Garden of the Mind
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and its characters are the property of showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions This story has been written for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. All original characters are my own - yada yada yada - In other words - I don't own these guys. I never will....I just like to play with them now and then.
Author's Notes: My thanks to Wendy and Lynette for beta-reading, and the excellent suggestions to ways to improve the story. I really appreciate it.
GARDEN OF THE MIND
Colonel Jack O'Neill hesitated outside the office. General Hammond had ordered him to report, and he was pretty sure he had a good idea why. It had not been an easy month for Jack, and it was taking its toll. He knew it. This morning had been particularly bad. Jack O'Neill knew the General had every right to call him on the carpet for what had happened.
O'Neill knocked on the door lightly.
"Enter," Hammond's voice said firmly.
O'Neill stuck his head through the door. "You wanted to see me, General?" he asked.
"Ah Yes, Colonel O'Neill. Come in. Sit down." General Hammond's tone of voice broached no disregard. It was unmistakably an order. The General's voice sounded annoyed and frustrated. Both were emotions that Jack O'Neill knew he had been the cause of.
O'Neill sat in the chair, unconsciously pulling himself to military posture. He glanced at the General's unyielding expression, and then looked down at the items on the desk. He waited silently for Hammond to speak his mind.
George Hammond looked at Colonel O'Neill, taking in the circles under his eyes, and the pinched features of his face. The General's eyes narrowed slightly as he took in Jack's military bearing. The Colonel was usually a lot more relaxed, even In the presence of his CO. It was evident that Colonel O'Neill was not feeling himself. "Headache, son?" General Hammond asked quietly.
"No more than usual, General. You wanted to see me, sir," O'Neill responded, glancing up. He waited for General Hammond to speak, focusing his attention on the man seated behind the desk.
General Hammond nodded. "Let's get to the point then. I have noticed that you have been having some difficulties lately. With what you've been through over the last few months a bit of latitude is in order - but your behavior has started affecting my base, and I can't let that go."
"Sir, I -" Jack began to speak, but Hammond held up his hand.
"Save it, Colonel," the General said brusquely. He took some sheets from a file folder, and let them drop onto his desk. "These are reports of minor incidents over the past four weeks - any one of which alone would not matter."
O'Neill looked at the loose sheets on the desk. His face showed no expression, but the hands resting on his thighs were clenched so tightly that Hammond could see the whites of the knuckles.
The General continued, doggedly. "The incident this morning was the last straw. I have a report of you stopping the elevator six levels too soon, and physically moving an airman who was blocking your exit. This isn't going away, Colonel. I want you to speak with Dr. MacKenzie."
"Like Hell I will!" Jack said, roughly. "You saw what that imbecile did to Daniel. If I tried talking to him I'd end up ki-" Jack stopped himself before he could finish the sentence.
"And maybe that attitude is what I am concerned about, Colonel." Hammond said. "You've been on edge - and for good reason. We have had some pretty ugly situations come up over the past few months. I'm not just speaking about Hathor, or the events in Sokar's prison. I know that the incident with Merrin caused you a great deal of turmoil." General Hammond leaned slightly forward, interlacing his fingers on his desk. "By rights you should have had extended leave after the undercover operation to bring down the NID's rogue organization," he continued. "There have been a few missions since that assignment, but there seems to be a residual edginess that I find troubling. I know you would prefer not to deal with Dr. MacKenzie, but the fact remains that he is the psychiatrist assigned to this base. I need you to talk to someone. The choice is limited. How many people on this planet do you think have a high enough clearance level to deal with what goes on at the SGC?"
The General paused, giving O'Neill time to process what he was saying. Hammond looked at the man in the chair before him. Colonel Jack O'Neill had the General's full respect, but Hammond had to consider the rest of his command. The General took in the granite face, and fury flashing in the eyes of his 2IC. George Hammond took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. His voice was gentle, but firm. "I can't send a team off-world with a leader that isn't physically and emotionally ready. Colonel O'Neill, you are over-tired and on edge. Something is obviously affecting you, whether or not you see it. You ARE going to talk to someone. I have given you plenty of latitude, and this isn't going away."
Jack sank back in his chair, and ran one hand though his hair. He looked at the General bleakly. He nodded. "I know, Sir," he said in a low voice. "But I will not deal with MacKenzie." O'Neill's voice was tinged with disgust. "That man has never been in a combat situation. He has no idea about honour, brotherhood, or about anything a soldier on this base has to face out there." Jack gestured towards the window overlooking the control room, knowing that just beyond it stood the stone circle that was the gateway to the stars. "He is close-minded. I am convinced that he makes a diagnosis based more on records and prior experiences than on current situations." O'Neill leaned forward in his chair, catching Hammond's eye. "Speaking frankly, Sir - the sooner we can get someone to replace him the better. It would be good to have a doctor that people could talk to without fear of being over-medicated and locked away in some loonie-bin. We need someone who will consider all plausible causes for behaviour, not just the ones taught in medical school. Especially in this job!" Jack glared at the General, who met that glare with one of his own. Jack eased back in his chair. "Sorry, Sir. I don't happen to like the man. We really need to get someone different," he said apologetically.
Hammond sighed. "You know that is already in the works, son. But that doesn't help us right now. It will take time to find someone open-minded and receptive enough to recognize that everything they thought they knew about the universe no longer applies. Add to that the education and experience needed for the job, and it is a pretty short list. There aren't that many people who will be capable of helping combat teams deal with the repercussions of what goes on out there."
Jack nodded grimly. He knew that the General was right. He was involved in the process of selecting new recruits for the SGC. O'Neill knew that the sifting process looked not only at physical and intellectual capabilities, but also took into account other intangible characteristics like open-mindedness and creativity. There were capable and competent soldiers who served their country well, but who would never be the right choice for the SGC. It took a special person to handle the concept of intergalactic travel through the Stargate, let alone the perils that were waiting beyond it. They wanted those who could not only accept and deal with the intricacies of the SGC, but also thrive in the environment. Jack looked down at his hands, and then up into the General's face. "And in the mean-time?" he asked, wearily.
"In the meantime I need you to deal with this, and whatever you've been trying isn't working," General Hammond declared adamantly. "If you won't talk to Dr. MacKenzie, you have to find someone you can talk to. It has to be someone who is already cleared for the stargate, has some counseling training, and whose opinions and recommendations I will accept." Hammond paused. "Jack," the General said sympathetically, "I know only one person other than Dr. MacKenzie that fits that description. You know who I'm talking about. Will it be any easier talking to Dr. Fraiser?"
Jack sighed. He knew that Hammond was serious. "The Doc has been in battle before. She has seen first-hand some of what we face out there. Hell, no - I don't want to talk to anyone!" O'Neill said bitterly. He hated talking about this stuff. At the same time, a feeling of relief settled around him because he had already realized that he couldn't deal with it by himself. "If you say I'm not going off-world until I talk to someone, I'd rather talk to her than MacKenzie, that's for damn sure!" Jack stood abruptly and paced to the window, looking out over the control room.
