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What the Eye Beholds, the Heart Denies
He dropped onto the chair. Never even considered leaving the room. She'd awakened twice already, the nightmares making her scream and shake with fear. Daniel had told him about her nightmares, the fact that they were the way she dealt with all of the bad things that happened to her. He couldn't begin to fathom what demons had been loosed in her soul by the realization that she'd been given a warning of what was to come, but hadn't recognized it, not in time to save Daniel. He pushed the closet door closed with one foot. He'd banged his elbow on it the last time he'd jumped up to comfort her.
Daniel had told him that holding her was the only way to help her through the horrors she faced. He did his best, held her and let her sob against his shoulder. So far, she hadn't hit him. That was a good sign. Whether she was aware of who he was, he had no idea.
Exhausted, he let his head fall back against the wall behind him. Closed his eyes. Began to battle his own demons as his mind played the last few minutes on the ha'tak in a never ending loop. Each time he knew what the outcome would be, but he was powerless to stop it, to change it. Daniel died. Every time.
He sat upright, his heart pounding. Well, wouldn't the Game Keeper be amused to know that his own mind had him reliving that disaster, searching for the answer, desperate to find a way to keep Daniel alive, to keep all of them alive.
Soft whimpers alerted him to the fact that it was starting again. If her nightmares were anything like his, she was just replaying the same thing again and again. He wearily pulled himself from the chair, sat down on the bed beside her. "Casey...shh...it's okay, you're okay," he crooned softly. Didn't have a clue what else to say. What words would soothe her, offer comfort to her tortured soul. The Space Monkey knew so many words and phrases...no doubt he never had a problem seeing his wife through her nocturnal battles.
She was clinging to him, crying softly, her tears wetting his tee shirt...again. Not that he was complaining. He was so damned tired... Holding her tightly with one arm, he reached behind him, shoved two of the pillows behind his back, managed to work one up high enough behind his shoulders to rest his head on.
Her arm was around his waist, her head on his shoulder. When she woke up, she'd probably be embarrassed. Well, if she was lucid enough. The only time she'd opened her eyes since this very long night had started, she had asked for Daniel. Then whispered that she was sorry. Then the crying and the wailing and the screaming had started all over, until she'd literally worn herself out.
He ran his free hand over his face. There was no way Casey could continue like this. If she could just get through one night...she'd pull it together. She hadn't had a decent nights' sleep since they'd returned to Earth. She just needed sleep...
First wiped a tear from her cheek in an uncharacteristic display of emotion. The depth of the grief suffered by the seer seemed to shake the entire universe. Each wail of pain, every sob that was ripped from her throat seemed to echo forever, leaving those who observed shivering from the cold bleakness of the sound.
Third had his arm around Second, offering as much solace as possible while she wept silently. It wasn't an easy thing, watching these fragile humans as they struggled through their lives. The heartbreak that the young seer suffered was nearly overwhelming.
First and Third shared a glance. Only time would tell if the seer would find her way back from the hell where her mind, her very soul, had been consigned when she'd finally realized what she'd known...that the warning had been given...such as it was. Only time would tell if she would listen to her heart...or her mind.
A A A A A A
The jangling of the telephone woke him from troubled sleep. He glanced around, for a moment unsure of exactly where he was. Glanced down at the woman who slept fitfully beside him. Reached for the telephone before it could wake her. "Yeah."
"Colonel O'Neill, this is General Hammond."
Jack sat up. "Yes, sir?"
"I was just calling about Casey. How is she?"
"Not so good, sir," Jack replied. "Um...can you hold a second?"
"Of course, colonel."
He slipped from the bed, hurried across the hall into the den. Stopped short. Oh, hell no! He couldn't be here. This was Daniel's space, it screamed out Daniel's name. He hastily backed out of the room, stumbled to the kitchen. "Sorry, sir. Don't want to wake her. She's had a hell of a lousy night."
"I understand." There was a pause. "How are you doing, Jack?"
That quiet question, so full of concern...that of a friend, not just a commanding officer...nearly dropped him to his knees. "I'm okay, sir."
