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 can't see anything about it at all."
Percy couldn't help raising his eyes a little as Elsie's voice floated out to him from the
kitchen. Just for a second he felt like not answering, but he didn't, instead he folded
the potion of the newspaper he had taken with him into the living room, tucked it
down the side of the chair he was sitting in, and stood. He grimaced as the
rheumatism in his legs flared, waiting a moment before he took the first steps that
would take him into the room where his wife was sitting.
Elsie looked up as he entered, peering over her reading glasses, her expression one of
"I've looked all through here." She gently shook the edge of the newspaper she held in
one hand. "And there isn't a word about it. Nothing. I don't understand."
Percy came around the table and slowly made his way to the refrigerator. He opened
it, staring into it vacantly, in the hope that something inside would inspire him to eat.
Elise was worried about him - that he could tell by the sidelong glances she cast at
him when he cleared the dinner plates. He knew she had been discussing his lack of
appetite with their son, Paul, and he understood, really he did. But things had changed
since the shooting.
That morning at 'Firenz Coffeeshop' was replaying over and over in his head. Every
night he went to bed and woke to the sound of gunshots and every morning he
pretended he had only been up for just a short while before Elsie came down. He had
no idea why he was reacting this way. It wasn't like he hadn't been under fire before -
admittedly it was over sixty years ago now, but some things you don't forget. Elsie
didn't seem to have a problem with it. She had been terrified at the time, so much so
that she had been admitted to the hospital overnight for observation, but, once she was
back in the comfort of their own home and was able to fuss around with her flowers
and talk to her friends at the seniors' center, it was as if it had never happened.
Except for her desire to find out just what it had all been about.
And that was the odd thing. Their statements had been taken down at the local police
station a couple of days later, and they had been driven home in a patrol car - and
then nothing. Apart from one small paragraph buried on an inside page, the papers
had ignored the affair.
Percy twisted his head down to look once more at the headline on the front page of
the newspaper Elsie was still holding. The terrorist attack on the building in Seattle
was still the story of the moment. He could see why a simple shooting in Washington
wasn't of interest when an entire multi-story office block had gone up in smoke.
Yes, things were a lot simpler sixty years ago. Then you knew who the enemy were -
they were the ones in the other uniforms.
He did wonder about the man though - whether he had made it. He hoped he had.
Seeing him rushed off into the ambulance, people crowding around him, Percy had
almost felt a fatherly concern, as if he was responsible in some way for the victim's
wellbeing. Holding a man's life in your hands can do that.
"Close the door - you're letting all the cold air out. You're the one always
complaining about the electricity bill."
His wife's only slightly joking comment prompted him to pull a can of cola from the
refrigerator and shut the door.
"Don't worry about it, dear. It's over and done with." He took the paper from her hand
and folded it, laying it down on the table. "What did you say you had planned for
Elsie smiled - the same smile he remembered loving from the minute he had first met
her so many years ago. "I'm going to the shops with Beth. We both need new yarn.
We have some knitting to finish. She's only got one small section of her grandson
Tyson's blanket to do. I want to get a start on something for Judy's baby before she's
"She? I didn't realise they knew the sex. Did Paul tell you when you spoke to him last
Elsie shook her head, already standing. "No, silly. I would have told you if he had. I
suppose I'm just hoping for a girl after two boys - I know Judy is."
"There's nothing wrong with boys," Percy commented, as he watched her collect her
things together and pick up her handbag. He concealed a smile, knowing the response
his words would get.
"Of course there isn't! Did I say there was anything wrong with the boys? Two more
beautiful grandchildren you couldn't hope to see ..." She stopped and gave him a long
stern look, before waving her index finger at him. "Oh, you! You had me going there
for a minute, and look at the time, I'll be late to meet Beth if I don't hurry, and it's all
"Of course it is, dear."
