Chrysalis 2: Jack of Diamonds


J/D, Mature, 8200 words

Summary: Jack goes through crucibles of belief and behavior and comes out the other side.

Note 1: 1st Quote is from “The Sex is Good” by Saving Abel.  “Not much for talk” is interpreted as the kind of talk he would prefer from Daniel.  2nd Quote is from Green Day’s “Coming Clean”.

Note 2: The Latin chapter titles are a nod to the time when Jack spoke Ancient on two occasions and only Daniel was the one who understood him.

Note 3: Bean Sidhe is the proper spelling for banshee.

Note 4: Changed title from Clubs to Diamonds because of Jack’s hardened shell.

 


You got to know, know my weakness
You always touch in all the right places
We don’t get along that well
Not much for talk, but you’re hot as hell


Secrets collecting dust but never forget,
Skeletons come to life in my closet.
I found out what it takes to be a man.


 

Chapter One: Effugium

flight, avoidance, fleeing

 

Jack shook his head slowly.  His upper lip and forehead glistened with sweat.  There was an incoherent mumble that might have been, “No.”

The was a loud sound, a sort of continuous, whumping, whirring noise accompanied by pops and crackling.  A fire.  At first, Jack couldn’t see, but eventually his surroundings revealed that the fire was burning in the middle of his back yard.  It was about six feet wide and several feet high.  He stood on the deck, staring at it, and sipped from a bottle of Guinness.  Something in the middle wavered, like heat off a blacktop.  He walked slowly to the end of the deck and stepped onto the grass.

As he drew closer, the shimmering resolved into large stack of wood, and within it, a wooden post.  Or rather, a stake.  It was an Auto de Fé, and tied to the stake was Daniel.  He wasn’t on fire, but an odd white smoke, nearly opaque, billowed at his feet like a cloud in a cartoon.

Suddenly sparks from the wood snapped at him and he drew back.  It seemed to shock him out of his lethargy and he ran the perimeter in a panic, trying to find a way to cross without getting burned.  But his running was slow, like half a jog.  It was almost as if he was trying to get a better view.

“What’s wrong?” Daniel called out, yelling across the noise of the fire.

“What are you doing?” Jack asked, stopping at the man’s left.

“I don’t know,” Daniel shouted back.  “You’re the one who put me here!”

“I did not!” Jack said, scowling.

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t.”

Yes, you did.”

No, I didn’t.”

“Then how am I here?”

“I don’t know!”

“What, you think I put myself here?”

Jack’s annoyance grew and as usual, he snapped out a sarcastic answer.  “I don’t know! Maybe you did!”

“You see!  That’s exactly what I’ve been saying, Jack!”

Jack blinked.  “What?” he said, confused.  It wasn’t a question.

“You don’t like something I say, so you deflect with sarcasm!”

“I don’t like most of what you—” he began, but Daniel screamed, and as if the act of screaming was the catalyst, fire leapt to his lower legs.

“Right there!  You’re killing me!”

“What are you talking about?” Jack screamed back.

“Sarcasm!  Deflection!  And why are you standing there?”  The fire was up to his waist.  “Why?”

“I don’t want to get burned!” Jack screamed back.

“So it’s okay for me to burn to death instead?”

Daniel was suddenly suffused in the flames and his question echoed around the backyard.  Jack was abruptly reminded of his grandmother’s folk stories about bean sidhes and he whirled to his right.  When he turned back to the left, the fire and stake apparatus was gone, and Daniel stood there, covered in soot and ash, his skin pocked with small burns.  The burns weren’t from a fire, but resembled the ones caused by radiation sickness.

“Do I have to ascend again in order to get you to love me?  For you, that’s safe, isn’t it?”  And he suddenly melted into his clothes, metamorphosing into the white trails of ascension…

 

Jack lurched up on an elbow, covered in clammy, cold sweat.  “Go away,” he panted, and waited for his heart to slow before he grumpily whipped the covers back to go take a leak.  Afterward, he stood in the bathroom doorway and looked to his right, considering the kitchen and the liquor bar next to it.  Should he?  Shouldn’t he?

“Screw it,” he said, and went to get himself a few fingers of scotch.  Returning to bed, he propped up his pillows and turned on the flat screen that hung on the wall across from the bed.  ESPN appeared, and in the dark, the screen was too bright.  He put up with it, squinting against the irritation.  Anchors were talking about something, but Jack wasn’t paying attention.  Daniel’s question repeated itself in his head.

“Do I have to ascend again in order to get you to love me?”

The look on Daniel’s face had spelled anguish and desperation and when he’d ascended, Jack had the feeling that he’d done it against his will.  He frowned, his eyes dropping to stare at colors at the bottom of the screen, but he didn’t see those either.  He started to question, to examine the dream, and suddenly an anger rose inside him and he growled in disgust and shut off the TV, downed the drink, and dropped back to sleep.  Thankfully, doing such a thing was easy.  It was staying asleep that was the problem.  In his dreams to come that night, figures asked him why he thought staying asleep was his only problem.

 

Jack decided it was a black t-shirt, olive drab trouser sort of day.  He posted the sign at the desk sergeant’s post on Level 11, letting everyone on base know the moment they came in for work.  As he went through the duty rosters and the sign-in sheets for visitors …

Did everyone forget he was also the unofficial Second-in-Command? The desk sergeant apparently did. Newbie.

