Title:            “Dreams of Dust”         

 

Author:         Peg  

 

Email:           kempp@telus.net

 

Status:         complete                     

 

Category:     Hurt/Comfort                    

 

Pairings:       Jack and Janet Friendship

 

Spoilers:        anything to do with Charlie                        

 

Season:        7

 

Sequel/Series Info:          none

CONTENT LEVEL: 13+            

 

Content Warnings:       none    

  

Summary:        A chance encounter causes pain for Jack. Janet helps him through  

 

Disclaimer:        Stargate SG-1 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.

 

Feedback:        Yes Please.  Constructive Criticism to improve my craft is appreciated.  Flames are not.                

 

File Size:             52 KB         

 

Archive:       Jackfic - Others Please ask   

 

Author’s Notes:     My thanks to Wendy for her beta-read and encouragement. 

 

“Dreams of Dust”

 

Jack O’Neill stood proud in his Air Force Dress Uniform.  Externally, he looked the perfect soldier.  Internally, he could hardly wait to get out of this monkey suit and back into his BDUs. 

 

O’Neill and several others from the Cheyenne Mountain base had been asked to show up at a formal function held for the graduating class of the Air Force Academy and their families.  Little did the cadets know that one of the things they were here for was to size up the few cadets they had agreed to let into the secret under the Cheyenne Mountain base.  They had come to this less academic setting to sound out the new recruits tentatively scheduled to be assigned to the SGC for duty.  If the cadets passed muster today, the final request would go through next week. 

 

O’Neill glanced at Major Samantha Carter, off in the corner talking to some of the scientific types.  He could tell from the look on her face that at least one of these students would be at the SGC.

 

Dr. Janet Fraiser was there, too.  She was representing the medical side of the facility, but was such a good judge of character that it was always helpful to have her along at these things.  Janet could tell within a few minutes of conversation whether a cadet was open-minded enough to handle what the SGC was all about.

 

Jack made polite conversation and chatted with the young cadets, impressed by his chest full of medals.  He heard some of them murmuring as they walked away – “Did you see that.  He had three special air medals.  I wonder what he did to do to get those.”  “I don’t think you want to know Jimmy.  That guy has black-ops written all over him.  The telemetry thing must be a pre-retirement gig for him.”

 

Jack smiled at that.  If he wasn’t careful he could get retired permanently in this gig.  He had finished speaking to the young cadets on his list, and was about to walk over to join Dr. Fraiser when a voice sounded at his side.

 

“Colonel O’Neill”, a young deep voice said.  “I am so pleased to see you here.”

 

Jack turned, and looked at a young lieutenant.  The lad looked slightly familiar, but he couldn’t place him.

 

“Don’t you recognize me, sir?  I’m Eric Meadows. I graduated from the academy last year.”

 

In a flash the years were gone, and Jack saw Charlie and his best friend, Eric, playing ball in the front yard.  His eyes widened.

 

“I didn’t even know you were still in town, Sir.  My family moved to Denver about two years after…” Eric’s voice trailed off. He averted his eyes for a moment, and then looked up with the self-confidence that this academy brought about.

 

“But I made it here.” Eric’s voice continued proudly.  “Charlie and I used to dream of this.  He wanted to come here so bad that we looked up all the information when we were 8.”  Eric’s proud smile tore at O’Neill’s heart.  “We got my big brother to take us out to the Academy, and found a cadet who was willing to tell us what we needed to do to get in.  We were going to do it together.  Man, I wish he were here with me today.”

 

Janet Frasier was across the room.  She was looking at Colonel O’Neill, and saw him blanch.  His expression was unreadable to most, but she and the Colonel had been good friends for many years.  She could tell that something was definitely wrong.

 

A young woman came up beside Lieutenant Meadows. She appeared to be about 5 months pregnant. “Colonel, may I present my wife, Janine.  We were married last summer.”  He placed his arm around her, happily. 

 

The Colonel called on his years of training, and congratulated Lieutenant Meadows on his graduation, and on his marriage.  He forced himself to make polite conversation for a few more minutes.  When Meadows wandered off to speak to others in the room, O’Neill began to work his way towards the door.  ‘He had to get out of here.  He had to get away from this place.  He couldn’t deal with this right now.’

 

Janet saw the grim look on his face, and the beeline he made for the door.  Although he was stopped along the way, all conversations were brief, and ended quickly.  It was evident to her that something was very wrong.

 

Janet excused herself from the conversation she was having with a trio of cadets, and followed O’Neill outside.  When someone stepped in to speak to her, she brushed by, asking them to catch up with her when she returned.

 

Janet got through the door just in time to see Jack exit the building.  She hurried after him.  O’Neill wasn’t running, but he was walking very briskly, and Janet had to scurry just to remain within sight. 

