I look down at my hands and they're trembling. The Colonel. Something has happened to the Colonel!
Daniel, I need Daniel. I try to raise him on the radio -- he doesn't answer. That explains why he isn't jamming the radio with questions, he didn't hear the beep that tells us that the prime channel is being used. In SG-1 normally the prime channel is the Colonel, usually talking privately to either Daniel or Teal'c, but we all know it's in use and we can manually switch to it to hear the conversation. Something we usually do, at least to check the subject of the conversation, normally we don't stay long.
No one likes to hear Daniel getting balled out.
What in the hell am I thinking about?!
I don't even glance at my equipment as I stumble around and start trotting towards the buildings.
I'm soon in a flat out run, not attempting to fight the panic, but using it to fuel my body towards my goal.
Removing my hand from the radio, I softly grip O'Neill's throat, his pulse is a strong steady throb beneath the light pressure of my fingertips. I check that he is conformably positioned upon the ground before standing.
I search the horizon for possible threats, I do not wish to leave my brother's side for a moment but I must to preserve his existence. Resolved, I resume my way to my pack, but now I go with a different goal in mind.
All of SG-1 carry tents and their attendant groundcloths, very thin, tough plastic sheets to protect the tent from the rough ground, my groundcloth is slightly larger than the rest and it will do for my purpose, as will my staff weapon.
I remove the cloth from my pack and move to O'Neill's pack to retrieve his parachute cord and his climbing rope.
I now need the 'lawnboard' and O'Neill's knife, but to retrieve them I must pass him. I find myself kneeling down to check my brother again before doing so; I can discern no adverse change in his condition, to my abject relief. I carry the board to the 'pool' side of my silent friend and begin assembling the items into a conveyance. I have my brother to thank for the knowledge that I am currently using to save his life.
I lay the lawnboard flat upon the ground, it is quite thick, but very light for it's size I am chancing that it's buoyancy in the water will exceed the weight of myself and O'Neill. If it does not I will attempt to tether myself to it and be pulled along. However, for that to happen I must reason out just how I can fit a sail to it.
I can use my staff weapon as a 'mast' and 'bend' the ground cloth to it with the parachute cord. I will be able to hold it against the wind by tying some of O'Neill's climbing rope to it. I will need to anchor the butt of the 'mast' to the board; O'Neill's knife can provide part of that solution.
By eye I measure less than a third down the board and plunge the knife into the centerline of it, I begin to gouge out a hole or socket to wedge the butt of my staff weapon into. I will not be able to keep the 'mast' upright and 'sail' the lawnboard. I intend to use more of the climbing rope to help support it. I can tie a loop into the middle, wedge that loop over the trailing end of the board and run the two long ends from the loop to attach it to the top of my 'mast.'
It will hold it upright as long as the 'sail' is drawing wind, a countering of two pressures.
The board has no keel or rudder to hold it to its course, I intend to use surface friction to 'hold a course' and steer.
My feet will provide the friction, dropping one or the other over the side to pull the board in that direction, mindful of gradual application of that pressure.
Having laboriously bored a sizable hole into the board, I stand the staff weapon next to it, using it to gauge the width and depth that seems appropriate. The wood is unreasonable tough, but perhaps that is for the best, if it were less tough the 'mast' could move excessively in the hole, enlarging it and that would defeat my whole project.
Eventually I am satisfied.
I look towards O'Neill, he has not moved, I watch his chest raise and fall a number of times before returning to my task.
Using the knife, I punch holes along one edge of the ground cloth to 'sew' the cloth to the 'mast.' Having completed that I wrap the plastic around the staff weapon twice to protect the lacing and help decrease the pressure on the cuts in the plastic. Now I fit the rope controls to the cloth and fit the support rope to the 'mast' and the board.
I have built a crude sailboard or boardboat, I am uncertain which term would be best. I can harness the sturdy, steady wind that blows from us towards the Stargate. The distance across the 'pool' being less than a two-thirds of the distance that walking around it would be, this would be the fastest option.
I check O'Neill before dragging my 'boat' to the water; I am reluctant to be so far from him. I hurry as quickly as I am able; I place the board at the edge of the pool. I stand and gaze across the mile of water I must cross; I am confident of success. I look back towards my brother and search the far distance for threats, none are apparent.
I hurry back to O'Neill.
I carefully hoist warrior brother onto my shoulder, I leave everything else, only O'Neill matters, and he cannot be replaced as the rest can. I smoothly and swiftly carry him to the edge of the pool, gently lowering him onto the board, centering him there. I am tempted to tie him to the board, but if the board capsizes, he could drown before I could loosen his restraints. No, I will wedge him between my legs as I kneel upon the board, if we find ourselves in the water, he will be close at hand and I can still steer by dropping a foot into the water.
I enter the chest deep water to pull the board with O'Neill upon it into the water, holding it against the pool's side as I climb back unto the edge of the pool. I lay the 'mast' on the very edge of the pool as I very carefully place a knee to center of the board, holding the rope control in my teeth, I ease unto the board, keeping it from depositing myself or O'Neill into the water. Using the 'mast' I slowly push away from the edge of the pool, slowly I swing my converted staff weapon upright. I insert the tethered 'mast' in its socket and secure it.
Using my hands as paddles, I reposition the board before slowly pulling on the rope controls. I can feel the board glide gently before the wind; I pull the sail in closer carefully. I do not want to push this too soon too fast, it must remain slow and steady. I allow the board to build speed; it is faster than walking and I decide that keeping the 'sail' loose and our speed fairly low is safer.
I nearly learn to fly the hard way, I regain my stride. I click the radio repeatedly. No answer.
I save my breath, I'm still too far away to yell for Daniel, and it's a quarter mile from the Gate to the nearest building. I'm running straight for the bigger center one, which is nearly another quarter mile further.
Thank god, the radio.
"Daniel, drop everything and head for the gate. Now!" I don't even slow my pace, just in case I have to drag him out of there.
