Jack slept longer that he'd planned, but awoke much refreshed and more
buoyant of spirit. He had a good breakfast, filled up with gas and set off on
the last leg of his journey. Hopefully, the jinx that had been dogging his
every move had been left behind and he should arrive home by mid-afternoon. And
Suddenly the grim feeling of impending disaster sank its claws in again. He
wondered if the jinx was tagging along with it. He didn't have to wait too long
to find out.
He'd stopped for a break and a coffee at a service station and resumed his
journey at 1030. Some twenty minutes later, the truck seemed to lose power
suddenly, and cruised gently to a halt at the side of the road.
Cursing a blue streak, Jack popped the hood. He got out and shouted a few
more obscenities to the heavens as he lifted the hood and propped it up. For a
moment, in his mind's ear, he could almost hear Grandma O'Neill, the fearsome
Catholic matriarch from his childhood saying, "And that's a judgement on
you for passing by on the other side yesterday..."
He shook his head. No way was she going to exert any power over him from
beyond the grave, he decided. It was just his brain playing tricks on him. He
was certain he hadn't really heard the sarcastic "Ya think?" either,
though it caught a nerve sufficiently to make him straighten up and crack his
head on the edge of the hood. He yelped and glared around, almost daring her to
laugh, then returned to truck's innards.
It took a few minutes until he spotted that the rotor arm was cracked. Then
he could swear he heard righteous laughter on the wind. Great! Catholicism had
really gotten guilt-tripping off to a fine art!
"It's not real! You're not there!" he yelled skyward then winced.
If he wasn't careful he was going to end up in Mac. the Quack's tender care. He
gave this idea some serious thought, then decided that his paternal grandmother
hadn't been quite that sadistic.
He pulled out his cell 'phone and called the A.A.A. for roadside rescue,
then climbed back in the truck to wait.
Meanwhile, Daniel was visiting the Chumash Painted Cave. Although the
paintings were only around a thousand years old, the Chumash had inhabited the
area for around 13,000 years. Who said America had no history? If you were
prepared to include the country's original owners anyway...
The road to the cave was very steep and narrow with hairpin bends, and
required careful navigation. Daniel was doubly fortunate in not meeting any
traffic on the drive and in finding that both the two parking spaces were
As he left his vehicle, he remembered the priest and squinted up at the
clear blue sky. He shook his head. Nope, he thought, no way is there
a God of parking spaces. He quirked a wry grin at the thought as he
wandered into the coolness of the cave.
The symbolic paintings were fascinating to Daniel. They depicted lizards,
scorpions and snakes and were painted mostly in mineral pigments, red iron
oxide, white gypsum and charcoal. They were thought to represent mythic
figures, natural phenomena or maybe even abstract concepts. He wondered if the
goa'uld had been involved. Well, if they were, it would be someone else's
problem, not his any more.
He had an interesting discussion with the park official. Frank was a
cheerful man of middle years who was delighted to find a kindred spirit. He
offered to open other Chumash sites, which were normally closed to the public
to protect the delicate paintings, if he would like to come back on Sunday
afternoon. Daniel smiled sadly and said he would love to but he would be
leaving the following day.
Daniel drove back along the San Marco Pass Road and into Santa Barbara where
he had a late lunch. Again, although he was feeling more and more lethargic, he
wasn't particularly hungry. It was almost as if his body was shutting down in
sympathy. He moved on to his final destination of the day of his holiday,
of his life.
At any other time, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, with its
anthropology, archaeology and ethnology sections, would have kept him
enthralled for hours. As it was, he was sinking deeper into depression and
drawing further into himself. He felt disinclined to interact with the world
any further. Despondently, he returned to his beach hide-away.
Once more, he considered anticipating what he thought of as his 'time of
departure.' But no. He'd made his decision and he would stick to it, although
patently Jack had no intention of getting in touch. No doubt, the loss of his
most irritating team member would make his life so much more comfortable - and
that was good.
