Someone To Watch Over Me

Part II: I Will Be The Answer

Jessica braced herself against the wall and Angel's hand. She took one more glance up the narrow access point and squinted into the darkness. The gap could have been little more than a foot in diameter, no wonder the others couldn't get through.

"Here it goes," she said taking a deep breath. Jessica pushed off the wall behind her as Angel lifted her up by one foot with his hands clasped beneath it. She put her weight on his shoulders and lifted her own body weight above her and made a grab for the rope above her head.

Angel had fired a grappling hook up through the gap and it had either imbedded itself, or had got caught on something solid enough to take his weight and the force of him pulling on it. Jessica only hoped that it would hold her weight long enough for her to get the top, she didn't fancy crashing back down into the sewer system.

Jack watched as she started to pull her way up the rope, using only her upper body strength. He had to admit, she was the strongest woman he had ever met, even stronger than a Goa'uld, which was no bad thing. Jessica had proved herself a true asset to SG-1 time and time again. Watching her now, Jack new she would be an asset to any evil-fighting group. Gunn and Lorne stood by him in the gloom of the sewer tunnel.

On his way there, Lorne had stepped in something he was sure wouldn't come out of his blue suede shoes. Gunn had marvelled at just how much he disliked sewer systems, and Jack just reminded himself that he'd been in worst situations.

When Jessica had gotten far enough into the exit, she was able to brace herself against the shafts walls, and half push half pull her way up through the opening.

After what felt like hours, but in reality was only a few minuets, Jessica emerged at the top of the tunnel and pushed her way through the metal grate, that to the occupants of the office building would have looked more like an air vent on the floor than an escape route.

Once out, Jessica found herself in what looked to be a storage room. It had been completely trashed. She presumed by one of the Wolfram & Hart employees trying to find the emergency way out. She looked over at the grate and saw that the grappling hook was attached to that.

Jessica pulled the hook from its resting place and held it for a moment. She looked round the room for a better place to attach it. The only option seemed to be one of the shelving units that lined all the walls.

Swinging the hook over her shoulder, Jessica pulled on the unit, trying to dislodge it. The shelves didn't budge. She tried again, and there was still no movement. Deciding they would take the weight of her friends bellow her, she hooked the piece of metal over the edge on one shelf.

On the wall at the end of the particular unit she had chosen to tie the grappling hook to, Jessica spotted the device that Angel had told her about. She reached out to it, and pushed the button back into the wall. As she did so, there was a whooshing noise, and the opening began to widen. Jessica tugged on the rope three times.

Angel saw the rope jolt up and down three times, the signal he and Jessica had agreed on to be the sign for them to come up. Two would have meant 'I can't find the switch'.

Just as the tugs subsided, the entrance to the crawl space opened up with the sound of moving stone, that to Jack's ears sounded like a sarcophagus sliding open.

Angel tugged on the rope a further three times to let Jessica know he'd seen the movement and understood.

"Age before beauty," Angel said as he swung the end of the line in Jack's direction. Jack caught hold of it before the tail end hit him in the face. He fixed Angel with his steeliest gaze.

"From what I hear," he retorted. "You're more then quadruple my age," Jack flashed the vampire his most winning smile and hoisted himself up the rope.

Angel scowled at the airman's comment, and that became a sneer when he saw Lorne and Gunn sniggering at it.

The three watched as Jack pulled himself further up the line with what seemed like ease.

At the top, Jessica outstretched her arm for Jack to take to help him on the final part of the climb. He took it, and clasped his hand round her upper arm, and she around his. As Jack pulled himself the rest of the way, Jessica could feel the tension of his muscles underneath his jacket.

Once through the gap, Jack yanked the line three times.

"You okay?" he asked as he dusted himself down.

Jessica thought about that for a moment, and mentally assessed her aches and pains. Her ribs still ached, and she was sure she'd pulled the stitches on her abdominal wound.

"Yeah," she said looking up at the colonel. "I'm fine," But she wasn't going to tell him that.

Jack took in the state of the storeroom. He had a hard time believing that a top notch law firm like Wolfram & Hart would let it get so messy. From this he deduced someone inside the building knew about the existence of this exit and had tried to find it. By the fact that the tunnel had been opened to its full width, this told him that whoever had been looking for it, hadn't found it.

"Someone was in a hurray to get of here," Jack commented on the mess.

Jessica looked around the room. "Don't s'pose they left this room voluntarily," Jack surveyed the scene once more, he couldn't deny that.

Gunn popped his head up through the gap in the floor, which was now more than twice the size as it was before.

