Morning Shadows

Once again I fight the urge to run up the ramp behind them and throw myself through that damn Stargate. To be with them in body as well as spirit in their life and death struggle. I even went so far as to enter the gear up room. It's a ridiculous, emotion-driven impulse which I should have learned to deal with years ago. Hell, 'thou shalt not travel on off-world missions' is practically carved into my job description, though at the time it was written the scope of my responsibilities was so underestimated as to now be considered farcical. I'm highly considering asking the President to make some modifications, because I can't take this any longer.
The Waiting Game.
Seems it's all I do some days. Doctor Fraiser and I usually commiserate together during the lonely and occasionally bleak hours, trying to keep our minds off the 'what ifs' and the 'how could this have happeneds', which are the inevitable result of a team being long overdue. That's not the case this time. This time the worst-case scenario is a guarantee and my fellow player in the game is among those traveling through the stars.
If I can't go myself, at least I have the comfort of Janet's expertise and skill to bring him home. Hopefully alive. The SFs surrounding me in the 'gateroom are more silent and statuesque than usual, not losing their at-the-ready stance. They all saw, as I did, the condition of Teal'c. Less than an hour ago, he was sprawled on the ramp, soaked in blood, shockingly pale and unable to move by his own power. I thought he was beyond help and that we'd lost him for good. But the blood wasn't his.
Almost even worse than Teal'c, though, was Major Carter's appearance and state of mind. That girl is almost always in control. She wasn't during those chaotic seconds. I can only remember several instances where she wasn't able to manage her emotions, the most prevalent being when we all were led to believe Doctor Jackson had been killed in action. The similarities now to that occasion are disturbing. Back then, Janet told me Major Carter's relation of the events of Doctor Jackson's death was erratic and nearly hysterical. Exactly how I'd describe her behavior, except now the effect is heightened by the blood smeared across her face and clothes. There wasn't even time for her to clean up before the search team ran through the 'gate. I don't think she even realized it was there.
The death of a good friend had been the cause for such overwhelming shock then. I hope death won't be the cause this time. There isn't some alien magic to wipe this away.
How could it not be? From what little was coherent of Major Carter's words, the transpirations on PX9 763 was nothing short of horrific. I've seen first hand what a bull's horns can do to a man and the instant I heard her say Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c and Doctor Jackson were forced to participate in some bizarre ritual involving vaulting over one, I knew. I should never have let them off-world. Damn it. I have to stop thinking about this. Nothing else to think about.
Waiting, watching, worrying.
Triple word score. Janet will never beat that. I suddenly realize I've been standing motionless at the foot of the ramp for too long. I don't know what else to do with myself. There's no way to gauge how long SG3, Janet and Major Carter will be off-world, but I'm certain it won't be more than a half an hour. The colonel's situation is too dire. Unless... No, he can't be dead. Steeped in that denial, I turn from the Stargate and stiffly make my way out of the embarkation room, up the stairs and into my office. Colonel O'Neill can't be dead and Teal'c can't be dying. I keep repeating the same words over and over in my head, allowing myself a few moments of frenzied loss of control. I need to demonstrate only solid leadership to the rest of the facility but here, alone in my office, I can let the mask slip.
Teal'c. The Jaffa's pallid face in the infirmary abruptly inserts itself in front of my eyes. I need to go see how he's doing, but I can't leave. That's not right. Teal'c deserves better. Though I can't leave the 'gate unguarded, I can assemble a team in preparation for a Goa'uld larvae hunt. I have every confidence in Doctor Warner's abilities, but in this line of work, being better safe than sorry isn't a mere clich. SG6 is set to go on a standard recon mission in the morning. I know they're on base and would be more than ready and willing to undertake the mission. Good. This is good. I have a focus now. My hand reaches for the phone without thought.
"Airman, get me SG6. Now," I'm bellowing into the receiver. I don't even check to see if my aide has picked up. He has. "Have them join me in the briefing room immediately."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir."
