A Simple Belief

Part Three Janet's Story

By Amberfly

EMAIL: Amberfly

"I just don't know if I'm ready for this, Doc." Jack bowed his head and spoke quietly to the dark haired woman eyeing him warily. Unable to hold Janet's gaze, he rubbed the palm of his hand against tired eyes and sighed softly. "Why's he still asleep? Shouldn't you wake him, give him something to eat?" Leaning closer to the bed, Jack picked up the little boy's hand and tapped at the plaster holding the IV line secure. Scowling at the drip, he asked, "Does this hurt him? It looks too tight."

Her eyes widening at the colonel's fidgeting fingers, Janet gently reclaimed the boy's hand, and placing it back under the covers, said kindly. "No, it's fine, and he needs this sleep, Colonel. Please try to understand, Daniel's body suffered intense trauma and it will take time for him to heal." Janet tilted her head on the side, and sighing, badly wanted to console her friend. She longed to tell him what a waste of energy his endless recriminations were, and that the weight of the world didn't rest on his shoulders. She knew, however, that he was an intensely private man, and how strong he built emotional walls. He justified his actions, but in the quiet of the night, Janet heard the restless sounds of the lost soul. "Colonel, I'm here if you need to talk."

Feeling his shoulders sag with weariness, Jack struggled to think of the words she wanted to hear. Sighing, he wondered if talking might be marginally better than reliving the same nightmare every time he shut his eyes.

"Yeah, okay, let's just get this over with." Shifting his butt in the hard plastic chair and slumping on his spine, the exhausted man started softly. "Where shall I start? We originally thought she was an Ancient. Claimed she was a follower of Oma and that her people had fought the Goa'uld for centuries. She was obsessed with finding someone called Isaiah and gave Daniel this journal. As you can imagine, he was tremendously excited by the piece of junk, he wouldn't put the damn thing down. I told him to give it back to the nice lady, but do they ever listen? The old woman said Daniel reminded her of Isaiah, and that his writings would be Earth's salvation." Clicking his fingers, his eyes widening with awareness, the colonel said, "That journal is the key to this. I'm sure of it."

Scratching and rubbing at a cut on his lip, Jack added sourly. "Daniel wanted to bring her back to the SGC, but I told him that was never going to happen. We argued and he stomped off, that's the last we saw of either of them. Every word that came from that woman's mouth was probably a lie. Nodding at the sleeping child and caressing his pale cheek, the colonel's gruff tone instantly softened. "Just as soon as sleeping beauty here wakes up, maybe he can tell us more." Needing to keep his hands occupied, he played with the button on his jacket pleading, "Doc, he will wake up, won't he?"

Her breath hitched, and struggling to regain control of her emotions, Janet couldn't trust herself to speak. She knew how much this man needed to protect his team, how integral nurturing was to him. To leave the most vulnerable of his family behind had sorely tested his emotional well-being. Shifting in her own chair uncomfortably, she had been aware of how physically exhausted Jack had been from the failed missions. Reading the tests results repeatedly, she had agonized over his borderline results. Janet just couldn't bring herself to shatter his hopes by grounding him, so signing his post mission reports; she prayed she had done the right thing. Clicking her pen, she replaced it in her pocket with a thoughtful pat. Janet had known he'd find the strength to survival mode, and somehow cope.

"Of course, Danny is only mildly sedated, sir." Looking at his darkening expression, she knew how angry he was and how dangerous that could be. Taking his hand in hers, she squeezed it quickly before dropping it and said, "Colonel, I don't understand; if this female wasn't an Ancient then who was she?" Waving at the tiny form asleep in the bed, "What possible reason could there have been to reverse his aging like this?"

One of the nurses had left another rag doll for Daniel, and picking it up, Jack tugged at the bright blue coils of hair. "She fixated on Daniel from the start, and was incapable of answering a straight question. She followed Danny everywhere, always trying to touch him, and muttering about this Isaiah."

"So, we don't really have any idea who she was or what she wanted? Why would she take him only to abuse him like this? Surely the Ancients would know if one of them turned renegade?"

"Well, that just goes to show you doesn't it? Another oh-so superior race that wouldn't know the truth if it bit'em on their superior asses. She said her people were descendants of the Ancient's, and we had no reason to disbelieve her."

The nerve in his arthritic knee twitching uncontrollably, Jack shrugged a shoulder and continued to stare at the sleeping boy. Despite his emaciated condition, he was a beautiful child. Dark lashes, a smattering of freckles across his nose and fine blonde hair, Danny was adorable. The contrast of the peaceful sleeping child, and of the shattered child whimpering in fear, tormented Jack. Eyes glistening with tears, Jack leant across the bed and whispered, "Wish I'd found you sooner, buddy." Stretching out his long legs and massaging cramping muscles, he shut his eyes and replayed the last ten hours in his head. Shuddering involuntarily, he knew they had been very lucky to survive.

