She is waiting. I know it is hard for her to sit at home worrying and wondering where I am and if I am safe. She has told me this so many times in the past, but we both know that this is something she will have to deal with. Being married to an Air Force officer who is practically living on the front line is a hard life, and even though I don’t envy her, I am very proud that she has the stamina and the determination to stay with me.
I know that she worries and I hate it when she does that. It makes me feel so helpless. I feel helpless because I can’t help her with her fears… hell, I can’t even tell her what she should be afraid of. But she learned a long time ago that it wouldn’t do her any good to ask and I find that I appreciate this willingness on her part to let go of the things she can’t control.
Sara tries to be the brave soldier for me, but I can tell that it’s a stretch for her. Her tears give her away every single time. Tears that glisten in her eyes as she smiles at me, telling me that she knows why I can’t stay with her, why I have to leave her side once again.
She is waiting for me once again, but she won’t have to wait long. Once I get the green light from Doc Fraiser, I am out of here and heading straight home to my family – a family that was almost torn apart by a stupid mistake on my part. And it’s something that will never happen again, as far as I am concerned.
I find myself remembering that time, while I sit here waiting for the green light. I can’t help the sadness that flows through me as I dwell on the horror, fear and loneliness I went through as I struggled with my guilt. My son had somehow found my gun and accidentally shot himself with it, and although he had survived it, I still can’t forgive myself for putting my family into the position of having to go through the accident and the aftermath.
The sound of that gun going off in the house while I sat with my wife on the steps in front of my house will forever haunt me. I knew almost immediately what that sound meant and I ran toward the house hoping with all my heart that Charlie was still alive. He was, just barely, and my heart nearly broke into a thousand pieces when he stared up at me through his pain and his fear, telling me he was sorry for touching my gun.
I close my eyes as I sit here in the infirmary, willing the memory to go away. But it lingers and I will never forget the sight of my son lying on the floor with blood everywhere, soaking into his clothing and into the carpet as he lay there crying and begging me for forgiveness. I had told him that everything was going to be all right, as I administered basic first aid, but in my heart, I knew that his injuries were bad.
Sara called for an ambulance, then came and sat with us, her tears adding more guilt onto the burden I was carrying. That was the start of my downfall. Guilt can be a devastating emotion to deal with and I had more than my share of it building up around that accident. I’m afraid I didn’t handle things too well. Thank God that Sara fought her way through the gloom and depression that was surrounding me and made me ‘see the light’, so to speak. Actually, she laid down the law and basically told me that I was being selfish and cold, and that I needed to accept the fact that not all accidents are my fault. Although I understood what she was telling me, this is something that I had a hard time dealing with.
A heavy sigh escapes me as I sit here in the infirmary on the bed that I had occupied for almost a week, fully dressed and ready to go. But as usual, I have to wait until I am cleared by the only person on this base who has complete power over whether I can leave this place after an illness. Doctor Janet Fraiser has this irritating habit of double checking everything just to make sure I am well enough to leave her domain. Why she doesn’t believe me when I tell her I am fine is beyond me. Of course, I always tell her I am fine, so I suppose I could give her some slack on that issue, but it’s still hard to have to wait like this.
“Doc?” I call out, hoping she is still within hearing distance. “Can I at least get out of this bed long enough to make a phone call?”
The woman in question comes into the room, smiling at me even as she shakes her head in exasperation. “You’re not a prisoner, Colonel,” she says, “You can use the one in my office on your way out of here.” I can’t stop the grin as I realize what she’s telling me. It’s about damn time, if you ask me. She apparently isn’t asking me, as she smiles back and tells me, “You are officially ready to go home. But I want you to take it easy. Although the alien virus has run its course, you will still be experiencing some nausea and weakness and I don’t want you scaring Sara like that again.”
“Yes ma’am,” I tell her. I remember all too well the night I woke up, feverish and nauseous, to find my wife worried and scared. I knew the minute that I awoke that I was going to have to make a visit with the Doc. I also knew how hard it was for Sara to make that phone call. “I didn’t really think I was that sick when I went to bed that night,” I add defensively.
Doc Fraiser isn’t falling for my line, and I admit that I didn’t really expect her to. She has known me long enough to know that I have a tendency to overlook any illnesses, hoping that they will go away, especially if the symptoms are the same as flu symptoms. But in my line of work, there is always the chance that I could bring something back through the Stargate and expose my family to an illness that I wouldn’t be able to begin to tell them about. This is something I have to be more careful about in the future, and I am grateful that the Doc has decided not to remind me of this.
“I talked to her this morning and told her that you would be coming home later today,” Doc Fraiser tells me. She is smiling again and I smile back, grateful that she and Sara had become great friends over the years. In fact, Sara, Janet and Samantha Carter, my second in command, have been known to come back from shopping trips with bags filled with clothes and whatever else they deemed necessary items that they just couldn’t live without. Meanwhile I look at Sara’s bags and wonder about the damage done to my wallet.
“Thank you for keeping her apprised of my health,” I tell the Doc, hoping she understands just how important that deed really is to me. “She gets so worried and it’s really hard for her to wonder if I’m going to survive whatever ails me this time.”
