"What's it like having all that hair?" Jack asked.
"Pardon," Daniel responded, bemused by Jack's choice of subject.
"It looks like it would be heavy, you know, pull on your scalp and make your head feel restricted," Jack speculated. "Lord, it must take you hours for it to dry when you wash it. And what an ordeal if you ever got lice. Not to mention the risk of it getting in something." Daniel was looking at him with his mouth open and his forehead wrinkled. "You know, since you came back from Lisseth, it's the first time in my life I've ever really lived with people with truly long hair. None in the military and Sara and Sam always kept their hair short. Hell even my dog has short hair."
"Why are we talking about this Jack?" Daniel asked absolutely bewildered by now. Jack, the man of few words, going on about nothing. Daniel felt like he was living a Seinfield episode from decades before.
"You've got a lot more hair than Sam," Jack continued as if Daniel hadn't said a word. "She got about as much hair on her head now as you had when I first met you although it's pouffed up more. I guess I'm just way too old because it seems to me like a really strange mental image to imagine a man and a woman together where he has all this hair and she hasn't got much more hair than some guys."
"You are creeping me out, Jack," Daniel said. "Why in heaven's name would you be imagining Sam and I together? That's almost like imaging, I don't know, your parents or something. At this point, we're family."
Jack looked at Daniel then, finally acknowledging that he was saying something. "Are you telling me that when Sam and I were married you never had images come to your mind, whether you wanted them or not?"
"Good grief, no," Daniel said disgusted.
"But then, you hadn't been married to her yet and you are so damn honorable. She was my wife, after all."
"So you, you've pictured.." Words failed Daniel and he trailed off.
"I take the fifth," Jack said.
"You filthy old man," Daniel said, half laughing, half appalled.
"If I ever did, I'm not saying it was anything I wanted to do or that I didn't absolutely refuse to entertain the thought," Jack defended himself.
"I return to my earlier question. Why are we talking about this?" Daniel said, struggling to get closure to this whole disturbing discussion.
"It's the way Sam's been looking at you. It's putting ideas in my head about the two of you. I was married to her, Daniel. I know what that expression on her face means. If I catch her, damn, Daniel, the woman blushes." Jack shrugged. "Maybe you ought to do something about it."
"And maybe you should go to confession or something to deal with your unclean thoughts and leave me be." He stood up and started for his room.
"You can't tell me you're not still in love with her," Jack said, raising his voice slightly.
Daniel turned around. "We had this conversation, the night before Teal'c left. She never stopped loving you. I love you too Jack but I don't want to sleep with you which is what being married to her was like." He rubbed at his face. "Look, this whole Manifest Destiny issue is going to come to a head in the next three months, one way or the other, and then I'm going back to Lisseth. There are a couple of attractive widows in my camp. I thought I'd spend some time with them, see if there's a spark. It happened with Iona. It could happen again. Good night, Jack."
He opened the door and then turned back a second time. "And, uh, Jack. I've caught her looking at you a time or two. Maybe we should agree not to make anything of it."
The door closed behind Daniel. Jack got up and threw his empty beer bottle in the wastebasket so viciously that it shattered. "Oh, Sam. I'm doing my best but the scar tissue on that boy just may be too thick," he muttered and slumped back down on the sofa.
Sam had begun to feel that she was on some sort of funeral barge and it wasn't for her departed husband. She was the one who was newly widowed but she seemed to be spending a good deal of her time trying to lift other people out of depression. Jake and Jonas had gone off for the delayed filming of "Troubles." Thank God, their roles were small and they would only be gone for a month since Seline spent her time moping and getting up in the middle of the night for phone calls from Europe from Jake. This made her even more tired and droopy. The baby, picking up on his mother's malaise and in the midst of aggressive teething, seemed to cry all the time. Trina was very upset that her father hadn't relented about allowing her to participate in the album and its video and flounced around, taking out a certain amount of her disgruntlement on her brothers. The worst offenders were Johnny and Chiona. They were particularly annoying because Sam couldn't discover the reason they were unhappy although it clearly had to do with their relationship with each other. When she asked Johnny about it, he literally snarled, "Why would I know anything about why some naïve little girl has got a cob up her ass?"
She tried to approach Chiona more than once but consistently met with a cold stare and an answer couched in polite words but dripping venom. Seline either didn't want to talk with her sister or refused to share what she had found out with Sam and wasn't any help.
Sam was trying to focus on a professional journal on her laptop but had been sitting on the same page for so long that the screensaver had come on while she was still on the first paragraph. "I'm going for a run," she announced to the boys and Trina who were sitting around the coffee table, studying.
Tealk got up and came over and hugged her. Tealk had made it clear that he thought he had inherited some sort of responsibility for her wellbeing when his namegiver, her husband, had died. He looked up at her and said, sunily, "Have a good time and be careful not to fall over anything."