"You're sure about that?"
He took a deep breath. "I'm as okay as I can be, considering."
Another pause. "I have you down for a few days of personal leave. If you need a break, need to get away for a bit, just let me know, someone will be there to stay with Casey."
"I don't think that would be such a good idea, sir. Late yesterday afternoon she really lost it. She'd had an info dump at the cabin, on Christmas Eve. She couldn't see much...what she saw didn't make any sense to any of us. She said she knew it was a warning, but that it didn't feel urgent...and she wasn't acting like it was important." He took a shuddering breath. "Guess it was...she basically saw what was going to happen. And that her radar would be blocked. I..." Another deep breath. "I don't know how much she knows about what's going on around her at the moment. I do know that right now, I'm able to offer some comfort. I know what to do, sir. No one else would be able to help her...they wouldn't know what to do."
In his office in Cheyenne Mountain, General Hammond frowned. It would be pointless to remind the colonel that simple instructions would see any other caregiver just as capable of caring for Casey. Because in Jack O'Neill's mind, in the minds of all of SG-1, only they could take care of her. "I see. Let Doctor Fraiser know. I'd like for the doctor to have a look at Casey."
"Yes, sir. I will."
"Keep me posted, colonel."
"Yes, sir." He hung up, wiped the last of the sleep from his eyes. Turned around to find Casey standing behind him. Her eyes were dull, her arms hung limply at her sides, her hair was a mess from the twisting and turning she'd done in bed. "That was the general," he said, not knowing what else to say.
She stared at him.
"How about I fix some coffee?"
No reply, no response.
Whether or not she would have responded, he had no clue, because someone chose to start banging on the front door at that moment.
Teal'c was standing on the porch, wearing his black felt Stetson, holding a bag in one hand, and a cardboard drink carrier in the other. Two large Styrofoam cups with lids were balanced carefully. "I brought coffee."
"So I see." Jack stepped away from the door. Turned around and bit back a curse. The sweatpants that Casey was wearing were wet in the crotch and down one leg. "Shit!"
"What has happened?"
"She freaked out. Totally lost it. I got her off the base, and I thought she was going to be okay," Jack said, skipping over his own 'freak out', and how her need to console him had seemed to be the catalyst for snapping her back to reality. Until she realized what she had been shown. "Last night she figured out what her download at the cabin meant. It was a warning about what was going to happen."
The downturn of Teal'c's lips was severe. There was no need to explain further. The knowledge that the warning had not been heeded in time to save her husband was more than her heart could bear. The guilt, and her grief, took her mind to a haven that no one could reach. He glanced at O'Neill. The man was exhausted. And possibly as near to a breakdown of his own as he could be without falling over that line. "I will tend to her. Perhaps you should try to rest."
Jack couldn't have been more relieved. While he would have taken care of Casey, done anything for her, the prospect of bathing her, changing her clothes, was one step he wasn't anxious to make. Teal'c had seen her naked, had seen her raped, for crying out loud. It wouldn't be any...he shook himself mentally. He'd seen Casey naked as well. Sometimes shit just happened on missions. Or there were inadvertent glimpses, accidental encounters. So it wouldn't be any big deal for him, either. Besides, it was his fault that Daniel was dead. The very least he could do was take proper care of his best friend's wife! "I can do it," he said quietly.
"Of this I am aware," Teal'c replied, his voice just as soft. "However, you are not fit to continue with Casey Jackson's care until you have rested."
He really must look like shit if the Jaffa was telling him to rest, Jack thought. Sort of fit, didn't it, since he felt like shit. Another glance at the woman standing and staring dully at them made up his mind. He had to be here for her. And if that meant letting Teal'c do the bath thing in order for him to catch a few more zee's, so that he was able to take care of her, so be it.
Teal'c shoved the bag and the cup holder at Jack, then walked toward Casey, taking off his coat and hat as he did so. He tossed both onto the dining room table, then gently put his arm around the silent woman. Guided her into the bathroom.
