Title: A Legend in His Own Time
By: Cjay
Email: Cjay627@msn.com
Category: Some whumping, a bit of angst and human nature.
Sequel To: It's Genetic
Season: Seven
Summary: Jack takes a fall and has an adventure of a personal nature.
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM/UA, Scifi, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions Etc; and not myself. Legend is a property of Paramount UPN Etc. No cpoyright infringement is intended. The story is for entertainment only and not for profit. The original charaters are the property of the author as is the story.
Story to be hosted by: Jackfic.
Size: 175kb
Warnings: None
Feedback: All constructive comments are most welcome.

A Legend in His Own Time
Sequel to It's Genetic
by CJay

The dark heaven was sprinkled with the dazzling lights of a thousand stars. Jack O'Neill leaned back against the railing of his observation deck sipping a beer, drinking in the night skies. It was one of those nights, the kind that followed one of those oh so peachy days. After a day like today, insomnia was a given. And, as was his usual habit, Jack sought release from its grip, up here, on his rooftop sanctuary. Alone and still, he was free to drink in the universe, as he'd first known it. It seemed to surround him with its tantalizing flashes of fire nestled in inky vastness.

His shoulder ached; and if he allowed himself to be honest about it, it hurt like hell. Dislocated shoulders were no fun at all. Neither was a wrenched knee. Unfortunately, he was oh so enjoying both at the moment.

After a pleasant week of paperwork, he and the rest of SG-1 had gone on a search and rescue mission. SG-14, a geological survey team had not reported in on schedule. When several attempts to make contact had failed, Hammond had called on his premiere team, Jack's team, to fetch them home. It was obvious from the Malp data that significant seismic activity was the most likely reason behind the disappearance of the geologists. A fact, that became all too apparent when SG-1 found themselves smack dab in a level eight earthquake, the moment they'd emerged from the wormhole.

Long story short, they had found the geological team battered and trapped in a cave in and freed them quickly. Unfortunately for Jack, not quickly enough, he had lost his footing in a rockslide and fell about forty feet, landing in a nice grouping of car sized boulders.

For once, Doc Fraiser had reigned in her tendency to lord her powers over him and allowed him to go home to recuperate. That is, after her usual long litany of "do this and don't do that" was over. He had promised to be a good boy, and so had taken a half dose of the pain medication she'd given him. Then he'd tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep for two hours. Finally frustrated he grabbed a six-pack in his good left hand and climbed awkwardly up the rather steep ladder to his rooftop refuge from the world.

'Crap!' He thought, attempting to find a comfortable position. The only bright spot in the past week had been when he'd turned the ribbing that his team had been inflicting on him to his advantage. Thanks to Teal'c and his addiction to all things western, they had ferreted out a portion of his family history. Jack was taciturn by nature and rarely spoke about himself, let alone his family tree. It could be especially embarrassing for a self-effacing hard ass Colonel, like himself, to be the descendant of an old western dime novel hero. Knowing that it would be the last thing that Jack would openly discuss, his team had decided to use the newfound information to torment him. He'd let them have their fun briefly and then, slyly, he'd turned the tables on them; and quite nicely too! Both he and his commander, General George Hammond, had a good laugh over that turn of events. It still made him smile, despite his pain.

Jack must have dozed off, thanks to the combination of the twinkling stars, the booze and the medication. He awoke in the predawn light, only to find it had begun to drizzle. Stiff and cold, he began his descent to the ground below, and slipped. Unable to catch himself, with his dominant arm in a sling, he plummeted to the ground and landed hard. His last thought, before passing out from the knock to the back of his head, was that the Napoleonic Power Monger, was oh so not going ever let him live this one down.


Jack smelled leather, horses and dust. He drifted in that twilight of sleep when one is mildly aware of his surroundings and yet, not interested enough to wake up and look around; vaguely aware of voices close by, words unclear.

A sudden lurch threw him forward, wrenching his injured shoulder and jarring him awake. "CRAP!"

Jack cracked an eyelid against the bright light and took in the sight of the brim of his hat and the tips of his dusty Calvary boots. Calvary boots? Moving his eyes up his long legs, he noted, that he was not wearing his usual khakis. Instead, his legs were encased in the dark blue jersey of breeches. He realized that his uninjured arm was nestled snugly against another body. A body that smelled decidedly feminine, due to the faint hint of perfume.

Lemon verbena. His Nana had worn that scent to church each Sunday when he was a "little lad." He'd not enjoyed that bittersweet memory for years now and oddly, it helped him ignore the pain in his right shoulder. Pushing his hat up and away from his face, he looked directly into the big and round-eyed, freckled face, of a boy of about eight years. The two stared at each other in mutual surprise.

'Just where in the blazes am I?' Jack thought.

"It is rude to stare Thomas. The Colonel needs his rest. He has been through quite an ordeal and needs to heal." Jack heard the body next to him say. The gentle admonishment was directed to the freckled face in Jack's direct line of vision.

Just what was the woman referring to, Jack wondered? He felt groggy and confused. What was going on? Last thing, he remembered was climbing down from the observation deck on his roof and slipping. This was so not his day!

Deciding to remain quietly observant, Jack scanned the small enclosure he found himself in.

It would appeared, he was in the passenger cab of an old stagecoach, along with the boy, the woman whose tone indicated she was his Mother, and another woman whose large hat hid her face in shadows. Turning slightly to his right, Jack looked out a rather crude window and noted the slow passage of the landscape beyond. It looked like they were traveling a dirt road somewhere in Colorado. That much was obvious to his sleep befuddled mind, but why in an old stagecoach and why was he dressed in the Calvary gear? Must be some kind of weird dream, he pondered.

'I may as well relax and enjoy it. What was in that pain medication the Doc foisted on me this time? Maybe I should pay more attention to her lectures from now on.' Feeling the familiar weight of a sidearm at his hip, he noted a Calvary sword leaning gently at his thigh and away from the ladies. Looking up once more, he spied the boy Thomas still stared directly at him, despite his Mother's cautioning.

"What?" Jack O'Neill liked kids and usually, he never minded their myriad of questions. However, he felt rotten and wasn't sure he would have the answers to the kid's questions. His confusion gave his voice an impatient tone.

The boy thrust a newssheet and pencil stub at him. "Can I have your autograph Colonel? Please?" Thomas looked up at the Colonel with admiration and awe.

"May I, Thomas. Do not forget your grammar lessons." There was a smile in his Mother's voice.

"May I, please Sir?"

Jack slowly took the newssheet from the lad. Looking closely at the heading, he read: October 22, 1878. Colonel Jonathan O'Neill will be on medical furlough recovering from the recent wounds, he received in the latest Indian wars. A rather crude pencil sketch was beneath the heading.

Yeah, that'd be his face all right. O.K. In this dream he was still a Colonel and he had been wounded.

A more pertinent question might be, just where was he going in this relic of the old west? Glancing below the sketch, he read on: The Colonel will be visiting his recently retired Commanding Officer General George Hammond in the town of Sheridan, Arapaho County, Colorado. It went on to list some of the battles and campaigns in which he'd been involved.

Following his quick read, Jack understood just why the kid wanted his autograph; it embarrassed him none the less. The fact that he'd been involved in any campaigns against the original Natives of America did not sit to well with him either. He had a good dose of Native American blood in his own heritage; and he found what history had done to them damned distasteful.

Not wanting to disappoint the kid, he accepted the still waiting pencil stub a bit awkwardly, due to the presence of a sling on his right arm. Scribbling his name across the sketch of his likeness, he handed the items back to the boy. "There you are Tom."

He might as well get a bit of intel, from as many of these folks as he could. It would help him maneuver in this dream. "So why are you folks traveling on this Stage?"

Tom was excited, to be drawn into conversation with his hero. The Colonel had been quietly sleeping when both he and his Mother had boarded the Overland Express. "We're on our way to meet up with my Father. He is the new territorial Marshal! Can I see your sword Colonel? Can I?"

The innocent request caused a jagged shard of pain to pierce Jack's carefully shielded heart. Time had softened the pain, he still felt over Charlie's death, due to an accidental gunshot wound, but it would never go away totally. The guilt would always be there.

It had been Jack's own personal weapon, his sidearm, which had been the tool of that wasteful death.

It was this pain and frustration, as well as, an urgent need to make sure no other child ever suffered a similar fate, which colored his reply. "Hell No!" Reining in his temper, he continued in a more controlled tone. "Weapons are not for children. It takes years of study and training, as well as a bit of seasoning, before anyone should carry any kind of weapon!"

"The Colonel is correct Thomas. However Colonel, I would be most grateful if you would not curse in front of my impressionable son." The woman, whom Jack assumed was the kid's mother, smiled at Jack softening her chastisement.

It was a smile that said, she somehow understood his pain and it lessened Jack's embarrassment. He took off his hat and bowed his head slightly. "Yes Ma'am. You are correct. Do please accept my apology."

The boy Thomas, like all children before and after, recovered from his disappointment quickly. "Well then Sir, may I ride your horse? "

"My horse?" He had a horse? Then why ride in this stuffy coach and crowd these women?

