"Don't work all night Daniel and don't even think of driving if you work half the night," Jack warned as he left his friend pouring over the sheets of alien text SG7 had just dumped on him.
Daniel waved in Jack's direction as he focused on the interesting sheets in front of him. The writing looked vaguely familiar, a mixture of Latin, Ancient Greek and Aramaic, Dr Daniel Jackson, linguist and archaeologist hadn't seen anything quite like it before and he was fascinated.
Jack O'Neill shook his head; he might as well talk to the wall he thought for all the notice Daniel was likely to take. Once his young friend got his head buried in a mountain of ancient text time meant nothing. Thank goodness they didn't have a mission scheduled for the next few days. If Daniel did pull an all-nighter it wouldn't do any harm.
On his way past the sentry at the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain Jack paused. "Don't let Dr. Jackson drive his own car when he leaves," Jack ordered, "make sure someone drives him home, understood." The sentry saluted and risked a slight smile. Everyone knew Dr. Jackson's habit of working until he was so exhausted that he couldn't see straight.
Jack O'Neill nodded and headed to his car. He had done all he could; no doubt when he returned in the morning Daniel would still be holed up in his office, empty coffee cups littering his desk.
Jack spent a relaxing evening in front of the TV with a couple of beers and a pizza. He had invited Daniel to join him but the lure of reams of ancient text was more in Daniel's line than beer, pizza and hockey. Jack decided to turn in just before midnight, as he switched off the bedside lamp he thought of his friend, no doubt still hunched over his desk, completely oblivious to the time of night.
The telephone's shrill bell woke him and he grabbed for the receiver, squinting at the luminous green dial of the clock on his bedside table, reading four-o clock.
"Is that Colonel Jonathan O'Neill?" the unknown caller checked.
"Yeah, who's that?"
"Colonel O'Neill we have you listed as next of kin for a...." There was a pause while the woman checked her data. "...Dr. Daniel Jackson, is that correct?"
Jack's heart thudded as ice water coursed through his veins in place of blood.
"Who is that?" he demanded.
"I'm calling from the Emergency Room at County General Hospital," the disembodied voice continued calmly. "A Dr. Daniel Jackson was admitted here tonight following a road traffic accident."
"Is he okay?" Now Jack was getting really worried.
"I'm sorry Colonel I'm not at liberty to divulge any patient information over the telephone I suggest you come down here and speak to one of the medical staff," the woman suggested.
"On my way," Jack confirmed as he dropped the receiver back on its cradle and grabbed some clothes.
"God, Daniel didn't I tell you not to drive home," Jack groaned as he sped towards the hospital.
When Jack arrived at the Emergency Room he was directed to a waiting area and informed that someone would come and speak to him shortly. He demanded to see Daniel immediately but the staff, used to dealing with distraught relatives, calmly but firmly escorted him to the waiting area and left him there.
"Carter?" Jack knew he would have woken his 2IC up but he didn't care.
"Sir, is that you, is something wrong?" Sam Carter asked, going from sleep to total alertness.
"I'm at the County General ER, Daniel's been in an accident," Jack said.
"Is he okay?"
"Still waiting for news."
"I'm on my way sir," she promised.
"Bring Fraiser," Jack ordered. If anyone could get through the red tape in this place it would be the petite Base Medical Officer.
Jack spent the next hour pacing up and down the small waiting area. It earned him glares from some people and pitying glances from others but he was oblivious to everything.
"Colonel!" He turned to see Sam and Janet hurrying towards him. They both looked shocked, he wondered idly, how rough he looked but shrugged it off, what did it matter. Daniel was all that mattered at the moment.
"Any news yet Colonel?" Janet asked. Jack shook his head.
"Sam you stay here, I'll see what I can find out," Janet ordered. Sam nodded and led the Colonel towards some chairs. He immediately slumped down and dropped his head into his hands, scrubbing his fingers through his grey hair.
"What happened sir?" she asked.
"No idea, I left him working in his office, I told him not to drive home, I told the sentry not to let him drive home. I don't know what the hell could have happened," Jack said angrily.
"I'll call the SGC," she said. A quick phone call soon clarified the situation. Daniel had followed Jack's orders. When he had left the mountain at three in the morning he had allowed one of the airmen to drive him home.
"Sir, was anyone else admitted with Daniel?" Sam asked anxiously as she switched off her cell phone.
"I don't know, why?"
"Daniel didn't drive home sir, he got one of the airmen on the gate to drive him, they must have been injured as well," Sam said sadly.
Jack jumped up and went to the Admission Desk. "Was anyone else admitted with Dr. Daniel Jackson?" he asked the clerk. The man checked his papers and nodded.
"Yes sir, there was another occupant in the vehicle, we're trying to contact his next of kin," the clerk confirmed.
"Name," Jack demanded. The clerk started to protest but Jack flashed his ID. "These men work for the military, I need to know who the other occupant of the car was, do you understand?"
"Yes Colonel," the clerk swallowed nervously as he checked his papers once more in front of the stern looking man in front of him. "It was someone called Ronnie Gadd, sir."
"Carter, call Hammond," Jack said knowing that she had also heard the name and would report the incident to the SGC.
"Thank you.....Bernie....." Jack said checking the clerk's name badge.
Sam called the SGC and wheels were set in motion. General Hammond was informed and Ronnie Gadd's parents were advised of the accident. Sam and Jack waited for news. Sam brought Jack coffee which he didn't drink, she tried to engage him in conversation but it was useless all they could do was sit and wait.
As Janet Fraiser appeared in the waiting area both Sam and Jack jumped to their feet.
"Well?" Jack said anxiously.
Janet motioned for the pair to sit down. "There was a collision with a truck, Airman Gadd died instantly," she paused to steady her voice. "They're still working on Daniel, it's not looking good I'm afraid," she said quietly.
"He's alive?" Jack hardly dare ask. Janet nodded.
"Then get whoever you need here now, Hammond can authorise it," Jack demanded.
"They're doing all they can Colonel, no one could do more," Janet said, "we just have to wait."
Jack dropped his head back into his hands, his knuckles white. Sam and Janet exchanged glances. They were worried about Daniel but they were also worried about Jack. He was going to blame himself for this, he always did.
Time passed unnoticed by the three people huddled together in the waiting area. Eventually Teal'c joined them and reported that General Hammond had notified Airman Gadd's family and they were flying in from Detroit. There was no more anyone could do but wait.
Just when it seemed that Jack had spend his whole life sitting in the impersonal room, with its dog eared magazines, and empty coffee cups the door opened and a doctor, in hospital scrubs entered.
"Colonel O'Neill?" he said, his eyes glancing around the odd quartet.
"Yeah, how's Daniel?" Jack jumped to his feet.
"Sit down Colonel, please," the doctor suggested. Janet Fraiser stood up and held out her hand.
"I'm Dr. Janet Fraiser the Medical Officer at the Base where Dr. Jackson works," she explained, "these are Daniel's team members."
The doctor nodded. "Dr. Jackson has sustained extensive chest and abdominal injuries," he began to explain slowly. He knew, from experience, how hard it was for relatives to take in much detail, they were in a state of shock, they only grasped small amounts of relevant information. He continued.
"The impact ruptured his spleen and damaged his liver and this caused massive internal bleeding. He also sustained some rib fractures, which punctured his right lung, a dislocated right knee and he has some damage to his right cheekbone where he impacted the side window of the vehicle." The doctor paused and allowed this information to sink in.
"Is he going to be okay?" Sam asked, shocked at the litany of injuries described.
"We're taking him to surgery shortly. We've inserted a chest tube to drain the excess blood from his chest cavity, an MRI shows no brain damage and now his condition is stabilised we need to get him into the OR to remove his spleen and repair his liver. There will be further surgery needed but we'll wait until he is stable before we deal with his other injuries," the doctor explained.
"Can we see him?" Jack asked, finally getting some moisture back into his dry mouth.
"Just one of you and only for a moment, time is of the essence; Daniel has lost a lot of blood and we need to get that spleen out."
"You go sir," Sam said pushing Jack forward.
"Indeed O'Neill, we will wait here," Teal'c agreed.
"Follow me Colonel," the doctor said, holding the door open. Jack wasn't sure if his legs would hold him, they felt like jelly but he had to see Daniel, had to be sure he was still alive, still breathing. He took a deep breath and forced his shaking legs to follow the doctor.
Jack was appalled at the myriad of machines surrounding Daniel, the number of wires and tubes attached to him and the pale bruised face of his friend. A nurse guided him to Daniel's side, where he would be out of the way of the people working on his battered body.
"You can talk to him," she advised the Colonel before moving away. Jack swallowed; he didn't know what to say. He gently stroked Daniel's forehead.
"What the hell happened Daniel?" he whispered.
Had Daniel Jackson been aware of Jack's presence and his question he could have told him exactly what had happened.
