1. Aftermath

9 August, 0930 hours
Colonel Jack O’Neill sat on his couch, absently flipping through television channels. A bottle of beer, barely touched from the night before, had sweated a pool of condensation into its coaster on the coffee table before him. His body still ached from the abuse it had taken first in fighting, then being released from, the gravity field in the Gate room, but the past two days of rest and recovery had dulled the pain to a background level. The cuts on his neck and arms and the burns on his shoulders itched as they healed. He resisted the urge to scratch. Scratching was bad. He knew he was extraordinarily lucky, and was grateful to be both alive and on a world that wasn’t going to disappear down a the maw of a black hole. Carter’s genius had saved them; if ever there were a woman who deserved a medal, it was her. And probably Dr. Fraiser, too, just for having put up with him for the past forty-eight hours or so. O’Neill knew he was never a model patient even in the best of times. And this was most definitely not the best of times.

There was another pain, an even deeper ache that nothing Janet Fraiser could do would treat. Dammit, Frank. You were right. It’s hard as hell knowing you left someone behind in the field. Boyd and his team. And now you. It’s almost as hard as being the one who was left. Which, he supposed, described both of them now, each in their own way. Henry Boyd and SG-10 had been left behind on P3W-451, simply because there was no way to retrieve them. Jack knew he would carry that memory with him for the rest of his days, just as he carried the memory of his son’s death, Sara’s leaving, Kawalsky’s death. Just as he finally understood Frank Cromwell had carried the knowledge of having left him behind in Iraq. Now Frank was dead, and O’Neill was left behind. Again.

The ringing of the phone interrupted his thoughts. He reached for the handset, groaning a bit as sore muscles and still-healing skin protested the motion. “O’Neill.” It was Hammond, inquiring after his condition. “Yes, sir. I’m fine, sir.”

“Good. I’ve scheduled the memorial service for SG-10 for 1400 hours today. I trust you’ll be able to attend?”

“I see, sir. Yes, I’ll be there.”

“All right, Colonel. I’ll see you then.”

“Yes, thank you, sir. Goodbye, sir.” O’Neill hung up, then stared at the handset for a long moment before replacing it.

Ah well, time to get up, grab a shower, and get moving. If he sat there much longer, he’d start getting all maudlin or something. There would be plenty of opportunity for that later on, after the memorial service. Damn, he hated these things. Hated the necessity, mostly. The sad fact of military life was that sometimes good people died. But he didn’t have to like it, and never would be comfortable with it. And perhaps, as long as he railed against it — at least on the inside — the memory of those good folks would burn just that much brighter. He hoped so, at least. Be a shame to expend all that energy for nothing. Not that he could stop himself if he tried.

Gah. Shower. Now. He had gotten his dress blues cleaned last month, hadn’t he? Damn…

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