|Friendship:||Gen stories about the friendship between Col. Jack O'Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson, with a team focus.|
|Category:||Angst. Drama. Hurt/Comfort.|
|Synopsis:||The aftermath of a suicide (don’t worry, nobody you know).|
|Warnings:||This is my therapy story for dealing with the recent suicide of a friend’s son. Parts of this are true and parts are not, but I’m not telling what is and isn’t.|
"Daniel?" Jack frowned as he watched Daniel slowly put on his pack before heading to the Gate room. "You okay?"
"Yeah." Daniel said, letting out a sigh. "I had to have a long talk with Tom Bitner. He mangled another translation."
"That's been what, the 4th time in the past month?" Jack slipped an arm around Daniel's shoulders, guiding him towards the Gate.
"I hate having to reprimand my people, Jack." Daniel said quietly. "Tom told me he's been going through a rough time. Andrea broke up with him."
"We all go through rough times, Daniel. Doesn't mean we don't do our jobs."Jack countered. "And you've given Bitner more chances than any other person on this base ever would have. Besides," Jack continued with a grin, "now you know how I feel when you don't listen to me." He was relieved to see the small smile that Daniel bestowed on him.
"I always listen to you, Jack. I just don't always agree with what you say." Daniel ducked as Jack took a good natured swipe at his head and ran up the ramp, catching Sam's arm as they stepped through.
"SG-1, welcome home." General Hammond said as he looked at the 4 muddy teammates.
"I would suggest you clean up before reporting to the infirmary."
"Ya think?" Jack muttered. "Someone..."and he threw a glare at Carter, "assured us that P2C-331 was a tropical paradise."
"Dr. Jackson, I need to see you immediately." General Hammond motioned for Daniel to follow.
"What?" Jack mouthed at him behind Hammond's back.
Daniel shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment. "I'll catch you guys later."
"Dr. Jackson," General Hammond motioned for Daniel to sit. Daniel felt his mouth drop open. He was covered in mud and smelled just as bad, and Hammond wanted him to sit on his best furniture.
"Um, I'll stand, sir. I don't mind." Daniel said politely. "Is something wrong, sir?"
Hammond nodded and stood in front of him. "I'm afraid I have some bad news, son."
Bad news? Daniel thought. Quick silver thoughts of various friends flashed through his mind, but his best friends were here and surely General Hammond would have told the whole team if something bad had happened to Janet or Cassandra or any of the people they were closest to. He focused back on General Hammond.
"Tom Bitner commited suicide yesterday." Hammond said. No easy way to break news like that to anyone.
Daniel felt his knees go wobbly. He shook his head in denial. "No, there must be some mistake. I mean, Tom wasn't...I don't think he was depressed or anything. No, he wouldn't have."
"Son, I'm sorry. I know this must be a shock. I'm sorry that I had to give you this news." General Hammond placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and squeezed gently.
"I'll need to call his parents." Daniel heard himself saying. "He was their only child."
"It's taken care of, son." General Hammond said softly. "I'll walk with you to the infirmary. Once you're cleaned up and checked out, we can talk some more."
Daniel nodded numbly and let General Hammond guide him through the corridors.
Jack looked up as Daniel entered the infirmary. Whatever news Hammond had for Daniel had been bad. Daniel was very pale, and his hands when he reached up to unbutton his shirt were shaking.
"Daniel?" Jack asked. He got up and went over to guide Daniel to a nearby bed. He was slightly alarmed when Daniel just let himself be seated. In his experience, a pliant Daniel was not a good thing. "What's wrong?"
"Tom..." Daniel stopped, his mouth dry. "Tom Bitner commited suicide." He felt nothing. He wondered vaguely why. Surely he should be feeling something. It was if his emotions had simply turned off.
"How? When?" Jack's voice was too loud, needing answers Daniel couldn't give.
Janet came over to them, giving a small smile to Jack."Colonel, you can go to your debriefing. Why don't you do that and come back for Daniel later?" She motioned towards General Hammond. "I think General Hammond would like to speak to you."
Jack nodded, his attention still focused on a pale Daniel. He could see the tiny freckles Daniel had gotten on their last trip standing out against milk white skin.
