Somewhere I Belongby devra
Valiantly, I attempt to tug my hand from her grasp and I’m once again amazed that someone of her stature has such an iron clad grasp.
“I came to say goodbye to Cassie,” I plead, hoping that she’ll release me so I can either lean back against the Avalanche or go find a chair before I end up in a puddle on the sidewalk in front of her house.
“Cassie said goodbye to you and Colonel O’Neill yesterday at the SGC.” She stands on tiptoes and peers over my right shoulder into the truck. “Don’t you dare tell me that the Colonel came with you?” Janet drops down and studies me, her eyes softening. “You look horrible, do you know that?”
“I needed to say goodbye to Cassie,” I reiterate as I weakly wave a hastily wrapped present in front of me.
“Daniel, you and SG1 bought her the laptop for college. You didn’t need to bring her anything else. And you certainly shouldn’t have been driving. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t have even been out of the SGC if I remember my orders correctly."
The rest of her lecture is cut short as Cassie calls for her mother from an opened window on the second floor of the house. “Come on,” Janet says, and I gratefully take the assistance she offers me. I lean heavily on the railing as I climb the few stairs to the porch.
“Sit,” she commands, guiding me into the nearest chair, holding my arm until my ass is planted firmly on the cushions. “Stay. Don’t move,” Janet orders. “I’ll deal with you later.” We both jump at the crash and the sound of Sam cursing from within the house. “One walking calamity at a time,” she states before disappearing inside the house.
* * *
The best-laid plans. I believe I need a tee shirt with that saying imprinted across the chest. Jack and I should have been down here too… fulfilling the idyllic scene that had been fueling my imagination since Cassie finally settled on a school… The two of us adding to the reality taking place, to the mix of Sam and Teal’c helping to load the car… Janet shouting instructions, calling for Cassie to get off her butt and come join us. Laughing, enjoying their company. *That’s* how it should have been. How it was supposed to be.
I swipe my hand across my aching chest to ease the tightness. God, I’m outside and my brain is doing a fine job convincing my chest there isn’t enough air to inflate my lungs. The false, pretentious smile plastered on my face doesn’t seem to be fooling the work crew as they keep shooting worried glances in my direction. I waggle my fingers awkwardly to assuage their concerns.
I’m so parched it hurts to swallow, the headache blooming behind my eyes makes it hard to think and my hand automatically pats my pocket, checking the availability of the aspirin I had the foresight to remember to bring. I need a drink, I need to gather my thoughts, I need…
I blink slowly, my gaze extending upward, grateful that Teal’c’s bulk is blocking the sun’s relentless invasion into my corner of the porch. “Hi, Teal’c.” My greeting sounds breathless, my voice doing a great job of convincing me that I’m in dire need of oxygen.
“DoctorFraiser wondered if I could be of assistance?”
“Um, no… yes,” I stammer as I extend my hand for Teal’c to grab. “I’d like to go inside and get a drink.”
“Would you like me to get the drink for you?”
“No, that’s okay. I just need to stretch my muscles.”
Teal’c makes a slight bow, grabs my hand, pulls me gently to a standing position and maintains a supportive hold on my elbow while I get my bearings and until the porch stops undulating nauseatingly.
“Do you require me to get Doctor Fraiser for you?”
“Thanks, but I’m okay…just got up a little too fast.”
His hand glued to my elbow the entire trip into the kitchen is my first hint that Teal’c doesn’t believe me. The second is the gentle push he gives me until I’m seated, and the third is the large glass of ice water that magically appears before me.
Teal’c waits patiently, “You are not drinking the requested water. I do believe you made a comment about being thirsty.”
I want the aspirins very badly, but the last thing I need to do is take them in front of Teal’c because he’ll tattle and the next thing you know, Janet will be in here, and I so don’t want to go there. I give Teal’c a little smirk, which he hopefully will accept as a smile and I lift my glass in salute, taking two tentative sips of the cold refreshing liquid. I reluctantly put the glass back on the table, controlling my desire to down every last drop.
And I have to wonder… how many times has Teal’c laid that look on Ry’ac? The one showing he will honor my stupidity but that I’m in no way pulling the wool over his eyes. “I need to finish assisting Major Carter, Doctor Fraiser, and Cassandra Fraiser with loading the vehicle. Do you wish me to escort you back to the porch?”