"Why?" The radio squeaks.
"The Colonel's down." I almost scream into the radio tucked close to my cheek.
"Jack? Coming!" I hear lots of noise; his radio is still open. There's a loud shriek from the radio, before it goes dead. I don't slow down until I actually see him; he's coming on fast. I turn and ran even faster back the way I came. He doesn't use the radio, I don't know if he's broken it or is too busy breathing. I pass the Gate headed for the 'pool' half a mile further on.
"Sam!" He sounds close, I spare a glance behind me, he's about 100 yards behind me and closing. I stop halfway down the slope, my eyes scan the water before me, then I point, "There!"
Daniel nearly knocks me down trying to stop; he sees what I see.
"What is that?"
"Teal'c has built a makeshift sailboard, he has the Colonel on it."
"Sam, we have to get down there. How is Teal'c going to stop?"
I turn back and start running and I hear Daniel pounding along behind me.
We swiftly cross the water. I can see two figures careening down the grassy slope from the Stargate towards me. The shore is fast approaching, much faster than I thought possible. I have no idea how I will be able to stop from hitting the stone copping at the edge of the pool.
It appears that DanielJackson and CaptainCarter will arrive just in time to witness our collision. I can't allow that to happen, O'Neill is at risk.
I gauge the speed of my approach carefully then I gather my brother into my arms and slip into the water.
I can see them, on some kind of sailboard, how can this be? I see what appears to be a figure laid flat on the board. Jack! Teal's seems to be sitting on him. They are getting close. Why aren't they slowing down? Can they?
I yell at Sam to hurry, letting her know my fear that Teal'c can't stop. I keep my eyes on my waterborne friends as I pound down to the water.
Suddenly both figures slip from the board into the water and their craft collapses into a heap tossing up a cloud of spray. I shout at Sam as I find myself running.
"Stay here." I don't wait for an answer, but foolishly dive into the water where my friends have disappeared.
I nearly bump into a suddenly there Jack. He is bobbing limply, face up, held there by a large hand, Teal'c. My feet accidentally find the bottom, the water shallower than I thought, thank god my dive had been shallow, just a glide to accelerate me toward my goal. Teal'c must have found his feet also, he is gripping Jack tightly to his chest, head lolling into the crook of Teal'c's neck. Teal'c is checking his breathing before turning toward me. I help support Jack as we slosh for shore; my eyes fasten themselves to my friend.
My eyes are riveted to him, he's not pale, and his coloring is it's normal sun-cured tone. Those barely discernable freckles of his genetic heritage are present against his sun-browned skin, but he is so limp, like a loosely filled rag doll. Water streams from his soaked hair and across his closed eyes shadowed by long lashes; I've never noticed how youthful he can appear when his eyes are closed and relaxed, almost like a young boy's. I can see his strong white teeth through his partially open mouth. My god, was his mouth open like that when he went into the water? Panic builds and I tug at his unresponsive body hard, I turn imploring eyes to Teal'c asking all my questions. He gives me only one answer to increase his efforts to reach the edge of the pool.
Sam is right there helping to hold Jack's head out of the water as Teal'c climbs out and I remain to buoy up Jack's body. Teal'c can gently extract him from the water as I push from below. I know that Teal'c is very strong, but I have never seen him deadlift a man from the ground like that. Jack's body streaming water lies in his arms much as a child would, a child of nearly 200 lbs. Turning he walks a few dozen steps and lays him flat on the grass. My eyes are glued to the scene as I scramble from the cool water with Sam's help.
Sam leaves me dripping on the white stone to tend to Jack. She's there pulling at his clothes, fingers at his neck, head against his chest. I can feel her almost panic the same panic that roots me here to this stone.
"Sam, did he breathe in any water?"
I tug on her jacket to divert her attention; she really needs to hear me on this.
"No, I don't think so, he wasn't under long enough for that. We need to get him to the SGC."
Her voice at first is a little panicky; she is trying to convince herself as much as me. She's beginning to slip into command mode, doing Jack proud.
"Daniel Jackson, the lawnboard can be used as a stretcher."
'Lawnboard?' My eyes follow his gesture back toward the water and the 'sailboard' they sailed in on. We both return to the edge of the pool, pondering its possible use. Teal'c plunges back into the water. I help him pull it up onto the shore. It's so light. Teal'c quickly strips it of it's entanglements, recovering his staff weapon. The whole contraption stuns me, how in the world did he think it up?
Soon we are moving the board to Jack.
Sam is more in control now, she's peeled off her jacket to cover Jack with and is drying his face with a bandanna she had hidden somewhere. She looks up at our approach; I can see her concern, face paler than usual.
"Teal'c, Daniel, do you think you can carry the Colonel on that to the Gate?" She points at the 'lawnboard.' Her words 'ask' but her face 'commands.' Glancing at Teal'c I see that he will obey as will I.
"I am confident of it." Teal'c confirms.
"Shouldn't be that hard, it's only a half mile, sure!" I answer just as confidently.
Teal'c and I gently slid Jack unto the middle of the long board, uh... 'Lawnboard' as he explained that is what Jack named it. Sam arranges his limp body, again covering him with her jacket as I add mine, which she uses to immobilize and cushion his head. She stands back as we lift the board carefully to keep Jack balanced and motionless upon it. We begin to move towards, the Gate; Sam walking alongside carrying Teal'c's staff weapon but also resting a hand protectively on Jack's chest. It really doesn't take long to get there; not even long enough for my fingers to cramp; it's not that far even with our awkward burden.
I'm all for leaving now but Sam wants to get Jack covered in something warm; he's soaked. I should have thought of that, he could freeze during transit. Luckily my pack is here, at the Gate, with Sam's, I leave Teal'c to strip Jack of his wet clothing as I root out my sleeping bag and anything warm I might have, just as Sam is doing.
