Groping in the Dark – General Jack Year Three - Part Five
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).
I woke drenched in sweat, for the fourth time in as many days. My hand groped for
the light on my alarm clock, finally connecting with the button, the numbers glowing
eerily out of the darkness.
My heart was pounding and I felt decidedly shaky. There was no way I was going to
relax enough to fall asleep again. For a few minutes I just lay there, a cold clammy
feeling crawling over my skin as the moisture on my body cooled. Eventually I
untangled myself from the sheets and staggered into the bathroom, stripping off the
boxers and t-shirt as I went.
The warm water made some headway towards grounding me in reality and by the
time it began to cool I had decided what I had to do.
This couldn't go on.
For weeks now I had been plagued by nightmares that had become increasingly
unsettling. Each morning I woke, feeling totally rung out and wanting nothing more
than to stay in bed watching television and just vegetating. Instead, I dragged myself
into my uniform and out to the waiting car. Once I reached the base I isolated myself
in my office, using Walter as a buffer between myself and the rest of the personnel.
The day to day decisions were no problem. The SGC ran as efficiently as ever. But I
didn't meet Daniel for lunch, didn't drop in to chat to Carter, didn't spar with Teal'c,
and I certainly didn't participate in team nights.
Far from it.
What was I meant to do? SG-1 would walk in, DVDs in hand and pizza orders ready,
take one look at me and want to know what the problem was. I could see it coming.
They wouldn't let up. Collectively they were like a dog with a bone - totally unable to
drop it until it was sucked dry. Even Teal'c. He would give me that stare, cock an
eyebrow, and ask the questions Carter and Daniel hesitated over. He was the most
dangerous of them all.
What could I say? That I was losing it because of recurring nightmares over
something that never happened? That I questioned my sanity?
The latest mission had been a godsend. It had been eleven days since I sent them off
to investigate possible new technology on an uninhabited world. Colonel Carter
reported that the machines in the ruins were totally unlike any she'd seen before. She
had even suggested I might come take a look.
I refused and felt the almost physical disappointment emanating down the link. Daniel
had wrestled control of the comlink and explained, once again, that there was a
possibility the machines would activate if my Ancient gene and I paid a visit. And
once again, just as I had when I had briefed them on their mission, I explained that I
could not, and I neglected to mention, would not, get permission for an offworld trip.
Over the past few days, several parties of science geeks had trooped off through the
Gate, gleams in their eyes, to join my intrepid ex-team.
And I had hidden in my office.
SG-1 were due back this afternoon, and I knew, there was no way in hell I could
intimidate them into silence the way I had the rest of my command.
I picked up the telephone and dialed a familiar number.
"Let me think about this, Jack." There was a pause and I could almost see the
perplexed frown on General Hammond's forehead as he processed the information I'd
given him. Then he coughed, a rather uncomfortable sound, and continued. "You
know I'll have to tell General Jumper, and he will inform the President."
I sighed. "I understand."
"Very well. I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Thank you, sir. I'll be waiting for your call."
I held the receiver in my hand for a moment, sheer disbelief at what I had just done
causing me to freeze in mid motion. Then I gave myself a mental dressing down.
What was done, was done. Now I just had to get through the day ahead.
Right on schedule, the klaxons sounded and I made my way to the control room.
"Sg-1's IDC, sir."
I nodded. "Open the iris."
Daniel came through first, followed by Teal'c and Carter. I bent to the microphone.
"Hi, kids. Have fun?"
Daniel gave me a quick wave. "When can I go back?"
There were a few chuckles from the personnel around me and I couldn't help smiling.
"Debriefing as soon as you finish in the infirmary."
I had already turned to go when Carter snapped out a "Yes, sir."
I could feel their eyes on my back.
"What's going on, Jack?"
I made a show of looking down at the paper in front of me, turning the blank page
over and looking at its back. "I don't know, Daniel. I don't have your report yet."
"I believe Daniel Jackson is referring to your state of health, O'Neill. You do not
I knew this was going to happen. When did my friends get so predictable?
"If you don't mind me saying, sir, you don't look fine."
"Just a couple of late nights. It tends to catch up on you at my age." I straightened in
my chair and turned to Carter. "Now, Colonel. Your assessment of the site on P8G-
173?" I asked the question in a clipped, no nonsense tone.
Carter responded by stiffening and reverting from concerned friend to military mode.
"Invaluable, sir. The scientific team predicts it will take several weeks to carry out a
An hour and a half and several cups of coffee later, I had managed to mostly get SG-1
off the topic of my health. Apart from the occasional worried glance the debriefing
had remained on topic, but I knew it wouldn't last. As soon as the official business
was over, I would be in for some hard questioning.