"Hey," he half wheezed, trying to pull himself up through the gap. "Give a brother a little help,"

Jack crouched down by the whole and gave his arm and hand to Gunn. Gunn grabbed his arm and hauled himself up through the gap. He too assessed the disruption in front of him, although he chose not to comment.

"Seen what's on the other side of the door?" he asked pulling his axe from behind his back.

Jessica shook her head. Even though she had insisted to Jack that she were quite capable of doing this, she knew deep down that she was in no physical condition to do this by herself.

"I didn't want to start the party without you," she said peering down the gap, looking for the next member of the group to come up.

Angel held the rope out for Lorne to take. Lorne looked at it for a moment, and only for a second, went to take the cable from Angel. He hesitated a little more and took his hand away.

"I don't think so," Lorne said folding his arms defensively across his chest.

Angel glared at him sternly. This was met by Lorne looking forlornly back at him, get it?

"Angel, sweetness," Lorne began his defence. "I'm just not that kind of a demon," Angel rolled his eyes, he knew this could go on a while.

"I'm a prognosticating demon, not an heroic one," he said. "I don't have the strength to pull myself up there," Lorne looked up into the hole above his head. "It's seven floors up, for god's sake,"

Angel conceded on that point. He handed Lorne on of the many weapons he had on his person.

"Here," he said giving him an axe. "Anyone comes down here that isn't us," he made a swiping movement with his sword he was holding. "Cut it to pieces,"

Without another word, Angel put the sword behind him and pulled himself up the shaft.

Lorne watched Angel disappear into the darkness. He was good at that. He looked at the two axes he now held, his own and the one the vampire had given him. What a gift. He grinned slightly and looked as if he were about to wilt.

"Cut it to pieces," he said unconvincingly. "Anything that comes down that chute that isn't human is more likely to cut me to pieces,"

The door to the storeroom opened slowly, and as quietly as Angel could manage. He waited a moment before poking his head out, just in case there was anything out there that wanted to try and take his head off.

Happy that the corridor was empty of any beasties baying for blood, Angel stuck his head out, ready just in case he was wrong.

The sight that greeted him was almost as bad as Broc or one of his cronies. Up and down the corridor were bodies of Wolfram & Hart staff. Their lifeless corpses strewn along the length and breadth of the walkway, like discarded child's toys.

Angel pushed the door open all the way and stepped out of the storeroom. He attempted not to vamp out as the metallic smell of blood threatened to overwhelm him. He signalled back to his friends it was safe to follow.

Gunn, Jessica and Jack stepped out of the store cupboard and took in the scene of mass carnage that lay before them. Gunn looked around at the destruction. Even with all his years of doing this, he still had to fight back the urge to gag.

Jessica chose not to study the remains, she'd had enough of dead bodies to last her a lifetime. Jack looked closely at the corpses and his mind was filled with past atrocities from long forgotten wars.

Before any of them realised, Angel was at the end of the corridor and disappearing round the corner. Jessica was a little annoyed by this. He had the tendency to sometimes forget that he was actually part of a team, and in some cases it was not a good idea to go off alone, even if you were the badest vampire to ever walk the earth.

Jack, Gunn and Jessica followed him quickly so not to loose sight of him. Angel had a definite sense of where he was going.

Jessica was on point after the vamp, ready to fight off any attack, whether it be from Broc, his army, or the zombified bodies of the Wolfram & Hart staff.

Jack was in the middle, axe in hand. He had absolutely no idea of what to expect, which just about summed up every mission he'd been on through the Stargate.

Gunn brought up the rear, his favourite axe poised to take off any beasties head, or any other body part that got in the way.

Cordelia ran down the corridor, leading the way back to the emergency exit. She tripped over one of the many dead bodies that littered the floor where she trod. Fred bent and helped her to her feet. The two of them kept running, followed closely by the others.

At the back of the group, Jack and Wesley struggled with the semi-conscious Jessica. The blow which had been inflicted on her by Broc had knocked her out cold, and she was taking her time to come round again. Both men had on of her arms over their shoulders, holding them in place with one hand and their other round Jessica's back holding her up.

Jessica groaned as they weaved their way round the bodies, following the figures of the others towards the storeroom.

Jack stood just to the left of the exit and waited for Jessica to fall through the entrance. He heard a thud, the sound of her cursing and a few moments later Jessica appeared through the gap.

Jack caught hold of her as she began to emerge through the opening. He managed to take enough of her weight to break her fall, and tried not to exacerbate any of her existing injuries or cause her anymore.

Jessica yelped slightly in pain as Jack had no choice but to catch hold of her dislocated arm to stop her from landing on the floor of the sewer. He managed however to hold her up long enough so she could get her balance and stand on her own two feet.

