Author's notes: Canadian Spelling. My first ever Stargate Fic.
Jay grabbed the phone on the first ring. Whenever possible he tried to be the first to answer in case it was his mother calling - again. In the shared research lab he really hated to have one of his colleagues announce across the room in that teasing voice "Ja-ay, your mommy’s calling."
"Research Lab," he spoke into the receiver. "Dr. Felger speak-- Dr. Jackson!" He gasped and unconsciously stood straighter on hearing the voice on the other end. "Uh, Dr. Lee? Yes, he’s here," he answered, ignoring said Dr.’s frantic motioning in the negative. "Did you want to... oh, uh, ok... yes, I’ll tell him... Right, bye Dr. Ja--"
"Uh..." He cleared his throat, replacing the receiver and looking up at Bill Lee. "Dr. Jackson would like to see you up in his office - uh, right away," he added when Bill just stared at him for a moment.
The other scientists watched curiously as Bill Lee straightened his shoulders before taking a deep breath and walking out, his face set, as if he were on his way to the gallows instead of just up to the senior labs.
"Huh," Jay muttered, still staring at the empty doorway through which the other scientist had passed. "Never heard Dr. Jackson sound so... so... I mean, he sounded pissed..."
After his attempt at a confident departure from the lab, Bill’s true nervousness increased with every step. The mission to Honduras had been a disaster on so many levels. In the end, they had managed to get the artifact and ‘contain the situation’ as the military described the deaths of the rebels. But Bill could blame no one for his massive failure on the mission but himself.
Daniel had done everything reasonably possible to deflect attention onto himself and away from Bill - hell, he’s done a bunch unreasonably to deflect attention as well. He’d managed to get them out of their hut-prison and had made sure Bill was with him as far as he could manage, and when he’d been unable to go on, Daniel had hidden him then deliberately drawn the rebels away, earning himself a bullet in the leg for his troubles. He sure as hell hadn’t broken down and told the rebels everything he’d ever known like Bill had.
The elevator seemed to take forever, the walls pressing in on him throughout the ride. He felt acutely aware of various personnel who entered and exited the car, certain they somehow knew about his failures. Too afraid that he’d see mocking or disgusted looks in their faces he kept his eyes on the panel, watching the floor numbers flash by.
It was weird, Bill thought as he finally exited the elevator. Daniel was several years younger than he was - a brilliant mind, yes, but still... So why did he feel like an errant schoolboy approaching the principal’s office instead of a confident PhD, pretty darn brilliant himself, thank you very much, adult as he made his way down the corridor of level 19.
Daniel was his boss or, one of his bosses anyway as the head of civilian research on the base - a position he’d certainly earned and more than deserved, age not withstanding and Bill knew he’d let Daniel down. He’d failed him miserably in fact and now it was time to pay the price.
So, taking a final deep breath and slowly releasing it, he turned the corner and knocked lightly on the metal file cabinet that stood just inside Daniel’s lab.
"Bill," Daniel greeted him with a smile as he looked up from his computer screen. "Come in. I’m just going to close the doors ok?" Bill was glad of the warning as with a tap on the keyboard of his computer, the two secure blast-doors on either side of the lab slid closed with a small clang.
"Uh, Jay said you wanted to see me?" he stuttered coming to stand stiffly in front of Daniel’s desk. He fidgeted slightly thinking he’d definitely spent too much time working for the military when he realized that he was doing a fair approximation of ‘parade rest’.
"Yeah..." Daniel sighed, taking his glasses off to rub his eyes and massage his temples. "Have a seat Bill."
He felt his composure falter slightly but tried not to let it show as he spotted his personnel file sitting on the desk in front of Daniel as he sat.
"So," Daniel began, leaning back in his chair. "I just came from speaking with General Hammond." He pulled a single sheet of paper from under the file and slid it across the desk for Bill to see. "He wanted to know why I was letting you resign in the first place and also why your resignation had come directly to him instead of through me."