"Yes Sir. I know he is tied to the back of the stage right now for a rest, but may I please ride him when we come to the next rest stop?"

Jack leaned gingerly out the window of the stage and spied a sleek chestnut gelding wearing a Calvary saddle and rig. He thought it a bit odd that the rifle holster attached to the saddle was empty, till his heel knocked against a rifle nestled on the floor of the cab at his feet.

'This is one hell of a dream!' He sighed. 'It sure does seem real. O.K. O'Neill, it is possible that this is not a dream. I could just be losing my mind, or hallucinating from the combination of two beers and a half dose of pain medication!' He was so never going to make that error again! 'Might as well settle back and enjoy it, Jack old man,' he thought. 'Not much else you can do.' Realizing that the kid was still waiting for an answer, he turned to him. "Sure thing Tom." Replacing his hat over his eyes and ignoring the pain in his shoulder, he drifted back into sleep.

The gentle rocking of the coach slowed to a halt as the Overland Express Stagecoach pulled in to the rest stop. Here the driver would change horses and allow the passengers a break and a meal. The driver was already assisting Thomas's Mother from the cab as Jack fully roused himself. Despite the sling on his right arm, he gracefully eased himself through the door on his side and moved around to assist the other lady passenger. As she moved to take his proffered hand, descending to the ground in the afternoon light, her face was briefly lit, despite the huge hat she wore. Jack froze in shock. The face before him was one he had seen before in old family photos. It was the face of his great, great Grandmother, Desdemona Stewart.

Realizing he was gaping stupidly, Jack swept off his hat as he assisted her. The stunning woman's dazzling smile was his reward.

"Thank you, Colonel." She said in a gracious husky voice.

Looking into the same sparkling deep brown eyes, that he saw in his mirror as he shaved everyday, Jack felt a desperate need to get to know her. "Colonel Jack O'Neill at your service, Ma'am. May I lead you into luncheon?"

As she took his arm, he cautioned himself to keep his excitement to himself. He didn't want to raise any suspicions about his sudden attentions.

"I'll make sure old Zeus here is watered and fed for you Colonel." The driver stated flatly, turning to unhitch the big gelding from the back of the wagon. Old Bill Huntley thought it was damn odd that any Calvary officer like the Colonel would neglect his horse. Still, the man was injured and the lady was very attractive. Bill shrugged it off.

Catching the man's puzzled frown, Jack realized that he had made a tactical error. He had no desire to let on just how out of place he was feeling. Reaching into his pocket, he found a coin and excused himself from the Lady briefly. "Thank you. It has been a bit difficult, what with this sling and all."

The driver accepted the five dollar gold piece gratefully. Times were hard and if the Colonel wanted to throw money around, who was he to criticize? This Colonel was not like any of the others, he'd encountered before. He liked the man, but something was definitely off about him. Squelching the errant thought, he continued with his work.

The rest stop was on a small ranch. A large boned woman with a sturdy constitution greeted the small group as they approached the ranch house front door. "How do folks? Washhouse is around back, as is the facilities. I am Emma Riggs; welcome to the Last Chance Ranch. Lunch will be served directly. Please come on in." She told them loudly, motioning them inside.

The house was small, but well kept. The crude wooden table was set with six places, and a rich stew was steaming over the open hearth nearby.

Jack's mouth watered. Making his excuses, he made use of the washhouse and facilities, such as they were. Hands clean, he then returned to the kitchen. The others were already seated, so he took the empty chair at the head of the table. They all looked to him expectantly as Emma requested, "Lead us in thanking our maker please Colonel?"

Startled, Jack folded his hands and recited a long unused childhood blessing. The sweet smiles of the ladies present seemed to indicate approval and he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Why don't we all get to know one another?" Emma asked warmly. "You all know who I am and everyone around these parts has heard of you Colonel. Perhaps, you ladies would care to introduce yourselves?"

"I am Mrs. Ester Carter and this is my son, Thomas. We are on our way to Sheridan to meet my husband the new territorial Marshall." The pert lady who smelled like lemon verbena responded promptly.

The ladies nodded to one another and then turn expectantly toward the quiet lady with the huge hat.

"My name is Desdemona Stewart. I am traveling to Sheridan to appear at the new Opera house. I shall be performing there this Friday night." She replied, with a small smile. Turning her full attention to Jack, she made a polite request. "I hope you will all come."

Despite, her gracious inclusion of the entire assembly it was quite clear she was signaling Jack out. He chose to simply nod. Who new where he'd be come Friday?

Enjoying a nice meal the small assembly chatted politely with one another. Jack ate sparingly. The pain in his shoulder had blossomed into full-blown agony. He tried to ignore it and not let on, but his hostess Emma had been a nurse during the War Between the States. She could read military men like a book. Her late husband Robert had been much like the man before her. "Colonel, I wonder if you would be kind enough to assist me with something in the parlor?"

Jack nodded his consent and followed her to the adjacent room. She moved to a small cabinet in a corner and removed a large bottle of whiskey. Pouring two fingers into a glass, she offered it to him. "That wound is still painful isn't Jonathan? Are you sure it is not infected?"

No one had called him Jonathan, in that fond tone, since his Mother had and Jack found that it relaxed him enough to be honest with her. "Hurts like hell Emma and I thank you for the kindness."

Taking the glass from her, he tossed the entire contents back enjoying the burn as it went down and the soft glow as it pulsed into his bloodstream.

Emma refilled his glass. "Let me have a look at it. I was a nurse with the Northern infantry and I know a thing or two. Then you can sack out in my spare room, least till the Stage leaves. I will not tolerate an argument from you Colonel." Prodding him into a chair, she removed the sling to get a better look.

Jack was curious to see the wound himself. His memory was of a dislocation, but the pain he was currently experiencing was more consistent with a stab wound. He'd had enough injuries to know how each one felt. As she removed the crude dressing, he couldn't help but draw in a shocked breath. It looked like he'd had quite a hole punctured into his flesh, just beneath his right collarbone. Whoever had treated it must be a quack. It was still ragged and raw, obviously grossly infected. That would explain his exhaustion and his confusion about things.

Emma poured whiskey into the wound; Jack bit his lip, tasting blood in order to keep from screaming. The whiskey burned its way along his ragged flesh.

"Sorry Jonathon, the wound is badly infected. What incompetent simpleton treated this?"

"Emma, do you have any moldy bread?" Jack asked, catching his breath as the burning eased.

"I'll have you know I set a fresh table Colonel!"

"Yes you do. I was hoping however, there might be some in a waste bin. You see, if we scrape the mold off and rub it into the wound it will help fight the infection." Her doubtful look caused him to improvise. "Old Indian remedy. I've used before."

Hands on her hips, Emma gave him a searching look. "As it happens I just discarded a whole loaf. Made too much last Sunday. I think you are wasting your time, but I will get it for you. I have seen stranger remedies in field hospitals."

Leaving him briefly, Emma returned with a nice moldy loaf. Scraping off the soft gray matter, she swabbed it into the wound.

While she was distracted with redressing his shoulder and applying the sling, Jack ate a couple chunks of the moldy bread.

'Doc Fraiser would be proud of me!' he thought. 'I'm using home made penicillin.' He hoped it would do the trick.

Once, she had completed her task, Emma led him to a small room insisting he "Stretch out that tall frame and sleep awhile." Jack fell almost immediately into a dreamless slumber.

He had no idea just how long he napped, but it couldn't have been more than forty-five minutes before Emma gently shook him awake. The driver was anxious to be underway, wanting to make Sheridan by nightfall. The others were already on the Stagecoach waiting for him; his horse tied to the back.

Thanking the motherly Emma once more, Jack allowed her to admonish him to "not to ride today and undo all her neat work!" and then, climbed gingerly into the cab of the coach. Within minutes they were underway once more.

Mrs. Emma had scolded Thomas, cautioning him to leave the Colonel in peace. So, the youngster silently gazed at his new idol and didn't pester him with questions. Despite his best intentions, Jack dozed off once more.

George Hammond, retired General, closed his tiny establishment early in anticipation of his friend and former Second in Command's arrival. He had known Colonel Jonathan O'Neill for almost eighteen years, ever since they had first fought together in the War Between the States, back in sixty-one. Knew him long before, he had become the taciturn, battle hardened fighting man, the war had left him. Long before, Jack lost both his wife and son in such a tragic way.

He remembered the day he had first met the young Captain, who had been presented as a 'Cracker Jack shot.' That description proved to be accurate, earning him the nickname by which most of his command knew him, "Cracker Jack O'Neill." He never heard the man referred to as Jonathon after that, unless it was formally.

Jack seemed to accept the title without much notice, as he did with most of the changes to things the military caused him. George could always count on Jack to be in the thick of things; and to be the most successful of his officers in bringing his unit home as unscathed as possible.

He was a good officer, as well as, a smart ass. One who skirted the line of insubordination so many times that, as his C.O., George had lost count. However, Jack was the man he would never go into any campaign without, what's more Jack knew it. Despite that fact, he was not arrogant, like some of the other officers and that set him apart.

