Understandings and Misunderstandings Part 6: The Guilt and Regret of Loss
At the SGC:
By the time the message got through to Hammond he was just about ready to go home for the night. After the call came, he stared at the telephone receiver in disbelief; as if Jack didn’t get into enough trouble off-world. It sounded bad. He immediately tried to raise Major Carter both at home and on her mobile, without success.
He summoned Teal’c to his office and, as he waited, called Dr Jackson. More luck there. Daniel was stunned; initially speechless, then stammering that he’d go to the hospital right away, and, no, he didn’t know where Major Carter was.
Daniel called a cab and waited. He was agitated and upset as he paced restlessly around his living room. Jack O’Neill was frequently a whole heap of trouble. Daniel considered this trouble worth it, however, to be able to call the man his friend. Now his friend was gravely injured, by the sound of it. He kept looking out of the window, waiting for the cab, impatient to get to the hospital to find out what was going on. He imagined he could have got one in the street by now and wished he’d just taken his car instead, but he'd had a drink earlier; his bloodstream and alcohol just didn't seem to mix too well.
He brooded about how bad it might be. They’d all seen Jack near death on far too many occasions; he’d managed to cheat it by fair means or foul. Now this? A cab accident? It just seemed too ridiculous for words, given everything that had happened to Jack and the rest of them over the years. How ironic if the great Jack O’Neill was felled by something so mundane. Daniel didn’t want to go there; think about Jack dying. He couldn’t bear thinking that this might mean the end of Jack, their friendship, and SG-1.
It forced him to reflect on how Jack and the others must have felt after he had ‘died’ and ascended. He had never really considered how hard that would have been on them all; particularly Jack. He would have bottled it up, buried it deep, and tried to get on with things as if it hadn’t happened. Jack would never have talked to anyone about it; it wasn’t the O’Neill way. Daniel knew that he would have blamed himself; he cared deeply for his team and took it hard when they were hurt in any way. Daniel’s own ‘death’ must have been like a nightmare for him.
It had been Jack that he had gone to persuade them to let him go. He remembered that at least. Although Jack had done it, Daniel realised that he had asked him to do the one thing that would have been hardest of all, and hurt him the most; let go of one of his team, one of his friends. He wondered whether the others had blamed Jack for it all and what the fallout had been after he’d gone.
He had never really discussed this with Jack or the others and regretted it now. Not that Jack was ever likely to have told him his deepest feelings, but it might have helped him find a little peace or resolution about the whole thing.
Daniel cursed himself for being a selfish son of a bitch. He was taken aback at how much the idea of Jack’s possible demise distressed him. It wasn’t that he didn’t think he’d be affected by it, oh god he knew it would be dreadful, but the depth of that feeling surprised him. They had been through so much together. Jack could be a frustrating, pig-headed, argumentative moron sometimes, but he was always there for Daniel, supporting him and helping him to pick up the pieces. His loss would be fundamental.
At the SGC:
Although Teal’c looked outwardly calm, as always, Hammond knew that, inside, he would be concerned and upset by Jack’s accident, just as he was himself. Teal’c was very loyal to Jack personally; wouldn’t even be here if not for him. Hammond was aware that Teal’c had an extremely high regard for O’Neill. He would do for anything for him. At first, Teal’c did not respond to the General’s bad news, but Hammond could almost see him working through it.
"Is he gravely injured GeneralHammond?" He asked, after a long pause.
"Teal’c, I’m afraid I don’t know the real answer to that. From what I could gather it sounded pretty bad, yes son. I’m sorry."
"As am I."
"I’ve arranged a car to take us both to the hospital, son. However, it seems my attention might be needed here for a while; a little difficulty with SG-11." He noticed Teal’c’s eyebrow rise in curiosity, "but don’t you concern yourself with that. You take the car and I’ll join you later."
Teal’c part bowed and part nodded in acknowledgement, leaving to change into his street clothes, and the hat that was ever present when he went topside.
Both men were deeply disturbed by this turn of events. Hammond had to stifle these feelings to get on with the job at hand. Teal'c didn't show any emotion on his face, but inside he was ill at ease; a feeling that did not bode well for his friend O'Neill.
When Sam eventually got home she just kicked off her shoes and slumped on the settee. She'd already gone through virtually the whole gamut of emotions over the Jack and Sara thing and was back to good and mad; pointedly avoiding Jack's calls. In fact, she was avoiding the phone altogether, in case it was him.