… the back of his mind was working on other problems.  First and foremost was Hammond’s decision to reassign Daniel to SG-6.  That was not like him.  When things were kosher, so to speak, Hammond always gave them reasons for a decision.  When things were not kosher, there was something else at play.  In Jack’s opinion, this was Daniel’s doing.  He’d made the request, and it was just like Hammond to take responsibility for it in order to keep his command—and personnel—running smoothly.  Plus, Jack remembered a scene several months back when he’d found Daniel in Hammond’s office and the General telling him he needed time to consider his request.

The anger began to rise, and it was a familiar reaction.  Daniel did something, he got mad.  A voice from a dream said, Daniel doesn’t have to do anything for you to get mad at him.  This is your fault.  The anger increased, but this time, it was directed at his subconscious.

After a few seconds, he killed it.  He was a well-trained, well-oiled machine, goddammit.  With experienced ease, he pushed the troubles aside and went about studying the specs for the next order of business:  trying to find a way to beat that Goa’uld sonofabitch, Anubis.  And find whatever in the hell that goddamn Lost City shit was.  He had serious doubts about it.

Because it was Daniel who said it.  Why are you on an active hate campaign?

With intense frustration, Jack paused in the act of pouring his coffee and looked around the mess hall, as if someone else had spoken that thought out loud.  Or if someone had possibly heard it.  What the goddamn hell?  There came another whispering sentence then.

“Everyone look away.  I want no witnesses.”

The words he’d said when Daniel had come back with them from that Ancients’ planet and had joined their briefing about the tablet from Abydos.  He’d wanted to reach across the table and smack him.  Daniel had only been sarcastic.  Why hit him?

Jack shook it off and grabbed a paper while he chose a table along the far wall and sat down with his breakfast.  A glance at the digital military clock on the wall read 0634.  Only five other people were there this early.  Siler was one of them, and he was having breakfast with Walter.  Davis.  He used the Sergeant’s first name to distinguish him from the Lieutenant Colonel at the Pentagon that was still their floating liaison.  As he moved his scrambled eggs onto the piece of toast, he mused that it had been a while since they’d seen the man.  Had he been reassigned?

The verb returned him to thoughts of Daniel.  Okay, fine.  Let’s figure out why he’d asked for reassignment.  After a few minutes, Jack had no answer and shoved it aside again.  He scoured the newspaper and after reading two pages, he realized that a single word kept grabbing his attention.

Fire.

The nightmare returned in its annoying detail.  Why the hell was he remembering this particular one?  He’d had plenty of them, in varying themes, for the last year.  Even before Daniel returned.  It was a bunch of nonsense in his subconscious.  He had to find a way to stop having them.  Sleeping pills, maybe.  An image from the nightmare last night entered his mind and he shivered.

His appetite took a powder and he sighed.  He still needed the food so he forced himself to eat, then dumped the tray in the mess receptacle and left with his coffee.  Exchanging sleepy hellos to people as he passed (their sleepiness, not his, he told himself firmly), he headed for Teal’c’s quarters.  Unfortunately, he was annoyed to find out from the SF on duty nearby that his big Jaffa friend had spent the night at Daniel’s.  For an odd, irrational moment, Jack felt betrayed.  Teal’c was his best friend, wasn’t he?  So what the hell …  The rational side of his mind reminded him that he wasn’t Teal’c’s minder.  He could go wherever he wanted, visit whomever he wanted.  But the irrational side said he still didn’t like it.

Grinding his teeth, he made a b-line to Hammond’s office and in the elevator, grew annoyed at the constant stopping.  They needed more of them.  By the time he got to the Briefing Room, having filled his mind with that subject, he had a plan all worked up.  It took over any other thoughts he was supposed to have for that morning.

Jack knocked on the General’s door, and absently made a note that his body was fraught with tension.  Maybe he needed to go to the base gym.  Run it out of his system.

“Come,” came Hammond’s voice.

He opened the door and poked his head in.  “Busy, sir?”

“Not yet, Jack,” Hammond said informally.  “C’mon in.”

Jack shut the door behind him and took his customary seat in the cushy, comfortable chair in front of Hammond’s desk.  “I was wondering.  When’s our next budget meeting?”

Hammond blinked in surprise.  “We just had one.   Don’t you remember?”

Jack frowned, thinking, then cringed.  Yeah, they had.  He sighed and waved a hand.  “Right.  I was just thinking that we could do with a few more elevators.”

Hammond grinned.  “I agree.  But we’re not going to get the money for renovations until we can bring home the items worthy of paying for it.”

Jack made a face.  “Can’t they just do something altruistic for once?”  They being the Pentagon.  “I mean, they waste money on completely stupid sh—stuff, all the time.”

Hammond snorted softly.  “You don’t have to tell me.”  He stared at him.  “What’s really on your mind, Colonel?”

God, the man was sharp.  “That was on my mind, sir,” Jack said, unknowingly fidgeting in his seat.

Another stare, and this one was focused.  “Jack, you don’t really care about things like that.  I know you.  Say what’s really on your mind.”

“Like what?” Jack asked, ignoring all inner voices.  He’d learned a long time ago how to ignore uncomfortable thoughts.  Only the recent nightmares brought them back up to harass him.  Damn, he really did need to go to the gym.

“You tell me.”  When Jack didn’t answer, Hammond gave him a worried look and leaned forward.  “Jack,” he said softly.  “What’s going on?”

Jack opened his mouth to respond but his brain froze the speech center and he couldn’t figure out how to say whatever it was …

Jack.