I'm up and pacing in the briefing room before I even knew I was moving. Odd how that happens during times of stress. Pacing and fretting. Thinking back to the briefing prior to SG1's mission to PX9 763. Strained is the only word that comes close to describing the mood in the room then. I sensed the unease. I'd have had to be quite oblivious not to notice it, actually. I carelessly chalked it up to residual recovery from Major Carter's near death. Like that's the sort of thing to regard with flippancy. Doctor Fraiser was adamant the members of SG1 still appeared to need additional time to cope. Why didn't I listen to her? I always listen to her. What a fool.
That wasn't even 24 hours ago, I realize. I sent them off knowing they weren't ready. Son of a bitch, I need a drink. An unforgivable error, one that may very well cost me two fine men. Both of whom gave me every non-verbal clue known to man to postpone their first off-world venture in a long month's time. Teal'c was downright jittery...for him. If I noticed a change in his countenance, something major was definitely bothering him. I can't usually read Teal'c's emotional states as well at his teammates can. But this time, I saw it. Noted it. Dismissed it. And Col...Jack. The man didn't even crack a joke during Doctor Jackson's presentation. He couldn't have said more using words. A silent Jack O'Neill is generally not a good thing. His focus was on his hands, clasped deceptively loosely on the table in front of him. Silence and lack of eye contact equal badness in a big way. Bad.
Even as I'm wallowing in self-blame, I'm seeing the whole briefing clearly. Seeing what I already knew to be the truth, wishing I could go back in time and change things. Doctor Jackson's arguments were valid and well thought out as is the norm for him, but he didn't show any real passion or interest in what he was saying. He faked it very well, I'll give him that. He's getting better at building his faade, but is not nearly as successful as he thinks. I know he spent more time studying Major Carter than he did the video playback from the MALP. His eyes drew me her in direction, to her mute form sitting among us, but not really there.
It was almost like that damn entity probe was still in her. Or worse, like she was after Jack killed her. Killed her. God, that's painful even to think about. The root of the heavy doubt shadowing every member of SG1. She's been abnormally reserved over the past weeks, almost timid in some situations. The Major Carter I'm used to embraces everything with an enthusiasm that is comparable to Doctor Jackson's. This new Major Carter is a stranger. Jack, Teal'c and Doctor Jackson want to help her back, but each is obviously suffering from misplaced feelings of guilt. And I don't think they know how to deal with their own emotions, which they'd have to do before they can be of any help to her. I thought by sending...I need to stop making excuses for it.
Yes. I knew none of them wanted to go on this mission, but chose to authorize it anyway. Now I'm stuck in limbo, wanting to be on that rescue team and in the infirmary at the same time. Forced away from both. Watching the clock as it could very well be ticking away the last seconds of Jack's life. Or Teal'c's. I suddenly remember. My concern shouldn't be exclusive to them.
//He did
Major Carter's haunted voice as she described how she left Doctor Jackson echoes painfully in my skull. Off for that young man could be very bad indeed. Jack's blood coating both her and Teal'c certainly did nothing in the way of reassuring the civilian member of SG1's success in the endeavor. It's a miracle any of them survived at all. Leaping over a bull twice your size would prove a challenge to the fittest person in the world, and as far as I can tell Teal'c is just that. He didn't make it. Jack is out there bleeding...or already death. How could Doctor Jackson have made it unscathed when such horror befell them? I don't want to be a pessi-
"General, sir?" Major Austen's gruff voice startles me, as does a firm hand on my forearm. "Are you all right, sir?"
Missing time again. Damn. I yank myself from my tortured thoughts and see the whole of SG6 standing before me, all bearing identical expressions of grim concern. It's more than I deserve.
"I'm fine, Major," I quickly answer, drawing my shoulders back as far as I can. I'm pleased to see them suited up for a mission. "I'm assuming you have heard about the situation with SG1?"
"Yes, sir. Word spreads fast," the major confirms.
"I want you ready to embark on a search mission for a new Goa'uld larva for Teal'c, should Doctor Warner be unable to repair the damage done to his. Estimated time of departure is ten minutes, seeing as you're already prepared. I should have an update on Teal'c's condition by then. Until that time, please situate yourselves in the 'gateroom in case the rescue team from PX9 763 returns and requires assistance," I issue the orders like a robot. Or a wind up monkey, banging mechanically on a drum, preprogrammed to fulfill one function. I doubt that monkey ever had to deal with the conflict of emotion raging through me, even as I pretend I'm calm, cool and collected.