Jack felt the cold begin to seep through his jacket and shirt and shivered as he swore it was beginning to enter his bones. He could only imagine how it must feel to Jessica, who was already in a bad enough way. He gripped her waist a little tighter, trying to give her a little more of his body heat. As he did, Jessica moved closer to him herself, unconsciously trying to get warmer.

Jack rested his head against the wall and looked at his companions in the storm drain. Thankfully there hadn't been any rain for a while so they were actually dry.

Angel eyed the colonel. Since Jessica had gotten back into the tunnels, Jack had refused to let anyone else help her. To Angel, it was almost as if Jack were blaming them for what had happened to her. As soon as they had gotten into this section of the tunnels, Jack had got her seated next to him and it was clear to everyone that it was he who was going to take care of her.

The group had been equally surprised by Jessica going so willingly to him. They were sure nothing was going on between them, but they did seem to have a very close relationship, one that transcended mere friendship.

This served to further Lorne's suspicions that theirs was a relationship that was meant to be. He had sensed it as soon as they had walked into Gunn and Fred's apartment. There was a trust and understanding between them that rarely existed between people. During the battle, Jack had become her protector, and almost had given his life for hers, Angel, Gunn, Wesley, Fred and Cordelia could not deny that he gave the impression he would indeed die for her.

Cordelia looked at her torn shirt, really she'd gotten off lightly. A ripped piece of clothing and a few cuts and bruises were nothing.

Fred cuddled up to Gunn, she too was feeling the cold that came through the stonework they sat on.

Wesley had been glad to see Jessica, but had no idea about her injuries until Jack had pointed them out. It had just gone to prove this young woman's selflessness and resolve to do what she could and save as many people as she could. Wesley had to admit that that could be her downfall. Had he spoken to Jack, he would have found that there was someone else in Jessica's life that also felt like that. And also found someone that was trying to stop that possibility coming true.

Jessica shivered under Jack's touch and she came to for the first time in half an hour. She tried to move her dislocated right arm to cuddle up to Jack more but forgot it wasn't going to co-operate. She stifled a yelp as the pain reminded her.

Jack looked down at her and squeezed her waist as a sign of support.

"Hey," he said softly.

"Hey," Jessica croaked back and tried to look at him, but pain from almost everywhere prevented her.

"Where's it hurt?" he asked trying to assess her injuries.

"Everywhere," she groaned. She tried to smile in an attempt to lighten the mood.

"Get some rest," Jack said. "That's an order,"

Jessica smiled and settled back into him. She moved herself slightly to get comfortable, it was then that she felt something hard and protruding digging into her side. Her eyes shot open, and she forced herself through the pain to look up at Jack.

"Er, Colonel," she said a little hesitantly.

Jack looked down at her, instantly knowing what she had felt. He shook his head.

"That's my sidearm," he told her. "I swear,"

Jessica began to laugh. Even though it hurt and she was now almost in agony, she couldn't help herself.

Jack smiled; it was the first time he'd heard her laugh since the accident on PX2-302. Even in the situation they were in, her laugh was infectious, after only a few moments, they was were all chuckling. Except for Angel, he ignored the laughter and concentrated on the sounds in the connecting tunnels, listening for an attack.

Jessica's little laughing fit soon turned to a big coughing fit. She covered her mouth with her open hand and tried to stop. She could fell what felt like phlegm being dislodged in her lungs, and as the cough persisted, it entered her throat and then her mouth. She could taste it now, and knew instantly that contained in the spittle was blood.

Jessica coughed again and spat it out into her hand. Jack caught her hand before she had a chance to conceal it. He looked at the crimson stain on her hand and let her wipe it away on her jacket.

"Argh, Jess," he said softly. It was at this point that the laughs and chuckles from the other subsided. Jessica didn't reply. She cleaned her hand off and tucked her arm back under herself. She turned her head into Jack's chest and tried to forget what it meant.

Jack looked down at her for a moment. He rested his chin on her head, and for the first time let himself think about just how badly injured she was, and the implications of that.

Far off in the distance they could hear Broc's army trying to break their way through the barrier they had constructed.

As Jack listened, he could feel something warm and wet soaking through his shirt, he guessed they were tears. That was something Jessica didn't do very often, cry, at least not in front of him. She tried so hard to be what was expected of her and had done so for so long, it seemed that she didn't know how to do anything else. Jack desperately wanted her to let down all those defences she built up over the years and let someone in. He hoped that it would happen soon, and that the someone would be him. All he had ever wanted to do was to help her, to try and make things better in her life.

"You know," Jack said trying to cheer her up. "In another situation, this would be nice," Jessica moved under his arm slightly, Jack thought that maybe it was a half laugh.

