Fading From Gray
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).
Author's note: Just a short story that came about because of another story I'm writing. About half-way through that one, I realized I needed to get into Jack's head concerning events on Edora: what motivated him to want to get involved with Laira; why didn't he want to go home? My "notes to self" became this story.
Fading from Gray
"He is definitely symptomatic of depression, but no, I don't think he's any danger to himself. The good news is that he recognizes he has a problem and has, surprisingly, sought help. I want to prescribe medication, but he knows that would mean he would have to stand down from SG-1, so he has refused that course of treatment."
Dr. Janet Frazier looked up from the report to Dr. Mackenzie. She put down the papers and sighed. "What course of action do you recommend instead, then?"
"I think for the time being, he should continue therapy, be restricted to light duty, and possibly take medical leave," Dr. Mackenzie tapped his fingers together. "But what he really needs is some emotional support - one thing he definitely will not seek for himself."
Janet shook her head. They both knew Jack O'Neill did not "do" sharing emotions. And it didn't help that the rest of SG-1 was treating O'Neill like a pariah. Following his rescue from Edora, Samantha Carter had seemed aloof, and Daniel Jackson angry. Even Teal'c seemed to be avoiding O'Neill. The Colonel's favorite sparring partner seemed to have other duties to attend to when O'Neill approached him to go to the gym. Janet knew what the problem was. Sam had worked herself to the bone to get him back - only to hear him say he did not want to come back. All three of them had heard it, were offended, and had let him know about it. Then, to top it all off, the undercover assignment that had immediately followed...
But Jack had come back. As appealing as life on Edora had been to him, as much as Laira and her son, Garan, wormed their way into his heart, he had returned to Earth and his duties here. Janet had seen both sides of this sad tale following the "fire rain" - Sam's self-driven 20-hour days to bring back her CO, Teal'c's willingness to sacrifice himself in the rescue attempt. Then, during the investigation of alien technology theft, Daniel's hurt at Jack's rebuff to his friendship. But she also saw the Colonel's pain, and now his desperate attempt to stave off the darkness overwhelming his soul.
"If only we could say something - intervene in this situation without violating doctor/patient confidentiality," Mackenzie pondered, shaking his head.
Janet drummed her fingers on the table. "Perhaps there is a way..."
SG1 SG1 SG1 SG1
Daniel sat in Janet's office in the infirmary. She had asked him to come by on the pretense of helping to resolve the situation with Sam. Daniel was a bit perplexed as to how he could help, but he agreed. When he arrived, she strategically maneuvered him into a chair that afforded him a view of the infirmary. Then she proceeded to bombard him with small talk rather than getting to their presumed target of discussion.
Daniel was asking about Cassie, when there was a knock on the door, and he looked up to see Dr. Mackenzie.
"Oh, sorry, didn't realize you had somebody with you," Mackenzie apologized.
"That's quite all right, we're just catching up."
"Well, just wanted to let you know I'm going to be using Room 3 for an hour or so."
"Yes, that's fine. I'll make sure you and your patient are not disturbed."
"Thank you, Janet. Dr. Jackson," he nodded goodbye to Daniel and left.
Janet noticed Daniel following Mackenzie with his eyes as he entered Room 3. Now to see if the rest of the plan would work.
A couple minutes later, movement by the window caught Daniel's eye again. He looked up to see Jack O'Neill passing by. He made no move to get up or greet him, just watched him go. As he watched, Jack went on through the infirmary, and into Room 3. Daniel did a double take...Did Jack just go into the same room Mackenzie had? He turned back to Janet.
"So, Janet, is Jack seeing Dr. Mackenzie? What? Hammond order him?"
"Daniel, you know I can't comment on another patient's care," she was silent for a moment as she placed papers into a file. "But I haven't heard of General Hammond ordering anybody to see Dr. Mackenzie."
Daniel stared at her. "Okay," he conceded and resumed their chat, However, his curiosity was distracting him and he kept looking back toward the room. A few minutes went by, and no Jack. He is seeing Mackenzie, or he would have been back out by now, Daniel thought. He interrupted Janet mid-sentence and asked, "Janet, you mean to tell me Jack is seeing Dr. Mackenzie of his own volition?" He would never do that, Daniel thought.
"Yes, I know, you can't say."
"Excuse me, Daniel, I just remembered I have to sign off on some orders for one of the nurses. I'll be right back."
Janet left the room, leaving Daniel to sit and think. He remained rooted to his seat, curious, keeping his eyes fixed on the Room 3 door. When Janet returned, he asked, "Come on, what gives, Janet? Jack would never talk to Mackenzie unless he was ordered," Daniels voice trailed off. "Unless..."
