Alone on the Ice.
I watched as Sam and Cam vanished in to the distance knowing that unless some miracle happened soon I was a dead man for sure. I’d known that from the second my foot had gone through the deck in to that icy water. But, now, alone, and with the luxury of a little self indulgence, the fear of my impending death- yes, I was scared shitless - was eclipsed by grief. Jack was dead! Stone cold dead! My heart felt as numb as my leg. There’d been no last minute reprieve, no blinding white flash. How could there be? No sarcophagus. Not on the Tok’ra home world which had been vanishing as we’d fled. No way for Jack to be saved. With no Jack to go home to what was the point in fighting anymore. Maybe that was not how I was expected to feel in this kind of situation. I was supposed to be the guy who never gave up, wasn’t I? But, I’m as human as the next man when it comes to being afraid of my mortality and the loss of someone I love.
Even through the layers of fur, the cold was getting to me. My ass was numb and no way could I even try to stand. I was alone, and that was the worst part, but there was no way that I’d have let the other two stay here when there was a chance they could find a way to possible safety. As for me? Well, insignificant came to mind, thousands of miles of ice, little old me, and a sinking ship, I really couldn’t see any way out of this one, not that I cared anymore, caring was just too much effort. It wasn’t like it was the first time I’d faced death. I should be getting used to it by now.
I already had frostbite, I knew that, and I could feel hypothermia setting in, keeping awake was becoming difficult and now, it seemed I was hallucinating. Where was that light coming from? Maybe this was it, death? Maybe I could welcome it, somewhere, out there, maybe I could find Jack.
“Not like you to give up like this Danny.” I swore I could almost feel the solidness of Jack as he sat down next to me. He looked worried. That was my Jack, he had his own death to deal with and he was worrying about me.
“Yeah, well, things are a little different this time.” I mumbled through numb lips, I was utterly exhausted and the parts of me that weren’t numb were hurting like hell. Maybe that was a good sign, blood still flowing, nerve endings still working, maybe it was bad, it would just drag out the agony all the more slowly.
“Acht!” Jack raised a finger in that long familiar gesture. “Stop sitting there feeling sorry for yourself! That’s just not you!” I could almost feel the warmth of his hand as he touched my cheek. The only part of me not covered. “You can help put this right. Carter’ll give up given half a chance. Mitchell’s a good guy, but he can’t do it alone.”
“Why? Why can’t he? Why’s it always got to be down to me?” I said. If it wasn’t so damned freezing, I’d be crying, really, crying like a baby because I was so tired, I was hurting, inside and out, and I didn’t have any strength left to fight with.
“Because Danny. I’m not ready to be dead. You’re not supposed to die yet. It wasn’t supposed to go down like that. You and I, we’re supposed to grow old together.”
He was right, we’d talked about it. How we were going to find a way to be together without Jack ending up at Leavenworth. Well, that had been before a simple extraction ceremony had gotten completely fucked up. Jack shook me awake. Where were we? Oh yes, Jack was prattling on about helping Sam and Mitchell or something. Oh yeah, the growing old together thing.
“Well, unless you were spirited away somehow, Ba’al’s made sure that will never happen.” I said sadly, feeling utterly defeated. The cold was affecting my thought processes, dulling them, slowing them down. I must have mentioned it, because Jack said that now I knew how normal people feel all the time. He said it with one of those little quirky smiles. At least that would be that last thing I saw, Jack’s smile.
“Just hang on in there Danny. Just a little longer. Trust me.” He paused and stared across the ice. “I have to go now.” He said, squeezed my shoulder and, faded away as I heard the sounds of ice cracking and the ground beneath me shuddering. This was it, the damage to the ice must have spread, the area I was dying on unstable, oh well, I thought, freezing water would be faster than freezing air as I waited for the ice beneath me to give way. I rested my head on the ice, closing my eyes, waiting for the end.
“Hey! I’ve found someone! He’s barely alive. We need to get him out of this cold!” I could hear voices, muffled and faint, I was dreaming, or having another hallucination, first Jack, now a dream of rescue, even so I tried to tell them about Sam and Cam though, just in case it was real.
