NEW FIC: Under Friendly Fire - Chapter 8 Chapter 8
Darkness filled the room as Jack tried to find some solace in sleep. Despite what he had told his friends, he really hadn’t slept very well the night before. His dreams had been punctuated by screams and the sound of Sam Carter begging him to stop. Sounds that seemed to be magnified by the guilt he couldn’t shake off.
But at least he had been able to fall asleep without too much trouble before the dreams got to be too much to deal with. And exhaustion had enabled him to go back to sleep, even if he had been awakened again by the memory of Sam’s voice. Tonight was different. He was now in the process of trying to sleep, only to be kept awake by memories of the last several days, made worse by the memories that Carter tapped into.
Damn her, he raged inwardly. He knew she had only reacted out of anger, and if he were honest with himself, he surely deserved it. But it still felt like a kick below the belt when she had brought up his past like that.
He turned over on his side, hoping to find a comfortable position. He squirmed, then punched the pillow a few times in an effort to scrunch it up to make things even more comfortable. Nothing seemed to help.
He finally got up after some more tossing and turning, and went over to the refrigerator to pull out a beer. He had a fleeting image of getting drunk to the point of passing out, but the thought of facing General Hammond in the morning with a full blown hangover gave him pause. It wouldn’t be a good thing all the way around, and could prompt the General to do a little digging into finding out where his second in command got the booze. This, in turn, would result in losing the refrigerator. Not a good thing, in Jack’s opinion. He had gone to a lot of trouble to get it into his quarters on base.
He sat back on the bed and leaned his head back against the headboard. The darkness calmed him and he stared out at nothing, while occasionally taking a drink of the beer. Carter had dealt him a low blow. She had just come right out and asked him about his history with the Iraqis. He wasn’t so sure he liked it that she could just come right out and hurt him like that. But then again, he had hurt her. Raped her, was a more accurate assessment, so he supposed he couldn’t complain when she lashed out at him in retaliation.
It’s was probably inevitable that his friends would have heard about it, but Jack knew he would never be able to share his experiences with them. Old habits die hard, he figured, as he took another swig of his drink. He didn’t want their pity, or their scorn, and he definitely did not want to see the horror on their faces. No, he thought, there’s no way in hell he’d share any of that with them.
Jack finished the beer in one final mouthful, then got up to stow the empty bottle in the case he had set aside just for this purpose. He was going to get caught one of these days, but Jack had seen his share of reprimands throughout his career. Besides, he rationalized, he rarely touched it while on base; he just liked to have it handy for times like this, when he was off duty. The refrigerator had been a great addition, and Jack still had to congratulate himself on that brilliant idea. His grin turned into a grimace, as he thought about the fast-talking he had to do to sooth his teammates’ ruffled feathers. Carter never could hide her feelings from him and Teal’c actually seemed hurt that he had not been included. Jack really had meant to tell them about it, he just hadn’t had the opportunity to do so.
He lay back down on the bed, to try to find some rest once more. Sleep would come soon; all he had to do was relax long enough to find it.
General Hammond was looking entirely too serious for Jack’s peace of mind. He had been summoned to the General’s office right after breakfast. An airman had caught Jack just as he was walking into his office to tell him that he was to head to the General’s office. It was time to face the piper.
“You wanted to see me, General?” he asked, as he rapped on the doorframe.
“Come in, Colonel,” Hammond told him. Jack moved into the office, worried about the verdict that was hanging over his head. He was guilty, he had confessed to his guilt and now he was facing the firing squad.
“I’ve had some time to think about what you and your team went through on that planet,” Hammond continued. “And I don’t mind telling you that I was frankly at a loss on what to do about it.” Jack just stood there, waiting for the General to get to the point, all the while hoping against hope that the verdict wouldn’t mean he would end up in Leavenworth, or at the very least facing a court martial. “The fact that you and the people you commanded were under an alien influence makes things a little easier, but not by a whole lot.”
“General Hammond, sir,” Jack said, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I let that happen to my team. It all just happened so fast…”
“No need, Colonel,” Hammond interrupted. “You’ve all been in situations where you couldn’t control what happened to your people. Hell, I ended up hanging from the ceiling along with the rest of the people in my command when aliens took control over the entire SGC. This is a risk we take every single day. It’s what we learn from the events we find ourselves in that counts.” He stopped and stared at Jack, then took a deep breath. “Major Carter informs me that she is not going to cooperate with a formal investigation, although we both know she would if ordered to.” This was said with a small smile, and Jack nodded his understanding. Carter was military through and through.