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The journey back to the planet's Stargate had been horrendous. Dehydrated and suffering the effects of sunstroke, SG1 had struggled to put one foot after the other. Jack had forced himself to hand Daniel over to Teal'c, and with every step, he wondered if it would be his last. Carter's lax body leant heavily into his, making keeping his balance difficult, and seeing the Stargate, he had almost cried with relief. "Thank God. Carter, think you can dial us home?"

Slurring her words and stumbling towards the dais, Sam couldn't focus, couldn't see the symbols to push. Swaying and clutching at the colonel's shirt, she stammered "I'm ssoorry, ssirrr," and slumping to the ground, Jack barely managed to catch her.

"That's okay, Major, Teal'c knows the way home." One arm around Sam, and nodding to his exhausted teammate cradling the small child, Jack stepped through the event horizon. Bringing his team home, more dead than alive, but intact once more.

Stumbling down the ramp in the Gate room, the colonel peered through his blood shot eyes and zeroed in on the general. With unspoken trust and with a sense of relief, General Hammond nodded at him, and waved the team through, delaying the debriefing until he deemed it necessary. His face anxiously searching the colonel's exhausted one; he said kindly, "Colonel, good to see you brought our boy back."

Throwing Teal'c a quick look of gratitude, Jack tilted his head, and giving his hand a flick, wordlessly demanded Daniel. Jiggling him gently, and baring his teeth into a snarl, he swore for every bruise, for every blow Daniel suffered, someone would pay.

Teal'c's eyes never left the tiny body of his friend, and raising his head to look into the grim face of O'Neill; he nodded, and started to walk towards the infirmary.

"Carter, go with Teal'c."

Taking the pale faced Major gently by her arm; Teal'c pulled her along, insisting softly that she follow. "Come, Major Carter, your well being is as important as Daniel's."

Leaning into his chest and sighing, Sam turned around and faced the colonel, ready to argue her case. "Danny will need me, sir." Seeing his stern look, she lowered her eyes, and knew she had to obey. Swaying slightly and grabbing at Teal'c's arm, she slurred, "S-sir, you'll let me know the moment something happens with Daniel?"

"The moment I know something, Major, you'll know something. Now, infirmary. That's the second time, Carter; don't make me say it a third time."

Despite the weary smile taking the bite from his words, Carter heard the order loud and clear. "Yes, sir."

Nodding at Teal'c, his face carefully neutral, O'Neill pushed past the hovering medics muttering, "I'll take Daniel; see to the rest of my team." Scattering out of their way, the medics watched as SG1 walked in silence to the infirmary and admitted themselves to Janet's care.

Ashen faced with exhaustion; O'Neill briefed the general and returned to check on his team. Leaning over Carter, he frowned at the angry welts on her cheeks and neck, and tenderly brushed the hair from her eyes. Seriously dehydrated, Sam had collapsed, her body needing to rest and replace lost fluids. Sound asleep, her face twitched with her thoughts and dreams.

Jack watched her sleep for a while and slowly walking around to Teal'c, smiled tiredly, and touched his shoulder. "Hey, am I interrupting? You're' not doing that kel-no-reem thingy are you?

"You are not. I am unable to kel-no-reem as I once did since I began taking tretonin."

"Oo-kayy. Still has to be better than having Junior, right?"

Nodding, and with a ghost of a smile, Teal'c shifted into an upright position and said, "Indeed." Reaching over and nodding at a chair, Teal'c lowered his voice and said, "We need to return to the planet, O'Neill. Someone there ensured Daniel Jackson's survival."

Needing the contact and allowing his hand to linger on Teal'c's shoulder, Jack nodded, and sat heavily into the chair. Pulling it closer to the bed and narrowing his eyes, he replied. "Ya think? From where I'm sitting they didn't do much of a job." Throwing his hands in the air, he added in a bone weary voice, "Look, Teal'c, it's been a long day, and we all need to rest. Those folk can wait another day or two. Trust me; I'm holding whoever is responsible very accountable."

Fiddling with a loose sleeve button until he pulled it off, O'Neill cursed silently, and thought about Teal'c's words. He figured nobody could live on that dead planet; SG1 had barely survived eight hours there. There had been no evidence of a village, farming, or fresh water. Something didn't add up, and his feelings of frustration grew by the hour. "No, that's not where we have to look."