He summoned up the energy to pack up his gear and stow it in the trunk of
his car, leaving the villa as empty as his life. He took the last bottle of
wine out on to the veranda and sat back to enjoy the last sunset of his life.
It seemed appropriate.
It was early evening by the time Jack reached Colorado Springs. The guy from
the A.A.A. had been having a bad day too, beginning with a blow-out on his rear
off-side tire on the way to fix the truck, and going on from there - or rather,
not going on at all. For a long time...
It felt like someone, or something, had it in for him. This was probably
just his normal paranoia which had kept him alive against all the odds many
The idea that something supernatural really was out to get him was
totally nonsensical of course. Jack no longer believed in things spiritual or
mystical. He'd grown out of that sort of fanciful folly long ago. It would
certainly never have survived his sojourn in that Iraqi jail. So it was very
irritating to find his thoughts wandering back to his straitlaced Grandma
He was well aware of the Bible's uncompromising stance on homosexuality; it
had contributed in a large part to his departure from Catholic fold. In no way
could he conflate the concepts of unconditional love and the stoning to death
of people who had broken any of a large variety of very petty taboos.
If he was wrong about such things - and he didn't believe for a single
nano-second that he was - he could imagine that Grandma would do her utmost to
prevent his following the path - highway! - to hell that he was currently
Outside apartment 8-3, Jack rapped on the door, calling Daniel's name. No
reply. He fished out his key-ring, selected Daniel's spare key and fumbled it
into the lock. The hairs rose on the back of his neck and he took a deep breath
before he went inside. He called Daniel's name again, but immediately sensed
that the apartment was empty - that there was no living thing there anyway.
Fighting down a slight shiver of panic, he strode through the apartment,
praying, "Please let him be alive." The irony of that thought caught
up with him in the bedroom. Funny how people turned to this non-existent deity
at times of trouble.
He breathed again when he found no sign of Daniel's bo Daniel. He went
out on to the balcony and looked down on the parking lot below. Daniel's car
So where was he? If Daniel had gone off on a pleasure trip incognito,
dragging a slightly deranged superior officer away from his fishing, Daniel
would definitely be dead. Jack would see to that personally. Then his eye
caught the envelopes on the dining table and the hairs on his neck prickled
again. He went over and picked them up.
"To General Hammond," was the inscription on the top one.
He replaced it on the table, guessing its contents. The second was addressed,
"To Whom it may Concern." He was concerned. He ripped it open,
dragged out the single sheet inside and dropped the envelope on the table.
The page quivered slightly in his hand as he read the header. Its black
Gothic letters stood out, cold and stark as an engraving on a tombstone. For a
long moment, he stared at it, his breathing fast and shallow.
"No..." It was a whisper, then, "No... No, no,
no, NO, NO! You can't do this,
He sat down suddenly on the nearest dining chair. His legs seemed to have
lost all feeling and with that, the ability to support him. He laid the paper
slowly down on the table and dropped his head in his hands, panting.
Once the initial shock had worn off, he looked around. There were two
possibilities; Daniel was either alive or he was He wasn't. In the latter
case, there was nothing he could do, so concentrate on the former. Think,
Jack, think. He's not here. He has to be somewhere. There must be some
He began in the kitchen. Which was spotless - more or less. A stick was
protruding from the garbage can, preventing its closing properly. Daniel hadn't
taken out the trash. It was unlikely that he'd find anything significant but...
He went over, opened the lid and choked back a cry.
The rose. The red rose. For him. From Daniel. A love token. The flower was
limp now and turning brown, its petals dropping. He took it out and broke off
the long end of the stem, ignoring the thorn that dug into the palm of his
hand, then he put the sad relic into the inside pocket of his jacket.
He bit his lip hard to stop the gathering tears but one got away anyway. It
trickled unheeded down his cheek and dripped off his chin. No, nothing of use
in the kitchen.
There was nothing in the dining room either, except pile of library books,
presumably to facilitate their return to the library. None of them was overdue.
In the bedroom, there only one thing Jack was surprised to find.
