I enter the large dining room and see Colonel O'Neill sitting by himself in the Commissary's eating area. He looks tired but mellow. It's been a rough year on our good Colonel but now...well, now, things are looking up.
At the beginning of this horrible year I was keeping an unofficial suicide watch on him. Then, inexplicably, he seemed to get better. Surprisingly, it was right after he was captured and tortured by the Goa'uld Baal. It was like he had turned a page in his life and knew something that no one else did. I could see him beginning to make a real effort to get on with his life. He even managed to get along better with Mister Quinn after that. At the time he wouldn't say what had changed his attitude, but just recently we found out why. Sam says that he announced at THE staff meeting that Daniel had come to be with him when he had been captured by Baal. I guess, in spite of his being tormented and even killed repeatedly, knowing his friend was okay and still there had made that big of an impression on him.
When I say THE staff meeting, I mean the one where the Colonel also revealed that Daniel had come to see him a second time in the elevator. That was the staff meeting that started the whole SGC ball of wax rolling back to normalcy, or what passes for it around here anyway.
I carry my tray over to Colonel O'Neill's table. He nods his welcome and I sit down across from him. "How are you doing, Doc?" he asks me warmly.
"Fine, Colonel, and yourself?" I answer as I glance at his tray. The remains of a BLT sandwich, a partially piece of apple pie and glass of milk sit there.
He grins at me with that little boy look in his eye as he cuts off another bite-sized piece of the dessert. "Pie's good tonight, Doc, must be that new cook. Even the coffee is up to standards."
I smile and nod. We both know whose standards it's up to. "Where is Doctor Jackson?" I ask him as I begin to eat my meal.
"Oh, he's up in his office finishing his report on the totemic figurines of something or other. I was gonna go up and collect him." He looks at me over the table's small centerpiece of silk roses in a cut glass vase. "Why?"
"Oh, no reason, Sir. Just wondering." Yes, I am...I'm wondering if things have, resumed with them. Before Daniel died, ascended, left, whatever, they had been very close. Too close, actually, but I didn't ask and they weren't telling. Of course, as their Doctor, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Kind of a 'They knew that I knew that they knew that I knew what I wasn't supposed to know'. The thing is, I really was happy for them. I have no prejudices when it comes to where and with whom people can find happiness. And Lord knows they both deserved it.
The Colonel gives me the eye and I give him as good as I get. He finally nods, knowing where I'm coming from. I continue in my pedantic doctorial tone. "I haven't spoken to him lately. I was just wondering how he's coping with everything. You know, if he's settling in or if he's remembered any more."
"He seems to have pretty much regained his memory." The Colonel answers me seriously, now that he's sure that I mean them no harm or disrespect. We sit and chat for a while as we eat, two friends catching up on the gossip and internal happenings in our little closed society of the SGC.
I finish my ham on rye and coffee while he plays with his piecrust. "You want to come up to his office with me? I'm about to extract him for our Friday team night." He looks at me with a small grin of appreciation of our common cause. We both want what's best for Daniel, we both care way too much for him, and we both trust each other with his welfare.
"Well, I'm ready to head home too, if you don't mind the company."
"No, it's okay." He smiles easily. "C'mon. Maybe he won't argue with me so hard about leaving if you're there as my back up."
We both rise and carry our trays to the disposal area, dumping them on the conveyor belt that will take them to the kitchen. Then, we travel down the hallway to take the elevator up to the floor where our favorite archaeologist's office is located. Colonel O'Neill slides his security card through the car's sensor and we both lean back against the handrail.
