Summary: Jack has amnesia after a mission FUBAR.
. . . .
He was floating on something soft. He couldn’t hear. Where was he? Then pain showed up. His neck, his head, his right leg. He groaned.
There were lights, dim at first, then glaring. He put an arm over his eyes, felt something dragging with the movement. Barely opening his eyes, he squinted through his fingers. There was a translucent tube and a needle in his arm. An I.V.
“Colonel?” a woman asked.
“Where am I?” he tried to say but it came out raspy.
“Here’s some water,” said the woman.
Through his hand filter, he saw a blue plastic cup with a lid and a straw near his lips. He gripped it and sipped. The water was icy cold and he sipped again longer.
“Not too fast,” she said.
He cast a sheltered look at her between fingers, watched her move to something beside him. The glare dimmed. “Better.” Throat still croaked. He sipped more water.
“You’re in the infirmary. There was an explosion and you were hurt. Do you remember?”
She had kind brown eyes; a gentle, pretty face. But everything around her was a blur. He couldn’t tell what color her hair was. “No.”
“That might be due to the head injury. It’s quite common and it should come back to you. How’re you feeling?”
“Pain,” he said. Something told him not to make a fuss. But things weren’t right.
“Yes, you’re pretty banged up. I’ve started a light morphine drip.”
“I can’t see too well.” His voice was shaky and he gritted his teeth.
“I’m going to flick a penlight past your eyes to check your pupil dilation.”
He swallowed. “Okay.” He flinched and squeezed his eyes shut. “Ow.”
“Okay, sorry, Colonel.”
“Is that my name?”
Silence. Which told him she was surprised. So he wasn’t the only one.
“Your name is Colonel Jack O’Neill.”
“Okay.” He felt detached from it.
“Do you know my name?”
Jack tried but came up blank. “Sorry.” He tried to sound apologetic but he was angry.
“Why’s he got amnesia, Janet?” asked a man’s voice.
Amnesia? What the hell is amnesia?
Jack almost had it but its definition flitted away. He turned his head to see the speaker and realized he couldn’t do it well. He reached up to feel his neck and found a collar of some sort there. He sighed. She said neck injury. That was why it felt weird when he swallowed.
He looked up, squinting and blinking rapidly. He wiped at his eyes and caught sight of his right hand. The knuckles were covered in bruises and scratches. He looked past his hand and found a man sitting beside his bed. Auburn brown hair. It looked kinda spiky upfront. Startlingly blue eyes, handsome face, wearing a blue shirt with patches on the arm. Work shirt?
The man gave him a not-smile. No, not a not-smile. A hesitant, falsely cheery smile. He didn’t know how or why he knew that. “Do you recognize me?” he asked.
Jack frowned. He was going to say ‘no’ but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. He closed his eyes and looked away as he shaded them with his hand. Why the hell couldn’t he remember? He felt the fear and dread and tears well up. For cryin’ out loud. Tears? Get a grip, Colonel Jack O’Neill. He wouldn’t cry in front of this man. Or the doctor. Or anyone.
“Doctor Jackson,” the woman said. His doctor? His sight became less blurry. No, not his doctor. She was the one wearing the obligatory white coat. Without removing his hand from his brow, he heard them walking away and he felt his body ease with relief. He didn’t want any pressure. And slowly, the medicine began to work. He gratefully fell asleep.
When he woke, Jack found the head of the bed had been raised and the room was dimly lit. So, some improvement. Slightly crossing the bed was a rolling table that held a book, a bowl of red … gelatin. He couldn’t remember the name so he skipped over it. Next to the red stuff was a white, circular object with a shallow dome. On top was a piece of tape that said, “press me.” He pressed it. It was a dim light. For reading?
He looked down at himself and made a rude noise. He was wearing cotton, light blue with a dark blue pattern. Jimmy? No. Maybe. No. Johnny? He couldn’t remember his own damn name but he remembered this?