Janet moved between them, her hands coming up to cup Daniel's face, her voice low and gentle,
Jack gave a last pat to Daniel's shoulder and left the infirmary to follow Hammond.
"Ready, Daniel?" Jack entered Daniel's apartment. Daniel came out of his bedroom dressed in his best navy blue suit. Daniel was still pale, dark circles like bruises under his eyes. Jack's offer of his spare room had been rejected, as had the offer to spend the night at Daniel's . Daniel had moved through the last 3 days in a haze, accompanying the MPs to Tom's apartment, gathering Tom's personal effects and boxing them to be sent to Tom'sparents in Denver.
Jack doubted that Daniel was sleeping much. He certainly wasn't talking. Daniel was presenting a very good front. Enough so that everyone but one Colonel Jack O'Neill thinking that he had it together. Jack had overheard Daniel's conversation with Carter in the hallway. Carter seemed stunned by the news even though she didn't really know Bitner.
"If you need to talk, Daniel," Carter had offered. "You know, I'm always willing to listen."
"Thanks for the offer, Sam. But I'm fine." Daniel had said, just a little too lightly to Jack's way of thinking. "I didn't know Bitner that well anyway."
Liar, Jack had thought at the time. Daniel was the guy who knew everybody's birthday and anniversary. He was the one who remembered to send cards to people whose pet had died. He remembered whose child had a soccer game and whose children were in college. He even knew their schools and majors. So although Daniel may not have been close frineds with Bitner, Jack knew he knew private things about Bitner's life that anyone else wouldn't have.
Daniel collected his keys and wallet from the dining room table. "I'm ready, Jack. Do you mind if I drive?"
Daniel was so transparent, Jack thought as he tossed his keys to Daniel. "My Jeep. I don't feel like being cooped up in your car any longer than necessary."
"Okay," Daniel said. "It's acting up anyway."
"What, you wanted to drive my Jeep?" Jack joked. Daniel ignored it.
The trip to Denver was made in virtual silence. Jack sat and watched Daniel's expressionless face. Daniel who normally talked a mile a minute whether or not he was driving. Daniel who sometimes let go of the wheel to gesture an emphatic point. Daniel was silent and still except for the slight movements of his hands on the steering wheel.
"You know where the funeral home is, Daniel?" Jack asked as they got closer to the city. Jack had endured the silence knowing it was what Daniel needed. He'd learned a long time ago that the best way to get Daniel to open up was to keep his own mouth shut. Daniel would give him the sign when he was ready to talk, he hoped.
"I got the directions off the Internet." Daniel said softly. They arrived at the funeral home with no problem.
"That's Andrea."Daniel said of a tall blonde woman standing by the door smoking a cigarette. "I recognize her from the photos Tom had."
"I thought they broke up." Jack commented.
"They did, at least Tom.." Daniel stopped and took a deep breath. He'd promised himself that he would get through this without breaking down. Without giving in to the anger he felt towards a dead man. "Tom told me they did. But I know Andrea was pretty close to his parents."
Daniel handed Jack's keys back after they exited the Jeep and started walking towards the entrance. Not good, not good, Jack said to himself as he watched Daniel's back getting stiffer, his shoulders rigid, his face impassive.
"Andrea."Daniel said softly as they stopped by the woman. "I'm Daniel Jackson. I was a colleague of Tom's."
"I know who you are, Dr. Jackson." The woman said. "I'm surprised you actually had the nerve to show up." She moved away towards some other arrivals.
Daniel's shoulders hunched and he wrapped himself in a hug.
Damn, Jack thought and threw a glare after Andrea. He placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder feeling the muscles tighten further. He was squinting, Jack noticed which meant he probably had a headache building.
Before Jack could say anything, Daniel shook his head sadly. "She's grieving."
"Yeah." Jack said, more for Daniel's benefit than agreement with the assessment.
"Let's get inside." It was starting to rain.
The casket was closed of course. A picture of a smiling Tom rested on the lid.
Daniel never hesitated, approaching the gray haired couple standing by the casket.
"Mr. and Mrs Bitner?" Daniel said as he drew closer. "I'm so sorry on your loss. I'm Daniel Jackson, one of Tom's colleagues. He will be greatly missed."
Mr. Bitner looked at his wife briefly before turning back to Daniel."Dr. Jackson?"