Daniel had finally finished the translations at three thirty in the morning. He had considered just lying down on the couch in his office but knew that if he did this he would be disturbed after only a few hours by someone. He groaned as he stretched his aching back, the thought of his own bed was tempting. He made a decision, grabbed his jacket and headed through the deserted corridors to the lift and up the surface. When he arrived at the desk, he signed himself out. Before he had a chance to ask if there was a driver available the sentry, mindful of Colonel O'Neill's order, stepped forward.
"Airman Gadd is ready to drive you home Dr. Jackson," he informed the sleepy archaeologist.
Daniel looked up surprised and then he smiled and nodded. "Colonel O'Neill's orders I suppose?" he queried.
"Yes sir," the sentry smiled back. He liked Dr. Jackson, everyone did, he always had time for them and they liked to be able to repay his kindness whenever possible. This was just one of those times.
"Thanks," Daniel dropped the pen and picked up his bag. He pushed open the door and breathed in the fresh cold mountain air. Gadd was waiting patiently next to a car, with the passenger door already open. Daniel threw his bag in the back and sank gratefully into the comfortable seat.
"How's your father's back these days Ronnie?" Daniel asked the young airman as they drove down the mountain. He had spoken to Ronnie Gadd recently and learned that his father had developed back problem from years of bending over at the car plant he worked at.
Gadd was surprised that someone as important as Dr. Jackson would remember this, it gave him a warm glow to think that he wasn't just another Airman, that someone knew his name and remembered he was a person in his own right, with a family and friends.
"It's much better, thank you Dr. Jackson," Gadd said smiling at the man sitting next to him. "He's having some therapy and should be able to get back to work in a couple of weeks."
"That's good news, Ronnie," Daniel replied. The warmth of the car was lulling him to sleep. He tried to keep his eyes open but they were just too heavy. He rested his aching head against the headrest and allowed himself to drift to sleep.
Ronnie Gadd glanced over at his passenger and smiled. Everyone knew how Dr. Jackson worked long hours in his office, how Colonel O'Neill yelled at him to go home and how he totally ignored this and carried on regardless. He drove carefully; he would try to avoid any unnecessary bumps and allow Dr. Jackson to sleep until they arrived at his apartment.
Ronnie was a careful driver; his father had taught him to drive a few years ago and one piece of advice he always remembered was to drive as though he had the most precious and fragile object in the world in the car with him. That way, his father said, you will always drive safely. Now Ronnie remembered that remark as he looked across at his sleeping passenger. Not perhaps the most precious or fragile object in the world but still a very important person who slept safe in his care.
There was very little traffic on the mountain road at that time in the morning and so Ronnie was surprised when headlights became visible in the distance. Ronnie pulled the car slightly to the right to ensure that whoever else was on the roads at this time had plenty of passing space. He checked his speed and slowed slightly, he checked in his rear view mirror, nothing behind. He watched as the lights drew nearer and then he gripped the steering wheel a little tighter as he noticed that the headlights were approaching far too fast for this type of road and that the vehicle was obviously not keeping to its own side of the road.
Ronnie braced himself; he knew what was going to happen instinctively. He yanked at the steering wheel in a desperate attempt to get out of the oncoming vehicle's path. As the car lurched Daniel woke up just in time to see the huge bright headlights of the truck right in front of them.
"Ronnie?" he said, looking at the terror struck face of the driver. That was the last thing Daniel remembered before, with a screech of tyres and the sickening sound of crumpling metal the truck struck the driver's side of their car and threw it into the ditch.
The truck careered on its way, leaving behind it the wreckage of the car, wheels still spinning, lying on its side in the ditch, headlights still shining into the empty night.
Jack O'Neill had no way of knowing exactly what had happened to Daniel as he stood at his bedside. He wanted Daniel to wake up, smile and ask what he was doing there but he knew this wasn't going to happen.
A nurse touched Jack's arm and he reluctantly turned his gaze away from his unconscious friend.
"We're ready to move him into the OR now," she told him gently ushering him away from the bedside.
Jack took one last, long look, at his friend. 'Hang in there Daniel, that's an order' Jack silently begged his friend as he watched the bed being wheeled towards the OR.
There was no way in hell Jack O'Neill was going to leave the hospital until he was sure Daniel was going to be okay. He returned to the depressing waiting area and sank wearily into the uncomfortable chair.
"Sir?" Sam's anxious voice pulled him back to reality.
"They're taking him into the OR now," Jack informed the worried group.
"Why don't you try to get some sleep Colonel?" Janet suggested. Jack shook his head.
"He'll be in surgery for a couple of hours or more Jack, at least have something to eat and drink and try to get some rest in here," Janet suggested as a compromise.
Jack nodded and, pulling a low table towards him, he lifted his feet up onto its stained and well-worn surface. Janet sighed.
"I'll see what food I can rustle up, coming Sam?" Janet waited for Sam to join her; it wasn't going to do them any good just sitting around and worrying for the next few hours. They needed something to occupy themselves even if it was only choosing sandwiches that no one would eat and getting drinks that would be left to go cold in the cup.
Teal'c moved from his position near the window and sat down next to Jack. He didn't say anything; his silent presence said it all. Jack acknowledged his presence by a pat on the Jaffa's huge knee and the two men sat in silence both their thoughts focussed on what was happening in the OR.
Time passed slowly, there was nothing to do but wait, nothing to do but remember happier times, nothing to do but pray that Daniel would pull through, nothing they could do to help their friend.
Finally the door opened and a weary looking surgeon entered; still in his theatre scrubs. The small group jumped to their feet and expectant faces turned towards the newcomer.
"Daniel is out of surgery, we managed to remove his spleen and repair a small tear in his liver. He'll need further surgery on his knee when he is stronger but things are looking good," the surgeon explained.
There was a collective sigh of relief at the news. Everyone had questions, lots of questions, but no one could formulate them into coherent sentences at the moment. Janet Fraiser took control of the situation, asking when Daniel would be able to have visitors, asking for medical details that no one else understood. After a few minutes conversation the surgeon left the room and Janet indicated that the group sit down.
"Daniel has pulled through the surgery, as you know," she started to explain. "He had a lot of internal bleeding and lost of a lot of blood, which is being replaced. He still has a chest tube in place but his oxygen levels are rising slowly and this will probably be removed within the next couple of days." She paused to allow her friends to assimilate the news before continuing. "Apparently his right knee was dislocated and there is some ligament damage. Once he is stronger the orthopaedic surgeon will repair this." She frowned slightly, making sure she remembered everything she had been told. "His cheekbone is fractured but not displaced at all and this should heal on its own; all in all Daniel is a very lucky young man."
Jack snorted, "lucky!"
"Lucky he wasn't killed Jack," Janet reminded the Colonel. His face paled and he nodded.
"When can we see him?" he asked. He needed to see Daniel, to touch him, to hear him breathe, to see those blue eyes, before he could be sure his friend was going to be okay.
"One of you can go in now, but only for a few minutes," Janet said knowing quite well who would be the one.
"You go sir," Sam suggested. Teal'c bowed his head. "Indeed, you should be the one to visit DanielJackson," the Jaffa agreed.
Jack smiled at the two team members, "thanks guys," he said, turning on his heels and marching smartly in the direction of the ICU.
If it were possible Daniel seemed to be hooked up to even more machines than the last time Jack had been allowed to see him. He didn't know where to stand, where he could safely touch his friend, whether he was going to disturb some vital piece of equipment by just being there.
"We're keeping his sedated for the time being," a nurse explained as Jack gazed at his friend. "You can hold his hand," she suggested.
Jack gingerly stepped around one of the many monitors and gently took Daniel's cold and unresponsive hand in his.
"Talk to him, it helps," the same nurse suggested.
Jack swallowed, trying to get some moisture back into his dry mouth.
"Hey Daniel," he finally croaked. The nurse patted his shoulder and continued to check the monitors and record her findings.
Jack stroked Daniel's hand and talked to him. If anyone had asked him later what he had talked about Jack wouldn't have been able to answer; but he talked to his friend until the nurse stood at his side. He raised his head.
"You should leave now sir," she suggested. Jack nodded, reluctant to leave Daniel's side. The nurse sensed this.
"I can let you back in later," she said understanding how difficult it was for friends and relatives to leave their loved ones.
"Thanks," Jack whispered before bending down and gently placing a kiss on Daniel's smooth, cool forehead. He didn't care how it looked; he just needed to make that contact, to let Daniel know that he was here.
"Take good care of him he's very special," Jack said as the nurse escorted him to the door of the ICU. She smiled.
"I will don't worry."
With that Jack had to be content as he headed back to the waiting area to wait until he could once more be with his friend.
General Hammond waited uncomfortably in his office. He had asked for a call to be put through to Ronnie Gadd's parents at their hotel. There was obviously no way the bereaved couple could be allowed inside Cheyenne Mountain but George Hammond wanted to speak to them personally.