“Don’t try to speak.” I heard someone saying. Okay, I could do that. I felt as if I was floating. The ice must have given way and I was floating momentarily before sinking in to the dark depths. Everything faded to black.
In The Infirmary
I just sat passively while the medics fussed around me. They’d already warned me that it was likely I’d loose the leg, mutterings about transtibial if I was lucky, stuff that went right over my head. I realised once more how much I missed Janet. She’d had a way about her, warm, compassionate, even when things were hopeless, and she’d never had that condescending air that these guys had, like it was my brain that had gotten frost bitten or something. They said I’d be fine. I almost laughed, they were using my own catch-word against me. Fine, well, that was all relative really, wasn’t it? Maybe I should be a little more grateful that I’d been saved. Or, had I? Maybe this was this part of the hallucination, and I was actually slowly dying on the ice after all? I giggled inanely – he’d said I’d be fine, yeah, like as in what? I’d lost Jack, and possibly Sam, and Mitchell and if Sam was right, maybe even everyone and everything I knew. Teal’c, Vala, everyone. Or did it work that way, this changed timeline thing, or was it an alternate universe, were they the same thing or different, or did changing the timeline create an alternate universe? Sam would understand, but it was giving me a headache. Were there such things as pain meds in hallucinations?
I could hear people talking in hushed voices, something about insane delirious ramblings. Yep, that sounded like me alright.
“Keep pressure on that.” The medic told me as he fixed an IV to my arm, and, I saw no reason not to. At least whatever that stuff was dripping in to my vein dulled the pain and took away the worst of my grief. Maybe my subconscious was picking up on my hatred of being stuck in the infirmary, and was adding to my own personal hell. But then, Sam and Cam turned up, which made me feel - what? Glad that they’d survived, of course, glad that I apparently had? I told them I thought I was hallucinating, they insisted I wasn’t. Wasn’t I? Then, I heard that voice – Jack! But, Jack was dead. It must be the drugs. But, even through that drug induced high, my heart raced faster, until, I came back to Earth, or should that be alternate Earth, with a crash. This wasn’t my Jack, this was a Jack whose son was still alive, who was probably still with his wife, and I’d just told him they needed to return things to a timeline where his son was dead and he was divorced. No wonder he’d gotten mad, stormed out and called us freaks. My happiness versus the life of Jack’s son, it was no contest really.
They asked, so I told them, over and over again. They wouldn’t leave it though, even when I’d just had the surgery, when I was zoned out on the meds, they kept asking and I kept answering, until, in the end, I could feel myself withdrawing like I used to as a kid. Finally, they got the message and left me alone, until Landry turned up and told us our fate.
In The Cab
The official droned on, I tuned him out and stared out of the window. I knew what he was saying, I’d read the specially amended confidentiality agreement. I’d even told them I’d signed one before, when I’d signed up with the SGC before it had even been the SGC. I didn’t need to hear the part about not contacting anyone, not working in my own fields of expertise. God knows they’d told me enough times already. I was stuck until my therapy was over, until then it was too easy for them to keep tags on me. After that, when I had no more PT or Doctors appointments, then I could try and do something. Maybe drop under the radar somehow, find a way to contact Sam and Mitchell.
The cab stopped, I realized the driver was addressing me. I could ignore the official, he knew what he was doing, hell, he even seemed to be taking pleasure in it – after all I was some kind of crack pot, a whack job, a fruit cake. The driver though. Not his fault. No need to be rude to a guy just doing a job.
“Do you need a hand getting out?” The driver offered. I refused. I needed only the help I couldn’t avoid. Apart from that, I’d cope. Just like I always had in the past. I’d had plenty of practice being self reliant and insular, and you know what they say, old habits die hard. I hefted my bag on to my shoulder and got the crutches and made my way to my new apartment.
The Year of Crap!
I dumped my bag in the hall and flopped down on to the unmade bed. I was tired and pissed and there was a dull ache my lower leg- the one that wasn’t there anymore. Someone had mentioned something about phantom limbs. I’d only been half listening. They’d somehow decided that intertwining my surgery with the interrogations – sorry, interviews, would be a good idea. Hell, I’d barely come round from the anesthetic, zoned out on pain meds, and they’d still wanted to get me to repeat everything I’d already told them five times. They had it on tape, video, typed out, hell if they had YouTube in this reality, it was probably on there already. In the end, I’d shut down, old habits died hard, it was exactly what I used to do when I was a kid and being interviewed by yet another social worker. I was good at it too. Maybe not something I should be proud of, but what the heck.
