Jackfic Archive Story

 

Dinner Date

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).


"Okay, I'm here - what was so important that I ..." Daniel's exasperated words came to a sudden halt as he took in the scene in front of him. Jack was lying flat in the bed, his face once again covered by an oxygen mask, and with all the machines he had lost over the past week or so, reattached. Daniel barely had time to register the changes when Paul Davis pushed him out of the room.

"What's going on?" Daniel craned to see around the colonel as medical staff busied themselves about his friend.

"Let's find somewhere a little more private." Paul began to pull him down the corridor towards the small visitors' room, and after a brief hesitation, Daniel let him.

As soon as the door was closed behind them he rounded on the other man. "Well?"

Paul ran a hand through his impeccably groomed hair, leaving it looking uncharacteristically disheveled. "General O'Neill received a message several hours ago. Here." He thrust a crumpled piece of card into Daniel's hand. "Read it."

The simple words were written in an elegant hand, and while one part of Daniel's brain admired their flowing form, another part was horrified. He staggered back, falling into the chair behind him.

"Oh god!" He tore his gaze away from the card to look up at Davis, his tone pleading. "Please tell me Jack didn't read this." He already knew the answer. One glimpse into Jack's room had been enough.

Paul nodded, pulling up another chair so that his knees almost touched Daniel's. "He didn't react well. He ordered me to call you and I could see he was ..." He paused a second, "... upset, and I wanted to wait to make sure he was okay, but he got even angrier and ordered me out. After I contacted the SGC and left a message for you, I came back to find he'd ..." He stopped again, this time long enough to make Daniel prompt him to go on. "He had chest pains. They're checking him now, but they think he's ..."

"A heart attack?" Daniel shook his head in disbelief. "No, not Jack. He's too strong, too healthy."

There was a brief pause in which Daniel stared at the other man, silently willing him to agree. At last Paul spoke, staring down at his hands as he did so as if afraid to meet Daniel's eyes.

"Is he? Really? Daniel - think about it."

"He ..." Daniel thought back to the last time he had seen Jack before the shooting. Jack had made a flying visit to the SGC, barely stopping long enough to say hello before hurrying to a meeting with Landry and some offworld representatives. And Daniel remembered the thought that had passed fleetingly through his mind before he had dismissed it as ridiculous - Jack looked old. For the first time since he had known him, Jack looked all of his fifty-plus years.

Paul came to his feet, the sudden movement making Daniel start in surprise. "I should get back to the general."

"I lied to him." Davis stopped dead as Daniel spoke, his hand frozen in the act of reaching for the door handle. "This is my fault."

"We all lied to him, not just you."

"But I was the one who couldn't be honest with him in the first place. If only I'd had the courage to tell him the truth ..."

"And say what exactly?" Paul spun, taking a step back into the center of the room, his hands raised. Every word was spoken with distaste as if he hated himself for saying them. "That there are God alone knows how many Ba'al clones out there? That for every one we catch there may be another to replace it? That the general would never be sure of being free of him?" His hands flopped to his sides and Daniel watched as the anger drained out of him. "You were protecting him. We all were."

Daniel stared back at the other man and slowly nodded. "Yes, but at what cost?"

xoxoxoxoxoxo

"General O'Neill is insisting on speaking with you, otherwise I would refuse him visitors." The doctor gave both Daniel and Paul a look of warning that could not be misinterpreted. "I impress upon you both that he must stay as calm as possible. His blood pressure is already dangerously high." He held the door open, his voice lowering. "I will stay with you in case of problems and afterwards a nurse will be stationed permanently in this room."

They had already taken their first steps towards the bed when the doctor's words registered, but it was apparent that Jack was way ahead of them. He lifted the mask from his face, pushing it to one side as he glared at the doctor.

"Out. This is private."

"General ..."

"I mean it. Out." For a voice so weak, the words were remarkably firm, but they were accompanied by the increasing tempo of the heart monitor.

The doctor took a quick look at the screens before staring back at his patient. Tension was palatable in the room. At last the stalemate was broken by the doctor's exasperated sigh and Daniel thought Jack had won, but, with a movement quick enough to guarantee him a place on an SG team, the man turned, grabbed a syringe off the tray, and injected its contents into the general's IV.