I gave my watch a quick look before standing. "I'll consider your request to return to
the planet, Daniel. Have your estimate of the extra staff needed to complete the
investigations within two weeks on my desk as soon as possible." I nodded to them.
I had almost made it to the door of my office before Daniel's cry of "Jack, we need to
talk," followed me.
I stopped, turned a little and gave a shrug. "Sorry - maybe later."
Closing the door, I slid into my chair. Without conscious thought I found myself
rubbing my hands over my face. Damn, but I was tired. I pushed the chair back from
the desk, sat back, stretched out my legs, and shut my eyes, just resting them for a
Moist lips on mine. Hands pushing at me. I struggled to rise, struggled to press against
the hands holding me down.
The sound of knocking.
"General O'Neill." I opened my eyes just as Walter's face appeared. "General
Hammond on the phone for you, sir."
I nodded my thanks and reached for the receiver.
We exchanged the customary pleasantries then got to the point of the call.
"It's arranged. We agree it's best to deal with this away from the SGC."
"Yes." I nodded into the phone. "I think you know why I couldn't consider
"I do understand, Jack, but it does make it harder to find someone suitable. We've had
to come to a compromise. Given the clearance needed, Doctor Kasanji at Peterson is
the only choice. You have discretion to divulge as much about the Stargate Program
as you feel necessary. The proximity to the Mountain will also make it easier to
"You don't think this can be sorted in one session, son?"
Hammond continued as I floundered to a halt, knowing he was right, but not wanting
to admit it. "General Jumper and President Hayes agreed to this only on the condition
that if Doctor Kasanji feels it is necessary, you step down from command." He didn't
let my protests become more than a few short syllables. "I don't for one moment
expect it will come to that, but if it does you will take immediate medical leave. Your
command will be there when you get back."
The enormity of the events I had set in motion hit me like a Jaffa staff weapon blast.
"Sir...George...they're just a few bad dreams."
"You wouldn't have come to me if that was all they are, and you know it, son."
I hated it when he was right.
By late afternoon I was driving, or should I say being driven, through the front gate of
Peterson Air Force Base, feeling like I was going to my execution. It seems the good
Doctor Kasanji had happily cleared a space in his busy schedule to talk to General
And to think this had all been my idea.
The base commander, General Luken was on leave, so I made myself know to his 2IC
and continued to the medical facility. The doctor's office wasn't hard to find, his
nameplate gleaming on the pale blue door - "Colonel Kasanji - Psychiatrist."
I hesitated for a moment longer, feeling like turning tail and running from something
for the first time in ages. Then I collected myself and rapped sharply.
I twisted the handle and pushed the door open, to come face to face with a man almost
as tall as myself, his hand extended in greeting. He looked to be in his late forties,
with a distinctive scar cutting a pale line across the brown skin of his left cheek.
"Please come in, sir. I was just about to ask for coffee to be brought in. Would you
I found myself seated in a comfortable chair in the corner of the office before I even
realized I'd moved. The doctor leaned over the intercom, giving quick orders then
strode over to take a similar seat opposite me.
The coffee was brought in by a smiling airman, and there was no way you could
convince me Kasanji hadn't cued him to bring it as soon as I arrived. He placed it on
the low table between us, clearing the pile of magazines to one side and quietly left
"How do you take it, General?"
"Black." Too many years of having to take what I could get when out in the field had
cured me of any need for cream or sugar.
He handed me a cup and sat back, sipping from his own. He didn't allow the silence to
stretch for too long however.
"Now, sir, would you tell me the problem that has brought you here?"
I nodded. "I'm having trouble sleeping."
He waited and I stared at him. It took a couple of minutes for him to realise the
normal tactic of getting the patient to fill an uncomfortable silence wasn't going to
work here. His lips twitched in a small smile as I continued to sip the coffee.
"I assume you've sought the normal medical help for your insomnia - sleeping pills."
"Nope. I don't take sleeping pills."
"May I ask why?"
Too many drugged up days after too many missions gone sour.
"The position I have requires me to be reachable at all times."
He picked up a slim file from the table, opened it and glanced at the top page. He gave
me a questioning look over the top of his glasses.
"Deep space radar telemetry requires you to be on-call twenty-four hours a day?"
I drank the last of the coffee and placed the cup on the table. "We do a little more than
He didn't ask for further details, just nodded. "I see." He gave his own cup a
reproachful look and put it next to mine. "How often are you having nightmares?"