I tap the rim of the glass with my finger. “No, I’m fine here, I'll be out in a minute.”
As soon as I hear the front door close, I root around in my pockets and extricate the aspirin. I’ve managed to swallow them and gulp down the rest of the water before I jump at the sound of Teal’c calling my name.
“You seem to have forgotten this gift outside.” Teal’c places my gift to Cassie on the counter.
“There is no need to thank me. Doctor Fraiser also wanted me to inquire if you took the aspirin.
“How did Janet… oh, never mind,” I answer with a shake of my head. “Tell her yes.”
“Doctor Fraiser will be happy to know that although I am not to sure what she meant in saying that ‘your ass is grass’.”
I am unable to hold back the chuckle, painful though it might be, at that statement. “It’s Janet’s way of telling me I should be afraid, very afraid.”
* * * *
Periodically, they had all trooped through the kitchen to check me out. Teal’c had refilled the water glass and Sam had taken my hand in hers, holding it little too long, looking too guilty for me. Cassie breezed on by with a promise to spend a few minutes with me once she got her mother under control, and Janet, well, Janet just passed judgment with narrowed eyes, tight lips and a shake of her head before leaving me alone.
I use the edge of the table for leverage and haul myself to a standing position. The aspirin has deadened the pain to just a dull ache, but the lack-of-oxygen feeling seems to have followed me right into the kitchen. I shuffle slowly to the kitchen door and find myself standing out on the back deck. I drop into the nearest lounge chair and sink into the cushions with a sigh.
Janet’s commanding voice is loud enough to carry into the backyard. I listen and drift to the familiarity of family arguments and laughter, the sadness just hidden below the edge. Cassie is leaving for college and SG1 is going to be experiencing empty nest syndrome. I don’t picture myself as getting older, my friends don’t look any older, but if we measure our years against Cassie’s growth, we will stand witness to the passage of time. A few more gray hairs, wrinkles, knowledge that wasn’t there before, all stare back at me when I look in the mirror.
A kiss to my forehead and a whiff of vanilla perfume makes me smile. “Hi, Cassie,” I mumble.
“Hey sleepyhead,” Cassie says as she announces herself with a pat to my knee. “Move over, make room for me.”
I open my eyes, and slide my legs closer together to make room for her to share the chaise with me. “You look horrible, Daniel.” She presses the back of her hand to my forehead. “You have a fever.”
“Hazards of the job,” I answer stupidly, drawing my jacket closer around my body. “All you Fraiser women are exactly alike, you love me for my medical problems.”
My statement earns me a giggle but then Cassie quickly sobers. “I’m going to miss you, Daniel.”
“I bet you say that to all the guys.”
To my absolute horror, she begins to cry--not sobbing--but her eyes fill and then overflow, tears streaking down her cheeks. I pull myself up and envelop her in my arms. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I’m afraid,” she whispers against my shoulder.
“I understand,” and I do—the fear of going to explore the unknown, leaving your comfort zone to investigate the world. I understand perfectly…it’s what I do for a living. “It’s okay to be afraid, Cassie, but you can’t let that stop you from meeting new people and learning. Do me a favor, there’s a present for you on the kitchen counter, could you get it for me?”
Cassie wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and gives me a shaky smile before heading off.
She returns and sits back down on the lounge, the package held tightly in her lap. “Go ahead, open it,” I urge.
“You guys already bought me that awesome Alienware laptop.” She stops weighing my package in her hands. There is an evil glint in her eyes and a shared secret smile on her lips. “Alienware…you have a warped sense of humor.”
“Honest Cassie, it wasn’t me or Jack, it was all Sam and Teal’c,” I concede with a shrug of my shoulders “Mostly Teal’c, something about the laptop reminding you of him, of us, when you use it. Okay, maybe we do have a strange sense of humor.” I knock her arm with my knee. “Open it.”
Embarrassed, she takes off the paper, dropping it to the floor. “A journal?”