This was the part of the job he hated. He had lost plenty of good men over the years but it never got any easier trying to explain to distraught relatives exactly why their son, husband or father had lost their life. God knows why but the trite phrase, 'they died for their country,' did seem to bring some relief.
George Hammond aimed a well-placed kick at his waste paper basket. He didn't know why Ronnie Gadd had died, why Daniel Jackson was lying in the ICU. Young Ronnie Gadd had died far too soon, he had a career ahead of him and, from the reports in front of him, George Hammond would have anticipated that the young man would have climbed the ranks in time. His life had been wasted, cut short by some maniac driving far too fast in the middle of the night. There was no way General George Hammond could accept the young airman'' death, no way he could explain it to his poor parents.... There was a gentle knock at his office door.
"Come in," he ordered wearily.
A young female sergeant, whose name Hammond should have known, popped her head around the door.
"Mr and Mrs Gadd are at their hotel, in room 506 sir," she informed the General. "They are expecting you later this afternoon."
"Thank you sergeant." George Hammond stood up, straightened his uniform and reached for his jacket. The least he could do for Mr and Mrs Gadd was to turn up in full uniform, tell them as much as he could about their son's short career and offer his deepest sympathies and the promise of a full military funeral. He picked up his cap and headed out of his office towards the dreaded meeting.
Mr and Mrs Gadd were impressed that a full-blown General was visiting their small hotel room. The couple sat hand in hand on the side of the bed while General Hammond detailed their son's air force career without actually telling them what Ronnie had done within Cheyenne Mountain. They seemed impressed by the terms classified and top secret and were obviously very proud of their son. After some time chatting to the couple about the funeral arrangements General Hammond took his leave with a sigh of relief. No, he told himself, it never gets any easier.
As he climbed back into his official car the driver turned to him.
"Mountain or home sir?" he asked before starting the engine.
"Neither, take me to the hospital," General Hammond decided. He couldn't do anything to help Ronnie Gadd or his parents but he sure as hell could do something for the members of SG1 and, at the same time, find out how Daniel was doing.
"Yes sir," the driver pulled away from the kerb. At this moment in time he wouldn't have changed places with General Hammond for anything.
Daniel was still unconscious. Jack had finally persuaded Sam and Teal'c to go home and get some rest. He knew they wanted to stay, to be near Daniel, but truth be told Jack needed to be alone. He needed time to cope with his feelings without having to worry about other people. He looked around the ICU, noting the machines, the medical equipment, the other patients and their relatives looking tired and worn as they kept vigil. He wondered idly what they thought of him, did they think he was Daniel's father, brother, partner. He corrected himself, they wouldn't think anything about him at all, they were, as he was too wrapped up in their own little world of pain and suffering to spare a thought for anyone else.
Jack watched the life-giving blood drip track its way slowly into Daniel's veins. He continued to stroke Daniel's hand. Nurses came and went, checking monitors, adjusting IVs, making notes on charts and smiling sympathetically at him. Jack was used to the work going on around Daniel's bed and never noticed a newcomer at the bedside until General Hammond spoke.
"How's our boy?" the General asked quietly, never taking his eyes off the bed.
"Still critical but stable, according to the doctor," Jack answered starting to get to his feet.
General Hammond gently pressed the Colonel back into his chair and looking around reached for a similar one for himself.
Jack you need to get some rest, you're going to be no good to anyone if you don't," the General advised gently.
"I can't leave him, not until I know for sure he's going to be okay," Jack turned to face the General, his brown eyes tired and bloodshot.
"Let me sit with him for a while," Hammond suggested. "You go and have a shower, get changed, eat something and then come back." Jack considered the suggestion. He knew he could do with a shower and a change of clothes. He honestly didn't think he could eat anything but he needn't tell the General that.
"You'll stay here with him until I get back?" Jack checked.
"I will." General Hammond smiled as the Colonel stood up, gently releasing Daniel's unresponsive hand. Hammond changed chairs so that he could be nearer Daniel and he reached over and took the hand that Jack had just released.
Jack nodded, satisfied that the General would keep his word. "I'll be back in an hour," he promised.
"I'm not going anywhere," General Hammond promised settling himself into the hard plastic chair.
As Jack left the ICU and headed towards the exit he saw Captain Lyle Marshall, from the SGC heading towards him with an elderly couple. Jack guessed these were Ronnie Gadd's parents. He stopped in his tracks, he didn't want to meet the couple, didn't have the words to express his condolences. He knew he wasn't going to be that lucky. He took a deep breath as the party approached.
"Colonel O'Neill, how is Dr. Jackson?" Marshall asked carefully.
"Stable," Jack answered waiting for the introductions.
"Colonel O'Neill these are Mr and Mrs Gadd, Airman Gadd's parents," Marshall explained.
Jack shook hands with the couple, noticing how Mrs Gadd had obviously been crying.
Captain Marshall went on to explain to the couple that Colonel O'Neill was second in command of the facility in which their son had worked. That he was the leader of the team on which Dr. Jackson worked.
"How is Dr. Jackson doing?" Mr Gadd managed to ask.
"Holding his own at the moment sir," Jack informed the older man. Mrs Gadd burst into fresh floods of tears. Her husband patted her arm, not knowing what else to do.
She raised her head, her eyes bright with tears.
"Why didn't he die?" she asked coldly. Why was my son driving him home in the middle of the night? Why couldn't Ronnie have lived? "Why didn't your friend die instead of my son?
Captain Marshall looked aghast at her outburst. Mr Gadd lowered his head in embarrassment and tried to calm his distraught wife as started sobbing.
"I'm sorry Colonel," Marshall tried to smooth things over but Mrs Gadd was hysterical by now.
"Why, why, why?" she screamed, beating at Jack's chest with her fists. "It should have been Dr. Jackson who died, not my Ronnie."
Jack stood there transfixed as Captain Marshall and Mr Gadd led the weeping woman away. Jack's legs had turned to jelly; he searched around for the nearest chair and sank into it. His heart was thumping wildly in his chest.
He felt so sorry for the old couple and he mourned the tragic waste of a young life but, deep down, he was grateful that if anyone had to die in the crash that it wasn't Daniel. It was a terrible admission but Jack would have to own it and live with it. He would do anything, give anything to keep Daniel alive and well.
It took longer than anticipated before Daniel was well enough to be transferred to the infirmary at Cheyenne Mountain. He remained unconscious in the ICU for 5 days while Jack, Sam and Teal'c hovered around his bedside. Once his condition had stabilised he returned to the OR for surgery to repair the damage to his knee. He then spent a further 6 days at the hospital before his surgeon would discharge him back into Janet Fraiser's care.
Once safely tucked up in the infirmary Janet and the remaining members of SG1 breathed a sigh of relief. Now they had their friend back where he belonged, now they could visit whenever they liked, he was on the road to recovery and then all rejoiced in this fact.
All except Daniel himself that is. Daniel had regained consciousness to find Jack at his side. At first he hadn't been able to remember anything about the accident. He asked Jack what had happened on numerous occasions but seemed satisfied with Jack's answer that he had been in an accident. As he became more alert he started to ask more questions, what sort of accident, where had it happened, was anyone with him. It was at this point that Jack had finally had to tell Daniel the full story. He had put off this task for as long as possible knowing how his young friend would blame himself for Ronnie Gadd's death.
Daniel listened in silence as Jack explained what had happened. Tears filled his blue eyes as Jack explained that Ronnie had been killed outright and that his parents had taken his body back to Detroit for a family funeral last week. He shook his head sadly.
"It's all my fault," he whispered. "If I had listened to you and gone home early none of this would have happened and Ronnie would still be alive."
"Daniel it is not your fault," Jack said firmly. "Accidents happen, if anything it's the driver of that damned truck that's to blame."
Daniel shook his head again. "Why did I live and Ronnie die, he had his whole life in front of him."
"Daniel for crying out loud, you're not ready for the retirement home yet yourself."
"I've nothing to look forward to," Daniel said quietly, never meeting Jack's gaze.
Jack swallowed back the tears as he faced Daniel's dark depression head on. This wasn't going to resolve itself anytime soon. He knew there was a long road in front of Daniel before he could forgive himself for what had happened. Jack had been down this road himself, he knew every twist and turn in it and now he would walk it again with his friend, however long it took and however hard it was for them both.
Daniel was lying in the infirmary resting after a particularly gruelling physiotherapy session. He had a brace on his right leg and as this was going to be part of him for the next couple of months he was faced with the options of sitting in a wheelchair or learning to manage the elbow crutches the physiotherapist had provided.
He didn't realise how weak he was until he tried to stand and manoeuvre the crutches to hop around the infirmary. His good leg felt like jelly and his arms ached with the effort of keeping himself upright. Sweat tricked down his back as he struggled to remain upright. He was relieved when the session was over and he could sink back into the hard infirmary mattress and close his eyes.
