Part 8 - Divide and Conquer

The next day, Kayla returned to the Infirmary. Unfortunately, to her dismay, she would not be speaking with Colonel O'Neill this day. "Janet? What's going on?" she asked quickly.

Fraiser, shouting orders to her nurses, didn't hear her friend at first. "Janet, what's going on?" Kayla repeated.

The doctor caught a faint voice under the buzzing defibrillator and shouts of her own voice and looked up. "Kayla," she almost sighed. "His condition deteriorated overnight. I've never seen pneumonia this serious. It happened so fast. Too fast."

"What happened?"

"He woke up during the night," Janet began, finally stabilizing the heart monitor and leaving the nurses with orders to keep a close watch on him. "He was delusional. It was awful. He asked after Azyalae. Does that name mean anything? You can't tell me, I know. He cried out for her, saying he was sorry."

"The doctor," Kayla murmured to herself, as she remembered Jack mentioning Azyalae and the fact that she and Myra were sisters. How upset the doctor had been when she found out her sister was dead, and how she'd initially blamed Jack for Myra's death.

"I'm going to treat this like any other pneumonia, but increase the normal dosages and see how he responds," Janet thought aloud.

"Will that do anything if this is so serious?" Kayla asked, very concerned.

"I don't know," Fraiser admitted. "I just don't know. I'll have to do that and see what happens. If there's no change within forty-eight hours, I'll have to call in an expert, or he might not make it."

The seriousness in her friend's voice worried Kayla. Not only was the prospect scary, but forty-eight hours wasn't very long. If he could die in that short amount of time, Kayla hoped that this treatment of Janet's worked. If it didn't.

@

Jack woke up the next day dazed and in pain. He wasn't sure he remembered the previous day or not. It was a dream. All that pain and then the screaming in the night. Surely that hadn't happened?

Then suddenly Jack was frightfully aware that it hadn't been a dream at all. Nor had it been a nightmare. He'd really felt that pain, and it hadn't all been physical either. Not only had the pain flared deep in his chest, like a flame blowing in the wind, but it had done the same in his mind. He'd been so confused and delusional, he remembered calling out to Azyalae. Saying he was sorry Myra died. Wishing it hadn't happened and needing to apologise to her just once more. But it wasn't what he needed at all. He needed desperately to move on from it all.

In his quiet corner, deep inside himself, Jack realised he had to go on with his life now. He had to deal with what happened as best he could, not bring it up again and move on with the present. There were friends around him everyday. These people around him, they cared. They were the only family he had and he needed them. Perhaps they needed him too, he wasn't sure, but he realised they were the most important thing in his life. The people around him were always there; always understanding and most importantly, they didn't judge him. He was as much a family member to them, as they all were to him.

This sudden enlightenment and understanding of the issues he'd been dealing with for the past who-knows-how-long made Jack feel lighter. Suddenly, he wasn't weighed down by his memories. He felt relieved, and it felt good. But as much as the self-discovery had helped Jack, and maybe even healed him of a few demons, he knew he still couldn't properly talk about everything else that happened on P4C 237. He'd talked about a lot of it, granted, and even been grateful for doing it, to a point, but he couldn't talk about it anymore.

If he was going to let this help, make things better for him, then he vowed to himself, here and now, that he wouldn't talk about any more of it. Ever. "Colonel," Janet said, smiling, "you're looking better this morning."

"Don't feel it, really," Jack said honestly.

"Well, give it a little bit longer. Your system needs time to heal, and pneumonia of this strength will be with you a while, although not this bad. The remainders of it can last for months, too, so remember. Your strength and sometimes maybe even your balance will be off for a while. You'll probably find you're not back to your full strength for quite a few months. I know that sounds a long time, but just remember that pneumonia is prone to relapsing and usually the relapses are worse than the original case. I know I'm probably making all this sound very awful, but I'm being honest with you, Colonel. There's no point lying and saying you'll be fine, back to normal, in a few days; because you won't."

"Ok, Doc. I think I got it."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like a school teacher giving you a lecture. I just want to make sure you know what you're up for in the months to come." Fraiser smiled and got a chair. "I know these few months haven't been easy for you, Colonel, but we're all here for you. You've probably heard that a million times, but it's true."

"Thanks, Doc," Jack said, allowing himself to smile for the first time in what seemed like forever.