He took the bowl of … Jell-O? … and tasted a little bit. Cherry? His stomach growled and he ate the stuff in seconds. The water cup was there and he emptied it. On a table at the foot of the bed was a blue pitcher. It might as well have been across the room for all the good it did him. What the hell was it doing there?
A door opened on the left and a woman came in. A different one. She smiled.
“I’m here to check your vitals.”
“Can you grab that pitcher please?” he asked. His voice was still gravelly and he cleared it a few times. It didn’t work too well. “Dammit.”
The nurse picked up the pitcher and found it empty. “I’ll refill it after I’ve checked your vitals.”
“But isn’t the machine …” he started to say, but she merely glanced at a box on a stand that he couldn’t see. “Nothing.”
“It is. You’re stable.” She took the pitcher and left the room.
“Great. I’m stable,” he said to the empty room. “Please tell me when I’m not. Just no shrinks.”
It was then that he realized he was in a room much smaller than the one he’d been in earlier. Was he that deep asleep to not wake? Or remember waking?’
Growling, he took the book off the table and blinked a few times as he read it. A book of crosswords. He checked the table. No pen or pencil. Jack rolled his eyes with a heavy sigh, tossed the book back on the table. Why give him a book that required a pen or pencil then not … He chewed at his lip. Maybe the thing rolled off the table? He looked down at his blanket, tried to feel around.
Something clicked in his head. He had an injured knee. So why the hell wasn’t it elevated?
The nurse returned with the pitcher, the sound of ice sloshing around. She was followed by the doctor he’d seen earlier. Her name tag read FRAISER. She was wearing a uniform under the white coat. She had gold leaves on her collar. That was a rank. “Military?” he asked, gesturing at her. “A military infirmary? Where am I?”
Doctor Fraiser said, “Yes, and do you remember what NORAD is?” she said, her eyes on the readout machine, but she took his pulse anyway.
“Maybe, I think,” he said. He recalled it was an acronym but couldn’t remember its location. “Air Force jurisdiction, right?”
“Hm Hmm.” She looked into his eyes. “How’s your sensitivity to light?”
He pointed to the reading dome. Bubble. Whatever the thing was called. “That’s okay.”
She pulled out her penlight, twisted it, tested the light against her hand, and twisted again. “Let’s have a look with the light reduced.”
He flinched a bit but this time it didn’t send spears of painful light across his eyes. His temples and eyebrows didn’t hurt. She flicked the light again. He blinked rapidly, but it was better than flinching.
“Normal reaction. If you get any problems, let me know and I’ll issue some artificial tears.”
“Haloes. Artifacts. It can indicate damage to the eyes.”
“Ah. Listen, Doc, can you raise the bed a bit? And see if there’s a pencil on the floor? I got this crossword book here but nothing to write with.”
Fraiser pulled up the arm of the bed and showed him the control pad. She had to rearrange his I.V. so he could use it. He pressed a button and the head of the bed raised a bit. He nodded.
The nurse was already looking under the bed and found a pencil. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He looked at the doctor. “You’re name is Fraiser?”
“Hm hmm. Janet.”
“Who was that man in the blue shirt?”
She made a face. “Here’s the part that’ll disappoint. I have to give you time to remember it on your own. He brought you the book. He wanted to bring your journal but it’s too soon for that. The purpose of this enigmatic nonsense is to gauge your memory loss. I’m sorry. Must be aggravating.”
Jack sighed. “It’s not aggravating, Doctor Fraiser. It’s … fucking terrifying.”
She nodded. “I can’t even imagine what you’re feeling.”
“You said I was in an accident? No, wait. An explosion?” She nodded. “And I have to wear this collar for how long?”
“Is it chafing?” she asked, brows rising.
“No. It’s just hard to wear.”