General George Hammond's eyes narrowed as he stared at the back of his 2IC. This uncharacteristic lack of respect only strengthened his conviction that Jack O'Neill had reached a breaking point. "I will ask Dr. Fraiser to provide a preliminary report to me within thirty-six hours." Hammond declared firmly. "You will make an appointment to see her immediately. Is that clear, Colonel?" the General demanded, his voice firm and unrelenting.
"Crystal." O'Neill responded harshly, turning to face the General. His granite face showed no expression, but General Hammond could see the fury lurking in the depths of his eyes.
"Good." The General retorted, just as harshly. "Dismissed."
Jack strode through the corridors of the SGC leaving a wake of nervous lieutenants. One look at his face told them all they wanted to know about dealing with Colonel O'Neill today ---if possible - DON'T.
Ten minutes later Jack arrived in the infirmary to find Janet on the phone. "But Sir - I don't have enough training." Fraiser was saying. Jack had a pretty good idea who she was talking to. "General." She continued. "This goes beyond the scope of my..." Another pause. "Yes Sir, I know that the Colonel won't talk to...."
Janet sighed, and finished the conversation. "Yes Sir. I understand, Sir." She finished the conversation, staring angrily at the headpiece of the phone before setting it down.
"You sound as happy about this as I am," Jack said, wearily.
"You might say that, Colonel," Janet responded. She took in his appearance, and general demeanor. "But I do see the need for assessment. I'm surprised that General Hammond let it go this long."
Jack scrubbed one hand wearily across his face. He took a deep breath. "So am I," he admitted. "I know I need to deal with this, but the things I did before aren't helping."
"You mean the mechanisms you developed to cope after Iraq?" Janet prodded.
Jack just looked at her tiredly. Then he closed his eyes and nodded. "Among others," he admitted.
The Doctor looked at him appraisingly. If Jack O'Neill was willing to admit that much, he might be willing to see this all the way through. But Janet Fraiser knew that nothing was going to happen in this sterile environment. She stood up abruptly. "Let's talk about this somewhere else," Janet said self-assuredly. "Come with me. There is a place I know a few levels down." She remembered what the General had revealed about this morning's elevator incident. "We'll take the stairs," Janet said with a smile. "I could use the exercise."
Janet cleared her schedule with Doctor Warner, informing him that she and the Colonel were finishing a project for General Hammond. They left the office and headed for the stairs. Jack wondered why Janet filled a container of water on her way out the door, but followed her reluctantly.
Four levels down from the infirmary, Janet Fraiser led the way towards a rarely used storage room. Jack followed Janet through a maze of boxes and crates deep into the recesses of the mountain. When they exited the maze Jack was amazed to find a replica of a Greek garden. There were white marble sculptures surrounded by trees and houseplants. Ivy was growing up the walls towards the back, and Jack noticed that the fluorescent lights had been changed to "grow-lights". "Where did this come from?" he asked, with eyebrows raised.
Janet smiled and explained as they walked towards the garden. "From what I understand the statues were recovered by SG14, and brought here for further study. They had a unique dialect of goa'uld engraved on them, but the way they were carved didn't quite show on any photographs, so the archeologist recommended they be brought here to make castings of the writing. The statues were due to be returned when a volcano wiped out the ruin where they were found. No one was sure what to do with them, so they chucked them into the back of this storage room. That was about two years ago."
They reached the edge of the garden and Janet began to work her way through the plants, with Jack following close behind. Jack thought he heard water, but couldn't see where the sound was coming from. "At first someone brought over a few artificial trees from one of the other storerooms, and interspersed them among the statues." Janet continued. "Then a few plants arrived. One by one people began bringing more houseplants in. I even brought a few, myself," Janet admitted. "The next thing I knew the fountains arrived." Jack could see now that small tranquility fountains were set up in various places around the garden, making the area sound like a creek was running through it.
Janet took a deep breath, inhaling the aroma of flowers and damp earth. She turned to Jack, and said, "The people who know it is here are selective about those they tell. It has been my refuge when those rough spots hit. When I have lost a patient and need a moment or two to compose myself, I come down here. This place has been a lifesaver for me. Those of us that need a moment of peace inside this mountain madhouse can find it in this garden."
"I want you to know that there are no cameras here, Colonel," Janet said, softly. "It is totally private, and what we speak of here will stay confidential, except for what I must tell the General. This is as close to outside as you're going to get in the SGC." Janet motioned to a bench under one of the statues. "I know that you usually find a lot of peace outdoors in nature. Let's just sit here a while. Close your eyes, and listen to the water. Pretend you're fishing," Janet chuckled. "I'm going to water a few plants. Jack observed Fraiser for a moment as she began meting out the container of water she brought from the infirmary, watering the plants that looked the driest. Then he closed his eyes, and sat listening to the trickle of water through the fountains. He took a deep breath, finding the earthy aroma mingled with the scent of flowers a welcome respite from the mechanical tang of recycled air that was familiar to the SGC
Jack felt a peace settle over him. He could almost imagine that he was at his cabin, fishing. This garden was a place of serenity. O'Neill could understand why Janet brought him here. This just might work. A few moments later he opened his eyes to find Janet Fraiser watching him. It was time to begin. Janet took a deep breath, and uttered a silent prayer for help. She smiled grimly. "We both know that you don't want to talk about this, Colonel. We also both know that General Hammond is going to have both of our heads if you don't. So let's try to weed out what doesn't matter. I know that Dr. MacKenzie would want you to go back six months, to the episode with Hathor-"
Jack O'Neill swore abruptly, and stood up. `He didn't want to deal with any of this,' Jack thought. `If this was going to be a review of every mission for the last six months, he was so out of here.'
Jack hadn't even taken a step when Janet's levelheaded voice continued, "But then, I've examined you many times since that event. I watched you deal with most of the issues that experience brought up. Whatever you did seemed to work. And I know you spent a lot of time with Teal'c and with the boxing bag. I bandaged your fingers a few times after you'd given the bag a bit `too much' of a workout. I watched you deal with it, and I'm pretty confident that we can leave that one alone for now."
Jack looked at her, surprised. "Most shrinks..."
"I am not a shrink." Janet reminded him. "Most of all I am not Dr MacKenzie. There is no way on God's green earth that some of these things can be related back to childhood traumas. What you went through was trauma enough, and one you dealt with reasonably well - you and your entire team. It may be that some group counseling sessions are in order when Dr. MacKenzie's replacement arrives - to talk through some of the more traumatic occurrences of your job, but what we need to do is figure out what is affecting you now. "
"Do you have any idea when we will find a replacement for MacKenzie?" Jack asked, frustration evident in his voice.