In his night stand was a 9mm. Glock 17. Sure, he'd urged Daniel to keep a
hand gun for his own personal protection - hadn't expected the Man of Peace to
take any notice of his advice. Although, while Daniel always looked for Another
Way, and was generally averse to shooting people, he didn't hold back if he had
to. Just indulged in a lot of mental self-flagellation afterwards.
In a way, this discovery gave Jack cause to hope. If he'd reacted to Jack's
apparent rejection immediately, the Glock was a certain way out. It was still
here. Daniel wasn't. So obviously he had some other means in mind. More to the
point, he hadn't immediately removed himself from the land of the living. He
hadn't re-acted; he was working to a plan. Therefore, there must
be a clue somewhere if only he could find it.
It didn't take much tracking down. On the desk in Daniel's study, were a
number of holiday brochures, which pushed Jack's 'don't fuck with me' buttons.
Daniel had gone on holiday after all? Dragging Jack all the way back
Then he remembered the
Okay, so probably not off on a holiday jaunt then. So, what? He flipped
through the brochures and found a post-it note stuck to an inside page in the
last one he looked in. On it was scrawled:
But there was no 'phone number. Jack returned his attention to the brochure
and found a number for the letting agency. He picked up the desk 'phone and
dialed. And got an answer phone. He rooted through the drawers in Daniel's desk
to see is there were any more clues.
"Ahh shit!" he exclaimed when he opened the bottom drawer.
No wonder he hadn't gotten any reply on Daniel's cell 'phone. He'd left his
charger behind. Typical.
He thought about pulling rank and finagling a lift on a military 'plane, but
there were no flights scheduled that were going anywhere near Daniel's probable
location. H also had to bite his tongue over a couple of comments about
military aircraft not usually being available for holiday flights.
So, exhausted as he was, he was going to have to drive to Santa Barbara. And
time must be running out if it hadn't already. No. That was not to be
Hang on. No, he wouldn't have to drive to Santa Barbara - not necessarily.
No military flights but... He gathered his weary wits and hunted out the yellow
pages. For once, luck was with him and he managed to book a seat on flight UA
6757 from Denver to Santa Barbara just before midday next day, getting in at
1328. Now, he needed to rest.
He went into Daniel's bedroom and took off his boots. Then he laid himself
down on Daniel's bed and fell asleep, breathing in the familiar smell of him on
the pillow. He dreamed of Daniel - sweet and gentle dreams.
Jack jerked awake . There was a moment's confusion between sleeping and
waking He really was in on - Daniel's bed. He shouldn't be here.
Don't ask, don't tell...
Then normality re-asserted itself and the previous day's events settled
front and center of his brain. He was off like a greyhound out of a trap,
driving home to shower and shave and change his clothes, then setting off for
Daniel had slept badly and woke late. Like Jack, he was a little
disoriented. What day was it? Oh yes, it was the day on which he had decided to
die. Permanently. Definitely no resuscitation. With luck, his body would never
He turned on to his back and stared, unseeing, at the ceiling. He couldn't
remember ever feeling so low, could hardly be bothered to drag himself out of
bed. But, the ocean wasn't going to come to him...
He sighed, and having spent another twenty minutes working up the energy to
move, swung his legs around and sat on the edge of the bed. There was no need
to dress. He'd slept in the clothes he'd been wearing, having already stowed
his things in his car, including his shoes. He preferred going barefoot anyway.
There was just one more thing to do before he left. He went through into the
kitchen-diner. He'd felt that he ought to leave a final communication for Jack
- a suicide note, he supposed. He picked up his journal from the table and
carefully tore a page out. He sat down and composed his farewell.
Please don't feel guilty about what I've done. I've simply gotten too
tired of living. Don't think I'm not grateful for all you've done for me over
the years either. I am. You've been a good friend too, and I treasure that part
of my life. Now it's time for me to go.
I love you,
He folded the page and pulled the envelope he'd brought with him for the
purpose from the back of his journal. It was stamped and addressed, 'Personal
and Private,' to Jack. It was a little grubby and creased, but he didn't notice
that as he slid his letter into the envelope. He laid then laid it on top of
his journal on the table. Time to go.