I help Teal'c to zip Jack into my bag, I put him into my spare pants which are loose at the waist and short, so some socks are added to complete where the pants leave off. Then both of us tug my pull-on sweater onto him. The one that Jack is always complaining about, 'why bring it if you never use it.' He just never sees me use it. I habitually sleep in it to keep my head and shoulders free of that claustrophobic mummy bag. Sam had dried Jack off as much as possible or we would never have gotten it onto him. Sam lays her bag over his chest and face, explaining that he can breathe but will add protection from the cold. We're ready.
I dial, Sam handles the GDO and Teal'c stands guard.
Just like always, this is just so surrealistic!
I'm shouting as I reintegrate on the other side of the gate.
"Medical Emergency! I need help here!"
My hand is still planted firmly on Colonel O'Neill's chest as Teal'c and Daniel carry him and the alien board to the end of the ramp, setting it down carefully.
Teal'c's staff weapon clatters to the floor forgotten. I go onto my knees beside the Colonel checking his breathing and the pulse point at his throat after flipping the sleeping bag from his face. Daniel is on the other side zipping down the other bag Jack's body is encased in, his unresponsive body. Don't go there Samantha, he is your CO.
Medical personnel suddenly surround us and Janet Frasier is asking me about the Colonel's condition.
"Teal'c, Teal'c was with him when he collapsed." I stutter out. I focus on that small area of his neck where his pulse can not only be felt but also seen. I'm mesmerized by it. I'm barely aware as Janet summarily dismisses my existence, I don't have the answers to her questions, I'm not offended, and it's her job.
I do take offense at being gently pushed away from the Colonel and that small evidence of life in him.
I hang on the outside of the huddle until the General pulls me away, asking more questions. I can give him no real answers; I see his disappointment and concern, but also his understanding. What has happened, happened out of the blue, the wild blue yonder.
How Air Force.
As Janet's people began to gurney the Colonel toward the elevators for the ride up to the infirmary, I try to keep a hand on him. It's a battle, but he will not go into that night alone and untouched if I have anything to do about it. Daniel is doing the same on the other side. Teal'c I know is doing the same on a spiritual level, as he follows guarding our convoy's six.
I remember the General asking about our equipment; I mumbled something about leaving it where we had dropped it. He said he would arrange a follow-up team to recover it, after Dr. Frasier can tell him more about the possible threat that felled the Colonel. I mentioned my samples, I had gotten most of them, I had many of the local plants and insects we saw, and they might be important clues. He nodded. My mind wasn't on the conversation, I'm sure he could tell, my eyes kept sliding to the Colonel, like a needle to true north.
In the elevator Janet asks if I would help with the toxicology tests, I assent. I would do anything that would help the Colonel. I'm wracking my brain trying to understand what could have happened, I question Teal'c on what he had observed and he tells me about the zap the Colonel had taken.
Janet listens to us as much as to her personnel and what the Colonel's body is telling her. She injects a question about what could she expect from a zap like that. I tell her that I really didn't know; I just have theories on the device and don't have one to test and narrow them down. I do let her know what the most likely scenarios would be; the technology is too advanced, too alien.
The elevator doors open, I'm pushed to the rear of the car as the Colonel's keepers take the lead, clattering down the hall at a trot, Janet at the rear. The door of the trauma room closes in my, our faces. We mill around in the hall, anxiety evident in us all.
Nurses and orderlies come and go at a frantic rate, samples in hand, to get tests done.
Holy Hannah, now the Colonel's insistence on having 24/7 medical testing facilities on base will get a true test of their worth. He is so far sighted, especially in regards to the well being of those under his command. He pushed for the test personnel and equipment, and some of the advanced hospital equipment, but he couldn't quite get that additional floor for beds. I know he's still trying for that. He'll never give up.
It's eerie to think that he might the first benefactor of his efforts.
Janet sticks her head out and beckons to me. I hurry over. It's only been an hour since that closed in my face.
I watch as CaptainCarter disappears into the Trauma Room with DrFrasier.
My brother's friend is slow to raise his head; he is O'Neill's Brother of the Heart, as I am his Warrior Brother.
Both need the other to survive, both have suffered unbearable losses. I am honored to call them both friend. I will ease his distress if I can.
He sits with arms folded across knees tightly pressed against his chest, hiding his face and his fear behind crossed wrists. Standing at ease across the hall from him, I have watched him unsuccessfully use his feet to push himself into the wall, seeking physical discomfort to dull his emotional pain. I only know this after having watched O'Neill carefully for any insight I could find to how he thinks. I have yet to be able to predict what he will do, but I did learn about masking emotional pain with physical pain. DanielJackson is only yet learning what O'Neill has brought to a form of art, he broadcasts his emotions widely while O'Neill gives no glimmer of his.
His upturned face is blotched white and red from pushing his face into his knees, his eyes wide, and haunted by the possibilities that he sees all too clearly, having seen them first hand happen to others, he now imagines these possibilities may be visited upon his friend. Voicing this fear is unnecessary; his eyes shout it out
"O'Neill is strong."
I have little experience is offing comfort to others. It is still a foreign concept to me. I have spoken the truth hoping that it will have some power to provide solace. His reply is a slight nod of his head and an imperceptible loosing of his rigid posture.
"He will not leave us willingly."
I have miscalculated the effect those words would have upon DanielJackson. His body stiffens as he hides his face once again. Have I caused him pain using a language I had not been born to? Have I incorrectly used some nuance creating the opposite of my meaning?
I will try to rectify my mistake.
"I apologize, I only meant to point out positive points. Forgive me for causing you additional pain through my ignorance of your language."
His stance has not changed, but his shoulders start to shake, I have erred again. What is that sound he is making? He does not sound distressed, but amused. He is laughing. I have witnessed Tau'ri in such emotional pain that in their confused state they express opposite emotions. Have I unknowingly pushed him beyond his endurance? I had not thought that possible with this man. So disturbed am I with my thoughts that I do not notice him raise his head to look at me, and in so doing he must have fathomed them from my face.