That bastard had better not come knocking on this door any time soon, no siree. She'd give him what for. Arrogant ass! How dare he have the nerve to call trying to placate her; she assumed that was what he was attempting to do. No way was she was going to let him give her a line of bull. The Jack O'Neill charm was not going to get him out of this one.
Fixing herself a drink, she downed it in one and was seriously tempted to throw the glass at the wall in her current rage. Stupid. It was her wall; she'd have to clear it up. She should have done that with the rat's drink while she was there. Tipped the thing all over his head is what she should have done; the whole damned bottle.
She was aware that the light on her answering machine was flashing. It started to nag at her. Probably the rat. Wheedling and squirming. Let him wheedle. Let him squirm. He could wait on her pleasure. Sure, when hell freezes over. Have another drink, Sam. Cheers!
It dawned on her that it might be the SGC; Hammond. There may have been some disaster or another and they needed her to save the planet… again! It wasn't only the rat that saved the damned planet. She was pretty good at it too; just as good as the rat was; better. It would serve his ass right if it got shafted good and proper after she had gone.
Why should it be her to go, anyway? She loved the job. It's the rat that should go. Maybe she should make his life a misery until he gave up and retired again. Yeah, she was pretty sure she could do that if required. She could just try telling him to… However, it wasn't a word she used that often.
Sighing, she got to her feet and went over to pick up the messages. If Jack was whining down that phone line at her she'd ram the whole thing down his throat next time she saw him.
It was Hammond's voice telling her that Jack had been in an accident, he was in hospital. He suggested that she should get over there
Sam thought her heart stopped momentarily, then it's beat quickly picked up pace to thumping rapidly. Jack? An accident? The hospital? Oh God! Her anger had turned to fear, dread, and regret. She'd just been sat here while Jack was lying in hospital. That was despicable; she should have picked up her messages as soon as she got in. She'd just sat here.
Very quickly, she left the house and got back into her car. Her mind raced. Hammond had said she had better get there. How bad was it? Did Hammond suggest that because Jack was seriously hurt? Was he dying? My god, he could have been dying all that time she was sitting there calling him all the names under the sun. He could already be dead, and she was too late to say goodbye; to ask his forgiveness. She would never forgive herself if that happened.
No. She refused to accept it. He couldn't die. Not like that. Not like anything. Jack! Goddammit! She had to keep herself together, under control, at least until she got there; had to be able to drive. Sam tried to concentrate on the road. Some help it would be if she ended up in a hospital ward too.
It was impossible to stop herself thinking about it; of course it was. Jack and Sara; that all seemed so stupid. Jack was hurt; nothing else mattered. She was desperate to find out how he was; make sure he was alive. She didn't want to lose him; not like this. Not in any way. The loss would be unendurable.
She almost laughed at the irony. Only 10 minutes ago she'd been cursing him; vowing she would never forgive him and that she's make him suffer for his impudence. Now? She'd forgive him anything; she'd win him back, make him love her. Sara was getting married to someone else. Jack would get over it. He would move on; with her. He had to be alive.
How could she ever forgive herself if he died. Her last words to him had been hateful. She loved him, and had been hateful. He'd probably been on his way over to her place when it happened. Christ!
Sam's world had been turned upside down. That had been bad enough. Not knowing how bad it was, how he was, gnawed at her. She loved him. It was simple. She should have thought of that earlier. She hated that she had never told him how she felt. She should have said something; anything. She should have made it plain what she wanted from him.
Sex would have been good, for starters. She'd always imagined he'd be pretty damned hot. She had wanted that, a lot. More important to her, however, was just to hold him, feel his arms around her, and his body close to hers. She wanted to wake up with him next to her in bed in the morning; take a shower with him; have their toothbrushes sit next to each other on the bathroom shelf; be able to smooth her hands through the grey hair on his chest. There was so much she wanted to do. Would any of that ever be possible now?
Bastard! How could he get himself involved in an accident? Was he driving? He was drunk when she left him. Had he got in his truck to drive over in that state? Jack, you fool. She wanted to shout at him, beat him on the chest, slap his face for being so stupid. She wanted him to be alive, to be alright. Thoughts that he might not be made her feel sick. She was to blame. He would never have left the house if it hadn't been for her.