"Go to sleep," he said softly, he didn't want her to be awake through the pain anymore.

Jessica felt a strong hand grip her arm and pull her to her feet. Her ears still rang, and the voices around her seemed muffled and hard to understand. She finally opened her eyes and the settling dust instantly stung them. She could just make out Teal'c being the one who had dragged her to her feet.

"The explosions have subsided," he told her as he released her arm.

Jessica blinked a couple of time, the ash and soot getting caught on her eyelashes. She wiped at her face and then pressed her hands against her ears. She swallowed a couple of times in an attempt to clear them.

As her vision cleared, and the persistent ringing began to dissipate, Jessica could see the mass destruction they were stood in the middle of.

The large structural pillars that had once towered above them, now stood less than a few feet from the ground. The roof as a whole seemed to be intact, but it probably wouldn't stay like that for very long. The few gaps that were in the ceiling still rained masonry down in small patches.

"Everyone okay?" Jack called out as the emerged from behind a pile of rubble.

"Think so," Sam said as she dusted herself off and surveyed the scene.

"I am uninjured," Teal'c replied.

"I'm okay," Jessica said as she moved to the entrance of the gate room.

Daniel cleaned off his glasses and put them back on and squinted as he got to his feet.

"I'm fine," he called back to Jack. He looked at Jessica as she moved toward him.

"Which is more than I can say for you," he said pointing to Jessica's stomach. "Jess, you're bleeding,"

The other members of SG-1 turned to look at Jessica, and Jessica in turn looked down at herself. A dark patch was appearing on her uniform jacket just above her belt.

"Can't feel anything," she said calmly. Jessica touched the stain and looked at the blood that was transferred to her hand.

"Huh," she said.

"You're in shock," Sam said as she hurried to Jessica's side.

"No, I'm not," Jessica protested as she continued to study the patch of blood on her hand.

Jack scanned the perimeter before he too made his way to Jessica. Sam was already at her side and was trying to get her to sit down.

"I don't need to sit," Jessica said as she tried to fight off the major.

"Sit, Jess," Jack barked. "That's an order,"

Jessica almost glared at her colonel, but still refused to sit. With the physical insistence from Sam and Teal'c, they managed to get the unco-operative Jessica to sit, and lean back against one of the semi-demolished pillars.

Sam unzipped Jessica's dark green jacket and untucked her black t-shirt from inside her combat trousers. Sam lifted her top to where the blood was emanating. She winced at the sight of the open wound, Jessica had to be in shock for that not to hurt.

"It looks like a puncture wound," she said. "Probably from flying debris,"

Jack looked over Sam's shoulder and grimaced as he watched more blood begin to poor from the wound.

"Get a dressing on that, Major," he ordered. "Daniel, dial home,"

Without needing to be told twice, Daniel moved to the Dial Home Device and began to punch in Earth's co-ordinates.

"Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c's voice reverberated round the now half demolished alien gate room.

"What is it, Teal'c?" Jack called out as he helped Sam get Jessica to her feet. "We're about to go home,"

"I believe you need to see this," Teal'c said unemotionally.

Jack looked at Jessica for a moment.

"Can you stand by yourself?" he asked. Jessica nodded and Sam took up the slack.

Jack moved to Teal'c's side, who was stood in the doorway to the ancient Stargate room.

Jack blinked against the sunlight that streamed directly in on them.

As far as the eye could see, plumes of jet black and grey smoke reached toward the fabulous blue sky. What once looked to be a great civilization, now lay in ruins. Small and large pockets of fire burned in the remnants of the great buildings.

The wind carried the undeniable stench of burnet flesh toward SG-1. Jack began to breath through his mouth in a bid to avoid the smell of rotting flesh.

Teal'c had seen much destruction, and had indeed caused most of it as Apophis' First Prime, but he knew this was from no Goa'uld attack.

There was a roadway running from the building they were in, right down to the town, which looked to be about a mile. All along the road were great holes, which looked to Jack to be craters. Craters that were caused by explosive charges being detonated.

There was no doubting it, these explosions were recent, so recent it wouldn't be a stretch to believe they'd gone off at the same time as the charges in the building they were occupying had gone off. That would explain why the noises were so loud.

"What is it, Colonel?" Sam asked, still holding Jessica up. She was greeted by silence.

"Colonel?" she asked, beginning to move toward the opening, Jessica went with her. As they got to the opening they both made an audioable gasp.

"I did that," Jessica whispered.

Jessica's body convulsed in his arms and she sat up sharply which must have caused her much pain. Jack held her steady, and tried not to hurt her anymore as he did so.

"No," she shouted as sweat began to form on her forehead.

Jack knew she had been having a nightmare, probably the same one she had been experiencing in the car on the way to L.A.

