surprise, the hour-long meet and greet with the captain went by quickly.
And wearing something that didn't squish when he moved was a decided
improvement. He'd stopped shivering too, for the most part. But his skin
itched and he fought the urge to scratch - mostly. It was very...
knew it, he was aboard another helicopter on his way to Eglin Air Force
Base in sunny Florida. After landing there, he was escorted to a jet
that was waiting for him on the tarmac.
probably just as well that he hadn't gotten that Tomcat he'd asked for.
He felt like crap and wanted nothing more than to sleep and take a long
hot shower - not necessarily in that order.
debarking from the helo, Jack felt like kissing the runway under his
feet but was afraid he would embarrass himself when he couldn't rise
from his knees without help. Instead he hunched over to avoid the
still-whirling props of the helicopter and concentrated on putting one
foot in front of the other.
distance from the helicopter to the jet seemed to stretch on forever and
his bum knee reminded him that it had been treated badly in the not so
recent past. It didn't help that the tarmac seemed to pitch and sway
like the deck of a ship, or a command module after it'd splashed down.
lurched and Jack swallowed the acidy bile that tried to make an
appearance. A deep breath calmed his stomach somewhat, but his legs
seemed to wobble on earth that wouldn't stand still.
"One foot in
front of the other," Jack chanted the mantra as he gritted his teeth and
focused on his goal. "Come on, Jack. You can do it."
seemed like an eternity, Jack was there. He'd made it. He lifted his
eyes and saw steps in front of him - steps that looked to lead to the
top of Mount Everest. Crap.
them only by pulling himself along the rail that ran alongside it. His
eyes were set firmly on his next goal, the doorway at the top.
seemed like hours, he stood in the open doorway and was met by a tech
sergeant whose nametag said Williams. He had a high-and-tight haircut
and looked all business. "Good afternoon, sir. If you'll take a seat,
I'll tell the pilot we can take off."
and did as he asked. Once he had buckled his seatbelt, he took a look
around. This was definitely not a C-130. It was a sweet little Learjet,
the kind a CEO or a general would use. If he hadn't been forced to watch
the treacherous ground with every step, he'd have noticed the sweet
little aircraft sooner.
circumstances, he would've been in the cockpit caging a chance to fly
her, but right then, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't work
up the excitement he'd normally feel about such an aircraft. As it was,
all he wanted to do was strap in and catch some serious zees. He closed
his eyes briefly and scrubbed his face with both hands. When his vision
fuzzed out he blinked hard trying to refocus.
He must be
getting old, Jack mused, there was no way he should be this tired after
his little joyride on the X-302. He was beginning to wonder if he
should've let himself get checked out. But then he shook his head. No,
he was fine. He had to be, he told himself firmly.
The chair he
was belted into beat the heck out of flying coach on some airline, or
worse the hard plastic molded seat or bench of a military transport. It
had the look of a recliner in his living room, complete with lots of
padding on the arms. If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine he
was back at home, watching the television, with nothing more pressing to
worry about than if his hockey team would win the game.
He could almost hear Homer...
bumped Jack's shoulder with his hamburger and apologized.
mustard, no pickle," Jack mumbled and shrugged away from the
sir." His shoulder was prodded again. Dang, Jack thought, they just
don't give up.
He pried one
eye open and was greeted with the face of the tech sergeant, up close
and personal. From the looks of his five o'clock shadow, the man needed
grumbled. "This better be good. Homer fixed my burger just like I like
"Sorry, sir." The Sergeant didn't look like he meant it.
straightened in the chair and winced, his muscles had stiffened while he
was asleep. "Save the world and this is the thanks I get," he mumbled.
"Okay, I'm awake. What's so important that you couldn't let me catch a
"You've got a phone call, sir," the sergeant paused. "From the
Commander in Chief."
"The Commander in Chief?" Jack's eyebrows shot upwards.
nodded and patted the phone beside Jack's seat.
didn't you say so?" He fumbled around for a moment and then grabbed the
phone that Williams detached from the console built into the arm of his
thanks." The sergeant nodded and then headed toward the back of the
Jack held the phone to his ear and wiggled around. At first he only
heard static. "Hello?"