Reaching Memorial Hospital, she pulled into the parking lot and ran quickly inside to find Jack. She was frantic; a mess.
Later, at the hospital:
"Come on Sam that’s ridiculous, the guy's crazy about you."
"And you know this, how?"
"Well he has never exactly said it. Jack would never say something like that to me, you know that; probably not to anyone. But it's obvious, at least to me, and has been for a while. If you'd seen how devastated he was when he thought he'd had to kill you that time…"
She didn't let him finish. "That was a long time ago Daniel."
"Yes it was. But so was Sara."
"That doesn't mean that he doesn’t love her."
"No. No it doesn't, but it doesn't mean that he doesn't love you either."
Sam grimaced. "As always, Daniel, your logic is impeccable." She implacably refused to be comforted.
When Sam had reached the hospital she had been so distraught, that Daniel been shocked by her appearance. Jack was in OR and they didn't know how bad it really was, or what exactly his injuries were. He and Teal'c were waiting, worried and upset by what had happened. Daniel thought that Sam looked like hell and, nodding to Teal'c as if in a secret language, had whisked her away to talk, almost forgetting his own concerns, to try and help her.
She had been reluctant to say anything at first, knowing that neither of their team mates were officially aware of what had been going on between her and Jack; whatever that really was. When Daniel had made it clear that he had guessed something had changed between them, the dam had burst again and she had fallen into his arms, crying. Daniel had never seen Sam openly weeping before; she shocked him for a second time. When the sobbing subsided, she had told him almost everything, including the Sara fiasco.
Daniel recalled that Sam's mother had died in an automobile accident. She'd been in a cab, just like Jack; a cab that she should not have been in because Jacob was supposed to have picked her up and was late. Jack shouldn't have been in the cab either; wouldn't have been if not for Sam's jealousy and anger.
Although Sam had not yet alluded to the similarity he knew that the thoughts must going through her mind. She was blaming herself. Her guilt was consuming her, along with her recollection of that first terrible loss and her fears of another, perhaps even greater, one. He knew what it was like to lose a parent; he'd been unfortunate enough to lose two of them. He knew what it was like to lose the person you loved, too; Sha're. He still felt the pangs of that loss after all these years.
Then, on top of that, Sam felt the despair of having lost Jack in another, totally different, way. Daniel believed he knew better than that. Jack might never talk about it but Daniel was absolutely certain that his feelings for Sam were the kind that you felt forever.
Despite what you saw on the surface, the Jack inside was more complex and multifaceted than anyone Daniel had ever met. Although Jack was the type of guy who hid behind the mask of a simple man, he was very far from it. The small glimpses he had seen of that inner Jack were the things that made Daniel grateful for his friendship and loyalty; to have such a friend was a blessing that one did not often encounter in life. It made him love Jack as a friend more than any friend he'd ever had. Daniel, too, was suffering the fear of the loss but, right now, his heart went out to Sam and her despair, so he tried to cover his own turmoil.
"Look, Sam, this probably doesn't say a lot about me, not a lot good, anyway, but… Jack's my best friend." Sam laughed at that. Daniel smiled sheepishly, then continued, "Trust me when I tell you that the guy's feelings for you run deep, ok?"
Sam was too distracted and overwrought to really absorb what Daniel was saying. In his heart he knew that she didn't really believe him; probably only Jack would ever convince her. He'd already tried to persuade her that it wasn't all her fault, without success. Typical Sam, she deflected Daniel away from the subject that she was uncomfortable with.
"You know, I've got some messages from him on my mobile and I can't bring myself to listen to them." She shrugged sadly.
"You want me to do it?"
She shook her head and smiled weakly, "no. I have to face it... later"
"What are you scared of Sam?"
"That he said something that I really don't want to hear right now." She looked at her feet as she said it, knowing what Daniel would say, but not really wanting to hear him. She wanted to feel sorry for herself; guilty and wretched.
"What if he said something that you could really do with hearing around about now, Sam? Have you thought of that?" Sure, of course she'd thought of that; she just wasn't ready. She turned her back on Daniel, looking out of the window, and spoke softly.
"Daniel? My mother…"
Daniel moved towards her, turning her to face him and taking her in his arms.
"I know, Sam, I know." He whispered as he held her tightly.