"Uh," Bill stuttered eloquently, all colour draining from his face.
"At first, he thought I’d had you bypass me because I’d been involved in the incident mentioned in your letter. He wanted to assure me that the proper channels and procedures should still be maintained."
"Then he lit into me about why I’d even allow your resignation given the fact that you haven’t been through the required psych evaluation and sessions after a hostile interrogation."
"Daniel..." Bill began but was cut off.
"I checked Bill. You skipped your sessions. Now I don’t know why Mackenzie didn’t report that, and I can’t say I’m his biggest fan myself, but those sessions are mandatory Bill, and for good reason. You don’t just walk away from being tortured without some degree of fallout."
"Tortured...?" Bill croaked, his voice tripping over the word.
"That is the word for it Bill. Trust me, I’m a linguist. I’m good with words. Why haven’t you been to your sessions?"
"Did you...?" Bill tried to ask, his throat dry.
"The psych sessions? Yeah. I don’t go to Mackenzie, but yeah I did my required sessions. You’re not back on active duty until the shrink signs off."
"Oh..." He stared at the desktop, his eyes blurring annoyingly as he tried not to look at his own resignation letter. "Wouldn’t it be better if I just quit...?"
"No!" Bill jumped, startled at the vehemence in Daniel’s denial. "For one, the military has finally learned after way too many experiences that they do not just release someone who has been put through these kinds of stresses back into the world. You’d be PTSD just waiting to happen. Not to mention the fact that Sam’d kill me if I let you go - you’re the best she’s got with the alien techno-stuff." Daniel looked at him over his glasses for a moment before sighing and pushing his folder to the side of the desk. "Talk to me Bill. You’re a good man and I don’t want to lose you."
Bill stared at him in disbelief for what felt like ages before finally blurting out, "how can you say that?! After what I..." He left off, unable to complete the phrase, his shame still so raw.
"Bill." Daniel’s voice held such understanding and compassion that Bill just wanted to scream. "Tell me something. Had you ever been tortured before?"
"What?! No, of course not! Daniel, I’m not like you - I can’t... I mean, God! You’ve probably been tortured hundreds of times but you never... did what I did," he finished lamely.
"Not hundreds," Daniel replied softly. "But yeah, it’s happened before. And believe me portions of the galaxy are very creative with their torture, though this was pretty close to what the Bedrosians... but anyway that’s my whole point. It’s not something you get used to easily and God I hope you don’t have to. You’ve never experienced anything like this before. You can’t expect..."
"When was the first time you were tortured Daniel?"
"Uh..." The question seemed to throw him for a loop and he opened and closed his mouth several times as he tried to come up with the first time. "Uh... You mean like this? Uh, Ra I guess."
Wow, thought Bill, he was tortured on the very first mission?! "And did you give in? Tell him what he wanted to know?"
"He didn’t want to know anything, he just wanted me to..." Daniel looked troubled for a moment and Bill shuddered to think what memories he was dredging up. "Bill..." he sighed finally, shaking himself. "That’s not the point..."
"Why not? I caved, I wimped out. You didn’t. No one else did. I’m surprised you didn’t fire me the minute we got back."
"Bill," Daniel cut him off. "What’s your job title?"
"Technical Scientist I," Bill answered, confused at the apparent change in topic.
"Lead Technical Scientist III actually, as soon as you’re cleared for duty again," Daniel corrected to Bill’s shock. Lead scientist was a step above his current "rank" within the civilian staff on base. "But the point is your actual job description has nothing in there about coping with enemy tactics. I’ve actually being toying with the idea of having all civilian staff take at least a basic course on this kind of thing anyway. I mean even those who will never go off world may encounter a situation right here on the base considering how often we’ve had aliens of one kind or another running all over the place."
Bill merely gaped at this announcement, still confused by the apparent promotion when he’d expected to be fired.
"Bill, I want you to understand that I consider what happened to be a failure in the training we provided you and a failure in the intelligence we went in there with. We should have taken the border disputes more seriously and we should have been more prepared and more cautious. In fact it’s my fault really that we were taken at all."
