The brightness of the fluorescent lights made Jack pause, the mechanical doors closing behind him. His eyes squinted in retaliation against the harshness of the lighting in the drab room. The weather was horrible, cold and damp making Jack shiver in his rain-drenched sweatshirt. He hadn't thought to grab a jacket, when the call came, instinct made him reach for keys and wallet. That was all, his protection against the elements was not a concern at the moment. Daniel was his concern.
'Oh God,' Jack thought, as he strode over to the information area. He cleared his throat and caught the attention of the clerk behind the counter. Her tired eyes met his frantic ones, and she smiled gently.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Daniel Jackson ... someone called me regarding ..." Jack swallowed before he continued. "There was an accident ... a car accident." He tucked his hands under his armpits to hide their nervous shaking.
"And you are?"
'What am I? I'm his lover, his best friend, his significant other, his life partner, his better half, his worse half.' Jack sighed and answered, "I'm listed as his next of kin, Dr. Jackson has no immediate family ... he has no family." Jack knew that wasn't right, Daniel had a family sequestered away in a mountain, a family that would crowd this waiting room if he made one phone call.
"Hold on a minute, let me check." She picked up the desk phone, dialing an extension. Jack listened to her make inquiries about Daniel to the person at the other end. "Excuse me, sir?"
Jack jumped when he realized she was addressing him "Sorry."
"Can I just have some type of ID so I can verify your identity?"
He pulled out his license handing it to the clerk. He listened as she confirmed his name and some other information. Jack had to fight the urge to vault over the counter, grab the phone and ask for Daniel, demand Daniel.
"Here you go, Colonel O'Neill." She slid his license across the countertop. "You can have a seat in the waiting room. The doctor will be out shortly to speak with you."
Jack was not a patient man under the best of circumstances, and these were far from the best of circumstances. A dark, damp, rainy cold night, an accident, and a phone call left him alone, frantic and pacing in the hospital waiting room. Sitting was not an option. He took one look at the hard hospital chairs, and the only image that came to mind was sitting in its twin by "Daniel's" bed in the infirmary.
Jack knew he should be making phone calls, the General, Sam, Teal'c, Fraiser, but he couldn't afford himself the luxury of stepping outside this waiting room. Bleak thoughts interrupted by a young man entering the waiting room bringing a blast of inclement weather inside with him. He rushed up to the information counter and in loud, breathless voice demanded information from the clerk. "Where's my brother ... I received a call that my brother was in a car accident and he was brought here by ambulance. His car was hit ..."
The waiting room fairly empty the young man's voice echoing.
"What's your brother's name, sir?"
"Peter ... Peter Remsen. Look my parents are away on vacation ... I'm responsible for my brother ..."
Jack sidled slowly up and leaned against the wall closest to the information desk. His ears had perked up with the mention of the words "car accident."
The clerk followed the same procedures with the young man as she had with Jack. Phone call, requesting ID ... Jack watched with unabashed interest. His instinct told him that this person's brother was in the other car involved in the accident with Daniel. An idea that hadn't occurred to Jack before, for some reason, he had believed Daniel and the car had met an inanimate object ... not an object that had a living, breathing person in it.
The young man's shouting broke through his thoughts ... "Look, you people called me! I'm responsible for my brother ... I sure as hell don't want to sit and wait to speak to some doctor. I want to speak to a doctor now! What about the fuckin' guy who hit my brother's car ... you treatin' him back there too? I saw the goddamn cars, the other guy should be arrested for attempted manslaughter. There's nothing left of my brother's car." The young man made a sound that registered in Jack's brain as something between a snort and a laugh. "Well payback is a bitch, cause there ain't nothing left of that guy's car either!"
Jack closed his eyes in an attempt to control his breathing. Daniel hit another car? Was he speeding, in a hurry to get home? Something that Jack had said forcing him out of the mountain ... rushing home to Jack. They were off tomorrow, and Daniel had promised he would be home early ... Jack had stopped by Daniel's office, reprimanding him for still working. Jack swallowed as he felt tears prick behind closed eyelids, his last words to Daniel "Hurry home, Daniel. Okay."
Jack opened his eyes to face a young man in a white lab coat.
"I'm Dr. Bohensky. You were called for Dr. Jackson, correct?"