This time there was no crying, but she clung to Daniel as if her whole life depended on that hug. Sam's mind was fit to burst with all the thoughts and emotions that were whirling through it, vying for attention. Suddenly there was one thought that came to the surface and took control. She needed to know how Jack was. She had to put on a public face and meet the world outside of this little room that Daniel had found for them. She pulled away from Daniel, abruptly.
"Daniel. Let's go back. I don't want to miss anything. The doctor…" it was left unfinished. Daniel just nodded his head and, with his arm around her shoulder, led her back to where Teal'c sat.
While Daniel and Sam were away, Teal'c waited stoically for news of his friend. He was someone who, even more than Jack, hid the passionate feelings that boiled inside of him. He was Jaffa, raised as a warrior first and foremost, and those feelings he might feel as a man were inappropriate to that training.
The idea that O'Neill might die as a result of these injuries disturbed him greatly. O'Neill was his friend and meant a great deal to him. The loyalty and comradeship he felt for O'Neill was unlike anything he had encountered before; even with Master Bra'tac. It was a totally different relationship.
That day on Chulak, he had immediately recognised something in O'Neill worth the sacrifices he made to save him. He instinctively knew that here was a man that was a worthy leader, who could help him fulfil his own dreams for the freedom of his people. O'Neill had been different; unique. He would probably never find the like again. O'Neill had stood by him through everything, good and bad, and Teal'c had returned that loyalty, trust and friendship as steadfastly as it was given.
It saddened Teal'c that he might lose all of that; and that his friends and this world could lose a man of whom they all had great need. Should O'Neill die now, the fight against the Goa'uld, and all the other evil forces in this galaxy, would lose one of it's greatest warriors; and Teal'c would lose his greatest friend. It saddened him, also, that O'Neill might die in this stupid and unnecessary way when it was only worthy of him to die a heroic and meaningful death.
Teal'c knew that such feelings must also reside in both MajorCarter and DanielJackson. And MajorCarter had a special relationship and feelings for O'Neill that would make it doubly hard for her. He had seen this amply demonstrated on many occasions; the additional concern that both of them had for the other when they thought them at risk. He also recognised that something had changed between them over the last few months. One could not help but observe that their feelings for each other had evolved and deepened in an irrevocable way.
He vowed to put his own feelings aside to help MajorCarter; to be there for her should she require it. He greatly admired the Major; her resilience, strength, intelligence. She was a good warrior, a good woman. She, too, deserved his friendship and respect and he was willing to provide both in abundance.
DanielJackson would also be in need of support, should the worst happen. Despite the obvious differences between O'Neill and DanielJackson, Teal'c knew that the Doctor held O'Neill in very high regard. He would need to watch his friends closely for signs of distress, and help in any way that he could.
Although Teal'c hoped for a better end for his friend, he watched a lot of television while inside the mountain and knew that automobile accidents were commonplace, and frequently fatal. If not fatal, they could have a lasting impact on their victims that changed their lives forever. It was not uncommon for their victims to be severely injured. Even should O'Neill live, he may have sustained injuries that could mean the end to his leadership of SG-1 and his military career.
This, and memories of the times spent in O'Neill's company and under his leadership, was running through Teal's mind, over and over, when DanielJackson and MajorCarter returned to wait with him.
Sam, sensing some of Teal'c own inner tumult, smiled weakly at him, squeezing his arm and planting a small kiss on his cheek. It comforted him more than he had thought possible and he smiled and nodded his gratitude to her as she sat next to him. She lowered her head onto his shoulder, for support, and he put one of his huge arms around her. Daniel sat on the other side of Sam, and she reached out her free arm to grasp his hand in companionship.
They waited like this for quite a while before they heard anything. Then a doctor appeared and they all stood to greet him, eagerly waiting his words, while also dreading them. He turned to Sam.
"You must be Colonel O'Neill's wife or girlfriend? He has a picture of you in his wallet."
Sam felt a flush to her face; she didn't know he carried her picture with him. She pulled herself together quickly; she was a Major in the US Air Force, for god's sake, she would deal with all this. She desperately needed to know how Jack was and looked determinedly at the doctor.
"I'm Sam Carter. Major Sam Carter. He's a close friend. How is he doctor? Please, don’t give us any crap; just tell us straight, OK?"
The doctor looked surprised at her forthright and open manner and nodded his assent.