"Teal'c, that's hilarious! You have a better grasp of my native language than I do. I should be apologizing to you. Here you are trying to offer help and all I can do is wallow in self-pity. I'm sorry."
"Yes, I've been sitting here thinking about all the things that I will never learn about Jack. All the adventures, little and great, that I'll never be able to share with him if... if he dies."
"Yes, he is strong and he will not leave without a fight. He's stubborn that way. But Teal'c, sometimes being stubborn and strong aren't enough, we can still lose him."
"O'Neill has told me that one truly never loses someone they hold close to their heart, as long as the memories remain the person lives within them."
"He's right, but I don't have nearly enough memories of Jack yet. I need more."
"Would having some of mine help?"
"Can I share my memories of O'Neill to supplement your own?"
"Can't hurt, but only if you want to. I've always wondered what you two do alone together."
"You were correct before, that O'Neill and I were together last weekend. I shall begin there..."
Throwing a log onto the fire, I watch as sparks explode from the fire pit into the inky darkness above it, creating a miniature fireworks display. Casting a look around the dark sparse woods beyond the flickering fire, I can see more than a dozen similar fires, in similar pits, putting on the same display.
"Why do the Tau'ri 'camp'? "
I return my attention to my companion, Teal'c, not of this world but my brother in all but blood.
"It's probably something buried deep in our prehistory. All the way back to our first conquest of fire and the protection it offered an ill suited upstart of an ape in the veldts of Africa. This is the closest we get to a genetic memory."
The only acknowledgement of my explanation is the swift sweep of his eyes across the darkness to linger on the faces revealed by the illumination of the other glowing fires sprinkled under the dark glowering trees.
"There are many 'campgrounds' across your world?" Teal'c's eyes have returned to me, becoming reflective mirrors of the bright combustion between us.
"Well, not really, there are a lot of them in 'developed countries,' kinda the 'haves' as opposed to the 'have nots' whose population are too busy trying to survive to 'camp,' it is a form of recreation. Yes, I know you find that concept incomprehensible at times, but that is what this whole weekend is, recreation."
"Such as the sailing competition?"
'Ah, now for the explanation.'
"Yep. Sailing, only a couple of hundred years ago, was state of the art transportation on Earth. Then we invented internal combustion engines, the glamorous days of sail died. Only to be resurrected as a rich man's hobby, a way to recapture those days when men risked their lives in sailing ships. Today it's more affordable for those of us not rolling in cash -- it's a sport. Now anyone can be master of rudder and wind."
"It gives me a most satisfying feeling, I thank you for instructing me in it. I am most grateful."
"That's good Buddy. I knew you'd like it, just a tame version of Deathgliders. Sailing is just one of the many things I want to show you. My world has much to offer -- good and bad. I want you to have a complete picture, just in case."
"Just in case?"
"Yeah, I may not always be there when you have to make a choice. I just want you to have enough experience to see through the shades of meaning, be able to make an informed choice or a wise decision."
My hands are scrabbling around on the ground; one is suddenly filled with a long wand of wood. I fiddle with it as I mull over the deep thoughts of this evening's discussion.
"Like the little tussle at the docks today."
I wave my new stick through the air to emphasize my words.
"You will explain?"
"I'll try. I'm not really sure of the history of the tradition; I'm an aviator, not a sailor. Although a lot of flyers, sail. Airplanes and sailboats both use the air and wind. When sailing became a sport, competition changed, no longer for money but honors. Rules were created and sailing became safer. I'd guess that tossing the winner into the water was a way for the loser to burn off their embarrassment or aggression. A safe way to have contact in a non-contact sport. It's also a good way to bring the winner back down from their emotional high too. Recently, dumping Champaign over their heads replaced that tradition in the big expensive races, but the old way is alive and well in the little clubs that race boats."
Looking down I have somehow scratched an illustrative picture of my talk into the dirt.
I passed a boot across them.
"So no harm was intended. It was a form of camaraderie, showing acceptance of the outcome?"
"Yeah, that's pretty close. Being a tradition there is no one reason for it. It just is."
I poke my long stick into the fire creating a shower of sparks; I follow them upwards tilting my head back.
"It is the same on Chulak, some traditions have lost the original rational behind them. We perform them but do not understand why."
"Ya got it." I stab a finger of congratulations towards him.
Teal'c's face is illuminated by the flicking flames, but the most important part of his visage is hidden beneath that very necessary watch cap. I wave a casual finger towards him.
"I miss it, glistening in the campfires of the worlds we've visited, that sight has always comforted me."
"It gladdens my heart that it can be appreciated in that way, too often it creates fear."
"Don't get me wrong Teal'c, it's not the symbol, but the person under it. You comfort me, sappy I know, but you do."
...I was honored that my presence could comfort him. As I hope that telling you this might bring some comfort to you also, DanielJackson."
I had observed him closely during my telling of last weekend; he is now calmer, less fearful.
Should I tell him more?
"We've found something, and I could use your help." Janet tells me as she stands in the Trauma Room's doorway.
I nod and follow her into the room; the Colonel is there, alone? Where are all the nurses? Wait, there is one here, just hidden behind a cart of equipment. I push down my sudden anger that he had been alone.
Surprisingly sudden and burning.
The Colonel's lying on his stomach, his face turned away from me, I can only see the back of his head. I know that he is naked, only covered by a sheet pulled just past the small of his back, tucked under his body above his narrow hips. Those heinous scars he never acknowledges, except in nightmares, are now visible.
I try not to look, but I look anyway.
I seldom see them.
The only one I really know about is the new burn on his arm where the Reetou's weapon hit him, so recent that it's still shiny pink. The ones across his back from sheet to shoulders are old, very old, like whip marks. I cringe at the thought, they probably are. I force the thoughts away, back into their little box and await Janet's instructions.