She nodded. “I know. It has a gap behind your neck. It’s designed to protect the base of your skull, in this instance. You have a concussion. There’s a large contusion and a hairline fracture. Not in the spine, but the skull.” She touched her own as a demonstration. She moved around the bed and slid the table out of the way. “I’m going to check your knee.” She lifted the blanket and sheet and he saw that he wore a bandage and brace around his knee. “You’ve torn ligaments and damaged cartilage. You’ll be wearing that brace for several weeks and physical therapy to maintain range of motion. It’s going to take a while.”
“Why isn’t it raised?”
“No broken bones.”
“Is it bothering you? Would you like something under it?”
“Not right now. If there’s swelling, shouldn’t I have an ice pack?”
“The swelling is mild. Right now, it needs to be monitored for sensitivity. The painkiller is for your neck and bruises. And you’ll need to tell me what aches. I can’t help you if you don’t do that.”
He frowned. “Why tell me that?”
Her brows rose, then she seemed to frown to herself. “Right. I’m sorry, Colonel. You tend to ignore physical problems. You come from the ‘Don’t Complain about Pain’ school of thought.”
“Crap. And here I was planning on going dancing,” he murmured. She smiled. “Can I get something else to eat?”
“I can bring you more Jell-O,” Doctor Fraiser said. At his expression, she added, “I don’t want you using your jaw too much for the next twelve hours. We need to wait for the swelling to go down.” She touched the back of her head.
“Oh,” he said, disappointed. His stomach growled protest.
“I’ll get you some broth in the next hour. Mess Hall’s just closing breakfast. Which would you like, chicken or beef?”
He groaned in frustration. “I don’t know. Listen, whatever, surprise me.” His emotions suddenly got the better of him and he shaded his eyes again as he grimaced. “I’m … not handling this crap well.” He lowered his hand. “Some kind of patient I am,” he complained as she rubbed his arm.
“Frustration is going to be the order of the day for a while. Your head wound, the concussion, the pain, and the stress that comes with all of it. Everything you feel is normal, especially because of the amnesia.”
“Right.” He felt suddenly weak. “I’m starving. It’s distracting. Don’t take too long with the broth, okay?” She nodded and refilled his drinking cup from the pitcher. “Thanks.”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a little while. The nurse will be right back to change your knee bandage.”
He absently gave her a thumbs up and she paused, then smiled and left. He wondered if the thumbs-up was something he did all the time. Was it a sign that not everything was a brain freeze?
He flipped through the crossword book and had no interest in it. He stuck the pencil inside and pushed the table away. He closed his eyes to doze for a while but it turned into sleep. His dreams were blurry except for the sounds of explosions and the feeling of terror as he flew through the air. He couldn’t remember where he’d been, who had been with him. Twice he was startled awake but not long enough to stay that way. Then came a blurrier but restful sleep with no dreams.
Jack slowly came out of deep, dark sleep as muted but persistent voices woke him. He looked around him and pressed the button to raise the head of his bed. Leaning forward, he grimaced at the pain in his neck while pulling the bed table over. He grabbed his water cup and shook it lightly to check the water level. Satisfied, he downed enough of it through the straw to numb the back of his throat and top of his mouth with cold. It damn near gave him an ice cream headache.
A covered bowl sat on a lunch tray. He touched the lid and found it warm. His stomach growled, but he was more interested in the heat to get rid of the cold he’d stupidly consumed. There were foil packets on the tray and he read the labels. B-12. He frowned, shrugged, and downed them with water, then removed the lid from the bowl and sipped from the rim. Chicken. His stomach agreed with Fraiser’s choice.
After he was finished, he thought, “I’m gonna have to pee soon, right?”
Then it hit him why he didn’t already have to. The morphine and general pain had kept him from noticing but now it was unavoidable. He reached for his groin and found the catheter. He was about to complain until he remembered his knee. He sighed heavily. “Shit,” he said under his breath. Knee be damned, he wasn’t about to shit in a damn bedpan. Humiliation was in his foreseeable future. Bedpans, catheter monitoring. Jesus, they were going to know him really well before he got out of this hospital. Infirmary. Whatever. No, dammit. He’d get orderlies to help him to the toilet. This bedpan idea was more horrible than the pain he’d feel.
