Chapter 2 - Battle Damage Assessment

The next thing Jack knew, he was in the infirmary and he still couldn't see.  "Doc, what the hell's wrong with my eyes?"

"I don't know yet, Jack.  There isn't a mark on you, other than a few cuts and bruises that you got while you were running for the stargate.  Can you tell me what Osiris did to you?"

"In a minute.  Is everyone else OK?"

Daniel said, "We're fine, Jack.  I took a few hits from a pain stick, and we all got slapped around some."

Jack took a deep breath to steady himself.  "Can we just do the friggin' zatarc test so I don't have to do this twice?"

"That's good thinking."

Carter asked, "Do you want us to step out?"

O'Neill clamped down on an unreasoning panic at the thought of being left alone in the dark.  "No, stay."

Christ on a crutch, O'Neill, you maybe want Mama to chase the monsters out of the closet next?  What the hell is the matter with you?  He berated himself.

Teal'c gripped his shoulder.  "We shall remain, O'Neill."

Fraiser wasn't about to argue with the Jaffa.  Mrs. Fraiser hadn't raised any dumb daughters.

O'Neill had a hell of a time explaining what Osiris had done to him, in the detail the zatarc test required.  Reliving it left him shaken and emotionally exhausted, but after it was over, it was an immeasurable relief to be sure he wasn't programmed to kill somebody.

Fraiser said, "I wish I could give you a fast answer, Colonel, but this hasn't happened before.  I'm going to send you for a CAT scan and an EEG.  That ought to give us something to go on."

"Janet, does this look permanent?"

His tone demanded truth.  She took his hand.  "Prepare yourself for the worst, Jack.  I think we have to assume that the sarcophagus restored all possible function.  Let me get the test results back and I'll be able to tell you a lot more."

"OK."  He got himself under control.  "Hey, Janet.  The worst *didn't* happen.  We're all here walking around in one piece.  This could have been a whole world of worse.  I mean, when she said "stroke" I was thinking, y'know--"

"Believe me, I understand completely," Fraiser replied.  She pulled him into a big hug.  Sometimes that was the only language she knew.

Surrounded by his friends--his family--Jack knew however hard this was going to be, he would never have to do it alone.

Janet shut her office door and cried when she got the results back. Only when she was sure she had herself under contol, she went out on the floor to tell Jack the bad news.  She overheard him telling Sam, "Looks like you're getting your command a little sooner than we figured."

"We don't know that yet, Colonel."

"Yeah, we do.  If the sarcophagus didn't fix it, nothing else will. I'm still asking Thor, and Lya too if we can find her, but we both know."

"Yes, sir."

Janet could only confirm that and explain the test results. "There's some good news, too.  Other than the damage to the visual centers of your brain, there's nothing else showing."

Confirmation of that was a huge relief.  O'Neill thought about the nursing home and a whole world of fear drained away.

A few minutes later Hammond came in, and he and Jack had a long talk about a lot of things.

Janet realized that the medicine Jack and the rest of SG-1 needed wasn't found in the infirmary, and sent them all home.  They needed privacy and each other's company to react to the horrors that they had survived today.

As usual they ended up at Jack's house eating pizza and drinking beer.  Jack hoped that, with the assistance of the beer, he would sleep through the worst of the sarcophagus withdrawal.

It didn't really soak in that he was blind and it was permanent until he finished off his first beer and decided he was going to go in the kitchen and get another one.

"What do you need, Jack?"

"Wait a damn minute, Danny, this is my house and I walk around in here in the dark all the time.  I know where things are.  Just let me figure this out."

"Janet said rest and stay off your feet."

"Janet isn't here and you're not gonna tell her."

"Well..."  Daniel had to agree.

OK.  He was on the sofa by the front door.  Not a good idea to step down on some stitches in his left foot, but he could manage by keeping his weight on his heel.  Straight ahead and a little to the right, he went into the hall.  Stairs to his left, guest room and bathroom to his right, then on into the kitchen.  From there, two more steps to the refrigerator.

Well, next question, where was the beer, since he hadn't put things away.  Beer bottles would only fit on the bottom shelf.  He got one, twisted off the cap and headed back to the couch.

That little victory shattered the ice.  They had been through worse and they were still here standing strong.  The Goa'uld hadn't beaten him and blindness wouldn't either.

And that was one thing in a room full of people.  It was something else after everyone went to bed and the house got quiet.  That was when he started remembering the white-hot pain and bleeding out inside his skull.  And the last thing he'd seen--the last thing he ever would see--had been Osiris jamming the helmet down on his head.

He got up and climbed out his window onto the little deck where he kept his telescope.  Something else he wouldn't be needing any more. No more driving his truck, no more ice hockey, no more solitary fishing trips, no more...independence.

He sat down and put his head in his hands.  Of all the ways he had imagined his career ending, it hadn't been this.  Blind.  Useless. An old vet sitting outside Wal-Mart giving out silk poppies for donations to charity.

He was sorry Osiris had brought him back and he wondered if the fall would be enough to kill him if he dived off the roof head first.