Janet Fraiser looked at him sharply. "You may not realize it, Colonel, but Dr. Mackenzie is this country's leading expert on post traumatic stress syndrome. That is why he was assigned to this base. He is a bit narrow-minded and fixated on traditional psychiatry, but he does work wonders with PTSS patients. However, in order to do this job properly people have to be willing to talk to you - and his mistake with Daniel has meant that no one is willing to see him. Dr. MacKenzie realized this, and has asked for a transfer to a different position. He will be staying until we can find a suitable replacement, but that is going to take a long time." Janet sighed. "He really does care about people, but the SGC was never the right place for him. Dr. MacKenzie likes an orderly world. He needs to be someplace where the unusual is not an everyday experience."
Jack O'Neill laughed harshly. "That's the truth of the SGC in a nutshell isn't it? I should have a t-shirt made. `The unusual is an everyday experience. The insane is weekly.'"
Janet smiled. "Sometimes it feels like that, doesn't it?" She said dryly. "Other than your understandable anger towards Dr. MacKenzie, you seemed to have dealt with Machello's machines, too". She looked over at Jack, and he nodded curtly. "Even to being in someone else's body, and being a host to `Junior'?" Jack winced, but nodded again. He sat back down on the bench.
Janet looked across the garden at an ivy plant edging its way up a wall. She breathed in the aroma of the plants around her, and then continued, "It took time, but you even recovered from the incident with Merrin. I know that was a hard one for you. I actually expected a bit more reaction to that one, but you took it pretty well in stride."
"You seem to be watching us a lot," Jack commented. Janet looked over at Jack's profile. He was granite faced, with almost no expression showing except for in his eyes. He seemed determined not to make this easy for her. Janet Fraiser wished she were anywhere but here. Fraiser knew that she couldn't help the Colonel deal with whatever the problem was unless he was willing to be helped. She decided to just be honest with him.
"You're my people," Janet Fraiser said matter-of-factly. It was as simple as that for her. "I am here to take care of the people on this base. There are enough things out there for you to look out for. It's a lot to take in." She took a deep breath, and went on, "That is one of the things that we're looking for in the new psychiatrist, by the way." Janet mentioned. "Someone who can read the mission reports and take it in their stride. Until that person arrives, I do what I can to watch over the teams."
Jack nodded, his expression softening. "I know you do, Doc," he said, tiredly. "You always look out for us. Even now, I know you're trying to help. I didn't mean anything else."
Janet smiled. It was the Colonel's first admission that he might be willing to accept her help. She said, "You have a good grasp on things, too. But, you need to help me here. Can you tell me when you first noticed something that felt off - something that you couldn't handle by your usual methods?"
Jack winced. "I'll try." He said, casting back his thoughts. "I guess the first thing that really hit me was when I got stuck on that planet with the Endorans. There was only one person on the planet that didn't blame me for the disaster - as if SG1 arriving had somehow caused it, not saved the rest of their people. It was a pretty bad scene. I tried to keep myself busy. I knew that eventually somebody would find me. The Tok'ra would have sent a ship when they had one in the area."
Janet nodded. She had allowed Jack to pick the place they would begin from, and she could work it from here. "You have a good support base, don't you, Colonel? Your team has been your support base for a lot of years. Did you miss them?" Janet queried.
"Of course I missed them." Jack griped irritably.
Janet Fraiser knew she was stating the obvious, but she needed to get the Colonel to think about his own reactions to the situations he had experienced. That would be half of the battle. Janet's voice took on a slightly pensive tone, encouraging that emotion in O'Neill. "I've noticed, Colonel, that your team has a unique relationship. Some of the other teams have a very professional association, but yours is much more personal. It's more like a connection that the four of you have. You seem more like family than some of the others."
"Yeah," Jack said hesitantly, waiting for Janet to complete her thoughts. He wondered what she was getting at.
Janet continued, "You believed that you would be gone a long time. Had you given up on seeing them again?" Janet paused, and then answered her own question. "No, with the allies we have, you must have known that you would see them again. But had you thought about whether you would be a part of that team again?" Janet paused for a moment, as if thinking. Jack stole a look over at her face. She appeared reflective, not invasive.
Janet went on, apparently oblivious to Jack O'Neill sitting beside her. "By the time you got back, assuming that the Tok'ra or the Asgard were able to pick you up after a year or two - you knew SG1 would have a new team dynamic. Someone would have been assigned to take your place." Janet mused. Her voice was soft, but sincere. She was only stating a fact.
The Colonel leaned back against the wooden bench. He didn't know if he wanted to follow this line of thought. Jack's hands were drumming against his thighs. His mind was casting about for other things to think about, so that he didn't have to go there. "How did this get down here?" he said, looking at the bench.
"In a box." Janet smiled. She recognized what the Colonel was doing, and recognized the signs that she had encroached upon an area that Jack O'Neill didn't want to think or talk about...yet. Janet Fraiser came up with a solution that might help. "We have another bench all set to be built." Janet said, pointing to a box leaning against one of the back walls. "Why don't you and I put it together while we talk?"
Colonel O'Neill smiled. He stood, stretching, and walked over to the unassembled bench. Jack shook his head. `Trust Fraiser to know that it would be easier to get through this if he had something to occupy his hands.' Jack O'Neill brought the box a bit further into the garden, and emptied the contents out onto the floor.
Janet Fraiser followed him over to the pile of bits and pieces. She handed him a screwdriver, and then pulled the other bench closer as Jack began to arrange the parts. "Colonel," Janet said, thoughtfully. "What were you thinking at the end of those hundred days? I know what went on here at base, but what was going on with you on the planet? You said that they didn't accept you. Was it like that the whole time?" She sat down on the bench, leaning back as if she had all the time in the world. Janet waited patiently for Jack's response.
Jack was silent for a moment. He sorted screws into sizes. Then he sighed and said harshly, "You've got it, Doc. I knew I would be obsolete when I got back. Two years makes a bunch of difference to a man my age. And as peaceful as Endora was, it wasn't home. I tried to help out where I could. I built houses; I worked the fields. I even brought in wildlife for cooking. But I was still alone. No one accepted me. I knew that Laira had a few of them ask me to dinner. I was hoping it was their idea, but I could tell when I walked through the door that it wasn't. Body language. They hated me."
Jack began to hammer a bench slat into place. Then he dropped it, his hands still for a moment. He continued, "It didn't matter what I did, or how much I helped. It wasn't until that last week that they even began to accept me. I guess because of this weird one hundred-day grief thing they have. And when the rescue attempt came I almost didn't get Teal'c out. It was that close. Because Laira," Jack snorted the name with distaste - "had decided that I should help her rebuild their community. She didn't tell me about hearing Teal'c's voice until it was almost too late."