"Daniel, you asleep?"
"Not now," Daniel answered not bothering to open his eyes as Jack's voice pulled him back from the edge of sleep.
He heard Jack pull out a chair and sit down. He turned his head slightly, wincing as his aching muscles protested. He opened his eyes and peered at his visitor.
"What's with the....?" Daniel waved his hand in the direction of Jack, sitting in full dress uniform.
"Nothing, just some ceremony I have to attend," Jack said casually and immediately changing the subject. "How are you doing?"
"Sore," Daniel said, groaning as he pushed himself up in the bed. Jack jumped up and immediately pushed some pillows behind Daniel.
"Thanks," Daniel relaxed back into the pillows with a sigh of relief.
"These came for you, I thought you might want them," Jack said throwing a pile of archaeological journals onto the bed.
"Thanks," Daniel thumbed through the pile before pushing them to one side.
"Okay, well I have to go," Jack checked his watch and stood up, brushing down his uniform.
Daniel watched Jack, there was definitely something odd about his behaviour but Daniel couldn't put a finger on it. He frowned as Jack gave him a salute and headed out of the infirmary.
Daniel pressed the call button.
"Yes Dr. Jackson?" a young nurse appeared at his side as if by magic.
"What sort of ceremony is going on, do you know?" he asked curiously.
"I overheard someone saying it was a memorial service for Airman Gadd."
Daniel's blood ran cold in his veins. A memorial service and no one had even mentioned it to him; no one had bothered to ask whether he wanted to attend. Perhaps they were too embarrassed; after all he had been the cause of the young airman's death. Perhaps they were all too ashamed of what he had done to want to let him play his part.
"Are you alright Dr. Jackson?" the nurse asked.
"I'd like to be there as well," Daniel tried to sound casual. "Can you get me a wheelchair?" Becky was relatively new to the Base, she didn't know what had happened to Daniel, knew nothing about Airman Gadd other than the fact that he had been killed in a car accident.
"I should check with Dr. Fraiser," Becky said, surprised at the request. Dr. Jackson never asked for anything, he was the quietest and most co-operative patient she had met in a long time.
"Didn't Dr. Fraiser write on my chart that I could get out of the infirmary for short trips?" Daniel queried. He knew full well that Janet had been trying to persuade him to leave the infirmary for short visits to his office, the commissary or even up to the surface. Anything to try to cheer him up.
Becky checked the chart. "You're right Dr. Jackson, it says that right here," she said replacing the chart at the foot of the bed.
"So, get me a chair," he repeated clutching at the blanket covering him, digging his nails into the thick cotton. How dare they try to stop him being there, how dare they decide they knew what was best for him. He owed it to Ronnie to be there, to accept what he had done and to face everyone. He deserved their condemnation; they couldn't hate him anymore than he hated himself.
Becky pushed the wheelchair up to the side of the bed and helped Daniel into it. She covered his legs with a blanket and Daniel was relieved because it disguised their trembling. He grasped tightly to the armrests.
"Okay let's go," he ordered.
Everyone stood to attention as General George Hammond stood in front of them speaking about their late colleague Airman Ronnie Gadd. No one noticed as the door opened quietly and Daniel was wheeled in. He motioned for Becky to push his chair into a corner at the back of the Gate Room where he could watch but not be seen.
Colonel Jack O'Neill stood to attention, his face expressionless. He was playing his part in this ceremony but his heart wasn't in it. All he could think of was that it could have been Daniel. He had gone through a memorial service for his friend once before and he never wanted to go through anything like it again.
As General Hammond spoke about the young airman Jack sensed something. He glanced around the room and, finding nothing amiss, mentally shrugged his shoulders. As he brought his eyes back to the podium where General Hammond stood he caught a glimpse of something white, out of the corner of his eye. He looked again and what he saw caused him to clench his fists tightly and take a deep breath. All he wanted to do was dash across the room, grab Daniel's chair and propel him out of the Gate Room and back to the infirmary as fast as he could. What he actually had to do was stand there, listening to the General, forcing himself to stay where he was, praying that this would be over soon for Daniel's sake.
As the two colleagues of Ronnie Gadd stepped forward and ceremonially offered the poppy wreath to the now open wormhole Jack heard a strangled cry. No one else heard it but Jack O'Neill was tuned in to his friend's suffering and he knew what was happening. Offering a silent apology to General Hammond he broke rank and walked quickly to the back of the room where Becky was kneeling next to Daniel's chair, ineffectually trying to keep her patient calm.
Without a word Jack grabbed the handles of the chair and spun it round. A surprised guard held the door open while Jack wheeled Daniel out of the room and into the deserted corridor.
Once a safe distance from the doorway Jack secured the brake on the chair and surveyed his friend.
"What the hell do you think you are playing at Daniel?" Jack asked, his voice icy.
Daniel didn't answer, his head was bent and he was trying to regain his composure. He was finding it hard to breathe, his hands were trembling and his vision was peppered with little black dots and stars.
"I'm sorry Colonel, Dr. Jackson asked me to bring him, I didn't know....."
Jack stopped her apologies with a raised hand. "Dr. Fraiser will deal with you later," he promised the frightened young nurse before returning his attention to Daniel.
"Daniel?" Jack sensed something wasn't quite right.
"Can't ...breathe..." Daniel managed to gasp between frantic inhalations.
"Get Dr. Fraiser here now," Jack ordered the nurse, who was only too happy to leave the two men. She headed for the nearest phone and put a call through to the infirmary, before cowering nearby in case she was needed.
It was the most terrifying couple of minutes Jack had spent as he helplessly watched Daniel struggle for every breath. He was never more pleased to see Janet Fraiser as when she dashed to Daniel's side.
Jack watched anxiously as Janet quickly assessed Daniel's condition. The young nurse was sent scurrying back to the infirmary and reappeared a few moments later carrying some portable oxygen equipment. Janet deftly fixed the mask over Daniel's nose and mouth and adjusted the straps to hold it in place.
"Now take slow deep breaths Daniel," Janet ordered gently. Daniel's tried to follow these instructions and eventually calmed his breathing slightly. Janet patted his hand.
"That's better," she smiled at her patient. "Now I think we need to get you back to the infirmary, are you ready?"
Daniel nodded slightly; his hands still gripping the arm rests of the chair and sweat glistening on his pale forehead.
Janet motioned Jack forward. "Can you push the chair?" she asked the shaken Colonel.
Jack nodded and took his place behind the wheelchair, while Janet motioned for the frightened young nurse to carry the equipment while she walked along side Daniel, monitoring his breathing as they made their slow progress back towards the infirmary.
"So what the hell was all that about?" Jack asked once Daniel was back in bed and resting, his breathing easier and now only assisted by a nasal cannula.
"It looks like Daniel had a panic attack," Janet said re-checking her patient's file.
"Why on earth did you let him come to the Gate Room?" Jack asked angrily.
"I didn't Colonel," Janet replied, a little annoyed that Jack would even consider that she would do such a thing. "I wasn't available and apparently Daniel coerced Nurse Craven into taking him."
"Well she's got a lot to answer for," Jack snapped.
"She's new here Colonel, she didn't know the history of Daniel's accident and his connection with the memorial service; she's very upset."
"Aren't we all," Jack said, his anger dissipating and leaving him tired and emotional.
He had been scared to death to see Daniel struggling for breath. He had thought they were over the worst, that Daniel would gradually regain his strength and put what had happened behind him. He should have know better. Seeing Daniel in the Gate Room Jack realised he had been kidding himself; Daniel wasn't going to forgive himself any time soon.
Janet's voice interrupted his thoughts. "It should never have happened Jack, but it did and we all have to deal with it.
"Are you talking about Daniel's little visit to the Gate Room or the accident?"
Janet shook her head. "Either, both..." her voice trailed off.
Jack nodded his understanding. "What can we do to help him?"
"I'd prefer not to schedule a visit to Dr. McKenzie just yet," Janet said.
Jack winced at the name, he knew that was the last thing Daniel needed at the moment.
Janet continued. "I could discharge him sometime next week if I thought he had someone to look after him."
"I guess that's where I come in," Jack volunteered.
Janet smiled. "I was hoping you'd say that Colonel."
Jack stood up. "I'd better go and let Sam and Teal'c know what's going on. Take good care of him."
"You know I will," Janet confirmed as Jack left her office and she allowed herself to sink back in her chair with a sigh. Dr. Daniel Jackson took her to the limit professionally and personally but she forgave him every time.
True to her word, the following week, Janet discharge Daniel into Jack's care after giving them both a long list of instructions and a bag full of medication.
Daniel sighed with pleasure as he turned his face to the sun as Jack wheeled him towards the Avalanche.
"Glad to be out of there?" Jack asked as he saw Daniel's gesture.
"It's nice to see the sun again, things don't seem as bad when the sun is shining do they?" Daniel said, closing his eyes against the sun's glare.