Jack's men had all but worshipped him. They would follow him into hell itself to obey his commands. The man was a true rarity, especially in this man's Military today. Which was the main reason George had been glad to retire. He had received a letter from Jack several weeks ago; a letter that had worried him. Jack had made it clear he was fed up and was looking to retire. He was in his early fifties and perhaps it was time. However, officers of his caliber had been known to extend their careers, due to the events that had happened the last few years in the western frontier. As usual, George had read between the lines and sent Jack an invitation to come visit him on his next furlough. He was glad it had come so soon, but not happy that an injury had made it possible.

The Stagecoach pulled in front of the Hotel precisely on time for a change. The sun had just set and the town was bathed in twilight. George spied the Calvary horse tied at the back of the coach and his worry for his friend escalated. Normally, Jack was more comfortable in the saddle, not inside the coach. His wound must be severe and as usual, he'd down played it in the telegram he'd sent letting George know that he'd been on his way for the visit.

Jack was the first one to leave the cab of the Stagecoach. He caught sight of George, smiled and nodded, then turned to assist two ladies from the cab followed by a young boy of about eight. "You promised I could ride your horse Colonel. Now that we are here, may I." The child piped up eagerly.

George smiled. Jack was always popular with youngsters; his grand daughters adored the man. However, Jack's weary posture alerted his friend that something really was wrong and he stepped forward. "It is late son. The Colonel will be here visiting for a good while, you'll have your ride another day."

The child accepted the older man's authority and waving to Jack, scurried after his Mother to the Hotel lobby.

George heard Jack's quite sigh. "I never could hide anything from you Sir."

Turning, in order to give Jack a scrutinizing inspection in the light pouring from the Hotel lobby, George took command. "Come with me Jack, I have a nice suite here at the hotel. You can rest, then we will have a nice quiet supper in the rooms and talk about old times."

After a nap and fine supper, the two old campaigners and friends, adjourned to the saloon for a nightcap. Jack's pain had been steadily increasing. And thus, he looked forward to the numbing benefits of whiskey. The two found a quiet spot at the back near the poker tables, where a friendly game was already in progress.

A fellow with his back to Jack appeared to be winning, much to the chagrin of a rough looking character directly across the table.

The rough cowboy was fed up with his losing streak. Pratt had to be cheating! He wasn't that bad a card player. The man was a card sharp and he'd had enough of him. "Pratt you are a cheat!" He bellowed pulling his gun.

The saloon became deadly quite. Jack's hand rested on his sidearm.

The man with his back to Jack laughed softly and raised his hands for all to see. "Now Red, you know I do not carry a gun. Nor do I cheat at cards. It has been a fair game all around, right gentlemen?"

Looking over the other players, the man coolly continued. "Lets just settle down and play another hand. Bar keep, get my friend Red here, your best whiskey and put it on my tab." With that, he calmly ignored the nonplused Red. Taking a sip of something from a teacup at his elbow, he went back to his card game.

Seeing that he had not succeeded in drawing the other man into a gunfight, Red sat back down and nursed his fresh drink.

Jack relaxed his gun hand. It couldn't be, he thought. Well why not? After all, he was in the right town at the right time. He had just met his great, great Grandmother, why not his soon to be, great, great Granddaddy too? He had to admit, the man had guts to have so cavalierly handled a very dangerous situation; and with such overblown theatrics. "Who is that man George?" He already knew, but just to make sure he had to ask.

"That Jack, is the famous writer Ernst Pratt, alias Nicodemus Legend. After sundown when the children and most of the respectable folk are tucked in their beds, he let's his true nature loose here at the Buffalo Head saloon. You see, Legend does not curse, drink spirits, smoke cigars or chase women. Ernst Pratt excels at all of those endeavors. That is, when he is not assuming his role as Legend." George's smile made it clear, he found the rogue amusing and that, he considered him a friend.

Jack was intrigued. He knew most of that information. Ernst Pratt's personal history was no secret to his family. But, to actually meet the man whom his family had considered quite a character was quite another thing entirely. "Introduce me to him, would you George?"

"As soon as the game is over. Ernest will most likely wander over here, as he does most nights, to share a nightcap. I'll be pleased to have you get acquainted." The two would hit it off, George thought. It would be a pleasant distraction for Jack to witness all Ernst's shenanigans.

Not long after, the poker group called it a night. As he watched the figure with his back to him rise, Jack wondered if their similar features would be remarked upon.

The man who would one day become his ancestor, turned toward them, spotted George and smiled. With a twinkle in his eye, he came over to their table teacup and cigar, in hand.

Ernst was slightly shorter than Jack's own six foot two frame, but he had the same lanky build. He was in his early forties and still had the familial light brown hair and deep-set eyes; although, his were umber instead of deep brown.

Deep eyes that had seen a great deal, and yet, choose to view the world with ironic humor; wise eyes, belonging to someone much older and without a trace of naiveté. He sported a thick bushy mustache that could use a trim, as could, his collar length hair and walked with the same naturally athletic grace, which O'Neill had also been accused of.

The teacup did not contain tea. The strong smell of liquor, made that patently obvious. No, Ernst employed the teacup to conceal his consumption of fine whiskey. Despite having imbibed throughout the card game, Ernst was unaffected and clear eyed as he took the chair George indicated. "How does George?"

George nodded politely in return.

Turning to Jack, Ernst looked him over. Smiling a wry smile, he inquired with a stage whisper. "So is this Colonel Jonathan O'Neill, war hero and old friend?"

When Jack merely nodded, he continued, "George here has told me a great deal about you. Actually, I do remember bits and pieces of newspaper articles written regarding your exploits, from my old war correspondent days. Glad to finally meet you."

Ernst's carefully polite perusal was none the less, thorough. He saw before him, a man of about fifty with the weathered features of an outdoorsman. His hair more salt than pepper and eyes that had seem too much of the real world to allow him easy rest.

'Odd,' he thought, noting their marked similarities, 'Despite the age difference this man could be my older brother.' Intrigued, he looked directly into Jack's deep brown eyes and captured a moment of unguarded interest and something more, something intangible, which he could not quite fathom, quickly hidden behind a façade of cool indifference. 'The Colonel, is a man of hidden depths.' Noticing the slight flush to his cheeks, despite an underlying pallor, he wondered if his wound, indicated by the arm in the sling, was more severe than this rugged and obviously proud man would admit.

The sudden penetrating and deep perusal made Jack uneasy. What did the man see? It was as if he could see past Jack's carefully constructed and comfortable armor of indifference, into his very soul. "Ernst."

George had noticed Jack's discomfort, although he couldn't fathom the reason for it. Jack usually was a center of calm in a storm. Perhaps, it was the lingering fever from his infected wound. He'd tried without success to persuade Jack to see the local Doctor, but the O'Neill rock solid pride was in the way today and so, he had relented. He would try again in the morning. For now, he would ease these two into friendship if he could. They had similar temperaments after all, and should understand one another. Each hid his true nature behind a façade and a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor. Both Jack and Ernst spent a great deal of time and energy, denying a large and compassionate heart. Both men protected the innocent and sought to bring justice to an unjust world, each in his own way. Yes, he thought, they had a great deal in common.

"Your cigars have arrived. You can pick them up in the morning." George told the unusually silent Pratt. Turning to Jack, he explained. "Ernst is my tobacco shops most valued customer. You might say, he keeps me in business and I dare say, Ernst is a very good judge of a fine cigar."

Ernst redirected his gaze away from Jack's and shrugged off the compliment with a light laugh. "Ah George, I am most happy to oblige. It is positively shameful that our great nation's retiring military should receive such a paltry pension, thus requiring a side business to make ends meet."

"Ah, yes." George replied glancing at Jack, he wondered if he had put more aside than this old General had. He hoped so. "But thanks to you and your friends, I am happy to report that I am doing quite well these days."

Just then, the barkeeper arrived with a demure china teapot and proceeded to refill Ernst's teacup. Ernst grinned up at the man and thanked him with more bravado than was necessary. "Oh thank you Grady! I do so love my chamomile tea before retiring." With that, Ernst placed a light hand on Grady's arm to forestall him. Then, he tossed back the cups contents. "So what are you gents having? Grady, a refill for my stalwart Calvary friends, if you please." He said with a flourish.

George took one look at Jack's rapidly graying features and flushed cheeks, and decided they should call it a night. "No thank you, I think it is time we retired. Big day tomorrow you know. Jack has had a long trip and must be weary. Come by in the morning Ernst." Rising, he shook his friend's hand.

Jack bid the smiling man a quiet goodnight. Moving to follow George with shaky legs, he was overcome by waves of dizziness and felt himself collapse toward the rough plank floor. 'Damn!' he thought. 'I still must be running a fever. I had hoped my homemade penicillin would do the trick.'