He glances up and around the car then looks at me. "You know, this is where I saw him...when he told me about Abydos. I was in this car and I couldn't get it to work; then I turned around and there he was." O'Neill shakes his head. "He was leaning on that wall, right where you're standing. He had his arms crossed, you know, like when he's not sure of what you think of him. There was this little faint yellow halo around him, like one of those old pictures of Saint Peter or John the Baptist." The Colonel smiles with the memory. "Then he started in on me. He needed my help, bad guy coming, gotta save the galaxy, yada yada. I pulled him up short and made him talk stupid stuff for a while before I started listening to him." He shakes his head pessimistically again. "I didn't get it. Why did he need our help? I mean really, the Ascended Glowy Folks should have been able to lightening strike Anubis right off the damned galactic map without breaking a sweat. Why was he coming to me, for crying out loud?" He looks at me sadly. "I didn't get it, Doc, that they didn't care, and wouldn't help. Not couldn't, but wouldn't. He had to come to us, his little primitive, backward, unimportant Tau'ri pals. I still don't get it, Doc. Why us, and for God's sake, why me?"
I really don't have a good answer for him. Why indeed? Actually I do know the reason, but how do I say it? He came to you because Daniel Jackson knows that of all the beings that populate our planet and the galaxy, the one person he can count on to never, ever let him down is Jack O'Neill.
But I shake my head negatively. "I'm sure I don't know, Sir. It does seem that we're always on call, doesn't it?"
"Yep, we're either the heroes of the known universe or one big patsy," he declares sarcastically. "And I know which one my moneys on." Then his face softens, "Except for Daniel. He really is a hero and they let him get away."
The car stops on the level of the laboratory/offices of the Science Department. O'Neill leads the way to a certain office door where he taps lightly on the metal. When he gets no answer, he pushes it and it swings open silently. He motions for me to stay put.
As he enters, I look into the room. Directly in front of him, some feet back from the door is a gray, metal, military style office desk. It is heaped high with books, journals, artifacts and various other items. To the right side of the desk is a brown vinyl couch. It's empty except for a pillow and an afghan. Over to the left side is a wooden table holding a computer, table lamp and more arcane objects. Slumped over the table is the subject of our discussion. O'Neill curses softly to himself then walks towards him.
Daniel is seated on an uncomfortable looking folding chair; his upper torso is leaning forward and supported by the large wooden table. His arms are crossed on a pile of paperwork and his head rests on them. As the Colonel crosses the floor to his side, I take the opportunity to study him.
Daniel's face is angled towards us. His head is cradled on his forearms, a yellow note pad and an old, thick book lays open beneath him. The soft brown hair is tousled; the complexion of his face is fair leaning to paleness. His trademark blue eyes are closed, scrunched up, so that the vertical line between them is evident. Daniel's mouth is slightly open and he's breathing through it, evidently his sinuses are acting up again. I make a mental note to review his allergy meds.
His body is completely relaxed, lying bonelessly on the table's surface; the BDU jacket is scrunched up over his shoulders and the nape of his neck. The slender hands are spread across the legal pad, still gripping a pencil. His long legs are crossed at the ankles and tucked under the chair he's sleeping in. The overall picture is one of artlessness. It gives him the appearance of a young student still in school. It is certainly not the demeanor of a multiple titled scholar who should be held in reverence and high esteem by students, staff and the intellectual elite.
As his physician, I know that body intimately, in more ways than a lover could. I've seen him wounded, in pain, hysterical, exhausted, drugged, and dying. God, I can never forget the dying.
Radiation poisoning is the worst possible way to die, in my humble opinion, for both the patient and the witnesses. Watching the delicate skin splitting open with oozing lesions, seeing the beloved face swelling and blistering, and hearing the muffled sounds of pain as the internal organs degrade, then fail all together, drowning the patient in his own fluids is torturous to all involved. Of all the people in this world, he was the last to deserve such horrible and degrading torment. He should never have had to suffer such pain and agony. I had done all I could to spare him. I had even tried drugging him into unconsciousness, but he had still surfaced to experience the misery of his own death.
But now, seeing him like this, alive and safely encircled by his beloved books in his secure world, back with his caring companion, is beyond all my dreams. I watch the Colonel as he steps forward and lays a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder. I see Daniel's handsome face grimace and blink his way back to wakefulness.
The sight is too much for me to take. Tears are burning in my eyes, and damp moisture is gathering on my cheeks. I feel the traitorous moisture slip down my face. I'm standing there like an idiot watching a man sleep on his desk and I'm bawling my eyes out like a baby.
