Jackfic Fiction Archive Story

 

After the Frost General Jack Year Two - Part One

by Flatkatsi

 


Series Info: Part One in the General Jack Series - Year Two

After the Frost

"Take a seat, Doctor." I glanced up briefly then resumed my perusal of the documents in front of me. I was completely familiar with its contents of course, but I used the ruse in the same way so many other people in authority have done to me, to throw the other person off guard. The difference was, it never worked with me. The doctor began to fidget after a few minutes.

I didn't leave him waiting long. Closing the file, I looked up into his serious face. He looked younger than I knew he was, his face unlined. Stress free. I didn't remember what that was like. The stress had been piled on me over the years until I felt weighed down with it. General Hammond's transfer to Washington, and my own promotion to Major General in sole command of the SGC, hadn't helped any.

Two stars - my reward for saving the planet and getting myself turned into a Jacksicle.

Some reward. Got the medal. Had my hand shaken by the new President.

I was still waiting for the flowers.

The question of my going on missions had been `deferred'. What exactly was that suppose to mean? Too valuable. Ancient download. Not to be placed at risk.

For crying out loud! That wasn't the deal!

There was no Thor to appeal to. Myton and his band of merry gray men had left me high and dry, a quick beam back to the SGC and off they went. Didn't even hang around to wait for me to fully thaw.

I shivered, and saw the doctor giving me a calculating look. That look that doctors get when they smell a potential patient. Next thing he would be getting out his damn penlight.

Time to get this meeting back on track.

I sort of resented having to do this. Janet Fraiser's death had hit everyone at the SGC hard, and months down the track we were still coming to terms with it. Doctor Warner and some of the other staff from the Academy Hospital had rotated in the infirmary, but there was a limited pool of medical staff with the necessary security clearance to work here. We needed a full time CMO.

Doctor Roberts had a long career with the Air Force, entering straight out of medical school. He was a veteran of several conflicts, including the Middle East, and had a proven track record in emergency situations.

So why didn't I feel comfortable with him?

It was more than just reluctance to have anyone replace Janet. I had lost close friends and colleagues before. I knew the score. The fact that Janet was a non-combatant had made her death more shocking, and she would never be forgotten, but we had moved on from it, or at least as much as we ever could.

Roberts and I made polite noises. He had been fully briefed once he had accepted the post, and now I was doing the `welcome to the SGC' thing. The "Hi, I'm General O'Neill and I'll be your commanding officer until you're killed" thing.

Shit! Where had that thought come from?

I shivered again, feeling the tremors running up my chest and the hairs on my arms standing up.

Roberts leaned forward.

"Are you all right, General?"

I smiled back. My nice smile. The `I'm your CO and I can sit here and shiver as much as I want and I don't have to explain a thing" smile.

"I'm fine, thank you."

There were some things I knew the doctor didn't know. Like what had happened to me. The whole Ancient's download episode was so top secret that only a very small number of people were aware of it, and Roberts wasn't one of them. That had been my choice. If, at a later date, I decided he needed to know about it, I was authorized to tell him.

I took him down to the infirmary, introduced him to the nurse in charge, and took my leave with an invitation to come see me if he had any problems.

I couldn't get away from him fast enough.

I shivered again.

God, it was cold down here in the Mountain.

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"Jack."

Oh crap. Here it comes again. I can already hear the words.

"Yes, Daniel?"

He has this look on his face that would make most people do anything he wants. I'm not most people. I've known him far too long.

"Will you help me with this translation?"

I knew there was a reason why I pretended to be dumb for all those years.

"No, Daniel. I'm much too busy. You may not have noticed, but I have a base to run." "But you're the only one who speaks fluent Ancient, and this inscription may be very important. It could just be the breakthrough we need."

I couldn't help the sigh. "Like the last three translations, Daniel?" I could see the disappointed look on his face, so I threw him a bone. "I'll try and take a look at it later today, but I can't guarantee anything. I've got a lot of work to get through." I gestured at the ever growing piles of reports on my desk.

"Don't you have underlings to help with that?"

This time I couldn't help myself. I ground the answer out from between gritted teeth. "No, Daniel, I do not have underlings to help me with it. It may have escaped your notice, but General Hammond took his aide with him to Washington. My aide was transferred during my little holiday in the snow, and a new 2IC hasn't been appointed yet."