He laughed as Elsie poked her tongue out at him, looking thirty years younger. He
gave her a quick peek on the cheek and followed her to the front door to wave her off.
She had barely stepped out on to the pavement when Beth's small red hatch-back
pulled up. Percy waited until Elsie had gotten in before turning, having planned a long
movie marathon with Clint Eastwood.
He was trying to find the remote under the chair cushions when there was a knock on
the door, its firm rap making him jump slightly in surprise.
Maybe Elsie had forgotten her keys and was back to get them. He sighed and hurried
back down the hall.
Opening the door, Percy soon realised it wasn't Elsie. Instead of his wife he found an
Air Force colonel standing there, with an official sedan parked at the end of his front
Percy nodded. "Yes, that's me."
The officer ducked his head in a slightly formal fashion. "My name is Colonel Davis.
I've been asked to take you to the Walter Reed Hospital, sir. And your wife ..." His
eyes shifted to scan the hallway. "Is she ...?"
"She's out. What's all this about? Why do you want me to go to the hospital?"
"General O'Neill has asked to see you, to thank you."
Percy racked his brains to put a face to the name, but came up with nothing. "General
O'Neill?" Anyway, he could count the generals he knew on the fingers of - well, no
hands. At least not since the war, and even then he hadn't exactly travelled in the same
circles as generals.
For a moment the colonel looked startled, then his expression cleared and he nodded.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realise you didn't know. General O'Neill is the man whose life you
helped save last week. He wanted to thank you personally for what you did, but he's
still in the hospital."
"Wait ... you're talking about the man at the cafe? He was a general?"
Percy didn't let Davis continue, interrupting him hastily. "Is. Of course, sorry. It's just
that I assumed he ..."
This time it was Davis who interrupted. "I understand. The general was badly
injured." He glanced down at his watch. "We'll have to hurry. We're on a tight
"Could we make it another time? My wife won't be home for at least two hours."
Percy really couldn't grasp what was going on, but if it involved finding out more
about the shooting, then he was sure Elsie wouldn't want to miss it.
The colonel took another look at his watch. "I'm sorry."
"All right. Just let me leave her a note and lock up. She refuses to carry a cell phone.
Says they fry your brains."
It was a long ride to the hospital, and Colonel Davis was happy to chat pleasantly
about all manner of things, just not anything Percy wanted to hear. Percy did find out
that the Air Force officer had been stationed in Washington for several years and even
frequented some of the same places as he and Elsie did. When it came out that his first
name was Paul, Percy pulled out his wallet, proudly displaying his own Paul, flanked
by his wife Judy and their two young sons.
The colonel didn't give any details of his own family, but he had a wedding ring and
from his questions and comments about the grandsons it was clear he had children of
his own. The conversation certainly helped the time pass quicker and Percy was quite
surprised when the car slowed and he realised they had reached Walter Reed.
He nodded his thanks to the Airman that held the car door open for him, and looked
around in surprise.
The only other vehicles at the normally busy front entrance to the hospital were three
serious looking highly polished, black vans. They went perfectly with the serious
looking men standing at the entrance, all wearing black suits.
"I'm afraid there are some checks."
Percy had no idea what Colonel Davis was talking about, but found out as soon as
they stepped into the hospital entrance. A metal detector was run over him and his cell
phone was taken by another black suited person - this time a woman - with a promise
that it would be returned when he left.
This was some serious security, Percy thought as they continued past the reception
area where two women sat staring at him, General O'Neill must be a very important
man. He and Davis were flanked by two more men getting into the elevators, with the
older of the two muttering something softly into what Percy took to be a tiny radio
attached to his ear.
The general's room was the third down the corridor on the fourth floor. It wasn't until
they had nearly reached it that the first nurse he'd seen since they arrived at the
hospital walked by, giving him a small smile. He smiled back automatically.
"Through here, sir." The colonel ushered him into the room, leaving their escort at the
door where they joined two more men guarding the entrance.