His attention was diverted by the voices that had dragged him out of sleep. They were just outside his room. Jesus, couldn’t they argue someplace else? He couldn’t hear what they were saying until …
“—hell he will!” said a male voice, and a bunch of shushing followed.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he mumbled, then raised his voice. “If you’re gonna …” Pain hit his head. Fuck. “Talk about me,” he continued at a lower volume, “then either do it in here or somewhere else!”
“Now you’ve done it, Daniel,” said a woman’s voice.
“Indeed,” came a male voice much deeper than the one that had yelled.
The door opened but only Doctor Fraiser came in. “Sorry about that, Colonel,” she said, reaching his side. “Some people want to see you, but I’m not sure you’re up for it.” He started to say something but she held up a hand. “It’s your amnesia. If you don’t know who they are and they’re not allowed to inform you, it will only bring on stress.” She paused, then added, “Stress you shouldn’t have. I know it’s frustrating.”
Jack took a deep, sobering breath. “It won’t help to keep them out. That man from … yesterday?” She nodded. “Maybe I need some help remembering. Keeping me from knowing doesn’t help. It only makes me mad. Now, is the swelling going down?”
She nodded. “Gradually, so that’s a good sign. After your bloodwork came back, there were traces of an unknown chemical that may be partly responsible for the amnesia. It’s information I didn’t have until the others gave a more in-depth debriefing.”
“The others? The ones who’re with me when this happened?” She nodded again. “Well, bring them in. Let’s just dispense with the Keep The Patient Ignorant crap, okay?”
“Okay, but they’re not going to stay long because too many people can be tiring. And because, frankly, they’re just as upset as you are.”
“Like hell,” Jack grumbled. “They’re not hooked up to a goddamn catheter and subject to bedpan horror never mind memory loss.”
“Good news is, you’ll be relieved of that horror this afternoon. The swelling in your knee has subsided and the last x-ray showed your knee wasn’t as damaged as I thought. Doesn’t mean you get to stop hurting.”
“That I know, because it does.”
“But I’d still like an MRI to confirm. I can go over it with you later.”
She turned and opened the door, letting the men and a woman inside. “Ten minutes. You can be free with your information.” She smiled at Jack, frowned at the others, and left.
“Hey,” said the blue man.
“Hey,” Jack said, frowning as he looked at them.
“Daniel,” the man said, pointing at himself. “Sam, Teal’c,” he continued, pointing. “We’re your friends and teammates.”
“Teammates,” Jack echoed. “What kind of team?”
“Ah,” Daniel began. “Stargate team. SG-1.”
Jack grimaced as pain hit his right temple.
“No, I’m okay,” he said, massaging it. In his mind’s eye, he saw an image of a circular device standing on end, its interior ring spinning before the empty center exploded with blue plasma. It sat upon a dais and steps. He was running toward it and something else exploded beside him. Then he was flying. He looked up at the worried faces and explained what he’d seen in his head. “Is that a memory or a distortion?”
The three looked at each other.
“It’s a memory, sir,” the woman said. “Why would you ask about a distortion?”
Jack recalled something. “You’re … Carter?”
She brightened. “Yes!”
“Distortion?” Daniel prodded.
“Because I’m flying after the explosion. A long way. But the angle is wrong.”
“Oh,” Daniel began. “That’s because you weren’t flying. You were falling. You were flying at first, I guess, but the explosion opened or widened a fissure and you fell into it and landed on a small outcropping. At least a hundred feet down.”
Jack watched Daniel swallow with obvious remembered fear. The guy seemed to get a bit paler in the recall. “What’re you saying?”