Janet has some rolled towels on a tray next to the gurney he's on. His upper body positioned under a large high intensity light array, the kind found in every hospital in the nation.
"Help me lift his shoulders, I need to prop him high enough to cushion his head in a more vertical position."
I lift one shoulder, than the other as she places folded towel pads under them. She used the rolled one to cushion his face, keeping him from laying directly on the table nose first. The back of his head is now totally exposed; I think 'snake.'
"Janet..." I turned frightened eyes to her. My God! That is the Colonel's greatest fear, being snaked.
"Oh, no, no. Not Goa'uld. Look."
She brushes the Colonel's hair slowly upwards at the nape of his neck, there now exposed to the light are little half-inflated sacks, just a bit smaller than the nail of my little finger.
She hands me a magnifying glass to get a better look.
"They look like really big bee stingers." I jump as one pulses unexpectedly. "Oh, yes, they're still pumping their contents. Janet shouldn't we get them out?" I ask in a panicky voice.
"We will, in time, the damage is already done and I don't want to compound it by messing up the retrieval of samples by being hasty. I have people rounding up equipment right now. We'll have them removed in a few minutes."
As if planned the door bursts open, people pour in dragging equipment of all descriptions. The Colonel is the eye of a hurricane of activity. More blood is taken for specific tests, as the Colonel is equipped with a compact array of monitoring equipment.
Sampling instruments and containers are placed nearby as two lighted magnifiers, one to each side of the Colonel, is set up. I find a tall stool thrust at me. Just as abruptly the storm subsides, leaving me seated over the Colonel. My eye travels across that toned but scarred back to Janet seated across the Colonel's comatose body on an identical stool adjusting her magnifier.
One nurse remains near the door, awaiting 'the sample.' Janet shows just why she is who she is. She deafly bends down, magnifier between her and the Colonel's head, to extract one of the little sacks, then another, a third.
Placing them in a petri dish, she drops the cover on and hands it to the nurse who literally sprints from the room.
It's for the Colonel and I think that SGC personnel try a little harder when it's one of their own at stake.
I feel pride at the thought.
I return my attention to Janet as she resumes extracting the venom sacs, another seven, making a total of ten in all. She next performs tissue sampling at the injection sites. I cringe at the size of the needle she uses to core out samples from the Colonel's scalp, that has to hurt.
Every move Janet makes is precise and purposeful to protect each vital sample from contamination and to ensure the best information possible. The nurse has returned but she doesn't stay long as Janet hands her the rest of the samples.
She sprints away.
"Sam, can you help me check him over for anything that might give us any clues to the identity of the creature that did this. I really can't imagine him allowing anything to get close enough to do this."
She is unconsciously stroking the Colonel's upper arm, comforting him.
"He must not have felt anything when it happened, I'm sure he would have been yelling bloody murder if he had. He yells louder when a mosquito bites him than when he is hit with a staff blast."
That image eases my turmoil at seeing him helpless like this.
"Yes, he's good at broadcasting his minor distress, it would be nice if he was as vocal with the major trauma though."
As she dryly responds a slight grimace crosses her face. Her hand suddenly stills on his arm. I can almost see her shake herself from her own mental images as she lifts that hand and returns her attention to her task.
Janet begins to scan the skin of his neck and upper back for any kind of marks and I bend over the Colonel peering through the magnifier, using a comb to systematically search through his hair looking for anything that might help.
I spot a few flakes of color, and, using a scalpel I collect them onto a slide.
I'm thinking about what kind of creature could get so close to a human without alarming them. From the colored flecks around the sting wounds, a brightly colored one at that. My thoughts wander down branches of inquiry trying to analyze what I'm finding and correlate it to what I know. I try posing questions to expand in other directions. I need to get the General to get a team back to that planet to get my samples and look for this creature.
I need someone to help...
I shudder violently as I realize what I'm doing, I have forgotten who I'm so callously examining, a man that means a great deal to me, someone I would like to get closer to.
"God Janet what kind of person am I?"
"What do you mean?"
"I totally forgot that this is the Colonel. I was off thinking about, well... 'scientific stuff ' as the Colonel is fond of calling it."
"But Sam, that is why you're here. He would understand that. He needs you to think about 'scientific stuff.' Detaching yourself is not a bad thing; it allows you to view the situation clinically, calmly. Giving the Colonel the benefit of your best tool, your mind."
I nod my understanding, he needs me to do this, and I can do no less than my best. I still feel horrible about my lapse.
"I'll take this sample to my lab and examine it more closely. First I'll talk to the General about getting a team out to the planet to retrieve my samples and search for the creature that caused this."
"Sounds good, but talk to the guys on you way out, let them know what's going on. I still have things to do here."
My attention is jerked towards the door behind which lies my brother, fighting for his life.
CaptainCarter returns; I indicate the door to DanielJackson.
He hurriedly stands, desperately trying to compose himself for her sake, he knows that his friend and CaptainCarter hold deep feelings for each other, very different then those held for us.
"Daniel are you alright?" CaptainCarter appears to be inspecting his person critically, sighing slightly. She includes me in her next statement.
"You should both find somewhere more comfortable to wait. He's in no immediate danger and Janet isn't going to let us anywhere near him until she's finished cleaning him up and settling him into a bed."
"I really have to see him Sam." His voice is deep and hoarse with badly suppressed emotion; he grips her arm in his pain.
"You'll have to convince Janet, but she's busy with him right now. Do you really want to take her away from the Colonel?"
Her voice is soft, reassuring but also hints of her own pain. She pats his arm attempting to comfort him.
"Well... no. How did he look?"
His tight grip on her becomes a gliding stroke of returned comfort. They stand very close sharing their mutual distress.
"He really doesn't look bad, not at all like he normally does when he's in the infirmary. Janet says that everything is fine except that he's not waking up and, he... looks peaceful; relaxed... it's strange to see him that way"
"It's like spying on him in his sleep."