Well, there was a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room and a bedroom. No balcony, I noted wryly. They’d even supplied me with a TV, stocked the ‘fridge, the kitchen had basic utensils, and there were brand spanking new towels and bed linens in the tiny closet off the hall. I found a notebook. It had my new bank account details and the name of the Clinic at which I apparently had an appointment tomorrow. Yes, the good ole AU USAF had bowed out of sorting me out and had dumped me on the ‘Valley View Clinic’ Well aren’t they the lucky ones. The way I felt at the moment, I pitied any poor therapist who got assigned my case. There hadn’t been a word invented yet for how pissed off and uncooperative I was feeling at the moment, and, I could keep it up for as long as I wanted, another thing I’d had plenty of practice at as a kid. So ner ner ner. I thought childishly.
For something to do, I made the bed, damned awkward with half a fucking leg missing. The irony of it hadn’t escaped me either. I’d been shot at, killed, inured, killed, tortured and killed more times that you could shake a stick at, and had always somehow come out in one piece at the end of it. Yet, step in a puddle, and I lost half my fucking leg. If it wasn’t such a pain in the ass it could almost have been laughable. In the end I just threw the sheet over the mattress, followed by the duvet cover and the duvet on top of that. Pillows, well, I managed those sitting down. There, bed made. What now. Unpack my bag. The scant few garment looked pitiful in the closet. They hadn’t even let us keep our cammos!
I took out the cell they’d given me. Ha, yeah, we weren’t allowed to get our own, they wanted to be able to monitor our calls. You know, in case the freaks tried to contact each other. Angrily, I threw it on the bed. I had no one to call, well no one that I was allowed to call.
Bored I flicked on the TV and laughed. They’d even restricted what TV channels I could get. They’d been thorough. I had to give them that! I couldn’t get any of the documentary channels, the history channel or the discovery channel. What the fuck did they think I’d somehow be able to psychically contact people in my profession if I could or something? I felt like a little kid again, being told what to do, who I could see, where I could go. I reckoned I’d be certifiable within a couple of weeks.
Funny how one eats the most ridiculous things when bored. They’d given me some cash so I decided to find a store. Whoever had stocked the ‘fridge had the most boring taste in food ever, and instant coffee! If ever I felt insulted, it was now. Hadn’t it sunk in back in Alaska that I detested instant with a vengeance? How many times, just for the hell of it had I demanded the most expensive brand I could think of just to piss them off.
They’d told me not to over exert myself until I’d had some physio, but, maybe exhaustion would help me sleep, because sitting on my ass like a good little sheep sure wasn’t going too. And what fuck head with a sick sense of humor had assigned me in an apartment on the tenth floor in a building with the worst elevator in the history of elevators. It creaked and groaned and stuttered its way downward. Much as I hated to admit it, if the damned thing ever broke down, I was stuck, I’d be a fucking prisoner, not that the life I was anticipating boded much better.
Oh, deep joy, I was in a totally residential area, not a store in sight, not even a gas station, which meant, I’d have to try and find a cab. Now I was more than pissed. I was fuming. I could imagine the meeting when they’d discussed what to do with us. “Oh yeah, let’s stick the cripple in a high rise miles away from anywhere and see how he copes with that.” Sick fucks! Maybe Ba’al coming and blowing them all to hell would be some kind of poetic justice. I was angry and bitter and it felt good for now.
In the end, I found a tiny little store run by an Asian guy where I managed to get some half decent coffee and some home-made samosas and bhajis. He was a chatty sort, and seemed pleased when I spoke to him in his native Urdu. They hadn’t said I couldn’t speak any of the languages I knew, and, even if they’d implied it, well, I was a whack-job, a few replicator blocks short of a complete bug wasn’t I, too crazy to pick up on subtle implications. A woman came in and my heart sank when she cast a pitying look my way and then proceeded to avoid making eye contact. I guess I was going to have to get used to that. People just didn’t know how to react to those with a physical disability, just the same as in my timeline. People were people wherever you came across them. I didn’t need my doctorate in anthropology to know that.