Jack shook himself, took the breakfast Teal'c had brought into the kitchen. Then went back into the bedroom. The first closet belonged to Daniel. He nearly slammed the door closed; the sight of all of Daniel's clothes, just waiting for the archaeologist to return, was like a fist in his gut. The second had a chest of drawers at the end of it, he searched and found a pair of bikini panties and a pair of pajamas. Dressing her in street clothes just didn't seem necessary. He took the items into the bathroom. Water was flowing into the tub...Teal'c was gently working a brush through her tangled hair.
Teal'c acknowledged the clothing with a nod. Searched the bathroom counter for the clip that he knew Casey used to hold her hair up when she didn't want to get it wet...something that both Daniel Jackson and she had told him about in casual conversations, mentioned in passing while explaining something else...usually done teasingly.
Back in the kitchen Jack leaned against the island. He'd recognized that look in Casey's eyes. The one that said she'd checked out completely. No forwarding address. No return date given. He'd seen it several times during his imprisonment in Iraq. Seeing it in those green eyes however...he shivered. He'd lost Daniel. He couldn't lose Casey, too.
Teal'c gently undressed Casey, talking to her quietly, explaining what he was doing, and why. When she made no move to follow his instructions on getting into the bathtub, he carefully picked her up, sat her in the warm water. He gathered the soiled clothes and tossed them into the hallway. He, or O'Neill, would deal with them later. His heart ached when it became clear that Casey wasn't 'there'. Sent up silent prayers to the true gods that somehow, someway, she would find her way back to him...to them. Gently he washed her. Sang a children's song that he had thought long forgotten, one that his own mother had sang to him.
Neither man would have even considered calling those who were deemed 'experts' in giving the type of care Casey obviously needed. She was their teammate. Their friend. A member of SG-1, and as such, family. And the SG-1 family took care of their own.
It was that SG-1 bond that had Sam knocking on the door not more than twenty minutes after Teal'c had arrived. Jack quietly explained what had happened. She had nodded her understanding. Needing something to do, she stripped and remade the bed, noting that the pillows and sheets held the scent of Jack's aftershave. She shoved the niggling doubts from her mind. Casey had been having nightmares. What else was he supposed to have done?
Teal'c was grateful for Sam's assistance in getting Casey dressed. The seer was catatonic at best. The Jaffa carried her to living room, sat her on the sofa, Sam tucked the afghan around her. All three of them tried to coax a bit of food into her, each of them worried when she didn't respond at all.
"She hasn't eaten much in the past few days," Sam said worriedly. Then cast a glance at Jack. "Has she?"
He shook his head. "She's losing weight, too. I can see it in her face."
"I concur," Teal'c said.
"If we can't snap her out of this, and soon, we're going to have to get help," Sam said.
"She's SG-1," Jack growled. "We take care of our own! No way in hell is some stranger going to touch her! They don't know what to do when she has a nightmare!"
And you do, she thought sadly, her heart clenching tightly.
"She'll be okay," Jack continued. "We have to be here for her. She just needs time."
"How much time, Jack?" Sam asked softly.
"As much as she needs," he retorted. Turned his back and walked into the kitchen. The coffee Teal'c had brought was cold. He poured the liquid into a mug, stuck it into the microwave.
Sam chewed her bottom lip, willing herself not to cry. Casey had lost Daniel. And she had lost Jack. Oh, the colonel was still there...but he wasn't hers, not any longer. He belonged to Casey now. His guilt would keep him at her side as long as she needed...or wanted...him.
Teal'c reached out, squeezed her shoulder gently.
"Do you think IHOP does breakfasts to go?" Jack asked suddenly.
"I don't know," Sam replied honestly. "I could call and find out. Why?"
"Radar loves their French toast. Maybe...maybe we could get her to eat that."
"It's worth a try," the major sighed. Admitted to herself that as upset as she was over the situation, Casey was her best friend, and she was concerned about the seer's well-being. Getting her to eat was going to be a crucial step in her recovery.
"I would be willing to fetch the food," Teal'c offered.