He padded out on to the veranda, and his jaw dropped. He'd assumed he would
have the beach to himself - which he had. But although the beach was private,
the ocean apparently was not. There seemed to be a sailboarding regatta going
on. What? Couldn't a guy be left to die in peace?
Of course, he'd been away from the villa for most of his stay, and hadn't
seen what happened during the day. In the evening, he'd been left to enjoy his
surroundings in serene isolation, and had assumed, wrongly obviously, that his
little bit of the coast was always like that. And today was Saturday... He
should have - really - should have thought of that. Fuck, fuck,
fucketty, fuck, fuck, fuck! He couldn't walk into the ocean until the
sailboarders had packed up and gone home for lunch, or some idiot was bound to
try and rescue him.
He sighed, turned on his heel and went back into the kitchen to make some
coffee. And wait...
Jack, too, was waiting. He was at Denver International Airport having added
in a lot of extra time for the drive to Denver to take into account his own
personal jinx which, naturally, gave him a free run.
This left him with lots of time to kill before he checked in. He then
fretted about the delay to his flight and cursed the terrorist problems that
had increased the number and thoroughness of security checks. He didn't do
patient very well at the best of times, and this was so not the best of
But. There was no point in doing anything other being a good little colonel
and going along with the whole deal. It probably wasn't taking as long as it
seemed, which was forever. He just hoped no one had absentmindedly left a bag
on board his 'plane, creating a full-scale alert. That would be just too
much after all the other things that had gone wrong. Especially if... No,
not going there.
Finally, he was aloft and on his way to Santa Barbara. Had things been
otherwise, he would have thoroughly enjoyed the flight. He loved flying.
Under normal circumstances, he would have taken great pleasure from this
flight over the American cordillera - between the Park Range and the Sangre de
Cristo of the eastern Rockies, over the Sawatch Mountains and dipping a little
over the Colorado basin, then up again over the Wasatch.
Next came Lake Mead and the Nevada Desert before Death Valley and the rump
of the Sierra Nevada. Finally, there was the hop over the Coast Range and the
descent to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
They were only twenty minutes late, which the pilot appeared to think was
cause for congratulations. Jack disagreed, though not out loud. Then came
further frustration as he became caught up in crowds of argumentative people
trying to sort out some problem with the baggage retrieval system. The closer
he came to Daniel, the greater the distance between them became, or so it
seemed. At last, he was outside and looking around for a cab.
Lunch time came, but although the sailboarders had thinned in their numbers,
they were still going. Oh well, they'd have to pack up eventually, Daniel
supposed. It wasn't like he had anything pressing to do. He could wait a while
longer, sitting on the veranda.
Then the 'phone rang. Daniel's heart leapt. Jack? It couldn't be.
Could it? He bounded inside and grabbed the 'phone.
"Hello," said a breezy female voice," Doctor Jackson?"
"Yes," Daniel confirmed as the weight on his heart thudded back
again, dragging it back into the depths.
"This is just a courtesy call from Carmelita at Pacific Villas to see
if everything has been to your satisfaction during your stay with us?"
"Er, yeah. It's fine. Everything's fine. You run a very fine
service," Daniel replied on auto-pilot.
"Well, if there's anything you think of later that would improve our
service, please don't hesitate to get in touch."
"Oh, and if you would like the same week next year, I can reserve a
villa for you now, with a special discount for advanced booking...?"
"Ah, I'll think about it. Thanks."
"You're welcome," Carmelita said brightly. "Byee!"
Daniel hung up with a deep sigh. He wandered into the kitchen and made
another pot of coffee thinking wistfully of what might have been. If things had
been otherwise, he would've jumped at Carmelita's offer. Though with their
luck, there would be a goa'uld incursion during maintenance week.
When the coffee had brewed, Daniel poured a large mugful and took it back
out on to the veranda. By the time he'd finished drinking it, there were only a
few sailboarders left. Soon then.