"It was my fault," she began to sob. Jack shook his head. He put his arms back around her and pulled her to his chest.

"Jack, I killed them," she managed to say between gasps for air.

"No," he said sternly. Jack took her face in his hands and made her look at him.

"It wasn't your fault," he said softly. He watched as tears began to stream down her face. Her eyes became red and bloodshot and they stung as the salt water left them.

Jessica shook her head, she wasn't having any of it.

"It's all my fault," she whispered in such a manor that if Jack hadn't known the truth, he might just have believed her. The sobs stopped, but the tears still fell.

"I killed them all," she insisted, not really to anyone in particular, more a reaffirmation to herself.

Jack shook his head again. He still held hers in his hands and was still making eye contact, although he doubted she was actually seeing him. Her expression was of someone experiencing extreme grief, and he had no idea how to get through to her.

"I did it, I killed them all," Jessica's voice was barely above a whisper, it only just rose above the sound of Broc's army still trying to break their way into the drains.

"I'm a bad person,"

"No, no you're not," he said gently yet sternly. It was at this point that Jack stopped being her CO. He realised that no amount of orders would make her think that it was not her fault. Right at that point, he was her friend, and only her friend.

"You're a good person," he told her. Jessica shook her head. At least she was listening to him.

Jack nodded his head in a counter to her denial.

"Yes you are. You are the most honest and pure person I have ever known,"

Angel and the others watched, almost a gasp, as they saw Jack trying to convince Jessica she wasn't to blame. To blame for what they did not know.

Jack stroked her face gently, wiping away a couple of streaks left by her tears.

"You are not to blame for what happened. It could have been any of us that set off the explosions," he could see she was actually seeing him now, not just staring blankly at him. Was he getting through?

"The fact that you're feeling this way proves that you're not the person you say you are," he paused again, trying to gage her response.

"I'm a better person for knowing you," he gestured to the others in the tunnel. "They're better for knowing you,"

Jessica looked round at the six faces looking back at her. Through the mist of grief she could just make out their expressions. They were worried, but they also gave away the fact that Jack was right.

"No, I'm not," she persisted.

"Yes, you are," Jack retorted. "You're everything I say you are and more,"

Jessica began to sob out loud again. Jack knew at that moment no words could stop her from hurting so much, and he thought that even if there were, she would not listen to them now.

Jack enveloped her in his arms and drew her to his chest. Jessica clung to him for dear life. She felt as she were swimming against an invisible tide and was losing. From within the depths of her mind, she felt something dragging her down, pulling her away from the oxygen she needed to live, from the support she was receiving from Jack. From within there was something stopping her listening to him. The part of her that felt so guilty for all those people's deaths wouldn't let her forgive herself. Not until someone told her that they forgave her first.

"I'm sorry," she sobbed into his shirt. "Please forgive me,"

Jack kissed the top of her head in attempt to comfort her. Jessica had nothing to be forgiven for, but Jack felt that maybe that if he said that he did, in her current state of mind, this might help.

"I forgive you," he whispered.

Eventually Jessica's sobbing noises ceased. Her sleeping body still hung onto Jack, and Jack didn't release his grip.

Everyone remained silent for what felt like the longest time. Normally there would be talk of escape or fighting. But one of them was badly injured, so badly they might die. No one felt like talking much.

It was Cordelia who eventually broke their quiet contemplation.

"What happened?" she asked in her softest and most understanding voice, one that didn't exist until she moved to L.A.

Jack looked around at everyone with him, and finally at Jessica. Where she was now, she couldn't hear him.

"A week ago we were on a routine mission," he began to explain.

"Where to?" Wesley asked from the far end of the tunnel.

Jack glanced in his direction. "I can't tell you that," he said flatly. "That's confidential,"

"When we got there we reccyed the scene," he continued. "While we were doing this, Jess set off a trip wire that set off a chain reaction that destroyed the entire city we were going to visit," he paused. "Everyone was killed,"

The faces that looked back at him displayed sheer horror. They had no idea it had been that bad. This explained everything. Jessica's behaviour, her reactions to everything and it went someway to explaining why Jack had been with when she turned up at Gunn's apartment.

"Jess received a penetrating injury to her abdomen, and three broken ribs," he looked down at her for a moment. "I'm guessing she's got a few more now,"

Angel lowered his head. He knew how it was to feel so much pain and guilt for something you were responsible for.

"Poor Jess," Fred said thoughtfully as she huddled closer to Gunn.

"Why were you with her when Angel called her?" Wesley asked beginning to turn his axe in his hands.