I can see a glistening in her eyes as she deepens her visual contact with DanielJackson. He too is near to tears, but each seems determined not to cry before the other.
I have observed that Tau'ri seem to feel the need to erect 'a brave front' as O'Neill terms it, in times such as these.
"Yes, that stuck me too when I first saw him after getting him out the water."
His face begins to show his pain, a tear flows down the cheek that I can see but she cannot.
Now is the time to distract them, before they succeed in pushing themselves even deeper into their fears.
"CaptainCarter, what is that in your hand."
"Oh, it's something we found in his hair. I'm going to my lab to put it under magnification; it could provide clues to the creature that did this to the Colonel. First, I need to get the General to send a team back to get more samples for me. Go on Daniel, take Teal'c with you, you both need to eat. Janet will take care of the Colonel."
CaptainCarter pushes him away, ducking her head in encouragement at him.
Then she hurries away toward the elevators and GeneralHammond.
I agree with CaptainCarter's suggestion to eat and rest, although I believe that I will be doing the 'taking' rather than DanielJackson.
"Perhaps we should take our conversation to the Commissary." I suggest even as I gently begin steering him down the hallway.
"What?... Oh, I don't..."
"CaptainCarter was quite plain that we cannot see O'Neill for some time, time which can go quickly with occupation. I do have other stories that I can impart."
He resists my gentle shepherding. I apply more pressure.
"Well... that offer is hard to turn down. We should shower first though, shall we?"
My gut and heart says 'GO!', but all my training says 'weigh all the options and make a militarily sound command decision.'
Damn it, there's a man's life hung in the balance!
Yes, I know that going with my heart can place other men's lives in the balance also and my gut moves on similar lines. This is a friend, do I dare endanger others because of my feelings?
He wouldn't. So neither then can I.
Captain Carter urgently needs her samples that she left behind. She blames herself for being shortsighted in the face of a crisis. I hope I talked some sense into her. Anyone would have done the exact thing she did, get their teammate safely home, the hell with the rest!
I must also consider her request that the team sent should search for the creature that caused this whole mess although that might be asking for trouble. I'll consider it carefully; I'll ask the leader of that team his opinion.
As for the team, I've already had three team leaders demanding the mission.
The Colonel is greatly respected, by all, but nearly worshiped by his fellow team leaders.
Major Ferretti, SG-2, is the most demanding of all. He is right, they are the Number Two Team -- they get nearly as many of the tough jobs as SG-1, and they're trained for it.
This team in particular would walk through fire to help Colonel 'Jack' O'Neill, as he would for them.
Teal'c has also offered to return to the planet with the same mission in mind, maybe I can send him with SG-2. He does know the lay of the land. Yes, I think that would be best. If SG-2 falls afoul of the elusive creature, he, if anyone, can get them home. He understands the relationship between them and the Colonel; he would consider failure unacceptable.
Daniel Jackson, also has come to tell me that he will be returning to the planet, 'Jack needs someone to get to the bottom of this' he said. I explained to him that he wasn't qualified for such a mission. He became passionately angry, just as passionate as O'Neill would be if their roles were reversed. I asked him just who would remain here with O'Neill?
He became quiet then -- I could see him reconsidering. I offered up the idea that I would most likely be sending Teal'c with the chosen team, that seemed to push his decision in the right direction. He apologized for being 'an ass' and that he was hanging out with Jack way too much.
I found it difficult not to smile at such a true statement.
My most important visitor was Captain Dr. Janet Frasier; her report is pivotal to any decision I may make. Her report was not as conclusive as I had hoped. The venom in O'Neill's system is still unknown and may never be analyzed to anyone's satisfaction. She can only describe the symptoms, only guessing at the mechanisms at work in the man's body to cause them. She has no idea if he will recover, remain as he is or worsen and die. Having the creature in hand may or may not solve the problem. What she could tell me was that the estimation of the size of the creature postulated from the scales and venom sacs found on O'Neill would preclude something too small to see.
Captain Carter and one of the xeno-zooloogists stationed here have surmised that the creature is brightly colored, about the size of an open hand and may be able to fly, but can certainly crawl, evidenced by the location of the venom sacs and scales.
It's just something that is very unlikely to sneak up on a man, but must appear completely innocent for someone like our very suspicious Colonel to allow it to get anywhere near him -- let alone touch him.
With this in mind, I believe that sending a team to the planet is an acceptable risk. Add to that the value of retrieving the base of the 'lawnboard,' only O'Neill could come up with a name like that, and it's attendant advancement of our technical knowledge, I would be remiss in not sending a team. I will personally apprise them of the dangers on the mission and allow any who wish to back out to do so. I really don't expect any to, but some of them do have families, they may feel obligated to stand down.
No stigma will be attached to any man who does so. I understand that and so does Colonel O'Neill.
"I'm Sorry I'm late Teal'c." I stop outside the Commissary. Having slowed from a half trot to make up time, hoping Teal'c hadn't noticed my absence.
"You left while I was dressing."
Is that accusation and disapproval I see -- or do I hear that and think I see it? He did notice I ditched him.
Is Teal'c angry?
"Ah, yes... I did, I should have said something about that. I went to talk to the General about going back to P3R-336."
If need be, I will stand up to Teal'c on this, what I did was for Jack. Surely, he couldn't fault me for my concern? He can be far more reasonable than Jack.
"As have I."
Now just why that slams into me, I'm not certain. He too has a close relationship with Jack; he would be just as concerned about him as I am.
"You spoke to the General too?"
Of course he did! He's so like Jack in that way, a man of action. Teal'c would refuse to sit around when he could be back on that planet looking for answers.
"Just moments ago."
"So, I'm not really late?" I plaster a hopeful look on my face. Maybe he's not too mad, just disappointed.
"Fortunately, that is so."
What he has just said would frighten anyone else, but knowing him, he's just expressing his relief that he didn't have to track me down. He has a great deal of experience doing it too.
"We could have gone to the General together." 'If I had confided in him that is.'