"Yes ... is he ...?"
"Let's sit over here." The doctor motioned to two vacant chairs. "He's very lucky, extremely lucky." Dr. Bohensky opened the folder on his lap before proceeding. "The car had no air bags ..."
"Seat belts ... he had seat belts put in the car."
"Yes ... and that's what probably saved him from going through the windshield. He's pretty banged up though. Seatbelt contusions among other things. Black eye, bruised cheek, from hitting the steering wheel." Jack felt himself grimace in sympathy, his stomach knotting as the doctor continued to rattle off Daniel's injuries. "I would have liked to admit him for observation, but excuse me for saying so ... but Dr. Jackson is extremely stubborn. He mentioned that a Dr. Fraiser would be treating him."
Jack nodded, "Yes, actually stubborn is only one of his better qualities. We ... Dr. Jackson is a civilian consultant on the military base, Dr. Fraiser is the Chief Medical Officer ... I will make sure he pays her a visit."
"He is going to be stiff and sore for a number of days, nothing he assured me, quite adamantly I might add, that Dr. Fraiser would not be able to handle. For that reason, he can go home tonight ... but at the moment, he's up in x-ray."
Dr. Bohensky smiled down at Jack as he stood. "Precautionary. His knee was badly bruised ... just checking for residual damage." He handed Jack a number of sheets from a prescription pad. "Medications ... muscle relaxers, as well as, pain killers. An anti-inflammatory for the knee ... and a prescription to see an orthopedist, if need be."
"Thank you, doctor." Jack said standing, extending his hand.
"He was very lucky Colonel O'Neill."
"Yes, doctor, he is very lucky."
Jack watched the doctor depart and gave a silent prayer of thanks to the protector of wayward archeologists.
The young man whose brother had been in the other car was speaking to a doctor. Across the waiting room, too far away to hear the whispered conversation, Jack saw the anger reflected in the young man's body language and hand mannerisms. The doctor motioned for the young man to follow him as he went into the treatment area. Jack discreetly followed.
He asked a nurse where he should wait for Daniel.
"He's up in x-ray ... he should be right down. You can go back in the waiting area, someone will come and get you when he is finished."
Jack lied easily, "That's okay ... the doctor, said to wait for Dan ... Dr. Jackson here."
Rolling her eyes heavenward, she pointed to a chair. "Sit! Don't get in the way, don't move ... and I'll let you stay."
Jack promptly sat, taking in his surroundings. This area was fairly quiet, the only other occupant, the young man from the waiting room, sitting directly across from Jack.
Jack stood upon hearing his name called. A sharp intake of breath was the only emotion he allowed himself when he saw Daniel. The doctor's description in no way prepared Jack for Daniel's condition. Daniel cringed at Jack's intense study of him. "I'm fine, Jack. Really."
Jack stood in front of the wheelchair, caressing Daniel's bruised cheek with his thumb. "Ahh Danny, Fraiser's gonna have a field day with you."
Daniel attempted a smile, which ended in a grimace. "I just want to go home, Jack."
"Home, I can do. Nurse, what do we need to do to release Dr. Jackson?"
"I'll get the paperwork ..."
Three sets of eyes turned in the direction of the voice. Standing behind Jack were two uniformed police officers.
"I'm Dr. Jackson."
"We need to ask you some questions with regard to the accident."
Jack stepped forward and addressed the two uniformed men. "Colonel Jack O'Neill, USAF. Dr. Jackson is a civilian consultant ..."
"Look, Colonel ... we just need to ask him a few questions, it's not a matter of military ..."
"Look Jack, I just want to get out of here, go home, take some pills, go to bed. Let the police officers ask me their questions and you can fill out the necessary insurance paperwork. Please." He beseeched Jack with tired, blue eyes.
Hammond would be furious if Jack let Daniel speak to the police, but the General wasn't here, now, standing where Jack was standing, looking at Daniel. Sitting in that wheelchair, jeans shredded at the knees, the blue hospital scrub top he was wearing worn thin enough to see the bruises peppering his chest. Jack squatted down between Daniel's legs, knees popping with the effort, whispering softly, "Just be careful what you say, Daniel." His fingers briefly, gently pressing Daniel's hands, mottled with bruises. Hopefully conveying to Daniel, comfort for now and promises of a warm bed and welcoming arms, when home. Jack stood, using the arms of the wheelchair for support.