Janet nodded, as she commented, "I could see that you were really ready to come home to the SGC, but I don't think that all the members of your team saw it the same way. I think they expected a bit more of a reaction. They really put a lot of work into getting you home. Sam was on the edge of exhaustion."
"I knew that. But I also knew we still needed the naquada, so I had to stay on Laira's good side. I was glad to be going home, though. I know I didn't seem it at the time," Jack said curtly. "I was in shock. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be rescued," he admitted. "I had only just accepted that my team would be going on without me, and then, there I was back. Stuck between two worlds." Jack's eyes opened wide. "I never really thought about it that way," he said.
Janet grinned internally, but her face remained solemn. This was working far better than she hoped. Maybe they would survive the process. She pushed forward, "And what happened next didn't help, did it? You were still stuck between two worlds."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked defensively.
"You were home less than two weeks before the Asgard and the Tollan contacted us. I know you wanted to spend time with SG1 during that two-week period, but never really got a chance. I had given SG1 leave for most of that time. Major Carter needed it for medical reasons. Teal'c felt a need to see his son and master Bra'tac. I think he was dealing with being so close to death. Dr. Jackson was requested by SG7 for their mission to a planet with Egyptian ruins. They needed the best Egyptologist we have. I know that you were not able to spend time with them before the Tollan showed up. I also know that you must have observed the three-person bond that your team developed while you were away. If I saw that bond, I know you did - and you still hadn't managed to find a way to fit back into the team yet. So when it came down to the wire, you were still `stuck between two worlds'".
Jack looked down at the pieces of bench. He didn't say a thing. He just nodded, and continued to fit the bench slats where they were supposed to go. Janet winced. Maybe she had been overly optimistic. It looked like the Colonel wasn't as ready to talk as she hoped. "Tell me about what happened with the Tollan and the Asgard, Colonel?" Janet asked, wearily.
"You know what happened," Jack retorted harshly.
"I know the official report," Janet pointed out. "I want to hear about your reactions. Why did you agree to go ahead with the assignment?" Janet sat back, watching as Jack worked steadily on the bench. She knew it wasn't going to take long to complete it at the rate he was working.
A moment later, Jack looked over at the Doctor. "I had no choice." Jack said in a low undertone. "If I didn't do what they wanted it would have been the end of the Stargate Program. They were going to take the stargate, and we would never have had a chance to find technology to defend ourselves against the goa'uld. I knew I could do it." His voice was bitter.
Jack sighed. His hands suddenly still. He looked down at the pieces in his hands. He looked up at Janet, anguish flitting across his face. "I knew that if I did what they asked I could break the team into as many pieces as this bench. And I didn't know if I would have the tools to put it together again." He dropped the two pieces of wood he was holding to the floor with a clatter. He stared down in silence at the disconnected parts lying in a heap on the cement.
Jack looked up Janet's face. What he saw there shocked him. Janet's professional mask was gone. All he saw was compassion, and recognition of his pain. Janet was nodding, "You had done it before, though. And you knew you could do it again." She said, sadly.
Jack groaned. "I knew I could do it. But the last time I was on an op like that one was in Iraq, when one of the teams was suspected of using their position to extort money from wealthy families. The operation worked, but my team was irretrievable. They thought I had betrayed one of our own. I was never really trusted again." Jack stared over Janet's head at an ivy plant climbing the wall. "You can't go into battle with someone you don't trust. " Jack said harshly. In the back of his mind he had always wondered if the fall-out from that undercover mission hadn't inadvertently resulted in his own pain and suffering when Frank Cromwell left him behind.
It had taken Jack years to forgive Frank, but the hurt had not just been about being physically left behind. O'Neill felt betrayed by the way Frank and the guys had acted after he got back from that mission. Jack knew that he had been following lawful and necessary orders, but his team seemed to turn their back on him when he returned. Jack O'Neill knew it was an accident that he had been left behind enemy lines. Frank Cromwell was a good soldier, and never would have deliberately left any man behind - but Jack wondered if it might have been easier for Frank to allow it to happen because in the back of his mind he didn't consider Jack a real member of the team anymore. After Jack had returned from that undercover mission, Frank, Tom Collins, and Jim Ryan had left him out of the camaraderie needed to build a team. It was as if they were punishing Jack for agreeing to take part in what they considered the `betrayal' of another team. They didn't see that he had no choice in the matter. It had hurt a lot.
Jack explained that to Janet in as few words as possible, but Doctor Fraiser had become expert in reading Colonel Jack O'Neill. She saw the strain showing around his eyes, and the pinched look on his face, indicating the level of stress this conversation had for him. And she couldn't make it easier. Janet pushed onward. "So after the rogue NID debacle, you wondered if maybe your team wouldn't be able to let you back in either - because of the way your unit responded back in Iraq. You knew it might be a possibility, but you went ahead with it anyways. You've been dealt a crappy hand, Colonel." Jack nodded bleakly. "Do you think it's going to work? Can you rebuild your team?" Janet asked him, already knowing the answer.
A smile showed on Jack's face for the first time in what seemed like hours. "They've all started to come around," he grinned. "Carter and Teal'c knew I really had no choice in the matter. It took some time, but eventually they were able to put aside what I had to do to set up the mission. Daniel never was military. He took everything pretty personally. I'm working on it, though. And it's getting better. I know my team will pull through."
"I'm sure it will, Colonel." Janet said, smoothly, "But the underlying tension for you after the situation seems to be the repercussions of being left behind, as far as I can see it." She paused to let the statement sink in, and then said, "The way it looks to me, you spent a fair amount of time on Endora thinking about what changes might occur as a result of being trapped there. It sounds like you had resigned yourself to being on that planet for quite some time. You knew that SG1 would have to replace you, and you wondered what you would have to come back home to - because the SGC has become your life, and your family. Am I right?
"Pretty pathetic, huh?" Jack sneered at himself.
Janet smiled. "In any other program, maybe. The highly classified nature and tight-knit group dynamics make it not so abnormal." Janet looked at him with a self-depreciating frown. "Just how much of a life do you think I have outside of this place? Except for Cassie, I mean?"
Jack nodded. He had a puzzled expression on his face. He wondered where Janet was going with this.
Janet looked him in the eye, and said firmly "So this was bringing back some of the things you had to deal with after Iraq, about feeling left behind, and the more distasteful aspects of the Special Forces. And wondering about whether you would be accepted back and how that would look. I could tell that the rest of SG1 had developed a pretty strong three person dynamic while you were on Endora. I am sure that you were aware of the way they supported each other. It looks like the starting point we have is your uncertainty of what would happen with your team when you got back...from both missions."