"Yes," Daniel nodded.
"We would appreciate it if you would leave." Mr. Bitner said in a cold voice.
Jack stepped up to them. "Colonel Jack O'Neill." He introduced himself. "Is there a problem with Dr. Jackson being here?"
"Don't worry about it, Jack." Daniel whispered. "We'll leave." He turned back to the Bitners. "I'm sorry that I've disturbed you. And I am truly sorry about Tom's death."
Mrs. Bitner gave him a look of pure hatred. "Maybe you should have thought about all that before you destroyed his life."
Daniel stood stunned, confusion flitting across his face. "I don't.."He gave a sign before pinching the bridge of his nose. "We'll be leaving. I am very sorry that I've upset you." He turned and left the room, leaving Jack standing before the couple.
"I don't know what you've been told. But Dr. Jackson had nothing to do with Tom's death." Jack said, irrationally angry at the couple.
"Just leave." Mr. Bitner said, taking his quietly sobbing wife into his arms.
Daniel was at the Jeep, the rain soaking into his suit. He was rubbing at his temples now, an indication of how bad the headache was getting. Jack opened the passenger door gesturing for Daniel to get in. "I'll drive."
Daniel said nothing, simply got in and buckled his seat belt.
Jack got in, started the engine and cranked up the heat. He could hear Daniel's teeth starting to chatter. He kept darting glances to his passenger who was sitting with his head tilted back and eyes closed.
"You warm enough?" Jack asked after they'd left Denver and were back on the highway. Daniel shrugged. Jack reached back and snagged a blanket he kept in the Jeep for emergencies. "Here, cover up."
"Thanks,"Daniel murmured, as he brought the blanket to his shoulders.
They'd driven about 25 miles, Jack thinking that Daniel had finally fallen asleep when Daniel suddenly sat up.
"Stop the car." Daniel said, his voice shaky. He had the seatbelt unbuckled and the door half opened before Jack had the Jeep at a total stop. Daniel stepped out doubling over. The small breakfast he'd eaten came up and he stood shaking, Jack's hands on his shoulders while he dry heaved.
"Sorry, I'm sorry." Daniel gasped out finally. "God, my head hurts."
Which, Jack translated. meant that the pain was probably off the Janet Frasier 1 to 10 scale and that Daniel had just about reached his limit.
Jack guided him back into the Jeep, grabbing a bottle of water and untwisting the cap. He dug in the glove compartment for the bottle of aspirin he kept there and placed two tablets in one of Daniel's hands and the water bottle in the other.
Daniel swallowed them without comment and then used the rest of the water to rinse his mouth.
"I'm sorry." Daniel said, leaning back into the seat and closing his eyes once more. Jack caught the water bottle as it slipped from lax fingers. He shook out the blanket and tucked it around Daniel once again. Daniel didn't respond, his breathing deepening into sleep. Jack breathed in relief. Hopefully Daniel would be ready to talk soon, and Jack could begin the process of getting his archaeologist and friend back.
Jack was not generally a patient man, but somehow he'd found the patience to deal with Daniel the past month. 31 days, it had been 31 days since Tom Bitner had killed himself and the aftershocks from that event were still affecting Daniel which in turn was affecting SG-1. The signs were subtle. Daniel was as professional as ever. Anyone else would have said he'd grieved and moved on. Jack had his own suspicions that not all was well. Something was missing: the spark or enthusiasm Jack had come to expect, the passion that lit Daniel's eyes when discussing a new discovery. Daniel was doing his job and doing it well; he just wasn't Daniel. He joined Jack for dinner as often as he had before and pushed food around on his plate thinking Jack didn't notice. The weight loss was starting to become more apparent, despite Daniel's attempts to hide it. Jack was guessing Daniel had lost about 10 pounds, pounds that Daniel could ill afford to lose. He was putting in more hours than usual, seemingly unable to find a replacement for Bitner. Jack had found him asleep in his office 3 times in the past week, and now Daniel was off world for 2 days helping to translate writings found in a cave. Jack let himself into Daniel's apartment, starting to sort the mail he'd gotten from Daniel's mailbox. 4 bills, 2 archaeology journals, at least 5 credit card offers, and an envelope marked return to sender. Jack put the mail into neat piles on the coffee table, noticing the Bitner's address written on the envelope in Daniel's neat script.