“Why!” Jack blurted, and in a shout, surprising both him and Hammond.  He’d heard Daniel’s voice, not the General’s.  He frowned, searching his mind and finding no rational reason for the replacement voice.  He shook his head.

“Why did I transfer Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked, guessing correctly.  Well, partially.

Jack eyed him, though not confrontationally.  The General wasn’t that much older, but he thought of him as a father figure and held him in high regard.

Respectfully, Jack said, “We both know that Daniel was the one who asked for the transfer.  Why did you give it to him?”  He didn’t examine why he’d asked it that way instead of, “Why did Daniel want a transfer?”

Hammond met his gaze with an intensity that was unnerving.  The leader of the SGC had the look of someone who knew things that would either embarrass him or shame him.  Jack had seen that look before on his own father and from Hammond, it was just wrong.  Yes, Hammond was a father figure, but that only went so far.  It was as if Jack had been forced back in time to a moment when his fifteen-year-old self had been caught jerking off in the bathroom.

“What?” Jack asked warily, shifting uncomfortably.

Hammond sighed and pushed back in his plush leather chair.  “Sometimes you amaze me, Colonel.”

Formality.  Shit.

“Thank you, sir,” Jack said, attempting a light, comedic tone, but Hammond’s expression put a stop to it.  “Sorry.”

“I have been thinking about this for a while, now, Jack.”  He pulled the right-hand drawer open and took out a thick folder jacket.  Jack’s 201.

Shit and double shit.

He opened it and pulled out a sheet of paper.  Crisp and new.  He set it over his name plate for Jack to take.  He did, but he didn’t examine it.  He could tell by the lines and format that it was a personnel order.

Triple fucking shit.

“I’m ordering you to see a psychologist.”

Jack’s anger sprang out of him and he stormed to his feet.  “If you think I’m letting McKenzie anywhere near my head—” he protested loudly.

“Stop right there, Colonel!” Hammond said, standing, his expression deadly serious.  A credible warning.

Jack forced an immediate calm in his demeanor.  “General, I’m—”

“McKenzie is gone,” Hammond said.

Jack was intensely relieved, but the wariness returned.  “Okay.  So who am I seeing?” he asked.  The sarcasm edged the question.  He’d been unable to keep it out.

“Doctor Helen Carmichael.  She’s a psychoanalyst.  And very good at her job.”

Jack cleared his throat.  “And why am I seeing her, sir?”

In a much softer tone, tinged with worry, Hammond said, “You have anger issues, Jack.  I am ordering you to address them.”

Jack blinked.  “I don’t …” he began, immediately arguing, but when Hammond’s brows rose in warning, he frowned and changed direction.   “Is this Daniel’s faul—”

“Enough, Colonel O’Neill.  It’s no ones fault but your own, and the downright shame of it is that you aren’t even aware of it.  You need to address this, and you’ll do it three times a week.”

What?  But, sir—”

“SG-1 is on stand-down until further notice.”

“But the Goa’uld—” Jack began.

“Jacob says there’s a lull in the conflicts and Major Carter is due for an extended leave.  She’s getting it.  So, I might add, are you, with a condition.  During that time, you will report to Doctor Carmichael, starting tomorrow.  She’s expecting you.”  When the look on Jack’s face became mutinous, Hammond added, “That is an order.”

Jack realized he wasn’t going to win this one.  The thought birthed more anger and he had to rein it in or earn a reprimand.  “For how long, sir?”

“For as long as it takes.”

 

 

Chapter Two: Psychoanalystae

Psychoanalyst

 

Jack stared at Teal’c in shock.  He was in the middle of a bench press, this time on the machine version, and he dropped the handles and sat up.  “Say that again?”

“You do indeed have anger issues, O’Neill.”

“This from the guy who risked my life going after Tanith,” he snapped.  Teal’c just stared at him.  The defensive anger roiling in his gut told Jack that Teal’c was telling the truth.  He had never reacted to such news before, but now he was taking it out on Teal’c.  “Okay, maybe you have a point,” he grudgingly admitted.

“The fact that you are refusing to see the truth from your friends tells me that Hammond is indeed correct in sending you to talk with someone.”

“What friends?  I see only one,” Jack groused.  “And I am talking with someone.”  The anger roiled up again.

“A professional.”

Jack threw Teal’c a dirty look and stormed out of the gym, refusing to look behind him and give the man a look of apology.  Goddamn, Teal’c.  He didn’t have any fucking right to…

Jack slowed down in the corridor and ducked into the bathroom.  When the door shut behind him, he leaned against it and closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths.  Teal’c was right.  So was Hammond.  Fucking hell.  He needed a third opinion.

His next destination was the infirmary and he found Carter dressed and gathering a small duffle.  He walked over to grab it from her, but she put up a hand to forestall his action.  “I’m fine, sir.  I can manage to carry a duffle.”

“Right,” Jack said.  “Leaving already?”

“She’s well enough to go on leave, Colonel,” said Fraiser as she came in and set a clipboard down on the rolling cart.  She handed Carter two small pieces of paper.  Prescription scripts.  “Follow these precisely.”

Carter smiled at her.  “I will.  Thanks, Janet.”

“I’ll come by tomorrow.  Want me to bring Cassie?”

“Is she home from college?”

“Yeah, and driving me nuts.”

Carter smiled.  “Need backup, huh?”  Fraiser only smiled.  Carter hefted the bag over her shoulder and walked past Jack.  “See you later, sir.”

Jack glanced at Fraiser, then hurriedly followed Carter.  “I’ll walk you out.”  He was silent all the way to the elevator and he got in with her.