Sam waited for one of Jack's classic remarks about fetching and dogs. Nothing was forthcoming. Which had her wrapping her arms around her waist. Daniel was dead. Casey was, for the moment, catatonic in her grief. And Jack didn't seem much better. He was walking and talking, barely. She noted the dark circles under his eyes. The way he continued to lean on the counter, the support it offered an obvious necessity. "Why don't you go stretch out on the bed and get a bit of sleep?"
Jack looked into concerned sapphire blue eyes. "Yeah, I think I will." He started toward the bedroom, paused, turned to look at his teammates. "You don't suppose Daniel...ascended, do you? I mean...it is possible, right?"
Sam frowned. "I hadn't thought about it...but, now that you mention it, I think it might be possible."
"Indeed," Teal'c said, nodding slowly. "He is The One. Would not those who protect him see to it that he is safe? Can he not battle evil on the plane of the Ascended as well?"
The three continued to exchange looks. If Daniel had ascended, then maybe, just maybe, they'd get a miracle of their own, and he'd return to them. It had happened in other realities...
Sam shook herself slightly. "There's no way to know for certain, unless Daniel contacts us or something." She focused her gaze on Jack. "You need to go sleep."
"Right," he murmured. Before I fall down, he thought, stumbling toward the bedroom. Just before he fell onto the mattress, the comprehension that this was the bed where Daniel and Casey made love moved through his brain. That was never going to happen again. Because he'd screwed up. That recriminating thought was the last conscious thought he had for several hours.
A A A A A A
Sam stared into her coffee cup, not seeing the now cold black liquid. She wasn't actually seeing anything. She'd reached the point of being too numb to actually feel anything. It was just too much...Daniel was dead, Casey was still completely detached from reality. Teal'c had managed to get a bit of chicken broth into her, but the seer hadn't moved from where he'd placed her on the couch nearly three hours earlier. And Jack...she started slightly when she heard a deep, sudden snore. He had been so fatigued when she'd arrived that she knew he'd been standing only by sheer force of will. No doubt he was doing it to himself on purpose. He'd keep moving until utter exhaustion forced his body to stop...and took his mind into such deep slumber that whatever was bothering him couldn't penetrate that fog of weariness. When he woke up, he'd start all over again.
Teal'c sat down beside her, a mug of steaming tea in his hand. "I believe Casey Jackson will rest now."
She glanced into the living room. Couldn't see Casey...understood that the Jaffa had stretched her out on the sofa. "That's good," she murmured.
"O'Neill is berating himself heavily. He feels ultimately responsible."
Her head swiveled to look at the man sitting beside her. Why did Teal'c keep repeating those facts? She knew what Jack was feeling...she could see it in his eyes. "It wasn't his fault! He had nothing to do with what happened!"
"As I am aware. However, O'Neill will not acknowledge that fact. He will, instead, continue to punish himself for Daniel Jackson's death."
"It was an accident. A horrible, tragic accident," Sam whispered.
"Indeed. Command carries with it great weight...and great burdens that wear down the very soul."
Sam thought about that for a moment. As First Prime, Teal'c had answered only to Apophis himself. All of the other Jaffa reported directly to him. How many of those Jaffa had Teal'c sent into battle, obeying the orders of the Goa'uld to which he was enslaved, knowing that none of them would return?
"Do not blame Casey Jackson for O'Neill's actions."
"I'm not!" Sam snapped. Even as she felt that twinge of jealousy writhe once again.
Teal'c studied her, but said nothing. In his heart, he mourned not only the loss of a man who had been...against all odds...his best friend, but the death of SG-1 as well. For never again would the team function as it once had. Even if O'Neill remained in command of the team, which was doubtful, Casey Jackson would never again set foot through the Chappa'ai. Unless it was to leave Earth permanently, she would never go near the 'gate room of the SGC. He knew that as well as he knew the slender seer. He wasn't certain that Major Carter would continue to work with O'Neill. As long as she felt...slighted, and as long as he did nothing to remedy the situation, the hurt feelings and the anger would continue to poison their relationship, until it died a most painful death. And as strong a woman as Samantha Carter was, she was not strong enough to work beside a man that she both loved and hated.