"It's a guaranteed mood-lifter," Jack agreed relaxing a little at his friend's lighter mood. Daniel had been withdrawn after his attack in the Gate Room; no one had been able to cheer him up despite their best efforts. Jack and Janet were pinning their hopes on Daniel's release from the confines of the infirmary and the SGC effecting a change in his mood.
Once Jack had Daniel and all his bags, chair and crutches stowed away he jumped into the driving seat and turned the engine over.
"Ready for home?" he asked, glancing at his passenger.
Daniel nodded. This was the first time he had been in a vehicle since the accident, if you didn't count the ambulance trip to the hospital and then from the hospital to the SGC. He felt a tightening in his chest, a wave of nausea. He secured the seat belt and took a deep breath. This wasn't a problem; he had driven home with Jack numerous times, he could do this.
Jack set off slowly and soon they were driving down the winding mountain road. Jack turned on the radio and flicked channels until he found some classical music that he thought Daniel would appreciate.
Concentrating on the road ahead Jack failed to notice how pale Daniel was, failed to see the sheen of perspiration forming on his forehead and top lip, failed to see the whiteness of the knuckles as Daniel clenched his fists in his lap.
As the music reached a crescendo and then died away Jack heard Daniel gasping for breath, he turned and seeing the panic on his friend's face Jack pulled the Avalanche over to the side of the road and killed the engine.
"Daniel?" Jack reached over and placed his hand over Daniel's clenched fists.
Daniel didn't answer, it was taking all his concentration to keep breathing, to try to calm his thumping heart, swallow back the waves of nausea, see or hear anything or anybody through the spots and flashes before his eyes and the buzzing in his ears.
Jack realised what was happening. He rubbed the back of Daniel's neck with his free hand. "Slow it down Daniel, take a deep breath, slowly, in and out, in and out, that's it, slow it right down, I'm here, you're okay."
Jack's own heart was thudding in his chest but he forced himself to keep his voice low and calm as he talked Daniel through another panic attack. Eventually Daniel's breathing returned to near normal and he raised a shaky hand to wipe the sweat from his face. He lifted his head and opened his blue eyes to see a worried Jack watching him.
"Sorry," he murmured, swallowing to try to get some moisture back into his dry mouth.
"Okay?" Jack asked. Daniel nodded and leaned his head back against the headrest, closing his eyes.
"Here," he re-opened his eyes to see Jack holding a bottle of water out to him. He took it and, with trembling hands, unscrewed the cap and swallowed the lukewarm liquid gratefully.
Jack waited patiently until Daniel was calm and then, took the empty water bottle.
"Want to talk about it?"
"I need to get out," Daniel said reaching for the door release.
"Daniel we'll be home in ten minutes." Jack tried to reach across and close the door but Daniel, despite his injuries, was too quick for him.
Jack jumped out and dashed around the vehicle in time to steady Daniel as he lurched towards the nearby fence.
"Steady," Jack warned as Daniel nearly fell over the uneven ground.
Daniel reached the safety of the fence and leaned on it, his hands gripping it as if that were all that was keeping him upright.
Jack stood next to his friend, listening to him breath deeply and watching him anxiously.
The couple stood in silence for a while until Jack wondered if Daniel was ever going to speak or make a move.
"The last time I was a passenger down the mountain I was with Ronnie," Daniel said quietly, continuing to stare into the distance.
"Shit" Jack said under his breath. So that's what it had all been about.
"Must have brought back some bad memories," Jack said carefully.
Daniel nodded, not looking at his friend. "...And some good ones."
"Ronnie was good company, he often drove me, he told me all about his family, how his mom used to make his favourite cake every time he went home, how proud she was of him, how he was planning to take them on vacation when......"
Daniel's voice broke as he remembered his last conversation with the young airman.
Jack put his arm around Daniel's shaking shoulders. "It's okay."
"No, its not okay Jack, it'll never be okay, not for Ronnie, not for his parents, not for me...." Daniel's shoulders shook as sobs wracked his body. He turned to Jack and the older man enfolded his young friend in his arms and held him as he wept.
The panic attacks continued despite Jack's best efforts to avoid anything that might spark one off. Unfortunately he could never predict what the trigger would be.
On one occasion it was the squeal of tyres as a car outside the house avoided a dog. On another it was a young man on the doorstep selling raffle tickets and who reminded Daniel of Ronnie Gadd.
Jack patiently dealt with them, calmed Daniel down, administered the appropriate medication, made sure Daniel attended his physiotherapy sessions, provided nourishing meals that usually went untouched. Jack did everything he could to help Daniel through his convalescence but he sensed that whatever he did it was never going to be enough. Daniel blamed himself for what had happened and nothing Jack or anyone else said would convince him otherwise.
One day, at the SGC, Jack was called into General Hammond's office. He had left Daniel at home with strict instructions not to move off the couch until he returned. He planned to dash into his office, check his e-mails, push some papers from his in-try to his out-tray and get back home before Daniel could get up to any mischief. Unfortunately, just as he was headed to the elevator, General Hammond caught up with him.
"Yes sir?" Jack said, standing to attention before the General's desk.
"Sit down Jack," General Hammond held out a sheet of pale blue paper. "I received this today."
Jack took the paper and read it. It was from Ronnie Gadd's father, thanking the General and the SGC for their kindness at the time of their son's death. It enquired after Dr. Jackson's health and asked the General to give him the enclosed letter, if he felt it would be appropriate.
Jack put the letter carefully on the General's desk.
"I have the letter addressed to Dr. Jackson here," General Hammond said picking up a thin pale blue envelope with Daniel's name written on it.
"What do you think I should do Jack?"
General Hammond knew that if anyone was in tune with Daniel Jackson's current mood it was the Colonel.
"Should he have it, or should I just file it away as if it never arrived?"
Jack considered the options. On the one hand he wanted to say, file it away, spare Daniel any further anguish but, on the other hand, he knew that Daniel was still beating himself up about the accident. Whatever was in the letter it was for Daniel to decide what to do with it. No one could make that decision for him.
"Daniel's a grown man sir, it's addressed to him and I think he needs to read it and deal with it, whatever it contains," Jack said slowly.
General Hammond nodded, "I agree, I'll deliver it personally tomorrow, if that suits you."
"See you tomorrow sir," Jack said looking at the envelope as if by sheer will alone he could read it through the thick envelope.
Jack didn't tell Daniel about the letter. When he got home Daniel was lying on the couch reading an archaeological journal. He seemed in a slightly better mood and, as Jack stood in the kitchen preparing their evening meal, Daniel continued to read, commenting occasionally on the author's lack of knowledge of his subject. The pair then spent a pleasant evening in front of the TV until Daniel fell asleep on the couch and Jack had to wake him and help him limp into the bedroom.
Daniel may have slept well but Jack O'Neill found himself tossing and turning all night. He went over and over in his mind the pro's and con's of giving Daniel the letter. True, Daniel seemed to be coping a little better with his grief, his panic attacks were less frequent and although frustrating Daniel was coping with the physical limitations of his bad knee. Jack worried that, by giving Daniel the letter, he might be opening up old wounds, putting Daniel's recovery back a few steps, making that visit to McKenzie a certainty. On the other hand he knew that Daniel would never forgive him if he found out that Jack had purposely withheld the letter. Jack and Daniel based their growing and deepening friendship on total honesty and Jack couldn't risk breaking the bond between them whatever the letter contained.
Eventually, tired but knowing sleep wasn't going to be a gift that night Jack O'Neill got him as dawn was breaking and, after checking that Daniel was still sleeping, he showered, dressed and put a pot of coffee on. As he waited for the coffee to brew he watched the sun rise. He didn't know what today was going to bring, all he knew was that he would be there for his friend and he silently prayed that when the sun set Daniel would still be in one whole, if still fragile, emotional piece.
"Jack, you're up early,"
Daniel limped slowly into the kitchen. He sank gratefully onto the stool, leaning the crutches against the wall, and reached eagerly for the cup of coffee Jack was pouring. Usually he was first up; he had usually had a couple of cups of coffee before Jack surfaced. He wondered what was different this morning but the aching in his knee turned his thoughts to Tylenol instead and the moment passed.
"Need a pill?" Jack said correctly reading Daniel's pain level. Daniel nodded, rubbing his aching leg. It had been 6 weeks now and he was still stuck with the brace and the crutches. Although Janet Fraiser and the physiotherapist assured him he was improving he didn't see it. He wanted to be able to discard the crutches and the brace, to walk unaided, to get back to the SGC and immerse himself in his work so that he wouldn't have time to think about the accident and Ronnie.
"Here," Jack handed over two pills and a glass of water. Daniel swallowed the pills and the water and then sighed as he waited for them to take effect.
"So, why are you up so early?" Daniel persisted once his pain had eased.
"No reason," Jack tried to sound nonchalant. "Anything special planned for today?"