“She is of the opinion that it wasn’t really me that raped her,” Jack replied, deliberately keeping the focus of the crime on himself. “She insists it was the drug that did me in.”
“Dr. Fraiser agrees with her,” Hammond said, as he stared at Jack.
Jack was totally floored by this statement. “What?”
“Dr. Fraiser has had time to analyze the remnants of the drug still in Dr. Jackson’s blood stream. It appears to have affected your thinking and reactions much the same way as the virus you all contracted when you visited P3X-797.” He sighed, then said, “Don’t ask me for details. Dr. Fraiser will be able to clarify it much better than I can.”
“I can hardly wait,” Jack replied dryly. He knew all too well that the doctor’s explanation would probably go over his head anyway.
“Apparently, it has something to do with chemicals released into your blood stream that affected the dormant areas of your brain. She is still trying to determine why Teal’c’s symbiote didn’t protect him this time, but I’m willing to bet that the aliens had found something even the Goa’uld couldn’t fight.”
“Which is probably why the planet was nearly deserted,” Jack mused. “They killed each other off.”
The General nodded, then said, “Colonel O’Neill,” in a tone that had Jack mentally steeling himself for the inevitable once again. “We have to deal with what was done to Major Carter while on that mission.”
“Yes sir,” Jack responded quietly.
“I want you to know that I was appalled at what happened. If this were under normal circumstances, you would be guilty of breaking several infractions. Yet there is also the fact that you can’t be blamed for the actions brought on by the alien drug.” He stopped for a second, then continued, “It’s been decided that there will be no formal hearing.” Jack relaxed visibly, but still waited for the rest. “But you are ordered to attend weekly sessions with Dr. Mackenzie, as well as attend anger management classes…”
“Sir?” Jack couldn’t help the surprised response.
“I know Colonel, but this is coming from the higher ups,” Hammond answered. “You all have been through a lot - you still are, but I have to agree that something has to be done. And,” he continued, while holding up his hand to forestall Jack’s protests, “You’ve said it yourself. Anger played a big role in your dealings with the Major.”
“Yes sir,” Jack agreed. He well remembered intense anger pushing at him, as he stared into the eyes of his second in command, her sobs and begging only seemed to fuel his wrath. He shook away the memories, then said, “But I was thinking more along the lines of a court martial for me.” He looked at the General, wishing he could find the words to make the General understand that he was already going through the worst punishment imaginable, but he never was very good with words and expressing himself. “I just can’t find it in me to totally forgive myself.” He sighed as he shook his head, “I wish I knew why it’s so easy for Carter to do it.”
“She knows you for who you are,” Hammond said. “You’ve been her commanding officer for years, and she has seen you at your worst. Nothing you’ve ever done compares to this, son. And from what she tells me, even then you tried to fight it.”
“Yeah,” Jack said with a sardonic nod of his head. Carter really hadn’t ever seen him at his worst. He had done some things that would frighten her away if she really knew the horrors of his past. And she will never know if it’s left up to him. “What about Daniel and Teal’c?” he asked, trying to chase away the shadows of his past by focusing on the problems of the present.
“They will be required to go through the same program you are ordered to undergo.” He let a small smile show through as he added, “I got the impression that Teal’c feels the same way you do in regards to a harsher punishment.”
“Yes sir,” Jack said, then grinned back. “So does Daniel.” The smile dimmed, as he said, “We hurt Carter badly. This is something that goes against everything we’ve ever believed in, and I for one will have a hard time living with the memories.” He had surprised the General with this admission, but Jack had to say it. “I just hope that one day I will be able to understand why I did what I did.”
Hammond stared at him for a moment longer before telling him, “I believe I am doing the right thing here, Jack. And your words have made it easier for me to live with in terms of the decision that’s been made. Despite the fact that you had no control over your actions, I still debated over jail time for you all.”
Jack didn’t respond. Hammond’s belief in his people had been shattered with just one admission by an angry and morose Jaffa, and Jack knew the General must have spent a great deal of time during the last two days agonizing over what to do.