Percy half expected to find the room filled with more security and was somewhat
relieved that it was occupied by only three men - the patient, yet another black suited
man, this one with an air of unmistakable menace, and another man sitting in one of
the visitor's chairs beside the bed. It was this third man that stood, turning to stretch
out his hand to Percy, smiling in welcome.
"Mister Curtis, I wanted to thank you personally for what you did for General
O'Neill." His grip was firm and his expression sincere. Percy automatically returned
the gesture, knowing he was gaping, but unable to help it.
The President of the United States was standing in the same room as him and shaking
"I understand you were in the Marines. That explains your courage under fire. It must
have been a rather frightening experience none-the-less, especially as your wife was
President Hayes took his seat again and gestured at the other chair. Percy was only too
happy to oblige, falling into the soft cushion rather abruptly.
"I'm sorry your wife couldn't be here. I would have liked to meet her."
"Ah ... she's buying yarn." Even as he said it, Percy cringed in embarrassment. The
President wasn't interested in his wife's shopping trip. He stole a glance at the figure
in the bed, seeing a pale man with a gaunt face, his eyes half shut. The man lifted a
hand in what looked like the beginnings of a wave, before dropping it back down onto
the light blue blanket covering him to halfway up his chest.
"Jack O'Neill." The words came out in a low, rather breathy sound.
"Oh, of course, I'm sorry," President Hayes took over, putting a hand on the general's
bed. "I forgot. You probably haven't been told much of anything. Am I right?" Percy
nodded, and he continued. "Yes, we had to clamp down pretty hard on the story for
security reasons. Jack had a punctured lung, as you realised at the scene, so he's not
up to much talking just yet." His face broke into a grin. "Which pleases a lot of people
here in Washington no end."
"Hey ..." The weak protest ended in a few harsh coughs, and Colonel Davis stepped
forward from the corner he had positioned himself in and took the jug of water on the
bedside cabinet, pouring a glass.
"Sir ..." He held it out, but kept hold of it as the general took it in a shaky grip with
his right hand. Percy noticed the other arm was strapped across his heavily bandaged
O'Neill took a few sips then nodded, and Colonel Davis placed the still half full glass
back on to the cabinet. The general seemed to relax a little, his hand immediately
going to the tube that snaked across his chest to a nasal cannula, pushing it out of the
way with an air of irritation.
"Leave that alone, General." Hayes's words were unmistakably an order, but Percy
caught the glimmer of humor in his twitching lips as he spoke.
If he hadn't known better Percy would have thought O'Neill's answer held a note of
snippiness. But this was an Air Force general talking to the President of the United
States ... He must have misheard.
Both Colonel Davis and the President were openly smiling now, which seemed to
make the general lying in the bed even more irritable. Percy just caught the muttered
'For cryin' out loud ... not some sort of kid here ..." but the rest was drowned out by
the President's laugh.
"And on that note, I will take my leave." Hayes stood, Percy following him up
instinctively. "Now, Jack, I don't want to hear any complaints from the medical staff -
is that clear? I need you back asap, so do what they tell you, all right."
"Yes, sir ..." A pause and a swallow. "Can't wait to get back behind that desk, Mister
President. No sirree bob."
"Good. Glad to hear it. But I'll leave Colonel Davis here in case you get some other
ideas." Hayes turned to Percy, ignoring the continued muttering from the bed. "I'm
sorry I can't stay any longer, but I have another engagement," he looked at the wall
clock and gave a rueful smile, "ten minutes ago." He stretched out his hand once more
and shook Percy's. "Thank you again, Mister Curtis. Washington wouldn't be the
same without General O'Neill."
And he was gone, the body guard preceding him - out of the door before Percy could
do more than stammer incoherently.
Hours later, when he was describing his meeting with the President of the United
States to his wife, he had to admit that he barely remembered anything. He just had a
vague and somewhat embarrassing memory of talking about knitting. Elsie was not
only distraught that she had missed the opportunity to meet Hayes, but furious that her
husband couldn't provide her with any details - not even what color shirt the President
was wearing. Men!
