You stare across the small aisle and watch her, the irony of the situation sinking in.
You're only watching her because you know she's not feeling well, but the only way you're able to watch her without her noticing is because she isn't feeling well.
She's sitting in the airplane seat, her gaze riveted out the small window. She could be studying the scenery but you know she's not. She doesn't see the snow capped mountains or the scrubby foothills of the upper Rockies. In fact, you're not even sure she knows where she's at.
Her mind is probably back there, thirty thousand feet down and a few hundred miles away in that chill and deserted hospital. You know this because you remember a time a couple of decades ago when you did the same thing. The only difference is you were on a too loud and too crowded military transport and it was Europe spread out below you instead of the western United States.
You know that if you even suggest to her that it's the same, she'll scoff, deny it and put you off with a 'I'm fine, thanks.' Of course, you would never suggest it to her in the first place because you don't talk about those dark four months – or the trying years that followed as you struggled to deal with the past, trying to forget the unforgettable because you refused to think about the unthinkable.
You watch her as her eyes drift shut, the monotone drone of the plane lulling her to sleep. You see her head jerk and her eyes open as she blinks furiously, fighting to stay awake. She sighs and a shaking hand comes up to push its way through her hair, ruffling it even more. She's been like that since the hospital, oddly quiet and calm. Too calm you know.
There's an odd expression on her face and you recognize that look. You've seen it in the mirror a time or ten.
She's afraid. Desperately afraid and frantically trying not to show it. You know that she's tired, that her body is craving sleep and wants to rest. And you know that resting is the last thing she can do right now.
She can't fall asleep and it's not because of the nightmares – although you know that's a factor. You see, if she falls asleep, she loses control. And she's not ready to do that yet.
You remember the feeling. The inability to trust anyone – even those you used to trust with your life. You remember cringing from a touch or shying away from any loud noise. You remember the paranoia and suspicion. You remember the helpless and useless feeling of literally having nothing, of depending on others for everything from a ride to a pack of gum from the vending machine.
You remember lying awake in bed, hearing footsteps in the night and just knowing that they were going to come back and get you again even when you were lying in your own bed next to your own wife.
Because of that, you know that she can't keep it up forever and that this is one time when her stubborn pigheadedness isn't an asset. In fact, it's the last thing she needs. What she does need is sleep. Rest to let her body recharge and fix itself. Rest to get strength to rid itself of god only knows what they pumped into her to keep her under control. Rest to heal the bruises and cuts and scrapes to erase the physical reminders of this week to make it easier for her mind to start to forget.
The problem is, the one thing she needs so badly is the one thing she's too afraid to do.
You watch her head dip again and realize that you just can't do it. You can't sit here and spend the next couple of hours watching her struggle. It's why you never use live bait when you fish. You've watched a few too many people fight to survive to do the same thing to some helpless creature.
Her head jerks up and her eyes fly open. You see her take a deep breath and her hands cover her face. She glances around the cabin before she gets to her feet, retreating to the bathroom. You realize that this is it – this is your opportunity to let that worm off the hook. You start to get up, aborting the attempt when the chair sticks a knife in your back. So, it's more like some incredibly badly bruised muscles making their presence known, but the end result is the same, you're going nowhere fast and Carter will probably be out of that bathroom in a few minutes.
"Jack?" Daniel looks over at you from his seat on the other side of the small private jet. One of these days you need to ask Hammond how many strings he pulled to get you your own private charter. Of course, the big guy might have something to do with that. You know there's no way in hell that tattoo of his would clear the metal detector of a civilian airport.
"Get me a bottle of that juice," you order, digging in your pockets for the small packet of pills the doc back at the base gave you. 'For pain,' he said. Just enough to get you through the flight. 'Just enough' equals two pills.
"I thought you took some when we left the hospital," Daniel says, holding out a bottle of orange juice. Good, you think. You don't have to worry about cloudy apple or cranberry juice giving you away.
"I did," you say, taking the bottle and screwing off the top. You drop one of the little white pills in and put the lid back on, ignoring the frown on his face. This is when you really hope that he just plays along. Largely because you don't have the energy to fight him at the moment.