"I'm afraid he suffered major internal bleeding from a lacerated liver. We've done our best in the OR, he’s received blood transfusions, but it's pretty serious. He lost a lot of blood, and his liver was badly damaged. I'm very sorry, Ms. Carter, but right now it's difficult to know whether he'll pull through."
Sam inadvertently let out a small yelp, and Teal'c reached over to support her. His strength kept her from buckling. Jack had lived through a lot of very serious injuries. She prayed this wouldn't be one too many. The irony that these injuries had been sustained right here on earth in almost the most prosaic way possible was not lost on her. If he was going to die right now he'd much rather it was in the defence of his planet, or friends; she knew he would passionately wish not to die right now.
"Em… I'm sorry, there's more. His right leg was crushed and is pretty seriously damaged. If he pulls through this, he will need at least one other operation for that. But we can't do any of that until he's stabilised. He's probably suffering from a concussion, but that's relatively minor by comparison. At the very least, he will be in ICU for a few days."
The doctor then went into more detail, but Sam couldn't absorb it all. It didn't matter, she could ask again later. She only wanted to know one thing now.
"Can we see him, doctor?"
"Not right now. Look, he won't regain consciousness for quite some time, Ms. Carter." If at all, he thought. "You'd be better off going home, getting some rest, and coming back later."
"You're kidding, right?" Sam sparked and raised her voice. "No way am I leaving this hospital until I know he's going to be alright!"
As if in support, Teal'c let go of Sam then moved slightly towards the doctor, staring at him silently in that Teal'c type way. The doctor quailed a little, but held firm in his refusal.
"Ms. Carter. Please stay calm. Be reasonable. It could be quite a while before we know that. He is best left in peace right now."
Sam and the doctor argued back and forth about access to Jack. Sam was being very insistent, but stayed business like, the Major in her taking control of her battered emotions. The doctor, however, remained stubborn in his refusal to allow them see O'Neill. Sam was angry; if they had been related to Jack then it might have been different. But they were his family; she could not seem to convey this to the doctor.
Daniel interrupted abruptly, trying to be the man of reason, as usual; trying to placate the doctor and give him an excuse to back down.
"Look Doctor," he said in his most reasonable and diplomatic tones, "I know you are doing what you think is best, but in a military hospital, or the base infirmary, we would at least be allowed to see him for a little while. He would want us to watch over him, he’d do it for any one of us. If he's unconscious, what harm is it going to do to let us see him?"
Despite Daniel's efforts, the doctor remained uppity.
"It really is out of the question for anyone to go in there right now." He responded.
"And exactly why is that, Doctor?" The voice was commanding, one of authority, and it had a Texas drawl. Jack's team all turned as one, nodding an acknowledgement of his presence. A small "sir" escaped from Sam's mouth, almost unnoticed.
"And you are?" Said the doctor, looking towards the voice.
"General Hammond, United States Air Force. Colonel O'Neill's commanding officer. And you, son?" The word 'son' was spoken in a tone that was both disdainful and unassailable at the same time. It almost brought the doctor to attention, despite this not being a military hospital and the doctor not being a member of the military.
Of course, Hammond persuaded the doctor to let them see Jack for a short while. At one point he took the doctor aside, and they held what looked like a very earnest conversation at the end of which the doctor spoke in a slightly louder tone.
"Put that way, I guess it might be alright; for a short while, but only two of you at a time. I do not want the patient disturbed."
Sam snorted slightly at this, wishing that Jack could be disturbed quite that easily, although she said nothing. She was just relieved and grateful that she would get to see him. Thank god for Hammond, she thought. His appearance had its downside, however, as she struggled to remain the perfect Major and Colonel O'Neill's 2IC in his presence. Daniel sensed this and was determined that she get a chance to see Jack alone, or certainly without Hammond in the room.
The doctor, having again explained Jack's condition, this time to the General, left them to the more tender mercies of a nurse. When Daniel suggested Teal'c and the General see Jack first, Sam looked askance at him, clearly annoyed; she so desperately needed to see Jack. Daniel lay a restraining arm on hers signalling with his eyes that this was for the best.
Teal'c and the General were shocked by O'Neill's appearance. They had both seen him look pretty bad before; he had, after all, suffered many injuries in his time at the SGC, some of which might easily have resulted in his death. Nevertheless, he looked as bad, if not worse, than at any time they had seen him injured previously.