But here and now, Percy was left staring at General O'Neill, with the general staring
back at him.
He took the single word as a command and did so, finding himself a little short of
breath. He realised his hurried pants were being echoed by O'Neill and he caught the
other's eyes and laughed. "Sorry."
"It's okay. Must have been a shock." The general waved a hand in the direction of the
"You could say that."
"Davis didn't tell you?"
Both men turned baleful glares to the silent officer still hiding in the corner.
"I thought I'd surprise Mr Curtis, sir."
The general raised an eyebrow and gave Davis a rather pointed stare. "Shocks aren't
always good, Colonel. I should know."
Davis ducked his head at the reprimand. "Sorry."
Percy decided it was time to intervene. "It's okay, son. No harm done. Although I
would like a proper introduction." He nodded his head towards the bed and raised an
eyebrow of his own.
"Of course, sir." Davis straightened and his tone became formal. "This is Major
General Jack O'Neill, Head of Homeworld Security."
Homeworld Security? That was one Percy hadn't heard of, but there were far too
many government departments to keep track. It sounded important though. Must be,
or the President wouldn't have been visiting.
"Pleased to meet you, sir." He didn't try to shake the general's hand, figuring it
wouldn't be a good move given he had been shot. And speaking of that ... "Could
you tell me what it was all about? There was nothing in the papers about the shooting
at all. That's if you ... " He didn't want to say 'that's if you're up to it' but he also didn't
want to out stay his welcome. It was clear O'Neill was far from recovered.
"I'm fine." The exasperated words were immediately followed by a badly concealed
grimace of discomfort.
"Perhaps I could ..."
O'Neill frowned, but nodded at Davis's interruption, his figure flexing in the sheets.
"The shooting was an assassination attempt ordered by an old enemy of the general's.
The details are, of course, a matter of national security. We told the press it was a
random shooting, and as the general's identity wasn't made common knowledge, the
interest in the story was minimal. I would ask you to not speak about your visit,
except of course with your wife."
"Did they catch the person who was responsible?"
Davis shook his head. "Not the shooter, no. But the person who ordered the attack has
been dealt with."
Percy didn't ask for more details. He really didn't need to know what had happened to
someone who attacked a man who was obviously a personal favourite of the President
- he could guess.
He was about to ask how long General O'Neill would have to stay in the hospital,
when he saw the other man's eyes slowly closing, the lines of stress on his face
smoothing somewhat as he slipped into sleep.
Colonel Davis came up beside his chair, pausing to quietly look down at his superior.
"I think it's time you took me home, Paul," said Percy softly.
"The general wanted to thank ..."
Percy smiled and held up a hand, stopping him. "I know, and I appreciate it, but I've
had enough excitement for one day. Anyway, Elsie will be getting worried if I'm not
home for lunch."
Percy glanced back one last time as he left the hospital room. O'Neill was still asleep,
but it was plainly a restless one, as he shifted in the bed, pain flashing across his face.
A nurse was standing at the nurses' station a short distance down the corridor, and
Percy waited as Davis exchanged a few quiet words with her. She was already
hurrying into the room as they made their way to the elevator.
Percy felt much more at peace with himself than he had since the shooting, comforted
to know the man he'd helped had survived. He was already thinking about Elsie's
reaction to his news, grinning to himself at the thought, when the elevator doors
Jack woke, his first instinct being to sit up and see where he was, but that was soon
dispelled as even the smallest movement had him groaning.
Paul Davis was standing alongside him, leaning down, looking worried, and at the
sight of the concerned expression on the officer's face everything slid back into place.
He accepted the outstretched arm, needing all Davis's strength to sit up enough to be
comfortable. A nurse he recognised as being in almost constant attendance on him
slipped an extra pillow behind his back and helped to ease him gently down again.