"Doc Fraiser said that she was signed off duty for a while, so Jess decided to go on a little road trip," Jack explained. "We didn't have any missions scheduled so I went with her," he looked back down at Jessica's sleeping body.

"I knew she wasn't right, no matter how much she tried to convince me,"

The others took it in turns to look at one and other.

"Turned out I was right," Jack said mournfully. He squeezed her softly in his arms and rested his chin protectively on her head.

They pondered this for a moment, before Jack really upset them.

"I should have stopped her from coming here," he said bitterly.

"She wanted to help," Angel said harshly.

Jack glared at the vampire, daring him to challenge him.

"And look where it got her," They did as she said. "She could die," he growled.

"She knew the risks, we all do," Gunn piped up, sticking up for his boss.

Jack glared at him. "I don't care," he spat. "She was in no fit state to do this. I should have taken care of her,"

"That's what this is about," Angel's voice was gravely and hard. "You just want to control her," he deduced.

Jack fixed him with his iciest glare. "That is NOT what this is about," he barked back. "She had no choice. I did. I could have made her come back to the base,"

The tunnel fell silent once more. Regardless of whether this was her calling, in Jack's eyes she had gone well above and beyond the call of duty.

"Don't fight," Jessica said weakly as the turned her head to look at her friends surrounding her.

"We weren't fighting" Gunn said unconvincingly.

"Yes you were," she replied hoarsely.

Jessica was about to tell them that she wanted them to be at least civil to each other, when the partition wall between the sewer and the storm drain began to crumble.

Angel got to his feet, as did all the demon fighters, leaving Jack sat leaning against the opposite wall still holding Jessica.

"It's not going to be long before they break through," Angel said as he watched the mortar that held the individual bricks together begin to crumble out of its place.

"We're going to have to make a run for it. Hope that they're concentrating most of their efforts on that wall," Wesley said considering their options.

Angel, Gunn and Cordy turned to Jack and Jessica sat on the floor. Jessica looked back at them, knowing exactly what they were thinking.

"Go," Jessica demanded. "Leave me here,"

"No, we're not," all of them said in almost unison.

"You're going to have to be quick and I'm going to slow you down far too much," Jessica reasoned. "Go,"

The friends stayed silent for a moment.

"If Jessica stays, I stay," Jack said defiantly. Jessica shook her head.

"No, Jack. The SGC needs you," Jessica protested, knowing his mind was already made up.

"And the SGC needs you, too," Jack countered.

"If Jessica stays," Angel said firmly. "We all stay," he looked around at the rest of the group, waiting to see if anyone would cross him. No one protested, no one objected.

"No," Jessica said sternly.

Angel shrugged his shoulders. "Then we carry you out,"

Jessica groaned outwardly. She'd never been carried out of a situation in her life, and was loathed that she had no choice now.

Jack pushed her up off his chest long enough for Angel to get a good grip on her. As Angel took her in his arms, the pain became more than she could bear. After a few seconds of excruciating pain, Jessica passed out.

The distant sound of an electronic beeping first alerted Jessica to the fact she was actually awake. As the bleeps grew louder, she began to hear other noises around her; the muffled sound of people talking, machinery being moved, and the soft murmur of people talking. As she became more conscious she was able to make out what they were saying, and by the conversations they were having with each other, she gathered she was in a hospital.

Jessica opened her eyes slowly, and let her them become accustomed to the harsh bright lighting above her. She blinked a couple of times and her eyes began to focus. As she came to a little more, Jessica realised she was in a civilian hospital, not back at the base. Now things started to come back to her.

Jessica moved her head to the right and was just about able to focus on the person sat next to her.

Jack sat back in the seat, legs outstretched, arms folded across his chest and his head tilted back, asleep.

"Jack," she said hoarsely.

Jack twitched a little, fidgeted for a moment then sat bolt up right.

"What?" he half murmured, half gasped. His eyes cleared and he saw Jessica gazing blurrily back at him.

"Hey," he said leaning forward.

"How you feeling?" he asked softly. Jack smiled warmly as her eyes met his.

"A little groggy," she said quietly. Jack nodded and smiled again, just happy she was awake.

"I'll go and get the doctor," Jack said getting to his feet. Jessica began to panic. Her mind raced as to why Jack wasn't telling her himself how she was. She had always worried about things like that and Jack wasn't doing anything to help her now.

A few minuets later Jack reappeared with a middle-aged male doctor. Jack returned to his position next to her bed and sat down.

The doctor looked at his notes.

"Miss Pearce, I'm Dr. Brewer," he gave her his hand to shake, Jessica shook it weakly and let go. As she lowered her hand back down, she caught Jack's and held onto it tightly, but remained focused on the doctor.