Ten minutes. That's not a lot of time. Too much time. Doctor Warner will be able to tell me how severe the damage actually is in less than that. He has to. I'm pacing again as SG6 make their quiet exit. Getting a mite dizzy and there's ringing in my ears. Strange. That's never happened before. I shake my head to try and clear it, but only succeed in making myself more unsteady. Back to my office, sit down. As I approach the open doorway, I realize I'm not hearing ringing in my ears, but in reality. Losing it. This game is really quite unenjoyable when played by yourself. No one to make sure you don't go crazy with guilt and fear.
I practically dive for the phone, as though it's a lifeline. It is a lifeline. Teal'c's. I have it in my hand and now I want to drop it again. Not ready for what might be on the other end. Not ready because I know SG6 will never find a symbiote in time to save Teal'c. Can't face that. Have to. No choice.
"Hammond," I squeak into the phone in a less than commanding tone.
Doctor Warner's tinny, exhausted voice floats into my ear, "The surgery was successful, General Hammond. I won't take your time with the full report right now, sir, but let me just say it was touch and go for a while there. Teal'c is a very lucky ma...Jaffa. His vitals have improved greatly since the symbiote was reintroduced into his body, though it will be some time before we know for sure both it and Teal'c will survive. I am optimistic."
Beyond 'the surgery was successful', I hear very little. My instant reaction is one of intense relief and absolute elation. The doctor is telling me something else...Teal'c's still critical, still in danger...but he doesn't know Teal'c the way I do. He's going to be all right. Irrational as this may be, I can't help but be hopeful success on the home front somehow translates into a positive ending to whatever is happening planet-side.
What is taking them so long? They should be back by now. I check my watch. It reads 2345. It's only been 15 minutes, though I swear I've been sitting here for longer. The incongruity of time during the Wait never fails to amaze me. I don't know what time it is on PX9 763, but it's the cold dead of night here and the minutes have uncannily stretched to feel like hours.
"That's good news, Doctor. Please keep me apprised. I assume you have the infirmary prepped for incoming casualties," I finally manage to spit out. Control. Focus.
"Yes, sir. We're ready for Colonel O'Neill down here and have an additional station set up for Doctor Jackson in the event he also requires medical attention," the doctor assures.
"Very well. Thank you, Doctor," I dismiss the man and hang up the phone.
I didn't really have to ask about his readiness, but I needed the peace of mind. We are damn lucky both he and Janet were both on base tonight. Normally I'd be upset with Janet for staying so long after her shift, but I can't help but think the fluke of their presence on base at the same time is a sign of sorts. Suddenly The Waiting Game is more bearable.
I can tell SG6 their regularly scheduled mission is back on and they should go get some sleep. It at least gives me an excuse to hover near the 'gate. The rescue team will be back soon. Any minute now. I have to be there and now that Teal'c's status has been upgraded, I'm finding I can handle my emotions much more appropriately. Amazing how a glimmer of light can seem so bright in the dark. I mentally fan the spark that has taken residence, careful not to use too much force and extinguish it. I'm going to need it, I think. So will Major Carter.
I only get halfway out of my office when the klaxons start blaring, red lights flash and the night technician's voice announces incoming travelers. They're back. I'm running, military etiquette be damned. I will be in that room when Major Carter brings Jack and Doctor Jackson home. Alive.
I bless the incongruity of time now, as I fly into the 'gateroom before the iris even opens. SG6 and the SFs are all on the balls of their feet, ready to run to SG3's aid. If the situation is as urgent as I fear, I know Janet won't give them the chance. My fists are clenched so tight they're aching. They say it's the not knowing that causes the most pain; I disagree. I think I know what to expect and it's killing me. Doctor Warner hasn't even bothered to send a medical team to the 'gate. They won't be triaging anyone here tonight.