Daniel took two steps back. "Ah, sorry, Jack. To be honest, I hadn't realized. Why don't you at least appoint an aide?"

"I would, Daniel, if I could get the time to follow through on the paperwork." I spat the words out. "But I keep getting distracted."

"Oh, look! Is that the time?" Daniel made a show of looking at his watch. "I must run. Got a meeting. Bye, Jack. Don't work too hard."

And he was gone before I had a chance to kill him.

I gave the papers on the desk a spiteful glare, wishing they would just spontaneously combust, then picked up my pen again.

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The wormhole closed behind SG-17 and the iris folded itself across the opening. Another team off world. One more team to worry about. One more to envy.

There was another scheduled to leave in an hour. SG-1.

Major Carter, Doctor Jackson, Teal'c and Captain Evans.

Just a team like any other. Nothing special.

Yeah, right, Jack. You keep telling yourself that.

I almost wished I didn't have to be there to watch them leave, but George had always been there for us, and I wasn't going to break the tradition for my own selfish reasons. Just because it hurt so much to watch them go through that gate without me.

I felt eyes upon me, and turned to find Doctor Roberts standing watching me.

"Were you wanting something, Doctor?"

Despite his ready smile I found myself unable to warm to the man. Fortunately, the only injuries since his appointment had been minor, and I had had very little to do with him, our longest contact being at the twice weekly team leaders meeting.

"I wonder if I could speak to you privately, General?"

I nodded and lead him to my office.

"What is it, Doctor?" I waved him towards the chair. He waited before speaking, settling himself comfortably.

"I have been going over the medical records of all personnel at the SGC, sir, and I noticed an anomaly."

"And what might that be, Doctor?"

"Everyone has completed a recent medical except one key staff member." He looked at me steadily.

I had know this was going to come up eventually, so it wasn't a surprise.

"I take it you are referring to me, Doctor Roberts."

He nodded, putting the thin file he was carrying down in front of him on my desk. I looked at it.

General O'Neill.

I smiled.

"And you have a problem with that, Doctor?"

"Yes, sir, I do. Firstly, I have a problem with the lack of details in this file. There appears to be several sections that are either sketchy or nonexistent."

I raised my eyebrow and looked innocent.

"Maybe that's because there is nothing medical to report on."

"There are periods of several months when there isn't even a routine physical examination listed." He turned the file around and held it out, pointing. "According to this, you haven't visited the infirmary for months, and yet.... " He poked a short stubby finger out towards my face, "you have at least one recent injury."

I felt the muscles in my cheek twitch, the long scar pulling slightly. The silence lengthened as I just sat, watching him. It wasn't long before he dropped his eyes from my gaze, looking a little flustered at my lack of reaction.

He made a show of referring to his notes. "I have penciled you in for a full medical tomorrow morning, sir."

"No."

He looked up, startled. My opinion of him dropped a few more notches. He shouldn't have been surprised. It was obvious that there was more going on here than just a senior officer avoiding medicals, he had already worked that out. My refusal shouldn't have been a shock to him.

"I beg your pardon, General but..."

I cut him short.

"My medicals are completely up to date. They are carried out off base by another physician. I will give you his name, and if there is any need to, you can request any necessary information from him. What he provides will depend on his assessment of the circumstances."

"May I ask the reason for this, sir?" Roberts was very, very annoyed and not hiding it well.

"No, you may not, Doctor." I wrote on a piece of paper, folded it and handed it to him. "This is the doctor, Commander Coates. You'll find his direct number there as well. I would appreciate you keeping this discrete and only using it in an emergency."

His eyes opened wider. "Commander Coates? The President's physician?"

"That will be all, Doctor Roberts." I nodded my dismissal, continuing as he stood. "Anymore information is on a need to know basis, and frankly, Doctor, you don't need to know."

For a moment, just as he shut the door to my office behind him, I caught a glimpse of his unguarded expression. It wasn't just anger and frustration, there was something more to it than that. Something I couldn't put my finger on.

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The next few weeks saw things calm down a little. I found myself settling into General Hammond's shoes without much difficulty, especially after my new aide was appointed. Colonel Harper, as the most senior officer at the SGC and one I personally liked, had slotted in excellently as my 2IC. The decision had been made not to transfer a second general to the command, as there wasn't anyone appropriate available. Apparently it was considered that I could handle the job well enough by myself.