 

Finally O’Neill stopped in a small wooded area he remembered from his own tenure here years ago.  Hidden from the sight of the main building, O’Neill leaned against a tree, trying to calm his frantic thoughts.  In his mind Charlie was always 10 years old.  Logically Jack knew that Charlie would be 22 now, but seeing Eric Meadows today brought an agonizing recognition of all that he had missed.  He had missed Charlie learning to drive.  He had missed his first date, graduation, and the excitement of the letter of acceptance to the Academy.  Jack still remembered the look of pride in his own Father’s eyes when Jack showed him that letter. 

 

Jack would never see his son in love, or married.  He would never hold his child’s baby.  He would have loved to be a grandfather.  He would never have that.  To see what he had missed with Charlie so proudly adorning the life of Charlie’s best friend was worse than Iraq, worse than Ba’al’s torture.  It was worse than seeing Charlie die again and again under the blood of Sokar; because then he had known it wasn’t real.  This was real.  Too real.  This was the life that his son could have had – would have had. This was the life that he had dreamed about those far off times in Iraq – the dreams that helped him through that hell-hole.  Finally, blown away by a chance meeting at the Academy - released to the wind, and the dream was dust.

 

Jack took a shuddering breath.  His emotions were so close to the surface that he knew if he had stayed another second in that room he might have broken down.  He would wait here until he could recover enough to go back and face the rest of the day.

 

Janet walked up behind him, and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.  “Colonel O’Neill.” She said tentatively.  Jack turned and looked at her with tormented eyes.  “Oh shit.” Janet exclaimed.  This had to be bad.  “Jack, what’s wrong.” Janet asked, her voice full of concern. She had never seen the Colonel’s face look so bleak and despondent, not even after the incident with Ba’al, or Daniel’s radiation sickness.   She reached out and placed her hand on O’Neill’s arm.

 

Jack shook his head – he couldn’t speak yet.  She nodded.  “It’s okay, I understand.” She said quietly.  He turned away from her, taking uneven, struggling breaths.   The breeze through the trees was refreshing, and he could hear the far-off chatter of Academy life, but in this quiet place – he and Janet were alone.

 

Janet stood by, watching Jack O’Neill struggle to get his emotions under control.  Watching as he hid his pain under the façade of the ‘Iron Colonel.’  She had seen this before, and he knew it.  There had been times in the infirmary when the night brought back an incident best left in the dark recesses of his mind.  She had watched him wake up from the nightmare, and helped to put the pieces back together to face another day.  He had even helped her once or twice when a quick nap on the cot in her office dragged up her own war-zone memories. 

 

Finally, she looked at her watch.  “Colonel,” she said.  “Can you go back now? We are required to be there for the ceremony.”  Jack nodded, and turned to her. “I’ll be okay.” he said in a weak voice.  His eyes thanked her for her friendship, and they returned to the hall.

 

The rest of the day Janet was not very far from the Colonel’s side.  If things appeared to be closing in on him, she stepped into the fray with a story about one of her war-zone experiences.  Jack didn’t even know that Janet had her pilot’s license until she stepped into the middle of a conversational group of pilots with the anecdote about being up in a Cessna with no radio when sudden weather came in.

 

O’Neill recognized that she was giving him breathing room today, and he appreciated it.  They both breathed a sigh of relief when the day was over.

 

As the room was clearing out, Janet looked around and realized that her ride had left.  Major Samantha Carter had been asked to return to the SGC to repair a technical problem with the gate.  Colonel O’Neill saw the predicament, and offered Janet a lift home.  When they were about halfway there Jack pulled into a side road, and stopped in front of a small two-story white house.  “This was mine.” He said quietly.  “This was the home we raised Charlie in.  Sara doesn’t live there anymore – she moved to Denver a while back.”

 

O’Neill just stared out the window of the car, evidently lost in his memories.  Janet waited patiently.  She noticed a car pull into the driveway, and a young Air Force Captain got out.  Suddenly a young boy burst out of the house, running -  followed by a mother holding a baby.  The boy ran up to the Captain, was lifted in the air and hugged.  Kisses followed for the young wife and baby, and the family walked joyfully into their home.

 

That was the last straw for Jack’s self-control.  He leaned forward over the steering wheel, covering his face with his hands, his shoulders shaking quietly.   Janet waited for a while, resting her hand lightly on his back.  Then she got out of the truck and walked around to the driver’s door.  “Move over, Colonel.”  She said.  “I think it might be best if I drove.”   He nodded, still looking down, and then shifted to the passenger’s seat.  Janet drove the Colonel to his house.  He looked away from her, out the window, the whole way.  She took a deep breath as she parked in the driveway, and determinedly followed him inside.