What comes through the 'gate throws my expectations out the window. Sergeant Thomas and Lieutenant Cooper barrel out of the event horizon carrying what looks to be the corpse of Colonel Jack O'Neill. Pale, silent and immutably still. God, tell me it's not too late. They don't even pause, just hurriedly but smoothly forge ahead to the infirmary. I watch them go with a heavy, dim weight pressing on my chest. Blood. I saw the blood. So much. I'm going to be sick I should have anticipated.
Seconds after they tear through the 'gateroom, Captain Shelley and Lieutenant Conrad's feet hit the ramp, the metal clanking ominously. Damnit, damnit, damnit. Doctor Jackson is tightly strapped onto the stretcher between them, face shaded a startling grayish-white. There is no hint of voluntary movement. What's wrong with him oh God he looks as bad as Jack. The flicker of hope fades almost to the point of disappearing, the shadows looming.
Janet doesn't even look my way, all of her attention on the figures departing through the door. She tears after them, yelling orders which do nothing to ease my alarm. Some of the words flay into me, internal bleeding, prep for surgery, calls for units of blood. All in a frenzied couple of seconds. Helpless, I'm completely helpless and I know it. I start to follow after the high-speed group when I hear uneven footsteps reverberate on the ramp. Major Carter...
"Major Austen, you and your men can stand down. Doctor Warner was able to repair the damage done to Teal'c's Goa'uld larva. Report for your scheduled recon mission at 0800," I hurriedly discharge them and stumble toward Major Carter.
She looks as though she might collapse at any moment. I can almost see the fear induced adrenaline dissipate from her system, leaving her looking lost. Her eyes are haphazardly focused on the exit. To my surprise, my own legs are shaky as I get nearer to her. She looks like a ghost, white to the point of transparency. I instinctively take her arm and wrap an arm around her shoulders, disturbed at the minute shivers coursing through her body. I can't help her teammates...friends, but I can help her through the coming hours.
The Waiting Game continues.
My face must be reflecting my apprehension because we only get half way there and she begins to frantically clutch at my shirt. God, Teal'c. I haven't told her his condition has considerably improved since she left. It doesn't matter that I don't know that for certain. She needs to hear the words and I need to say them to build the light again.
"Teal'c's going to be just fine, Major," I divulge and then stupidly continue, "Right now I'd say Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson are more of a concern."
She goes even paler and her legs stop their forward motion. Wrong thing to say. Not reassuring to her. I'm really not handling this situation well at all, my own inability to set aside personal worries affecting my responsibility. I suddenly realize more than the lives of the male members of SG1 hang in the balance. If they don't survive, she won't either. I can see the desperate need scrawled blatantly over her face.
They have to make it.
"Teal'c's okay? Really?" Major Carter hesitantly asks, appearing completely unconvinced of my assertion.
"Doctor Warner was able to repair the damage quite quickly and easily. Even if he hadn't been able to, I was fully prepared to send SG6 on a search for a replacement symbiote, Major," I explain, selling myself on the words I'm relaying. Futile as the effort might have been, I would have done it. "There's no way I'd let Teal'c die without a fight. Doctor Fraiser won't let them die without a fight."
This seems to do the trick. Her expression relaxes an infinitesimal degree for an instant, tightening again when we approach the door to the infirmary. Chaos of flashing arms, running legs and shouts assail us, making it impossible to see Jack, Teal'c or Doctor Jackson. I can see Janet ordering SG3 out of her way, her head jerking in our direction. Together, Major Carter and I breach the open door only to run into Sergeant Thomas. The tall Marine speaks the directive issued by the petite chief medical officer.
"Doctor Fraiser says to keep both of you out here. She'll let you know when she can how they're doing," he informs us.
Major Carter either doesn't hear him or pretends not to, pushing her way through SG3. Sergeant Thomas stops her, placing both his hands on her arms. Her face! Complete devastation and emptiness transform her before my very eyes to that lifeless figure she became while brain dead. I don't want to deny her, understand she feels all alone, but it's for the best. Putting my hand on her shoulder, I guide her away from the infirmary. SG3 is gathering chairs from nearby offices for us to sit on.