“Sir?” she asked.  “You walking me all the way out?”

He raised his brows.  “Something wrong with that?  Can’t your team leader see to it that you make it to your car?”

“Uh, sure, but I don’t need an escort.  I’m fine.”

“I know.  I’m just …”  He searched for an excuse and couldn’t find one.  “I need to ask you a question.”

“Okay.”  He was silent all the way to Level 11.  “Sir?” she asked.

As they exited the elevator, he took her to the side, out of earshot from the desk sergeant.  “Listen.  Hammond’s ordered me to talk to someone.”

Carter nodded.  “I heard.”  When his brows rose in irritation, she added, “From Janet.  It’s not all over the base, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“That’s good, or I’d have to start killing people.”  She stared at him.  “A joke, Carter.  Jesus, you do need downtime.”

“Hilarious, sir.  What’s the question?”

“I’m told I have anger issues.  Teal’c seems to agree with Hammond.  So I’m asking for a third opinion.”

She took a slow, deep breath.  “Yeah, you kinda do, sir.”

He refrained from biting her head off and rewarded himself with a figurative pat on the back.  “Okay,” he fidgeted.  He was doing that a lot lately.  “Tell Cassie I said hello.”

“You could come over, too, you know, sir.”  She stammered.  “Uh, you know, if you wanted … to.  Sir.”

“Where’s Pete these days?” he asked.  Pointedly.

“In L.A.  On assignment for something he can’t tell me about.”

Jack made a face.  “Sucks to be on the other end of that, doesn’t it?”

“It does.”  She headed for the other elevator, now that it was open.  “See you soon, sir.”

“Right,” he said, tipping his chin at her.  When she was gone, he looked around, shook his head at the few people looking at him, and rushed to get into the elevator and head down to the locker room.  As the elevator dropped, he realized that he had no intention of visiting anyone.

 

Doctor Helen Carmichael was pretty.  Thirties, rich brown hair, nice brown eyes.  Blouse and trousers under one of those damn white coats.  She held no rank.  She was a civilian, unlike McKenzie.  Jack walked around her office, located off base at the nearby medical building down the hill.  He studied the certificates hanging in frames on the wall.  The rear of her office was a floor-to-ceiling window that revealed a water garden.  Sweet.  Bet it calmed her patients down.  He pursed his lips.  And he was one of her patients.  Annoyance crept into his features.

“Have a seat, Colonel O’Neill,” she said, her hand gesturing at the eggshell sofa.

“Want me to lie down so soon?”

She sat down in an upholstered chair to the right of the sofa.  “Only if you want to.”

Jack nodded and sat down at the opposite corner of the couch.  It was furthest away from her chair.  She didn’t give him any expression, but she wrote something down on the notepad she held.  He frowned.  “Want me to sit over there?” he asked, pointing at the other end of the sofa.

She gave him a reassuring look.  “There are no rules here, Colonel.”

“Jack,” he said, rewarding her demeanor.  He was relaxing already.  He liked her, but he also held a touch of reserve judgment.  Just in case.  He really, really didn’t like shrinks.

“Jack,” she said, nodding once in acknowledgment.  “So, what shall we talk about?”

 

It had taken two weeks to open up a little.  Three more to open up a lot more.  And another three to be able to discuss the way he expressed himself.  Jack told Doctor Carmichael that it was like pulling pubic hairs.  With a molten hot tweezers.  He also discovered the depths to which he would sink in order to avoid talking to people on an intimate level.  Not with the doctor, but with everyone he knew.  The only person he didn’t stonewall was Hammond, but even then, he had to keep him at arm’s length.  Then there was the issue of what was advisable to share.  He trusted Hammond as well as anyone, but there were secrets that needed to be kept.  Total honesty was not a good policy in the military.

And that was also a part of the problem.  Doctor Carmichael made him realize that there was a lot about life in the military that he had both ignored and taken for granted.  The biggest issue?  Regulations that forced its members to lie while at the same time promoting honesty and honor.  It was a hypocritical system that buttressed personal corruption and created deep, personal guilt for those who held high moral standards.  Such a system expressed itself in a spectrum from subtle to horrific.  Jack hadn’t approached the latter in any way, but he was more than half the way there.  And, of course, the refusal to open up to anyone put him at great risk.

“Stoicism isn’t a positive trait,” the doctor had said.

It had surprised Jack because he hadn’t considered himself stoic.  At the end of the eighth week and twenty-fourth visit, he said, “What do you define as stoic?”

“It manifests in many ways, but the basic definition comes from the Greek philosopher Zeno, and it means to endure pain and hardship without displaying feelings and without complaint.  On the one hand, It’s positive when it manifests as great patience and in certain Buddhist sects, this discipline enables them to channel and harness great strength of will.

“The other side of that, the negative traits, twists the patience so that a person will tolerate abuse and injustice, and sometimes to inflict it themselves.  On a personal level, tolerating abuse can turn into a form of resistant masochism.”

“Oh, is that all,” Jack joked.

She smiled slightly and gave him a pass on the sarcasm.  “It also manifests in the denial of positive expression.  For example, not being able to say I love you, because you’ve been taught that it’s a weakness to show love in that way.”

Jack fidgeted with embarrassment.  “So you’ve made me believe.”

“No, I didn’t make you believe.  I showed you that it’s what you were taught.”

“Figure of speech, Doc,” he said, giving her an impatient frown.