"You had reopened your stomach wound, but we fixed that. And you broke another two ribs, to go with the three which were already broken," Jessica prepared herself for what he was going to say next.

"As you were aware, there was some internal bleeding, but we also fixed that," Dr. Brewer smiled for the first time. "You're going to make a full recovery,"

Jessica smiled and squeezed Jack's hand.

"You're friends got you here in time," the doctor said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some other patients to attend to," With that, Dr. Brewer left the ward.

Jessica turned to Jack.

"Thank you," she said smiling again.

Jack smiled back. "That's okay, just fulfilling my promise. And with your accelerated healing powers, you'll be back on duty in no time,"

"Where are the others?" Jessica asked realising for the first time Jack was her only friend there.

"They went back to the office building, check whether it's still standing, or whatever it is they do," Jack said leaning forward on the bed.

"They'll be back to see you latter," Jessica fell silent.

In the tunnels things had been said. Things that she had never wanted to come out, her friends now knew.

Jack watched her, knowing what she was turning over in her mind.

"Hey," Gunn and Fred said walking onto the ward, closely followed by Angel, Cordy and Wesley.

"How you doin'?" Cordelia asked setting the huge bunch of flowers she held down on the table at the foot of Jessica's hospital bed.

Jessica smiled and looked at her friends. She nodded.

"I'm good," she paused to look into each of their faces. "Thank you,"

They looked at one and other.

"There's no need to say that," Angel said, sitting down in the chair that had been left vacant when Jack had gone to phone the SGC to let them know how she was doing.

"Yes there is," Jessica reaffirmed. "You lot saved my life," she smiled again.

Cordelia shrugged. "Just doing our job, just like you were, missy," she said pointing at her. "And with those injuries as well," she faux scolded. They all smiled.

Wesley looked round the ward. "Where's Jack?" he asked.

"He's gone to call the base, let them know how I'm doing," Jessica said, sitting herself up a little better.

Angel looked hard at her. "What, do they want to know when you'll be back on duty?" he asked.

Jessica fixed him with the look she gave people when she was telling them not to go there.

"They're worried about me," she said, then pointed to another vase of flowers on the bedside table. "They're from Sam, Teal'c and Daniel. My friends,"

Angel looked at the bed and then at the others.

"You're new friends," he said, a little bitter. Jessica rolled her eyes.

"I can have more than one group of friends, Angel," she began.

"Angel, don't," Cordelia said softly, touching his shoulder.

"You just left us for them," he said, this time there was no denying it was said bitterly.

Jessica studied him hard. How could he think that, let alone say it? Her eyes narrowed, and she shook her head slightly.

"Is that what you think?" she asked, deeply hurt. "That I got some new friends and that I left you for them?" she shook her head. How could he?

Angel said nothing, but inclined his head in a signal of yes.

"I didn't dessert you," Jessica said softly, looking down at her hands. She thought of the best way to tell them what happened, what made her leave L.A, and start working for the Air Force.

"Jess, we understand," Wesley said, trying to defuse the situation.

"Yeah," Gunn backed him up. "Angel's just a little tired,"

Angel snapped his head round to look at Gunn and Wesley. He didn't have to say anything to let them know he was annoyed with them.

"Whatever you think I do, you're probably wrong," she said. "I can't tell you exactly what I do," she looked at each of them in turn again, making eye contact with everyone of them, making them listen.

"But it's as important as what I did with you," she fixed her gaze on Angel. "Jack, Sam, Daniel, Teal'c, we've saved the world. We're out there helping people, saving them. Just like you, just like I did with you,"

Angel lowered his head slightly.

"We're just fighting a different enemy. But it is just as valid," the sternness in her voice made Angel look at her.

"I'm doing a very important job," she began again. "But you call, and if it's within my power, I'll be there. I'll be there every time,"

"We know you will be," Cordelia tried to intervene, but only got her head bitten off by the very person she was tying to protect.

"You know that," Jessica spat. "But he doesn't seem to," she said pointing to Angel.

Angel just looked at her, he had no idea what to say. At that moment in time, all he knew was he wanted her back home with them, not out in Colorado, or wherever she was with the Air Force. Jessica was HIS friend, not theirs. She had been one of the few people to truly trust him, and be a true friend to him. Whenever she wasn't with them, he couldn't help but feel that she had deserted them. No matter how irrational he knew it was, he couldn't help himself. He felt as if he had done something to make her turn from him, and wanted to know what it was.

Without saying a word, Angel rose from his seat next to Jessica and left the room. The others looked at each other in silence. None of them had any idea of what had just happened.

Jessica looked down at her hands, too afraid to look into the eyes of her friends. The remaining four friends looked back at her.