Sam couldn't help but melt every time she looked at his sweet face, particularly if his dark hair, his one distinguishing feature from the blond little Jake of years ago, was pulled back so it was less obvious. He'd be her son, if she and Daniel… "Do not go there, Samantha," she chided herself, and gave Tealk a bright smile and a return hug.
She went upstairs to change her jeans for running shorts and was about to come out of the room she was sharing with Trina she heard light female voices and footsteps approaching. Sam felt like a jerk but she decided to stay where she was and take a chance that she might overhear something helpful. It was, indeed, Chiona and Seline. They went into the room they shared directly across the hall but the door didn't close all the way and Sam could just make out the conversation. Seline said with the lack of animation of someone who has already said the same thing many times and been completely unheeded, "If you just would talk to him, explain how you feel."
"That would require Johnny to have some capacity to understand or care about anyone but himself," Chiona responded bitterly.
"He cares about Jake," Seline said but she sounded quite uncertain of that statement herself.
"He just uses Jake as a projection of himself."
"If he's so awful, why are you so torn up?" her sister asked, beginning to sound exasperated.
"Oh Seline," Chiona said, starting to cry, "I don't want to but we don't get to pick who we love. Even if they don't love us back."
"He wants you, that's clear," Seline said.
"He wants me to give up everything I am and he doesn't even love me," Chiona stated in a muffled voice, between sobs. Perhaps Seline was holding her now. "If he just said he loved me, I think I might do what he wants. Behave like a Tauri woman. But he's never said that. He just keeps demanding…" and the rest was lost in big gusts of sobbing.
Sam was ashamed of Johnny and ashamed of herself for intruding on this tawdry confession. She thought she heard the door shut more firmly and the voices get indistinct and peeked out to see if she could leave her room unnoticed. That was when she saw Johnny, frozen in place in front of the next bedroom door. He was deep in thought and Sam knew, she just knew, he had heard at least some of it. Chiona had given him the weapon to make her do something she didn't really want to do. Never mind that there was nothing particularly wrong with it from Sam's point of view. Chiona believed to her core that there was and it would affect her commensurately.
Sam backed away from the door and leaned against the wall, feeling helpless. She knew from experience that Johnny wouldn't listen to her. Maybe it was time to involve Jack. It was time for him to step up to the plate as Johnny's father whether Johnny wanted him to or not. The last person to involve was Chiona's father who probably would want to take Johnny out and demonstrate that archeologists could be pretty scary people too.
When Sam came back downstairs, Jak was on the phone. "Mr. O'Neill isn't here. Do you want to talk to Ms. Carter?" He looked up relieved to see her and handed the phone over immediately without waiting to hear whether the person on the other end wanted to talk to her or not.
"Ms. Carter, this is Ms. Blankenship. I'm a nurse in Dr. Janeway's office. May I ask when Mr. O'Neill will be returning."
Sam was uneasy immediately. She knew that Dr. Janeway was Sara O'Neill physician. "Mr. O'Neill is out of the state. He's asked me to take responsibility for Sara's care in his absence."
"I guess that's all right then," the nurse said, clearly uncomfortable with talking to someone she wasn't sure was authorized to handle the situation. "When Ms. O'Neill was here last week with Mr. O'Neill, we did some tests. Initially there didn't seem to be a cause for concern but the doctor has looked at them further and thinks it's important that he do some follow up blood work immediately. Could you bring Ms. O'Neill in today?"
"Of course, if that's really necessary. It's almost a two hour drive though. We won't be able to get there before about 5:00. Is that going to be all right," Sam asked, already thinking through the logistics.
"That will fine. We'll look for you then, Ms. Carter," the woman said, crisply and hung up.
Sam didn't want to try to drive and cope with Sara at the same time if she got into one of her vague states. Rather than take Chiona or Seline and leave the other one to cope with the baby and the three younger children, it seemed best to take Trina or Johnny. It suddenly seemed like a possible lucky opportunity to talk to Johnny if Sara slept as she probably would in the car. That is provided Johnny would be willing to stuff his hair under a hat and try to look inconspicuous. Sam had found that if she just wore really shapeless, frumpy looking clothes, no make up, and glasses with a hat jammed on her head, no one ever recognized her.
They walked across the footbridge off the little island and got the car out of the locked garage on the shore. Sam decided to ask Johnny to drive so she could deal with Sara. She was a little nervous about making the drive in the time she had given the nurse since she had definitely been shooting from the hip in estimating the time without any prior experience or real confidence as to where the doctor's office was. Despite her concern, she cautioned Johnny when he exceed the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour. Shortly after they made it to the highway, they came up on a slow moving truck with traffic passing it in the fast lane. The rear end of the truck was getting closer and closer and Johnny wasn't slowing down at all. "Johnny, what are you doing?" she demanded, gripping the door handle.