A few minutes later, Sam climbed out the window and sat down beside him, sharing the silence and waiting for him to speak.

"Hell of a day," he finally said.

"Yes, sir, we've definitely seen better," she replied.  "This sure came flying in out of left field."

"And how.  I don't think I had enough beers."

"Trouble floats, sir.  I had four and I'm still sober as a judge."

"Of that, I have no doubt.  What did she do to you?  I didn't believe Daniel's line about getting slapped around a little.  I appreciated it, at the time, but I didn't believe it."

Sam let out a deep sigh.  "She collapsed my lungs.  Right when I thought I was done for, she'd reinflate one a little, and I'd stay conscious a little longer."

"How many times did you die?"  Jack knew he wasn't the world's most sensitive guy and he wished he would have put that a little more diplomatically.  The important thing was, Sam needed to tell her story.

"Just once, Colonel.  Lou Ferretti kicked the door in and shot her before she started up on me again.  We thought she was done for, but I guess she wasn't hurt as bad as it looked.  She was walking around after that."

"What about the guys?"

"Don't know, sir, they haven't gone into detail with me either.   I think you and I were the only ones who died."

"Sam, you don't have to call me "sir" any more."


"I like the sound of that.  A lot."

"Yeah, me too," she smiled.  "What were you and the general talking about?"

"He wanted to make sure I didn't get any ideas about becoming a hermit in Minnesota or anything like that.  He wants me to start right back as a civilian consultant."

"Doing what?"  Now it was her turn to be sorry for phrasing things badly.

"So he can find me when I'm the only one Thor will talk to, or something like that."

She laughed.  "Makes sense."

"I'll keep my clearance, so you can bring work home with you. Mostly I guess I'll be an advisor."  No more gate travel.  No more team leader.  No more looking out for Sam.  "It's started to hit me what I'm not."

Then he was in her arms.

"Damn it, Sam, I wanted to see your eyes the first time I make love to you.  That bitch took that away from me.  I'll never see your smile, or a sunset, or even dumb stuff like watching TV again.  It's just gone and it all happened so fast.  I don't want to do this.  I don't know how to do this!"

"Let me be your eyes," she said.

The depth of emotion in her voice took his breath away.  He drew her head to his and they kissed and there are some things you can do just fine in the dark.

"You want to wait until we're legal?"  He asked.

"How long is that?"

"A week, tops."

"Do you?"

"I think you could make a good case that we've already violated the frat regs, but having sex is the line we agreed we weren't going to cross.  At this late date, I don't want to have to sneak around with you."

"I hear you.  Do you want me to keep you company tonight, though?"


They climbed back inside and Sam shut the window.  They snuggled under a thick comforter.  Sam said, "Hold me."

Nobody had to tell him twice.  "Sam, that must have been awful. None of the ways I can think of to collapse somebody's lungs sound real pleasant."

"Wasn't that, I thought it would hurt a lot worse than it really did.  It was *almost* suffocating God only knows how many times that freaked me out.  I almost gave her the code."

He held her tight.  "Almost doesn't count, you didn't.  She almost got the code from me, too.  Try not to think about something."

"Crap!  How did you defeat it?"

"Concentrated on something else.  Most of the time I just kept repeating my name, rank and serial number over and over.  Then it was the Hail Mary.  Anything would work.  Osiris got impatient and kept turning the damn thing up all the way, she went so far over my limits I couldn't have told her anything if I'd wanted.  Oh, Jesus, that hurt, but if she'd known when to back off--if Ba'al had that thing--" He shuddered violently.

Sam said, "Shh, shh, easy.  He didn't.  We're safe here."

"There's no such thing as safe."

"I know, but tonight we are."

The certainty in her voice was enough to make Jack accept the complete illogic of that statement.  At that moment he had absolute confidence that she would kill anyone or anything that threatened them tonight.

Both of them woke up at 0500 by habit, went back to sleep and didn't wake up again until about noon.  Sam went back across the hall to the guest room to shower and change, then went downstairs to throw brunch together.  Teal'c was quietly reading the morning paper, and Daniel and Jonas had fallen asleep in the living room over a chessboard and a couple of bottles of wine.

Teal'c asked, "You and O'Neill are well?"

Sam said, "Y'know, Teal'c, I think so.  Right now he's just glad we're alive, but it's starting to hit home that this is for real. Thank God for General Hammond."

"He had a solution?"

"Yeah, as soon as Jack's retirement goes through he'll hire back on as a civilian consultant."

"That is indeed a good thing."

"We're probably going to have a roller coaster ride today, maybe into tomorrow.  Janet couldn't be sure what withdrawal will be like this time."

"I shall check on DanielJackson and JonasQuinn.  They were talking and consuming large quantities of wine until early this morning."

"Did the talking seem to help?"

"It did indeed."

"So that leaves you."

"So it does."

"We're here for you.  You don't always have to be the rock of Gibraltar, you know."

"I am coming to understand that, SamanthaCarter.  But before you take command and must be strong for all of us, my sister, my friend, let me be your rock.  If the time should come, I promise to try not to be too proud to let you be mine."