“Figures of speech are quite different.  You misspoke.  That’s the difference.”  He sighed, and wasn’t going to argue.  She seemed pleased with his reaction.  A test.  She was always testing him.  In many ways, she was teaching him to restructure his own personality.  To use patience in better, more constructive forms.  And when he messed up, she had to make a point about it.

“You see what you just did?  That is a form of stoicism, when you refrain from attacking someone when they’ve touched a sore spot.”

Jack frowned.  “I thought that was the Buddhist way, not that Greek guy.”

She grinned.  “The two belief systems are similar, although the latter isn’t a religion.  Back to the point.  You have trouble expressing yourself because you were taught that stoicism is best way to live.  But it isn’t.  It causes a lack of communication, and that creates unhealthy relationships.  And then there’s the sexual component.”  He shifted on the sofa, indicating discomfort.  It happened every time she broached the subject.  “Stoicism keeps people from learning.  It breeds misinformation and downright lies, culminating in fear of the unknown and a fear of being different.”

Jack frowned.  “I don’t see that.  Keeping your feelings to yourself isn’t a bad thing.”

“Not if it’s done in moderation, like everything else.  And you jumped over that last bit.”

He eyed her with annoyance.  “Noticed that, huh?” he asked rhetorically.

She gave him a pass on that one too because it was leading him to the heart of the matter.  “It’s now time to talk about your bisexuality.”

Jack blinked.  “We’ve already discussed it.  I have to accept that I like both women and men.  That I don’t have to choose.”

“And have you?  Accepted it?”  Again, more fidgeting, and she knew the answer.  “That’s why we have to talk about it.  What’s holding you back from accepting it?”

He chewed at his lip.  “I’m not sure,” he said, and a slight wince came at the end.  She only looked at him and after eight weeks, it meant that she knew he was lying.  “I’m not homophobic,” he blurted out.

“You were raised that way,” she reminded him.  “Until you’ve rejected it fully, you will harbor an internal fear of yourself.”

“I don’t fear what I am,” he countered.

“Something is going on,” she said, tapping her temple.  “And you think the bisexuality means you’re ‘wrong’.”  She made air quotes.  “You think you have to choose.  It’s known as self-hatred and self-loathing.”

“I know that,” he snapped.

She leaned forward on her chair.  “There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual.”  When he didn’t say anything or look at her, she commanded, “Say it with me.  There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual.”

He didn’t comply.

“Say it with me, Jack.”  She then repeated the phrase slowly, giving him a chance to catch up.  He resisted her request until the last two words.  “Again.”  They both said the phrase.  “You need to repeat that to yourself every day.  To repeat it out loud.  There’s a cognitive acceptance when words are spoken rather than simply thought.”

“Daniel says tha—” he began, then halted, surprised at himself.

“Says what?” she asked, glossing over his slip.  It was a breakthrough.  He’d been avoiding saying his name.  When talking about the past relationships, when it came to discussing Daniel, Jack had used the professional title instead of the personal name.  That in itself was telling, connected to the self-loathing of being bisexual.

“Nothing.”

She got up and moved to sit beside him.  She took his hand, a gesture that forced him to look at her.  “There is nothing wrong with your feelings for him.  What is wrong is the way you have punished him for it.  Don’t you think it’s time to move past that and accept what he means to you?”

He tried to drop the subject.  “Aren’t you supposed to help me deal with the anger?  Not smooth over relationships.”

“They’re all connected.  He makes you angry.  You need to address it.  So here we are.  And again, I ask the question.  Don’t you think it’s time to stop punishing him and accept what he means to you?”

“Yes,” he said, closing his eyes as he gave in.  “But it’s just … hard.  It feels …”

“Weak,” she finished.

He nodded.  “It’s ingrained.  I don’t know how to change that.”

“By forcing yourself to perform certain actions—thinking actions—whenever you balk.  Remember?  Action number one was …?”

“Acknowledge the feeling,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“Number two?”

“Repeat the knowledge out loud, when alone or when appropriate.”

“Number three?”

“Let the object of the issue know what’s going on in my head.”

“Okay,” she said, patting his hand and standing up.  “Let’s discuss this in our next session.  And I want you to repeat the mantra and repeat the steps to get past the self-loathing.”

“’There is nothing wrong with being bisexual’,” he repeated.  “And go through the list. Identify the core emotion.”  God.  It was so exhausting.

 

 

Two Months Later …

 

“Doc, I’m not getting anywhere.  So far, all we’ve talked about is shrink stuff for my head.  I still have no idea how to put that to good use in order to change my behavior.”

She smiled.  “The groundwork has been laid.  And I’m not a shrink.”

His brows climbed up his forehead to rest in his hairline.  “Then what are you?”

“A psychoanalyst.”

“That’s a shrink.”

“No.  A shrink is a psychiatrist.”

Jack was confused.  “I thought that word applied to all head doctors.”

“Well, it can.  Psychiatrists and Psychologists.  But I’m a psychoanalyst.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Psychoanalysts are like psychologists in that we usually deal with emotional issues.  We don’t prescribe medication.   However, our approach is different from that of conventional psychologists. Psychoanalysis is a method of searching through a person’s subconscious memories for the source of their current difficulties, rather than focusing on conscious memories.  We also meet much more often with our clients, rather than meeting only once a week, as is common with psychologists.”

Jack stared at her.  “That was a mouthful.”

She grinned.  “Deflection and sarcasm.  Did what I say bother you?”

“No.  It was just …”

“Long-winded.  You like to get to the point without long explanations.”