Jack's eyes widened. It was as if a paradigm shift had occurred, as if he was seeing clearly for the first time in months. "I guess I can see that." He said guardedly. Janet knew that she didn't want to push it any more than this at the moment. It was time to take a break, and allow the Colonel to process what had been discussed.
Janet looked at her watch. "Man!" She exclaimed. "I'm famished. Why don't we go grab something to eat in the commissary, and finish putting this bench together after we eat? I think we can even raid Sam's lab for some more useful tools." She tossed the screwdriver to one side, and stood up, stretching easily. "What do you say, Colonel?"
"Sounds good!" Jack smiled in relief. They made their way back through the maze of boxes and went upstairs. The Colonel looked at his watch in shock. "It's already past dinner time," he said, stunned.
"No wonder I'm hungry," Janet said. "Go ahead to the commissary, and grab something to eat for the both of us. I need to stop by the infirmary for a moment. I'll catch up with you in ten." Janet used the time to check on the status of her little kingdom, and arrange for someone to spend the night with Cassie. After a brief conversation with her daughter she went to join Colonel O'Neill in the commissary. She knew they had a long journey ahead of them. They had accomplished a lot in a few hours, but Janet knew that they had a ways to go before they were done. She sensed they were close to a breakthrough. If Jack was willing to go through the complete process, Janet thought they might have a chance of completing the process before morning.
Janet was pleased to find Jack in the commissary eating with the rest of SG1. She knew that they both needed a break from the heavy topics they had been discussing earlier. It was good to see the jokes and the interaction between the team, especially after what Jack had experienced when he returned from Endora. After the meal, they made a quick trip to Sam's lab to grab a few more tools, and then the Colonel and Janet Frasier made their way back to the small garden area in the storeroom.
Jack O'Neill and Janet Fraiser sat on the bench, gazing at the plants and listening to the fountains. It was peaceful. Janet could tell by looking at the Colonel that some of the weight he had been under had lifted. It was a good start, but Janet knew there was a lot more they had to cover before day's end. It was time for them to get back to work.
Dr. Fraiser took a deep breath, and said. "We were talking about Endora, earlier." Janet breathed in the delicate aroma of the mini-roses by her feet. She reached down and plucked one, then asked Jack, "You said that you spent all night thinking by the cooking fire there. What were you thinking about?" She immediately winced, realizing just how much that question sounded like something a psychiatrist would ask, but it was a question she needed the answer to.
Jack looked at her sharply, and saw her wince. Jack knew that she had to ask, and realized that it really wasn't that big a deal. He smiled grimly, and shrugged. "I guess I should have known things would change, even in three months." O'Neill said, quietly. "It was on my mind a lot. I stayed up all night on Endora more than once wondering about the changes that would have occurred by the time I got back to the SGC. I guess I was thinking about what would happen when I got back - wondering where I would fit in, especially as I expected it to be three years instead of three months. I knew that things had to move on with the team. I hoped that they would give Sam the position of CO, but in retrospect, I don't know if she was ready for it."
"What do you mean? Janet demanded. "She's a good soldier. She was the one who did all the work to bring you home. She saved your butt."
"I know," Jack said, seriously. "She is a good soldier, but she expended so much energy on getting me back that she was suffering from exhaustion. You know it!" Jack looked pointedly at Janet, who nodded reluctantly. Jack continued, "If something else had come up during that time, she wouldn't have had the focus to handle it. I'm thinking foothold situation, or an enemy incursion through the gate. It's easy to make a mistake when you've pushed yourself beyond your limits." Jack sat back and closed his eyes. There was a sad frown on his face. "Don't get me wrong. I'm glad to be back, and I know that I have a purpose at the SGC. Carter's plan worked, but I just don't know if the risk was worth it. Teal'c was almost out of air when I got to him. If I had been even five minutes later, we would be out one of the best resources we have in this battle against the goa'uld." Jack opened his eyes, and looked at Janet. "I know that Hammond was the one that made the final decision, but Carter was the one who came up with the idea. The chance of it working was minimal. There was no way of knowing if I was alive, or if the radio had been damaged. And if the plan failed, Teal'c would be dead, and we would have lost someone truly irreplaceable. Teal'c is important to the SGC because of the sort of man he is and what he stands for, not just because of experience and knowledge. I don't think that getting me home was worth that risk"
Janet raised one eyebrow. Although there was more than a shadow of truth in what Colonel O'Neill said, she recognized that the Colonel was trying to divert the conversation away from the question she had asked. Janet wasn't going to let him off that easy. "You said you were thinking by the fire." Janet prodded. "What about?"
Jack shrugged. He should have known that Janet wouldn't let him go off on a tangent. She knew him too well, and wouldn't let him off the hook. Jack looked at the pieces of the half-built bench spread over the floor, and moved over to them. He sat silently working for a moment, thinking about what to say. Jack realized that he didn't feel as annoyed as he expected by Fraiser's unswerving focus on getting an answer to her question. He actually felt relieved that the Doc hadn't let him off the hook. He realized that deep down he wanted this dealt with. Jack O'Neill made the internal deliberate choice to work with Dr. Janet Fraiser to get this situation under control.
O'Neill straightened his shoulders as if preparing to face a firing squad, and turned to look Janet Fraiser in the eye. He surprised Janet by his forthright answer. "I was wondering what my life would be like when I got back. If I had to wait for the Tok'ra before I got back to earth, it could have been years. I knew that SG1 would have to select a new team member, and move on. I realized that I would still be working at the SGC, but still on active duty? I don't know." O'Neill got up, and walked over to one of the statues. He rubbed one hand absentmindedly over his face. "I had some time to think about what it would be like to be really out of the loop for two years. That's about how long I figured it would take the Tok'ra to have a ship in the area. I knew there was a pretty good chance that the SGC thought I was dead, but I was pretty sure they would get somebody to check first chance they got. The problem was that I knew it was going to take a long time. It took me a long time to give up on getting home."
O'Neill stopped by a hibiscus plant. He breathed in the delicate aroma before he continued. "At first I tried digging up the stargate all on my own; after I had helped the villagers rebuild homes or helped in their fields. I was out there every night digging until it was too dark to see what I was doing. I helped them, but they wouldn't help me." O'Neill began pacing again. "It was impossible!" He exclaimed bitterly. "I had no way of knowing where the gate even was. The destruction of the area was that complete. I would help in the fields, and then I would go and dig as long as light allowed. Finally the time came to make the decision." Jack slowed down. He walked back to the bench, and slumped onto it, hands in his pockets. With a sigh, O'Neill admitted, "It was time to let go and get on with the hand life had dealt me. It took me a long time to give up on finding a way home. I only reached that decision a couple of weeks before the stargate was activated." Jack took a deep breath, and stared down at his feet. He could not believe how vulnerable he had just allowed himself to be. But he knew he could trust the Doc, and it actually felt good to let go of some of that bitterness.
