I'm a Major in the United States Air Force and I didn't know what to do, now that I was here- finally. In Minnesota. At his cabin. It wasn't as if he'd be expecting me at this time of night or at any time. My car rolled to a stop. The way ahead was blocked by a gate at the end of the track. I shut off the engine. End of the road in every sense of the word. The sudden silence surged around me. The tick, tick of the engine cooling in the night air sounded loud in the darkness. Adrenaline and exhaustion battled within me as I realised that there was no turning back now. I couldn't exactly creep up on him unannounced. Was that what I was going to do – creep? That sounded devious and that wasn't what I meant at all. I just found myself here.
Firstly, he was Special Forces trained and I'd never been able to sneak up on him, not unless he was unconscious. Ooh, there was a thought- he could be drunk as a skunk in his cabin…he did like his beer, and he'd certainly had enough cause to overload. Janet had tried to tell him to look after himself. She'd tried with me as well. But it seemed that both of us had run off, not being sensible. It had been a tough few months.
Secondly, I wasn't sure what kind of reaction I was going to get. While he'd been with the Tok'ra waiting for Kanan to transfer into a new host, the remaining members of SG1 had gone and found trouble here on little old Earth. He was not going to be a happy camper.
Stevestown, Oregon -a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere hid a serious Goa'uld secret - using night zombie induced locals to build a ship. Well, we'd sorted that little problem out. Yes siree, Bob. Only problem was that I'd come away with another symbiote. No matter that it was temporary, no matter that it wasn't a nice sharing, caring Tok'ra snake like Jolinar. It was still a snake, as the Colonel would say. And I'd done it deliberately. Janet had passed me as fit but I still felt weird. Oy- the Colonel would hate it- General Hammond, Janet and my father certainly had made it plain that they did. But it had been my decision to make. The Colonel wasn't there; he was always putting himself ahead of the team. I'm not his 2IC for nothing…
What was he going to say when he found out? The timing really sucked. We'd barely returned from Oregon when the Tok'ra finally admitted that the Colonel had gone AWOL.
The Tok'ra were blaming O'Neill for the sudden disappearance of Kanan. And the SGC couldn't do a damn thing to help him. We had no idea where to look. We'd tried hard, pushing the Tok'ra and General Hammond as far as they could. Almost crossing the line… And then Teal'c had an interesting idea while kel-no-reeming. Why not sic one of the other Goa'uld onto Ba'al and hope that the Colonel could escape in the confusion?
The Colonel had come back, dressed in those awful brown clothes. So many holes and stains. And he seemed fine at first, a bit hyper, fighting Janet's medical team off until he was sure that the woman who'd come back with him was okay.
General Hammond spoke to him, agreeing to ask the Tok'ra if they would look after Shaylin. Anything to calm him down so that Janet's team could look after him.
"But Thoran`s here, why don't you speak to him yourself Colonel?"
Jack, who had quieted enough to let the medics take off the tunic and attach monitors to him, had suddenly surged upright practically shouting in the General's face.
"I am NEVER talking to the Tok'ra again. Slimy, treacherous, good for nothing, useless snakes!" he'd cursed and then sank back onto the infirmary bed. Janet had taken over then.
"General, that's it for now, out; we need to run tests, MRI, CAT scans. The same goes for the rest of you- out!" meaning us- SG1.
"We'll be a while. Come back in a few hours, I'll know more then," she offered.
We came back later.
"Doctor, is he alright?" asked General Hammond.
"He doesn't have the symbiote any more; he's not a Tok'ra. Kanan cured him of the sickness. I don't know when he lost Kanan or what happened since. He's lost weight, is dehydrated, nauseous and exhausted. But there's something else going on here. His whole system is overloading. His clothes showed signs of stab wounds and acid burns from some chemical. I'm still waiting on test results that should identify the agent. And yet there are no marks on his body apart from some recent bruises and grazes that he probably received during his escape. I can't get him to take any medication. I don't know if this is a reaction from losing the symbiote abruptly or what," explained Janet, clearly frustrated with her inability to pin down exactly what the problem was.
"Yeah, the slimy bastard crawled off the first chance it had," said Jack angrily from the bed. "I'm right here you know - no need to talk about me like I was dead or something…"
"You remember anything else Colonel? What happened to you? How did you get back?" asked General Hammond, beating me to the questions, shocked by Janet's explanation and the Colonel's response.
"Ba'al- was… Ba'al. He asked me questions but I didn't know anything. I didn't know anything! I don't know how I got there. It was that freaking snake! I didn't tell him anything. I don't know how I got back here. Just stop! Stop it!" Jack replied getting more and more agitated, his face sweating, hands tightly clenched.
"What did he ask you, Colonel?" asked General Hammond firmly.
"I didn't know anything, so don't ask me!" he said ripping off the monitor leads and pads, trying to get out of bed at the same time.