Jack raised his brows and shot a finger at her.  “Exactly.  Carter and Daniel—” He cut himself off.

“Carter and Daniel … what?”

“Just Carter now.  And Teal’c.”

“But before, when Daniel was part of the team.  Carter and Daniel … what?”

She always did that.  Never letting him get away with side-stepping.  “They would begin to explain something, and it would be lengthy.  Quite often, I had to cut them off to get to the point before my eyes glazed over.”

“And yet, you didn’t do that with me.”

Jack brushed his khakis unnecessarily.  “This is different.  I kinda have to listen to the long-winded stuff.”

“And it gave you a better understanding, yes?”  He shrugged.  “So why not listen to them?  Or is there another reason you cut them off?”

He made a face.  “Usually, it’s because we’re on a time-sensitive briefing or situation and I need the bottom line.  If I want a longer explanation, it’ll wait till we have time.”

She held up a hand and it was a signal he’d come to know as “I have something to tell you that might make you uncomfortable but you need to know.”

“I called General Hammond to ask him about your behavior during certain occasions where your patience was rather thin.  He gave me a few examples.”

Jack found himself interested.  “Like?”

“One was very revealing.  It was when Major Carter was giving a briefing on the Aschen and you cut her off after the ambassador asked her ‘How’.  Do you think you did the right thing?”

Automatically, Jack began to say “Yes,” but he got only to the first letter before he cut himself off.  “Oh.”  He frowned.  “No.”

“It hasn’t been the only time.  You’ll interrupt briefings held in front of many people, without giving a thought to the embarrassment and insult you’ve done to the speaker.  When it’s a time-sensitive matter and you need to remind them to keep it brief, that’s one thing.  But when people need all the details, boring or not, you need to let everyone hear it.  Including yourself.”

He waved at her after she finished.  “We’ve gone over this a dozen times now.”

“I know.  I apologize, but this last one relates to what comes next.”

“How?”

She clasped her hands on her crossed knee.  “Let’s get back to Daniel.”

Jack fidgeted, unnecessarily getting up to reseat himself.  He couldn’t get comfortable and ended up getting up to walk around.  Most of the time, he ended up at the water garden window, hands stuffed in his pockets.  She never stopped him or told him to sit down.  Instead, she’d turn in her chair to watch him.  The same scene played out again, but this time, he was much more agitated.

“I really don’t see the point.”

“And that’s part of the problem.  You avoid discussing him past a certain point.  And you don’t like it when he becomes the center of the conversation.”

He looked over his shoulder, frowning.  “Seriously?”

“You never noticed?”

He frowned and returned his gaze to a specific water lily he liked.  “I guess.  I just …”

He was quiet for a long minute.

“You appreciate getting to the point, so let’s try a version of that,” she said, and she moved to the sofa so she could better watch him.

He turned slightly.  “What version?”

“We’ve figured out many things.  You’ve done a wonderful job opening up and it was hard.  Releasing and getting to all that anger and where it came from.  You’re used to burying your feelings, refusing to share, examine, and confront.  To accept yourself for who you are.”

Jack rolled his eyes.  “Oh, here we go.”

She sighed.  “I gave you a mantra you’ve refused to use.  So, here we are.  Talking about it.”

“Why?” he said, giving a lift and fall of his hand.  “What’s the point in talking about it?  We’ve already established that I just need to accept the …”  He gestured at her.

“Bisexuality.”

“Yeah, that.”

“You have to say the word.”

“Fine.  Bisexuality,” he enunciated, and then grimaced.

She pointed, casually, not directly.  “What’s that?  Why the face?”

“Because … I still think I have to choose.”

“Why?” she prodded.

“Liking both means you’re screwed up.”

She looked at him, her eyes bright.  He was still resisting.  “Says who?”

“Says everyone I’ve ever been around.”  He refused to look at her and his hands turned to fists in his pockets.

She noticed the bulging strain of the fabric, understanding how upset he was.  He held himself so rigidly that any moment, he might break.

“Take a deep breath.”  He held it.  “Take a deep breath.”  He complied.  “Again.”  She repeated the order a few more times and when she watched the tension leave him, she said, “You’re not ‘screwed up’, Jack.”

“You can’t have both.  Everyone says so.”

“Who’s everyone?  I don’t say so.  Nor do others you’ve known.  Not Josh in high school.  Not Mary in college.  Not Michael in flight school.  Not Sara.  Not Daniel.  None of them judged you.  Why do you listen to people whose opinions don’t matter?”

“My dad—” he began, scowling at the window.

“Was a homophobe,” she said.  He turned to her, eyes narrowed.  She met them without guilt.  “You’ve accepted opinions from people whose advice and beliefs are toxic.  They only reinforce the childhood lessons that made you rigid and uncompromising and when you hear something long enough, you refuse to accept that it’s all been a lie.  You don’t like change, even when it’s beneficial.”

She paused, watching the tension return in his shoulders.  “Forgive me.  I should have specified that I was using the collective ‘you’.  Back to the point.  The truth is that you are fine as you are.  There’s nothing wrong with liking both men and women the same.”

She’d said it a hundred times.  But this time, her words seeped into his mind.  He listened.  There was just one problem.  Well, not ‘problem’, but exception.  He ground his jaw as if fighting to say the words in his head.  “It’s … not … the … same.”

She tilted her head.  “What’s not the same?”

“I don’t like them the same.  Equally.  Whatever.”

She nodded, but to herself.  “You don’t have to.  But you say that because?”