He gave Daniel and Paul a sardonic smile, completely ignoring O'Neill. "I'd make it quick if I were you." With one short comment, he stalked out, shutting the door loudly behind him.

"Aw, crap!" Jack turned his furious glare from the closed door to Daniel. "Get over here."

Daniel cautiously approached the bed, trying to ignore the rapid beeping from the machinery. His own heart seemed to skip a beat as he saw how ill his friend appeared. He looked frail, his whole presence somehow diminished.

"Hey, Jack."

The response was immediate. "You lied to me. You said he was dead."

"I ...didn't really ... I ..." For once his much vaunted linguistic talent failed him and he stuttered to a stop.

Jack's gaze didn't leave him. He was pinned in place by the piercing eyes. "Is he, or isn't he?"

"He's ... sort of."

"Sort of? How can you be sort of dead?"

Daniel couldn't help the smile that broke out briefly at Jack's question. Even as he was about to remind his friend of all the times they had both been sort of dead, Jack lifted a hand from the bed in an obvious request for him not to speak.

His voice was even softer than it had been before, and Daniel leaned in to hear him better. "Just tell me the truth."

Daniel flinched at the almost pleading request. This wasn't the head of Homeworld Security ordering him to give an answer; it was his friend begging him to be honest with him.

He nodded, but he doubted Jack caught the gesture as his eyes began to close. "When you're feeling better, okay?"

"Promise?" The single word was drawn out in a long whisper that descended into silence.

Daniel placed his hand on top of the now sleeping man's. "I promise."

He left the room wondering just how much Jack had understood of what he had said, and with the sinking feeling that only the pull of the drugs had delayed the inevitable.

xoxoxoxoxoxo

"General O'Neill? Can you hear me?"

Jack nodded, opening his eyes a little and blinking at the bright light that assaulted them.

"Good. We've done an electrocardiograph, but we need to do a couple of other tests to confirm the results. You'll be kept under mild sedation while we do them. Do you understand?"

Again Jack nodded. Of course he understood. Did the doctor think he was stupid? Now, if only he could remember why he was in hospital. He lay there, his thoughts drifting from one thing to another, not staying anywhere long enough for him to grab hold and pin them down. He moved slightly, getting a little uncomfortable after staying in the same position for too long, and felt the familiar pull of unhealed injuries in his shoulder and upper torso.

A flash of a face he'd sooner forget - a face turning and looking at him. Then another longer image, of the same face smiling as drops of liquid were released from a small bottle, falling impossibly horizontally towards him.

And the sheer agony as the drops hit.

Ba'al. He was here, on Earth, and Daniel had lied to him.

They had all lied.

For a split second Jack had complete clarity of thought, then ... it was gone again, drifting away as the drugs took hold once more.

xoxoxoxoxoxo

Sam Carter paced across the small waiting room, unable to relax until she saw the general for herself. Daniel's call had galvanised she and Teal'c into action and they had made their way to Washington as quickly as possible. But now, they waited. The cardiologist refused to allow them in to see O'Neill, and in fact, wouldn't or couldn't give them any news at all except to say they were doing tests. No more details were forthcoming. Apparently being close friends and colleagues didn't make them entitled to a patient's information.

So, she paced, using the time to try and firm her thoughts on the whole Ba'al problem. Not telling the general the whole story wouldn't have been her choice, but Daniel had explained his reasoning and she had heard the note of desperation in his voice as he tried to describe how scared he had been.

She didn't understand that. General O'Neill had always been able to face the reality of a situation and look for solutions - different solutions to hers, of course, but usually just as valid, if not more so. Daniel should have been honest with him, but what was done, was done.

She stopped, overtaken by a sudden desire to get out of the confining space.

"I'm going for a drink. Anyone want anything?"

Teal'c and Daniel both shook their heads and Paul Davis gave her a slightly distracted smile that she took to be a negative, so she headed out of the claustrophobic room and into the corridor.

The sound of angry voices came to her as soon as she opened the door.

"I want to see him now."