Jack seated himself in the chair outside the cubicle while the police spoke to Daniel. Jack knew this was wrong ... he knew he should be in there, he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Hammond was going to be doing a tremendous amount of yelling with regard to Daniel's conversation with the police. Jack was quite positive that all that yelling would be directed towards him. The nurse came out and handed Jack a clipboard and Daniel's wallet. With a sigh, Jack began the tedious job of filling in the blanks.
Jack stood, stretched his legs; paperwork filled out, he placed the clipboard on the chair and Daniel's wallet in his pocket. Turning, he found his way blocked by the young man from the waiting room.
"Your friend had an accident?"
"I don't think we were introduced. I'm Colonel O'Neill. And you are?"
"Charles Remsen." Neither man extended a hand in friendship.
"I'll ask you again ... your friend had an accident ... a car accident?"
"Look this isn't the time nor the place, the insura ..."
"A red Mustang ... or what is left of the Mustang. Broad-sided my brother's car ..."
"It was an accid ..."
"What are you?"
"Excuse me? What am I? I'm a Colonel ..."
"I mean you and your friend what the fuck are you? I saw the way you two looked at each other. Are you like ... gay? Faggots. A fuckin' faggot driving a little sports car hit my brother's car. A faggot is sending my brother to surgery?"
Daniel stood in the doorway, privy to the conversation, watching in alarm as Jack attempted to rein in his temper. The clenched fists and heightened color of his face warned Daniel of Jack's losing battle.
"Leave it Jack. It's not worth it."
"Daniel?" Jack turned, surprised to find Daniel standing in the cubicle's doorway.
"Look, I'm sorry about your broth ..." Daniel began, Jack aware of the pain this was causing Daniel. The young man turned abruptly around, but not before Jack and Daniel both saw the loathing in his eyes.
"Can you leave?" Jack went to hold Daniel's elbow for support, but dropped his hand before it made contact ... a movement not lost on either man.
Daniel nodded his head, and visibly stiffened as Jack said, "Come on Daniel, I'll take you home." The nurse ran out following them handing off to Daniel a plastic bag and his jacket.
Jack took them from her outstretched hand guiding Daniel out the door. Daniel started to shiver as soon as the cold night air made contact with his skin. Jack put the bag down and put the jacket around Daniel's shoulders. He turned the heat on full as soon as they entered the Avalanche.
"Daniel ... was their anything in the Mustang that shouldn't have been there? Paperwork, artifacts, laptop?"
"Nothing, Jack. For once I listened to you and just left with the clothes on my back." The lack of emotion in Daniel's voice frightened Jack.
"Daniel, it was an accident. The General will help out in any way he can with the insuran ..."
"Drop it, Jack. Okay? I really don't want to discuss it now."
"Daniel, that is why they call them accidents ... no one."
"Goddamn it, Jack. Please ... we will talk later. Not now." Daniel rubbed tired eyes and whispered "Please, later ... I promise."
Jack drove, the silence of the car broken by the movement of the windshield wipers and the rain hitting the window.
"I thought you were taking me home, Jack?" Daniel questioned as Jack pulled into the parking lot of the pizza place.
"No. I'll wait in the car. Then you can drop me off home."
"You're losing me, big guy. Why do you want to go home? When I said home, I meant," Jack shrugged his shoulders "home, as in home, my bed ... home, home."
"Sorry, I thought you meant. I thought ..."
"God, Daniel ... I need help here ... I so do not know where you are going."
"What are we, Jack?"
As Jack couldn't answer Charles Remsen in the hospital, he couldn't find the answer for Daniel either. Daniel sighed and bowed his head in resignation. "I think I was right the first time Jack ... please take me home."
"Jack ... for me ... I need to go home. Tomorrow, we'll talk tomorrow."
"Jack, please don't make me beg."
Jack pulled out of the parking lot sans pizza and drove in silence to Daniel's loft. Daniel had dug his heels into an idea that Jack was totally clueless about, and wanted space to think it through. Not an unusual turn of events in their relationship, albeit one with poor timing today.
"I'll be by to pick you up tomorrow, Daniel. Gotta show off your fancy new bruises to Fraiser." Daniel rewarded Jack with a lopsided grin as he slowly exited the Avalanche.