The Colonel gently shakes him awake and Daniel mumbles something that I can't hear. The two men look towards me and I realize the image I must be presenting. As I turn away to hide my face, caloused hands grip my shoulders and guide me back into the room. They deliver me into the strong arms of my friend then release me into his care.
Sightlessly, I can only bury my face in the clean, healthy smell of Daniel Jackson. His strong sure arms gather me safely in a comforting hug. One hand ruffles through my short hair as he pulls me to him; the other gently, firmly strokes my back. I can hear his calming voice in my ear as he murmurs unintelligible comforts to me and I feel a gentle kiss on my cheek. This caring gesture defeats me completely and I break down, sobbing noisily like a little child who is held by a beloved parent after a particularly gruesome nightmare.
I don't know how long I remain, crying in his arms, held like that. I know it's been at least several minutes. The Colonel is nowhere to be seen and the door is firmly closed, keeping the outside world at bay. Finally, after a time, I manage to lift my head from his shoulder and look teary eyed up at my friend's anxious face.
"Hey, are you okay now?" It's that concerned Daniel voice that I've yearned for so desperately for so long. It says 'What's wrong? What can I do? How can I help?'
"Oh Daniel, I missed you so much." Is that the best I can do? I return his gentle hug with a firm hard squeeze. "I'm so sorry that I failed you. I...I didn't know what to do...then the Colonel told us to let you go and...we lost you...." I start the waterworks again. He gathers me firmly in his arms and begins to rock me like a small child.
"Janet, you didn't fail me. You did all you could." He kisses me on the forehead and I relax into his hug. "Nobody could cure that. It's not your fault and it's not Jack's fault. He only did what I wanted him to do." When I finally stop crying again, he releases me. "It wasn't your fault; none of it was your fault." He pulls me back against him and rubs my shoulders with one hand. "I love you, Janet; you're my friend. Please don't cry anymore." He smiles at me with a silly grin. "I'm back."
I finally manage to pull away from him, fighting my urge to grab him and hold him so tightly that it would hurt. "Don't you ever, ever do anything like that again." I sniff and wipe my face with my hands. "Next time just let the whole damned alien planet blow up, you hear me...cause they're not worth it...not any of them. Do you hear me!"
I see his smile as he nods his head. "Yes, ma'am." Then he looks over and past me. I hear the door into the hallway open and close gently and soft footsteps approach as Jack O'Neill joins us.
"Feel better, Doc?" O'Neill's voice asks gruffly.
I sniff and stand up straight, dashing the tears from my eyes still not looking at him. Then a large hand pushes a clean hanky into my fist and helps me blot the tears from my face. "Here, you can use this. I know I've needed one too many times to count in this last year."
Daniel still has his arm around my shoulder as he leans down to peer into my face. "Okay?" There is another little flood of tears, which I quickly dab up with the clean cloth. Then I nod.
The Colonel pats me awkwardly on the arm. "I know, Doc. It's all right. He's back now." I receive another kiss to the top of my head and hear a suspicious sounding sniff come from O'Neill. "Look, it's Friday. Teal'c and Carter are probably on their way to my house by now. Why don't you go put on some civvies and come on over to my place. I got the DVD Daredevil in the mail the other day. You can join us for some pizza and beer."
I wipe my eyes dry and nod at him. "If you're sure you don't mind the extra company."
"Nah, no such thing as too many friends, Doc. You know that. If you get too drunk you can always crash in the guestroom with Carter."
I look at him and nod. He looks at me with eyes that are also suspiciously damp, and then he nods as if I have stumbled onto a secret. "Hey, you know I don't let anyone drive home after too many beers." He protests, "There's always room for one more at the O'Neill place."
"Okay, Colonel, you've got a deal," I manage to say without any other embarrassing displays. I give Daniel another hug and finally force myself to let go of him. "I'll see you at your place in an hour."
As I leave the office, I turn for one more glimpse of my two friends. I don't see the hug that they're sharing and I won't see anything else there either. They are my friends and whatever makes them happy, suits me right down to the ground. I'm just glad he's back and all's right with our world.