I suppose George had done it for years, so there really wasn't any reason why I couldn't.

Except one.

One very big reason.

General George Hammond had stepped through the Stargate on less than a handful of occasions.

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"General O'Neill?" Teal'c's voice followed hard on the heavy knock at the door of my quarters. I turned over on the bed, rubbing a hand across my face. I was feeling fronic, and for some reason, the temperature seemed to have been turned down yet again.

"Just a sec." I stood as I called, shaking off the last vestiges of sleep. The clock told me it was early evening and that I had slept for two hours in the middle of the day. Now I knew how George had always seemed to be everywhere, available whenever he was needed. I bet he took these little naps as well.

I straightened my uniform and opened the door, finding my three old teammates on the threshold.

I grinned, glad to see them for the first time in days.

"Hi, guys."

Carter smiled in return. "We're going out to dinner, sir, and thought you might like to come."

I peered over her shoulder, not seeing the fourth member of their team. "What about Captain Evans?"

"He's got a date. Come on, Jack. We haven't talked for ages." It was as if Daniel was already prepared for me to say no.

I mentally ran through the schedule of arrivals and departures, feeling like an airport information board. No team was due to depart tonight and we only had one team off world, on a routine survey mission of an uninhabited planet.

"Okay, just give me a minute to change." I shut the door on their pleased faces.

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"We have something to confess, Jack."

I sat back, pleasantly full. O'Malley's did a mean steak. It had been so long since I had eaten off base that I had forgotten what good food tasted like. Nothing was going to disturb my good mood.

"What would that be, Daniel?" I picked up my glass and took another sip of beer.

Daniel didn't answer immediately, exchanging glances with the others. I was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.

"Ah..."

Teal'c jumped in, taking over from an obviously worried Daniel. "Doctor Roberts has been enquiring into your past."

"I beg your pardon?!" I was totally taken aback. This wasn't what I had imagined at all.

"He's been asking around. Discretely, of course, but I heard him asking Lou about your service in the Gulf War." Carter took a sip of her white wine, her face troubled. "Then I compared notes with Daniel and Teal'c. Then I..." She colored slightly and looked down. "I, ah, checked his computer records. He has details on you going back to your enlistment."

I didn't say anything for a minute, as I processed the information. Then I asked a question.

"Just how extensive was this information?"

"Very, Jack." Daniel nodded his head as I turned to him. "He had details of your activities while in Special Ops."

Shit!

I was thankful that my friends knew about my past activities. There were still a few things I knew they were unaware of, and that I didn't want them to find out, but basically they were familiar with it all.

I beckoned the waiter over, and got refills for us.

I knew there was something wrong with the Doctor. What was Robert's game?

"Do you think he's NID?" I looked up to gauge their reaction.

Teal'c shook his head. "I do not. O'Neill. We have had no problem with the NID since Kinsey resigned from office."

"I agree, sir. The NID seems to have cleaned up their act over the last few months. Plus I really don't see what Doctor Roberts could discover that the NID weren't already aware of."

I nodded in response to Carter's words. Roberts didn't have the NID signature. This was something more personal.

Some more discussion, more speculation, and we were no further towards working out what Roberts was up to than we had been when they first told me.

It was getting late, the room emptying of customers, so we decided it would be safe to play a few inconspicuous games of pool.

Daniel and Teal'c played the first game, Daniel winning by one ball. They had been playing against each other ever since my thawing. You see, I wasn't a very good opponent anymore.

Carter and I tossed for the break. I won and she gave an audible groan. I lined up the first shot, seeing the angles and analysising the force required. The game was finished in three minutes without Carter getting a chance to play.

"Oh for crying out loud!" Carter threw the cue down in disgust. It's not often that we see an angry Carter, but when she cracked, she cracked big time. I mean - that was my expression! "This is just not fair! Daniel and Teal'c won't play pool with me because I beat them, and unless I get first shot, a game against you is pointless."

I couldn't help it. It wasn't like I did it on purpose, it was just instinctive.

I went and bought some more drinks, and by the time I was back, Carter was playing against some other woman, her boyfriend watching.

Something else I had lost to the Ancient's download. The ability to lose at pool.

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I pulled into my driveway, noting the drapes moving in my neighbor's house. The musty air hit me when I unlocked the door, and I stood for a moment in the gloom.