I left the store grateful that Mr Grewal had put my purchases in a bag with handles that I could loop over my shoulder. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d have to manage the crutches and carry my goods somehow. I sighed. /this was going to take some getting used to.
Well, that little adventure over, and the elevator had just made up to my floor I hasten to add, I put some coffee on and rearranged the drawers in the kitchen. I already hated the dingy beige that the entire apartment seemed to be painted with. Even the rug was beige and there were the kind of lamps I thought only cheap motels had. I’d never been one for interior design, but this was down right depressing. Maybe when I could summon up the enthusiasm I might paint it and get a new rug, maybe not. What was the point really, this wasn’t home, I didn’t belong here, and decorating would be an indication that I was accepting my fate. And that was something I absolutely refused to do. One day, Ba’al would come and all hell would break loose, and maybe, just maybe, those idiots would realize that they needed us, Sam, Mitchell and me. Too late, of course, by the time it sunk in to their heads that this Earth was in danger, the first shots would have been fired from space and this world didn’t have a Daedalus and a fleet of 302s. They didn’t have a ZPM to power the Ancient weapons platform.
The ensuing days dragged by. There was no chance of getting a prosthetic until the scars from the surgery had healed and the stump had shrunk, whatever that was supposed to mean. I’d protested, but, they said that it just wasn’t to be. The prosthetic had to be closely fitting, the scars would rub, and chances are, I’d end up with an infection, which would just slow the whole process down. So crutches it was for at least the next few weeks. I found that more depressing than I’d anticipated. The elevator constantly broke down, the stairs were tricky, I’d tried a couple of times and almost fallen. Ending up with busted limbs wasn’t part of the plan.
So, it would be weeks before I could get a false leg, I had to attend physio, wait for the stump to shrink, and, they thought group therapy sessions would be a great idea. No way, hell would freeze over first. I didn’t do that kind of thing. I’d always coped on my own. The Alt UASF had seen fit to separate me from my friends. So fuck them, I didn’t need anyone, and once I had my prosthetic, the clinic could take a running jump too. I knew I was being difficult, but, that was me. Never took the easy route.
It wasn’t long before I had the TV disposed of. There was nothing on that I was allowed to watch that interested me, the spot where it sat would be great for a bookcase. Besides, I’d started watching daytime soaps and talk shows, I was not going down that route. I needed my brain intact, not putrefied by crap TV.
Nights were bad. With no one to talk to during the day my mind whirled even faster than normal. I spent a lot of time grieving for Jack, I’d had to bottle it all up when it had happened. Even though he was dead in my timeline, he was alive in this one. That was a dilemma and a half. Landry had made a valid point. Jack’s son was alive in this reality, Jack was probably still happily married to Sara, hell, they probably had more kids. Landry was still with his wife, retired and apparently happy. Janet was probably still alive somewhere, Kawalsky too since he’d never have been snaked in this timeline. Jacob, what of Jacob I wondered. Had he died of cancer, or was he still alive? Would Sam be allowed to meet him if he was? I doubted it. Imagine the shock at being presented to an Alt version of your dead daughter. How many others that had died in my timeline were alive. How many who’d lived were dead? This was actually potential migraine inducing thinking.
Many a night I dreamed of Jack. My Jack, those precious times we’d managed to spend together, the clandestine meetings up at his cabin, the conveniently coinciding vacation time. I’d never been to Maui before till Jack had taken me there. I could never help smiling at the thought of Vala’s reaction if she ever found out. No doubt, if she did, Jack and I would both end up singing soprano, hell this was Vala! She’d probably want a threesome.
Other nights, I thought about Shau’ri, Skarra and the rest of the Abydonians. Was Abydos still intact? Was it still ruled by Ra, or had Ba’al defeated Ra, what about Anubis? Was he still a threat not just to Earth, but to the entire galaxy.