The tall black man, Teal’c, spoke then. “You were nearly lost, O’Neill. We could not retrieve you for some hours until the area was rendered safe for a rescue.”
“I get the sense we were running from someone? Is that what we were doing?” Jack asked.
“Strategic withdrawal,” Daniel said. “Sounds better than running from those assholes.”
“Right,” Jack said. “Who’re the assholes?”
“The Goa’uld,” Teal’c supplied. “A powerful System Lord named Ba’al. We were running from his Jaffa.”
“The Goa’uld,” Jack repeated slowly. “System Lord? What the hell kind of title is that? From what country?” The question startled his visitors. For cryin’ out loud. “Out with it.”
“Oh boy,” Daniel said and gave a heavy sigh.
“What did I just say? Out with it!” Jack snapped, but the last two words faded as he recalled something flying overhead as he fell. A craft. A spacecraft. Pieces starting falling into place, but not enough of them. “Oh. Alien.” The Stargate Program began filtering back into his head. Offworld. They’d been offworld. “Oh.” He looked into their faces. “What were we doing there? On that planet?”
They visibly relaxed. “Recon mission for Naquadria,” Carter said. “But the UAV we sent didn’t pick up the shielded, cloaked mothership positioned near one of the mines.”
“We were ambushed,” Teal’c said as his jaw clenched. “It would be wise to upgrade the sensors on all UAVs.”
Daniel waved an airy hand of agreement. “Anyway, we hauled ass back to the gate.” He turned to Sam and Teal’c. “We really need some ATVs, too.”
“ATV?” Teal’c asked.
Both Daniel and Jack said at the same time, “All-terrain vehicle.” Their brows rose and Daniel smiled. “You remember.”
Daniel’s smile faded as Jack shook his head. “I remember that. I don’t remember much of anything else. I get impressions. Images. But they fade like smoke when I try to focus on them. Like trying to remember a dream.”
“Frustrating huh?” Carter said.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Jack said.
“Actually, we all do, Jack,” Daniel said. “Remember the brain stamp thing…” He grimaced. “Never mind.”
“But that applies to everyone,” Carter said. “Most people have trouble remembering their dreams.”
“Apart from the bad ones,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, but those are nightmares,” Carter said.
“Except in my case, it’s trying to remember your life,” Jack countered grumpily. His headache returned and wouldn’t leave. “I think I’m done talking for a while.”
Fraiser returned at the opportune moment. “Times up,” she said and held the door open. “You can come back later. Much. Later.” She came over and ran a device over Jack’s brow. “Normal temp. Headache?” He nodded with a grimace. She adjusted his I.V. “Sleep now. We’ll get your catheter situation fixed this afternoon.”
He barely nodded before the medicine took him.
When Jack woke, he felt remarkably clear-minded. From experience, even with this latest episode, morphine lingered with what he called mush brain, so if he was clear-headed, he must’ve been asleep for a long time.
Wait, he checked himself.
Experience? That denoted long-term memory. Except when he tried to grab hold of past experiences, they evaporated, like sand through fingers. An odd metaphor. Why’d his mind chose that one? As he turned over, he found no pull-pain discomfort from his dick. He moved onto his back and reached down. The catheter was gone.
“Thank god,” he muttered with intense relief. And at that point realized he had to take a piss. Throwing aside the blanket, he gingerly pushed himself to sit up and was further relieved when his head didn’t set off instant pain. Instead, there was a duller ache. He reached up with his left hand but put it back down since he’d forgotten that the damn collar was still there.
“Hey,” greeted a man’s voice to his right.
He jerked in surprise. Daniel sat in a chair and he looked rumpled.
“How long have you been there? You look … like you need a shower and a change of clothes.”
“Why thank you,” Daniel replied, trying to sound amused.
Jack wasn’t buying it—and he had no idea why he wasn’t buying it. Had Daniel been watching over him? Rhetorical question, he growled at himself. Watching over him. For what reason?
