The Stranger I Once Knew

Written by Stacy Lybarger
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Oh god it's Jack, my Jack.  Why is he here?  What does he want?  He's here but I don't understand why.  I was certain that after Charlie, after...  I'd never see him again but...  I guess I was wrong.  Why is he here now?  Why has he waited until now to show up?  Why not sooner?  What's been happening in his life?  He looks better but...  God I still love him, god help me I still do.

I wait on edge for him to speak, to say anything and feel my heart skip a beat when he asks about Charlie...Charlie our son, our little boy.  I swallow hard feeling suddenly very nervous, very anxious and very confused. We never talked about Charlie after what happened.  Didn't say one word to each other.  He left.  He just left.  No backward glances, no explanation, nothing just a softly whispered take care and he was gone, gone from my life in an instant.  I hated him for doing that to me, for walking out on me when I needed him so desperately.  I hated the way he shut down, closed off and refused to speak of Charlie.  I watched him go, watched him walk right out of my life.  I should've called him back but...

I watch him now still trying to make sense of everything.  Why is he here now after all these years?  Why?  As he calls for Charlie my heart leaps into my throat.  God he's calling for our little boy as if...as if he were alive.  I can't...I can't handle this so I do the only thing I can...  I flee into the house.

My father sees me, sees I'm upset and leaves the house.  I know he's going to speak with Jack.  I know it and I am grateful.  Let him speak with Jack because right now I just, I...I can't.  I can hear them talking outside and hear the din of their voices before the door opens and I hear his shoes strike the steps as he climbs them.  I don't need to look to see who it is or where he's going.  I know.  I know it's Jack and I know he's heading up to Charlie's bedroom.  I know so I sit and wait giving him time, time he seems to need.  I shake my head still in awe that Jack drove all the way here, all the way here after having been absent from my life for so long.  I can hear the chiming of the clock in the hall, the sounds of a mower being started next door but my main attention is focused upstairs, upstairs on the room I know Jack is now in.  I should go up and check on him.  I really should but I want to give him some time.  I can hear my dad's voice as he speaks to Jack, hear Jack's responses then hear my dad leaving.  I wait and wait and wait for Jack to come back down and when he doesn't I decide to check on him.

As I approach the door to Charlie's room I gasp in surprise.  There he sits on the bed clutching a pillow so closely rocking back and forth.  My god is he going to cry?  What's going on with Jack?  In all our years of marriage I have never, ever seen him like this not even at Charlie's funeral.  This is the side of Jack he keeps under wraps, hidden behind his hard military bravado.  This is a side of Jack no one has probably ever seen.  I turn from the door and head back downstairs making my retreat as quiet as possible, walking carefully down the steps not wanting Jack to feel embarrassed or upset that someone has witnessed this private side of him.  Jack doesn't like to show weakness to anybody and emotions are something he usually keeps locked up behind a mask.  I decide to wait for him and sit in the chair thinking about him and about our precious little boy when the tears begin. They fall from my eyes so unexpectedly but do I care?  No.  I let them come for tears can help heal.

I look up when Jack comes to me.  He stops and actually says something about Charlie.  He even asks me what's wrong.  Well I've been crying, Jack.  Isn't that obvious?  I can't stop myself before I ask him what was going on with him upstairs.  I never saw him like that, on the verge of tears ever. Instead of answering my question he starts talking about Charlie and his love for baseball.  Why?  Why now is Jack O'Neill talking about Charlie, discussing him so openly?  Why now?  Why not when he died?  Why now?

After he talks of Charlie he makes a mention of a Stargate.  What the hell is a Stargate and why does he have to get there?  So typical of Jack to spin a line of bull instead of speaking openly with me.  I shake my head and a tense silence stretches between us before he suggest we take a walk.

I lower to a bench and watch as Jack sits beside me no longer looking at me but staring straight ahead.  He's silent now.  Why is he doing this to me again?  Shutting me out and refusing to talk.  I cast several glances his way quietly urging him to speak to say ANYTHING, but does he?  No.  Okay this silence is down right nerve wracking.  I'm waiting for an apology, a request to try again or just for him to speak.  He still says nothing even after I initiate conversation.  Then the words come...

"You were angry when Charlie died that's why I left."

You son of a bitch!  The nerve to accuse me of breaking up our marriage and sending him away!  I didn't make him leave me that was his choice.  If he would've just stayed and spoke to me, talked to me, let me in we might have been able to fix our marriage but that wasn't Jack's way.  No.  He was a hardnosed military man and to show emotions just wasn't expected.

Okay yes I was angry.  I was so damn angry at the world, at myself, at him...it was his gun, HIS gun that ended our son's life.  If he wouldn't have left it laying around the house...  No, that's not fair.  I know he feels so guilty about what happened.  He probably blames himself and that's why he doesn't talk to me.  He still can't forgive himself for a mistake, a mistake that ended our son's life.

I continue to watch him seeing a side of the man I loved, still love deeply that I never expected to see.  He's being so honest and truthful and actually is opening up to me.  I should be thankful that he feels comfortable enough with me to bear his soul like he is, but then he mentions the Stargate again and I can see the walls rising.  He's shutting me out again, spinning another load of bull.  I feel my eyes misting over when the man I still love rises to his feet and starts to walk away.  No, not again, Jack, don't do this to me again!  NO!  I stand up determined to stop him when he suddenly crumples to the ground screaming as blue lightening seems to dance up and down across his now convulsing body.  Oh god what the hell is happening now?  Shit I have to help him!  Just as quickly as the tremors begin they stop and I quickly help him to his feet determined to get him to the nearest hospital as quickly as I can.