"We've lost them, Teal'c, all three of them. Daniel is dead, Casey might as well be, and Jack...if he hasn't retired by the end of the month, I'll be surprised."
"As long as we have breath in our bodies, we will tend to them," he swore silently. Closed his fingers around hers when she slipped her hand into his. Sealing their deal silently.
A A A A A A
General Hammond frowned as he listened to Dr. Fraiser give her report on the well-being of SGC's flagship team. Based on her observations, her examinations of the team members upon their return, and her discussions with the...lucid...members of the team, her conclusion was that not one of them were fit for duty, not at the moment. Dr. MacKenzie had examined her notes, and had agreed that removing the team from the mission roster for the foreseeable future was the only sensible action to take.
The general understood that Daniel's death had hit the team hard. It had knocked the wind out of the entire SGC. The program was staggering at best for the moment. He'd already heard the discussions in the commissary, in the corridors. In the control room. The Tok'ra were bearing the brunt of the blame, and if what he was hearing was true, he'd face a desk covered with resignations before any team would walk through the 'gate to help the Tok'ra.
There was no doubt that it would be some time before Casey was willing...was even able...to return to her duties. There was no quelling the nagging fear that she would never reach the point of being able to sort through mission files, and offer those extra insights that had kept all of the SG teams safe...alive. Even when he told himself that the base had operated for over five years without that 'insight', it would be difficult to convince the teams that they could continue to do so.
"It's been less than a week," Janet said. "They just need a little time."
"I agree, Doctor," Hammond sighed. "Thank you for your advice."
"Yes, sir." She stood. "I am worried about Casey."
"Do you think she would try to harm herself?"
Janet shook her head. "I don't think she's cognizant enough to even form that thought. From what I saw on the security tapes, she's hanging onto her sanity by a thin thread. If that thread breaks..." she let her voice trail off, shrugged her shoulders.
"Please keep me informed. Whatever she needs, Doctor," he added quietly.
The petite doctor gave a sad, understanding smile. "Yes, sir," she replied.
A A A A A A
Gary paced the small confines of his apartment. The few times he'd stopped to see Casey, to check on her, she hadn't responded to him, hadn't even seemed to know who he was. Janet had just informed him that his daughter was on the precipice of a complete, and possibly permanent, mental breakdown. There was no doubt in his mind that the scars on her very soul...left there by the woman who had been allowed to adopt her...had crippled her ability to deal with such heartbreak. She would blame herself, believe that she 'deserved' what had happened, probably convince herself that Daniel would still be alive if not for her.
He glanced at the phone for the hundredth time. One phone call. It would be all over. No...no, that was too quick...too painless. That bitch wasn't going to get out of it that easily. Let her sit in that prison cell and rot. From what he'd been able to find out, she wasn't having an easy time as she served her sentence. She was unpopular with the guards and her fellow inmates. Her health was deteriorating rapidly. If she survived the three years she'd been sentenced to, he'd be surprised.
He grabbed his jacket. Didn't give a damn what Jack said. Casey was his little girl, and damn it to hell, he was going to be there for her!
A A A A A A
Janet couldn't help the small smile that tugged at her lips. All present and accounted for. The smile faded as the thought echoed in her head. All accounted for. Which wasn't the same as all present and healthy...she cut off her wandering thoughts. Parked behind Sam's Volvo. Jack's truck was parked directly in front of the house, Teal'c's truck just in front of it. Her teammates had rallied around Casey, were taking care of her. But could they do enough?
She struggled with the bags of carryout as she tried to grab her purse and lock the car. Jumped when two hands appeared from nowhere to lighten her load. She whirled around to find Gary standing behind her. His Cadillac was behind her car, blocking the driveway.
"I have to be here," he said simply.
"I know. I do, too."
He nodded toward the door. "Think they'll let us in?"
She knew that he was talking about more than gaining entrance to the house. "I don't know, Gary," she replied honestly. "There's something...special...about that team. I don't know if there's room for...for outsiders. Like me. Like you."
He gave a short nod. "Let's get the food to them before it gets cold."
Sam opened the door, hugged both of them as they stepped into the house.