"Colonel, what do you think you are doing!" cried Janet and the General together. Teal'c stepped forward to help as the Colonel slipped out of the bed and made a shaky bid for the open doorway.
"O'Neill, do not do this. Dr Fraiser is helping you. Let her do so."
"You're not real! Toss shoes through you, like Daniel," Jack mumbled as he weaved on his feet. As he began to crumple, Teal'c caught him and lowered him to the floor.
"Teal'c? You're real!" he said surprised.
"Why would I not be?" asked Teal'c, but any answer was lost as the Colonel suddenly began to shiver. He curled up and then his eyes shot open as he groaned `Oh God' and promptly threw up any food and water he had left in his system before passing out.
"Everybody out! NOW!" shouted Janet as her nurses went to the Colonel, taking his pulse and cleaning him and the mess on the floor, orderlies rushed over ready to lift him back onto the bed.
The Colonel's comment about Daniel confused me for a while. The others left as ordered, but I paced up and down the corridor outside. When Janet reappeared, I pounced.
"He talked about Daniel," I blurted.
"So?" Janet replied, not understanding what I was getting at.
"The Colonel's hardly mentioned his name since Daniel died and as for actually talking about it to us…" I shook my head. "Never going to happen. So, why does he mention Daniel now, after everything he's been through?" I asked.
"Maybe that's why he has. Colonel O'Neill was just as hurt and sad about Daniel as the rest of us. He just deals with it differently," said Janet.
"Do you think his mind is so scrambled by Ba'al that he's temporarily forgotten?"
"I have no way to tell at the present. Perhaps the Goa'uld created an illusion. Either way he sounded very upset or angry with Daniel," replied Janet sadly.
"Well, Daniel's dead for real this time!"
"That could be why he knew it was a trick. If the System Lords have intel on us, like we track them…only theirs isn't up to date…" mused Janet.
"It isn't the first time the Colonel's been mad at him or that we've thought Daniel was dead. Remember Shayla's mine? Or Nem?"
"And the Colonel was there every step of the way afterwards…" said Janet leaping to his defence, her voice trailed away.
Suddenly I saw a light bulb go off above her head, and she rushed off.
"I knew I'd seen something like this before, and the thing with the clothes… well it all fits," Janet said excitedly as she explained her findings at the next briefing.
"I think Ba'al tortured him and put him in a sarcophagus. The Colonel is suffering from acute withdrawal symptoms just like Dr. Jackson did, coming back to the SGC from P3X866 after using Shayla's sarcophagus. His vitals are even more erratic now compared with the first series I took an hour ago."
"But Daniel was badly hurt the first time he used it, but not afterwards," I said. "What about the Colonel?"
"You remember what he said about us talking about him like he was dead? I think that was a slip of the tongue," Janet paused.
"Colonel O'Neill won't tell me, but I think he's been repeatedly tortured to death and then revived. That's why his system is so unbalanced. The sarcophagus is supposed to revive from the dead or dangerously wounded, but for how many times? And maybe not repeatedly on humans - maybe there's supposed to be more of a gap in between revival sessions. I mean the repeated use by the Goa'uld over thousands of years may well be the cause of their egotistical megalomania," she continued.
We all sat stunned. I had been feeling below par since the events in Stevestown; I now felt worse. We thought that we had saved the Colonel. Instead we had sent him to his death, over and over again.
"What can you do for the Colonel?" asked the General softly.
"I can give him drugs to help with the nausea and pain until he rides out the worst of the withdrawal. He's very resilient. It could take another few days. But it's the mental trauma that I'm worried about. We have no idea what he went through out there. He needs to acknowledge it and move on; getting him to admit it is going to be a problem. The Colonel helped Daniel when he was going through this, so he'll know what to expect. Frankly I think he's going to want to do this on his own. And that has no bearing on any of you -or my staff; it's just the way he is. I'll move him to a private room and make sure that medical team pass through at regular intervals, or as much as we can get away with. You know how much he hates being in the Infirmary."
… end flashback.
And that had been that. The Colonel had come through his withdrawal, made his report to the General, made it through sessions with Dr Mackenzie because that's what protocol demanded. And then he'd taken off for Minnesota with Janet loudly protesting that he'd got round Doctor Warner when she was off duty.
Meanwhile I had been coping with my own problems- the symbiote breaking down in my body, suffering delayed adverse reactions to that and the subsequent medications. So I too had been signed off on sick leave for a week, a couple of days after Colonel O'Neill left.
Suddenly I didn't want to work on the base any more; I'd seen Dad briefly in the fallout from the Kanan incident. Everyone was furious with me for doing what I did with the antidote and the symbiote. Janet was speechless, a state not often seen.