"The outcome would be the same."
'Ah, Teal'c won the argument.' Not very surprising, as his arguments all have a practical logic to them. His face is still stern. Guess I'm not entirely forgiven yet.
"Oh, he told you?"
"Yes, I agree. You need to stay with O'Neill, he may have need of your help."
"Teal'c, a hunch?" 'What does he see that I don't?'
"I do have something like that, as does O'Neill. Mine are just infrequent."
"Maybe, but no less important. What about the rest of that story?"
I still want to hear about them together, Jack is not a very open person. He presents a different face to each person he deals with. Teal'c's story will show me another side of Jack.
"Food, then story."
"Teal'c you sound like a father."
Teal'c and I took more time to wind our way through the Commissary line than what should be humanly possible.
We found ourselves accosted at every turn by questions about Jack. Everyone stopped and inquired about him, expressing their concern about his welfare. I found it hard to discuss him with this multitude of well-wishers. Teal'c treated each with dignity and patience, honoring them with his time to answer them properly.
I guess it's his way of showing his respect to them for thinking of Jack and to Jack knowing that these people are his people.
When Jack is unable to perform his duties, which Jack seldom will admit to, Teal'c has developed a tendency to step in. He can't actually do Jack's job, but he does his best to be there. Like keeping Sam and I from starving ourselves, making us rest, keeping the General informed. Easing any pressure that could reach Jack when he's not one hundred percent.
We do eventually make it to a table, an empty one.
The crowd has thinned out, maybe Teal'c's patient attention to every inquiry caused this. It would be difficult to sit here as a whole room of full of people stared at us hoping for a crumb of information about their Colonel. I really hadn't thought of that.
It is a military thing, like a big family.
I keep forgetting that Teal'c, like Jack, does nothing without a reason. Each action and word part of a long term all encompassing plan of action. Jack may act like he hasn't a clue when in reality the opposite is true; everyone around him is clueless. He knows exactly what he is doing and how to get each and every one of us to do what he needs us to do.
The clueless don't reach the rank of colonel.
I eat in silence as Teal'c watches. He is very much a father right now; maybe that is why he and Jack clicked that day. Two worried fathers deep in 'protect mode', instinctively recognizing each other and forging an unbreakable bond of trust in the blink of an eye. Theirs is an alliance born out of their mutual need to do something, anything for those helpless people.
I think about that day often, about Sha're... Actually, I try not to think about her that day. Or about the shameful way I collapsed into a dangerous despair that would have prevented me from ever getting her back, such a childish thing to have done. Instead, I mull over all the other events constantly trying not to think about Sha're and my reaction.
Actually, what happened between Jack and Teal'c that day is what I think of most.
If you watch them together, you soon realize that they are in awe of one another.
Jack's awe is about Teal'c giving up everything to join him. Making a jump into the unknown. That awe deepened when he discovered that Teal'c had also given up his wife and child and yet said nothing. I think that scared Jack a little; actually that scared him a lot.
Jack has a tendency to feel responsible for things that happen around him.
Though some of our little midnight chats I've pieced together the idea that Jack is unhappy that he somehow forced Teal'c away from being with his family. Leading him astray and being the cause of Teal'c's family falling into the situation in which he first encountered them, in poverty and deprivation.
Forcing Rya'c to be implanted.
I argued long and hard against that view, he reluctantly gave in on the surface, but deep down he still feels he is to blame.
Teal'c's awe is more abstract.
To him Jack represents a lofty ideal, freedom for his people. I am so grateful that this idea has never occurred to Jack, I don't think that he could really live with it. Teal'c unknowingly places an impossible burden on Jack. One Jack would strive to carry.
Teal'c's hope is just too heavy for any one man to carry. I'm not sure that the Earth itself could carry such a burden.
Each man feels a responsibility to the other, Jack is the father/protector of all of SG-1 and a little more so to Teal'c. He nurtures Teal'c, encouraging his exploration of his new freedom.
Teal'c's role is similar in regards to SG-1, protector. However, with Jack he is the loyal follower and that is such a poor description. He protects SG-1 so that Jack can do what is necessary to complete the mission.
Teal'c enables Jack to do his job without worry and with full concentration, but he also tries to protect him and back him up. It's a fine line to support without interfering, even when Jack usually seems bent on getting himself killed in the process!
I'm nearly finished eating before Teal'c begins eating, efficiently, without haste, but swiftly.
"All finished?" I ask. Teal'c scrutinizes my tray before answering.
"Yes, it appears that I am." I can't help it I chuckle, sometime he is deliberately, blatantly transparent.
"Story?" Dim memories of my own father echo faintly in my mind, I find that I desperately need to hear more.
"As promised, there is more that I can tell you about what O'Neill and I have done together."
"Please, you see a very different Jack than I do, go on."
"More than a year ago O'Neill suffered an injured leg by being thrown from Earth's second Stargate."
"He was in physio-therapy off base for weeks during recovery, didn't you often go with him to those appointments?"
"You are correct. It is then that I saw O'Neill swimming. I asked him what it was like...
"You've never been swimming?"
I'm standing here in practically nothing, just my speedo, dripping on the edge of the Academy pool. No doubt a foolish look of disbelief on my face and I really need to sit down; my leg is throbbing like a son of a bitch.
The cast has been off for almost a week and swimming is all I'm allowed beyond therapy, not that I would want to do much more than this, the pain you know?
"That is correct."
The gaps in Teal'c's experiences are puzzling and shocking. However, considering how the Goa'uld think those gaps really shouldn't come as such a surprise to me, but, this is a thing that kids discover early!
'Did he have so little of childhood?'
"I do not know, this is the first I have seen or heard of it."
"Well, it is cold on Chulak, but you lived elsewhere before Chulak didn't you?"
I begin to hobble over to the benches along the wall, Teal'c is immediately beside me. I have been unable to convince him that I'm not going to fall down, at least not often.