"Everybody thinks of Jack O'Neill as the hardass, tough colonel. The man who can't be broken. But you know better, don't you Daniel?" her voice challenged, but then softened. "You know him. You've seen him broken, haven't you, Daniel? Did you ever think of what the last few months have been like from the Colonel's point of view? He was stuck on Edora and he thought he wasn't coming home. He didn't know if you or Sam or Teal'c had gotten off the planet safely. He started a new life there. A life that had a family and a home and a peaceful existence. In the end, he almost decided to stay there. But he didn't. He returned to Earth, to this home. To a life of loneliness, a highly stressful career, painful memories and who knows what else that haunts him? And what did he get on his return? Acrimony, anger and isolation from his friends, who are the only family he's got! Then he was ordered to carry out a covert mission that further alienated him from everybody he cared about. What did you expect?"
Daniel stared at her, mouth open, flabbergasted.
"But he deliberately hurt us! And Sam pushed herself so hard..."
"I know that Daniel! And so does he - which hurts him even more."
Daniel closed his eyes and hung his head.
"Think about it."
Janet once again left him sitting where he was. Daniel remained a long time. And when he finally left, Jack still had not left the other room.
SG1 SG1 SG1
The next evening, Daniel Jackson stood on Jack O'Neill's front porch, pizza box in one hand, six-pack of beer in the other. He hesitated ringing the doorbell. Was this such a good idea? He remembered the last time he was here... "Not much of a foundation there..." still rang in his ears, and tore at his heart. "House was bugged," Jack had said, "had to keep up the act." And that's what was scary - he had fallen for it. As much as he knew Jack, trusted him, why had it been so easy to accept that line of bull?
Daniel looked up, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and pressed the doorbell. It took a few minutes before Jack answered it. Then there he was, face-to-face with the man he considered his best friend. Deja vu, he thought. Jack stood in the doorway, just as he had a few days prior when Daniel had last visited. This time Daniel saw him with new eyes. Jack looked exhausted, and thinner than he had ever recalled seeing him. His hair was sticking out uncombed, and his clothes looked like he had slept in them. Wasn't he wearing that same thing yesterday?
For once, Jack spoke first. "What, lost the draw again?"
"No, I, ah, brought some food." He waggled the pizza box and the beer carton.
Jack eyed him for a long moment, then stepped aside and let him enter. Daniel moved past Jack and took the pizza to the kitchen, setting it on the table.
"I got a plain pepperoni, hope you don't mind. But I did get your favorite Guinness -" his monologue stopped abruptly when he realized that Jack had not followed him, but had instead gone to the living room. Daniel quickly grabbed a couple of plates, put a pizza slice on each, took those together with the beer and followed Jack. He was surprised that the living room seemed so dark. With the large picture windows overlooking the yard, the room had always been sunny before. He stepped slowly down the two stairs to the floor level, getting his first good look. Jack was seated, or sprawled, on the couch, empty beer bottles on the coffee table in front of him. Daniel was surprised to see the old picture of Jack and his family, which normally hung on the wall, laying on the coffee table. Daniel decided to try to lighten the mood.
"Here's yours," he said handing a plate to Jack, "I see you already have a head start on the beer."
Jack absently took the plate, stared at it for a second, before placing it on the table without taking a bite.
"Peace offering, Daniel? You didn't need to bother."
"It's no bother, Jack, I just, ah, wanted to talk to you, that's all."
"Talk? You came to the wrong place, didn't you? You know I don't do the talking thing."
Daniel let a couple of minutes go by, pretending to sip his beer while he planned his strategy. It was Jack, however, who surprised him by making the first move. He picked up the picture of his ex-wife and son, and, leaning forward, elbows on knees, absently stroked the glass. "We were married a dozen years. I loved my family, being married. She gave me so much," his hand paused. "And all I gave her was pain..."
Daniel said nothing, waiting to see if Jack would continue on, wondering why he was getting so sentimental. It took a while, but eventually his patience was rewarded. After several minutes of silence between them, Jack spoke again.
"Garan followed me around all the time. Sorta like Skaara - and Charlie before."
Daniel recalled how Garan had started picking up Jack's mannerisms and language expressions even in the first few days on Edora, before the fire rain. Softly Jack mumbled, "Charlie would have been about his age now."
Jack grew quiet again, replaced the picture, he picked up his beer instead, ignoring Daniel.
Daniel realized Jack was not going to give him any more, that he was going to have to connect the dots here. He thought for a while, and asked, "Laira kinda looks like Sara, don't you think? And... staying in Laira's home on Edora, it must have been nice, like being part of a family again."
Jack made no reply, but swirled the beer in the bottle.