Jack scowled at him. “I get the feeling you’ve been watching over me. Why?”
“Friends do that,” Daniel said.
Jack detected evasion, and again, had no damn idea why. “And?”
“And? There’s more to it than that. What?” Daniel gave him an enigmatic smile. It looked familiar. Jack stared hard. “That expression means something. Out with it.” Daniel opened his mouth but Jack suddenly shook his head. He didn’t want an answer. Not just now. “No. Shut up. Just … help me to the bathroom.”
He gingerly moved his legs over the side as Daniel hurriedly rounded to his side. When he put an arm around him and took Jack’s right arm over his shoulder, there was an instant familiarity. Not just with the movement. With the touch of his hand around his waist.
“Have we done this before?” he asked as they walked a dozen paces or so to the room’s bathroom.
“In a hospital setting, no. In the field after an injury, yes.”
“Maybe I need a new job,” Jack quipped.
Daniel snorted. “Want any more help or—”
“I’ll manage,” Jack half-growled. He caught a slight smile from Daniel as the man left, closing the door.
It was going through the motions of relieving himself when Jack realized that his left hand held only the needle and tubing. No I.V. No wonder he didn’t have the mush brain from a morphine drip. Still, his dick hurt as he peed so maybe the morphine would’ve been appreciated. But, on the other hand, he’d rather have a hurt dick than the catheter and the drug.
He did a cursory wash-up because his right knee was beginning to ache something fierce. “Shit,” he spat loudly.
“Jack?” came Daniel’s muted voice.
“Come help me back!” Jack called.
Daniel did so. As Jack lay back down, he sighed as the pain in his knee subsided to a dull throb. “Should’ve left the morphine drip,” he grumbled. “Knee hurts like shit.”
“Ah,” Daniel said. “Be right back.”
Frowning, Jack wondered where he’d gone. Then he wondered why he cared. Then he wondered why there was an odd … panic … in his emotions when Daniel left. Friends. But clearly, there was more to it. More than friends? The panic changed to a sense of loss he found familiar, but it was faded, like remembering something from an old photograph.
Daniel returned with something in his hand. Blue and plastic. Ice pack.
“Ah,” Jack said.
When Daniel laid it over his knee, on top of the bedding, the cold slowly seeped into his knee. Jack groaned with relief. “Better.” Daniel nodded. Jack gave the man a thoughtful look. “This friendship thing between us. There’s more to it.”
Daniel adopted a slight smile but there was more of it in his eyes. “There sure is. But before we get to that, I just gotta say that I know exactly how you feel with the memory loss.”
“How’s that?” Jack asked, growing just a bit annoyed at the side-step.
“Because it happened to me about seven months ago. Although mine was forced into place, not from an ‘injury’.” He made air quotes.
“How’s that?” Jack repeated.
“Um… it’s a long story. You really wanna hear that right now?”
Jack stared at him for a three-count. “No, Daniel. I want to hear the ‘friends’ explanation.” He too made air quotes.
Daniel swallowed, nodding, and with a deep breath, he opened the left front pocket of his shirt and retrieved something. He held it out for Jack to take. “Does this look familiar?”
It was a two-toned ring band. Its design was that of Celtic knotwork with two hands surrounding a crowned heart.
Jack felt a warmth spread throughout his body as he peered at it, and the warmth increased when he looked at the inscription on the inside:
Mo Ghrá Go Deo.
He frowned then, not understanding what it meant. But he understood clearly what the ring was.
“I think it’s an Irish friendship or wedding band.” He swallowed and looked at Daniel. The warmth he felt included him. He didn’t understand how. He only knew it did. Yet there was something … “Is it mine?”
Daniel nodded slowly, his eyes bright with glistening emotion, as if he was fighting back tears. “It’s one of two.” He cleared his throat and crossed his arms as if to hug himself.