You start shaking up the juice, finally looking up to meet his disapproving glare. "She needs to sleep, Daniel," you tell him, half expecting him to grab the bottle from you and throw it away.
He's uncertain and you watch as his eyes drop to the bottle, seemingly fixated on the swishing liquid. "Jack, I—"
"O'Neill is correct," Teal'c interrupts. Daniel turns to look at him. "If Major Carter were a Jaffa, I would recommend that she kelnoreem until her body and spirit heals. Since she is not, sleep must suffice."
"Maybe," Daniel concedes. "But I don't think that drugging her is the best thing to do."
"She's almost there, this'll just take the edge off," you say, fully aware that, with her chemistry, it'd take three times this dosage to really drug her. A good shot of whisky would have the same effect, but whomever Hammond borrowed this plane from was either a teetotaler or was a cheap son of a gun. There's nothing in the galley but juice, soda and a few snacks.
You know that you're treading on some dangerous ground. You're toying with her trust and could very well destroy your friendship. You're doing to her the one thing she's so afraid of. But right now, you'd rather have her sane and pissed than whacked out and so exhausted that she makes some stupid decision. Besides, Frasier would do the same thing, she'd just use a needle is all, you rationalize.
The bathroom door opens and you know that the jig is up. You wouldn't put it past Daniel to blow the lid off the whole thing. Realizing that he has to consent, you stop shaking the juice and hold it out, letting him make the decision.
You're manipulating him, but you also know that if he decides to toss the juice into the trash, nothing more will be said. At least not until the next time he gets pissed off.
Carter makes her way back to her seat and you watch Daniel watch her. She's wavering slightly and you know the unsteadiness has nothing to do with the plane. Her hands dig into the back of each seat cushion, almost as though she's willing herself to keep moving.
She sinks down into her seat. Her hair is slightly damp around her face and you can see small splatters of water on her borrowed clothes.
She obviously tried the 'splash your face with cold water' trick and you know, if she'd asked, you could have told her that it never worked for more than a few minutes.
She glances over but won't look at you, her eyes avoiding everyone. You know how she feels. Embarrassed, guilty, ashamed. She's cursing her stupidity in getting caught and is –no doubt – questioning her own competence in not escaping.
All of which is bullshit, but you know she'll never believe that – not for a while anyway. She's gotta get some distance first, and some perspective. And to do that, she needs to get some sleep.
Daniel watches her and you see his shoulders slump, signaling his acquiescence to your plan. He goes over and sits beside her, offering her the bottle of juice, even opening it for her.
You watch as she demurs, then accepts, taking a deep drink. Daniel looks up and you meet his gaze, steadfastly refusing to look down or away. You don't regret your decision and you refuse to apologize for it.
You sit there and watch as she finishes the juice while Daniel talks, chattering on about god only knows what. She leans her head against the back of the seat and you can see that she's slowly starting to relax. Maybe it's the pill, maybe you're wrong and she was just looking for an excuse, a little friendly contact to reassure that it's ok to lose control, that we're here, ready to help, ready to watch her six and that there's no shame in needing help.
Whatever the reason, in a few minutes her eyes drift shut – and stay that way. Daniel sits there quietly for a few more minutes only getting up after Teal'c makes his way over, a small blanket in his hands.
"She'll figure it out," Daniel says, taking the seat next to you.
"Probably," you agree, keeping your voice low.
"If she asks, I won't lie," he promises.
"I don't want you to," you answer, glancing from him to Carter and back. He frowns and you know that, for all his knowledge, he can be pretty dense sometimes. You want to tell him, to fill him in on the whole thing. To explain to him that, maybe, just maybe, if someone had done the same thing for you years ago, maybe your wife would still be around, maybe your son would still be alive, maybe you wouldn't have explicit memories of precisely what a gun barrel tastes like.
But you don't, because you know that he just doesn't get it.
He stares at your for a second, then shakes his head. He doesn't understand and you hope to hell that he never will. He gets up and reclaims his original seat and you lean your head back, closing your eyes as the plane is jostled by a bit of turbulence.
You grit your teeth, ignoring the dull ache that spreads from your back. Without that pill, it is definitely going to be an uncomfortable flight. But, as you open your eyes and see your friend sleeping peacefully, you know that it's worth it.