"I should be so lucky," Daniel grumbled reaching for his coffee.
"General Hammond mentioned he might call this afternoon," Jack said casually.
"What does he want, am I being fired or something?" Daniel actually looked worried and, if he hadn't been so keyed up Jack would have laughed. Surely by now Daniel knew that the SGC couldn't function without him. It was amazing that the young man still had such a low opinion of himself. Despite being the one to open to Gate and saving the planet from destruction on more than one occasion, he really did think that he was going to be fired because he had a bad leg.
"Just wants to see how you're doing I guess." Jack busied himself pouring cereal into a bowl and searching for milk and sugar.
"He knows how I'm doing," Daniel persisted suspiciously. "You tell him, Janet tells him, I tell him."
"May be he just wants to see for himself," Jack said exasperated at Daniel's determination not to let the subject drop.
Daniel smelt a rat but he knew he wasn't going to get anything out of Jack. His friend wasn't Black Ops trained for nothing.
"Whatever," Daniel finished, picking up his coffee and reaching for the mail on the counter.
Thank you, Jack sent up a silent prayer as Daniel finally gave up and turned his attention to the pile of mail, sorting it into piles.
The morning passed, all too quickly for Jack O'Neill, but rather more slowly for Daniel who spent it worrying about the General's forthcoming visit.
Eventually, when the knock at the door came both Jack and Daniel jumped. Jack led the General into the lounge where Daniel was sitting on the couch.
"Don't get up son," he said as Daniel attempted to struggle to an upright position.
Daniel sank back down on the couch, wincing as his knee protested. Jack sat at the other end of the couch, trying to appear relaxed while General Hammond took the chair opposite Daniel.
"How're you feeling?" Hammond asked the young man, noting his pale complexion and the furrows of pain still etched between his brows.
"Apparently I'm improving," Daniel said cautiously, wondering where the conversation was going.
"You're sorely missed at the SGC, Dr. Fraiser tells me you might be back on desk duties within the next month," Hammond continued trying to gauge the archaeologist's mood.
"That's good news sir, is that what you came to tell me?" Daniel decided he might as well go for it, rather than waste time on more pleasantries.
"Partly," Hammond said, glancing at Jack O'Neill before reaching into his breast pocket and withdrawing the blue envelope that had haunted Jack all night.
Daniel raised his eyebrows at the sight of the envelope. His heart thumped wildly, was this it, the letter telling him the US Air Force was dispensing with his services.
"I received this letter the other day. It was inside another letter addressed to me from Mr and Mrs Gadd, Ronnie's parents", the General added although clarification of who the Gadd's were wasn't needed. They and their son had been in Daniel's thoughts, both waking and sleeping for the past couple of months.
General Hammond held out the envelope. "This letter, addressed to you personally was enclosed, they wanted me to give it to you if I considered it appropriate."
Daniel reached forward and took the envelope. He held it in his shaking hand, the letters of his name dancing in front of his eyes.
"I...we, thought you should have it," the General said watching Daniel's reactions carefully.
"Thank you," Daniel murmured, never taking his eyes off the envelope. There was silence in the room; both Hammond and Jack were waiting for Daniel's response.
After a few minutes Daniel looked at the two men.
"Can you pass my crutches please," Daniel asked Jack in a quietly controlled voice. Jack obliged and, once upright, Daniel swayed unsteadily on the crutches as he stuffed the blue envelope in his pocket and slowly limped towards his bedroom.
As the door closed behind him both Hammond and Jack exchanged glances.
"Will he be alright?" the General asked.
"I'll give him time to read it and then go and pick up the pieces," Jack said, watching the closed door.
"I'll leave you to it then," General Hammond said getting up and heading towards the door. "Let me know if there is anything I can do won't you?" he said as he opened the door and prepared to leave.
"Don't worry sir, I will, thank you for taking the time to come over."
Jack watched as the General got into his car and drove away and then he closed the front door and stood in the hallway listening for any sounds from Daniel's room.
After a few minutes Jack realised he couldn't stand in his own hallway all day. He went back into the lounge, plumped up a few cushions, tidied away some of Daniel's journals and then, having nothing else to do, he headed back towards the closed door.
Taking a deep breath he knocked and waited.
Daniel was sitting on the side of the bed, the blue envelope torn open and on the bed beside him and the sheet of paper in his hand.
"You okay?" Jack asked, sitting down beside his friend.
Daniel wiped away the remains of his tears and sniffed before handing the sheet of paper to Jack.
"Are you sure you want me to read this?" Jack checked.
Daniel nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He waited while Jack read and re-read the letter and then, folding it carefully, handed it back to Daniel.
The Gadd's had obviously spent a long time on the wording of the letter. They explained how upset they were at the loss of their son, how they had initially blamed Daniel for what had happened, but how they now realised that Daniel was as much a victim as Ronnie had been. The letter had finished:
the accident was just that, an accident, no one's fault, no one to blame, it was God's will for Ronnie to be taken and for you to survive and it is not for us to question that. We will both miss Ronnie as long as we live but we have many happy memories of our son and wish you a speedy recovery. If God spared you it must be for a reason. We wish you well and will continue to pray for you.
"They seem like very nice people," Jack said.
"I don't deserve it," Daniel said quietly.
"Yes you do," Jack said firmly. "You read the letter Daniel, they don't blame you and you shouldn't blame yourself. It was an accident, a tragic accident, that's all."
"Was it, do I just forget about it and carry on with my life?" Daniel yelled, turning to Jack. "Do I forget Ronnie Gadd ever existed?"
"No, never," Jack said, grabbing Daniel's shoulders and holding on to him.
"You never, ever forget Daniel, but you accept what happened for what it was and you move on, the Gadd's were right you're not to blame, understand?"
Daniel nodded; dropping his head as his blue eyes filled with tears which pooled and then dropped slowly onto the sheet of blue paper.
Jack pulled Daniel into his arms and held him close, stroking his hair as Daniel cried on Jack's shoulder. Jack held Daniel until his tears stopped and eventually he pulled away and, self-consciously rubbed his eyes.
"I will be," Daniel said trying to sound more convincing than he actually felt. He was exhausted, physically and mentally. Today had drained his last reserves and he felt himself weakening.
Jack senses that Daniel had reached the end of his reserves and he gently pressed his friend back onto the bed and lifted his legs. He covered Daniel with the quilt and by the time he had closed the blind, Daniel was fast asleep. Jack watched him for a few minutes before tiptoeing out of the room and leaving his friend to heal.
"I'd like to go to Detroit and meet Mr and Mrs Gadd," Daniel said the following morning at breakfast, causing Jack to raise his head in surprise.
"Are you sure?" Jack asked. He wasn't sure Daniel was up to it, physically or mentally.
"I need to go Jack," Daniel said quietly, blue eyes meeting brown.
Jack nodded; there was a new strength in his friend. Jack could sense it and see it behind those blue eyes.
"We need to check with Fraiser," Jack reminded his young friend.
Daniel nodded, pouring coffee into his cup. "Will you make the arrangements if she gives me the go-ahead?"
"And come with you," Jack said, surprising Daniel.
"Thanks Jack, you're a good friend," Daniel said, surprising Jack.
It took a lot of fancy talking before Janet Fraiser agreed to allow Jack and Daniel to fly to Detroit.
"What if you have a panic attack Daniel?" she asked her patient.
"They're getting better aren't they Jack?" Daniel looked towards his friend for confirmation.
Jack nodded. "Actually they are Doc, he hasn't had one for over a week now."
Janet made some notes in Daniel's rather thick medical file and then looked at the two men in front of her. They both towered above her physically but she knew that, as petite as she was, she had power over them both. She closed the file.
"Alright, but..." she raised a finger and wagged it at Daniel. "I want you to get plenty of rest, make sure you don't miss any doses of your medication and at the first sign of any trouble you hot foot it right back here, understood?"
Jack and Daniel exchanged amused glances.
"Understood Doc," Jack saluted the petite Medical Officer.
"Understood," Daniel said quietly, relieved that he had got his own way.
"Off you go then," Janet said smiling at the two men as she shooed them out of her office, shaking her head in exasperation.
"How does he do that?" she murmured to herself as she watched them make their way down the corridor. In medical matters she could overrule anyone on the Base regardless of their rank but one look into Daniel Jackson's blue eyes and she was putty in his hands.
Jack made the necessary arrangements. He contacted the Gadd's and checked that it would be alright to visit them. He rang the airport and made sure they got the best seats on the plane so that Daniel could stretch his leg out. Privately, he double checked with Janet Fraiser on how to deal with Daniel should the trip be too much for him either physically but, more important, mentally.
Eventually they were at the airport waiting for their flight to board. They only had one bag, which they had agreed to share. They were only staying over the one night and Daniel had enough problems getting himself around on the elbow crutches without having to manage a bag as well. Jack knew he had his hands full with one bag and one very fragile and very unsteady archaeologist.