"How is she?" Janet asked softly.
"Not good. Jack said that late yesterday afternoon, after he brought her home, she figured out what her download had meant. It was-" Her voice caught. For the first time she realized just what Casey was dealing with. The knowledge to save Daniel had been in her mind, she just hadn't realized it. Tears filled her eyes. "She had a download at Jack's cabin. We must have discussed it for an hour or so, trying to figure out what it meant. She saw three things: a black blanket, fireworks, and gold and silver tubes."
Gary frowned. "Not much to go on."
"No, it's not. At least, not without the benefit of the twenty-twenty vision offered by hindsight," Sam replied. "She's being blocked...telepathically. I don't know if she still is or not. The fireworks are sort of self explanatory."
"The explosions," Janet said.
Sam nodded. "The gold and silver tubes...the escape pods were silver, with lots of gold detail."
Gary gave a soft moan. "There was nothing to indicate that something was wrong with the 'tubes'?"
"Nothing. She said it was like three separate snapshots. The blanket, the fireworks, and the tubes. She knew it was a warning...but not what kind of warning."
"You said she figured this out yesterday?" Janet asked.
"Jack said she shut down. She...Teal'c had to bathe her this morning...she couldn't...she didn't make it to the bathroom in time. I don't know if she even knew that she needed to go. Teal'c was able to get a bit of broth down her, but she just sits and stares, or she sleeps. She's not even having nightmares now." The tears that had filled her eyes spilled over, sliding unheeded down her cheeks. "We lost Daniel, now we're losing Casey!"
Gary felt as if someone had shoved a knife into his heart. I've just found her, damn it! I will not give her up now! He pushed past the two women. Ignored Jack's startled greeting from where he sat at the table, nursing a cup of coffee. Nearly pushed Teal'c out of the way to kneel down in front of his daughter. "Casey? Casey, it's Daddy. I want you to look at me. Look at me, baby."
Nothing. No reaction. No response. Green eyes stared dully ahead.
He wreathed her face with this hands, tipped her head slightly, so that he was directly in her line of vision. "Casey, I know that somewhere, somehow, you can hear me. Don't let those bastards win, Casey. Whoever was...or is...blocking you, they meant for this to happen. If you give in, you let them win. You make Daniel's death meaningless. Do you hear me? Fight, baby! Come back to me...to us."
Was that a flicker of recognition? He wasn't certain. He shifted willingly when Teal'c nodded at him; let the Jaffa replace his hands with his own.
"Casey Jackson, it is I, Teal'c. You must fight, Casey," he continued, speaking Goa'uld, knowing that she understood his language as well as her own. "Do not let the evil that would triumph defeat you. Daniel Jackson would not wish for you to grieve so. He would want...he would expect you to carry on, to continue to battle the Goa'uld, and the evil that lurks."
Jack knelt in front of her. Brushed a strand of hair from her face. "Come on, Radar, give me a break here, will ya? I know you're stronger than this, tougher than this. Don't give in to them, Casey. Don't let them win."
By now Sam and Janet were standing beside the sofa. They each took a turn imploring the young woman to remain strong, to not give in to the grief that held her so tightly in its grasp. She continued to stare dully into space. But she did open her mouth and accepted the bits of food that Jack so patiently fed to her. She even managed to sip a bit of coffee.
Alone in the bathroom a short time later, Jack planted his hands on the sides of the first pedestal sink, leaned against his outstretched arms. It wasn't much. But it was a good sign. All she needed was some sleep, and a couple of good meals. Radar would be back, she was tough as nails.
Janet and Sam managed to get Casey into the bathtub a second time, the two women carefully washing the seer's long hair. They talked softly to her, hoping that Casey was able to hear them.
When the slender blonde was sleeping peacefully in her bed, Janet and Gary bid the team goodnight. Teal'c and Sam took their leave near ten. Jack stretched out on the sofa. He had no doubt that both he and Casey were about to get a much needed good night's rest.
A A A A A A
"I need to go to my place, pick up some clean clothes," Jack told Teal'c as soon as the Jaffa had arrived.