“Your team should be waiting for us in the briefing room,” General Hammond told him, prompting Jack to look over his shoulder and through the window. Hammond was right. His friends were sitting at the table, waiting for them and he nodded at the General, before respectfully waiting for him to get up and leave the room. All three of his teammates stopped talking amongst themselves and turned to face them. Jack sent an encouraging look toward Carter, before taking a seat next to Daniel at the table.
The General wasted no time in making his announcement, which resulted in complete silence. Daniel and Carter were both staring at the table, while Teal’c took his verdict and stored it behind his stony glare.
“Is that it?” Daniel finally spoke up, anger making his eyes seem brighter behind the glasses. “A slap on the wrist and we’re free to go?”
“Come on, Daniel,” Jack said, his own anger pushing its way to the surface. “What more do you want?”
“I think it’s fair,” Carter butt in, trying to calm things down, but Daniel was too incensed to hear her.
“Well, I don’t know,” Daniel growled. “I was thinking along the lines of something more than just going to see a few people to talk about raping my best friend.”
“You want jail time?” Jack asked angrily. “Is that it? You want to share a cell with Bubba? You had no control over what you did, Daniel - none whatsoever. Deal with it and move on.”
“It seems that dealing with it is so easy for you, Jack,” Daniel responded, and Jack had a fleeting memory of this very same conversation with Carter the night before. Oh God, Daniel, he thought. Don’t bring it up. Please, he silently begged. “It’s not so easy for others,” Daniel continued.
“Stop it, both of you!” Carter demanded, shocking both Jack and Daniel into silence. The surprise turned into relief for Jack, as Carter gave him the out he so desperately needed right then. “Sir,” she tacked on, as an afterthought, causing Jack to grin despite himself.
“Thank you, Major,” the General said, from his chair at the end of the table. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Carter reddened a little, then said, “I apologize sir. It’s just that I don’t believe that you all should be punished anymore than what you are already going through for this.” She sighed, before continuing, “I was the one who was hurt. I was the one you guys attacked. Don’t you think I should be the one to pass judgment?” She looked around at her teammates, stopping to stare at Jack, who stared back at her, admiring the courage she was wearing like a cloak. “Colonel,” she continued. “I know you remember when I attacked you in the locker room. What if you weren’t able to stop me then? Would you have me up in front of a judge for attacking my commanding officer?” Jack shook his head, but she was already rounding on Daniel. “And Daniel, I couldn’t stop Jolinar from using Sha’re against you. I knew how much it would hurt you, but I couldn’t stop her.” She stopped and went back to staring at the table, apparently to gather her thoughts and her wits about her. She looked up then and said, “I think the punishment you are all putting yourselves through is more than enough in this case.”
Silence reigned as everyone dwelled on their own thoughts. Jack spent the silence watching his second in command. She had gone through so much, he thought as he watched her glare at the table. More than he would ever want her to go through, and she was handling it like a trooper. He wondered, for the first time, how she was really dealing with it, while at the same time feeling badly because he couldn’t help her. She wanted him to pass on his wisdom of coping with hardships such as this, but to do so would be to open up all the old wounds, and he was determined that those doors would stay closed.
“Dr. Mackenzie will be here this afternoon,” General Hammond said, as he stood up. “I’m sure he will be more than helpful to you all.” Jack grimaced at that, but wisely refrained from saying anything. Carter, on the other hand, wanted something else cleared up.
“Does this mean that we can go home, General Hammond?” The hopeful look on her face had Jack wanting to punch out the General for not thinking of this earlier.
“Yes,” Hammond responded, with a small smile aimed at the Major. “After your visit with Dr. Mackenzie, of course,” he hurried to clarify. “But other than that, you all are no longer confined to base.”
The rest of the day passed in a blur for Jack. He had managed to finish his mission report and make the obligatory visit with Mackenzie, which resulted in a deadlock for both parties. Fortunately, Mackenzie had worked with Jack before, so this was nothing new for either of them and Jack got off with an “I’ll see you at your next appointment,” from Mackenzie. They both knew that Jack would eventually spill his guts, but until then, Mackenzie slipped in his own brand of magic in soothing Jack’s soul as he chipped away at the walls Jack had built up in his mind.
He was on his way home and he was way too anxious to get there. He was looking forward to grabbing a beer from the refrigerator and vegetating up on his roof, while watching the night sky light up with stars. Downtime to sit back and think went a long way in helping him to “deal with it” and he was looking forward to finding some peace among the stars.