"Well, I'm only telling you what you already know," Janet said with another smile, getting up and taking note of the heart monitor's readings. Steady. "I wanted to die," Jack said suddenly and matter-of-factly, not really knowing why he was telling Dr. Fraiser this.

Fraiser stopped and looked at O'Neill's face to see he was quite serious. "Why?" she asked calmly, sitting down again.

"Because I thought it was better if I did. I thought it would make up for.for what." Jack stopped. He couldn't talk about it all. Not again. He'd told the story enough. It had gone around in his head a million times, and he couldn't put himself through it all again. By continuing to remember, he was putting himself back in the torture chamber, back with the tortured screams of Myra slicing parts of his sanity away.

Janet saw the agony in his face. She knew he stopped himself for a reason and although she didn't know what the reason was, she was willing to let it go. Pursuing it wouldn't help and he probably had had enough of people telling him that he should talk about things. He'd told Kayla what he wanted, obviously, and he'd talked about what he thought he had to. That was enough for Janet.

"Did.in the night, the other day, did I.?" Jack tried to ask about whether or not he really did scream. He knew he had, but somehow he needed confirmation from the one person he knew would have been there. The question was harder to ask than he'd thought.

"No one else heard, Colonel," Janet said gently, knowing it was something he would be concerned about. She saw the relief on his face, and the gratitude toward her. Somehow he knew she tried hard to calm him that night, and he was grateful to her for that.

"You didn't.?"

"Only Kayla. She had to know; she came in here when your heart stopped. She was concerned and I told her. She's the only one, Colonel. No one else." Janet could see the initial panic in his eyes at the mention someone else knew, but knowing it was only Kayla calmed him.

The showing of weakness was something Jack hated. Not by others, but by himself. He had huge expectations of himself and the way people should see him. If he showed things he wasn't supposed to, he let himself down. His expectations weren't met, and he punished himself. This pneumonia was a result of his punishment. The most severe.

"When can I go?" Jack asked, knowing it was a risky question to be asking Dr. Fraiser when the whole reason he was in the Infirmary, worrying her to bits, was because of his punishment of himself.

"Give it a few more days, Jack," Janet said firmly, feeling a strange satisfaction by using his name. "If you're back here within the next six months, don't expect a warm welcome, either. Unless you happen to get shot on base or hit by a speeding bus, I won't accept many other illnesses putting you in here that aren't self-inflicted. If you want to start punishing yourself again, make sure you don't let me find out about it. Ok?" Janet half-smiled and watched Jack's face mimic hers.

"Whatever you say, Doc," he said nonchalantly.

@

After a few more days in the Infirmary turned into a week, Janet was finally satisfied that Jack could safely leave without collapsing unexpectedly or frightening anyone by his pale face. Not that he'd gained much color, but he looked a little more alive than before. Janet also tightly strapped Jack's still injured ankle and told him to be careful on it, and stay off it as much as he could. The crutches she gave him she knew wouldn't be overly used, but she made sure she told him a few times that he should use them as much as possible.

Sam, Daniel, Teal'c and Kayla all visited him in the days before he was released, and he felt pleased that they were more comfortable around him again now, like they used to be before. Jack's self-discovery had helped him an incredible amount. More than he initially realised. He felt confident and easy around his friends once again, and he felt as though his old self was returning to him. He was beginning to make sarcastic remarks once again, and laughing. He hadn't laughed or smiled in so long. Hadn't had fun. Hadn't remembered what fun was like, how good it felt to be with your friends, having a good time, laughing and joking and knowing you were going to be able to do the same thing again another day. Not wondering if you were about to take your last breath because you'd just had all the rest tortured out of you.

Janet, Daniel, Teal'c, and especially Kayla and Sam noticed the change in Jack. He seemed free now. A lot more relaxed and at ease than before. He actually talked, made conversation and joked with them. He became the person he used to be, again. He made comments on things that made everyone laugh, or at least smile. Things were finally starting to get back on track.

The day Jack was released from the folds of the Infirmary bed he had been bound to for what felt like endless days, his friends threw him a party.

Ushering him to the Mess Hall on his crutches as though he might make a run for it, they pushed the doors open and all turned to see his face as he saw the decorations and huge Welcome back, Jack! banner they'd hung from the ceiling. He smiled immediately and they were all pleased to see that reaction.