I liked a puzzle, and I spent hours mulling over why Ba’al had only gone back to 1939. Why not thousands of years? Change things right at the start. He knew everything, he knew about the Ancients, the Ori, hell, he could have gone back and made sure Anubis was dead before that particular Goa’uld had tricked Oma in to helping him ascend. Or, maybe he had never done that in the first place, hell, wait, he must have. Things would have travelled the same road in my reality up until Ba’al had sabotaged the Achilles. Anubis would have ascended and been half descended. But, on the other hand, Ba’al knew that Anubis was no longer a threat, but, hell, if the Stargate program never happened I’d never have met Oma, and ultimately have ended up confronting Oma, and she would never have fought him. This was so confusing.
I finally got my prosthetic, I could throw away those damned crutches and maybe people would stop looking at me in that pitying way. Apparently, I’d been lucky, I’d only had to have a transtibial amputation, which meant I got to keep my knee, which apparently meant that I’d adapt a lot better. I didn’t stop the phantom pain, pins and needles and itching I felt though. I’d lost count of the number of times I’d gotten up in the middle of the night to pee and fallen on my ass as I put down a foot that wasn’t there.
It occurred to me after my last appointment that I’d done nothing proactive since I’d been dumped here. I’d moped around feeling sorry for myself, been an obnoxious bastard to the medics and physios who’d only been trying to help, and allowed myself to do the very thing I’d vowed I wouldn’t. I’d quietly accepted the fate that had been doled out to me. I was pissed at myself, more pissed than I’d ever been before. I decided to use having the new leg as an opportunity for an attitude change. I might not be able to contact Sam, or Cam, I didn’t have their cell numbers, I had no idea where they’d been sent, and the few times I tried calling Landry, my calls were rejected, until, one day they sent their version of Major Davis round for a little chat. Apparently, if I persisted, they’d have me sectioned and shoved in a loony bin. Vivid memories of the white padded room that McKenzie had locked me in haunted my dreams that night. This time there was no Jack to come to the rescue. Well, there was, but he wouldn’t. Not this one. Judging by his reaction on the sub, he’d have had me locked away and thrown away the key right from day one.
“And, as a precaution Dr Jackson, the surveillance on you that had been dropped, will be reinstated. You have proven that unlike your cohorts, you cannot be trusted.”
My heart sank, I’d been aware that I’d been watched, listened to and monitored from day one. I’d learned well over the years, thanks to Jack’s training, how to spot them. What to listen to on the ‘phone line. And, I also noticed when it had lessened. I’d slipped up, and now was back to square one.
“You have to understand Dr Jackson that your psychiatric evaluation showed that you more than either of your colleagues would be the one who’d be the most trouble, despite…” He didn’t say it, but I saw his eyes drift to my leg. I didn’t regret that I’d been shown to be the biggest threat, in fact, I felt a little smug. Jack had always regarded me as a royal pain in the ass, glad to know it stretched across timelines and realities.
Davis left. Nothing like the Paul Davis I knew, the one who’d sat next to me while I’d watched Jack and Teal’c almost loose their lives on that sub.
I realized now that I had no choice. But I had to find something to keep me occupied. One day the shit was going to hit the fan big time. No way could I afford to be locked away in mental health pumped full of psychiactric drugs when it did. I needed to be as healthy and mobile as possible, and for me, being healthy meant stimulating my mind, which was in serious danger of stagnating.
My options were pretty limited. I was an academic; and I couldn’t even get a teaching post as I had nothing on paper to prove my credentials. When I’d asked Davis, as an afterthought, he had said that teaching English would have been acceptable. But that was not an option. But, I could write, I could write about my experiences since I’d first stepped through the ‘gate, and I could do it under the guise of it being science fiction. I was allowed a computer, and I was allowed very limited access to the internet, but, it was going to be monitored, so all the little tricks I’d learned from Sam about circumventing security and firewalls were useless. The threat of mental health weighed too heavily on my psyche. I hadn’t realized how much damage Mckenzie had done to me with his mis-diagnosis back then. In fact, with that in mind, I decided to start of there. I wrote about the Linverse, I substituted the ‘gate for an alien spaceship discovered at the bottom of cenote in Yucatan. But I was brutally honest about being mis-diagnosed as a schizophrenic and how I’d felt being trapped and drugged with no one listening to me. Of course, in my book this happens in an alien planet, with McKenzie and his aides being substituted with cruel aliens. It turned out to be quite cathartic actually, But didn’t lessen my dread of it happening to me again.