I won't leave her alone. I know what it's like to wait powerlessly. I wouldn't wish that torture on my worst enemy, never mind someone in an obviously fragile state. When Janet and I are left on this side of the 'gate, we can ease our shared and usually hidden misery by using small talk. Harmless, precious chatter of every day life; of Cassandra, Tessa and Kayla. Funny anecdotes on what the girls are up to and serious questions on how to handle an unruly teenager.
Inane words aren't necessary nor would they work for Major Carter, but I'm finding myself in need of them. I won't pretend to know how to begin a conversation with someone whose closest friends are quite possibly at death's door. Nothing anybody said to me while I watched my wife wither away right before me helped ease the agony in my soul. Pain from that springs fresh to mind, adding to the already substantial, uncertain ache already there. If I feel this way, her pain must be intolerable, but as I help her to sit I notice her face reflects absolutely nothing. Shock?
I grab Lieutenant Conrad's arm as he brushes by us, whispering to him, "Lieutenant, please get a blanket for Major Carter. Also, bring me a recorder."
The chances of Major Carter giving complete details of the terrible events on PX9 763 are next to none, but I want to be prepared. I don't need any of my people reliving this again if it can be avoided. I distract myself with the lieutenant's retreating back, still holding onto Major Carter's shoulder. Her tremors haven't stopped. She needs a doctor. She needs her father. She needs her friends to live. I can't assure her the rest of SG1 will be fine. Neither a doctor nor her father can be here right now, but I am here. I will stay here. She makes a strangled noise in the back of her throat and shifts to face me.
"I'm sorry, sir," she murmurs. "I'm so sorry."
Her face is reflecting every emotion now, strongest being remorse. I reel back and my head connects with the wall. I gasp, "Sorry for what?"
"I couldn't. I tried," her words are fractured. My heart is fracturing. "Too much blood."
Now her voice is cutting through me like January rain, dousing the little light. I have to get it back, get her back. I know this is just reaction. Even without the benefit of a debriefing from her teammates, I know Major Carter did all that was humanly possible to help her team. She needs to see that and though I know it will cause more pain, I need to be the one to lead her.
I can't give her platitudes and say everything will be fine. I think it will be, but she has to come to that realization on her own. Lieutenant Conrad briskly walks toward us, thick blanket in hand. He wraps it around Major Carter's still bloody figure...she needs to get cleaned up...and deposits a small recorder in my hands.
"Major Carter, can you tell me what happened on PX9 763?" I gently ask.
She stares at the floor for a long time, unblinking. Too soon. Too much. I don't want to push her where she's not ready to go. I made that mistake once already and I won't do it again. I try to ignore the red, finger shaped streaks decorating her face and look instead for any indication of...Major Carter. Disappointment fills me when I can find none and I pull my gaze away.
"Not yet," she breathes at last with a violent shudder.
"That's all right, Major," I soothe. "It can wait."
Silence reasserts itself and we simply sit together, but it's no longer unwelcome. Sometimes even Janet and I fall into these types of quiet moments. The kind that offer a curious comfort of their own, where conversation would only interfere. SG3 continues to stand over us, a sort of honor guard. I close my eyes, trying not to think about the two men whose lives are in question and the other struggling to recover only feet away. Really, it wouldn't hurt if we could go see Teal'c. Jack and Doc...Daniel are undoubtedly in the operating rooms right now. I'm about to suggest it to Major Carter when she begins speaking softly.
"The mission actually started out uneventfully. Daniel was studying an engraving on..."
Her voice grows stronger, and it's this I hear rather than the actual words. The stronger the voice, the bigger the light becomes in my heart. I click on the recorder, letting it do its job while I help Major Carter heal. She's telling the story like it's the only thing keeping her from flying apart.
I keep my arm solidly around her just to make sure.

She's exactly where I left her. That shouldn't bother me, but it does. After she made her briefing...the only report I am requiring for this mission...she insisted on a shower and a change. She emerged from the locker room looking and acting like herself again. The words finalized her recovery the events of the mission, so terrible in their method, set into motion. She's back most of the way. The only thing she needs now is to see her friends alive and awake. Two of them are on their way.