"Good to have you back, Jack!" Daniel exclaimed, giving his friend's back a pat. Jack was speechless. He hadn't felt so overwhelmed and.and happy for so long. This was amazing and it proved just how much his friends cared about him. It made everything else on his mind drift away as Daniel and the others carefully pushed him into the mess hall and someone shoved a bottle of beer into his hand. The whole thing was completely overwhelming. He didn't know what to do, what to say, where to start.

Someone forced a party hat onto his head, like it was a birthday party, and before he knew it, everyone had party hats on. They all looked ridiculous with red, yellow and blue and green party hats on their heads, but everyone was so happy, and having such a good time, that it didn't matter. No one cared. God, Jack thought after taking a proper look around the room for the first time, half the base must be here!

"C'mon, Jack!" Daniel hollered over all the loud voices and music as he pushed through a group of people, his arms outstretched. "What are you doing standing over here on your own? This is your party!" the archaeologist continued jovially. "Oh, doesn't that mean I can cry if I want to?" Jack said with a light smile on his face.

"Yeah, well, in theory," Jackson cocked his head from side to side then shrugged. "Doesn't apply now! C'mon! Socialize!" He demanded.

With a shrug, Jack let himself be dragged off by his friend to mingle with some people he felt he hadn't seen in years. They all seemed so happy to see him, like he'd been away on an extended holiday. They all patted him on the shoulders like he was a little kid and said how glad they were he was back, even though he'd been back at the SGC for a while now. They all saw the crutches and asked how his ankle was going, and how long it would be before he could go back to normal duty with SG-1.

The same process repeated several times and Daniel and Teal'c dragged Jack around the mess hall until he was sure his arms were going to fall off from holding himself up with the crutches. After several hours of non-stop noise, meet and greets, and drinking, the people started to slowly return to their regular routines. By the time another hour was up, only Daniel, Teal'c, Dr. Fraiser, Kayla and Sam were left.

After remembering Janet's reminders, Jack understood why he felt so tired and drained of energy. She had said it would be like that for a while, until he got his full strength back. Clearly, he was a long way from that happening. When the mess hall was nearly empty, Jack realised that he'd hardly seen Sam the whole time. She'd been milling around, her face gliding by occasionally with some others, but he hadn't talked to her at all. Hadn't thanked her. He needed to do that.

After finally pulling away from Daniel's ever-watchful eye, Jack found Sam sitting alone by the back wall of the hall, a half empty glass of champagne in her hand and thought in her eyes. "Hey Carter," Jack said casually as he pulled up a chair next to her.

Sam lifted her eyes and managed to smile, although her mind was somewhere else in the moment. "Hi Colonel," she said quietly. "Enjoy your party?"

"My party," Jack murmured. "Yeah."

"No?"

"Oh, no. It's great. I didn't realise I actually knew this many people. Who organised all this, anyway?"

"Oh, we all did, Sir," Sam replied, but Jack knew she had on her own.

"Well, you all didn't have to," Jack said, making sure there was emphasis on the all.

Sam just smiled, as though showing she didn't mind. "Listen, Carter," Jack's voice petered out. He didn't know what he wanted to say. Not the words. "I just, I wanted to thank you.for what, well for.you said a lot to me. You might not have thought so, but what you said helped. Helped a lot. I just wanted you to know I'm grateful. Even for sitting in the rain with me. You didn't have to do that, but.well it helped anyway. Thank you."

Sam knew it was hard for him to find the words he wanted to say to her, but she was glad he said them. It made her feel amazingly special to know he appreciated what she'd done for him - even though it might not have been much and he might have hated it at the time. To know he was thankful for her help, for her trying to do anything to be there for him, made it that much more worth while her doing it all. "I'm glad I helped at all, Colonel," Sam said simply.

"You did, Sam," Jack said honestly, sincerity shining in his eyes. "Believe me, you did."

Sam smiled. It was all she could do, for fear she would just start crying. She didn't know why the urge to burst into tears was so strong inside her, but she knew they were joyful, happy tears. She wasn't upset. She had nothing to be sad or upset about. She was genuinely happy, and she just couldn't help the urge to cry. Suddenly the urge overcame her, and happy tears were tumbling down her face. "Oh, I'm sorry, Colonel," she said, laughing at herself and wiping the tears away. "I'm just so happy you're back, and healthy and.I'm sorry. This is so silly."