“Yes.” I take it from her and open it to the first page, then hand it back to her. Cassie cocks her head to one side in bewilderment. “Your numbers--cell, home, office--I know these by heart, Daniel.”
Now it’s my turn to be embarrassed. “Sometimes one’s heart gets filled with other things. I wanted you to know I’m always there for you…anytime, and the numbers are just a gentle reminder.”
“Mom says I should always say thank you for a gift, but a journal—I could use the computer for that. It’s not that I don’t like it, but—"
“You’re confused?” I counter.
I laugh at her truthfulness. “The computer is wonderful, but it’s electronic and with a crash of your hard drive you lose thoughts and ideas that might never be replaced. Dreams and images are seared into your soul when you take pen to paper. You can bring events back to life when you reread your thoughts.” I don’t reveal that’s how I bring Sha’re back to me when I read of my year on Abydos. Cassie isn’t stupid and I believe she’s gotten my point because previously impatient fingers are now reverently caressing the journal’s leather cover.
We both smile as the yell from Janet drifts into the backyard. “I think you’re being paged.”
“I’ll write you, I’ll email you.” Cassie promises. She hugs the journal to her chest. “I won’t forget, Daniel.”
“Go,” I beg. “Please go before Janet gets mad and makes me suffer.”
“Oh, I have this feeling mom is gonna make you suffer anyway.”
I exhale dramatically. “IloveyouDaniel,” she says breathlessly. I avert my head, cursing the moisture in my eyes and the lump in my throat. “Shit,” I mutter out loud as the door slams behind her hastily retreating figure.
“Goodbye, Cassie,” I whisper softly.
I take a few moments to compose myself, a couple of deep breaths, a quick swipe under my glasses and with a giant release of air…I’m good to go. I’m actually in the process of contemplating the best way to stand up when the bane of my dreams calls my name.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting up and leaving so you can finish packing,” I reply indignantly, as I right myself to a sitting position. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
Janet snorts. “You’re pissing me off, that’s what you’re doing.” With an exasperated huff, Janet takes the spot her daughter vacated. Without resistance, I allow her to take my pulse with her right hand as she gauges my temperature with the back of her left. I stay silent; after all these years, I know better than to talk while she’s taking vitals. “Cassie was right, your fever is back and *you* are going right back to the infirmary.”
I open my mouth and promptly shut it when Janet points an accusatory finger in my face. “Don’t even *try* to say you’re fine or give me an argument. Do you understand me, Dr. Jackson?”
“That’s where I was going, Janet. Well, not back to the infirmary, but I was going back to the SGC.”
“You’re going back to *bed* in the infirmary and I’m leaving orders for exceptionally big needles to be used to draw your blood. Clear broth for the next day or two.”
“And no coffee or caffeine.”
“Noooo,” I wail.
“Maybe next time you will listen to your doctor.” She stands.
“Maybe next time you’ll publicly flog me.”
“Don’t tempt me, Daniel.”
Janet leans down and gives me a gentle kiss in my hair. Suspiciously, I look up at her. “What was that for?”
She swallows her answer as I swing my legs over the side of the lounge chair. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To the infirmary, jeez make up you mind. I need to drive there.” I feel my eyes widen in horror. “Please don’t tell me you sent an ambulance for me?”
Janet lets the suggestion sink in, possibly contemplating the total degradation and humiliation of that scenario. “No, Sam will drive you back to base and an airman will drive her back here.”
“Jack’s truck?” I’m having a hard time visualizing Sam behind the wheel of Jack’s truck. Maybe because I’ve driven with Sam before, and she drives like she cooks. Unmindful of what the recipes says, she sorta goes for the gusto approach.
“Jack’s truck, Daniel.”
A Jack who’s seeking retaliation for a damaged truck scares me more than this vengeful CMO. “Janet, how about an airman comes and picks me up and drives me back to the SGC and I’ll get the truck later…or I can drive the Avalanche,” I plead.
“How long do you want to be drinking decaffeinated coffee, Daniel?”
I sigh in defeat. “When do we leave?”
* * *
Two blocks from Janet’s house, and Sam’s demeanor is going to force me to take the bull by the horns. I’m withering under her glances of sympathy and guilt.