He knew she was pushing him to say it because it had to come out.  His self-loathing was taken out on others.  Except Carter.  Because she was a safe bet.  Daniel … wasn’t.  And once again, she seemed to read his mind.  Damn her.

“You love him more than you love Carter or Sara.  That doesn’t mean you’re bad.  Bisexuality is complicated, just like heterosexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism.  You love who you love, Jack.  There is nothing wrong with it.  You need to forgive yourself or your internal anger will continue to lash out at others.”

He closed his eyes and sighed, his hands almost relaxing.  “It’s … hard.  I don’t know how long it’ll take to do that.”

She held up her hands.  “There’s no time table.  No set date.  As the saying goes, it’ll take as long as it’ll take.”

Jack returned to the sofa and plopped down, almost in the center.  He dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling while his hands lay limply between his legs.  “I want … “  He reddened.

“Go ahead.  You know there are no judgments here.”

“Just clarifications,” he said dryly.

“Jack.  You want …”

“I want …”  He took a deep breath, held it, and chickened out.  He couldn’t bring himself to say it.  He shook his head.

“Remember what we talked about?  Let’s revisit why you won’t finish that thought.”

Her voice was soothing but provoking.  By this time in his therapy, Jack knew what she meant.  This was precisely the problem with his communication skills.  Any love he feels for a man, he won’t say out loud because he thinks it makes him weak.  After a few more sessions, it was revealed that he thought it placed him in the position of a woman.  In so doing, it revealed an underlying accidental misogynism, forced upon him by society and his teachers, mentors, and father figures.  In other words, gay or bisexual isn’t macho.

He closed his eyes.  “I know why.  We’ve been all over that.  Just … give me a minute.”  She did.  He rearranged his thought, his desire, by stepping outside himself and detaching the emotion.  But as he did it, he knew it was wrong.  He wasn’t just avoiding.  He was denying himself love.

He blinked and sat up.  “I’m denying myself.”

She smiled.  “Yes.  And?”

 He said quietly, “I want … to be with him.”  Without thinking, he added, “One more time.”

She arched a brow.

“What?” he partly sing-songed.  He knew she was going to ask an annoying question, and further, he knew which one.

“’One more time’ actually means what?”

He sighed, and his ornery stubbornness fought her.  Himself.  “I don’t know.”

“Don’t you think you do?”

“I hate it when you do that.”

“You do know.”

“Thank you,” Jack said sarcastically, but this time, she didn’t admonish him.  He closed his eyes again and was silent for a while.  She got up to get them both coffees from the machine and when she returned and handed him the mug, he stared into it.

“He really likes coffee,” he said softly.  “I think if you drained his blood, it’d be ninety percent caffeine.”  She waited, sipping at her brew.  He ground his back teeth a few times, annoyed at the silence because she was going to let him chew at the right answer until their time was up.  Eventually, he said, “Forever.  ‘One more time’ really means ‘forever’.”

“Why is that hard to say?” she asked.

“Because it means …”  He grimaced.  His face grew hot and his eyes were stinging.  “It means …”  He whispered the last three words.  “I love him.”

He froze, unable to move.  She sat down next to him and put an arm around his shoulders, her hand rubbing his upper arm.  “It’s okay to feel it.  It’s okay to say it.  Everyone, everywhere, says it.  You’ve said it to Sara.  It was the right thing to say then and it’s the right thing to say now.”  She looked at him, bending her head to meet his eyes.  She smiled, then looked around the room.  “Can you hear that?”

Jack frowned.  “No.  What?”

“Can you see it?”

He frowned more deeply.

“The world didn’t end.  The sky didn’t fall.”

He snorted, but remained otherwise silent.

“I’ll just bet you have this incredible urge to joke or make a sarcastic comment in order to diffuse your feelings.”

“How’d you guess?” he said, and this time the sarcasm was appropriate.  He took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes between thumb and forefinger.  The brief appearance of tears had dried, making his eyes itch.  “And he’s gone.  I pushed him away.”

“Don’t you think he’ll take you back?”

Jack stared at her, surprised.  “What?”

“From what you’ve told me about him, isn’t he the kind of person who gives people second chances?”

“Yeah.”  He looked at her.  “But the damage …”

“I know,” she said, sympathetically.  She rubbed his arm one more time and got up, giving him some needed distance.

“What do I do?” he asked, looking at his coffee again.

“Trust your instincts.  Be his friend.  And see what happens.”  She paused, and her sympathetic face was back on.  “But you need to prepare yourself for disappointment and retaliatory hurt coming back on you.”

“He’s not like that,” Jack said instantly.

“Perhaps.  But you told me that he can be pretty stubborn about things when he believes he’s right.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, nodding.

“So is it possible, just possible, that he might, if you’ll pardon me, tell you to fuck off?”

Jack looked up at her in surprise, tempted to scold her for saying that.  But it forced him to think about the question.  And he had to admit.  She had a point.  “And if he does?”

She gave him an amused smile.  “Then I’d say it was time for flowers and courtship.”

Jack snorted.  “Yeah, that’ll go over real well, doc.”  He paused to make the point.  “Daniel does not do flowers.”

“Then you’ll have to figure out a way to court him in a creative way.”

He let out a bark of laughter.  “How’s that gonna work exactly?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.  “What do you think of when someone says they’re courting?”

Jack stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets.  The clenching of fists didn’t return.  “I can’t believe we’re talking about this.”

She gave him a sardonic grin.  “Okay.  Let’s not use the word ‘courting’.  How about, ‘winning back his friendship and the rest will fall into place’.”