"Yes, but I was very young and later as a new Jaffa spent much of my time in Ha'tak vessels."
"Ah, no leisure time. I'm still surprised; it's a survival skill here. Just how much open water have you seen on Chulak."
Making it to the long benches I ease down and lift my leg up to rest on it as I lean my side into the wall. I close my eyes for a moment savoring the relief, on opening them I find that I have alarmed Teal'c just a tad. Recently he's gone from thinking we Tau'ri wear as well as Jaffa to the exact opposite, that we'll croak at the slightest tap.
He's been hovering over me ever since I was airlifted back from Antarctica, being worse than Daniel or the Doc.
"Very small ponds."
"Kinda cold too. 'Very small ponds.' No municipal pools there either, huh?"
Teal'c raises that eyebrow, I've stumped him again, but it's getting harder to do his language skills are better than mine now.
Damn, no large bodies of water and too cold to want to get wet, even kids have some sense. Jaffa children are very mature, like small adults. Must have something to do with becoming incubators so early in life, no time for fun. Teal'c needs to have a little fun and I think I can arrange that.
"Would you like to try it?"
...It was of course nearly two weeks before O'Neill was able to arrange for me to 'try it.' "
I am satisfied that DanielJackson has settled comfortably during the beginning of my tale, as was my plan. I encourage him to refill his coffee mug before I continue.
He does so eagerly.
I do not know if he desires more coffee or more of my experiences with O'Neill. Either reason will distract him from his worry.
"Jack must have been in a lot of pain at those appointments?"
He asks me as he settles down, becoming comfortable. He gives me his avid attention.
"I observed some indication of that, ye+s. Yet it did not 'bother him as much as it bothered everyone else' as he said."
"Yes, typical Jack. About the swimming?"
He is impatient for the story -- coffee is secondary.
"Indeed. O'Neill was concerned about 'Junior' and exposure to the chemicals in the pool water. He was worried that the water would enter my womb and 'cause problems.' "
"Did it... cause problems?"
"It did not. O'Neill procured a clear adhesive covering from DoctorFrasier large enough to cover my pouch opening. He took great care in applying it."
I clearly remember that not once did he show the disgust that I know he strongly feels for 'Junior' or any other symbiote. The measures he took to ensure my safety humbles me. In our mock combats together, I have felt the steel of his fingers, but on that day, when he covered my pouch I was reminded that he is more than just a warrior.
He is a compassionate caring leader also.
"O'Neill had arranged everything...
Teal'c stood up and I took a critical look. The surgical covering was snugly in place across his bare stomach just above his swim trunks. I got him trunks because I think that 'speedos' can be a bit confining and I wanted him comfortable for his first 'swim.' I slowly limp around him, he's massive in uniform, but here nearly nude he's somehow larger. There's so much muscle, I don't see any fat anywhere and that's going to be a problem, no buoyancy.
Teal'c will be like one honking huge rock in the water...
"How does it feel?"
"Strange? How?" A prickle of worry raises goosebumps along my arms. Maybe this isn't such a good idea?
"As if something is stuck to my skin."
"Teal'c!..." I laugh at that. He can be so funny. "...I expect it does." 'Was that a joke!'
I've been using one of the pools here at the Academy, arranging to have it privately. Being a colonel does have its advantages. Also, I used my bum leg as an excuse too. Sympathy opens a lot of doors. Besides, getting knocked down in my condition by an excited Cadet is not my idea of fun, that concrete out there is hard. So, getting Teal'c a place to swim was easy.
"Are you ready for this Buddy?"
I have no clue to his feelings, I'm still learning to read him. I walk him out of the locker room to the edge of the pool, pausing at the handrail over the steps down into the water.
"We're just going to step down into the water and wade out about chest deep. I want to make sure that there are no leaks. Okay?"
My leg is still a little weak, so I hang onto the rail tight as I back down into the water watching Teal'c's reactions.
This is a lot of water for someone who has no experience with it. Well, except for that disaster on P3R-636. I hope he doesn't remember walking into and under that sea. I have distinct memories of suffocating there, along with those confusing memories of Daniel dying. They're still fresh, catching me unprepared at the oddest times; Janet keeps telling me that they'll fade.
"How do you feel."
"This is pleasurable."
"Okay, now the hard part. You'll have to trust me and that'll be hard. I want you to lean back into the water slowly..." I place a hand under his back as he begins to lie back. "...Now let your feet float up to the surface, I'll hold you up."
His eyes are a little wide, body a little tense. I move closer to provide better support.
"Now relax. Think kelno'reem."
I feel his muscles begin to loosen. He starts to float, well, kinda. He rides a little deep, all that muscle, but he's staying on the surface. Maybe there's air trapped in his pouch?
My eyes flash down to his stomach checking the seal. I talked to Janet about doing this and she had no idea if there would be any ill effects. Jaffa have been around for probably more than a thousand years, getting water or contaminants in that pouch has probably occurred at some time and if Teal'c has no adverse knowledge there probably isn't any.
Probably safe, but I'm not taking that chance.
"That's it. Are you okay?"
"Yes, I am 'okay'. This is... pleasantly disconcerting."
Wow. Mixed emotions. Is that a little smile I see?
I get him really relaxed, gently towing him back to the shallow end. He's so deep into meditating I don't think he realizes what I'm doing. I stabilize his float and I move back into the deep water. I watch awhile, he's ready for Plan B.
"Teal'c I want you to draw your arms in towards your body while cupping your hands, pulling against the water. Okay, that's good. Now push your arms back out and do it again. Just pull against the water when you bring you hands back in. That's it. Keep it going."
He slowly moves towards me until I can lightly rest my hand on his back again. His reaction to my touch is impressively minor, just a little tremble in the muscles under my fingers. He has a handle on his emotions, mastering any fear. I know that I would be afraid if I'd never been in the water before. I smile and give him the good news.
"That's great Teal'c. Did you enjoy you first swim?"