He returned to the kitchen, washed up and dried his mug and the coffee-maker
and put them away, then padded out the back again. Two sailboarders were left
and they seemed to be heading back to where they'd come from so he ambled
slowly, head down, across the lawn and on to the beach.
It was a beautiful beach with soft, light-colored sand that his feet sank
into, a little like desert sand. But in the desert, you didn't have this crisp,
bright smell of the ocean tingling in your nostrils, nor its enticing sounds in
Just for a moment, his spirits lifted, then his head drooped and his posture
slumped again. He came to the tide-line, and couldn't avoid seeing that it was
decorated with pretty pink shells and stripy pebbles and the wrack of seaweed,
and here and there, pieces of wood, worn smooth by the water bumping them
He looked up and noted that the ocean was further away than it had been in
the morning. He would have further to walk, but on the plus side, if the tide
were ebbing, it would carry his body away and out to sea.
Beyond the tide-line, the sand was different, more solid somehow. If he
stood still for a moment, his feet still sank in but differently, and when he
moved on, he left behind foot-shaped pools of water.
As he walked on, the sand changed again. Now, it looked as if it had rippled
like the water, and the ripples had set. Further on, the ripples had water in
the bottom, and funnel-shaped holes where unknown creatures must live. Small
crabs scuttled across the ripples and tiny fish, not much more than an inch
long and almost invisible, darted away from danger.
Then he reached the water's edge. The sand was smooth again where the
shallow ocean slid softly up the beach then trickled musically back again,
leaving little gullies behind isolated pebbles. The sun shone on the tiny
wavelets like stars, but by now, Daniel was immune to the beauty of his
surroundings. All he wanted was to get it over.
With the sounds of the sea around him, he didn't hear the arrival of a car,
nor the distant banging of its door.
Jack paid off the cabdriver, noting with irrational relief that Daniel's
car was still there. An intact car did not equal an intact Daniel. On the other
hand, at least he'd arrived at the right place. Probably.
He went up to the door, knocked, then waited maybe ten seconds and tried the
handle. The door was not locked. That was a good sign - wasn't it? He entered
and looked into the main rooms. All was silent. All was tidy. Just like the
loft. Except in the dining kitchen where his eye instantly homed in on Daniel's
journal and the long narrow envelope matching the ones on Daniel's table back
His hand shook and his heart stuttered as he picked up the envelope. He
looked at his name on the front for a second before ripping it open and
dragging out the folded page inside. He sat down suddenly, hardly reading the
words. He already knew their purport.
"Stupid, stupid, fucking idiot!" he shouted, partly
at Daniel and partly at himself. He slapped his hands on the table and pushed
himself up on to his feet again. It wouldn't help either of them if he fell
apart now. Think, Jack, think. His car's out front. He isn't far
He found his way out on to the veranda and looked around. Daniel, thigh deep
in the water and partially camouflaged by that blue checked shirt almost
escaped his attention as his eyes quickly scanned around.
No! Don't let me be too late please don't let me be too
late, he thought as he ran down on to the beach.
"Daniel!" he yelled, half running, half stumbling through the soft
sand, and waving his arms furiously. But Daniel was too close to the roar of
the breakers to hear him. He just kept pushing onward, ready for the waves to
Jack ran onward too, pulling his cell 'phone from his pocket. No, dammit,
no time for the authorities to get here. Now on the damp sand, he toed off
his shoes and shucked himself out of his jacket, then shoved his cell into the
end of one shoe for safe keeping, and carried on running.
He was splashing through the shallows when Daniel went down, his feet yanked
from under him by the rip of a bigger wave. Jack marked the last place he'd
seen Daniel in relation to an island on the horizon and kept on running as long
he could then started swimming.
He did hid best to keep a eye on his surroundings, but missed Daniel. He was
almost ready to resign himself to having lost him for good when he saw
something floating to his left and a little behind him.