Jack gave her a confused look.  “Better, but exactly how does one follow the other?”

“He loves you, doesn’t he?”

Jack made a face.  “Past tense.”

“Given what you’ve told me about the man, I’m inclined to believe that he doesn’t stop loving people, even when they’ve turned on him.”

“Granted, but those people aren’t me.”

 

Chapter Three: Malum

Disaster, injury, misfortune

 

Jack tapped on Hammond’s door and when the permission came, opened the door, stepped in, and spread his arms.

“General, I’m five by five.  Let me get back to work.”

Hammond grinned and gestured at the chair.  “Close the door and have a seat, Jack.”

As he did, he noticed a letter on Hammond’s desk that had the same letterhead as Doctor Carmichael.  He started to get a bit mad but reined it in.  Find out first if there’s reason to be upset.

“Is that from Doc Carmichael?” he asked as he slowly sat down.

“It is.”

“Um.  Isn’t there such a thing as doctor-patient confidentiality.”

“There is, and it applies here.  This is her report on your status and whether you’re good to go.  It doesn’t get into the specifics of your time spent in therapy.”

“Okay,” Jack said, breathing easier.  A little.  “What’s she got to say?  ‘Cause I gotta tell ya.  I have orders to make nice with Daniel.”

Hammond’s brows shot up.  “Are you serious?”

“Well, it’s sort of like AA, sir.  She suggests I try to make amends.”  Hammond didn’t need to know that it wasn’t just to repair the friendship.  Jack gestured at the letter.  “What’s she say?  Didn’t she mention it?”

“Actually, I just got it and haven’t read past the first paragraph.”

Jack’s brows shot up comically.  “There are paragraphs?”

Hammond grinned.  “I’m glad to see your humor is still intact.  Yes, Colonel, there are paragraphs.  Now, sit tight and let me read.”

“Yes, sir.”  Jack slouched slightly as he literally twiddled his thumbs, waiting.  His normal impatience was gone, and he spent the time staring at Hammond’s name plate while thinking about how to talk to Daniel.  It was, in fact, the only thing on his mind outside of SG-1’s future missions.  And getting Daniel back on the team.

Finally, Hammond set the letter down and folded his hands.  “Doctor Carmichael is very impressed with your therapy.”

“She is?” Jack asked.  He had left her office thinking he was a student who’d been given homework.

“She is.  She mentions that you’ve done well and you’re ready to come back to work.  She wants to see you once a week for another few months.  To quote her, ‘to check on your progress’.”  Hammond paused.  “Are you at liberty to tell me what she means?”

“Patience and anger control, sir,” Jack said, the words rolling off the tongue easily.  He’d been rehearsing them on the drive to the mountain.

“Ah.”

“I’m not going to say that I won’t get mad, General.  I’ve only learned that I can’t fly off the handle unreasonably.

Hammond grinned again and stood.  “Well, that’s a start.”

“So,” Jack said, standing up with the General, and clapping his hands together.  “Where’s Carter and Teal’c?  I’d like to take SG-1 to visit that planet SG-6 is on.  Have a little looksee.”

Hammond gave him an apologetic look.  “I’m sorry, Colonel, but you’re due to rendezvous with—”

At that moment, Davis’ voice came over the intercom system as the klaxon went off.  “Offworld Activation.  Offworld Activation.”

Jack and Hammond hurried to the control room.

“Who is it, sergeant?” Hammond asked.

“SG-6, sir.”

“Open the iris.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m getting their MALP, not their IDC.”

“Bring it up.”

“Yes, sir.”

Over their heads, the MALP’s camera appeared on the four flat screens, as well as the small one on the console.

“Stargate Command, this is Captain Cornell, SG-6.  Do you copy?”  An attractive Asian woman wearing a dark green utility cap and uniform appeared, slanted, in front of the camera.  She looked panicked.

“Captain Cornell, this is General Hammond.  What’s the situation?”

“Sir, Doctor Jackson has been injured and some of our personnel have been cut off from our position.”

“What happened?” Hammond asked.

“I don’t know, sir.  I was setting up camp for evening rations when some sort of security dome came down on the islands.  Then Doctor Jackson radioed that he’d been shot with a silver arrow.  And before you guess, it’s nothing like the Salish from SG-1’s mission five years ago.  This is a completely different culture and the arrow came from an automated defense system.  We can’t get to him, either.  I think we need Major Carter’s expertise, sir.”

“Is the area accessible?” Hammond asked.

“I don’t know, sir.”  She pulled back and turned the MALP.  It showed several hazy but translucent blue domes over sections of forest.  “The domes have us cut off.  We can swim to the bridges between them but Daniel … I mean, Doctor Jackson … is trapped inside the one on the third island.  Communication is possible, or he wouldn’t have been able to radio us about being shot.”

“Is the gate area clear?” the General asked.

“Yes, sir.  This is the main island and it is unaffected.”

“We’ll send a team and medical staff, Captain,” Hammond told her.  “Clear the gate area.”

“Yes, sir.  SG-6 out.”

Jack found himself anxious and angry, ready to kill whoever or whatever it was that shot Daniel.  His sessions with Carmichael told him to dial it back or he’d unload.  Damn therapy.

“Colonel, SG-1 has a go.  Doctor Fraiser and her field team will join you.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack said starting to leave.  Over his shoulder, he said, “Now, see.  This is why Daniel can’t leave SG-1.  Every time he does, something bad happens.”

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