"Your lunch is here, general." The nurse turned and picked up a tray, positioning it
across his lap.
He frowned at it. The serving wouldn't feed a sparrow - that's if the sparrow was
stupid enough to eat the crap the hospital kitchens substituted for real food. Some sort
of watery soup and a bowl of runny milk product that looked like what Sara used to
feed Charlie when he was a baby.
"I can chew you know. It was my shoulder that was shot, not my teeth."
He had the feeling the nurse had heard the same complaint too many times to react.
She just nodded, gave a mechanical smile, and pushed the spoon into his hand.
"Would you like some help, sir?"
"No thank you, Davis. I've been feeding myself for years now." He gave the colonel a
pointed look and began to dip the utensil into the pale brown liquid, trying hard to
conceal how such a simple task was almost beyond him. Damn, but he felt as weak as
a kitten. He felt as old and shaky as ...
"Aw, crap. I fell asleep on him, didn't I?"
Davis nodded. "Yes, sir. Mister Curtis said to tell you he understood and that he
appreciated you asking to see him."
"How long have I been asleep?"
The colonel took a look at his watch. "About three hours, sir."
"That long?" Jack shook his head, wondering why, if he had slept most of the day, he
still felt so tired. He didn't seem to be bouncing back from this injury the way he
normally did. Even taking a deep breath had become an adventure in itself.
"Yes, sir." Davis placed a bundle of newspapers at his feet. "I've brought the latest
papers. There are some interesting articles on the terrorist attack in Seattle."
Jack nodded, knowing they'd have to wait until the nurse was out of the room to
properly discuss the issue. In some ways he was glad he didn't have to handle the full
out from that incident. It would be interesting to hear how the explanations for a
building's disappearance were being received.
Paul Davis waited until the general pushed the tray a little off his lap, indicating he
was done despite the fact he had barely eaten half the soup and hadn't touched the
other dish. He lifted it and placed it on the trolley near the door and returned to hand
O'Neill the first of the papers. This had become something of a ritual with them in the
days since the general had been able to sit up a little. They would discuss the articles
in the newspapers then he would brief O'Neill on what was actually happening.
Of course some aspects of the Ba'al incident he was under orders not to reveal. It
seemed that he wasn't the only one to be concerned at the general's probable reaction.
A conspiracy of silence had settled around the gravely injured man - a conspiracy that
went right up to the top.
The door to the room opened, and another nurse popped her head around. "Ah, you've
finished." She came in, carrying a large floral arrangement of white lilies and assorted
greenery. "I'll clear the tray as soon as I find a space to put this. It was just delivered."
She pushed the water jug and glass to one side and carefully put the flowers on the
cabinet, turning them so that the front of the arrangement faced the man in the bed.
"They're gorgeous, but a bit of an odd choice. We don't get many lilies used in
arrangements here at the hospital."
Davis eyed the flowers quizzically. The nurse was right - it was an odd choice.
Maybe they were all that was in season. He didn't know much about flowers.
"Who are they from, Davis? See if there's a note."
Paul stood, spotting paper sticking out from their edge, and pulling it out. "Here, sir.
Would you like me to read it?"
O'Neill shook his head, reaching out a hand to take it. "No, I can handle it, thanks."
Paul waited as the general opened the envelope, drawing a simple light blue card from
inside it. Then he hurried forward as O'Neill went impossibly white. For a moment
the other man seem to stop breathing then he took a shuddering gasp, clutching at his
chest with his free hand, the note still in it.
Paul pushed the call button, and put his hand out to steady the general, only to have
the crumbled piece of cardboard thrust into his hand. He looked down, taking in what
was written in it in one quick glance.
"Sorry I missed you. Another time perhaps? Ba'al."
He looked back up to find a pair of piecing brown eyes fixed on him.
"Get me Daniel. Now!"
The End - For now
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