"Do you wish for me to remain with Casey Jackson?"
Jack looked over at the seer. She was sitting beside him at the table, her eyes still as dull, as lifeless as they had been the previous day. But she was eating. Once again he was feeding her. "Maybe getting out of here for a bit will help her."
"You don't think it will?"
"I do not know, O'Neill."
"Yeah, well, I'll take her with me."
"I shall accompany you."
A soft tap on the door announced Sam's arrival. She noted immediately that Jack had slept. But his brown eyes were still haunted. That his hand was wrapped around Casey's didn't mean anything, she told herself, watching as he spooned more oatmeal into the seer's mouth. Wiped the corners of her lips with a napkin.
Casey wasn't as stiff as she had been the day before. In fact, Sam was certain that the woman was trying to help when it came time to dress her. Brushing Casey's long hair, Sam did as they had been doing all along, telling the seer what was happening. Teasing gently that it was time for Casey to 'get with the program' and take care of herself once again.
Jack worked Casey's favorite boots onto her feet. Stood her up, wrapped her in the heavy down coat that Daniel had bought for her as soon as she'd arrived in Colorado two years prior. "Okay, Radar. I need clean clothes. Gotta go to my place to pick them up. Ready to go for a ride?"
Sam remained silent when she watched him carry Casey to his truck, buckle her into the front passenger seat. She settled in the back beside Teal'c, drew comfort from him when the Jaffa folded his fingers around hers.
A A A A A A
The ride to the cabin was uneventful, and for the most part, quiet. Once again Jack carried Casey inside. Put her on the sofa. Sam headed into the kitchen, started a pot of coffee. The one short discussion that had been held during the drive had the three agreeing that a change of scenery would benefit all of them, and a bit of time at Jack's cabin qualified. She had no hope that Casey would be ready for a nature walk any time soon, but maybe sitting beside the patio doors would be enough of a balm to soothe her soul, and help her find her way back to them.
Jack walked down the hallway, already stripping off the shirt he'd been wearing for two days. Tossed it toward the hamper as he went by the bathroom. Came to a sudden halt when he saw the wrapped gift laying on his bed. Frowning, he picked it up. Remembered Ferretti pushing it into his hand just before he'd left the base. He'd been heading for the mall, to finish up his Christmas shopping that night.
The card on the front was typical of Ferretti's sense of humor. Inside, was a short note...
He pulled the wrapping paper from the box. A plain brown, cardboard box. He opened it, pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Every rumor he'd heard, concerning him and Daniel, and the fact that the archaeologist was gay, and a wimp, and a dweeb, and a fag, and all of the other insults made by men who had never known the fine man that Daniel Jackson truly was, assailed him. Goddamn them! How dare they talk about Daniel like that? Daniel had been so hurt, so confused...not understanding what he had done to make those particular men dislike him. Jack had done his best to help Daniel understand that it was small, jealous minds that created the lies, and the same type who perpetuated those lies.
His eyes caught the movement at the door at the same instant his arm had pulled back and hurled the bottle toward the wall. He watched as the scene played out in slow motion before his eyes...Casey standing in the doorway, stepping into the room at the same instant the bottle hit the wall and shattered, sending glass and whiskey in every direction.
"Shit! Casey, don't move!" he ordered sharply. Several of the glass shards had flown toward her, three were clinging to the front of the flannel shirt she was wearing. When he was close enough, he carefully removed the glass, tossed the pieces to the floor to deal with later. Her shirt was soaked, and reeked of the whiskey that saturated it. He worked the buttons free, gently tugged the wet fabric from her shoulders, and down her arms. "I'll get you one of my tee shirts. You can wear it while I get this washed and dried, okay?"
Green eyes focused on his face. "Okay."
He nearly dropped to his knees. "Welcome back, Radar," he said softly.
"I was gone?"
He wrapped his arms around her, pulled her in for a tight hug. "Yeah, you were gone."
Casey's arms went around his shoulders. She held to him just as tightly. Wasn't exactly sure why, but she intuitively knew that she owed Jack a great deal of gratitude.