I didn't blink. "On and off for several weeks."
He put down the folder and picked up a notepad and pen. He made a notation and
looked up again. "An officer in your position is subject to many stresses, especially
given the responsibility of command. Might these nightmares be stress related?"
Stress was something I'd lived with for over twenty years. Stress was being expected
to save the world one week and balancing the books the next.
"I doubt it. The stress element in my post is minimal."
He wrote something down then seemed to scribble it out. I stretched my legs out and
crossed them at the ankles.
"You haven't been at Peterson long, have you, Doctor? Enjoying it?"
He nodded and smiled. "It's a change from my previous posting in Washington. A lot
more interesting. It's good to be back working with the ordinary airmen - present
company excepted of course. I have to admit to being a little surprised to receive a
call from General Jumper himself asking that I see you as soon as possible."
Jumper had called him personally - that was unexpected, and certainly explained the
freed up schedule.
I shifted in my chair, uncrossing my legs and sitting up again.
"I suppose you want me to describe these dreams I'm having?"
He nodded. "That was going to be my next question."
"They started with just a vague feeling of being held down." I tried to relax again, but
just remembering the feeling of panic was enough to make me pause.
"Take your time."
"They got worse."
"In what way?"
"I could still feel the hands on me after I woke up." I waited for him to say something,
but he didn't, just sat, watching me. This time I let the technique work, continuing
after only a brief pause. "Then it became not just hands." He wasn't making notes. I
had his full attention. "I can't breathe and there's a mouth on mine."
I shot up, took a few paces away from the chair and turned my back, trying to conceal
the shivers that ran through my body.
It was so cold.
I finally got myself back under control and turned back. I didn't look at Kasanji until I
was seated again.
"Sorry about that." I didn't give him more than a chance to nod. "Thing is, Doctor, I
have these dreams every night now, and if I do manage to get back to sleep they come
back almost as soon as I shut my eyes. I haven't had a decent nights sleep in weeks
and I feel like I'm going crazy" I smiled a little. "Not that I'd have very far to go." The
brief spark of humor was wiped out by my sheer bone weary tiredness, and I rested
my elbows on my knees, running a hand through my hair. "I have to do something
about it. It's affecting my judgement."
He nodded. "We need to understand the cause of the dreams. Are you married?"
I was puzzled for a second, answering instinctively. "Divorced."
"Are you currently in a relationship?"
"No, and before you ask, the nightmares aren't memories of being with a woman."
He tapped his pen against his teeth before bringing it back down to the paper. "Why
do you say that?"
I shifted uncomfortably, knowing I hadn't been completely honest with him. "It's not a
woman's hands holding me down." Despite my best efforts, my pulse was racing
again as I remembered the feeling of helplessness and weakness.
A movement caught my attention and I realised the doctor had leaned forward, his
dark eyes fixed on mine.
"I am going to ask you a question, sir, and I do remind you that anything you say is
completely confidential." He waited for me to nod before continuing. "When you said
you weren't in a relationship, did that include same sex?"
There was no point getting upset or annoyed by the question because I could certainly
understand where he was coming from. I looked him straight in the eye and shook my
"No, Doctor, and never have been."
"Then I have another question, general. Have you ever had sexual relations with
another man - unwillingly."
And this was exactly why I wanted to take my problem offbase. The idea I could have
this conversation with someone under my command was unthinkable.
"That file you have on me is pretty thin. Doesn't have many details?"
I think he thought I was avoiding answering, but it wasn't the case. He glanced down
at the folder. "It is the slimmest personnel file I've ever seen. I'm lucky I even knew
your name before you arrived."
When General Hammond told me I had discretion over what to tell the psychiatrist, I
hadn't realised it extended quite this far.
There was a water cooler in the corner behind the doctor's desk and I stood and
headed for it. My hand shook slightly as I filled the tumbler and took a sip before
going back to sit down. The icy liquid went some way to calming my nerves.
SG-1 didn't know what I was about to tell the doctor. Janet and George had been the
only members of the SGC to have full access to my medical history.
Even Sara had never known everything.
"I was a POW in Iraq. For four months. Some of the guards were..." I grimaced at the
images that flashed behind my eyes. "Inventive in their punishments. And their
"I served in the Gulf." His tone was no nonsense, but his expression showed he
understood. "I treated several returned POWs." There was silence, broken only by the
scratching of pen on paper and I wondered what he was writing.
The general had finally snapped - post-traumatic stress. Medical retirement.
"It isn't the prison guards. It isn't that simple." He looked surprised when I gave him a
quick smile. "I wish it were."