"Colonel Jack O'Neill?'
Jack recognized the voice, it sounded like the President all
right. "Yes, Mr. President?"
"I wanted to
thank you for what you did today... saving the planet that is."
All in a day's work... I always say." Jack winced at his cliché. "Yes
sir, that's what I say all right."
being too modest, Jack. From what I hear you did a great job, and put
your own life on the line too."
I couldn't have done it without all the support of the staff at the
SGC." Uncomfortable with the accolades and attention, Jack shifted in
his chair and ran his tongue over his sore and puffy lips. He swore he
could still taste the salt water he'd swallowed on his short swim. But
that just wasn't possible - was it?
He shook his
head and refocused on the phone call. "Besides, that's what I get paid
all the big bucks to do, sir."
of the SGC will be recognized too, but let's talk about the part you
played." The President paused. "Because of the... secret nature of
the Stargate Program, you know I can't acknowledge your actions
publicly, so I called to assure you that your actions have been noticed.
In fact, as your Commander in Chief, I would like to give you some kind
of reward for what you did today."
eyebrows shot upward as he wondered just what the President had in mind.
This could get interesting.
Stargate is gone, your assignment at the SGC will be ending. Where would
you like to be assigned next? You name it and I'll see that you get it,
"I mean it, any assignment you want; it's yours."
"I . . ." he
hesitated. "I really hadn't given it much thought, sir." He felt a yawn
building and despite him holding the phone away from his mouth, a loud
groan still escaped. "Sorry, Mr. President. It's not you... well;
let's just say it's been a very long day."
Jack heard a
chuckle from his caller. "I certainly know what that's like."
O'Neill nodded and swept his free hand through his stiff hair, then
grimaced as his fingers were left coated with a grainy substance. He
shook his fingers to free them of the grime and then settled for wiping
them on the leg of his Navy poop suit.
the phone to his other hand and then replied, "To tell you the truth,
sir, the only assignment I want right now is Bedroom Air Force
"Bedroom Air Force Base?"
joke, Mr. President." Jack rolled his eyes and rubbed the back of his
neck with his free hand. Oy.
you think about what assignment you would like and get back to me. I'll
make sure you get whatever you want. It's the least a very grateful
nation can do for its unsung heroes."
'Unsung heroes?' Jack mouthed
silently. "Yes, sir. I'll do that. Good-bye, Mr. President. Thank you
"No, Jack. Thank you."
went dead and Jack placed the phone back in its compartment and patted
it. "I think he likes me," he smirked, "but has absolutely no sense of
He shook his
head, settled back against the pillowy cushions of the headrest and
sighed. "Any assignment I want, huh? Sweet."
his eyes, he felt so tired. And then it started... that infernal
itching. His eyes snapped open. One handed he scrubbed at his stomach
and groin and grunted. He twisted in his chair and closed his eyes
He was just
about to drift off when the itch started again. This time it was the
arch of his foot - inside his boot - right where he couldn't reach it
unless he took it off. And he just couldn't seem to summon up the energy
to do something that complicated. He wiggled his toes and ground the
ball of his foot against the floor of the aircraft. It didn't work. Not
only that, now his back itched. Had he mentioned how much that itching
was driving him crazy?
out loud," Jack muttered as he wiggled in his chair and tried to relieve
the god-awful itching there. It didn't work.
"Is there a problem, sir?"
He hadn't heard the sergeant approach. "What? Oh, no. It's nothing."
The sergeant looked dubious. "Perhaps I can help?"
you care to give me a back rub," Jack muttered as he scratched absently
at his chest.
sergeant looked scandalized. "I don't..."
I was only kidding," Jack waved him back with his free hand, the one
that wasn't scratching at various parts of his anatomy. Never mind what
"Whatever you say, sir," The sergeant turned to leave.
can tell me something." Jack half stood and scratched his butt. "Are we
squared her shoulders and tightened her grip on the folder she cradled
to her chest. Then she knocked on General Hammond's office door. She
hadn't been too worried when she discovered that Colonel O'Neill had
volunteered to pilot the X-302 to get the Stargate off the planet. If
anyone could do it he and Major Sam Carter together could. It wasn't
until later that she'd discovered that it had been a one-man mission
with a slim chance of survival.
she was thinking that O'Neill's survival wasn't necessarily a good thing
for him. In her hands was a report from a Navy corpsman about his
unsuccessful attempt to examine her wayward and very alive colonel.