Choking on the illogical and completely erroneous statement Bill couldn’t help himself from butting in. "That makes no sense! How on earth could it be your fault?! You kept pulling their attention to yourself and away from me - you got us out of there...!"
"If I hadn’t been so lax as I played like it was a simple college dig and kept a watch out for any dangers, we might not have been taken at all. Look," Daniel brushed off his attempt to argue further. "This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve discussed with the shrink in my sessions. Jack had some choice words as well." He shrugged self-deprecatingly "But you need to talk it out - with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and isn’t working on their own issues about the same situation."
"I don’t know Daniel..." He was starting to see that either way he’d have to do the sessions with Mackenzie, but how could he continue to show his face knowing that everyone would know what had happened - A concern he vocalized.
Daniel sighed in response. "Bill I’ve told you no one blames you for anything, but if it makes you feel better, you and I know all of what happened in Honduras, Mackenzie, Janet and Dr. Chen know some of what happened, my full report was read by Hammond and Jack, your full report was read by me, Hammond and Jack, and portions of my report, which summarizes some of the technical aspects of your report was read by the president. No one else on base will see the full reports and no one else on base will read the mission particulars nor know anything you choose not to speak of. I have spoken privately with Jack, Sam and Teal’c about some of my experiences on the mission, but I swear to you that I have not, nor will I speak about you - and not because I think there’s anything to be ashamed of," he added quickly. "But simply because it’s your experience and not relevant to what I was speaking with them about."
"Now," he said brightly. Reaching across the table and using a single finger, he re-centred Bill’s resignation letter. "I don’t want to accept this ever. I won’t accept this for the reasons given. And I can’t accept it until you’ve attended your mandated sessions. Please tell me I don’t have to hide from Sam for the next month. She’s dying to get working on that thing and is pestering me about when you’ll be eligible to get back to work."
"I don’t know Daniel." Bill sighed, still not convinced he belonged working on a base filled with heroes. "But you’re right. I’ll see Mackenzie. I can’t promise after that though."
"Great!" Daniel enthused ignoring the last part. "Oh, and by the way after your sessions I’ve arranged for you to do a separate session on dealing with enemy tactics if you’d prefer not to take the class with everyone else. If you do want to sit in the general session with the others that’s fine too. They start next week." Daniel smiled and Bill knew that he was sincere. Every civilian scientist would be taking the course and Bill could join the rest or have a private session, it was really his choice.
"Oh!" Daniel jumped up, keying the computer to open the doors and signalling Bill to join him. "You’d better hurry, I told Mackenzie to expect you at 15:00." Bill raised his eyebrows inquisitively. "What?" Daniel shrugged, leading him toward the door. "So I was optimistic you’d agree, so sue me."
"So Daniel," Bill asked going along with Daniel’s lead in lightening the mood as they headed toward the elevator. "What did Col. O’Neill say to you? You said ‘he had some choice words’ before."
"Oh..." Daniel blushed, staring at the key pad as he swiped his card to call the elevator. "That..." He stalled, muttering until the elevator arrived then busied himself pushing the button for the medical floor for Bill and the briefing room for himself.
He was quiet so long that Bill had second thoughts. "I’m sorry, that’s personal..."
"No, actually," Daniel said, turning to face him. "It’s good advice for you as well I guess." He sighed again, looking at the floor numbers changing until just before they arrived at Bill’s floor. "He said I should get my head out of my ass and try to remember that in the end I brought my team home safe and alive - even the guide lived. And we achieved the mission objective as well. All in all not too shabby."
And with that the elevator doors opened and Bill felt himself pushed into the corridor by Daniel before they closed again. Left stunned for a moment with the image of Daniel’s self-deprecating smile accompanied by shooing motions urging him forward, all Bill could do was smile in return then take a deep breath, walk down the hall and knock on Mackenzie's office door.