At first Sam wasn't certain what she had heard. Teal'c had stepped outside to bring in more firewood. He had just walked back inside when they heard Jack's voice, sharp and forceful. Exchanging a worried glance, they hurried down the hallway.
She felt her world spinning out of control when she saw them, standing just inside his bedroom, half naked, hugging one another tightly. With a stifled cry, she raced from the room, slammed out the front door.
Teal'c's trained eyes took in the scene, glanced around and realized exactly what had happened, even if he didn't have the details to why it had happened. Neither he nor Major Carter had noticed when Casey had gone past the kitchen, into the hallway. Had either of them done so, she would have been spared, and removing her shirt would not have been necessary.
Jack looked over at the Jaffa, his eyes moist with unshed tears. "She's back," he whispered.
Casey turned slightly. "Teal'c?"
"It is good to speak with you, Casey Jackson."
"Daniel-" Her voice caught. "It wasn't just a horrible dream, was it?"
Teal'c shook his head slowly. "It was not."
She took a shuddering breath. Glanced down when she realized she was still standing in Jack's embrace, the hair on his chest tickling the skin that wasn't covered by her bra. Her cheeks flushed crimson. "The bottle...it broke," she whispered.
"Yeah, my fault," Jack replied, stepping away from her immediately.
"I'll clean this up," she said, motioning to the mess of glass and wet carpet.
"No, I will. You will go sit down. Watch TV. Read a book."
She smiled softly. "I...I have this feeling...Dad and Janet..."
Teal'c smiled. "They were with you last night. We all were."
She nodded. Looked around. "Where's Sam?"
"I believe she went outside. I will find her," the Jaffa replied, giving the seer a warm smile. As soon as he had turned his back, the smile disappeared. No matter the circumstances, what Major Carter had witnessed had been too much to bear.
Sam was standing beside the truck, tears of pain rolling down her cheeks. She didn't respond when she heard the approaching footsteps.
"O'Neill threw a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Casey Jackson entered the room at the same moment. Her shirt was covered with glass and alcohol. O'Neill removed it to protect her from harm. She has...returned...to us."
Sam looked woodenly at her friend. "So now what? He'll still be staying with her. Still be taking care of her."
"Only until she is fully capable of being alone, of caring for herself. O'Neill's feelings for you have not changed."
"Maybe they have."
"They have not," Teal'c said firmly.
Sam shook her head, too emotionally weary to debate the status of her relationship with Jack. There was good news in Teal'c's commentary...Casey had rejoined the land of the living. Probably wouldn't be feeling 'good' for a very long time. But it was a start. "I should go check on Casey. If she's alone."
He didn't bother to respond to the caustic remark. He understood it was Major Carter's hurt feelings that were speaking, not the major.
A A A A A A
Casey was curled into the chair across from the sofa, wearing Jack's favorite Simpson's tee shirt, when Sam came back into the house. Blue eyes met green, both filled with tears. "Thank you," Casey whispered.
"For what?" Sam asked softly.
"Being there for me," was the quiet reply. She ran a hand through her long hair. "Somebody washed it for me." She smiled uncertainly.
Sam's smile was wide and genuine. "Yeah, well, Janet helped," she replied teasingly.
"Explains why my scalp is tender." The two women grinned at one another.
"Carter! Where'd ya go?" Jack asked, carrying two mugs of coffee. He took a sip from one, handed it to the major in a casual, almost intimate way, carried the other to Casey. "If I'd have known throwin' a bottle of booze against the wall was all it took to snap you out of your funk, I'd have done it sooner."
"It probably had more to do with getting hit with the booze and the glass," Casey replied dryly. "Some sort of survival instinct must have kicked in."
"Probably," Jack said easily. "I think you were already on your way back."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I saw the flicker in your eyes when your dad and Teal'c were talking to you last night."
Sam ducked her head. She'd seen those flickers as well. And had seen Casey almost focus on Jack when he was talking to her. If she'd responded to anyone, she'd responded to Jack. The one person who hadn't left her side since she had been taken out of that escape pod. A thought that, for the moment, escaped closer examination.
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