I hadn't been home for weeks, and finally I had had enough. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, relax with a beer, and watch TV without worrying that I would be called to an emergency at anytime. I wanted to slop around in old jeans, and not worry what others would think.

I wanted privacy.

I wanted my life back.

I moved around the house, pulling back drapes and throwing open windows. I packed away the groceries I had bought on the way there, remade the bed with fresh sheets, had a shower, and changed into comfortable clothes. At last, I sat on the lounge, beer in one hand and the remote in the other.

Bliss.

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The bottle slipped from my grasp as I put it on the coffee table, and for once my ability at sizing up angles deserted me, as it joined the other one that had already emptied its contents on the carpet.

"Now, Jack. You know I can't do that."

The voice on the other end of the phone was patient and understanding. I tucked the receiver under my chin and pulled another bottle towards me, expertly popping the top.

"A few trips through the gate won't hurt. It's not like I have any special abilities or anything." I took a sip from the bottle and thought for a second. "Except pool. I can play pool really well." My brain slipped into gear, and I realized I shouldn't have let that secret out. Maybe he hadn't heard. "Would you like a game of pool, Mister President? Next time you're in town that is."

For some reason President Hayes seemed to find that very funny. It was a while before he got himself under control enough to speak, his laughter echoing down the line.

"No thanks, I don't think I'll play pool with you." Crap - he had heard me. His voice suddenly became serious. "Listen Jack, it isn't just what's inside your brain that's important to us. We don't want to risk losing you. We have almost done that too many times already. Doctor Weir was right in one regard. You've done enough for this planet, and it's about time someone else took the risks."

"What if I want to take them?"

"Go to bed, Jack. Sleep in. Wake up and smell the roses. I'll call you in a couple of days, when you've had a chance to think about it some more. Okay?"

I reached for the bottle again.

"Do I have to order you to go to bed, Jack? Put that bottle down"

I snatched my hand back from the bottle and looked around. Were there cameras here? How the hell did he know what I was doing?

"No, sir. I mean. Yes, sir!" I stuttered into the mouthpiece, managing to hang up, the peels of laughter cut off in mid flight.

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Oh god, my head hurt! I pulled on a sweater over my T-shirt, and shivered, swallowing down the aspirin.

In the cold light of day, my decision to call the President of the United States and ask him to let me go off world, didn't seem quite so smart. I mentally reviewed the conversation and grimaced. At least President Hayes hadn't seemed upset by it, if anything he had sound amused, but I didn't think I had done my cause any good. I'd be lucky if he let me command a sentry post after that little performance.

Oh well. Nothing I could do about it now. It was water under the bridge. And what I had told him was correct. An almost supernatural ability at pool playing, and being able to speak a language so dead that no one else could understand it was hardly a marvel.

And let's not forget the ability to feel cold on the warmest of days.

I could see myself as a super hero. Pool Man to the rescue! He shivers in the face of danger!

And for this I got to stay in an office hundreds of feet underground and order the toilet paper.

I looked out my kitchen window at the glorious summer day. Come on, Jack. Might as well get some fresh air before you have to go lock yourself up again. Exercise the old kozars, get a bit of a tan.

The garden was looking neglected, the lawn dry despite recent rain. The grass had crept over the edge of the path in some places, and the trees were scruffy and wild looking, in desperate need of a prune. Everything looked a little as I felt - sad, depressed and neglected.

The large rose bush at the side of the patio was covered with dead and dying flowers, their red petals falling even as I watched.

Maybe I should just give it all up. If I couldn't go through the gate, couldn't experience the thrill of meeting new races for the first time, seeing new stars in alien skies, and fight the Goa'uld in my own way, then what was the point? I was tired. I'd saved the world and perhaps it was time to let go. Retire. Go fishing.

I remembered President Hayes order of the night before.

Smell the roses.

I reached down and cupped a withered bloom. It was like me, old and way past its use by date.

I closed my eyes and held the dying rose, thinking of all the people who hadn't been able to make the choice to step away.

Scent filled the air and I looked down. Before my very eyes, limp petals, sucked dry by the heat of summer, swelled into renewed bloom. The rough edges of dry plant became soft, velvety, and color bled into the rose from every point where the skin of my fingers touched it.

Blood red and beautiful, it lay in my hand, still connected to its dying bush, an anachronism of life.

Okay, that's not something you see everyday.

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