Janet was amazed at all that Jack had just admitted to her. She knew that with that admission reflected a commitment to work though the problem. She smiled in relief. "And then you got home, and your team didn't know how to deal with the changes you had made on Endora - the choices that you had to make just to survive. You saw that they had changed, too." Janet waited until she saw Jack nod, and then continued. "They had become a team of three people. Sam, Daniel and Teal'c supported each other in their mission to get you home. When you got here you saw the connection that the three of them had was well-established, but in a way it felt like you weren't included because you'd been gone so long?"
Janet spoke out the observation so naturally that it took Jack a moment to realize all she had said. Jack smiled at her gratefully, relieved that he hadn't had to say that, and very glad that he hadn't been the only one who noticed it. "Yeah" he admitted. "It was like I was on the outside looking in, and I wondered how that had happened in only three months. I had just started to work on building the team back when the Tollan showed up." Jack growled. "And what a load of crap that was." O'Neill sat still, looking at the floor. "I had just started to re-establish my team, and then I had to tear it apart. By the time they were done with it the situation was almost irretrievable."
Janet could hear the unspoken anguish in his voice. His voice was low, and his eyes averted away from her, over to the garden. "Daniel told Makepeace that he had never trusted my command. Carter withdrew into her lab, and I didn't see her unless duty called us together. Teal'c seemed okay, but I only saw him if I went looking for him - never the other way around. This went on for weeks. I even tried to instigate a team night, but all three of them turned me down." Janet listened wide-eyed. She hadn't realized just how much the consequences of the undercover mission had affected Jack O'Neill and his relationship with SG1. "They all had valid reasons, of course." Jack exhaled. "But they were reasons that would have been put aside to spend time as a team before Endora."
Jack got up and resumed his pacing. He was obviously agitated. There was an undercurrent of pain in his voice that Fraiser had not expected to hear. "I know Teal'c at least understood, but it was a long haul back. It felt like I was carrying the team on my back, trying to get us at least to a place where we could work together again. I was furious that the Tollan and the Asgard were making me go through that without the support of my team"
"Without support?" Janet asked.
"That's what I said." O'Neill retorted, harshly.
`Finally!' Janet thought. `We've gotten to a space where we can begin to work on the real issues.'
"You were angry at the Asgard and the Tollan and the Nox." Janet repeated. "Anyone else?"
"I was disgusted with Maybourne, and Makepeace. Maybourne, well - I always knew that he was a rat-faced slimy shark. I had a lot of respect for Makepeace. I didn't see that one coming. Even after it seemed like he was the only suspect left, I kept hoping I was wrong."
"And?" Janet probed. "Was there anyone else you were angry with?"
Jack admitted quietly, almost to himself. "I was angry at Daniel for what he said. I thought he trusted me." His voice became harsh, "But Carter and Teal'c. They were military. They knew about orders. They know how it works! And they wouldn't let me back in!" By the time O'Neill finished speaking his voice had become agitated and strident. Jack stood still. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He hadn't even seen that one coming. O'Neill had not voiced that thought before, not even to himself. `He had been angry at his team.'
Janet reiterated what the Colonel had been saying. "You were angry because you seemed to be doing all the work to get things back to the way they were. At any other time they would have been working hard, too - but because of the incident with the Endorans they had built an incredible three person support base and didn't see the necessity as clearly as you did. You still saw yourself as on the outside looking in." Janet said bluntly.
"Yeah," Jack said in a harsh whisper. He was standing stock still, looking down at the ground. Even his hands had stopped moving. His face was so pale that except for the BDU's he could have been mistaken for one of the marble statues standing in the garden.
Janet Fraiser knew it was time to back off for a while, and let the Colonel mull this admission over in his mind. She glanced down at the floor, and took a deep breath. Lord, she was tired. `This is an exhausting process,' she murmured to herself. Janet waited another moment, watching the Colonel as he struggled with the emotions he was feeling. She rose, and walked over to the half assembled bench. "Colonel." Janet said softly. "I don't think we have the right screw-driver to finish this. Could you please finish as much as you can, and I'll go raid Siler's sanctuary. I'm sure that the Sergeant will have whatever we need."
Fraiser walked away through the garden. As she made her way through the maze she prayed that the Colonel would still be there when she got back. Janet realized that Colonel O'Neill needed some time to work through what had just been said, but they weren't done yet. Not by a long shot. In fact, the Doctor knew that they had just gotten to a place where the process could really begin. The Colonel had made a major breakthrough, but from now on it was up to him. Jack O'Neill had to be willing to take the next step.
Janet returned to the garden a half hour later. She had sandwiches and beer hidden in a brown paper bag. The base was supposed to be dry, but Doctor Fraiser knew a couple of places where you could find a cold wet one if you knew the right people. Fortunately most of those people owed her one, and when Janet asked, promising no repercussions, they were happy to oblige. She also had an array of screwdrivers. She had no doubt that the right one would be somewhere in the pile.
Janet found that Colonel O'Neill was still there when she arrived. She breathed out a sigh of relief, and smiled. That was the one thing that Janet Fraiser had been worried about. Once the Colonel had faced what was going on in the back of his mind, the choice was his. Would he process it or run from it. Running would have repercussions, including a mandatory visit to Dr. MacKenzie - but if O'Neill chose to stay, that would speak volumes about his willingness to get this situation dealt with.
Colonel O'Neill was sitting on the floor, the bench was loosely together - he was waiting for the screwdrivers. Janet walked up behind him, and dropped the array of tools by his side. "One of those should work," she said. She looked around the room. The garden was still beautiful and peaceful, but Janet saw a couple of shattered pots against one wall, with the remains of some battered and disheveled houseplants showing amidst the dirt. Jack looked up and saw where she was looking.
"I'll replace them, Doc." He said with embarrassment. "They were in the way."
Janet smiled. "Yes, I can see that. They jumped out and hit your feet, did they?"
"Actually, my hand." Jack said, self-depreciatingly. "I hadn't even thought about the fact that I might be angry with my team, but I guess I should have."
"The key to all of this is dealing with it, Colonel." Janet said, wryly. "This is an insane place. On a daily basis we are asked to do things that affect the rest of the planet. We are asked to deal with things that Stephen King wouldn't even begin to dream of. This isn't a place that you can ever say "we'll get things back to normal - because normal here is the epitome of weird."
Jack looked at her, shocked.
"Not what you expected?" Janet smiled. "Honestly Colonel, you've done a damn good job of dealing with some of the crap that has come and gone around this place. But the operative term is `dealing with'. As in moving on after something that would make Joe Public run screaming to hide under his bed. It's the stuff that you aren't dealing with that causes the problems. And I'm pretty sure that the only reason you haven't been dealing with it is either you didn't see it - like this situation - or that it brings up memories you haven't dealt with from another place and time." Janet's voice was dry, but unyielding. "And you know that is where we are going next."