Alive for now - once she got her hands on him, he might not be. Or at
the very least, he would wish he weren't. And with the general's help,
she would ensure he received the very best medical exam and care that
her Infirmary could provide - whether the recipient wanted it or not.
corpsman's report had arrived at the SGC, she'd been pleasantly
surprised and treated it for the treasure that it was. Very precisely
and carefully she had placed the report in the folder that she now
carried cradled against her chest. Reports like this from outside the
SGC regarding base personnel were rare and gears that could take two
years to produce a crate of toilet paper somehow had gotten it to her
inside of 24-hours.
But it also
seemed the air of secrecy that pushed that report along so swiftly
hampered her efforts to discover the exact location of the colonel. The
hints in the corpsman's report could very well be nothing, but...
Surely if there were a problem, if he were injured, someone, would
notice and say something? Wouldn't they?
have slapped herself; of course not, Jack was a master at hiding his
condition. He could be at death's door and not even she could tell.
Can't report what you don't see.
Hammond's absent-minded response to her knock caught her off-guard for a
moment and she took a deep breath to enable her to gather her thoughts.
She would have to move fast and have all her ducks in a row before
Colonel O'Neill returned to the SGC. Once he'd arrived, she wouldn't
have the luxury of time on her hands. She'd be much too busy putting out
fires and dealing with whatever arguments he would have about going home
to deal with anything else.
and walked into his office, "Thank you for seeing me, sir."
waved distractedly at the stack of folders on his desk, "Have a seat.
What can I do for you, Doctor?"
complied, opened the folder and handed the report to her CO. "About an
hour ago, I received this report from the aircraft carrier that picked
up Colonel O'Neill. It's from the attending medic. I thought you'd want
to see it, sir."
Hammond glanced briefly at the report. "It says here that there was no
It does. Apparently, the colonel refused to allow them to examine
"Is he all right?" Hammond rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
it, sir. We have no way of knowing. And with his past history of ducking
medical exams and minimizing any physical symptoms, it is imperative
that he be examined as soon as he arrives back at the SGC."
"And you want me to back you up. Is that it, Doctor?"
dimpled. "Yes, sir, that's it in a nutshell. You know as well as I do
that the colonel will throw a fit if I try to keep him in the Infirmary
for an exam." She shook her head and grimaced. "That knee of his had him
sidelined from active duty already. There's no telling what's been done
to it. He did crash-land into the ocean and . . ." her words trailed
off. "To tell you the truth, I'm worried. That corpsman may not have
examined him, but he did observe a few things that worried him, and what
worries him worries me."
convinced me, Janet. If our returning hero gives you any trouble, refer
him to me."
"Thank you, sir. I will certainly do just that."
thoughts of colonel-torture were interrupted by the buzzing of his
He paused and nodded. "Yes, escort him down to the Infirmary. Yes, I
said the Infirmary. And make sure he doesn't get lost on the way down,"
his voice held more than a hint of threat.
He hung up
the phone. "He's on his way down. With an escort, I might add. He's all
yours, Doctor. After you've finished with him, you can send him to my
office - that is if he's up to it."
and rose from her chair. Her final trap had been sprung.
going, I'm going," echoed across the empty Infirmary.
The two SFs
detailed to 'accompany' Colonel O'Neill to the Infirmary knew the
consequences of failure - to Hammond, and to the SGC's CMO. Her
collection of gleaming needles - more suitable to an exotic vet who
dealt with elephants - were her greatest motivators for the
sometimes-mulish males of the SGC. It was amazing how squeamish men
could get about such tiny little things.
couldn't help but smile at the images of past encounters brought to mind
as she hurried about preparing the equipment she would need to examine
the wayward colonel.
up to study and evaluate his approach as her hands busily finished up
the tray she'd need for blood samples. What she saw wasn't bad, but he
was limping far more than he had the last time she'd seen him.