Janet came to collect us only a few minutes after Major Carter's return to my side, and granted her request to see her commanding officer and Teal'c. She's steadfastly refused to leave their sides since. I took that as a good sign. Confident Major Carter wasn't feeling quite so alone anymore, I took my leave to review the taped debriefing and clean myself up.
The question of Doctor Jackson's condition kept me from staying away too long. I can see he's still worryingly absent from the infirmary as I walk toward Major Carter. She has shifted around a bit from her slouched pose. Her body is spread out on Jack's bed, one of her hands firmly clasped on his forearm. The other hand is extended toward Teal'c's unconscious form, not quite reaching his hand. Her head is twisted toward the wall and I can't see her face. Isn't necessary. I can tell she's finally sleeping, her breathing deep and slow.
It's been four hours. Almost dawn now, the dark becoming brighter with two flames instead of one. Just need one...two more to fully dispel the shadows. Four hours. At least twelve before that. No wonder she's passed out. I'm feeling in less than tip top shape myself. Though I'm pleased to see her able to rest, I'm also a bit puzzled. As is typical for all of SG1 when one of them is injured, sleep is not an option until that member's status has been cleared. Exhaustion can be subverted. I take a long sip of my coffee before setting my mug down on Jack's bedside table. The table is empty. No water, no ice chips. I frown and take a peek at Teal'c's. Barren. The only thing I can see in the near vicinity is a Styrofoam cup at Major Carter's feet. I know Jack is still intubated and Teal'c is still deeply out of it. Janet informed me both would likely be that way for 'quite some time' as she raced to scrub into Doctor Jackson's surgery. But I can't help it. I have to make sure there are fresh pitchers at their sides, just in case. I'll have to speak with one of the nurses.
"Oh, I'm sorry General Hammond. I didn't realize you were here," a timid voice flutters behind me.
I spin around to see a rather tall, thin nurse gaping at me. Well, speak of the devil and he will come. The nurse avoids direct eye contact, her gaze pinned to the floor. She looks...guilty. I narrow my eyes and step toward her with authority. Sure enough, the woman turns a deep shade of red and cringes.
"I can leave if I'm in your way," I simply tell her. "I assume you're here to check on Colonel O'Neill."
"Uh, actually, sir," she stammers and points to the cup at Major Carter's feet. "I was just coming to straighten up. Colonel O'Neill's vitals are stable and Mr. Teal'c is doing just fine...sir."
I peer at the cup in question and wonder why she's so twitchy about it. Glancing back up at her, I give her my best 'you'd better have an explanation for this' look even though I don't have a clue what she could possibly have to explain. It's as though she thinks the cup is going to burst into flames right before us. I follow her fleeting eyes as they land on Major Carter's unconscious form. The mystery of the sleeping major has been solved.
Janet slipped her a mickey.
I don't think I'll be accepting any drinks from the good doctor anytime soon. Suspiciously staring at my coffee mug, I suddenly don't feel the need to finish it. Janet's reasons may be valid, but I'm going to have to refresh her memory on the meaning of ethics. Make her sweat a little for her well-intentioned deviation of principle. That plus the wrath of Major Carter when she wakes up should ensure Janet won't be pulling a stunt like this in the future.
"Major Carter, uh, refused to get sleep. Doctor Fraiser, acting in her patient's best interest, ordered me to give the major a reason to sleep that she...couldn't refuse," the nurse folds under the pressure my gray eyes have focused on her.
"I see," is all I say, moving to allow the frazzled woman to fulfill her task.
There's no reason to torture the poor woman, though I confess it has been fun to watch her squirm. I don't like to take advantage of my station here, but I do occasionally take inappropriate pleasure in doing so. Guess Janet's not the only one who needs a brush up on her code of ethics. I smile reassuringly at Nurse...Hayes and she noticeably relaxes, starting to skitter away from me.
"Nurse? If I could ask a favor of my own?" I call out to her before she can move more than two steps.
"Of course, sir," Hayes blushes even more deeply.
"Can you make sure each shift sees to it that Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c have water available to them, on the chance they wake up? Doctor Jackson as well, when his surgery is complete," I request. She looks ready to explain their state of consciousness is probably not going to change when I hold up my hand. "I realize they won't need it for a while. Just please do as I ask."