The house was dark when he got there, but the car in his driveway told him that his downtime was going to have to be put on hold for a while. Daniel was sitting on the steps of Jack’s porch.
“Daniel?” Jack said, as he got out of his truck. “Everything all right?”
“Yes,” Daniel responded wearily. “I was just in the neighborhood…”
“In the neighborhood?” Jack had to ask. Daniel just shrugged and Jack felt sorry for him.
“Come on in,” he told his friend. “I think there might be something edible in the house somewhere.” Daniel followed him in and headed for the living room while Jack went into the kitchen. “Coffee or beer?” Jack asked.
“Coffee is fine,” Daniel responded.
Jack got the coffee going while Daniel wandered aimlessly around the front room, looking at objects he had seen a thousand times before. “Okay Daniel, what’s up?” Jack finally asked. The silence was starting to unnerve him. Daniel usually always had something to say.
“Sam seems to be taking all this very well,” Daniel responded.
“Better than can be expected,” Jack said, wishing he knew what was coming. He had a good idea, but his mind refused to touch on the subject. He was afraid Daniel had come to him for help in dealing with his guilt.
Daniel nodded, then said, “You know, a beer would be better.”
“Okay,” Jack said, as he stared at his friend. Daniel had something to say and the fact that he needed a beer to gather up the nerve to say it had Jack on the alert. He went to get it, deciding that he’d probably need one himself. “What’s on your mind, Daniel?” he asked, when he had come back from the kitchen.
Daniel took the beer, popped the top and took a big drink, before saying, “I was just wondering how you are handling all this.” He stared at the bottle in his hand, before looking up at Jack, “I mean, look at you. You act as if nothing is wrong. How do you do that? How do you just turn it all off and go on as if you hadn’t hurt Sam?”
Jack didn’t know what to tell his friend. The fact that he had raped Sam Carter was eating through him like a cancer, but he knew that if he let the others see through the façade he had built up over the years, they would see a man who had more holes in his soul than a block of Swiss cheese. The truth of the matter was that Jack O’Neill had a hard time dealing with the horrors he’d had to face throughout the years, he’d just learned to hide from them and he kept them hidden to avoid having to deal with them at all.
“I don’t know how to “turn it all off” Daniel,” Jack finally said, in answer to Daniel’s question. “In fact I’m still having a hard time dealing with this.” He took a drink of his own beer, then told his friend, “I hate that I did that to her.”
“Well, you sure could have fooled me,” Daniel told him. “God Jack, I can’t get it out of my head and then you tell me to just deal with it. How do I do that?”
“I can’t help you with that,” Jack insisted. He was definitely worried about where this conversation was heading and his unease had caused him to snap at his friend.
“You make it seem so easy,” Daniel persisted.
“Well, it’s not,” Jack responded. He was not going to cooperate with this and Daniel would be way better off going somewhere else to find his peace of mind. “Did you talk to Mackenzie?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Daniel responded. “I talked and he listened.” He took another swig of his beer, then said, “I’m not so sure he is the right person to help me.”
“He gets paid to help you,” Jack told him. “He’s got schooling and experience in this stuff. He’ll help you through it.”
Daniel just nodded as he stared at the bottle in his hand. Jack wanted to help his friend, but he knew all too well the consequences he would face if he tried. “I push it away,” he told Daniel. Daniel looked up at him, but Jack could only stare at his friend in shock. Where had that come from?
“Push what away?” Daniel asked, confusion marring his features.
“The guilt,” Jack answered, trying his best to act like nothing was wrong. As if he had wanted to say this all along. “I push it away to a little corner in my mind to dwell on when I am alone.”
“You hide from it,” Daniel said, realization dawning on his face. “How do you do that? I mean the memory is there... God, I keep hearing her begging me to stop.” He looked away to glare at the wall, then turned to Jack, “Damn it Jack, how do you hide from it?” Daniel was almost in tears and Jack could only stand there and stare at his friend, anger moving in as he realized he was going to have to reveal more. His one little admission wasn’t going to be enough. What was he going to do now?
“I don’t know what to tell you Daniel,” Jack said angrily. “This is how I cope. You asked, and I told you. What more do you want?”
“I want to forgive myself,” Daniel replied quietly, as he stared at Jack. “I want to be able to look Sam in the face again, without feeling any shame or self-hatred. Is that so much to ask for?”