The tide was a long way out - far enough for it to be on the turn and
carrying Daniel - and himself - back to shore. Jack swam strongly over to the
blue-checked form which was face down in the water. He yanked him over and
found his face had a blue tinge. There was blood pouring from his head too -
must've hit some debris in the water. This was so not good.
He was close enough to the shore to be able to go on foot, dragging Daniel
along by his shirt. As soon as they were clear of the water, he checked for
vital signs. Daniel wasn't breathing, but he had a faint pulse.
Jack immediately began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As set his mouth over
Daniel's, his inner demon chose that singularly inappropriate moment to point
out that if he'd focused a little more on Daniel and a lot less on himself, he
might have been doing this for other reasons. He pushed the thought away
and concentrated on getting Daniel breathing again.
His efforts were rewarded when Daniel coughed, spluttered, and choked up a
couple of gallons of the Pacific. Great! He was breathing! He was alive! He was
also unconscious still - concussion probably - and eerily pale, and the wound
on the side of his head was still bleeding albeit sluggishly.
Jack ran up the beach to his jacket and shoes - delighted to find no one had
gone off with them while his back was turned. He retrieved his cell and called
for an ambulance. Then he went back down the beach to sit with Daniel until
they arrived, first laying his jacket over Daniel to prevent heat loss.
Now that he had Daniel safe well, safe-ish - reaction set in, and by
the time the paramedics arrived he had a sickly pallor too, and was shivering
with delayed shock. They took one look at him and bundled him into the
ambulance too. Jack wasn't up to arguing with them.
Once in hospital, it was another matter. He declined any treatment,
insisting that they concentrate on sorting Daniel out. While he was taken away
for tests, Jack set about the paper work.
There was a grim-faced woman on the desk. However, Jack had mixed it with
the best. First off, there was a little confusion over names, Jack giving
Daniel's name in the first instance, since he was the one receiving treatment.
It occurred to Jack that there could be repercussions here if the tale of
the day's events reached certain people's ears. He was glad about the mix-up as
it had given him the space to think it through.
"So your name is?" asked the dragon - Deirdre Gonzales, Jack
"John Neillson," he said, "two 'els'." Okay, it wasn't
particularly creative, nor particularly different from his own name but he
needed something he could remember if required to do so.
Then Ms. Gonzales got on to the cause of the... 'accident.'
"Sailing," Jack said, not wanting to give too much detail but
needing a reason why they were both wearing normal clothing. "Must have
caught a... a rip tide or something."
"Not from these parts are you, Mr. Neillson-with-two-els?"
"I take it neither of you was wearing a life jacket either?"
"If only you holiday-makers would take the trouble to find out about
the local conditions when you visit and treated nature with the respect
it deserved - it would halve the number of people coming to this hospital. You
landlubbers come here and think that nature's a tame thing that you can
handle it. Well, you can't. Nature's wild won't be tamed not 'less
you know what you're doing anyway. You've learned to swim in the flat calm of a
swimming pool - got your 'swimming awards' and things, and then you think
swimming in the ocean's just the same. Well it isn't!"
"No ma'am. Appreciate that, ma'am." He flashed Ms. Gonzales his
most charming smile. She caved.
"Yes, well... if I had a dollar for every landlubber that's come to
grief here, I'd be a rich woman, ya know? So much heartbreak is totally
avoidable if people would only ask the locals before they go blithely skipping
off to the ocean."
Jack suddenly realized that she'd acquired her grim look because she really
cared about people and must have seen a whole load of tragic accidents in her
"Yeah," he sighed.
Once the formalities were out of the way, Jack was left with the inevitable
wait for information and developments. How many more times, Daniel? he
wondered as he took himself off to the waiting area. He thought about sitting
down, but his clothes, though no longer dripping, were still pretty damp.
Instead, he took to pacing up and down, to the annoyance of a stout woman who
was also waiting.
"Would ya quit walkin' up and down and sit down, mister."
"We're all waitin' and worryin' about someone here, and you're just
making us all jumpy."
There a couple of murmurs of agreement.
"Well, my clothes are wet," Jack snapped.
"Ya went swimmin' in yer clothes?"