"Yes, sir," Hayes promptly agrees, questions still flowing from her eyes.
She fumbles awkwardly with the evidence of Janet's subterfuge, waiting for me to dismiss her. I'm reassured my request will be met and wave her off with a swipe of my hand. Placing my hand on the slumbering major's head, I fully take in Jack's appearance.
Beneath the thick tubing attached to his mouth, Jack looks frail and still far too pale. I have to remind myself that he's just come out of surgery to close a big hole in his gut, from which most of his blood was drained. His body will take a while to regain that type of blood loss, transfusion aside. I'm just immeasurably grateful he will survive.
An SGC without Colonel O'Neill would be a much less lively place, that goes without saying. He's a handful I'm not so secretly glad to have to deal with. The same can be said of Teal'c. He's barely stirred at all since his Goa'uld larva was finally placed back inside him, a concept I never thought I'd be thankful for. Playing straight man to Jack's off the cuff humor lately, Teal'c's absence would also dull the corridors. Of course, both these reasons are trivial in comparison to the substantive loss of two good soldiers and good men. It's just that to think of it that way is too fresh and real. We came so close to losing them. Too close.
Now, if I could just be certain of Doctor Jackson's health. His loss would have as great an impact, both at the military and civilian level. Part of me wants to go up to the observation window to witness for myself how his procedure is progressing. It's been so long, shouldn't he be done by now? Fear grips me again, and I almost follow my inclination. But I have another task to complete first, I remember.
Major Carter is going to have numerous aches and pains when she wakes if she stays in her current position. The infirmary is full after SG2 came back from their mission a couple of days ago, all of them suffering a wicked GI bacterial infection. Stargate Revenge, apparently. None of them have been able to leave and all but one of the beds are filled up. That one is reserved for Doctor Jackson. And he will use it.
I need Nurse Hayes again. Where did she scurry off? Ruffling Major Carter's hair...I can't help the paternal gesture...I leave her side to seek out the nervous nurse. It only takes me a couple of moments. She's at Major Griff's bedside, who is being rather uncooperative. The poor woman. Had I known he was her next stop, I wouldn't have given her such a hard time.
"No, I DO NOT want any dry toast," Griff is grumbling as I come up behind Nurse Hayes.
Before she can reply, I tap her on the shoulder and pretend not to notice when she jerks in surprise. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I have another request. I'm going to take Major Carter to the VIP room as all of the beds here but one are filled. I'll be staying with her, and would appreciate it if you could tell either Doctor Fraiser or Doctor Warner to come get me when Doctor Jackson is out of surgery."
The harried woman looks relieved at my arrival and shoots Major Griff a mildly dirty stare, putting his chart back on its hanger. She turns to me with a pleasant smile, "Yes, sir."
"Major Griff, how are you feeling?" I ask.
"Great, sir. But if you could tell Nurse Ratched here to lay off trying to force me to eat something I don't want to eat, I'd be even better," he grouses.
I just nod knowingly as Nurse Hayes blushes, but rolls her eyes. It seems she's got more spit in her than I would have guessed. Anyone willing to take on Major Griff in a verbal war has my admiration. I leave them, their bickering voices trailing after me.
Major Carter hasn't stirred at all. I'm too old to do this and she won't appreciate it, but I walk to her side, remove her hand from Jack's and cautiously place my hands under her knees and around her shoulders. She's much lighter than I'd have thought. I shouldn't have trouble carrying her the short distance to the VIP room. If only I could make sure the hallway is clear. The rumor mill is going to be hopping if anyone sees me carting her around. Oh, to hell with it. Nurse Hayes has probably already started the gossip.
The stares we receive aren't so much ones of amazement, but of kindness. Everyone knows by now what's been going on with SG1, and I know Major Carter will not hear from anyone we run across that I'm responsible for her removal from the infirmary. In fact, a couple of soldiers run ahead and make sure the bed is turned down.