There was no way she could mistake that voice, with its clear commanding tones, for anyone else. The general was making his presence felt. She heard her companions move into the corridor to join her, but she didn't turn, instead she began to walk the short distance to O'Neill's room.

Murmurings made it clear, if it hadn't already been so, that the general wasn't alone, but she couldn't make out the words. She stopped in the open doorway, the others crowding around behind her.

General O'Neill was sitting up in bed, wires attached to several spots on his bare chest, and tubes sticking out of several places. He had an oxygen mask swinging from his neck and an expression on his face that would have had junior officers quaking in their boots. He had his arms crossed and a look of furious determination.

She gasped, unable to conceal her dismay once she had penetrated the facade and actually saw the man in the bed. He looked so - tired.

Perhaps Daniel had been right.

Then the familiar deep brown eyes caught hers and narrowed, and she realised he had heard her. Heard her gasp, and probably knew exactly why she had been so surprised.

"Hey, Carter. Guess what. I haven't had a heart attack. Nice to know, isn't it." Then the steady gaze moved on to fix on someone behind her. "Daniel - just the person I wanted to see. Let's talk. In fact, why don't you all come in? These people are just leaving."

"We may have ruled out a heart attack, General, but we haven't determined the cause of the chest pains, plus your blood pressure is still dangerously high. I can't allow visitors to disturb you at this time."

"Not allowing them to see me will disturb me even more, doctor, so how does that work?"

The white-coated man turned and gave them all a firm look. "I can see there is no point arguing, but I want no complaints when you are asked to leave." He turned back to O'Neill. "Not from anyone."

He received a reluctant nod in return. "Okay, but keep the hell away from the IV. I'm quite happy with my state of consciousness, thank you."

Sam and the others moved to one side as the medical staff filed out of the room, one of the nurses throwing her a quick smile. It was only a few moments before they were alone.

"Close the door." There was no humor in O'Neill's voice, as Teal'c immediately turned to comply with his order. As soon as the door shut, it became blatantly clear that the return of consciousness hadn't dulled any of the general's ire. If anything it had increased it, his anger frighteningly apparent in the icy words he spoke. "I've had time to think this through, and one thing is staggeringly obvious. You've lied to me. Of all the people I've known, I thought you were the ones I could trust to tell me the truth, no matter what."

Sam took a step back. This was a side of Jack O'Neill she rarely saw, and never directed at her. She could see the betrayal of trust blazing out at them all with an honesty that was all the worse for knowing how well he usually concealed his true emotions.

"Sir, please!" Paul was the first to react. "You have to stay calm."

O'Neill turned his attention to the colonel. "I'll be calm if someone gives me the god damn truth!"

This had gone on long enough. Already the monitors were pumping out data that Sam could see was not good. The general was getting too agitated.

"Gerak did kill Ba'al at Dakara, sir, but we found a lab in Ba'al's compound here on Earth. The equipment in it is used in genetic replication."

There, it was out. She waited, along with everyone else, for O'Neill's reaction. He frowned, and for a second she thought she would have to spell it out for him, but then the moment of realization hit.

The monitors went wild.

xoxoxoxoxoxo

Jack felt the pain rising up in his chest once more as he fought to breathe.

Ba'al had been cloned, and no way did he think it was so the Goa'uld could attend high school.

How many of them - how many smirking, evil bastards were there out there, waiting for their chance to torture ...

He felt hands grasp his, stilling their sudden shaking.

"Be calm, O'Neill."

He tried to take a deep breath to calm himself as Teal'c asked, but it was impossible with the tight band around his chest and he ended up coughing instead - something he seemed to be doing a lot lately.

Was this a heart attack? Didn't the doctor say he hadn't had one?

He gasped in another tiny gulp of air, barely enough to keep going. In desperation he opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd shut, needing someone to help.

"Try not to panic. Take as deep a breath as you can, as slowly as possible."

Jack found himself instinctively following the calmly spoken orders. He nodded, sucking in air as a hand steadied his back. He winced at the contact on his still healing wound, but the pressure was soft, just enough to help him stay upright as his breathing eased.

"That's right. And again."