Ernst had noted the Colonel's swaying even before he'd collapsed. Ignoring the last of his liquor, he hurried to catch up to the two old warriors. Thus, he was able to support Jack's crumpling form, just before he hit the floor. He and George carried the stricken man to his room at the Silver King Mines Hotel. Then sent Skeeter, the hotel steward, for the doctor.

They'd barely removed the sling and undressed the feverish man, when Skeeter returned with Dr. Daniel Ballard. The Doc moved swiftly for a man with one permanently stiffened leg. After asking for and receiving an explanation of recent events from the two worried and hovering men, he proceeded to remove the now soaked dressing covering the Colonel's wound.

"Gad!" The Doctor expounded, as he eyed the wound.

Ugly and poorly stitched, the wound was covered with some sort of gray matter, as well as, the purulent and bloody pus all Doctors expect with an infected wound. Unfortunately, he'd seen its like before. Whatever had penetrated the Colonel flesh had left part of itself behind. "The wound will have to be reopened and probed. I believe whatever incompetent quack tended this failed to properly remove a portion of the weapon, which may have broken off on impact."

Noting that each of the other men paled slightly, the young Doctor continued, "I'll need you both to hold him down. He looks to be a very strong man. And if my memory serves me, the equivalent of a Viking berserker when aroused."

"You know the Colonel?" Ernst asked, moving to brace the stricken man's shoulders.

"If not for Captain "Cracker Jack" O'Neill and the young woman who became my wife, I would not be standing here on two legs. No gentlemen, I would be hobbling around on one. A permanently stiffened knee is much preferred to a stump!" Opening his black bag and scrubbing his hands thoroughly, the Doctor got to work.

It took Ernst and George, as well as Skeeter, to hold the fighting and very confused, Jack O'Neill down. Once opened, the wound gave up quite a quantity of purulent drainage. Probing proved fruitful. Swearing softly, the Doctor pulled forth a significant piece of a flint spearhead and dropped it into the basin. Checking the collarbone for fragments, he then cleansed the wound with disinfectant and applied new stitches to the angry flesh. Now it was up to O'Neill's stubborn strength and determination.

'I pray he'll pull through!' Daniel thought. 'I have much to thank him for.'

Three worried men pulled up chairs. Each determined to watch over and tend the enigma, who was Jack O'Neill. Few men would inspire such devotion and concern, but he was one of them.

Desdemona Stewart had slept deeply after her long journey. Quickly tending to her morning ablutions, she proceeded sedately to the Hotel dinning room, finding it a buzz with chatter and activity. The irrepressible Skeeter seated her, and then took her order. Unable to repress his excitement, he regaled her with the previous nights events. Listening with alarm, Desdemona felt concern sweep over her.

Her own Indian heritage warred with her modern woman's independent nature. She had taken an instant liking to the handsome and gallant gentleman known as Colonel O'Neill. It was more than just his good looks, which attracted her to him. She felt a need to sooth and protect this obviously much abused man. Finishing her light breakfast quickly, she gently demanded that Skeeter escort her to the Colonel's room; as she wished inquire as to his progress.

Jack had tossed and turned in the grip of feverish delirium for a great deal of the night. The three new comrades at his bedside did the best they could to sooth him, without much success.

Dr. Daniel Ballard was concerned. One could easily dismiss the ramblings of the stricken patient, despite the fantastic details, however, his patient had shown no improvement so far; this was not something he would tolerated. Of all the patients Daniel had treated in his career, this one was perhaps the ONE he had to save. This man's compassion and stubborn honor had saved him from a life that could have been a nightmare of uselessness, and instead had sent him on a path of self-awareness and healing. He realized that medicine still had a long way to go before miracles could happen, but he wished for one now. A knock on the door halted his frustrated self-flagellation, and awoke the other two comrades from their own fitful slumber.

Ernst, as he was closer to the portal opened the door to a vision of beauty. One, he had never seen before; and he had seen every such vision possible in Sheridan. She had thick chestnut hair artfully coiled into an elaborate upsweep, huge deep brown eyes with flawless tawny skin and lush pink lips.

He'd never felt quite like this about any woman. Oh yes, he had flirted and admired every woman in his path since the day he had gotten long pants. He had bedded many women but always treated them with discretion and respect. He more than liked woman, he loved woman - all woman. Yet, this heart clenching, breath-stopping state, had never assailed him before. Frozen Ernst was unable to speak.

George, noting the extended silence came to the door to see just what had caused his affable friend to become mute. He recognized the lovely vision in the doorway as one of the woman with whom Jack had traveled the day before. "I regret, we have not been properly introduced Miss. I am George Hammond, this is Ernst Pratt and the Doctor is Daniel Ballard. How may we be of service?"

Glancing past the three men in her immediate view and spying a rumpled figure sprawled on the bed, she replied, "I am Desdemona Stewart I am an acquaintance of the Colonel's. I have come to offer my help in caring for him. The steward Skeeter has informed me of his collapse."

Dr. Daniel Ballard had known many gentle women who'd uttered similar statements, but in his experience few had the stamina to deal with what lay before them. Looking deeply into the woman's eyes, he thought he had found one of the rare ones. "Do you have any experience in caring for a man with infected wounds Miss Stewart?"

"Unfortunately Dr. Ballard, I do. My Grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee healer and many warriors sought her help while I was growing up in her care. I was taught many things in those years." The look on her face made all three of the men concerned for this beauty. She had not had an easy life it seemed. The plight of woman such as herself was wrought with mistreatment and prejudice. "The wound is badly infected?"

"Yes, and I fear, I am unsure as to how best treat it. It had some form of gray matter clinging to it, as well as, the usual purulent drainage. Probing it and opening the old stitches revealed the spearhead from a war lance, which caused the wound and left behind a good sized fragment."

Noting the dawn of anger in her eyes, he continued, "That, and the obviously gross negligence of whatever hack treated him initially, may cost him his life. I do not have a magic cure for an infection this far gone." So saying, he stepped back and motioned her into the sickroom.

Stepping fully into the room, she began rolling up her sleeves. "I will look at it. Many of my Grandmother's herbal remedies are very effective in treating infections."

Desdemona carefully washed her hands with soap and water at the basin. "I think I can explain the gray matter. We stopped at a weigh station just before Sheridan and the woman there coaxed the Colonel into allowing her to cleanse the wound. She told me, he'd requested she smear the mold from bread into the wound, stating that it was an old Indian remedy. Guessing that he knew something she did not, she obliged him." That information had further endeared the Colonel to her. He had obvious respect for her ancestors' ways, which was indeed a rare thing in her world. All business, Desdemona moved the dressing aside and examined the wound. "I will need a few things Gentlemen."

Ernst, quickly regaining his tongue, offered his own, as well as his friend and partner's, assistance in gathering the items she listed. "My partner Janos Bartok is a scientist and most adept in procuring most items. He may even have what we need in his lab. May I escort you there for a look around?" While he genuinely wished to help the embattled Colonel, assisting her in this way would give him time alone with the lady. Desdemona had unknowingly, made quite an impression on his long protected heart.

Gazing up at the man with a smile, she noted that he looked a great deal like the Colonel, a man whom she had so recently allowed to invade her affections. This man is more than he seems, she thought. She admired his good looks, as well as his concern for the stricken man. "I would be most grateful for your assistances, sir. Are you quite sure your partner will oblige?"

"Janos will be pleased and excited. He is forever seeking to add to his knowledge and enjoys experimentation. I will freshen up quickly. Then return with a conveyance to bring us to his lab. Allow me twenty minutes dear lady?" When she smiled and nodded, he turned back to the other two men. "George, Daniel, be easy. We will return posthaste to assist our valiant warrior."

"I will go to my room to collect my things and meet Mr. Pratt. We will hurry gentlemen, rest assured." Desdemona patted George confidently.

Her confidence and their previous knowledge of Professor Bartok's own intellect, reassured the two. The Doctor shooed George along to locate the errant Skeeter for room service, instructing him to eat a meal and freshen up as well. He then redressed the ugly wound and bathed his patient's brow will cooling water. Praying the lovely woman might have an answer and the infection that was tormenting this brave soul would be eradicated quickly.

Jack was fighting to pull himself out of sleep. His body was on fire and his eyelids seemed to weigh a ton. He was vaguely aware that someone was gently washing his face with cool water. Cracking his eyes open, he looked into Daniel's concerned face. "Ah, Danny boy what's happening? Are we in hell again? I feel like I am on fire."

Daniel looked into the fever confused eyes of the Colonel and wondered if he truly was cognizant of just where he was. Did he remember the seventeen-year-old wounded young man that he'd pulled up on his horse in the middle of a battlefield? He would never forget that day. Daniel had thought he truly was in hell:

It was November 24th 1863 and the Battle Above The Clouds raged around him. He took a bullet in his left knee and fell screaming for his mother to the blood soaked earth. The screams of other dying men heightened his fear. And, he had thought that he would be left for dead as the Union line briefly retreated, but he was lucky. A certain battle hardened Captain had other ideas.