"Yeah, I did. And if you can tell me how to a drag a drowning man out
of the ocean and still stay dry, then I'll be glad to hear it!"
"Oh. I see. I'm sorry."
Jack nodded. "Fine." He thought about it a moment. She had a point
about why they were there. "Hope you - all of you - have the outcome you
There were murmurs of thanks and reciprocation. Jack sighed and went over
to prop up a wall for the duration.
It seemed an age, but eventually a pretty young nurse came to fetch him. On
the way to the ward, she explained that the prognosis was good, that Daniel's
life signs were reasonably strong. He was on antibiotics to counter any
bacterial infection from the water that had gotten into his system, she said.
However, he was still unconscious and they hoped that if he heard a familiar
voice, it might get through to him.
"You mean he's in a coma?" Jack demanded.
The nurse hedged her bets on that one, and Jack didn't have time to
grill enquire further before they arrived.
There was a gap in the curtains at the end of the bed. An intern, making
notes on a clipboard, stood between Jack and the bed, but he could see enough.
Daniel was lying very still, and had a load of wires connected to monitors.
Plus ça change...
There was a slight cough, and Jack's spirits soared. Daniel was coming
round. Then came a whispered question.
"Am I... dead...?"
The intern moved around to Daniel's side. "No, you're going to be just
fine, Mr. Jackson," he said in bracing tones. Jack stepped through the
Daniel's eyes were closed, his expression pained. He gave a faint, bitter
laugh and murmured, "Couldn't even do that right..."
He lay motionless as a tear slid out from under his lashes and ran down the
side of his face on to the pillow. He remained silent as more gathered and
followed the first. It cut Jack to the quick.
The intern registered Jack's presence then. He nodded an acknowledgment.
"I'll leave you to it then," he said, replacing the clipboard at the
foot of the bed, and moved on to his next patient.
Jack stared mutely at the tears. He looked around. There was no one nearby.
He leaned over and placed the lightest kiss on Daniel's face, tasting salt as
the next tear fell. Daniel took a sharp breath and opened one suspicious blue
eye. Then both flew open in shocked disbelief.
"Jack?" he breathed.
He looked from Jack to the equipment and back again. "God, they
must've... filled me up... with some... strong stuff. You look so... so...
"That's because I am. Real."
Daniel closed his eyes again.
"No. No you're not," he mumbled. "You're just a... a
hallucination Wish... fulfilment... Jack would... never... come
anywhere near me now. I... I think he... despises... me."
"No!" Jack said harshly. His voice softened and become low
and husky as he said, "No, Daniel, he he loves you."
Daniel's face crumpled in pain and sorrow. "Go away! Don't
torment me like this!"
It occurred to Jack that Daniel was not only seeing him without his glasses
but was seeing him through the misty blur of tears. He would soon realize that
Jack really was there. Beside him. Where he should've been in the first place.
Right now, seeing the anguish on Daniel's face and knowing that he had put
it there Well, it hurt. It really hurt. And so it should,
He went round to the other side of the bed and took Daniel's free hand, the
one that wasn't hooked up to all the equipment. Daniel turned his head to the
other side of the bed, trying to pull his hand away, but Jack held on tightly.
"Ah no, Daniel. I'm not letting you go."
"Jack? It is you?" It was more of a statement than a
question as reality broke through the haze.
"Yeah, it is me... the idiot that nearly lost you."
"Then You saved me?"
"Saved you? I nearly killed you!"
"If I hadn't walked out on you last week," Jack said, his own face
haggard, "it would never have come to this."
"It wouldn't have if you'd just gotten in touch..."
Jack rolled his eyes. "When did you last charge your cell 'phone,
"Just before I set out. Why?"
"You sure you charged it?"