Jack stopped Sam's hands from moving to wipe her face again with his. She looked up and saw her CO's intense eyes looking at her. Something about his gaze - she knew she didn't have to say anything else. His face was showing his gratitude in his soft smile and profound eyes. He didn't have to speak. Sam smiled back and so badly wanted to just fall into his arms, but knew she couldn't. Especially not here. Their friends were here, in the very place that told them they couldn't feel anything for each other like they did. After a moment, the others seem to realise they were missing the man this party was for. Daniel looked around and saw him sitting with Sam toward the back wall and immediately commenced shouting out to him again.

"Jack! Sam! Get over here and stop being unsociable!" The archaeologist called, waving them over wildly.

Jack and Sam smiled at each other, Sam wiping her tears away, and went back to their friends. So much between them still remained unsaid, but somehow they both knew that was ok. They knew what they needed to say, but it was still ok that they hadn't yet. Their silent understanding allowed them to accept that fact.

@

After three weeks, Jack was nearly going insane from being at home. SG-1 was going on very few missions until he was healthy enough to join them, and General Hammond insisted he stay at home and not come anywhere near the base until he was better. Jack, naturally, insisted that he felt fine and didn't need to stay home anymore, but Hammond wouldn't hear of it. Janet had explained to him all the after-effects of pneumonia and that Jack was not likely to be back to his complete strength again for a few months, so Hammond refused to allow him back on the base. He knew the further away from the place Jack was, the better. Sam, Daniel and Teal'c went to visit him at home regularly, when they weren't away on simple recon missions. They told him all about their little missions and what dramas they encountered, even when he wasn't there. Colonel Blanch was their CO while Jack was out of commission, and Daniel did nothing but complain about him, which Jack liked although he didn't show it.

Jack and Sam hadn't talked anymore about what they still wanted to, but Jack had been thinking about it a lot. He really wanted to talk to Sam more about it, but was unsure if it was the right thing to do. Then, one day, Sam called him. It was late afternoon, and Jack was changing the stations on the TV so fast that he could barely see what was on each one. He'd been through them all that many times, he was hoping a good channel would suddenly appear and not let him change it. Unfortunately, the phone rang instead.

"Hello?" Jack said as he picked it up and stopped the ringing, continuing to change the TV stations.

"Colonel, hi," Sam's voice came from the other end. "It's Sam."

"Hey Carter," Jack said, pleased to hear a familiar voice, particularly hers. He'd been without a visit from his friends for a few days now, and he couldn't deny he missed their company. "What's up?"

"Nothing, really," Sam replied, almost disappointedly. "I just thought I'd call and see how you were doing."

Jack sighed. They all wanted to know how he was doing. "I'm ok. Bored outta my skull, but ok."

"That's good. What are you doing tonight?"

"Nothing. You?"

"Nothing. I'd go somewhere, but I don't feel up to it. I'd ask you to go somewhere with me, but I don't know where."

This gave Jack an idea. It might be a bad one, but it sounded good to him. He'd been told by doc Fraiser that he could lightly use his ankle now, but he'd been doing that for days. "So you're staying home then?" he asked, putting down the remote control, a new edge to his tone.

"Looks like it," Sam said lowly. She did want to go out somewhere, with someone, but she didn't feel like it, really. Well, she did feel like it, but she had nowhere to go.

Jack talked a little longer with Sam and then they said goodbye. She sounded more than a little disappointed that she had nowhere to go, but that would all change, Jack thought with a mischievous grin.

Nearly two hours later, a beautiful sunset behind him, Jack walked to Sam's door and rang the bell. After waiting a few moments, she opened the door. She was wearing some simple house clothes - a blue denim jacket with a white shirt under it and some old looking jeans, bare feet. She was more than a little surprised to see her CO standing at her door, especially looking the way he did. "Colonel," she said, shocked. "What.I mean, well." she was speechless at the gorgeous appearance of her CO. The tuxedo she never knew he had looked fantastic, and she couldn't help smiling.

"C'mon," Jack smiled. "Let's go."

"Where?" Sam asked, confused but with a smile on her face.

"I'm taking you out to dinner," Jack said matter-of-factly, as though it was blatantly obvious that was the reason he was there.