"Cracker Jack" O'Neill had a reputation for never leaving a man behind. He had heard the boy cry out. Kneeing his mount close enough to grab the youngster by the scruff of his uniform, he'd pull him up in front of himself. Battling his way through the throng of embattled men, he had taken the lad to the field hospital. Taking in the carnage spread before him in what one laughingly referred to as a hospital, he refused to allow the orderly to take the boy directly to the surgeon. Knowing all too well that such an action would buy the boy one leg. So instead, he had found the young battlefield nurse who had dressed his own wounds that morning. She had a gift, he had found, for handling the overworked field surgeons and tending wounds properly.

It was into her compassionate hands, that he'd placed the young soldier's care and Daniel would be forever grateful. That young nurse had become his wife. She was a great nurse to him and to all his own many patients over the years. Had times been different, she would have been his colleague as well. He wished Jan were here now, instead of back east visiting with her folks. "You are suffering from fever Jack. The wound in your shoulder is infected."

"Guess my home made penicillin didn't work. Janet will be disappointed. Where is she Danny?"

Surprised Jack still retained such a clear memory, Daniel responded, "She went back east with our son Jack. She's visiting her folks."

"What? When did you two marry … just where am I?" Jack was getting really confused. He did not hear any of the usual SGC infirmary sounds, which he was used to hearing upon awakening. Actually Daniel looked different too. This Daniel had brown eyes and black hair, shot with premature gray streaks. What the hell! He was still in the dream!

"You are in Sheridan, Colorado Colonel. You are resting in the hotel suite of your friend George Hammond. Do you remember anything about last night? I took a fragment of the spearhead that caused your wound out and retreated your infected shoulder."

Seeing Jack's eyes droop closed once more he soothed "Rest Jack, you'll feel better soon." He hoped that his statement was indeed the truth. Homemade penicillin? Just what was that? He had not heard of such a remedy? Perhaps the lovely Desdemona might have that answer.

Desdemona had at first been unsure she would ride in the "conveyance" that Mr. Pratt neatly pulled up in front of the Hotel. It looked somewhat like a miniature steam engine. He called it a velocipede and informed her that Professor Bartok had invented it, after Ernst had described such a device in one of his books. Ernst referred to it as a land rover.

When she had remarked on her ignorance of his having been an author, Ernst had spent the time it took to drive outside the city to Bartok's lab regaling her with his stories, filled with the exploits of one Nicodemus Legend. She had heard of Legend, but had assumed he was a myth. Ernst, as he insisted she call him, had merely smiled and set about informing her of the nature of his partnership with the Professor.

It was through his fictitious character's exploits that he had, at first hesitantly, accepted the assistance and interventions of Professor Janos Bartok. The Professor had been a fan of the fictional hero Legend and had elected himself inventor of all the wondrous gadgets, which Ernst had so whimsically described. Seemed that Legend preferred inventing gadgets to thwart evildoers. Finding that the inventions did indeed work, the two had teamed up to become Legend! And had ever since fought crime wherever they found it.

She was impressed. She enjoyed Ernst storytelling style, as well as, the fact he had chosen to be a true "Palladian of the Prairie" and "Knight of the Rockies." Thus, the journey flew by quickly.

They found the Professor hard at work with his assistant Ramos creating another gadget. After introductions all around, the four set to work to collect the various herbs and wild flowers, which Desdemona insisted she would need?

Luckily, Ramos was an avid botanist and chemist, for he had actually stored many of the more obscure items, intending them for his future experimentation. The diligence of all four, led to quick progress and within the morning they had a poultice and a tea ready to "eradicate the offending organism causing the infection," as the Professor put it.

The foursome had further agreed that once the Colonel had made a full recovery they would all go on a picnic to celebrate. And of course, the gentlemen would be in the front row of the opera house for her performance Friday night. After that, she and Ernst drove the land rover at top speed back to the hotel and the awaiting Dr. Ballard.

Desdemona applied the poultice directly to the angry wound in the Colonel's shoulder. Explaining the ingredients and their healing properties to the Doctor, she sought his assistance in getting their patient to drink the tea.

Jack came around slightly when the tea was poured into his throat. Instructed to "swallow it all" by a husky female voice, he thought it was Janet Fraiser and drank as much as his sick stomach could hold. At first, he thought he'd heave it up again, but slowly it settled, and he drifted back into the oblivion of fevered sleep.

"We must make sure he drinks as much of the tea as he can hold. It contains willow bark, cattails and a form of fungi that has worked to eradicate many infections before." Seeing the look of interest on the Doctor's face Desdemona continued, "Over the years Indian medicines have saved many warriors from such infections. White men could learn much if they would only look beyond taught prejudices and see that the native peoples relationship to nature has brought great wisdom."

"If this works Miss Stewart, I will be very grateful. I hope you will be kind enough to teach me all that your grandmother taught you. I am always looking for more answers to my many questions. No matter where those answers may be found." Dr. Ballard said sincerely.

"It will work, but only if we do our part, Doctor." She smiled. "I will be most happy to teach all I know to a man who seeks wisdom."

Another new friendship had been forged.

Twenty-four hours later, Jack's fever finally broke. The poultice had done its job and drawn the infection out of his wound. The Doctor, George and Desdemona, each took shifts to watch over him. Ernst had had a speaking engagement in Denver and so; a telegram was forwarded to him enlightening him on the Colonel's rapid improvement.

Some ten hours later, a slightly lightheaded Jack O'Neill woke up. Only to find he was still, by the look of things, a visitor in the old west. The woman who would one day be his great, great Grandmother was asleep in the chair beside his bed. Gazing blearily around the room, he noted the obvious signs.

Signs, which indicated she had been the husky voice that had encouraged him to drink that foul tasting tea. It had made him feel better, so he'd forgive her. Not wanting to startle her awake, he took in her sleeping features, committing them to his memory. She was far more beautiful than her photographs revealed. He knew, because he had quite a collection packed away in his attic, along with other items of memorabilia. 'Well,' he thought wryly, 'If I have to be here in this dream, this hallucination, at least I am getting to know my ancestors.'

The door opened and the man who was and wasn't Daniel, walked into the room. Taking in the sleeping woman, he smiled. Swinging his gaze toward his patient, he was surprised to find Jack awake. "It is good to have you back amongst the living. You gave us quite a scare. If it were not for the herbal medicines of this dear lady you may not have recovered at all." Seeing the lack of recognition on Jack's face, he continued, "Do you remember me sir? I am Dr. Daniel Ballard and you are in your Hotel room in Sheridan, Colorado."

Jack decided that honesty was the best tactic to use in this situation.

"I am confused Doc. Last thing I remember, George and I were leaving the saloon."

Noting the slight disappointment on the other man's face, Jack realized the other O'Neill must have known this Daniel before. "Do I know you Doc?"

Shaking his head at his own naïveté Daniel responded, "Fever will rob many of clear memory sir. Yes, we did know each other, but I am not sure if you would remember me. We met in the midst of a battlefield. I was wounded and you pulled me up on your horse, taking me to safety. I am happy to finally be able to express my gratitude for all that you have done for me Colonel, Sir."

Sensing that this young man had a need to tell him more about it, Jack prompted, "So where and when was this battle son?"

"Lookout Mountain Tennessee Sir. November 1863."

The dawning recognition on Jack's face, led Daniel to tell his hero everything that had happened that day; all about his struggle to recover, his marriage to Janet and their son, whom they had named after his father's hero.

Daniel Ballard not only thanked Jack once again for saving his leg and quite possibly his life, he informed him that it had been O'Neill who had been instrumental in his having become a healer. He had wanted to save others just as "Cracker Jack" O'Neill had saved him all those years before.

When the man had finished, Jack was impressed. He knew a great deal about the battle this man described. Tactics was a must for any officer and he had studied many of the Civil War battle plans. The Colonel O'Neill of this time was a good egg. He would have liked to serve with him. The man who stood before him now, with such open admiration, deserved some kind of response to all he had imparted. "I am very happy to have helped you out Doc. It would appear you have done the same for me."

"I cannot really claim full responsibility, sir. This lady," he pointed to the sleeping Desdemona "as well as your friends George and Ernst, played a pivotal role. They will be most gratified you have recovered."

"Just what day is it Doc? I promised the lady there I would attend her opening performance at the opera house on Friday night."

"Not to worry sir. Today is Thursday and if you rest quietly, we may well have you up and around to attend. I think she would like that." Daniel smiled, thinking Ernst would most likely be sure that he too was in attendance. Looks like our Mr. Pratt has competition.

Just then the lady in question awoke. Seeing the Colonel awake, she smiled a dazzling smile. "Jack you are awake! Praise be to the Lord! The herbs worked. Doctor, he should continue the tea for another five days in order to fully recover."

"I understand that I have you to thank for my recovery Miss Stewart. My deepest thanks." Jack whispered gratefully.

"You may call me Desdemona. It is with great joy I take my leave of you gentlemen. Now that our Colonel is awake, it would not be considered good taste for me to remain in his room. I will inform George that you are awake Jack." Leaning over, she kissed Jack's lightly bearded cheek. Both men watched her with open appreciation as she took her leave.