"Colonel, this way," she called out to him.
here. You can vamoose now," O'Neill made shooing motions at the two
heavily armed men; men that could make Teal'c look like a ninety-pound
weakling. Janet smirked as both of the men looked to her for their
orders. The look on the colonel's face was priceless; he was not used to
being summarily dismissed by those of a lower rank for a mere major.
At her nod,
the two SFs neatly about-faced and left. Patting the empty bed she
beckoned the colonel closer. He looked a mess in what had to be a
borrowed one-piece jumpsuit, just a tad too short, and she could hear
the squishing of wet footwear as he came toward her. He was making an
effort to limit his limp and it showed on his face. He'd probably missed
his meds, the swelling had returned, and that would be painful. Janet
knew that he'd not fly anything under the influence of even an
happy with her decision to examine him on one of the beds rather than a
gurney as Jack more fell than jumped onto it. Leaping about with that
knee was not something she'd recommend.
practiced flick of the wrist the privacy curtain shot along the track to
block any casual visitor's view of what came next.
please, sir. Strip."
He half-heartedly whined.
"Sir..." Janet retorted in a stern tone.
relented and bent over laboriously, and with great exaggerated care he
unlaced his boots. Half the ocean seemed to pour from the first boot.
Janet had to bite her tongue to keep her offer of help from her lips; he
looked wrung out - no pun intended, as Jack would say. One very white
and wrinkled foot seemed relieved to be free of the sopping sock that
splat-ed to the floor next to the dripping boot.
"I'll get you a towel, sir."
tugging off the second sock as she returned with an armload of towels.
His toes wiggled at the sudden freedom and Jack sighed in pleasure and
leaned back, obviously relieved to be free of those boots. This was just
one of the tiny little unguarded moments that it was her privilege to
observe - and her duty to never reveal. He was a private man and she
took her oath very seriously.
Uhh, sorry about the mess," one eloquent hand gestured vaguely at the
"I've seen worse, sir. And speaking of worse..."
okay," as he slipped off the bed to stand. The jumpsuit landed in the
puddle and helped sop up the water as Janet attempted to dam the edge
with towels. A ginger push with one bare foot had the whole mess over to
one side allowing Janet to turn her attention to the colonel's physical
"How painful are those, sir?"
Oh, those," Jack make a show of looking down at his chest where two
broad crossed bruises peeked out of his chest hair, to disappear over
each shoulder and fade out below his ribs, more red than purple, showing
their status as very recent. "They don't hurt. Probably won't even show
by this time tomorrow."
at the worst of the two, making O'Neill flinch back.
"Not painful? Yes, sir, if you say so."
grinned sheepishly, knowing she knew his denial for the lie it was.
redness, sir?" He immediately removed his hand from rubbing along the
front of one thigh, the location of one of the redder places he was
sporting beyond his 'X marks the spot' bruise. Places that tended to be
worse the more sensitive and private the territory.
"Salt water rash? Didn't rinse off after your swim, sir?"
"Didn't have a chance to." He sounded peeved.
Let me draw a little blood and then it's off to the showers."
sat and endured the needle, but kept his eyes fastened to it during the
sir." Janet muttered as she capped the last vial. Jack rubbed at the
place she'd stuck him. He quit rubbing at her sudden glare, and
stealthily allowed his hand to sneak away.
"I'll go shower."
Oh, and lose the boxers," not even cracking a smile at the idea that a
superior officer would wear something so un-military while on duty.
Large yellow happy faces, each sporting a rudely stuck-out bright-red
tongue almost jumped off the damp-clinging nearly transparent material
that molded itself to the skin of his hips and buttocks.
wasn't gone long and returned clad only in a back-tied gown, one hand
behind his back holding its edges together, but allowing one shoulder
bared as his other hand was busy tugging the front down. Janet had to
admit the damned things were too short, she could see most of those
handsome legs from near the top of the thigh right down to his totally
Unfortunately those killer legs were marred by blotches of salt
rash and the puffiness of his swollen knee. Janet was relieved to see no
bruises though. Those seemed to be confined to his chest and shoulders.