"I better go after him," Cordy said looking toward the ward door.

Jessica looked up at her. "Go on," she said quietly. "See how he is," there was no malice in her voice. Even after what had been said, she still worried about him. Even more so after this outburst.

Jessica closed her eyes and after a few moments reopened them. "I'm tired, you lot should go," she said turning on her side.

They looked to one and other again. They nodded their heads.

"We'll come back and see you later," Wesley said moving away from the bed.

"Yeah," the others added.

Jessica closed her eyes and pretended to go to sleep.

As they left the ward, Gunn looked back through the glass part of the door and at Jessica's back, now turned to them.

"What was all that about?" Fred asked a little perplexed as to the whole showdown that had just taken place in front of them.

Wesley shook his head. "I have no idea,"

Jack held the paper in front of him, trying to read it. With all that was going on around him in the ward he was finding it hard.

"Jack," Jessica said softly, yet with an air of determination. "I want to go back to the base,"

Jack looked at her, then pushed himself and the paper out of the chair. He placed the newspaper onto the bed.

"I'll make the call," he said before leaving the ward.

Jessica lay back on the bed and closed her eyes. Flashes of PX2-302 bounced round in her head and she fought to keep them under control.

Jack walked towards the pay phone in the corridor outside Jessica's ward. He was less than a few feet away when Angel stepped out of the doorway to the left. He bared Jack's way, and remained silent.

Jack looked the vampire in the eye, daring him to make the first move.

"Do you mind? I want to get to the phone," he said firmly but evenly, no trace of emotion in his voice.

Angel stood his ground. He eyed the colonel back.

"I know what you're trying to do," Angel said attempting to bear down on him.

Jack closed his eyes momentarily then looked defiantly at Angel.

"What am I trying to do?" he asked, a mock tone of interest laced his voice.

"Trying to lure her away with false promises. Promises of creating a better world," Angel sounded as he were prophesising.

Jack rolled his eyes, almost uncontrollably. He sighed deeply.

"Oh for god's sake," he matched Angel's stance.

"We're not trying to make a better world," he told the demon. "We're just trying to keep the one we've got safe,"

"I don't know what you're problem is," Jack's voice became harsher. "But we didn't take Jess from you,"

Angel backed off slightly.

"She chose to join us. She can leave whenever she wants,"

Angel shook his head, not having any of it.

"Jessica wouldn't leave us,"

"She didn't just leave you. She thought about it long and hard, and came to her own decision. By herself,"

Jack looked at the vampire for a moment. It finally dawned on him, what had been the matter with Angel since he had got there.

"You're problem's not with Jessica leaving L.A," Jack said. "You're problem's with me,"

Angel backed off a little more, and glanced down at the floor. Jack read the situation perfectly.

"You're worried that I'm going to take your place," Angel shook his head and backed off toward a row of three chairs, just opposite the pay phone.

"She's one of the few people who truly know me," Angel began to explain. "I've never had to explain any of my actions to her, she's always known why I've done something, that it was for a good reason,"

Jack slowly sat down next to him. He wasn't very good at this man heart to heart stuff, he was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

"She does have a tendency to be able to do that," Jack confirmed.

Angel leant forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

"I can talk to her about anything, she never judges, you know?" Angel glanced to his right at Jack.

"She is a pretty open minded woman," Jack confirmed again.

Angel looked at him for a moment. "You see her as a woman?" he asked.

Jack looked back at him. "What?" he asked. "You don't?"

Angel thought about it for a moment. He shook his head. No he didn't.

"Never really thought about it. I've know her since she was fifteen," Angel thought some more. "I guess I still see her as a girl I want to protect,"

Jack nodded his head. Jessica did seem to inspire people to want to take care of her. Even though Jack knew she could take care of herself, he still had an overwhelming urge to look out for her, and indeed look after her.

"You know," Angel began. "A few years ago, Jessica and her friends back in Sunnydale where having an argument about something or other, and one of them accused her of being closed minded," Angel smiled as he thought about the scenario. "Jessica looked at them, and in near outrage replied 'If I was anymore open minded where your life decisions were concerned, my brain would fall out,'"

Jack laughed. That was Jessica all over. One of the most compassionate and tolerant people he had ever met, yet if you attempted to cross her you knew about it.

"We're not trying to take her away," Jack said deflatedly. "I'm not trying to take your place,"

Angel looked sideways at him again. He finally admitted it to himself.

"I know," he said. "You're relationship with her is completely different to mine. I'm more like a brother or father figure," he paused, then made real eye contact with him.

"You're relationship is something else,"

Jack's head snapped round to look at Angel. His eyes narrowed. He hadn't a clue what Angel meant. And he was being honest with himself.

22