Following a profitable morning in his tobacco shop, George returned briskly to the hotel, anxious to check on Jack. As he ascended the two flights of stairs, he caught sight of Miss Stewart just leaving Jack's room.

Desdemona noted the kindly retired General's presence, motioning him forward with a smile. "He is awake and his fever has broken. I must rest now. I have a five o'clock rehearsal to attend, in order to prepare for my performance tomorrow. I do so hope you will bring Jack along to the opening if he is able?"

George was relieved to hear his friend was recovering. "Jack will most likely expect for us to be seated in the front row. I will check in on him and then hasten to the Opera house and procure our tickets."

Sobering, he took the dear lady's hand in his and bowed slightly, "I am forever in your debt Miss Stewart. If not for your kindness I may well have lost a very dear old friend. Thank you."

"I am most happy that all our care has proved fruitful General and I am gratified to have made several new friends as well. I shall look forward to your presence in the front row tomorrow. Friendly faces will help lessen the butterflies I usually get whenever I perform in a new place." With that, she took her leave of him.

Entering the room, George noted that Jack looked almost his old self.

Now that his patient was no longer in danger, Dr. Ballard was packing up his black bag and preparing to take his leave. "Remember Sir, you are to rest. Take several more glasses of the healing tea each day for another five days. There is a large pitcher of it on the dresser. I will bring more when I check your dressings again in the morning. If you need me, please do not hesitate to send for me." Nodding a quick hello to George, he left knowing that the General would be more than capable of looking after the Colonel.

Jack soon realized that this dream General Hammond was just as formidable as his own. He had insisted Jack not only drink the foul tea, but consume a large bowl of broth. Jack so hated broth! It was patently clear, he would be allowed few options and so, he finished the whole bowl. Feeling stiff he'd wanted to get up and stretch his legs, but the General would have none of it. Instead insisting Jack was to take another lengthy nap. So it was well after 1700 that his former C.O., escorted him down to the main dining room for a light supper.

Jack refused to admit that the nap had been necessary; he still felt rung out from his fight with the infection. The hotel dinning room was a buzz with conversation, at least till he stepped into the room. The sudden silence grated on him. Jack so hated to be the center of attention.

Young Thomas Carter rushed forward and snagged his hero around the thigh, almost toppling him over, squealing "Oh Colonel I knew you would be alright! I told Mother you would be. Didn't I Mother?"

Much to Jack's dismay, the entire dining room erupted with fond laughter, as the boy's Mother gently pulled him off his hero. "Thomas let the poor Colonel take his seat, he must still be weak from his experience." Smiling up at Jack she continued, "Thomas has been beside himself with worry, Colonel. It was all I could do to keep him from hounding Dr. Ballard and the General to death, whenever they left your side. We are all happy you have recovered. Come Thomas and finish your supper." She scolded gently, leading the reluctant eight-year-old back to their table.

Skeeter appeared at Jack's side with a request that he and George join Miss Stewart, at her table near the window. Consenting, they followed him a short distance to a cozy table set for four. Desdemona was already seated facing the entry so she could catch sight of all who entered the room. She smiled at the two men. Jack and George each took a seat facing her. "Ernst will be along shortly. He was most happy to hear you have recovered Jack. And, he insisted that we all must celebrate at once." She smiled fondly. It was quite obvious to both George and Jack that the lady was already very fond of the errant rouge.

Jack was aware he had much to thank Ernst for, as well as the Professor and his assistant Ramos. George had filled him in on the events, which he had missed while in the "clutches" of fever. Suddenly, he was looking forward to the supper. After all, how many people get a chance to observe their great, great grandparents courtship first hand? This dream or whatever it was, sure was event filled. He realized, he had to be very careful not to say anything, which might reveal just how much he really knew regarding the events about to unfold. Silently praying this was not a result of sudden insanity, Jack's musings were interrupted by the arrival of the ever-gregarious Mr. Pratt.

"Desdemona you are a vision." Bending to kiss her hand, Ernst took his seat at her side. Turning an attentive gaze upon Jack, he covertly noted the Colonel's continued pallor and signs of residual fatigue on the man's face. "So glad to see you are progressing Jack. We will not linger over our meal. I'm sure all of us will wish to retire early after our event filled week. Personally I want to be in top form tomorrow. Wouldn't want fatigue to prevent my full enjoyment of the Opera, or Desdemona's performance."

Ernst graced the fair lady with his most dazzling smile. "When I stopped at the opera house in order to procure my front row seat, I was privileged to hear only a small portion this afternoon and yet, I was transcended to a heavenly plain by the glorious strains of her lovely contralto voice."

"Flattery seems to be one of your many gifts Ernst." Desdemona laughed lightly. "George, were you able to obtain tickets for both Jack and yourself?"

"I did indeed. The ticket seller informed me that I was the lucky buyer of the last two, dear lady. It seems, that someone had just bought up the remainder of the aisle." He looked pointedly at Ernst, a wry smile on his face. "Do you really need so many tickets Ernst?"

"Now George, you know I purchased tickets for the Professor and Ramos as well. The Mayor snapped up the other three front row seats. In fact, I just ran into the Mayor; he confirmed that it is a sold out performance! You are already a hit here in Sheridan, Desdemona."

"Indeed she is." George agreed. "The whole town is a twitter with expectation. We've not seen an artist of your caliber in many weeks Miss Stewart. It is rare for anyone to garner such attention, and so quickly. Your generous care of the Colonel helped further your reputation. Along with Ernst bragging over your…talents." 'Oops,' he thought. 'It wouldn't do for him to let on that Ernst had been listing her various 'attractions' to the patrons of the Buffalo Head Saloon. She was a lady after all.'

Noting George's sudden discomfort, Desdemona, being a woman of the world and already well aware of Ernst's roguish nature, hid a smile, feigning innocence. "Oh how kind you are! Ernst, I hope all your exaggerated praise will not lead to disappointed in my performance."

Raising his eyebrow with exaggerated affront, Ernst denied such a possibility. "After hearing you this afternoon my dear Desdemona, I assure you, I will be accused of withholding praise. You are a superb talent, my dear. Now let us order our supper and begin our modest celebration."

Throwing a concerned look Jack's way, he added, "The Colonel must be famished!"

With all eyes now turned upon him, Jack grimaced. "I'll confess: The broth I was forced to consume for lunch did little to satisfy me."

"Waiter, bring us your finest champagne and a menu, if you please." Ernst instructed the hovering Skeeter. "Dinner, my friends, is my treat. What do you recommend tonight, Skeeter?"

Dinner progressed pleasantly for the four new friends and they found they had many shared interests. Music was the foremost topic of the evening, much to Jack's relief. He knew quite a bit about opera and was himself, a bit of a connoisseur. Despite his lingering fatigue, he found himself looking forward to his lovely companion's performance tomorrow.

The evening moved along quickly and soon Jack's eyelids began to droop. He was exhausted, although, he would never admit it.

Desdemona had been keeping a close eye on the gallant Colonel and she noted his waning attention. It was obvious to her that he was struggling to stay awake and so rising from her chair; she bid them all a fond goodnight.

Promising to arrive early the following afternoon to escort her to the opera house, Ernst also departed.

As the dining room was all but deserted, Jack felt relaxed enough to admit his fatigue to his friend. Together, he and George mounted the two fights of stairs to Jack's room. Shortly thereafter, following a draught of the medicinal tea, Jack succumbed to the oblivion of sleep.

The sounds of the bustling town woke Jack and he gingerly stretched his stiffened muscles. The pain in his shoulder had lessened into a dull ache. The effects of the fever and his days in bed, had left his normally athletic body somewhat weakened, so he decided to take a walk and drink in some fresh air before breakfast.

Meeting up with George in the hall, the two proceeded to the hotel lobby. George was still concerned. And worried that Jack, was as usual, over estimating his strength, but agreed a morning walk would go a long way in helping Jack to regain his usual vigor.

As they walked out into the bright sunlight, a small tornado named Thomas barreled into Jack, almost knocking him off his feet. Luckily, he was able to snag the hitching rail with his good arm and saved himself from a fall into the dusty street. Feeling the familiar popping of stitches ignite new agony in his shoulder, Jack attempted to ignore the pain. "Whoa there Tom where is the fire?"

"Oh, Colonel." The boy wheezed out. "Mr. Titus sent me to ask what you'd like him to do about old Zeus? He has been stabling him while you were ill and wants your permission to shoe him, Sir. He says his shoes are all worn out."

'Ah youth,' Jack thought. 'Always in hurry.' The kid reminded him of another, a big eyed blonde lad whom Jack still missed greatly everyday. "Lead on Tom, we will address this urgent matter immediately!" As they walked along, Jack remembered his promise that Tom could ride old Zeus and knew that he would have to fulfill that promise soon.

As they approached the stable, Jack spied a small curly haired blonde girl of about seven, trailing along behind them. Nudging George, he stopped and turned to fully look at her. The little gal seemed familiar somehow.