I gently lay her down on her back. She doesn't stir at all; her sleeping face looks unbelievably young. I pull an armchair closer to the bed and sit down wearily. I'm so tired. Should have finished my coffee. It's been almost 24 hours since I last slept and it's catching up with me. Maybe if I close my eyes for a few minutes, just a catnap to rejuvenate myself for the wait that could continue for days. I blink slowly, my head fuzzily spinning with exhaustion. A hand on my shoulder intrudes into my moment of rest, a tentative voice breaking into the blessed quiet.
"General Hammond? Sir?"
"What?" I snap, involuntarily jerking upright. I don't know who is disturbing me, but they'd better have a good reason. "What do you want?"
"Marilee said I should come get you when we were done with Doctor Jackson, sir," Janet's worried brown eyes are right at my level.
The world gradually comes into focus. Marilee? Oh, Nurse Hayes. That's right. I shake my head and smile at Janet, "Yes, I did. I just didn't expect you so quickly. I've only been here a minute."
Something akin to realization swipes across her features and she smiles back at me, "Sir, she said you came here at 0400? It's 0730 now. I think you fell asleep."
I will not be embarrassed. I will not be embarrassed.
"You obviously needed it, General," Janet continues as though I'm not flustered at all.
She's a good friend. I really don't have to be self-conscious. She tugs at something I now feel softly weighing across my chest. A blanket. Obviously, she wasn't the first to discover me. Well, at least I didn't curl up next to Major Carter. I nod and look toward the still sleeping woman on the bed. It doesn't appear she's moved at all, which reminds me of Janet's little indiscretion.
"Yes, and I didn't need any type of sleep aid," I gently chide her, suddenly not feeling like forcing the issue. She looks exhausted.
Janet has the good graces to look discomfited at the remark, but she doesn't offer an explanation or apology. She side steps the intentionally light rebuke with skill and ease, bringing me back on track with three little words, "About Daniel, sir?"
My heart stops. I had almost forgotten. No, not forgotten, just been able to set aside the nagging worry for a while. I'm appalled I was able to sleep through that distressing feeling. It wasn't so long ago that I wasn't able to do so, spending many nights awake. I search her face, but I can't read her expression. My agitation increases. Please don't tell me there were complications. He's all right he's all right.
I don't even realize I'm holding my breath until she speaks again, "He's going to be just fine, General. They all are."
Her face clears a bit, but there's something she's not telling me. I can see a persistent darkness in her eyes. No, not darkness. Residual fear. I can't think about whatever may be the cause...I have a good idea anyway...just yet. They're going to be fine. All of them.
"That's good news. Is he with the others?" I ask, turning again to Major Carter as if she's heard Janet's announcement.
I half expect the major to be launching herself off the bed to run to the infirmary, which is exactly where I'd like to be right now. I stand up, my joints protesting. I look from Major Carter to the door and back again. Janet places a hand on my forearm, demanding my attention.
"I'll have someone check in on her," she tells me with another tired, but happy smile.
"Shouldn't we wake her?" I deliberate, knowing the major will want to see Doctor Jackson.
"Normally, I'd say yes, sir, but there's going to be another lengthy vigil before either the colonel, Daniel or Teal'c wake up. She needs all the sleep she can get. Or rather all the sleep I can give her," Janet decides with a definite twinkle in her eyes.
I chuckle for the first time in a long while. It feels good. Janet laughs, too. The light is steadily overpowering the shadows. I'm buoyed up again. My mood is swinging almost manically. It always seems to during these too frequent touch and go situations.
"Remind me never to have you mix my drinks, Doctor," I tease.
"I make a mean Martini, General. You might regret that order," she teases right back.
We shouldn't joke about it, really, but I can't help myself. Once again, SG1 has survived what should have been insurmountable odds. I give Major Carter one last glance before I place my hand over Janet's, which is still on my arm. Together, we start to the infirmary.
It occurs to me as my feet are carrying me out of the room that I should ask Janet what she's not telling me about Doctor Jackson, but it doesn't really matter now. She'll tell me in due time, and as long as I am certain the three physically wounded members of SG1 will recover, I can live with that. Because the physical hurts are on the road to healing, I know the emotional ones will as well.
And that's all I really need to know.
The End


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  Hawk50 Nancy Bailey Carrie AnnO  
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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.