"Why do you think it isn't related to your experience in Iraq?"
"The kiss." My fingers twitched against the tumbler and it began to tip. I grabbed at it
and the cold water slopped over the edge and hit my hand.
So cold. Icy cold.
"In your dream?"
"Yeah. The guards never kissed me."
Did everything else, but never kissed.
I had successfully locked away those days, behind iron bars stronger than the ones
that had kept me prisoner. If the nightmares were of Iraq I could deal with them. I had
before. No - this was different.
"Has there been other occasions...?"
"Then I think we must begin with Iraq."
"I've been there, done that." I couldn't help the snap in my voice. There was no need
to drag it all up again. "It isn't relevant."
"You can't know that for sure."
"I do. It isn't relevant. The nightmares are unrelated to my experiences as a POW."
"That's what I still have to decide, and I can't do that without all the facts."
"They are not related."
I couldn't talk about what happened. Not again. It was over. Finished.
"What are they related to then?"
My voice rose as the anger I had suppressed boiled forth. "That's why I came here - to
find out. Maybe they aren't related to anything. Maybe they're just what they seem -
dreams. Maybe I'm finally losing it after all the torture. Maybe I've died one time too
many and I've finally snapped. Is that what you are going to tell me, Doctor? That I
can't hold it together anymore and it's time to throw in the towel?"
I stood, panting, staring at him, seeing his thoughts like they were flashing on a neon
sign above his head. His diagnosis confirmed. Reserve the padded room.
"Would you like another coffee, sir?"
For a moment I contemplated just turning on my heels and leaving. Going on a fishing
trip. Finding a nice lake somewhere with no people for miles. But I didn't. I sat back
down, the adrenaline still pumping through my veins.
He put the writing pad down, placing the pen precisely across its top edge, and left the
room for a moment. My attempt at upside down reading was thwarted by both my
inability to focus my blurry vision and his quick return.
"It won't be long." He gestured to a side door. "There's a restroom through there if
you'd like to freshen up."
I took the offer gratefully, using the chance to splash some water on my face. The
reflection that stared at me from the mirror wasn't me. It was a man, old and weary
beyond his years, eyes large in a pale face. I leaned forward and rested my forehead
on the glass, feeling the stickiness of sweat still on my skin despite the cursory wash.
Why the hell had I thought this was the right thing to do?
What had possessed me?
I wasn't in any state to be talking to someone outside the program - witness my rather
incoherent ranting just now about torture and dying. The damned shrink had barely
spoken ten words to me and I was already spilling my guts.
A now all too familiar wave of tiredness washed over me and I staggered, catching
myself on the washbasin.
I wasn't going to faint.
I made it to the door. Kasanji took one look at me and hurried over, taking my arm in
a firm grip and helping me sit. He pressed his hand on my back, forcing me to bend.
"Put your head down, sir. I'll get you some water."
He was back in seconds, his fingers light on my wrist as he took my pulse.
"I'm just tired."
"Uh huh." He nodded, but it was obvious he didn't believe me. "We'll finish this
session here, sir. I'll clear my morning appointments. Shall we say 0900 hours?"
I couldn't muster the energy to object.
"I want you to take these." He moved to a cabinet against the wall, unlocking it and
removing a packet. "I know you don't like the idea of sleeping pills, but under the
circumstances you should take a few days leave anyway. Get a good night's sleep and
we'll continue our discussion in the morning." He smiled. "Doctor's orders, General."
He was right. I couldn't run a base like this, especially the SGC. I took the packet and
put it in my pocket.
"I'd also like the name of your doctor, sir." He took a post-it pad from his desk and
"He works out of Washington. Commander Coates."
Kasanji's pen stopped dead on the paper. "The President's physician?"
"That's correct." I fished a card from my wallet. "Here's his details."
It didn't take long for my car to arrive and I used the time to contact General
Hammond, letting him know I was taking the rest of the week off. I didn't go into
details, just that it was doctor's orders, and that Kasanji was contacting Coates. I knew
the wheels would be put in motion to make sure the psychiatrist received only the
relevant medical records. I suggested I have a chance to explain a few things before
the files were delivered.
Wouldn't want the shrink to think I was crazy, now, would I?
It was already dark by the time I reached my house. I went from room to room turning
on every light, chasing the shadows away from the corners. Then I had a quick bite to
eat, showered and prepared for bed, dutifully taking the pills.
This time it wasn't nightmares that kept me awake.
It was the memories and the fear of what was to come.
Finally I succumbed to a drugged and dreamless sleep.