Jack didn’t answer right away. He stared back at his friend, wanting to tell him that he needed the same thing. He wanted Sam’s forgiveness, but he knew that what he really needed was to get back his self-respect. “No,” he said, to answer Daniel’s question. “You’re not asking for a whole lot.”
Daniel nodded, while he took another drink. “Hiding from it won’t make the situation go away,” he said.
Jack could only stare at his friend incredulously. “Ya think?” he had to say. Daniel shrugged while Jack just shook his head. “You reminded me of Mackenzie, for a minute there.” Daniel grinned, while Jack glared at his friend before adding, “It never goes away, Daniel. The memories are always there. I just push them back when they come out to play.” He took a drink of his own beer, then said, “You’re going to have to forgive yourself in order to get the rest of what you’re asking for.”
“Yeah, I suppose.” He seemed to think about it for a minute, then said, “Teal’c told me pretty much the same thing. I was just hoping someone could tell me how to forgive myself.”
“That’s a job for Daniel Jackson,” Jack told him, just before finishing off his beer; “With a little help from Doctor Mackenzie, of course.”
“Of course,” Daniel agreed with a grin. His smile dimmed, then he asked, “What happened to you in Iraq?”
“Not going there, Daniel,” Jack growled.
“I was just wondering,” Daniel said, concern written clearly all over his face.
“I was in one of their prisons for four months,” Jack said, hoping to sate Daniel’s curiosity. Daniel nodded, clearly wanting to continue with this conversation, but Jack was determined to avoid the conversation entirely. “It has nothing to do with what happened on that planet.”
Daniel’s expression turned from curiosity to shock. “No, Jack,” Daniel rushed on to say. “That’s not what I was talking about at all. I didn’t mean to imply…”
“Forget it, Daniel,” Jack said, with a sigh. “It happened a long time ago, and I’d rather leave it at that, okay?”
“Okay,” Daniel said, his smile telling Jack that he understood. Jack highly doubted that Daniel understood anything, but it was a small victory that he was not going to pass up on.
“They say time heals all wounds,” Jack told his friend. “Give time a chance to heal yours.”
Daniel nodded, then grinned at Jack. “Wow,” he said, his smile growing wider, “Real words of wisdom from the great Jack O’Neill.” Jack glared at him, while Daniel added, “Stop the presses! Call the historical society! We’ve got to record this for all prosperity.”
Jack couldn’t help grinning back at his friend. “There’s the door, Daniel,” he said, as he pointed at the exit. “You know the way out.”
Daniel just laughed. He put his bottle down on the table, then walked over to Jack and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Thank you, Jack,” he said, with sincerity. “Your words did help.”
“You’re welcome,” Jack responded, as he placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. They had been through a lot, he thought, as Daniel nodded at him once more and walked toward the door. They had lived through extreme situations where death was sometimes thought to be the only option. They had fought enemies, as well as each other, in an effort to bring peace to entire civilizations, and they had comforted each other when their loss and their pain had become too much to bear. Jack could only hope that he was of some comfort to Daniel during this time of pain and self-hatred. He owed his friend that much.
“I think I can forgive myself,” Daniel said, as he held onto the doorknob. “Eventually. The real question is when?”
“Make it soon, Daniel,” Jack told him. “Sam needs you to be there for her.”
“Yeah,” Daniel agreed. He then looked directly at Jack, blue eyes connecting with brown. “She needs you to be there, as well.” With that said, Daniel walked out the door, leaving Jack standing there going over his friend’s words.
Carter needed him, but Jack wasn’t so sure he would be able to help her. She wanted him to tell her how to deal with her pain, and he was the last person she needed in that respect. He had a hard time dealing with his own problems, as it was. How could he help her, when he couldn’t help himself?
He grabbed the empty bottles and took them with him as he headed into the kitchen, intending to throw them away. He ended up throwing one of the bottles at the wall, watching it shatter into a million pieces, as memories of his failure to cope during his ordeal with the Iraqis washed over him.
Push it away, he told himself firmly. Think of something else. He set the other bottle down on the counter and went over to the broom closet to grab the broom, then slammed the door with extreme force while fighting off the memories running through his mind. It was bound to happen, he thought angrily, as he turned his back to the door and slid down to the floor. Carter had to bring it up and now here he was fighting off the memories and the depression that always followed them. He tried to convince himself that he deserved this. He had raped his second in command, hurt her terribly and he deserved to suffer.
Not like this, he pleaded silently. Not like this.