On the way over to the hospital, Hammond had ruminated about the enigma that was Jack O’Neill, and this accident and it's potential consequences. He had very much wanted to leave the base earlier to come here, but yet the small crises at the SGC had kept him from it.
He fervently prayed that this accident would not be the end of either Jack O'Neill, or his career at the SGC. Jack could be insubordinate, ill tempered, sarcastic and a downright pain in the butt on a frequent basis. Despite that, he was still one of the finest officers that Hammond had ever had the honour to command.
Hammond often thought that it was those very things that helped make him that fine officer. He was a maverick, but it made him see things differently to many other people in the military. He was simply one of the best team leaders he could ever wish for; he got the job done, and executed it with a brilliance that was not replicated by the other team leaders at the SGC, however good they were.
He knew that Jack had a murky, dark past; he'd read his file, after all. He'd done and seen things that would probably shock his team to the very core if they knew. It was all a crucial part of what made Jack what he now was and, however distasteful some of what he had done, Hammond greatly admired and respected the man that was Jack O'Neill; both despite and because of them.
They all needed him; Hammond needed him. He was not a person that was easily replaced and Hammond thought himself lucky that Jack counted him as a friend as well as a commanding officer. If they lost him, Hammond, the SGC, and SG-1 would sorely miss him. He shuddered to think of how they would all react to that loss, knowing that it could have more fundamental consequences than just the loss of O'Neill himself.
SG-1 was the best of the best. He knew that was only in part because of O'Neill's leadership; the rest of the team played their own crucial roles to make up the whole. They were close, sometimes too close for comfort. Certainly closer than one expected from a team in the military. Hammond believed this was both a weakness and a strength; mainly a strength. The loss of O'Neill could turn it into a huge weakness.
He wondered if Teal'c would even want to stay at the SGC if O'Neill were no longer there. He was a true asset to this planet, and a friend; Hammond also truly respected him. He was not sure that the SGC could stand that loss, if it happened. Sure, it would carry on, but it would never be the same again. Hammond too, would miss him. He couldn't help but like Teal'c a good deal. He was an unusual person.
Dr Jackson would be devastated if they lost Jack; he knew that. Daniel and Jack might have significant differences, but he knew that Daniel cared about Jack like a brother and the loss would be hard on him. Now he no longer had a purpose in finding Sha're, he thought Daniel might be tempted to give up the SGC if Jack died. Knowing Dr Jackson, he would hide himself and his grief at an obscure archaeological dig somewhere on Earth.
As for Major Carter? Hammond was far from stupid and knew full well that O'Neill and Carter felt something special for each other. It was definitely something way over and above what was allowed in the regs, even if they didn't do anything about it. He had often wondered whether he would be that bothered if they did do something about it; so long as it did not adversely impact on the team, their work, did it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
He turned a blind eye to his suspicions about them. He sometimes considered that their special relationship was a help rather than a hindrance to the team. There was a time a few moths ago that he was worried it was all falling apart; O'Neill and Carter had appeared to distance themselves too much from each other, and lose their fundamental trust in on one and other.
Then it had all suddenly changed and he had wondered what had happened to change it. It was probably for the best that he didn't know. What he cared about most was that the change has been good for the team, and for the two of them.
He could never openly condone any behaviour that was contrary to the regs, but what the eye didn't see… So he mostly feigned ignorance of anything between the two that might be in breach of them.
He suspected, however, that Jack's loss would have a hugely detrimental effect on his second. She may not even be able to bear to work at the SGC any longer, should that happen. The thought of that shook him; she was important to all of them and he loved her like a daughter, nearly as much as his friend Jacob did.
He couldn't bear the idea of losing any one of them. Each time it had happened in the past, or nearly happened, the negative impact on the SGC, and himself personally, was too overwhelming to contemplate it happening again.
When the General and Teal'c returned from seeing Jack, 15 minutes later, they said nothing to Sam or Daniel about what they had seen or felt, leaving them to make up their own minds about Jack's condition. Hammond said he had to get back to the mountain. Daniel had guessed he would and hoped it would allow Sam some breathing room. He was curious about one thing though.
"Um, General Hammond?" Hammond nodded as if in assent for Daniel to speak, "how did you persuade the doctor to let us see him? He seemed so implacable."
Hammond laughed softly, hoping to relieve the sombre mood a little.