“Stop it, Sam. Just stop it,” I yell. Okay, maybe that isn’t how I wanted to approach this, but the intensified pounding in my head seems to be clouding my ability to be subtle.
“Sorry, Daniel,” Sam whispers.
“No, I’m sorry,” I beg. “That was totally uncalled for.”
I hold onto the door as Sam swerves without warning into a strategically placed Starbuck’s parking lot. She parks, giving me a conspiratorial grin. “I’ll be right back.” Sam is gone before I have a chance to place my order.
Five minutes later, I’m holding back the moan of appreciation as coffee warms me. I don’t have the heart to let Sam know the thought of eating the chocolate scone she purchased *just* for me is making my stomach churn. “Later,” I promise.
“Please don’t tell Janet about this treat.”
I almost choke on the coffee. “Honestly, Sam. Wild horses couldn’t pull this information from me.”
We sit in companionable silence before I make another attempt at subtle. “Sam, what happened is not your fault.”
“Logically, I know that, but—'
I’ve had my fill of the coffee and, in a move a few days from now I’m sure I’m going to regret, I place the half filled cup in the cup holder. “No buts, Sam. This was Washington’s idea. A team morale-building exercise. Some pencil pusher thought it would be a great idea. Who thought that sending the team leaders and their civilian teammates off-world to a supposedly unoccupied planet would be hazardous to their health?”
“Only your health and the Colonel’s,” she mumbles around her coffee.
I snort. “But it worked. Military and civilians all teamed together to locate Jack and me and bring us home. So in Washington’s sense of morality," I make an expansive gesture with my arms, "this was a wonderful experiment.”
“I chose the planet.”
“And I’m an anthropologist and I saw no sign of civilization. The UAV showed no sign of civilization. Read the mission report again, Sam.” I can feel the hard edge of anger creep back into my voice. “Until they grabbed us, we had thought the only inhabitants on that planet were the SGC personnel who stepped through the gate with us.”
“I know that, but—"
I raise my forefinger to stop any more guilt on Sam’s part. If anyone should feel guilty, it should be me. How could I have missed signs regarding the underground race? The one that grabbed Jack and me while we were scouting out the area, beat us for an hour or two, maybe three. Bored, they deposited us in the dark dank cell deep within their network of tunnels, never to be seen again. Even now I’m amazed that we were found alive.
She stares at my finger and I stare at her. Sam breaks the silence. “Maybe we should get going before Janet sends the marines after us.”
“Janet doesn’t scare me,” I reply nonchalantly.
“Tell me another one, Daniel,” Sam states while she starts the truck and pulls out of the parking lot.
“Thanks for the coffee and the scone.”
She smiles at me, the first I’ve seen since Jack and I returned. “Keep your eyes on the road, pay attention,” I warn. “I’m not telling Jack.”
“Did anyone ever tell you what a pain in the ass you are, Daniel?” Sam quips.
* * * *
I’m yanked from sleep by my name being called, urgently and repeatedly, followed by a thwat sound and a light touch to my face. I swat at the touches and mutter incoherent warnings to the person that is interrupting my rest.
“Daniel?” Jack hisses.
I open uncooperative eyelids and face my partner lying in the next infirmary bed.
“Finally, you’re up.”
“No thanks to you,” I mumble. I cautiously move my right arm, which is tethered to an IV hookup, to grab an impressive pile of tiny, wet rolled up paper, lying to the side of my pillow. “Spitballs, Jack? You woke with me spitballs. How old are you?” I remove the pile of spit soaked paper that, in my dream state, I perceived to be “light touches to my face,” and make a half hearted effort to throw them back to Jack. “Go away. Leave me alone.” I hunker back down, trying to find that comfortable place.
I can’t help but open my eyes at the concern in Jack’s voice. “Whatcha doing back here? Not that I mind the company ya know.”
“Fraiser was pissed at me.”
“Told you she would be,” Jack answers smugly.
“And I have a fever,” I reply in my defense.
“You look horrible,” Jack agrees.
“That was the general consensus,” I answer with a yawn. “You? How are you feeling?” I’m annoyed with my inability to string two coherent thoughts together and eye the IV solution suspiciously.