"That was why you didn't want to leave." Daniel watched Jack carefully, but again there was no change of expression on the other man's face. Daniel looked away, back at his own beer bottle and decided to try another tack.
"Did you think we would just leave you there without trying to find a way to get you home? We never stopped trying! The Tollan were going to send a ship, but it was going to take a year. None of us wanted to wait that long." He waited again for some reaction. Nothing.
"That's why Sam is angry," Daniel continued, "because she worked so hard, day and night, trying to build that machine to get the gate open and get you back. When she heard you say you didn't want to come back..."
"Did you think I didn't try?" Jack snapped at Daniel.
"I worked for days, weeks, trying to find the gate, trying to unbury it. God, Daniel! The whole time I worried I would find a body -" Jack broke off, closing his eyes. He lowered his voice, "Laira... wouldn't let me feel sorry for myself - she got me working in the fields, helping rebuild their houses. If it hadn't been for her - she gave me a place to live, food to eat, cared for me when I was sick, a reason to keep going, even if I couldn't go home," he paused again.
Daniel's mind was racing, connecting more dots ...
"So, you were working in the fields during the day, and fixing houses. When did you dig for the gate? I imagine you didn't have much help with -" it suddenly clicked together in Daniel's mind. "You were sick. You were working night and day, too, and you got sick."
Jack was silent, still not making eye contact.
"Jack, how sick?"
Jack shrugged slightly. "Blasted rain. All that dust kicked up in the atmosphere, makes the weather a little colder, you know, and more rain."
"Who knows? Maybe pneumonia. Don't know. Kinda felt like it. They don't exactly have x-ray machines on Edora."
"Pneumonia..." Daniel stared wide-eyed at Jack. Here they had complained about Sam's nearly making herself sick, but Jack had driven himself to sickness.
"So, ah, eventually you gave up."
Jack snorted. There was another pause, during which Jack held is head with both hands and scruffed fingers through his hair, a sure sign of a headache.
God, this is like pulling teeth, Daniel thought. But he knew his friend, and knew he couldn't 'talk,' never talked. Daniel figured the only reason he had gotten this much from Jack was that the beer was speaking.
Jack finally replied, "Responsibilities shifted, that's all." He paused, remaining as he was, head in hands. Without looking up, he continued, "It was so quiet there - nobody invading, nothing blowin' up..."
"No saving the world," Daniel finished for him.
Jack still didn't move. Then, slowly, the hands came down, and for the first time, Jack turned to look at Daniel. "Now I know, really know, what Abydos was to you. I'm so sorry I couldn't save Share, Daniel."
Daniel felt like ice water had just been poured over him. For once, he was speechless. Jack was blaming himself for that, too?
"I could have lived a life there," Jack finished. He turned away. "Ah, what the hell." He picked up the picture again, hugging it to his chest, his eyes closed as if in pain. Then he suddenly put it down roughly, stood and fled the room down the hallway and into the bathroom. Daniel could hear the sounds of his retching.
Daniel waited for a minute, and when he heard no more noise, he got up and went after Jack. They met in the doorway of the bathroom. Jack looked at him, haggard, paused for a moment, then pushed his way past, going to his bedroom. Daniel followed him there, and watched as Jack threw himself down on the bed, rolled to his back, hands coming to his face once more.
"Same old, same old, Daniel. All I did was bring you pain. You, Sam, Teal'c - gave up his own family to follow me."
Jack was silent for a while before continuing. "Daniel, I'm going to go back to Edora. Stay this time. I'm just tired. It'll be better - can't hurt any of you anymore."
Daniel stood there shocked. It was like looking at that same Jack he had known when they first met, years ago.
Jack threw an arm across his eyes and fell asleep.
Daniel sat down quietly in the easy chair Jack kept in his room, deciding he was not going to leave his friend alone. His brain raced for a long time, putting together other pieces of the puzzle: not just Jack's revelations, but things other people had said at the time. A comment by Teal'c's that during the few days it had taken to unbury the Edora Stargate and remount it for use, he had stayed with Laira's family and that Laira and Jack had "shared a bed" (thank God Sam hadn't over heard that one). Garan's tearful parting with Jack at the gate when they returned home. Jack's withdrawn mood, and failure to thank Sam for getting the gate open. Had they done a disservice to Jack? When Daniel thought about how much he wished the Abydos gate had remained buried, he did know how Jack felt.
Daniel decided right then he could, and had to, fix this. First, he was going to stay right here; Jack was not going to be alone like this. And maybe Jack couldn't talk, but he could talk for him. He would tell Sam how Jack tried to get home. Teal'c would understand how Jack was missing his family. And together they would convince Jack that he didn't need to go back to Edora to find a family - he was already home.
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