"I told him that Murray here," he indicated Teal'c, " was a slightly unstable war veteran; he would be mighty upset if he didn’t get to see his commanding officer, Colonel O'Neill, who he had served with faithfully for many years. I added that I couldn't be held responsible for his actions. I just let his imagination do the rest, Dr Jackson."
Daniel didn't know whether Hammond was joking or not about whether he had actually said that, but smiled at the thought of it; it wasn't so far from the truth in any event. He imagined the thoughts that might have gone through the doctor's head at the notion of Teal'c run rampant. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow at Hammond's words, his face imperturbable.
Once he had gone, Daniel went with Sam to visit Jack. She gasped aloud when she saw him, never having seen so many tubes and bits of equipment attached to anyone in her life before; not even Jack O'Neill. He had a bandage on his head, hence the possible concussion she thought, and wondered how bad that was. Other than the facts that he was deathly pale and had tubes and wires sticking out everywhere, he looked at peace.
Daniel whispered that he would leave Sam alone, and she smiled wanly, squeezing his arm in gratitude. Sitting by his bed, she reached up to stroke his cheek, running her thumb across his brow. Then she leaned over and kissed the cheek gently and took his hand in hers, caressing his knuckles.
"Jack, please don’t die on me," she whispered gently. "Please be a stubborn son of a bitch as usual and live through this thing."
She sat for as long as she was allowed, touching and talking to him. All the while she thought about how much she loved this man; how much it would hurt if he left her alone. Please don’t leave me alone, Jack, I couldn't bear it, she thought; not now, not ever.
When she left she said she needed some air and rejected both Teal'c's and Daniel's attempts to accompany her. She went out to the front of the hospital and switched on her mobile phone. Plucking up courage, she accessed her messages. The first one was an upset Jack; she could hear the catch in his throat.
"Sam. I didn't mean what you think. Maybe I… maybe I just said it all wrong. You know I'm crap at all that stuff Sam. Please call me."
She swallowed hard and took a few moments to compose herself before listening to the next message. This was a more frantic Jack.
"Sam, give me a break, you're killing me here. For crying out loud, I'm not in love with Sara. Listen to me goddammit!"
Not in love with Sara? She felt a huge sense of relief, before she realised how pointless all this had been. Her jealousy and anger had been the cause of it all. If Jack died, she would have killed him. It was her fault; she should have stayed to listen instead of loosing her temper. Dumb, dumb, dumb! For someone who could boast the letters Dr in front of her name, and quite a few others after it, she was pretty damned stupid. She spent the next 10 minutes chastising, blaming, and flagellating herself; making herself suffer.
When she accessed the next message, it was one pissed Jack, screaming, "Son of a bitch, how many messages do I have to leave?" For some reason, she found herself smiling at his ire.
The final message was the one that cracked her up again. In pleading and subdued tone Jack simply said, "Sam, please call." This was bad enough, but what really took her over the edge was she could hear the accident; the crash; the crushing of metal; Jack's scream; then nothing. She bent over, clutching her stomach as she violently threw up in the flowerbeds.
She had to pull herself together. She didn't want anyone else from the SGC to see her like this. She had to become Major Samantha Carter again. All business, she went back inside and waited quietly with her team mates and friends. They were all desperate for any news about a change in O'Neill. It was a fruitless wait as they learned nothing new that day. Jack remained unconscious and the doctor was no better able to predict his fate.
They sat all day waiting. None of them had had any sleep the previous night and it was now the following night; it had gone without them noticing the passage of night and day. Although the time passed interminably slowly, they were only aware that they still knew nothing further about O'Neill's prospects.
A sympathetic nurse persuaded them that they should go home and get some rest, returning the next day. They agreed on condition that they could see him again before they left. Although the nurse knew the doctor's views on this, it did not mean that she agreed with them. As he was not there to know any different, she let them all go in, making them promise to be quiet.
Yet again, Sam felt the need to touch him; anything to be close to him. She cursed that Jack wasn't in the infirmary at the SGC. At least then she could have stayed on the premises and persuaded one of the nurses to let her sneak in for a peek at Jack during the night.
She was aware that, should Jack survive this and remain stabilised, Hammond would arrange to transfer him to the Air Force Academy Hospital and there she might be able to see him more often. Spotting his dog tags on the bedside table, she picked them up, holding them tightly, rubbing her thumb over them, feeling the need to take something of his with her.