"Iraq" Jack said, wincing.
"No." said Janet. "Bedrosia"
"Oh, CRAP!" said the Colonel, standing up and striding towards the door.
"Interesting." Janet said, crossing her arms, and cocking her head to one side with a quizzical look.
"What." Jack said, stopping after a dozen paces.
"Why that planet caused such a reaction when you were able to deal with situations that I would consider much worse?" Janet responded, calmly.
"Like what?" Jack challenged.
"Merrin, Machello. Sokar, Hathor, Maybourne, you know - round up the usual suspects." Janet said in a conversational voice.
Jack looked at his feet. "You have a point." He said softly. He stayed still, facing away from her. It was as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And she wasn't going to drop it.
She walked over to the bench and began to sort through the screwdrivers. "Looks like this needs a Robertson screwdriver." Janet said. "I think I have one in this mishmash."
"A what?" Jack asked. Turning his head half-ways
"A Robertson - Oh, it's a Canadian screwdriver. They have been using them for over half a century. I learned about them from some of the Canadian Docs at the UN hospital in Bosnia. They haven't been popular here in the States until recently. They use square-headed screws. Here it is." Janet picked up a red-handled screwdriver with a flourish. Let's finish the bench, and then we'll have some sandwiches."
Jack came back; carefully averting his eyes, and began to tighten the screws. It didn't take much time for the bench to be completed. When it was together Janet brought out the sandwiches and the beer.
Jack looked at her in surprise. "Doc! How on earth did you get those in here?" he asked, amazed.
"You have to know the right people." Janet admitted. "Fortunately, the right people usually end up owing me a favour when I ask." She grinned dryly. "It's one of the perks of saving lives." She reached over and handed him a ham on rye, and a beer. "They appreciate good beer, too." She said with a smile, opening the bottle and taking a sip. "I like a good dark lager."
Jack grinned in agreement. "Guinness all the way, but this will do nicely."
They finished their sandwiches and sat back on the benches to enjoy the beer. Janet moved the new bench to where she could stretch out with her feet up on the other bench facing the Colonel.
She took a swallow of beer, and smiled at the look of enjoyment on Jack's face as he followed suit. "I love a good beer, too," she smiled. Then her expression sobered, and she looked Jack in the eyes. "We have to get back to this, Colonel. What made the Bedrosian planet different than any of the other similar situations we have faced?"
Jack sighed. "First, I think it bothered me that no one paid any attention to my suggestions for caution. I know it's insignificant, but coming so soon after the thing with the rogue NID operation, I wondered if people still didn't trust me. Even the General, who knew I was undercover, seemed to move ahead faster than I would have. I said, "Wait a Minute," and nobody waited. Not even General Hammond. And I couldn't say anything after the General gave the go ahead, because..." Jack paused for a moment, taking a drink of beer, and shrugged.
Janet knew what he was saying. She had been in the military long enough to know that the decision of a general beats the caution of a colonel, hands down. "I know Colonel." Janet said, reasonably. "RHIP. Once the decision was made by General Hammond, it was made for you. Back to Bedrosia; what other things stand out?"
"It reminded me of Iraq way too much".
Janet nodded. "Can you point out the ways it reminded you of Iraq?" she asked, calmly.
"Oh you had the usual mean sadistic power-hungry bastards willing to torture you just because you didn't quite fit in with what they thought the party line should be," Jack said sardonically. "Who didn't care what truth was as long as it didn't upset their kettle of fish."
Janet smiled at the sarcastic voice, but shook her head. "Try again, Colonel," she said, wryly.
Jack sighed. He should have known that the Doc wasn't going to let him get away with the easy answer. "It was the boxes." He admitted, wearily. "Those damn boxes were exactly the same size as one I spent a lot of time in before."
Janet nodded. Now they were getting somewhere. "And the electricity," Janet observed. There was no question in her voice.
O'Neill looked at the floor and nodded. "You know." He said dejectedly.
"I have seen your medical records, Colonel." She reached over and touched his knee. "Jack, you should know that I have a high enough clearance level that I have seen ALL of your medical records."
Jack looked up at her, and then closed his eyes. His face was like granite. "All?" he asked, harshly.
"Yeah," Janet confirmed, just as quietly and just as harshly.
"Then you do know?" Jack whispered.
"I know that you were captured for a short period a year before your four month incarceration in Iraq. I know that you spent three weeks confined in a cage just about that size before you managed to escape, and that the bastard in charge of your captivity seemed to think that you would light up like a Christmas tree if he attached a car battery to the metal bars on your cage. I know when you got out of that place you wouldn't go in elevators for a while. You could handle it then with no problem - not many elevators on military bases in Iraq, and jogging three or four levels was not difficult for you. You could even pass it off as `wanting exercise'," Janet smiled. "But that doesn't work here, does it? Twenty-nine levels make a big difference. It's hard to get down to the SGC without using elevators, isn't it?"
"Well I could just stay on base for a while." Jack said, taking a hard slug of beer.
"There you go," Janet said cheerfully. "Option one."
"What?" Jack started. He had expected her to continue on with the routine on how it made him `feel'.
Janet reassured him with a grin. "I'm not a psychiatrist, Colonel, and unless you show serious signs of mental instability I think it's more a matter of working out options for dealing with the problem. Let's face it. Any psychiatrist we choose to work here is going to have nightmares about the nightmares they hear about. The problem is that most of the nightmares he hears will be nothing short of reality. They probably will be memories OF reality. We both know that." Janet said in a firm voice. She looked over to see Jack nodding in agreement. Janet continued, "The only thing we need to do today is to help you figure out ways you can deal with this. I think we've already made some good steps."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked with a bewildered expression.
"I know you have dealt with worse things than this with the support of your team. And you're working on getting that support back. I saw that at dinner."
"Yeah - but." Jack faltered for a moment and fell silent. When he continued his voice was stronger. "But this time I was feeling out of the loop because of my time on Endora and the undercover mission. It felt like I was breaking apart the team, but the team was strong, and I was broken. While I was on Endora the rest of SG1 had developed a strong three person dynamic, supporting each other through my absence. That meant that they could still be strong without me during the op to capture the rogue NID cell. I could see the strength and support they had for each other. I guess I didn't see the support being there for me. Or maybe I just didn't think I deserved it."
"And?" Janet prodded.
"And I reverted to old methods of dealing. I shut it inside. Broke a few plates" Janet's eyes widened. "At home - and all right, I need a new dinner service." Jack admitted with a wry grin. "A few pots here." He said motioning towards the wall.
"And almost broke the arm of one poor airman who couldn't get an elevator door opened." Janet said, forcefully. Jack nodded bleakly. His expression was remorseful and embarrassed at the same time.