"Mom, the brakes, they aren't doing anything," he said anguished. He switched to the fast lane and hit the horn to try to get the car ahead of them to move on around the truck but the driver just gave them the universal salute and continued to inch forward with respect to the truck. There was oncoming traffic and a guardrail on the right. They didn't have good options. "Oh my God," Sam said uselessly. If she had to be in an accident, it just couldn't be with her precious firstborn or Jack's beloved wife.
He was coming up on the truck at 65 miles per hour in a much smaller vehicle. Sara started to scream. No question who the loser of this contest was going to be. Abruptly she could see that the guardrail was ending as they finished crossing a small river. Johnny jerked the car to the right, off the highway, but slightly miscalculated in his timing. The end of the guardrail caught the back of the car and everything went out of control.
Once the highway patrol got Sam and Johnny out of the car, it was obvious that they were mostly shaken up and bruised by the air bags but Sara, befuddled and panicked, had taken her seatbelt off. Her neck was bent at an unnatural angle although she was still breathing. There was only one ambulance and the medics asked one of the state troopers to bring them to the hospital in his car. They suggested that both be more thoroughly checked out at the hospital but their current concern was obviously Sara.
Sam seemed to take forever to put it together and realize that she needed to call Jack. She took out her cell, dropping it twice. Johnny was chalky white. He kept repeating like a mantra, "She's got to be all right." Sam said, "We need to call Jack. He has to get here."
Johnny came out of his fugue enough to say, "It would probably be better to call Daniel, Mom. They're together. Let him handle this in person? Ok, Mom? And Mom, don't tell him I was driving. Not yet. Please."
Sam nodded and leaned back in the cracked leather seat of the patrol car to make the call. The ambulance had already taken off and they were waiting for the trooper to finish up whatever accident scene detail he was futzing with along with some other trooper and get them to the hospital. She called Daniel and he promised to get Jack there as fast as possible but that was still going to be hours and hours.
Jack had led men and women in all sorts of life threatening situations. He had seen personnel under his command be hit and die and gone on because he had to. Daniel had himself witnessed Jack's coolness under fire on more than one occasion and so was cut to the core to see that Jack was falling apart. Jack gratefully let Daniel make all the arrangements and shepherd him from Chicago to Minneapolis to the smaller town where the hospital was. Jack hardly said a word the entire time, his face an expressionless mask, but Daniel watched what his hands were doing, how they were gripping each other or the arms of his seat or crumpling a coffee cup.
Everything thwarted their need to get back quickly. There were flight problems and car problems. Daniel got pulled over for speeding and when the trooper recognized the celebrity driver, he seemed to take great satisfaction in demonstrating that fame had no effect on his ability to fairly and impartially enforce the law, thank you very much. Jack misplaced his cell phone somewhere along the way in his zombie like state and Daniel's went dead, something that never happened with the modern breed of cell phones but happened to him this time.
They charged into the emergency room with no idea of what Sara's status was, having been out of touch for over an hour. Johnny and Sam turned tear stained faces toward them as they entered. Johnny looked at his father with more genuine pain on his face than Daniel had seemed the self-possessed young man display since they had reestablished contact. Sam was in the midst of blowing her nose and appeared completely devastated.
Jack came to a complete halt. "How is Sara," he asked him a monotone, his hands clenched in fists at his sides.
Johnny and Sam gave each other what to Daniel was a telltale exchange of looks. Then it was Johnny who got up and came to Jack, not Sam, as Daniel would have expected. He grasped his father by the shoulders and said, "Dad, she didn't make it."
Jack looked at his son stonily. "You're wrong. You have to be wrong"
Johnny shook his head, sadly, and a tear started to trace its way down his cheek. Sam came forward then and said, softly, "It was about 45 minutes ago."
"Oh Dad, I'm so, so sorry," Johnny said brokenly and astounded Daniel by pulling his father into a one way hug. Jack didn't react but it seemed less to Daniel like a rejection of his son, than a rejection of all of reality.
Johnny let go of him then, stepped back, and said again, "I'm sorry. I wish it had been me," and then suddenly he turned on his heel and ran out down the corridor to the outside.
"I have to see her," Jack, the robot, said again.
Sam was obviously torn between helping Jack and going after Johnny but, in the end, led Jack to the room where her body still lay, unmoving like a broken doll on the white hospital bedding. Daniel shook his head at her when she started to go forward and pulled her back out of the room. It was 15 minutes or so before Jack emerged. He didn't speak to Sam and Daniel. He walked slowly, taking very deliberate steps, back toward the emergency room exit. Sam and Daniel flanked him. After a moment, Daniel put his arm around him. When he didn't shake it off, Sam did the same. Suddenly, his legs just buckled and he started to fall and grabbed on to them. They kept him upright and got him into an empty room. The three of them sat on the bare mattress. Daniel and Sam held on to Jack with both their arms from either side. Jack had an arm around Daniel and the other held Sam's head against his chest as he rested his cheek on the top of her head.
"We're here, as long as you need us, Jack. We love you," Daniel said his voice breaking. Sam whispered, "Yes." Jack said, "I know."