I immersed myself in my writing for the next few months. It would never be published, but I still took pride in what I was creating.
It was about a year after arriving here that I went to a new bookstore to find a reference book on astronomy. That’s when I found the book that my Alt self had written. It was a very strange experience turning it over and seeing a crazy eyed version of myself on the back of the dust jacket. It was a thick tome, and I couldn’t suppress a smile as I read the preface. A million thoughts ran through my head. What had Landry called me – him – us? A whack job living on the fringes, just like I most likely would have become had Catherine not approached me that day after my ill-fated talk in New York. I bought the book, at a whopping 70% off, which was a little heartbreaking. But, who read these kind of books these days when there were all those crappy historical romance novels cramming the shelves. Those and biographies of people who’d barely cleared puberty. No matter what timeline or AU, people were always the same. I found it a little depressing really. I also berated myself for being an arrogant snob.
I read the book from cover to cover. I could have written, well, I suppose, in a way, I had. It was exactly my thoughts from before I’d gotten validation from being brought in to the Stargate program. And this Daniel was being reviled and mocked just as I had been in those last month of my old career. If someone had ‘phoned me and told me that I was right, would I have believed them, or thought it was a wind up? Maybe…no, they were monitoring my calls. Unless…….I’d gotten pretty friendly with Mr Grewal from the small grocery store, and, his brother apparently sold cell phones. The kind where you didn’t have a contract, pay as you go I think he called it. Maybe I could get one and call my other self. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted – needed – to do it. I could them dump the cell phone, and my personal spies would never know. If I could have used the same method for calling Sam, I would have, but I still had no idea how to get hold of her, plus, god knows what they’d threatened her with.
Mr Grewal was happy to arrange things for me. He was nice old guy. I’d had a couple of meals with him and his wife when I had to odd sociable moment. Two days later he handed me a small package. I stuffed in with my purchases and handed over the cash.
Later in my dingy, boring apartment, I felt the first twinge of excitement that I’d felt in a year. I thought for a few moments. The dust jacket mini bio had said that he was living in Egypt. If he was anything like me, he’d be staying in that residential hotel I used to use. I knew the number off by heart. Talking of hearts, mine was pounding as I tapped out the number. It was going to use up all the credit I’d bought, but it didn’t matter, this was a one off after all. I heard the ringing tone, and despite my expectations that I’d not get an answer, I heard the click as he accepted the call.
The Phone Call
Should I have? Shouldn’t I have? Would I want some anonymous guy to phone me up and tell me out of the blue that I was right? Well, I guess the answer was yes. Of course I’d want to know there was at least one person on this planet who believed in me. The voice that answered was so familiar. But it would be wouldn’t it? It was my voice after all, a little wary, maybe even a little down-trodden, tired to his very soul, just like I was. The conversation was short, my AU self naturally assuming this was some kind of sick wind up. He sounded cynical and jaded, like he’d gotten so used to being reviled that he couldn’t imagine any other way of being. It hurt me more than I’d realized it would. Had this Daniel’s parents also been killed when he’d been a small boy? Had this Daniel’s Grandfather rejected his young Grandson when he needed him most leaving him to be brought up in a series of foster homes? Without being allowed to do research within my field, I couldn’t find out. Laying low, being a model citizen, that’s what I had no choice but to do until something happened to kick start something in to motion. Somewhere, deep inside, I knew it was inevitable.
The call came late at night, well, maybe not that late really, I’d just gotten in to the habit of sleeping when I felt like it. My missing leg ached. The phantom limb. Would that ever go away? I still went to scratch an itch that wasn’t there. I still felt pins and needles. It still ached occasionally, and I still fell over when I got up in the middle of the night. I groaned, I’d been having a lovely dream about me and Jack, always the interruptions came at the best part. Resentfully, I answered the ‘phone.
It was Sam. It had started.
The Year of Crap
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