Jack watched as Daniel walked slowly into the building and stayed until he saw the lights on the 8th floor loft turn on.
Jack humored Daniel. He decided to drive around, get himself dinner and go back to Daniel's house. He patted his pant's pocket, fill Daniel's prescriptions and then bring them to him ... and persuade him to talk.
He dropped off the prescriptions, picked up a burger and fries from the local fast food, and decided to catch a few minutes of the hockey game at home before he headed back to Daniel's. Jack pulled onto his block. His heart pounding in his chest when he saw what awaited him in the driveway. The food forgotten on the front seat, he slowly exited his truck. Daniel must have told the police to tow the Mustang to Jack's house, where it now sat in his driveway.
'Oh God, Daniel." Jack thought as he walked around the car in the rain. Words could not do justice to the wreckage that was parked in his driveway. Aware, how close he actually came to losing Daniel today.
"What are we, Jack?" Daniel's words echoing his head. Jack jumped into the Avalanche, driving off to give Daniel his answer.
Jack let himself in with the key and found Daniel sitting in the kitchen, a mug of coffee in hands. Pouring himself one, he took the seat next to his lover, moving the chair closer.
"He was drunk."
"The driver of the other car, twenty years old."
"Daniel, I thought ..."
"I know what you thought, Jack. You thought, I was distracted, flaky." Daniel hung his head. "You thought what you always think, Jack."
Jack rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "No, Daniel. I blamed myself ... the last thing I said to you was 'hurry home.'"
Daniel tilted his head in Jack's direct. "Jack, after all this time, you should know ... I never listen to you." Daniel choked back a sob. "He ran a red light. Plenty of witnesses who told the police he was speeding. The police and ambulance were amazed that we both lived ... and that I was able to walk away. Twenty years old, he nearly destroyed two lives tonight, Jack."
"Three, Daniel. He almost took three lives. I saw the car ... it's in the driveway. I came close to losing you today, here on earth. Daniel, I'm sorry, you asked me a question I couldn't answer until I saw the Mustang."
"What are we, Jack?"
"We're friends, lovers, two halves to a whole." He pulled Daniel's head down to rest on his shoulder. "I love you ... and you are a man. Are we gay ... yes, based on the definition of the word. Do I wish the world was different, do I wish the world we lived in was different ... of course. Am I ashamed of us ... never. Am I ashamed of the people who judge us because of who we love ... most definitely. Do I wish I could wake up next to you every morning of every day ... of course. Will that ever happen ... hopefully when I retire I'll still be young enough to get it up for you." Jack felt the vibrations of Daniel laughing against his shoulder.
"Do I wish I could do this in public", he leaned and kissed the top of Daniel's head. "Or this," and grabbed Daniel's hand resting on the table. "Oh dammit Daniel, you know I do." Jack placed his hand under the scrub top that Daniel still had on, the heat of the bruises warming his hand.
"I was scared tonight, Jack."
"So was I, Daniel. The fact that I was so scared, scared me."
Daniel turned in his chair to face Jack. The older man mirrored his lover. They held this position for awhile, Jack gently massaging Daniel's thighs. "You look good in scrubs Daniel, you should've been a doctor. The blue matches your eye."
"I am a doctor, Jack ... and it would be eyes."
Jack leaned forward, cupping Daniel's face ... "No, eye ... only one is open. Nice shiner on the other one. Bet money Fraiser is not going to be as nice as the hospital and is going to keep you a couple of days."
Daniel stretched out his right leg, shifted and grimaced. "Oh good Jack, we will have matching knees. In our old age, we both won't be able to ..."
"Don't go there Daniel. Jack stood, "I'm gonna pick up your prescriptions, pick up pizza."
"Pick up Chinese ... come home ..."
"Daniel, short of sounding like a romance novel, wherever you are is home to me."
"Ow, Jack, don't make me smile."
"Make you eat dinner, take pills, and put you to sleep. Don't even look at me like that ... sleep. Me ... you. I'm old and tired, and I hurt just looking at you, so I can only imagine how you feel."
"Hurry ..." Daniel started to say. "Drive safe, Jack. Stay safe, Jack."
"I'll try Daniel ... I'll try."
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