Janet looked at the Colonel. "You know you have the support of your team. I can tell you that they all went through hell to get you back from Endora. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't consider you an important part of the team," she said firmly, as if stating a fact. "Hammond wouldn't have agreed to the rescue attempt unless he believed the same thing. But I can see that it's something that has you concerned. I think a beer and pizza night with your team would be a good idea this weekend - it would help establish your confidence in their trust for you. What about the rest? What are your options for dealing with it?"
`That's what this is about then?" Jack asked with a puzzled frown. "Options?"
"Basically, yes." Janet replied. "Colonel, you needed help dealing with this. I'll always be here to help you anyway I can. You know that. You should also know that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. MacKenzie. He is the best post traumatic stress syndrome doctor the air force has. He has worked wonders helping people deal with past trauma, but I don't think he ever really understood the intricacies of our job. For want of a better term, the SGC is a continuing traumatic stress program. In this place trauma is never truly `past.' Whatever you face, there will be more of the same - only different and more horrifying - next week. The psychiatrist we are looking for will give the teams methods of dealing with the `interesting variances' this job has to throw at us. General Hammond has already arranged for Dr. MacKenzie to head up a new post-traumatic ward at a nearby military hospital. He will be the one to handle any true PTSS patients that we have. He'll probably be the only doctor on the planet with high enough clearance for it."
Jack nodded. "I know he wouldn't have been assigned here nor had the clearance for the program unless he was good. Just not good here," Jack admitted. O'Neill took a deep breath. "Okay," he said, brusquely. "Options. Well, taking the stairs isn't an option. Twenty-nine levels and five checkpoints."
"I think not." Janet confirmed. "How to aggravate Jack O'Neill's knees in five easy lessons," she said jestingly.
Jack thought for a moment. "Option one - I stay on base for a while. That would work, but it would only be delaying the problem. It has to be dealt with."
Janet nodded. "Any other options that you can think of?" she asked.
"Music might work." Jack said thoughtfully. "At home when I'm stressed I play classical music. If I can concentrate on music in the elevator, I think that would work, temporarily."
Janet smiled. "I think this is probably the first time anybody wanted elevator music." She chuckled. "I think that could work, but it could only be a temporary measure," Janet agreed. "A CD walkman playing something that you can concentrate on would work - just for a couple of weeks." Janet smiled. "Now we're getting somewhere. So, Colonel. What other options are there. What decisions can you make about how to deal with this?
Jack's smile was not hesitant. He gave Janet a wide grin. He already felt better, and more in control than he had in weeks. "I have to work on the team. I have to talk to Daniel to see what he meant by what he said to Makepeace. And I think you're right. `My team' would benefit from a pizza and movie night at my place. "
"Good start." Janet said, approvingly. "And we go out again, to talk in a couple of days - but this time you buy the beer. A bit more conversation, just to sound out how things are going, and whether the decisions you have made today are helping. Do you think we're done for the moment?" Janet asked. She knew that she was giving Jack O'Neill permission to end the conversation there. They had accomplished what was needed for today. She could deal with the rest later.
Janet half expected Colonel O'Neill to take the offer and escape, But Jack surprised her. "Doc, I know that I can play music in the elevators, but that is just a temporary measure. I have to get this dealt with before I get caught in something like an elevator off-world. That would not be a good scene. I know I have to find a way to let go of what happened thirteen years ago so I can let go of what happened with the Bedrosians." Jack said. "And I don't even know how to start doing that!" he added in frustration.
Janet smiled, her face beaming with the onslaught of a great idea. "All right. I think I can help you there." She said, cheerfully. "Follow me."
Janet led Jack into another storeroom down the hall. There were several animal cages in different sizes against the far wall. "Why are we here?" Jack said, incredulously.
"I've always wondered why these are here." Janet said, quizzically.
"These cages are at the SGC in case a specimen of local wildlife makes it though the gate after a team." Jack answered. "Believe it or not, they have a guy at the gate whose job it is to make sure that no indigenous wild life accidentally comes through. They are trying to make sure not even a mouse makes it though. They don't want an occurrence of what happened with Australia and rabbits or New Zealand and stoats. With no natural predators an animal can dangerously change the ecosystem of an area."
"Makes sense" Janet said. She walked towards one cage at the end of a row. I think that this one looks like it is flawed. I will ask General Hammond to requisition a new one tomorrow," Janet said, placing one hand on it. The cage was of a similar size and build to the cage on the Bedrosian planet. "It needs to be destroyed. There is a welder's torch and gear over there, as well as a couple of sledgehammers and other tools. It would help the maintenance guys out if you took care of it for them."
Jack looked at Janet with a child-like grin. She knew that he dealt with things in physical ways. He sparred with Teal'c or beat on the punching bag. This was her way of helping him to destroy the cage in his mind. She was giving him the permission and opportunity to destroy a physical manifestation of that cage.
Janet smiled at him, and nodded. `This is going to work', she thought. "I'm going back to my office, now." Janet said with a grin. "I'll finish the report for the General. Come by the infirmary and see me when you're done, Colonel." Fraiser walked out of the room, and made her way to the infirmary.
Jack O'Neill put on the protective gear and got to work. He realized half way through that this was just the ticket. The dark mood that he hadn't been able to find his way out of for the past three weeks was lifting with every piece that was destroyed. It was as if he was claiming that portion of his mind again.
Four hours later Jack O'Neill stopped by the infirmary. Janet was napping on her cot. He looked at his watch and realized it was long past midnight.
She opened her eyes and stretched. "Feeling better?" she asked.
"Much." He confirmed. "You knew what the problem was all along didn't you?"
"No, but I did know that it had something to do with that planet. You had managed to deal with everything else pretty well, so it really came down to being something on the Bedrosian planet." Janet explained.
"And something in my past," Jack admitted. "But don't tell MacKenzie I said so."
"That, too," Janet agreed. Then she asked, "Do you have any burns I need to look at from the welding equipment?" Jack shook his head. "Then go get some rest, Colonel. I'll tell the General we talked it out, but I still want my steak and beer dinner later this week.
"Thanks Janet," Jack said sincerely. "This goes above and beyond the call of duty." His use of her name was a declaration of friendship.
"Not really Jack." Janet returned the favour. "This is what happens in the realm of friendship. Now why don't you hit your quarters for some sleep, and let me get back to mine?" Jack nodded, giving her a brilliant smile as he left her office and headed towards the infirmary doors.
Colonel Jack O'Neill was whistling as he walked down the hall towards the elevator. For the first time in two weeks he wasn't nervous approaching the tiny box, and he knew that he had Doctor Fraiser to thank for that. The elevator opened onto the right floor, and Jack walked down the corridor towards his quarters. Jack O'Neill reflected how lucky they were to have the petite doctor as the CMO of this base. She was the best and the brightest - and damn good at what she did.