He concentrated on just breathing, feeling dizzy and nauseous. Out the corner of his eye he saw SG-1 being ushered out of the room, but he didn't care. He just listened to his doctor's voice and tried to stay calm.

It was several minutes before he could think straight again. The nurses eased him back down on to the bed and he lay there, feeling more tired than he could ever remember.

And scared.

Oh crap, he felt so damned scared!

The doctor pulled a chair over and sat down beside him, and Jack looked at him, expecting to see the self satisfied look of a man who knew he had been right. Instead he saw sympathy.

"You didn't have a heart attack. I know it felt like one, but it wasn't. It was a panic attack."

"No. It couldn't be." He could barely summon the energy to shake his head, but he managed it. Panic attacks - it was inconceivable. No friggin' way!

The doctor only nodded. "I'm afraid it is, General. Whatever you were discussing with your colleagues brought on the attack in both cases. Perhaps now you will understand why I was so reluctant to let you have visitors?"

Ba'al. Everywhere he looked. Everywhere he turned. He would never be free of him, always looking over his shoulder, trapped in a wilderness of mirrors.

"Sir? Look at me." The firm hand on his good shoulder dragged him back from his thoughts. "I know this is a shock to you. You don't strike me as the sort of person normally prone to panic attacks. Am I right?"

"Hell no!"

The doctor nodded. "I didn't think so. And there is no reason to believe that, once you are completely recovered, you will ever get them again. You're underweight for a man of your age and height, and not by just a few pounds. You were bordering on anemic even before the shooting. I think I can hazard a guess that your position is somewhat stressful." When Jack nodded, he continued. "I also have been told you've only recently been appointed to the position. So, a new stressful job, long hours, and little time for recreation, plus you've clearly been missing meals and generally not taking care of yourself. Then you get yourself shot."

Jack had to smile at the way the doctor phrased it. "I didn't do it on purpose."

The doctor smiled back, his face transforming from its usual stern demeanor into one that looked years younger. "Your injuries were severe and life-threatening. You had a serious chest injury and your breathing is still compromised. All these things have combined to cause you to react abnormally to stress." He fixed Jack with a stare. "Do you understand, sir? This isn't a life sentence - just a pothole in the road. Give yourself time to heal and once you're back to full health you should be able to resume your duties."

"Can you guarantee it won't happen again?"

"No, of course not, but it is highly unlikely."

Jack thought for a moment. "Okay, I can live with that." Yes, he could live with it and if, once he was out of hospital, the attacks continued then retirement would be the best option. He wasn't going to put people in danger because he couldn't think straight.

But he would cross that bridge when he came to it.

"I want you to get some rest now, sir."

Jack frowned as the doctor moved towards the IV.

"Is that really necessary?"

"Yes, it is. Your body needs time to heal and, in my considered opinion, the only way to achieve that is by medication." His sardonic smirk had returned in full force. "Have a good sleep, General."

xoxoxoxoxoxo

"Why did you do that?"

"Do what, Daniel?"

Daniel knew Sam was aware of exactly what he meant, the guilt on her face was enough to tell him that, but he was battling with his own sense of guilt and had no time for compassion.

"Tell Jack about Ba'al like that. That's exactly why we decided to keep the news from him."

"He wouldn't have reacted like that if you had been honest with him in the first place. He had to be told."

"Yes, but not like that."

"How did you want him told, Daniel? Would you have done it? This is as much your fault as mine and don't pretend otherwise."

Daniel glared at his teammate, taking a step towards her across the small room. The one step almost took him right up to her, but before he could close the gap another body slid between them and he found himself with a face full of angry Jaffa.

"That is enough!"

Daniel fell back, as much from guilt as surprise. He watched Sam's face as Teal'c moved aside and saw the worry that he knew was on his own.

"There was no correct time to inform General O'Neill of the clones, nor was there any correct way. It did not matter when or how he was told, he would have reacted just as badly. There is no blame to be apportioned here. This is O'Neill's battle to fight, not yours."

Paul Davis started speaking as soon as their teammate had finished. "Teal'c's right. We couldn't keep things from General O'Neill any longer." He turned to Sam. "There was no way you could know he would react like that. If you hadn't told him, I would have."