Thomas, realizing he was trudging on alone, as the two adults had stopped, turned to see why. Catching sight of the girl, he rushed over and pulled her in front of the two astonished men.

She was a lovely child with all those golden curls and huge sky blue eyes. "This is my friend Samantha. She wants to ride old Zeus too. I told her only boys can ride such a big horse and that girls can only ride ponies. She always wants to do what I do, Colonel." Thomas complained. "She says she is going to marry me someday." The look on his face was one of disgust.

Jack fought to contain his smile. 'Oh someday young fella,' he thought, 'You'll enjoy this kind of attention.' "Well Tom, we gentlemen have to be kind and considerate with the ladies. I don't see why your little friend cannot ride up behind you. After all, Zeus's saddle is big enough to carry both of you."

Thomas was not sure he really understood just what the Colonel meant by considerate. But if his hero wanted him to look after Samantha, he would. He took her hand in his and the four continued to the stables and blacksmith shop.

As they entered the shop, the ringing of metal against metal greeted them. A heavily muscled black man was busy forging horseshoes over an open forge. Jack almost forgot that he was still in the dream. Luckily, he bit back a greeting just in time as George said, "You remember Titus Jack? The best blacksmith our post ever had, I was surprised myself when I retired here and found old Titus had set up shop."

'The man is a ringer for Teal'c. Except for the full head of thick white hair, a few wrinkles and the lack of a tattoo, it is Teal'c,' he thought. "Titus, I want to thank you for looking after my mount for me."

"You are most welcome O'Neill. He needs new shoes. I sent the boy to inquire if you would like it done."

"I would indeed, sir." Reaching into his pocket Jack extracted two five dollar gold pieces and handed them over to the man. "Will this cover it?"

"Indeed. Zeus will be well cared for O'Neill." He sounded Just like the big Jaffa. It was difficult for Jack to believe, that this man would be long dead in Jack's own time and place.

"Once he is ready, I promised Tom here, he and the little lady could ride him. Would you mind making sure they don't wander too far?"

"I will make sure they are kept safe O'Neill, never fear." Titus spoke with the same understated dignity, Jack was used to hearing from his warrior brother.

Smiling Jack nodded, some things never changed.

Despite the fresh air and morning constitutional Jack still felt worn out and slightly nauseated. Trudging along wearily, he and George returned to the hotel. After consuming a light breakfast of toast and coffee, he headed back to his room to rest and await the arrival of Dr. Ballard. Assuring George that he was fine, he insisted his friend go and open his shop for business.

Doctor Ballard arrived promptly at 0900 and knocked on Jack's door. When he received no immediate answer, he checked and found the door unlocked. Venturing inside, he found the Colonel asleep. Waking him gently he was relieved to see the Colonel clear-eyed.

Jack was mildly embarrassed he'd dosed off. "Guess I was sicker than I thought Doc. I wouldn't normally admit this, but I am exhausted."

"That is to be expected. Actually, most men would still be recovering in bed instead of strolling around town well before breakfast." Ballard reassured him, with a bemused smile.

"So, who is the spy?" Jack wondered just where the Doctor got his intel.

"Ah. A number of admiring citizens have been kind enough to regale me with your exploits. You see Colonel; you are somewhat of a celebrity. We haven't had a true military hero in Sheridan since Custer came to meet with Legend, about two years back. I was informed about your supper celebration last evening, as well. The fact is, everything you do while here will be the subject of gossip, I'm afraid."

'Sweet little grapevine,' he thought. Jack was far from thrilled with this news; he would have preferred to keep a low profile. "Gee Doc that is just peachy."

Daniel Ballard laughed, understanding written on his features. "Try to handle it gracefully, sir. I realize it is unwanted attention, but the folks mean well. Now lets have a look at that wound."

Removing Jack's shirt, he was displeased to find fresh blood and drainage on the dressing. Discarding the now useless dressing, he noted the torn stitches and asked, "How did this happen?"

When the Colonel merely shrugged, he continued, "You need to take greater care, sir. This wound will never heal if you do not give it time and proper care. I don't think you fully realize just how close you came to meeting your maker, Colonel."

Unfortunately, those were words Jack O'Neill had heard at least a dozen times before, from another Doctor in his own reality. It wasn't that he thought himself invincible; he just figured his time wasn't up yet. Seeing the distress on the well-meaning Doc's face, Jack promised to rest the rest of the day. However, he informed the man that he would definitely take in the performance at the opera house. "I promised Desdemona I'd be there and I will be. No arguing Doc."

"I don't see the harm in that, Colonel. I have a front row seat myself. Mayor Brown was kind enough to purchase my ticket as a gift from the town council, in thanks for my part in your recovery. So I'll be there to keep an eye on you."

Noting Jack's look of disgust, Dr. Ballard redressed the wound without further comment, and then left the Colonel to his rest.

'I'll just close my eyes and rest a bit,' Jack thought, covering his eyes with his good arm. Before long, he was soundly asleep once more.

The small Opera house was packed. Not a seat was empty. Jack scanned the program he'd received at the door. The concert tonight would consist of several arias and some old standards. Most of Desdemona's credentials were familiar to him. He'd been aware that in her time, she'd been considered an artist of some renown. He had been unaware however, that she had recently entertained the President and Mrs. Grant. The lady was quite down to earth; one would never have imagined from her demeanor that, she had traveled in such lofty circles; a fact, which caused him familial pride.

Ernst was beside himself with anticipation. He had introduced Professor Bartok and Ramos to Jack, allowing that without their help, he could never have assisted Desdemona with her herbal curatives. Jack thanked them warmly, and the gentlemen chatted politely till the first curtain call. Then they had hurried to their seats.

Jack tucked the program in his shirt pocket and sat back to enjoy himself. Desdemona was lovely in a pale blue and ivory creation. At her waist, she wore the nosegay of fresh violets that Ernst had sent all the way to Denver for. She had an angelic voice and incredible range. Jack, as well as the entire assembly, was impressed. 'This fantastic,' he thought 'I'm hearing a voice that had been stilled for over a hundred years.'

The crowd gave Desdemona a standing ovation. As a result, she had at least a half dozen encores. Afterward, she bid her admirers a polite goodnight. Then it was off to a quiet supper with Ernst in a private dining room at the Hotel.

Jack, his shoulder giving him trouble once more, accepted a nightcap of hard whiskey from a concerned George. And then, took himself off to attempt sleep.

Sleeping the sleep of the dreamless, he awoke to a pounding at his door. Staggering to his feet, he opened the portal to reveal a hysterical Mrs. Carter. "Colonel have you seen my Thomas? His bed has not been slept in. I have looked everywhere for him and cannot find him. I thought he might have come to see you. You are all he has talked about lately. Colonel I am beside myself with worry. My husband is due on the ten o'clock Train and he will be most displeased."

The fear in her voice was mixed with dread. Causing Jack to wonder if the Marshall had little tolerance for his son's high-spirited ways and just what his "displeasure" would entail. He liked the kid. If he could help Thomas, as well as his Mother, avoid the Marshall's wrath by finding him, he would.

After hastily donning his rumpled uniform, Jack strode down to the stable following a hunch that the kid was there.

He wasn't. And neither was Jack's horse. Titus informed him that the boy had offered to walk the tense gelding around town to give him some exercise. As Jack had already given his permission to the boy to ride Zeus, Titus saw no harm in it. After reassuring Titus that it was fine with him, Jack started to look around the small town for the errant boy.

It was almost ten before he finally found Thomas. The lad was sitting proudly astride his horse, showing off for little Samantha and a group of boys, near the railroad station. Catching a glimpse of Mrs. Carter, who was already walking to meet her husband, he waved to her. Looking his way, she followed the extended finger Jack pointed her son's direction and nodded. Just then, the train blew it's whistled as it pulled into the station. Unhappily, the shrill blast spooked the already nervous gelding and it took off at a gallop. Terrified, Thomas clung to the saddle horn.

Jack reacted quickly. Snagging a nearby stallion, he vaulted into the saddle and took off at breakneck speed. Despite the sling impeding his movements, he managed to catch up to the boy at the end of town. Pulling Thomas from the saddle, he held him close as he slowed the borrowed horse to a trot. Breathing a sigh of relief, he returned the child to his frightened Mother.

Easing the weeping youngster down from the high saddle into his Mother's embrace, Jack was surprised when someone pulled him from the saddle. Before he could react, his assailant punched him in the face.

Jack staggered, but somehow stayed on his feet despite the blow.

"Damn horse thief I'll teach you." A voice filled with anger and hatred said drunkenly. "You soldier types think because your wearing a uniform, you own the world."

Jack was still reeling from the blow he'd taken, when the angry man shoved his six-shooter into his chest and fired. The searing pain forced Jack to his knees and the world spun out of focus. The last thing he saw before tumbling into total darkness was the tear stained face of young Thomas. 'Please don't cry for me Tom,' he thought. Then he knew no more.


Cassandra had been sitting at Uncle Jack's bedside for almost a full week now, desperately hoping he would wake up.