Holding up her hand, she halted him. With a twirl of her finger, he
obediently presented his back to her. She knew that he knew what she
wanted, and he shrugged the gown from where it covered that one
shoulder, but kept his firm grip on the back, not allowing it to slip
below the waist.
a bit as Janet ran light fingers along the trail of bruising from the
top of his shoulder, dropping an inch or more to abruptly cease. She
knew just as well as he did that the straps normally attached to the
seat frame above shoulder level. It must have been a bumpy ride indeed
to have thrown him up into the straps that far.
fingers along the bruise lightly she worked her way from his back to his
chest, making him gasp and grunt from time to time; and he shivered as
she made it to the outside of his lower ribs and the faint redness of
bruising that probably would never show.
"It's not bad, Doc."
buying his 'it's no big deal' act and let him know it. "It'll be
beautiful in a few days. May I see the rest, sir?"
that he hated this part, to be completely disrobed and viewed; it was
now that they both dropped into the most formal of military etiquette.
Without a word, O'Neill's gown was suddenly entirely balled in one fist
as both arms rose, allowing Janet an unencumbered view of every square
inch of him.
it a practice - as much as she could - to never touch him during this
embarrassing time - and never sought eye contact, giving the colonel as
much privacy as possible. They both did their best to ignore just what
the other was doing.
sir," her formal signal to dress. She stepped away and turned her back
to him, never raising her eyes. After a few beats it was as if nothing
had happened, she turned to find him seated on the bed, gown secured
around him, hands in his lap; a determined look on his face.
"I'm not staying."
'My. A preemptive strike.' Janet
took just a moment to really look at his face; he looked tired. And
decided that deafness would be the best approach. Briskly she picked up
the BP cuff and took his pressure, then his temperature. Both were
annoying normal. Then she slipped the pre-warmed stethoscope down his
gown, hearing a healthy heart thumping away at a relaxed pace.
Janet made a
few notations on the colonel's chart, stepped to the medicine cabinet,
and dispensed a few pills into a paper cup, filled another cup with
water and returned to stand in front of Jack.
knee," she explained curtly and watched as he downed the pills and
water, then took the emptied cups from him and disposed of them. Next
the penlight appeared in her hand. He stoically endured, what was to
him, the second most distasteful part of any exam.
Staying," he stated matter-of-factly, blinking his eyes.
Janet made more notes on the chart, retrieved more pills - these
in small bottles, being more than one dose - and returned to the
colonel. Who now stood next to the bed.
"I'm going home."
"I could call Hammond," Janet's frown deepened.
Jack's lips thin-lined. "And tell him what?"
As soon as her mouth opened, he spoke again. "No, Janet. I'm
tired... I'm going home."
you win. But the general wants to see you first. Then my orders are for
you to go home. Get some sleep. Despite the way you look, and the way I
feel. I can't find anything more seriously wrong then some painful
bruises and a really bad rash. General Hammond would have a good laugh
if those were the reasons I used to keep you here overnight. But, I'd
'prefer' that you stay."
no way. I've saved the world again and for once I'm skipping your drafty
hard beds where anyone can see my ass without half trying. I'm going
home to the most comfortable mattress on the planet - my own. Tootles,
came up to hold Janet by the shoulders, keeping her from moving as he
gingerly worked his way around her. Turning in place Janet watched as
Jack's hand obscured the brief glimpse of that aforementioned ass.
Slowly limping, the very vision of dog-tired, Colonel Jack O'Neill
disappeared, headed for Hammond's office and the locker room. From the
look of determination on his face his primary goals were some clothes
that didn't require fingers as fasteners and keys that would allow him
to drive home. His visit with Hammond he'd no doubt wedge in somewhere
in the middle of those priorities.
of Janet's instincts shrieked at her to stop him. But she had nothing.
He was right; there was nothing really wrong with him. Maybe she had
become too accustomed to him coming back on his shield. Maybe she didn't
have a clue as to how to handle it when he came back holding it, even if
he was half dragging it along.
fell to his chart, two pages down was the corpsman's report. It still
made her uneasy. She just couldn't figure out why.