I didn't fancy being at home pottering about, which normally I can tolerate for a day before I got itchy to be back with the doohickies as the Colonel would say. Teal'c had proved a strong tower of support and strength in the tough times we'd had recently- Daniel dying, the Colonel being sick, Kanan and all. I took great comfort from his quiet presence. Jonas was sweet but far too cheerful just now; I'd only end up being rude to him or hitting him. Janet would have checked up on me every five minutes, so to stop her worrying I left a message on her answering machine saying I was going to be out of town for a few days before realizing it was what I was going to actually do.
This time I needed to be somewhere completely different. Daniel had been the one who could get through to the Colonel on occasion. And I knew that the Colonel had helped Daniel too. But there was no Daniel to comfort us now. There was a gaping hole where the heart of the team should be. The ragged wound still bled. I needed to talk to someone. The Colonel. Jack.
We had both gone through something unique. Traumatic certainly and not something either of us would ever want to repeat. I could just picture the Colonel saying this was one Boy Scout badge he didn't want to sew on his uniform. Mind you now that we had the metaphorical badges- could we, should we wear them with pride? I wanted answers to some questions and maybe forgiveness and there was only one way I was going to get them. Go to Mohammed.
And I had - trailed all the way out to Minnesota, driving for what felt like days. Found the wooded track and parked at the end.
I got stiffly out of the car and walked up to the cabin by the lake. The one with no fish but plenty of insects according to Teal'c.
It was 0220 by now. If he'd gone on a camping trip I'd just have to sleep in the car and try later. I had no idea really, I was so tired. The symbiote together with the medications was messing with my hormones and energy levels. It was a wonder I`d made the trip without crashing the car.
`How many times over the years has he invited me up here and I've never agreed?' I thought as I made my way to the side of the cabin, a bright moonlight showing me the way through the wet grass. This was his other refuge, apart from the roof telescope back in Colorado Springs. What now? I wondered.
Any further decision was made for me as the silence was disrupted by a strangled cry and shouting from within the cabin, followed by a crash and thud. Silence. Cupboards banged, water ran, silence. Then I saw a familiar tall lean figure burst out of the cabin wearing t shirt and shorts. He was breathing harshly; sweat stained the back of his t shirt, as he bent with his hands on his thighs like a long distance runner. Then one hand went to the left side of his face. "Shit, that hurt," he said.
After a few minutes he straightened up, peered at the moon, and began scanning the ground. He wandered restlessly picking up stones, and then walked to the end of the jetty.
He hurled a stone into the moonlit water with a curse, "Bastard!"
Another stone followed. "I didn't tell."
I heard him grunt with effort as he let another stone fly into the darkness. "Daniel! Why didn't you come?"
"Freaking Tok'ra." The sound of the splash was nearly drowned out by his shouts.
"I hope Yu blew you to smithereens!" he yelled, flinging the stone away from him as if it were a way to rid himself of the lingering shadows of Ba'al's presence.
"Make it stop! No more!"
He ran out of stones, sighed wearily and turned around. His gaze swept over me, and his eyes widened, puzzled.
"Is it you?" he whispered with a strange look on his face, before going into the cabin.
I was mortified. I shouldn't have seen that. He was still struggling to cope despite what he'd said to the General, Janet and slid past Dr Mackenzie.
Jack reappeared on the decking having pulled on sweat pants and a shirt. He trailed a sleeping bag and pillow, sorted them out, got in and lay there looking up at the night sky.
I stayed still. Time passed; just when I thought he'd fallen asleep he let out a long sigh. Then I heard his voice softly in the darkness.
"Night, Charlie," he said before turning over and slowly he drifted off to sleep.
I waited until he was deeply asleep and stiffly moved towards the cabin and went in. In the kitchen I spotted an empty glass with a few drops of water in. Next to it was a bottle of pills that Janet prescribed him. Pills lay scattered across the surface. I knew then that he'd be out for several hours at least.
I had a choice. I could go back to Colorado Springs and he'd never know I'd been here, or I could stay. Either way any conversations I had with him were going to be difficult and painful.
The other emotion that kept threatening to batter its way through was anger. I had never felt so angry in my life. I wanted forgiveness. I wanted to know how he felt about everything. I was angry at Daniel for dying. I hated the way the Colonel had stopped us from using the healing device. I was angry with the way the Colonel couldn't or wouldn't talk about Daniel. I was mad that the Colonel had asked Ayana to heal the rest of us first.
Then I had to try and cope with the idea that he was going to die too. And although I knew it was his only chance to live, I had to ask him to accept the one thing he'd never want. I knew if I told him the benefits of what the Tok'ra wanted from Kanan, that he'd do it. But the Colonel had been right. It had been over his dead body. And I hated myself and the General for making me do it.
I was tired of everyone's reaction to me injecting the antidote. I knew it was a risk. But the kill switch worked, why couldn't they get past that?
My mother had never told me there would be days like these. Strange days indeed.