“No problem,” Janet responds softly. “Go call her, then go home,” she demands and I am more than happy to oblige.
The house is quiet when I get home and I have to wonder where everyone is. “Sara?” I call out, hoping that everything is okay. I find her in the living room, asleep on the couch, and I have to smile. She is so beautiful, lying there asleep and I can’t find it in my heart to wake her. I know from experience that she doesn’t sleep well when she is worried. I can’t count how many nights she had tossed and turned when Charlie was learning to drive. Worrying about me and this illness she was not allowed to know about had to have taken its toll on her.
I sit down on the floor next to her, watching her as she sleeps, and I can’t help but think about how much I really do love her. I have from almost the first date we had ever gone on. I was ecstatic when she agreed to marry me, and I still remember her standing up to her father and telling him in specific terms that she was marrying Jack O’Neill and that was final. Her father really didn’t have any objections, he just wanted to make sure that this was what Sara really wanted. He got his answer and so did I. The fact she was so adamant strengthened my resolve to marry her.
There were many times throughout our marriage when I couldn’t help but doubt her love. Charlie’s accident was just one of those times. How could she love me when it was my fault our son almost died? But she did, and I smile as I remember her coming over to the apartment that I had taken to get away from the scene of my crime and telling me in that no nonsense way she has that I need to get over this and come back to her and Charlie.
Sara mumbles something in her sleep and I reach over to push the hair off her forehead, tucking the strands behind her ear. We’ve had our share of troubles, and I admit that most of our problems stem from my inability to talk about my feelings, but I have such a hard time expressing my thoughts, even to my wife. To this day, I’m not really sure if she understands why I left her and Charlie all those years ago, but I also know that I may never be able to effectively tell her the reason. Hopefully, she doesn’t need me to try to explain it to her anymore.
Sara is like that, though. She is a very forgiving person. I’m not so sure I understand her rationality in accepting things so easily, but maybe that’s why we’ve been able to work through the problems we’ve encountered along the way. She has learned to forgive me for being secretive and for my silence, as I struggle with my inability to talk about what’s bothering me.
I sit contentedly, watching my wife sleep and smile at her when she opens her eyes. My smile grows wider when her eyes widen with surprise and she says, “Jack!” as she sits up and throws her arms around my neck to hug me tightly.
“Hello beautiful,” I tell her, as I hug her back.
She’s not about to let go right away though, so I continue to hold her as she whispers, “Welcome home,” in my ear. Those two little words mean the world to me, and I hug her tighter to tell her just that.
She finally pulls back and starts her inspection with her eyes, looking for confirmation that her fears were not necessary and that I am indeed all right. She smiles at me when she finally stares into my eyes and I pull her into another quick hug. “I’ve missed you,” I tell her honestly.
“Me too,” she responds, before slapping my arm and saying, “You scared me half to death when you passed out on me. Don’t you ever do that again!”
“I won’t,” I tell her, all the while grinning like a fool.
She grins back and we sit there holding each other, my thoughts settling on my family – the family that I had almost lost to a tragic accident. They are my world, and I find myself vowing silently that I will do anything to keep them from harm, alien or earthbound.
“Janet and Daniel told me that they kept you informed of my progress,” I tell her, as I stroke her hair.
“Yes, they did,” she says with a nod. “And Teal’c insisted that you and Sam were going to survive whatever was wrong with you when he came over to help Charlie practice those karate moves.” She stops then, watching my face, before adding. “He’s getting pretty good at it.”
“Who? Teal’c?” I ask, knowing full well she is talking about Charlie.
“No, smartass,” she says with a grin. I laugh at her and pull her close once again, relishing in the knowledge that she is with me. I can’t help but wonder what I would do without her. Would I be a part of the Stargate program right now if she had left all those years ago?
“Will you be home for awhile?” she asks, and I turn to look at her, as I realize that her fear will never be eased.
“A few days,” I tell her noncommittally. “It won’t be long before I’m home again. I promise.”
She sees through my ruse and gives me a brave little smile before telling me, “I’ll be here waiting.”
I nod at her as I hold her, knowing that she’s telling me the truth. She’ll be here when I get back. I find that I am grateful that I found a woman who will put up with my silence, my absence and me while she waits.
Our solitude is broken when the front door opens and my son, Charlie, rushes into the room. He stops short when he sees me, then grins before saying, “Where have you been old man?”
“Old man?” I ask, as I grin back at him.
“Yeah,” he responds affectionately, “Old man. Hey, are you going to come watch me play football tonight?”
“I’ll be the one sitting next to Teal’c,” I just have to say. “Someone has to calm him down when you guys win.”
“Think you can do it this time?” Charlie asks, while his mother rolls her eyes at the antics of the men in her life.
“Oh please,” she says, as she gets up from the couch, “Teal’c is the calm one.”
Charlie grins at his mother as he follows her into the kitchen, probably looking for food, while I watch them interact with each other from my spot in the living room. They are my world, I realize. I don’t know if I would survive if something was to happen to them.
I shake off the gloom this thought brings. I hope I never have to find out.