"Damn, " He muttered. The light on Daniel's answering machine was blinking that there were 3 new messages. Jack debated listening but then remembered Daniel's instructions that the garage might be calling about his car. If the repairs had been completed, Jack figured he'd pick it up and give Daniel one less thing to deal with when he returned home tomorrow.
Jack hit play button while searching for a pen and paper and froze at the sound of a slurred voice on the first message.
"Hey, doc...Jus wanned you to hear this."And there was the sound of a gun. Jack dropped into the nearest chair.
"Oh, God, Danny." Jack whispered. How many times had Daniel listened to Bitner committing suicide? How long was Daniel going to punish himself for the actions of an obviously disturbed man? No wonder Daniel wasn't sleeping or eating. Jack erased the message. Let Daniel be angry, he didn't care. He left the apartment to drive to the base.
Daniel came through the Gate talking to one of the younger members of the translating team. His hands were moving in expansive gestures as he finished his point. The woman smiled at him. "Thanks, Dr. J. I'll try that variation." And she took off at a brisk pace.
Daniel nodded and searched the Gate room. He rubbed at his eyes. He was starting to wonder if he'd ever get over this tiredness. He gave a small smile as he saw Jack. The smile quickly disappeared as he saw Jack's grim face. Please, please don't let anything else bad have happened, he thought wildly.
"Jack? Is something wrong?" Daniel moved quickly to his side, his heart pounding so hard he could hear its echoes.
"We need to talk, Danny." Jack said, putting a hand on Daniel's shoulder to guide him from the room.
Daniel planted his feet more firmly. "N..nothing happened to S..Sam or T..Teal'c, did it?" He could feel shivers starting in his spine.
"No. Nothing bad happened at all." Jack reassured him, mentally cursing hmself for his behavior. He should have realized that Daniel was going to think something was wrong. He felt Daniel's shoulders relax and dreaded the talk he was going to have with Daniel.
"Why don't you get your shower first and then come to my office?" Jack gave Daniel a smile and a gentle push in the direction of the door. Maybe he'd think of how to bring the whole mess up by the time Daniel showed up at his door.
"You did WHAT?" Daniel was nearly yelling. "How DARE you listen to my messages!"
"Daniel, I always listen to your messages when you're off world. And this time, you specifically reminded me to because you wanted to know if your car was done." Jack sat on the edge of his desk, watching Daniel pace the 4 steps the size of his office allowed and turn. "You listen to mine."
Daniel just shook his head, unable to speak.
"Don't blame me because you forgot to delete it." Jack continued. At least he was getting a reaction from Daniel, the first he'd truly seen.
Daniel turned angry blue eyes on him. "Yeah, Jack. I guess that's my fault too. Just like..." He stopped and turned away, facing the wall, arms coming up in that self defensive hug Jack hated.
"Just like what, Danny?" Jack asked softly. "Like Bitner's death was your fault?"
Daniel's shoulders came up, and he bent forward slightly, the only signhe'd heard Jack.
Okay, Jack thought, taking a deep breath. "You mind telling me how, Daniel? Did you give him the gun? Get him drunk? Pull the trigger? You mind telling me how in any possible way Bitner's death is your fault?"
"STOP IT, JACK!" Daniel exploded. He whirled on his heels facing Jack once again. "You don't know anything about this mess. You don't know anything about how I feel."
"Then tell me!" Jack's voice was beginning to match Daniel's in volume.
"Tell me how Bitner's stupidity is YOUR fault."
"I was the one who reprimanded him Jack." Daniel yelled back. "I drove him to it."
"He was drunk, Daniel. And he had a gun." Jack countered. "You are not responsible for his actions."
"Do you mind telling me something, Jack?" Daniel was still going strong. "Do you mind telling me why your guilt is somehow more justifiable than mine? Do you mind telling me why it's alright for you to still blame yourself for Charlie's death and it's not for me to feel that way about Bitner's? Oh,no I forgot. Maybe if Bitner had used MY gun, I'd have the right to feel that way." Daniel stopped and took a deep breath. "Oh God, oh God, Jack, I..." He pushed at Jack who fell back against his desk.
Daniel ran from the office, scarcely noticing Sam and Teal'c by the door.