"But, I can't go like this," Sam said, gesturing at her rather ordinary ensemble. Jack smiled. "You look fine, but go get changed if you want. There's time." Sam smiled, still slightly confused, and opened her screen door for Jack to come inside. He went in with her and sat in her lounge room, waiting for her to return. Jack didn't know how long he'd been waiting, but couldn't hide the fact that he was surprised when Sam returned.

She was wearing a long red chiffon evening gown with thin straps, a red flower in her hair and red stilettos. A silver chain around her neck and deep red lips. Jack couldn't find words, but stood up.

Sam seemed unsure. "Is this ok?" she asked worriedly, hoping it wasn't too much. Jack nodded, smiling and looking to her face.

"Perfect," he said admiringly.

Sam smiled, clearly pleased. "I haven't worn this is ages," she laughed, brushing herself, feeling self conscious in the dress she couldn't remember wearing in years.

"Come on, then," Jack said, unable to wipe the smile off his face. "Let's go."

"Where are we going?" Sam asked.

"You'll find out, c'mon."

Without worrying about what was acceptable for them, as a CO and 2IC, Sam smiled and linked her arm under Jack's as they walked to his car. She was so surprised by this spontaneous act, and yet so pleased with it at the same time. She hadn't been out anywhere and got dressed up in forever! It felt good to be dressed formally, going somewhere with someone she enjoyed spending time with. Besides that fact, Jack looked amazing! Very handsome indeed. She hadn't seen him in a tux before, but he certainly fit the part perfectly. He looked positively dashing and she was definitely impressed.

It felt excellent being on his arm as they walked into a very prestigious looking restaurant that Sam had never seen or heard of before that moment. A waiter took them to their table, which Jack had clearly pre-booked, near a window, with a lovely view.

"Colonel, how long have you been planning this?" Sam asked incredulously as food was brought to them without them ordering it.

"I didn't plan it," Jack replied honestly. "I decided this afternoon on the phone."

"But how did you get this table? Surely they were booked out by the time you phoned?"

"I know some people. And lose the Colonel, Sam. We're out having dinner for cryin' out loud."

Sam smiled and chuckled. He was right, of course. It was just a habit. She was so accustomed to him being her CO and nothing else, she hardly remembered that they were actually allowed to be friends as well as that outside the base she could actually use his name. Sam laughed to herself again and took a sip of the chilled champagne that had been waiting for them.

"This is amazing, Co.Jack," she stopped herself saying Colonel just in time, and they smiled at each other.

Jack shrugged, as though it was nothing to book a popular, expensive restaurant at the last minute and take his second in command out to dinner, just because he thought of it on the phone.

Sam couldn't help laughing again. It was all so unbelievable! She could hardly believe that here she was, sitting at a table in an expensive restaurant wearing a dress she hadn't even seen in years, let alone worn, with her CO who was wearing a tuxedo and looked positively gorgeous. It was completely unthinkable that they be doing this now, after everything that happened to them both in the past few months, especially everything Jack went through. But now here he was. Exactly the person he was before P4C 237, if not a better one for everything that happened. Something about what happened changed him, but not for the worse like everyone would have assumed. He had a better concept of life, now that he'd had almost every breath of life tortured out of him on a regular basis. It all seemed so much more, now. Life. It all seemed so much more important. When it feels like the last day of your life has arrived, but you live through the ordeal, it makes everyday after that seem like the most important thing.

Jack looked up from his meal and smiled at his second in command, but for the first time, he saw her as his friend and as a woman. She looked beautiful, and when she looked up to see him looking at her, she smiled. A beautiful smile. "What?" she asked, the smile never leaving her face.

Jack smiled at her and didn't say anything. He knew he'd found something in himself that he didn't know was there. The day he realised everything around him was going to make it all ok; he found something inside himself. He'd discovered not only the truth, but the reasons.

"Nothing," he murmured. Everything he'd been through had made a difference and made the reasons so much more important. Some of those reasons were at home, some at work, and one was, and always had been, right in front of him.

//'And as time grows older
Another day arrives
With the same people who care
Still remaining in your life
So when you look back
To forever, or years gone by
Remember that they loved you
But don't ask for a reason why'//

"To Discover The Truth" - By Spyro

Featured poem: 'Not Lost' by Spyro

+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+ _*+_*+_* "Lose it.it means, go crazy, nuts, insane, bonzo, no longer in possession of one's faculties, three fries short of a Happy Meal, WACKO!" ~ Jack (Window of Opportunity) +_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+_*+ _*+_*+_*