Daniel handed his crutches to Jack and dropped gratefully into one of the chairs in front of the departure screen. He rubbed his leg to try to ease the constant ache. He would never have believed it could be so tiring using crutches. His shoulders and wrists ached after using them for anything more than brief periods and, when added to the constant ache in his bad leg, it made for a very cranky archaeologist.
"Need a pill?" Jack asked anxiously after stowing the crutches and the bag under the seat.
Daniel shook his head.
"I could get a wheelchair," Jack suggested.
Jack looked at Daniel, surprised at his tone. Daniel returned the gaze before dropping his head.
"Sorry, I'm a little tense."
"I'm sick of being a cripple, that's all," Daniel tried to explain.
"It's just a bad knee, Daniel and it's getting better," Jack reassured his young friend.
"I know, I just....." Daniel's voice trailed off. He couldn't explain how he felt about people staring at him. The sight of the handsome young man struggling with crutches certainly drew people's attention. Daniel didn't want Jack to think he was paranoid, couldn't explain how he felt that they were all staring and him and whispering to one another. (That's him, he killed someone) While ever he still had this physical reminder of the accident he couldn't even begin to try to pretend he was anything other than the person who caused Ronnie Gadd's death.
The disembodied voice informed the two men that their flight was ready for boarding.
"You ready for this?" Jack said helping Daniel to stand and handing him the crutches.
"As I'll ever be." Daniel grasped the crutches, steadied himself and then made his slow way towards the departure gate with an anxious Jack at his side.
Daniel was exhausted by the time they reached their hotel. Jack looked at his companion with concern, taking in the pale complexion and the trembling as Daniel willed himself to stay upright.
After tipping the bell boy Jack flung the bag in a corner and made a quick check of the rooms facilities while Daniel dragged himself over to the nearest of the two beds and lay down on it with a groan.
Daniel opened his eyes to see Jack's worried face hovering over him. He pulled himself back against the pillows and took the pills Jack was holding out. With a swig from the glass of water in Jack's other hand, the pills were well on their way to doing their job. Daniel closed his eyes again waiting for the familiar numbing effect of the medication to wash away the worst of the pain, leaving behind a familiar chronic ache which Daniel was, by now, well used to.
Jack pulled the bedspread up over Daniel and closed the blinds. He was concerned about the state of his friend. The journey had taken more out of him than either of them had thought possible.
Picking up a pile of brochures from the dresser, Jack settled himself on the other bed. He would allow Daniel to sleep for a couple of hours and then find somewhere for them to eat; another of Dr. Fraiser's stipulations before allowing the trip.
It was hunger and the first tendrils of pain, signalling the imminence of the next dose of medication that finally woke Daniel.
"Well it's about time, I was thinking I was going to have to wake you with a kiss, Sleeping Beauty," Jack teased as Daniel pushed himself upright.
Ignoring Jack's remark Daniel gazed around the room. "Not too bad," he commented.
"You seemed to find the bed comfortable," Jack said swinging his long legs over the side of his bed and pushing himself to his feet.
"Yeah, any suggestions?" Daniel said seeing the pile of brochures scattered across Jack's bed.
"There's a steak house a couple of blocks away, fancy that?"
"Steak, fries and beer, all the food groups."
"You can have a tomato if you really want."
Daniel laughed softly, the laugh turning into a groan as he tried to get off the bed.
Jack dashed to his side.
"Just stiff and sore, I need a shower," Daniel said wincing as Jack pulled him to a standing position.
"No shower, I'll run you a bath," Jack said, knowing instinctively that Daniel wasn't going to be able to manage standing in a shower balancing on one leg.
"Fine, Nurse O'Neill." Daniel shuffled a couple of steps until he reached the dresser and then, hanging on to its polished surface, he headed towards the bathroom door.
"Sit down, I'll run the bath," Jack ordered.
"Been sitting too long, need to move about," Daniel replied still making his slow progress, moving from the dresser to holding on to the wall as he neared the bathroom door.
"Oh for crying out loud," Jack closed the toilet seat and flung a towel over it before helping Daniel into the bathroom and pushing him down on to the toilet seat.
"Sit there," he warned before starting the hot tap and searching for some bath salts to ease Daniel's aching muscles.
It wasn't as if Jack hadn't seen Daniel's body before. They had showered together after missions on numerous occasions and Daniel had been staying at Jack's house. This was the first time, however, that Jack had really got up close and personal with a totally naked Daniel since the accident.
The scars that, although healing, were still red and angry shocked him. He could see that Daniel had lost some weight, his right leg without the brace was thinner than his left and looked oddly pale. True, Daniel had been wearing shorts most of the time at Jack's house, it was summer and it was apparently the devil of a job to pull trousers over the cumbersome brace. His left leg looked tanned and muscular from the extra work it was doing. The rest of Daniel's body, although tanned, was verging on emaciated. Jack felt physically sick as the evidence of the accident was paraded in front of him.
Daniel was unaware of Jack's discomfort. He had gotten used to his weak body; it was becoming normal to him. He could hardly remember a time when he could walk or run with ease. It was as if the old Daniel Jackson had died alongside Ronnie Gadd and, whereas poor Ronnie, was dead and buried Daniel had been spared and given this feeble, pain riddled body to use.
"Ready?" Jack held out a hand to help Daniel to his feet and then steadied his friend as he slowly climbed into the hot scented water.
Daniel groaned with pleasure as the water caressed his aching muscles.
Jack busied himself picking up Daniel's discarded clothes and emptying their bag, hanging their change of clothes in the closet and setting toiletries and medication out on the dresser.
Eventually the water cooled and, after a further dose of painkillers Daniel was ready to get out and ready for their evening meal. Jack had taken the opportunity to book a cab to take them to the restaurant, there was no way in hell he was going to let Daniel hobble even a couple of blocks.
They had a good meal. Mindful of Janet Fraiser's instructions Jack ordered side salad for Daniel and apple juice in place of anything remotely alcoholic.
While Jack devoured his steak Daniel had to force himself to eat some of his meal. He knew he wouldn't get away with not eating, with Jack sitting eagle-eyed opposite him but the thought of his meeting with the Gadd's tomorrow had robbed him of what little appetite he had.
"Pie or Chocolate Fudge Cake?" Jack asked, looking over the top of the huge menu at Daniel.
A wave of nausea washed over Daniel at the thought of either but he swallowed it back.
"Cake....and coffee," he added hopefully.
Jack O'Neill knew that coffee certainly wasn't on Janet's list but the hopeful look in Daniel's blue eyes worked their charm and Jack placed the order, shrugging his shoulders. What Janet didn't know couldn't hurt her, he decided.
"So how do you feel about tomorrow?" Jack asked casually once the pie and cake had been eaten and the coffee was steaming in front of the two men.
"Fine," Daniel knew this stock phrase wasn't going to satisfy Jack O'Neill.
"Okay, if you really want to know I feel sick, I haven't a clue what to say to them, or what they'll say to me. I don't know if I can even look them in the eye. I killed their son, this is my penance."
Jack was shocked at the vehemence. Daniel took some perverse pleasure in the expression on Jack's face. This whole journey was a penance for him, he would take whatever the Gadd's threw at him. They couldn't hate him anymore than he hated himself.
"Daniel I don't think......"
"Don't think what Jack? Don't think they blame me, well I do." Daniel leaned forward across the table. "I blame me, why shouldn't they?"
Jack shook his head. "Daniel for crying out loud, no one blames you it wasn't your fault, how many more times."
"Let it go Jack," Daniel said sinking back into his chair suddenly tired.
Jack knew there was no point arguing with Daniel. He signalled the waitress over and paid the bill. He handed Daniel his crutches and followed him slowly out of the restaurant and into the cool evening air. He hailed a cab and soon the pair were back at their hotel.
"Night Jack," Daniel said once he was in bed.
"Night Daniel," Jack replied, reaching for the light switch. It was going to be a long night and an even longer day tomorrow. Jack just hoped and prayed that Daniel would weather the storm he was heading into.
Daniel spent most of the night wide-awake but was careful not to do anything that would disturb his companion. As he lay in the darkness, listening to the sounds of the strange new city outside the window, he went over and over in his mind his forthcoming meeting with Mr and Mrs Gadd.
Jack was also awake most of the night, listening to Daniel as he tried not to move his aching leg any more than was necessary in order not to alert Jack to his wakefulness. By the time morning came both men were wide-awake, ready for the day ahead.
Jack tried to keep Daniel calm as he helped him shower and dress. Although he knew it was a pointless exercise Jack insisted that, once they had packed their bag and paid their bill, they made their way across the street to a Diner where they could have breakfast.
"Just coffee," Daniel's stock response wasn't new to Jack O'Neill who totally ignored his friend's request and ordered scrambled eggs and toast, orange juice and decaff.
Daniel raised his eyebrows as the waitress headed back to the kitchen with their order.