Emotion caught in Jack’s throat. “Wait …” He suddenly reached out. “Your hand.” Daniel deliberately gave him his right hand and Jack slapped it. “Your left.” Daniel’s expression went blank as he gave Jack his left. The ring finger wore the duplicate ring. Jack didn’t understand the significance. He told himself he was thinking too hard. He wasn’t focusing on what Daniel was silently telling him. He was trying to remember it instead. The only memory he could find was an image of a Catholic water font. Something of creamy marble with a double inlay of blue stone—Lapis?—and gold along the inner edge.
Still holding Daniel’s hand, he looked up to find that the man was looking away, blinking a lot. Daniel cleared his throat and sharply pulled his hand away.
“I gotta go. I’m late … for …” Daniel said, and he rushed out of the room.
Jack scowled, but it smoothed out as he realized he was still holding the ring. The wedding ring. His wedding ring. Another memory materialized. The ring cost $3,200.00. 18-carat white and yellow gold.
He stared at the inscription again.
Mo Ghrá Go Deo.
He tried to call up what it meant and it wouldn’t come. A headache formed at his temples and he massaged them. With a sigh, he let his head fall back. Within moments, he fell asleep, thinking of the inscription, and dreamed.
. . . . . . . . .
“I’m not so sure this is a wedding ring,” Daniel said. “I mean, I know the significance and history of the Claddagh ring and—”
“Daniel, it’s been a wedding ring in my family for about five million years. Please do me the courtesy of believing that this is a proper wedding ring.”
“I’m not disbelieving. I just …” Daniel looked at the rings again. “Maybe I subconsciously convinced myself that a precious gemstone had to be involved. Maybe I convinced myself that the Claddagh meant only friendship.”
“You’re thinking too much. It’s a wedding ring in my family that means love, loyalty, and friendship.”
Daniel stared at him and nodded. “That’s all it really needs to mean, doesn’t it?”
It was rhetorical.
Jack told the woman behind the counter to order the rings.
“With an inscription,” Daniel suddenly said.
“Very well,” the woman said, and put pen to order pad. “What would you like?”
“Daniel?” Jack asked. “We don’t need one.”
“Indulge me?” Daniel asked.
Jack made a show of an exaggerated eye roll and heavy sigh. “Go ahead. I’ll wait outside. Surprise me.”
Jack, at the altar, was given the ring by an emotional Teal’c, his expression full of pride. Carter, a brilliant smile on her face, handed Daniel his ring. Jack looked at it, marveling at the white and yellow gold Claddagh design. Then his eye caught the inscription. “Mo Ghrá Go Deo.” He had no idea what it meant. He looked into Daniel’s blue eyes.
“My love forever,” Daniel said.
“Hopeless romantic,” Jack said with a lop-sided grin.
The chaplain cleared his throat. “Gentlemen?”
“Right, sorry!” Daniel said.
“With this ring …” the chaplain began.
. . . . . . . . .
Jack woke. He started to search for the ring when he realized that he’d unconsciously put it on his ring finger. He stared at it, took it off, and read the inscription. “My love forever,” he mouthed to himself.
And he remembered. Not quite all of it. He still couldn’t remember the combat injury or the events leading up to it. Not yet. Fraiser had told him that he might never remember since it was emotionally traumatic.
“Horseshit, Doc,” he’d told her. “I’ll remember.”
When had he had that conversation?
His mouth dropped open when he realized it had nothing to do with this latest injury. It had to do with getting zapped by the blue crystal Unity. Six years ago. It felt more like ten.
And then it hit him that he was remembering more and more … while avoiding the wedding memory. No. Not avoiding. Feeling guilty for forgetting it, and Daniel. In Jack’s long history, it was what he did. Guilt led to masterfully burying the reason for it. It had been a requirement when he was involved with Special Services. And while the Stargate Program sort of fell under that because it too was Top Secret, it wasn’t the same thing at all.