Daniel and Teal'c insisted that they accompany her home, Daniel driving her car, while Teal'c followed in Daniel's. Although they tried to persuade her to let them stay, she was adamant that she was all right. Both Daniel and Teal'c knew better, but Sam wouldn't budge, so they left her, promising to call in the morning before they went back to the hospital.
Sam recognised that, although she had not slept for many hours, she might find it difficult to do so, thus didn't even make an attempt at it. She changed into old sweats and sneakers and, after fixing a drink, sat in her comfy chair thinking about the whole thing over and over.
God, why had she always felt this jealousy of Sara? Envy, maybe, that Sara had had what she thought she never could? The knowledge that Jack had loved her deeply; that she, along with Charlie, had once been the whole world to him? That they were the things that had kept him sane in his insane life? She should be grateful to Sara for that part, at least. Jack was damaged goods, yes; but not so badly damaged that he was beyond repair. At least Sam didn't believe so.
Jack would think she didn't trust him; that she had no faith in him or a relationship with him. Maybe there was some truth in that. She imagined Jack feeling disappointed in her about it; that it would rock what faith he had in her. She knew that she had made a horrible mistake in her reactions to his news; to his perceived feelings about that news.
Deep down she realised that, although Jack still loved Sara, it was not at all in the way that she had imagined. She had let her jealously cloud her judgement; let it consume her in a way that only suspicion could devour a person.
How could he not be moved by the idea that his ex-wife loved someone other than him? He had held onto her love for a very long time, relied on it to help him surmount almost impossible odds. However little she knew about their relationship, she did know that. Jack could not help but have regrets about the relationship that he had cherished so much, even if his life had moved on since then.
She thought she understood it now. He could not have failed to remember all the good times, and those occasions when Sara had kept him sane. She had only failed in doing that towards the end; after Charlie died. Although she knew no details, Sam thought herself familiar enough with Jack to conceive of how he would have pushed Sara out of his life in his need to grieve his son's death.
Jack had never spoken of it, but Daniel had told her that Charlie had shot himself with Jack's own gun. If she knew Jack O'Neill, he would blame himself, and never forgive himself for it. When it happened he would have been devastated to be the cause of his own son's death. It was no wonder he had shut out Sara; that his whole life had fallen apart.
Jack would have been totally unable to express himself to Sara; or to help her with her own grief. How could he not have regrets about how his nature had destroyed them, and how he had let Sara down at the end? He would hate that, and feel, and live with the guilt and regret for his whole life.
How could Sam have been such a fool? If she'd listened to him, rather than leaving, she might have learned something more about the real Jack; she craved that, and was angry with herself for letting that chance pass with her stupid reaction. Sam hoped she would still get the chance to get to know the man intimately; as much as he would allow her.
She kept recalling what the doctor said about her photo in his wallet. A picture of her? In his wallet? She had never even contemplated that Jack would do such a thing. It spoke much to her about things she had never before comprehended about Jack. One of those things was that he loved her; loved Sam Carter. How could she ever have doubted that? He had demonstrated it plainly that night he had waited for her to get home; she had chosen not to recognise the true meaning of his uncharacteristic behaviour.
There had been many times over the last few months that she had doubted him. Their original pact was to be close friends, before they went any further. They had both needed to get to know Jack and Sam a little better so they could decide if there was any hope for them outside of the SGC, and the military personas they knew so well.
She had often thought that he simply didn't want to take it further. It dawned on her now that it was probably his very feelings for her that held him back. He would never have waited like that with anyone else, or for anyone else.
Jack could be perverse. Sam had originally expressed the doubts about them not knowing their real selves. He wanted to be sure that Sam was sure. Why she hadn't grasped this before was beyond her, but she felt the truth of it now.
This was all very well and good in hindsight. As ever, it was something that you could learn from - if you can live with the consequences of seeing too late what should have always been blindingly obvious. Sam knew how to love, how to regret, how to feel guilt. Maybe she wasn't the master at it that Jack was, but she was learning fast. She would be feeling like that a lot in the coming days and weeks. She also knew how to wait; something she would, moreover, need to learn to live with even more familiarly over the next few days.
Sam sat curled up in the chair as she thought all this, continuing to caress Jack's dog tags in her hand. She was pleased that she had brought them away with her; they were a small comfort in her misery. Eventually, she dozed off with them still grasped tightly in her hand.