"Yes, of course I'm sure," Daniel said, slipping back into
familar and welcome pissiness. "I remember. I went through into my den,
put my cell on my desk, and Oh. "
Daniel chewed his lip guiltily. "The door bell rang. Mrs. Hollings came
to return my pen. I'd asked them to sign my... um... and there wasn't a pen
handy so I lent them mine... I'm an idiot! I completely forgot about it and got
on with the tidying up... I remembered to bring it, just forgot I hadn't
charged it. I am so sorry, Jack," he concluded and lowered his eyes
But Jack wasn't about to chew him out. He was grossly at fault and he knew
it. Everything that followed had stemmed from his failure to consider Daniel's
"No, I take the whole blame. I shouldn't have walked out like I did and
left you alone with the fall-out. I thought I was thinking of your safety, but
I guess I was thinking more about my own. It wasn't till several days later
that I realized how it must've looked from your point of view."
"'Several days,' Jack? That was a week ago..."
Jack gave a theatrical sigh. "Yeah, well... things didn't exactly go
according to plan..."
Daniel settled back then to listen, with slightly malicious enjoyment it had
to be said, to Jack's account of his 'holiday.' His own, by contrast, had
actually been quite pleasant, now he looked back on it, and with Jack by his
"Sounds like you kinda got your comeuppance already," Daniel
grinned when Jack wound down.
"Don't start, Daniel," Jack grimaced. "I could swear the
ghost of my late grandmother was haunting me..."
"Bit of a termagant, was she?" Daniel asked with a look of
"Oh, you better believe it! Stiff-backed martinet of a Catholic,"
he muttered caustically. He thought about it a while. "I guess I get the
last laugh though." He raised two fingers heavenward. "Fuck
"Does that mean "
"We're together? Yeah, sure, youbetcha, Snookums! Whatever it
takes." Jack replied with a sappy smile.
"Just one thing though, Jack." Daniel said severely. "Cut out
the crappy nicknames, okay?"
But Jack wasn't paying attention to the words. He was drinking in the look
of love that went with them.
"Anything you say, dearest..."
Notes on Suicide: When someone is
depressed, he* may not have the energy to work up to suicide but may try
para-suicide - self-harm or an overdose when it likely to be discovered. This
is usually 'a cry for help' and should be taken seriously.
It may seem that a family member or friend is just attention-seeking or
'crying wolf,' but it doesn't mean that an ongoing problem will not reach the
ultimate crisis point at which he will eventually take his own life.
You might think it unlikely that someone who is suicidal would blithely go
off on holiday. Some people have sadly learned otherwise, saying, "If only
I'd known He seemed so much brighter recently."
Once the decision to die has be made, along with a plan for its
accomplishment, a potential suicide often seems more cheerful - has more
energy. He's taken back some control over his life, albeit for a short time.
He will not consider the devastation his death will cause to his family
because he 'knows' they're fed up with him and his problems - especially if
he's made previous threats of suicide - and they will be better off without
He will, however, consider the practical aspects. He will put his affairs in
order - clear his debts, draw up a will and such like - so as not to leave too
much of a mess for the family to sort out afterwards. He doesn't want to be
more a nuisance than he already has been. This is a major factor before
If this strikes a chord with anyone reading this, you might find The
Samaritans helpful to you or to someone you're concerned about.
This volunteer organization was set up for those going through a crisis and
in danger of taking their own lives. Its founder, the lovely Chad Varah,
believed that if there was someone they could talk to about their problems -
someone who wasn't as up close and personal as family and friends - they might
find some alternative to suicide.
Talking to someone who's prepared to sit and listen to you, with sympathy
and understanding, for as long as it takes, really can help. The Samaritans
will also accept the caller's decision to terminate his life and, unlike other
organizations, will not try to coerce him into changing his mind.
Volunteers listen in confidence without criticizing or passing judgement on
the caller, and without giving advice; what might solve one person's problem
might make some else's problem infinitely worse.
The service is available 24/7 every day of the year including Christmas Day.
In the U.K., it is also possible to visit some local centres and talk to a
volunteer face to face.
National number (U.K.) 08457 90 90 90......
(Republic of Ireland) 1850 60 90 90
In other countries, there is a sister organization called Befrienders
And then there's the internet:
website: http://www.samaritans.org.uk/ .........e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org