She smiled at his use of her given name.  "You've got a deal."

Jack came downstairs slowly.  Popping a stitch wouldn't go over real well with Fraiser.  He could either wallow in that deep pit of despair that he'd found before Carter had joined him last night, or he could rejoin the living world and get on with whatever life was going to be now--on his terms.  Remembering how Sam had felt in his arms, that choice was a no-brainer.

Daniel called from the living room, "Is that coffee I smell?"

Jack had spent seven years getting used to listening to the team starting the day.  Now those little sounds helped him orient where everyone was and where he was in relation to them.

Sam put his coffee mug on the table.  He knew where it was from the sound, but still reached for it carefully.  Knocking it over would be embarrassing.

No more reading the sports section of the newspaper while he had his coffee.  Shit.

Jonas got the door.  "Hello, General Carter!  Come in, sir, we were just having brunch."

Sam's chair squeaked as she got up and she brushed against Jack's arm on her way to hug her father.  She was wearing denim jeans and that had to be that loose blue top with the ruffle around the hem.

Jack heard her kiss his cheek, and then the note of parental terror in Jacob's voice as he asked her, "Are you OK, baby?"

"I'm fine, Dad."

"I got here as fast as I could.  Everyone else--?"

Jack cut through the awkwardness.  "I'm blind, Jake, and as far as we know it's permanent.  Other than that, we all got out of it OK."

Selmac asked, "What kind of blindness is it?"

"I had a stroke that damaged the visual centers of my brain, and the sarcophagus didn't fix it."

Selmac swore in Goa'uld, and that happened to be one of the words in Jack's limited Goa'uld vocabulary.  "Jack, sometimes that happens. Brain cells in an adult human don't normally regenerate.  A sarcophagus usually can repair that kind of damage, but not always."

"D'you think the Nox or the Asguard can do anything?"

Regretfully, Selmac replied, "I doubt it.  We've had hosts with similar injuries and they've never been able to help before."

Jack caught a hint of something in Selmac's tone of voice.  "Able or willing?"

"You said that, not I," Selmac replied.  "Are you having a difficult time of withdrawal?"

"Not yet, I can feel it but it isn't like the last time."

Jacob stayed to help him through that, and between the two of them, he and Jack were able to convince Sam to go to bed in the guest room right across the hall.  The only after-effect that seemed to be bothering her was exhaustion, but that had hit her with a vengeance. Jack didn't want her to collapse trying to take care of him when there were plenty of other people around.

Daniel and Jonas went to Daniel's place to feed the fish, and then to pick up more groceries.  Jacob and Teal'c sat with Jack.

The worst of it hit about 1500.  Jack found out immediately that he could tell when he was delusional.  In his hallucinations, he could see.

Between trips to the bathroom, he could only endure his body's demand for a return to the sarcophagus.  It didn't much matter if he was reliving some remembered horror or going through the real headache and chills and muscle spasms of physical withdrawal. Sometimes he could escape into a place in his mind where neither could touch him.  When that didn't work, there was nothing for it except to ride it out, and yesterday had been infinitely worse.  He didn't think withdrawal would last too long this time.

Teal'c gave him some kind of bitter herb tea every little while that helped him relax and made it a little easier to break out of the hallucinations.  Other than that, all they could do was keep him company.

During one particularly bad one, Jacob caught his hand.  It was Selmac's strength that returned his grip, but Jacob who spoke.  "I got you, son.  You're doin' fine."

"Gonna catch that bitch alive--drag her through Thor's hammer--I swear t'God--!"

Jacob's eyes blazed.  "I'll help you get her to the gate.  Just tell me where and when."

Teal'c agreed, "As will I."

The headache got worse.  Jack knew it was a muscle spasm, but he was terrified of another stroke, no matter how irrational that fear was. He clenched his jaw against an outcry and started to shiver again.

Carter's voice came from somewhere near the door as she scolded Teal'c and Jacob, "You should have called me when it got this bad!"

"He just got like this.  Should we call Dr. Fraiser?"  Jacob sounded seriously worried.

Jack shook his head.  "She can't do anything, Jake."

Carter came over by the bed.  Her warm hand caressed his forehead. "He's right, Dad.  Unless it gets dangerous there's no reason he can't wait it out right here."

"Sam, I'm freezing."

Teal'c got the extra blanket from the chair, but it didn't help. Jacob said, "Oh, the hell with it.  Get in there with him, Sam."

A few minutes later, she was holding him to her and a delicious warmth soaked through him.  He drifted into sleep as soon as he started to relax.

Jacob smoothed Sam's hair.  "So when are you two going to get married and make me a grandfather again?"

She smiled radiantly.  "I'll have to get back to you on those exact dates."

"I can handle that.  Go to sleep, Sammie.  You're safe now. Nothing's gonna happen to either one of you, not with Teal'c and me here."

When Daniel and Jonas got back, they found Jack and Sam both sound asleep.  By the time Jack woke up again, he was through the worst.  

Chapter 3: The Blind School

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