This job was nowhere near the same. For one thing, friendships weren’t fly-by-night. They were permanent. Like with Teal’c, Carter, Hammond, and … Daniel. Especially Daniel.
From the moment he first saw him, Jack hated Daniel. He was Life while Jack was Death. And the man with Life had saved him his Death. He’d traded his hatred for resentment, because Daniel had chosen to stay with the Abydonians. With Shau’re. Jack resented it because he’d found an unlikely bond with him that would grow into something permanent.
It was something he couldn’t risk having. Since Charlie, he hadn’t wanted to risk his heart again. But then came Teal’c. Carter.
Daniel, who challenged him. Who didn’t blindly back his play. It took Jack seven and a half years to figure out that it wasn’t that Daniel didn’t trust him completely—that it wasn’t because there was blind trust. It was because it was Daniel’s nature to always question. To always find other solutions. To find flaws. To fix. To protect.
Until the wedding when, after exchanging their vows, Daniel said to him, in front of friends and acquaintances …
“It isn’t that I don’t back your play. It’s because I’m watching your back. I’m never, ever going to stop. You have my heart until the end of time.”
Jack remembered it all. And all it had taken was the inscription on the ring. And a dream.
. . . .
It was the middle of the night when Jack’s bladder woke him up. The wall clock said 3:10 a.m. He cautiously, slowly, made his way to the bathroom with the walker that Fraiser had provided. He hated feeling weak. He hated being injured.
He hated feeling guilty. Because he’d been pretending that he hadn’t regained his memory. Because Daniel hadn’t come back to see him. He’d been missing for ten hours. Not from the job, he was certain. Just from the infirmary.
After relieving himself, he needed an ice pack for the knee. It was routine now. Every time he’d exercised in the last twenty-four hours—mostly when using the bathroom—an ice pack was required. His collar was gone. The swelling was gone. The needle and tubing were gone. He would be sent home later today. He would then be on medical leave for about two weeks, on desk duty for eight.
And did Daniel know any of this? Know that Jack would be sent home? To their home?
Jack tried not to be angry or resentful. He knew that Daniel was working through his own issues. To have a husband who didn’t remember him. That had to hurt.
With a sigh, Jack waited for the nurse to bring the ice pack.
Daniel did it instead.
A little déjà vu.
Once more, Daniel sat beside him and placed the pack on his knee.
“You can’t sleep?” Jack asked him.
Jack only nodded. He waited. It only took a minute. Daniel finally noticed that Jack was wearing his ring. He stared into Jack’s eyes for long seconds.
“What do you remember?” he finally asked.
“Almost everything,” Jack told him.
Daniel’s mouth worked silently before he said, “Oh.” It was followed by a hesitant smile. “They hadn’t said you remembered.”
“I was faking it,” Jack said. His own smile was crooked. He expected the response and was rewarded. Daniel’s mouth dropped open as his brows furrowed. It made Jack smile.
“You little …” Daniel began. The frown turned to a scowl. “Why the hell didn’t you—”
“I was waiting for you.” Then Jack’s smile faded. “You never showed again ‘til now.”
Daniel sighed, then nodded. He said nothing.
“I get it,” Jack said.
Daniel’s frown was thoughtful. “Do you?”
Jack reached over and took Daniel’s hand in his own, clasping their fingers. “I know you.”
Daniel nodded absently. “Do you know how hard it is to have your loved one …” Then he blinked and his eyes went wide.
Jack gave him a sad smile. “I know exactly how it feels.”
Daniel propped his head in hand, elbow on the bed, studying the man. “At least you didn’t call me Dave or something.”
Jack grinned. “Yeah, I missed out on the teasing. Could’ve been worse, I suppose. I could’ve been a total bast—”
He didn’t finish. He forgot what he was going to say.
Because Daniel was kissing him.
It was verboten. It was against regs.
He didn’t care.
He was back.
And Daniel’s lips were just as he remembered.