had the grace to look a little abashed. "Yeah, I'll just say that a Fetch is a ghostly apparition that brings death. Anyone that survives long enough to talk about what they saw say they felt an artic blast or the cold hand of death itself. Some people dream of the Fetch before it actually appears to them. Usually the dreams are of ghostly hands touching them." He poked at the ground with the stick's point. "See--sounds like you're being visited by a Fetch."

"Fascinating though that bit of my lost heritage is, Daniel, this isn't any ghostly apparition. It's all too real."

"How did the doctor interpret these nightmares? You said something about Iraq?"

I grimaced and looked away. "You know this whole little scene would just confirm the doctor's first suspicions about me."

"How do you mean?"

"Two men, hiding away in the corner of a park, alone where no one can see them."

Daniel's voice was more than puzzled, it was confused. "I'm not getting you."

"He asked if I was gay. Well, he didn't actually put it like that. He was more politically correct."

Once again Daniel's reaction surprised me. He burst into a loud laugh. "You, gay! Not likely. Why on Earth would he think that?"

"My description of the nightmares." I paused then continued, "I was raped when I was a POW."

"Oh, god, Jack." I heard him give an audible swallow. "You've never said anything, not mentioned this once."

"What did you want me to do, Daniel? Bare my soul?"

"I could have helped."

My temper flared into life. "Helped? How? It's done. Why did I need to tell anyone? Answer me that. What possible difference would it make except to have people look at me like I had a sign above my head 'Victim. Feel sorry for him'. I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me, Daniel. I don't need for them to look at me any differently. I want them to see Jack O'Neill, not a victim. It was bad enough after Ba'al, but I'll tell you something--what happened in Iraq made me all the stronger and helped me survive what he did to me. So answer me this--what good would it have done if you had known?"

"So, why did you tell me now?"

I heard the rustle of cloth as he shifted nearer to me and the light press of his knee against mine.

Why had I told him?

"Because I can't do it by myself anymore."

**********

"I agree. I don't think it's Iraq that's causing these nightmares."

I was a little taken aback by his ready acceptance of my theory. I had just spent almost an hour telling Daniel everything I could think of, or bear to remember, about my treatment from the guards in the prison and apart from tightness around his eyes and a slight paleness of complexion you'd have thought we'd been discuss the latest football results.

"That's not what Doctor Kasanji thinks."

"He doesn't know you as well as I do. You said it yourself--you never stopped fighting when you were a prisoner. In the dreams you've stopped fighting. You're helpless. So it isn't Iraq."

I couldn't help the edge of sarcasm that crept into my voice. "You make it sound so simple."

"I never said it was simple. I just said we had to look elsewhere for the cause."

The shadows were lengthening and the chill that had been present in the air all day had taken up residence in my arms and legs. Mind you, the cold was the only thing keeping me awake now. I felt totally drained. I opened my mouth to suggest we leave and only managed a wide yawn.

"Damn, I'm sorry."

I looked at Daniel in surprise, wondering what he was apologizing for.

"I should have taken you home ages ago."

"Excuse me? Taken me home? What am I, your date? Do I have a curfew I don't know about?"

He stood, brushing the dirt from his trousers. "Don't be an idiot, Jack. You're still not a hundred percent fit and you haven't been sleeping. We shouldn't have done this outside. You'll probably get a cold."

I scowled up at him. "Why do I suddenly feel like I'm the kid and you're the parent? Grown man here, Daniel. I think I know what I'm doing." I pushed up and felt the numbness of abused muscles.

I sat back down.

Daniel stood staring at me while I suffered, a tiny smile creeping across his lips.

"Oh, for cryin' out loud, help me up and stop smirking!"

**********

He was still finding it amusing when we were back in my truck and almost home. I felt like hitting him, but decided to wait until he had stopped driving.

Teal'c and Carter were waiting when we pulled up outside my house. They both left the warmth of Carter's car, Teal'c stretching a little, and joined us as I unlocked the door.

"Hey, guys. Thanks for coming."

"You are welcome, O'Neill."

"No problem, sir. As I told Daniel when he phoned, I wasn't doing anything tonight anyway."

"We have not had a team night for some time, O'Neill. I was pleased to receive Daniel Jackson's call."

I pushed the door open and went in ahead of them, going straight to the fireplace, taking off my jacket as I walked. "Ah, it's not exactly a team night, T." I bent to light the fire as I continued. "Actually, I was hoping you'd give me some help."

"What sort of help, sir?"

I held my hands out to the growing heat, trying to get some life back into them.

They were so cold.

Icy.

I felt a shiver run through me.

"Hey." A firm hand pulled me over to the sofa. "Sam, get Jack something hot to drink. Teal'c, could you find a blanket?"

"I'm fine."

"You're shivering. I knew we shouldn't have stayed out that long."

Crap! This is what happens when I let just a tiny crack appear in my armor. The kid gloves come out and I get treated like I'm some sort of invalid.

Like I'm different. Not who I was.

"Here, sir." I took the mug Carter pushed into my hands.

"Warm milk?"

She gave me a weak smile.

"Here, O'Neill." Teal'c appeared from the hall, holding out a baby blue blanket. He started tucking it around me.

Okay--that was it!

I rose, gathered my dignity around me, discarding the blanket and the milk in the process, and spoke firmly. I was proud that I managed to stay controlled.

"I'm going to go lie down. Make yourselves at home. If I'm not out in an hour, come wake me." I stalked off in the direction of the bedroom, tossing my final comment over my shoulder as if it was a last minute thought. "Daniel--fill them in."