Placing the flat of his hand behind his back and standing stiffly, Jack glanced as Carter moaned in her sleep. Nodding at Teal'c and walking away, he felt confused and angry by the many questions that would probably never have their answers. Taking a step into Janet's office, he leant against the doorjamb and greeted her softly. His head pounding, he massaged his temples, took the offered Tylenol gratefully and guzzled another bottle of water "Colonel, please! Your body is telling you it needs to rest"

"I'm fine, Doc. A quick shower and a coffee and I'll be fine."

Standing under the hot water and feeling the heat warm his body, he leaned against the wall and let the water run down his back. Hating the feeling of the coarse sand that stuck stubbornly, he idly wondered how much hot water Cheyenne Mountain really had. Dragging his aching body from the shower and toweling off quickly, he hurried back to Daniel's bedside, and gulping cold coffee, sank back into his chair. Rubbing the skinny little limbs and talking softly, Jack hoped his very presence could chase away the nightmares. He wasn't na´ve: he'd experienced enough pain in his lifetime to know kind words were just that. Jack braced himself and knew the damage done to Daniel would never be truly undone. Picking up the limp hand and staring at the filthy, ragged fingernails, he whispered that he was home now.

The little boy's eyelids fluttered, and holding onto Jack's hand, he moaned in his sleep. Lightly touching the nasal cannula and feeling a flash of paternal love, he said wearily, "We will never really know what that bitch put him through, will we." Palming his eyes, he pleaded, "Please, just make him better."

Looking into the colonel's eyes, Janet nodded, and whispered, "Of course." She turned around and reached for a glass of water with a shaking hand. The past twenty-four hours had been chaotic, and she badly wanted to see her daughter and sleep in her own bed. Sam's signs were not as promising as she'd hoped; the dehydration had taken a terrible toll on her body. Teal'c's brooding anger unnerved her, and she found his grim presence daunting. The colonel looked dead on his feet, and narrowing her eyes, she decided it was time to make her stand. Studying the dark bruises under his eyes and the deeply etched lines of exhaustion on his face, she slapped her hands on her thighs.

"Colonel, permission to speak freely?" Seeing curiosity flicker in his eyes, Janet took it as her invitation. "No one on this base ever doubted that SG1 would find Daniel and bring him home. I should have pulled the three of you from Gate travel months ago, and you know it. But, I didn't, I gave you your shot." Standing up and walking around the bed, she picked at imaginary lint and continued. "Now, I don't understand what or why this crazy woman did what she did to Doctor Jackson, and I'm very sorry I can't fix it. The fact of the matter is that we don't have the technology to undo what she did. What we can't fix must be endured." Sitting down, and watching O'Neill intently, Janet put all the persuasiveness, all the eloquence into her voice that she could. "Some battles are just plain un-winnable. Sometimes we just have to accept what we cannot change and make the best of it. I'm sorry if I sound hard, but killing yourself with exhaustion is not going to help Daniel. The thing to do here and now is to find the best way to help Daniel cope. Am I making myself perfectly clear, Colonel?''

Jack grunted sarcastically and leaning closer, made no attempt to hide his annoyance. "Well, I guess I did kinda grant you permission to speak freely." Rocking back into his chair, and frowning, he snorted, "Point taken, Doc. I'll rest and I'll even take your damn happy pills." Taking her hand in his, he arched an unimpressed eyebrow, and said, "Quite the military mind, Doctor. You are right of course; this battle was lost before the first shot was fired. We don't have anywhere enough intel on her. We don't know the reasoning behind kidnapping Daniel and then reverse his aging. I do know one thing though; they weren't on that planet for long. For whatever purpose, she just dumped him there to die."

Janet gave him an appraising look. "That's probably true, Colonel. However, he didn't die did he sir? You found him, and for now, he's a little boy that's going to need your love and protection." Putting her palms of her hands flat on the bed, she leaned towards the sleeping boy and studied his freckled face. Looking over her shoulder at Jack with smiling eyes, she said. "He should be our only concern, don't you think?"

Watching the slight rise and fall of Daniel's chest and listening to the steady hum of his monitors that counted each breath, each heartbeat, the colonel raised his head. Looking into Janet's eyes carefully, he nodded, and with a tiny smile tugging at his lips, began making his plans to trick and bamboozle her into letting him take Daniel home early.

Janet suppressed a tiny smile at Jack's wolfish grin, and narrowing her eyes, made a contingency plan of her own. Leaning in his space, she crooked a finger at him and whispered, "Oh, don't think I don't have you made, Colonel Jack O'Neill."

Part Four