Last Saturday morning, she had awakened screaming from a nightmare about Jack, her heart pounding in her chest with fear. It had seemed so very real. She'd been frantically looking around her room trying to locate him when her Mother Janet burst in. After a sobbing discussion, Janet tried to reassure her that it had been a dream. Unconvinced, Cassandra had insisted that they hurry over to Jack's house at once and check on him. Janet had at first tried to soothe her, but Cassie was relentless. She was sure that "Uncle" Jack was in very real danger. So Janet, just to calm her, tried to phone Jack.

When her attempts to reach him at his home and by cell phone failed, Janet herself become worried. Since he'd been instructed that due to his injury, he was not suppose to drive, she phoned the rest of SG-1, one after the other hoping that he was with one of them. Each had expressed concern, but had no idea where he was. Alarmed, they'd each headed to Jack's to check up on him.

Janet's was the closest to the Colonel's. Hence, she and Cassie arrived first, with Daniel close on their heels. Jack's truck was parked in the drive. His front door unlocked. Spreading out, they searched the house for him without success. By then, Sam had arrived with Teal'c in tow. Janet hastily filled the two in, while Cassie ran out onto the deck.

The youngster resisted the urge to scream when she found Jack sprawled beneath the ladder that led to his roof top refuge. She reached out to touch his pale face anxiously calling his name and found it cold. Despite her fear, Cassie quickly checked his carotid pulse just as she had been taught in CPR class and found he had a steady rhythm. Crying tears of both fear and relief, she screamed for her Mother and the rest of their extended family.

The others rushed outside and were met by the sight of Cassie cradling Jack's bloody head in her lap, weeping loudly. "I told you Mom I knew he was in trouble. I saw him get shot right in the heart!"

Kneeling beside the two, Janet began a quick assessment of the injured man. "Honey I told you it was a dream. I don't see any gunshot wounds. I think he lost his footing and fell. With his right arm in the sling it wouldn't be easy for him to catch himself."

Continuing her exam she noted he was wet to his skin, cold, and had a gash on the back of his head. "He must have laid here quite awhile in the morning rain. The bleeding has all but stopped. Unfortunately, it looks like he may have done more damage to that shoulder. We need to get him to the SGC now. Daniel alert the base and get the medics to bring out a backboard and neck collar. I don't want to move him until then. Teal'c, we need to wrap him in blankets right away."

"Oh no, Mom I moved his head. Did I hurt him more?" Cassie asked through her tears. If she had hurt Uncle Jack, she would never forgive herself!

"No honey, no. Everything feels intact. I just want to be extra careful till I can run a few tests. Jack is a tough man, he will be fine, he just had a hard knock to his head." She hoped, her little speech to calm her daughter down was indeed the truth.

Less than twenty minutes later, the medics had carefully placed Jack's inert form on a backboard and applied the collar. They'd rushed him by chopper to the base and then down to infirmary.

En-route they stripped him of his wet jacket and tee shirt, started an intravenous infusion of warmed saline, and bundled him in warmed blankets. His temperature, despite hours in the cold drizzling rain that morning, was only a few degrees below normal. She was amazed to find after all the tests had been run, that he had only a small laceration needing eight stitches, a mild concussion and had indeed, once again dislocated his right shoulder. These were minor injuries for someone as tough as the Colonel and Janet was baffled when he'd remained unconscious. Usually he would rouse sometime during an exam complaining that she was a Napoleonic Power Monger, or make some other wiseacre remark, all in an attempt to make light of her concern; but not that day, or the next.

After twenty-four hours with no response from him, she'd run an EEG to determine what, if any, damage had been done to his brain. It came back normal for someone deep in REM sleep. In fact, he had been in the REM state for the remainder of the week, a finding, which was highly abnormal. Usually human beings stayed in the REM phase of sleep for a few minutes, or perhaps at most a few hours, not days!

They'd tried everything they could think of to wake him up.

Daniel tried lecturing on the most boring of his subjects at the top of his lungs for hours, without success.

General Hammond and Janet each tried ordering the sleeping man to "REPORT AIRMAN!" no response.

When no one else was around, Sam tried begging him to "wake up and look at me please, please Jack", but he slept on. She even tried lying to him that Earth was under attack by the Gould, to no avail.

Teal'c seemed to realize that O'Neill would wake up when he was ready. So, he merely stayed by his side attempting to protect him in his sleep. Cassie came everyday after school. She'd sit by his side, holding his cool hand and talked to her Uncle Jack about her day. Her Mother said if Jack would wake up for anyone it would be her. Disappointed when he'd slept on, she had maintained her vigil.

In a few hours it would have been a full week that Colonel Jack O'Neill insomniac, had slept in a constant phase of REM sleep. His only voluntary movement had been that of his eyes, moving sporadically behind closed lids.

Cassie was sitting beside him, silently crying tears of fear and frustration. The only sounds in the small room were those made by the monitors that he was connected to. He looked so peaceful lying there; she had never seen him so silent before.

In the past when she had visited him while he was recovering from injuries, he was always moving in his sleep, or awake. This was so disconcerting! Cassie was at a loss, as to how to handle it anymore. 'He is never going to never wake up!' she thought. 'Whom will I talk to about the things Mom doesn't understand?' Jack had been a surrogate father to her for almost seven years now. 'Who will protect me when I am in trouble or afraid?' "Uncle Jack Please wake up!" She pleaded once more. Just then, the monitors he was connected to began to alarm loudly.

Dr. Janet Frazier was in the middle of a phone conference with a sleep disorder specialist, when the alarms went off in the Colonel's room. She rushed to the infirmary, arriving at the same time as SG-1. Several nurses had also responded to the alarms and were busy placing a backboard under Jack's back in preparation for CPR.

"He has gone flat line Dr. Frazier." Captain Kris Martin said with obvious shock.

Cassie was still at Jack's side. That announcement, along with the knowledge one gains having a Medical Doctor for a parent, increased her tears. One huge tear slipped heavily down her cheek and dropped onto Jack's still face. It rolled along, and slipped into the crease where dimples had once resided.

Janet applied protective gel to Jack's exposed chest. "We have a code blue people! Charge the paddles to two hundred joules!"

Jack felt the warm teardrop slide along his cheek. He struggled to wake up. His chest hurt and it was hard to breath. Hearing a sobbing voice calling his name, he put everything he had into it and opened his eyes. As he did so, the monitor above him started to sound a steady beat, indicating a normal heart rhythm. Expecting to see young Tom, he took in the crowd hovering around him, with confusion. Hadn't he just been shot point blank in the chest? Hadn't he just died? Wait a minute this was the SGC. He was home! He gazed around at the faces surrounding him, the shock and concern in their expressions clearly evident. His search stopped abruptly, when he took in Cassie's tear stained and sad smile. "Hey honey what did I miss?"

Despite the gel and his almost naked state, Cassie threw herself on Jack's chest, hugging him with all her considerable teenage might. "Oh Uncle Jack, I thought I'd lost you! You had us all so worried! How could you sleep so long?"

Wincing slightly, due to the sudden weight on his tender shoulder, Jack hugged her back with his good arm, and a sigh of contentment escaped him. Looking toward Janet, one eyebrow raised quizzically, he requested, "Fill me in Doc."

Janet Frazier relaxed and smiled. At last, this was more like the Colonel O'Neill they all knew and loved. She proceeded to regale him with the past week's events. Refusing to minimize the concern he had caused his friends and teammates…his extended family.

At that precise moment, General George Hammond, Commander of the SGC arrived. Taking in the scene, he felt relief rush through him. 'Finally,' he thought, 'Our invincible Colonel is awake.' His fondness for the man, as well as his relief colored his inquiry; "So Jack, where exactly have you been for the past week?"

Knowing he had an audience, Jack schooled his face into one of innocence as he remembered his time in the dream of the old west. "I was having one sweet dream, Sir." He replied with his usual sarcastic humor. "And you where there," he said turning his head, smiling at each one of the participants in turn "…and you where there..."

'Oh Jack, don't be such an ass!' Daniel thought. He had no way of knowing that the quote, was in fact, so appropriate. It was just like Jack to make light of such a serious situation and it irked him somehow. He looked around to see if the others felt the same way. And noted Sam's attempt to hide a grin. Teal'c quietly raised his left eyebrow, with a humorous gleam in his eye; The General was openly smirking, while Janet laughed lightly. 'Well at least Jack is awake! From the sound of it, he's his old self once again.' Oddly touched, Daniel realized that his irritation was really just his worry and fear. He'd been afraid that Jack would never be himself.

Daniel succumbed to his genuine relief and his own sense of irony. "Is that all you have to say for yourself Jack?"

During this discourse, Cassie who was still hugging Jack possessively had curled up on the bed beside him and snuggled up against his side. Her soft snores alerted the group that she had fallen into an exhausted sleep.

Apparently, the long week of worry had caught up with the still growing young girl's body.

Jack smiled fondly and placed a light kiss on her head, then shifted her inert form to a more comfortable position, whispering, "There is no place like home."

The End