Jack refused to rise to the bait. He shrugged his shoulders and pretended to study the menu carefully, rather than engage Daniel in conversation.
Once Daniel had picked at his eggs, nibbled a piece of toast and drained both the glass to juice and the mug of coffee Jack reckoned that now was as good a time as any to talk to Daniel.
"So how are you feeling about all this?" Jack asked carefully, trying to gauge Daniel's mood.
Daniel sat back in his chair, his hands shredding a red checked paper napkin. "Just peachy," Daniel said sarcastically.
Jack winced; Daniel had been spending too much time around a certain Air Force Colonel.
"Daniel you don't have to do this," Jack reminded him.
"Yes, Jack I do." Daniel leaned forward, his elbows on the table, blue eyes flashing. "I do have to, I owe it to the Gadd's to their dead son and to me." He poked his index finger into his own chest. "To me Jack."
Jack tried to explain. "It isn't necessary, the Gadd's would understand...."
"No Jack." Daniel's voice rose, causing people at the nearby tables to turn in their direction. Noticing the interest they were generating Daniel lowered his voice.
"I see Ronnie's face every time I close my eyes," Daniel admitted. "He was smiling, telling me about his next trip home, I was tired, I fell asleep as he was talking and then I woke up in hospital," Daniel voice wavered. "Why did it happen Jack, why?"
Jack shook his head, reaching across the table to cover Daniel's hand with his own. Daniel brushed away the tears threatening to fall and took a deep breath.
"I want to see them Jack."
"Okay, lets go." Jack stood up and held out the crutches to Daniel. Daniel smiled weakly, taking them from him. "Thanks for coming."
"No problem Danny," Jack said ushering his friend out of the Diner and towards the hire car.
Mrs Gadd was watching anxiously through her net curtains as the hire car drew up outside.
"They're here Bill," she whispered to her husband, as if Jack and Daniel would be able to hear her.
Bill Gadd walked over to the window and stood behind his wife, watching as Jack helped Daniel out of the car.
"Want me to come in with you?" Jack asked once Daniel was steady on his crutches.
"No," Daniel's face was pale and Jack had noticed a fine tremor in his hands as he had reached for the crutches.
"Well, I'm just out here when you want me, okay?"
Daniel nodded, his face tense. He turned from the car and made his slow and painful way up the path to the Gadd's front door. Jack stood by the car and watched anxiously. He was surprised to find himself thinking about Charlie's first day at school as he watched Daniel. There's no comparison, Jack told himself. Charlie had been 4 years old and Daniel was thirty-something. But still as he watched the front door open and Mr and Mrs Gadd usher Daniel inside Jack remembered the same feeling as he had all those years ago when the teacher had taken Charlie into the school building and left Jack standing alone outside.
Jack didn't know how long he had waited outside the house when eventually the front door opened and Daniel limped out onto the porch. He could see Mr and Mrs Gadd talking to him, could see Daniel nodding and, surprise, surprise, smiling at the couple. He watched as Mrs Gadd pulled Daniel into a warm embrace and then, after stroking his cheek, stepped back and allowed her husband to shake Daniel's hand and pat his back. After another short exchange Daniel made his way carefully back down the path towards the car. Jack waved to the couple on the porch, who waved back and then went inside their home. Jack held the car door open and relieved Daniel of the crutches as he gently lowered himself into the passenger seat. Jack, stowed the crutches in the back and then jumped in and closed the door. Daniel was sitting with his head back and his eyes closed.
"I'm fine Jack just drive," Daniel ordered quietly.
Jack did as instructed and drove the hire car out of the residential area and onto the freeway. He didn't know Detroit at all, had no idea where to drive to other than the airport and so he followed those signs casting occasional anxious glances at his passenger.
Daniel sighed as Jack pulled the hire car to the Arrivals entrance at the airport. The pair had had no conversation whatsoever since they had pulled away from the Gadd's house.
"Shall we go inside and see if we can get a flight home?" Jack asked turning to his passenger.
Daniel nodded, pushing the car door open and struggling out. He stood precariously on one leg while Jack retrieved the crutches and handed them to him.
"Ready?" Jack handed the car keys to the valet and, picking up the overnight bag, walked beside Daniel into the terminal.
Daniel sat and waited while Jack booked their flight. He knew he had been rude, not speaking to Jack, but his mind was whirling. He needed time to process the conversation he had had with Mr and Mrs Gadd before he could articulate his feelings to Jack. He hoped his companion would understand.
"Flight leaves in a couple of hours, want to get something to eat?" Jack returned to Daniel's side clutching their tickets.
Daniel shook his head wearily. "I'm not really hungry," he said apologetically.
"Well I am, so come on," Jack picked up the bag and waited for Daniel to follow him.
It wasn't the best meal they had ever eaten but it sated Jack's hunger and gave the pair something to do until their flight was called. Jack had insisted on ordering some fruit juice and soup for Daniel, determined he would ensure his young friend had some sort of nourishment. Daniel had done his best, he had sipped the hot soup and nibbled at the bread roll, only the fruit juice disappeared completely.
Conversation between the two friends was minimal during the flight. Once the plane had taken off Daniel had fallen asleep and Jack was left to read the in-flight magazine and gaze out of the window. He was worried about Daniel's lack of communication but knew better than to push it. Daniel Jackson would speak in his own good time.
It seemed to take ages before they were through the airport, found a taxi and eventually arrived back at Jack's house just as the sun was setting. Jack dumped the bag in the hall and headed into the kitchen. He needed a beer. Daniel had disappeared into his bedroom as soon as they had got back into the house and Jack decided to give him a little time alone before confronting him about what exactly had happened in Detroit.
As Jack sat on the porch, sipping his cold beer and watching the stars beginning to appear in the darkening sky Daniel limped out onto the porch and lowered himself into one of the wooden chairs, moaning slightly as his knee protested.
"Want a beer or anything?" Jack asked solicitously.
"Is there any wine?" Daniel asked surprising Jack.
"Red or white?"
"Doesn't matter....white then. Daniel made his decision and watched as Jack headed into the house to fulfil his request.
He lay back in the comfortable porch chair and gazed at the twinkling stars above him. He still found it hard to believe that he travelled among those very same stars, that his wife was buried on one of the planets out there.
"Here you are." Jack handed Daniel a glass of yellow Chardonnay, the glass misting with the coolness of the liquid. Jack very rarely drank wine but he knew Daniel liked it occasionally and he always tried to have a bottle in readiness.
"Thanks Jack." Daniel took the glass and sipped the liquid. Jack sat back down in his chair and reached for his beer.
"Thanks for everything." Jack looked up to see Daniel watching him.
"You know you're welcome," Jack stated casually, unsure where this conversation was heading.
Mr and Mrs Gadd are a very nice couple, Ronnie was lucky to have such loving parents," Daniel said, gazing into his glass, refusing to meet Jack's eyes.
Jack kept silent, willing Daniel to continue, to finally let go of his burden.
"They showed me some photos of Ronnie when he was a child and when he graduated from the Air Force Academy, they're very proud of him."
"He was a good soldier," Jack agreed.
"Mr Gadd wanted to tell me that they didn't blame me for what happened. He said Ronnie often wrote to them about me, nothing classified, just the kind of work I did and how he liked talking to me about archaeology."
Daniel paused a moment. "I asked their forgiveness for living when Ronnie died but Ronnie's father said there was nothing to forgive."
Jack sipped his beer and listened.
"Mrs Gadd said she didn't know what sort of work I did but it must be important and I had to carry on with that work for Ronnie's sake......" Daniel took a deep breath and tried to stop the tears from falling.
"She was right Daniel." Jack said simply.
"It's hard Jack, I'll never be able to forget what happened," Daniel sniffed.
"No you won't," Jack agreed, thinking back to his own bereavement. "But you will be able to carry on Daniel, I promise you that."
Daniel nodded, wiping away the hot tears and finally looking at his companion, eye to eye.
Both men knew what it was like to love and to lose that person. Both men lived with the mental scars of their lost loves but they would carry on, for the sake of Charlie and Sha're.
Jack O'Neill hadn't been able to save his own son but he would do his damnedest to save the planet. Daniel had lost his parents, his wife and now another young life had been lost unnecessarily but there was still work to do. However much it hurt at the moment Daniel Jackson would continue the fight.
The two men exchanged smiles and then Jack raised his beer. "To Ronnie Gadd."
Daniel raised his glass, "and all the others," he said quietly before sipping the golden liquid.
Jack and Daniel sat in silence for a while, drinking and gazing at the bright stars in the now velvet sky overhead. The ringing of a telephone disturbed the peace and Jack rose to answer it.
"O'Neill." Jack listened for a few moments.
"Yes we're back General in every way," Jack confirmed smiling as he watched Daniel sipping his drink on the porch.
|Summary:||After a tragic accident Daniel has to learn to forgive himself.