Jack stretches his IV free arms over his head and then drops them with a huff. “Moi? I’m being released tomorrow.”
“Home. You get to go home?” I ask incredulously.
“Well, no, not home. Not after you *screwed* up and left the base and had a relapse. No, I’m outta here and confined to the base until I’m 48 hours fever free.”
Jack’s very lucky my response is cut short as the nurse on duty comes to take my vitals. I can see Jack’s smirk as I shoot him evil glances around the nurse. “What?” Jack and I both say as the nurse ‘tsks’ and shakes her head after taking my temperature.
“It’s elevated,” She answers distractedly, scribbling notes down in my chart. Power of suggestion, I pull the blanket tighter around my body. My action isn’t lost on Jack. “How much higher is his temperature?” he growls at the nurse.
“Enough that he should be resting and not being harassed by the other patients in the infirmary,” she replies haughtily.
“Hey,” Jack answers indignantly.
The conversation goes no further as Dr. Warner approaches, shoots Jack a warning glance and slides the curtain along the runner separating our beds and our views from each other. The only words he speaks to me before he begins his examination are, “I spoke to Dr. Fraiser.”
“Oh,” I reply simply.
He draws blood, listens to my chest, pokes and prods all my aches and pains. Jack responds to one of my “Ow, that hurts” with a “Daniel, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Jack,” I reassure him.
Dr. Warner’s snort is loud enough for Jack to hear.
I had been released from the infirmary forty-eight hours before this and I had been feverless for twenty-four hours before that. Janet had issued me strict instructions upon my release regarding the antibiotics I was to take, the amount of food I should be eating, the food groups that I should be eating from, the amount of sleep I should be getting and the amount of work I shouldn’t be doing. I followed her orders through breakfast, and then maybe I did skip a few meals and some sleep, and I worked and I know the bottle of medicine is somewhere in my office. Dr. Warner’s annoyance lets me know it’s my own stupidity that has bounced me back to the infirmary as opposed to repercussions from our abduction.
Warner pulls back the curtain and leaves. Jack and I are lying on our sides, facing each other. He raises his head, looks around and gets out of his bed. Jack rolls one of those hateful blue chairs, covered in the scratchiest material possible, over to my bedside and sits down squirming, trying to find a comfortable position. “The things I do for love, Daniel.”
I should tell him to go back to bed, but I honestly want him close to me. I slide my left hand out from under the blanket and he answers with a touch to my palm and a slight squeeze to my fingers before he drops his hand back into his lap. He understands.
“What time is it?” Without my glasses, the numbers on the infirmary wall clock are a blur.
“Thirteen hundred hours. Why do you need to—" Jack catches himself. “Cassie left already?”
“They’re on their way by now,” I murmur around the lump that has reappeared in my throat and I don’t dare blink as tears threaten to overflow.
“Daniel? You did get to say goodbye, didn’t you?” The pad of Jack’s thumb catches the tears as they begin their descent.
I just nod my head in response. I really don’t believe even Jack understood how important it was to me to say goodbye to Cassie, to see her. I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to most of the people who have been important to me in my lifetime. I wasn’t going to let it happen this time.
Jack takes my hand and slides it back under the blanket, caressing my out-of-view fingers as he orders me back to sleep. “I’ll be here when you wake up,” he promises.
I want to tell him not to stay in the chair, but my eyes have a mind of their own and they close. I listen to the sounds that surround me; Jack’s breathing, the monitors’ beeping, the pacing of the nurses, the ringing of the phone, the overhead announcements. The list is endless and oddly comforting.
My thoughts drift to Cassie and how lucky she is. There will be a time when things are hard and there will be times when she needs to share the good days and the bad. When she needs a place to rest her head and heart, Cassie has a home to run to and people waiting in the wings to help her and love her…a place where she belongs.
Me? It took me a long time to find that place. I escaped to college. I paid my dues at countless foster homes and ran away to the halls of higher education. It took me over 30 years, a strange group of friends and family, and one hardened Colonel to find what I had been missing—somewhere I belong.
This story was originally published in Ancient's Gate III: Heart and Soul, and has just recently timed out. To my beta, jo, who always goes above and beyond the call of duty. To those close to my heart, thanks.
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