 

Janet walked into the kitchen, grabbed two beers from the fridge, and went through the living room out onto the deck.  Jack was sitting on a deck-chair, looking over the back yard.  She placed the beer on the table beside him, and took a deep breath.

 

“I need to know what’s going on, Colonel.” Janet said, quietly.  “As CMO I know that something is wrong, and I don’t know if you are emotionally ready to go through the gate tomorrow.  Talk to me.”  She waited a moment longer, in silence.  Then Janet sighed.  “Jack.  We’ve been friends for seven years. I need to know this.”

 

Jack glanced over at her miserably.  The look on his face was heartbreaking.  It was what wasn’t on hers that did the trick.  He didn’t see the professional doctor standing there; the look on her face was not the professional mask that he had seen so many times – it was the face of a friend.  The concern and care that were etched there did not speak of anything other than the fact that Janet cared about him, even knowing all he was, and all he had done.

 

He sighed heavily, and slumped into the chair, staring down at his unopened beer.  “I want something stronger than this.”  He said bleakly.  “Do you want a Jack Daniels?”  Janet smiled grimly.  It was the Colonel’s way of accepting that she wasn’t leaving until she had answers.  “Dark rum and Coke if you have it.” Janet said.  “I’ll just have the beer if you don’t.”  He returned in a moment with two glasses, and they both sat for a while, nursing their drinks and looking out over the yard.

 

Finally, Jack spoke.  “That boy today – Lieutenant Eric Meadows – was a friend of Charlie’s.” 

 

“Ah.” Janet said, “I see.”

 

“No, you don’t.”  Jack said miserably, looking down at the floorboards of the deck.  “When is this over?  Every time I think I’ve got everything dealt with something new comes up.  Eric and Charlie talked about going to the Academy together.  He has the life I dreamed of for my boy.  Eric had his wife with him.  Pregnant.  That could have been my grandchild. That could have been Charlie’s life.”  Jack sipped his Jack Daniels, and glanced over at Janet.  “It all came clear, that instant.  Everything my boy will never have – that I will never have. What I would have given to be like General Hammond with Kiala and Tessa. But Charlie will never have a son.  I’ll never have that.  All the dreams I had about what my life would be like have been destroyed.  I have nothing.”

 

 

Janet moved closer to Jack, and placed her hand on his back.  You have friends.” She said kindly.  “But they will never make up for this pain.  I know.”  She paused.  “You have a purpose.  I know Charlie would be proud of the man you are, and the job you do.  But I know that it hurts to see what might have been.”

 

She sighed, and reached into her purse.  “I want to show you something, Jack.” She said.  She pulled out a worn photograph of a tiny baby.  “This was Rose. It was taken just before she died.  It was meningitis.” She traced the babies face with one finger, then handed the photograph to Jack.  “There wasn’t anything that I could have done, but that didn’t stop the pain of not being able to do anything.  And as glad as I am to have Cassie now, I wish I had my two girls.  And you wish you still had your Charlie.” Jack handed the photo back, and walked away to the railing of the deck.

 

“I can’t give you back what you’ve missed.” Janet said.  And even though I only had my girl for 8 months – she wasn’t even walking yet when she was taken, I envy you for every one of the 9 extra years you had.”

 

Jack looked at her, remembering the blessings of those 9 years.  Charlie’s first words, his first steps, playing ball, the zoo, swimming in the ocean.  He nodded.  “Yeah.” He said over the lump in his throat.  “I wouldn’t give up those years.”

 

Jack looked over at Janet, and saw the lone tear struggling its way down her cheek.  With a groan, he reached out and pulled her into a hug, taking comfort from her as well as giving it.

 

They stayed like that for a long time; Jack felt the peace return to his heart and mind.  He was blessed to have Charlie for as long as he did.  He knew it.

 

But something more was happening.  Jack and Janet had been aware that the closeness they had as friends was slowly working into a grayer area – of more than friendship.  While the hug was comforting, it was also a little more.  Jack held Janet close, savoring the aroma of her hair; he kissed the top of her head, and stroked her back.  Then he released her.

 

“Thanks Jan.”  He said quietly.  “You’ve been a big help.”

 

Janet smiled.  She didn’t realize that the emotions she was fighting were also in Jack’s mind.  She had wanted the hug to continue, and not because of comfort, but because of something much more basic.  She knew what she felt for Jack O’Neill, but she wouldn’t speak of it, and neither would he.

 

“Stay for dinner, doc? I’ll order pizza.”  Jack said hopefully.

 

“Why don’t you come over to my place and have dinner with Cassie and me.” Janet said.  “We’ll pick up pizza on the way.”

 

Jack and Janet spent a companiable evening, talking over their lives and experiences, and creating new dreams for the future.  A future which would include each other, although neither of them were willing to speak of that possibility yet.