"Thanks, Paul." Sam nodded her head wearily and slumped down into a chair. "I just wish I'd had time to tell him the rest ..." Her words trailed off as she rested her head in her hands, her posture a picture of despondency.

Daniel's anger left him as suddenly as it had appeared and he knelt in front of Sam, and gently pulled her hands away from her face. "What? What were you going to tell Jack?"

She dragged a hand from his grasp and quickly swiped at the tears that glistened in the corner of her eyes. "I think I've found a solution to the clone problem, at least partially."

"Then you'll be able to give Jack some good news when we're allowed in to see him."

She raised her head and gave Daniel a watery smile.

"Yes. I will."

xoxoxoxoxoxo

"Finally, some decent food." Jack grinned around a mouthful of steak. "And some good company for a change. I was beginning to go stir crazy with only myself to talk to. I'm not the most brilliant conversationalist, you know."

"I don't know about that, sir." Carter stopped speaking as O'Neill put his finger to his lips in a sign for quiet.

"No arguing, Colonel. Sick man here. You don't want to upset me."

Jack cringed as Carter's face went pale. He gave himself a mental kick and a reminder not to mention being upset again. It was obvious he wasn't the only one with unresolved issues over their last conversation.

Now, four days later, he finally felt up to having the discussion he should have had then.

"Tell me about the genetic replication technology you found. I want the full details, plus any conclusions you have come to."

He waited, eyeing them all sternly.

Colonel Carter stiffened, but kept her eyes fixed on his face, plainly prepared to obey his orders.

"Yes, sir."

To Jack's surprise, Daniel didn't utter a single protest as she began to speak, explaining in some detail what they had discovered in the basement at Ba'al's compound.

Jack kept his face impassive as she talked, but when she told him they had no way of knowing how many clones were out there he was glad the monitors had been removed. They didn't even know if it was the original snakehead that had been killed by Gerak. Probably wasn't - just a sacrificial lamb, one of many and easily replaced.

"I doubt Ba'al will make another attempt on your life, O'Neill. He clearly did not want his presence broadcast before he was ready. Now he will be more concerned with escaping detection."

"So I'm not a high priority on Ba'al's shopping list, T? Is that what you're trying to say?"

"Indeed."

"That doesn't make me feel any better. Even the thought of one Goa'uld running free on this planet is enough to turn my stomach, but possibly hundreds ..."

"I may have a solution to that, sir."

"Do tell, Colonel."

Carter gave a nervous smile. "The lab equipment we found had clear similarities to that Loki used, sir. We know the Goa'uld rarely invent anything of their own, taking from other technologies instead. I think this is one of those times."

"And this helps us, how?"

"The Ba'al clones probably have similar genetic markers to yourself and your duplicate, sir. It should be easy enough to find Ba'al's clones using the same Asgard technology they use to keep a track of you."

"You're saying they all have little locator beacons in them and we can use them to track them down?"

She nodded. "I think so, sir. We'll need to talk to the Asgard about it, but it is logical."

"Sweet!" Jack smiled, already thinking of the possibilities. "We can catch them." Then he thought of something - something rather important. "But not the original, right?"

"Ah, no, sir."

"Pity."

The thought that the original would probably escape made him furious, but he hid the anger, and turned to Daniel instead.

"Now, I have something to say to you." Daniel looked like he wanted to run and hide. "I know why you did what you did, and don't get me wrong, I do understand your reasoning. But," he paused, then continued, emphasizing each word, "Don't you ever lie to me like that again. I need to know I can trust you, that you're honest with me. I have enough people around me here in Washington willing to sugarcoat the truth. I don't need you to do it." He stopped, calmly picked up his fork again and stabbed at the baked potato on his plate. "Now - let's get down to working out what creative things we can do with the Ba'al clones once we catch them. Should be fun, don't ya think?"

O'Neill grinned a feral grin as he swallowed the forkful of food. Yeap, he could certainly think of some interesting ways to extract as much information as possible from the bounteous Ba'als. Far more creative than the methods Ba'al had used on him.

Yes, things were truly looking up at last.

xoxoxoxoxoxo

The End


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