After the Frost – General Jack Year Two - Part One
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
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"
"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.
Oh crap. Here it comes again. I can already hear the words.
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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.
"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."
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.
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.
One very big reason.
General George Hammond had stepped through the Stargate on less
than a handful of occasions.
"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.
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
"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.
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."
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
I beckoned the waiter over, and got refills for us.
I knew there was something wrong with the Doctor. What was Robert's
"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
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
I couldn't help it. It wasn't like I did it on purpose, it was just
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.