Hospitals, oh how I hate hospitals especially this one.  This is where Charlie died, where he took his last breath and now Jack's in here resting on a bed not moving just...resting.  I sit by his bedside hoping, praying that he'll be okay and that he isn't going to...leave like our son.  I wait on edge watching him, studying him for any movement and feeling my breath catch as he opens his eyes and looks at me.  Thank god, Jack.  Thank you God.

I lean towards him swallowing hard when the first thing he says is that this is the place they brought him, the place where Charlie died.  Yes, Jack, yes this is the same place, the very same place.  I continue to watch him waiting for him to say more, needing to ask him if he's all right, ask him what's happening to him and before I realize it the words tumble from my lips:  "What's happening to you?"

I wait for his answer feeling frustrated and upset when he simply replies that he must get to the Stargate.  The Stargate again...what the hell is he talking about and why does he insist on having to get there?  Why?  I want to yell at him, to demand that he speak to me, tell me how he's feeling and reassure me when he suddenly seizes again.  This time the blue streaks he emits are more powerful throwing him back against the mattress.  I jump up from my chair backing away knowing that what I'm seeing is impossible but also knowing that it's happening.  It's really truly happening.  Suddenly several overhead lights shatter and electrical equipment shorts out.  I scream and run from the room leaving Jack alone.  I'm so scared now that I'm shaking.  What is happening?  What is going on?  Why is he...what's happening?

I feel hands on me ushering me to the wall and watch in numbed fascination as my hand is being wrapped.  I glance up when the overhead lights start going out and jerk my head to the left when I hear a commanding voice I know so well ordering the hospital cleared.  I feel my knees go weak with shock and relief...relief in knowing that the man in that room is not my Jack.  I watch him race to me catching glimpses of three others following closely behind him.  He asks if I'm all right and I melt as I see the deep concern and tenderness in those eyes.  I hear another man yell Colonel and I know instinctively that he is addressing Jack.  Suddenly I realize he's in the Air Force again.  I watch Jack as he turns from me heading towards the room that's housing a man who could be his twin.  I then turn to focus on the man and woman on either side of me as they escort me out of the hospital and to safety.

As they lead me out I know instinctively that they serve with Jack.  They're probably members of his team.  They're both rather young to be in the military but once they have me deposited safely away from the hospital I watch them turn and race back inside to offer aid to their Commanding Officer.  They may be young but they aren't afraid to act.

I hear the sounds of people talking and chatting around me.  I can hear vehicles running and people offering comfort and reassurances to each other. I catch a brief snippet about Colonel O'Neill's team being inside and tune it out.  I don't need to listen.  I know what's happening.  He's inside doing his job and his team is with him.  I feel more relaxed knowing that he's not alone in there but that doesn't stop me from worrying, from holding my breath and from counting the seconds until I see his face again.  As time goes by and people begin to disperse I make my way into the hospital again. No one stops me.  They don't have to.  I know not to get into the danger zone.  I stop right inside the doors and stare down that lengthy hall knowing that Jack is there, hoping he's all right, praying that he's all right and waiting for him to appear.

I gasp and stare as I see him emerge holding the hand of a child, his team following closely behind him.  I don't see them though.  I have eyes only for Jack O'Neill and as he draws to a halt before me I hear the woman mutter that the chopper is here and catch the briefest of glimpses of three people brushing passed me and out the door leaving me alone with Jack.

I feel tears pricking at the corners of my eyes when I look down at the child and see the angelic face of my son.  Oh god Charlie.  Is that...?  I hear Jack say he's not Charlie but I believe that he is.  The boy isn't our son but...

As the boy reaches out to take my hand the tears become more insistent and I gaze only at the small child before me reveling in the feel of his tiny hand gripping mine.  I hear Jack tell me that he has to get the boy back...to the Stargate?  Yeah, whatever that is and then the boy releases my hand and I find myself encompassed in the strong warm arms of Jack.  I hug him back reveling in the feel of him holding me so tenderly showing me without words how much he still cares for me.  I ask him about what the other guy said...does he know what that man revealed?  Jack answers me...he has a fair idea.  As he breaks the hug I watch him as he turns to exit the hospital holding the small hand of a boy resembling Charlie.  I know I sense that this is where our relationship will end.  No reconciliation but we still love each other deeply.  He has another life now, a military life and though I'll miss him at least I know he'll be happy.  I whisper a final farewell to the man I still love with all my heart:  "Take care of yourself, Jack."

He said that we were the greatest together and we are.  Despite the pain and confusion I still feel over what just happened at least I now know that Jack is happy and seems to be doing much better with handling the loss of Charlie.  I love him dearly and pray for the Lord to watch over him and keep him safe.

As the two exit the hospital and become encompassed in a crowd of curious onlookers I smile and send a silent thanks to the Lord above for providing Jack and I with closure and though I don't understand where that twin of Jack's came from or how he became Charlie I don't care for I choose to believe that he was an angel sent to make things right...and maybe, just maybe that's exactly what he is.

The End


© January, 2004 The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.


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