I breathed a sigh of relief as I reached the sanctuary of my room and shut the door, blocking out the murmurs of conversation from the lounge room. I took off my shoes and pulled the covers back, getting into the bed fully clothed. I slowly began to warm up and I found myself drifting off to sleep.

**********

A hand on my thigh. Another stroking slowly across my stomach.

Whispers.

"O'Neill."

I bolted upright, every nerve in my body screaming at me to escape.

"O'Neill." The voice was louder now, it's owner a blurred figure bending over me. I lashed out, only to have my arms grabbed in a tight grasp. A hand on each of my upper arms pulled me back, forcing me to look at what I didn't want to see.

"It is I. You are safe."

"Teal'c?" My heart still beat rapidly in my chest. "What...?"

"Jack, you okay?" I caught a glimpse of Daniel's worried face in the doorway before Teal'c moved, blocking him from my view.

And me from his.

"There is no problem, Daniel Jackson. Please return to the lounge room. The general and I will join you shortly."

"Oh. Okay."

The large hands didn't release their grip until our friend had retreated down the hallway. Then Teal'c moved back, looking me in the eyes.

"You experienced one of the dreams Daniel Jackson described."

It wasn't a question, but I nodded anyway.

"We will find the cause of these dreams and stop them from happening."

He sounded so certain. So sure. I knew he meant every word.

He'd never failed me.

I gave his arm a quick pat and he nodded. It was easy to communicate with Teal'c without words. We understood each other.

"Give me a few minutes."

He nodded again. I headed for the bathroom as he left the bedroom.

I'd have to get out of the habit of looking at myself in the mirror. It wasn't a pretty sight at all and did nothing for my ego.

A few splashes of water on my face and a quick brush of my hair and I was ready to face my friends.

They were seated around the fire. Daniel and Carter were drinking red wine and I found myself hoping it wasn't one of the good bottles I had cellared for a few years down the track. Teal'c was munching his way through the hand baked chocolate chip cookies I had bought from the local school bake sale.

Daniel pushed the bottle towards me and I poured myself a glass, knowing it was stupid to be drinking on an empty stomach.

"Sorry, sir."

I didn't ask what Carter was apologizing for. "It's okay, Sam. I understand." And I did. They were worried about me and had wanted to show it.

She visibly relaxed at my use of her first name and continued. "Daniel told us about the nightmares. Something must have set them off, sir. Did something happen? Is there anything you can think of that may have triggered them?"

I gave it careful thought, but shook my head. "I've got nothing."

"We've been discussing them while you rested, and we think we have a plan." I gave Daniel a quick look as he spoke--one he correctly interpreted as he gave a small shake of his head. In the car we had discussed how to approach the issue with Carter and Teal'c and I now knew he had stuck to the original plan of only telling them about the dreams. There was no need to cloud the issue with irrelevant facts.

"A plan?"

Teal'c took up the explanation. "You remember my attempt to teach you how to achieve a state of kelno'reem?"

"Oh, yeah." That whole Ma'chello body swap deal was so not my definition of a good time. My hand snuck up involuntarily to give my hair a quick, reassuring touch.

"My suggestion is that I lead you once more in kelno'reem, allowing you to experience these dreams whilst relaxed. You will then be able to observe the details objectively."

"Hang on--this is beginning to sound awfully like hypnosis."

Teal'c nodded. "Indeed. There are similarities."

"Then, no."

"Why not, Jack?" Daniel had put his glass down and was looking up at me.

Because it meant giving over control and wasn't that what this was all about?

"I doubt it would work, Daniel. I was trained to resist hypnosis when I was in Special Forces."

"Why don't we give it a try?"

I turned to Carter. "Do you think it could work, Colonel?"

"I wouldn't hurt to try, sir, and it could help. What have you got to lose?"

I looked at the three people seated in front of me. I trusted them with my life. Now it was time to put myself in their hands.

"Okay. Let's do it."

**********

"Relax, O'Neill."

"I'm trying." I moved again, attempting to find a comfortable position. "It's hard to relax when your leg is going to sleep."

"Maybe another cushion?" There was a soft thump and I opened my eyes to find a large cushion on the floor by my right leg. I smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Carter."

She smiled back. "Anytime, sir."

I pounded the cushion into a fluffy heap and stuck it at my back. "Does this really have to be done on the floor?"

"It is tradition."

"And who am I to go against tradition."

There was an amused snort from Daniel's direction, silenced by a glare from Teal'c.

"Shall we try again, O'Neill?"

I nodded. "Indeed."

There was another, more feminine snort and another glare.

This time I allowed myself to relax and listen to the calm, low rumble of Teal'c's voice. He was there with me and I was safe.

Time passed slowly. I felt myself falling into a rhythm with at measured ticks of the clock and the calming words.

I drifted between sleeping and waking.

And the hands reached out for me, pushing, pressing, hurting.

I gasped for breath.

"I am here."

The pressure on my chest eased.

"What do you see?"

White. I saw white.

And my breath caught in my throat.

Nothing but white and hands and mouths.

It was so very, very cold.

"O'Neill, what do you see?"

It was too cold to look. My eyes were shut against the darkness within. Helpless to do anything.

Frozen in place.

Locked inside myself.

"You must see. I am here with you. We will look together."

Hands stroking. Lips pressing against mine.

I struggled against them, locked and frozen and helpless.

"Open your eyes, O'Neill. See what you need to."

"No. I can't."

"You can. You must."

Fingers bruising skin.

Ice all around me.

And I opened my eyes to see the face of the Fetch.

Ramsey.

**********

TBC


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