"Daniel!" Jack yelled after him.
"What did you do to him, Colonel?" Carter said angrily.
"O'Neill, I can retrieve Danieljackson." Teal'c offered. "He seemed most distressed."
"Thanks, Teal'c, but I think I need to "retrieve" Daniel myself." Jack said. He just needed to calm himself first. The anger that would have surfaced at Daniel's words just a few years ago was not there. Maybe it was the fact that the memories of Charlie had become good ones. Maybe it was because a certain civilian on his team had become his best friend. And maybe just maybe it was because he recognized Daniel's words, angry though they were as being more true than not.
He knew exactly where Daniel would go. Jack grabbed his jacket and Daniel's and took the elevator to the surface.
Daniel's trail could have been followed by the least experienced tracker in the world. Jack put his hands to the wet ground as he scrambled up the steep slope towards Daniel's hiding place.
God, Daniel I am getting way too old for this, Jack thought as his knees twinged. He brushed his hands on his pants and went the last hundred yards to find Daniel sitting on a fallen tree. Daniel was hugging himself and rocking slightly, trying Jack guessed to keep himself warm.
"Here, Daniel." Jack sat down beside him, placing Daniel's jackets over his shoulders.
Daniel looked at him miserably, his eyes sad. "Jack, I never should have..I wasn't...I shouldn't have said that to you." His eyes slid away to focus on his boots.
"Daniel." Jack nudged him with his elbow. "You were right. I wasn't being fair to you. I just...God, Danny, when I heard Bitner on your machine and thought of you listening to that for the past month without telling any of us...without telling me." Jack stopped unsure of what to say. He'd cornered Daniel in his office and Daniel had reacted like a wounded animal, striking out at the very person who wanted to help him most.
"I didn't know what to tell." Daniel's voice was almost a whisper. "I would have helped him."
"I know, Daniel." Jack said, putting an arm over Daniel's shoulders.
"I'm so angry at him. How could he do that to his parents? He was their only child. I keep wishing I had answers and nobody can give me any." Daniel's words were tumbling faster. "I would have helped him. You know that Jack, right? I would have...If he had asked me, I would have helped him. I should have seen the signs. I could have...Why didn't I see it Jack? Why didn't I figure it out? I should have caught it." Daniel brought his head up to look at Jack, tears streaming from his eyes and little sobs catching at his throat. Jack tightened his grip. He had no words for Daniel's pain.
Daniel's tears were coming faster, threatening to become sobs. Jack heard Daniel start to hold his breath, to try to keep sobs from escaping. Daniel hated for anyone to see him cry.
"Let it out, Danny." Jack urged. "It's okay to let it out." I'm here he thought I'm here as long as you need me to be.Daniel's breath came out in rush, and the sobs started in great gasps interspersed with Daniel's repeated offers of help.
"I know, I know Danny." Jack continued to soothe. He rubbed Daniel's back, letting Daniel's head fall against his shoulder. He looked up at the sound of footsteps to see Carter and Teal'c standing there. Carter had her hands half extended towards Daniel, her face twisted as she tried to keep herself from crying. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow in question.
Jack gave a small shake of his head. "Why don't you let Janet know that Daniel and I will be coming to see her in a little bit? We just need a bit more time."
Carter and Teal'c nodded and disappeared back down the slope as quietly as they'd arrived.
The sobs quieted as Jack knew they would, but Daniel let his head on Jack's shoulder. Jack heard Daniel take a breath to speak.
"Don't, Danny." Jack whispered. "Don't apologize for any of it."
"Uh huh." Daniel said.
"Daniel, I wish I could make this better for you. But I think we need to talk to Janet." Jack kept his voice soft. "I can't help you with this by myself."Daniel gave a big sniff and sat up. "I think I need to talk to someone about this. I'm so tired, Jack."
"You ready?" Jack stood and offered a hand to Daniel. "You know I'll be there for you."
Daniel nodded and gave a wobbly smile. "I know, Jack. I've always known. And thanks." Daniel walked ahead a little ways.
Jack stood a moment watching Daniel's back. It wouldn't be over in the next days, maybe not even in the next month or two, but Daniel, Daniel would come back to them. He always had before, and Daniel was a man who kept his promises.