Jackfic Archive Story

 

The Brownie

by Gallagater

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).


The Brownie

Challenge for the word of the month 'betrayal'

Author: Gallagater

E-mail: 7j4him@prodigy.net

Rated 13+

Spoilers: none

Season: any

Category: angst, friendship

Pairing: none

Warnings: language

Disclaimer: They're not mine, sigh, a girl can always dream. SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (ll) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. No Copyright infringement is intended. They don't earn me a dime, just new friends and some time away from my laundry. That's entertainment! The original characters, situations, and story are property of the author.

Summary: A roll of film leads Jack to discover who he is. Author's note: Blame it on the fact that it is my nature to look at pictures and see beyond the face into the life of those who were once as we are.

* * * * *

It wasn't unusual for Daniel to find Jack sitting at their favorite table in the dining hall. But what immediately struck him as odd was the slice of chocolate cake looking remarkably delicious and untouched on the tray in front of his friend. Instead of a fork, Jack was holding a small photograph. Daniel watched quietly as he stared at the bleached out picture with an intensity normally reserved for System Lords and presidentially-hopeful senators. Jack was definitely finding something deeply disturbing about the innocuous snapshot. "Who is it?"

Shadowed eyes touched his and slid away. "I have no idea."

There was a neutral tone in Jack's voice which Daniel knew from experience meant a riptide of emotions were boiling just beneath the deceptively calm surface. Leaning over to take a closer look, he could see nothing to warrant such a reaction. An ordinary looking young man, tall and lean, with dark eyes, dressed in some sort of military uniform mugged for the camera. The picture was a grainy mixture of faded browns. "Where'd you get this?"

Although Jack made no attempt to hide his annoyance and appeared uncharacteristically tentative, he surprised Daniel when he answered. "I found a box in the attic the other day. It had some stuff from my grandfather's estate. There was an old Brownie camera with a roll of film in it. I mentioned it to Carter and she thought she might be able to develop the film. This was the only picture she could get off of it." He shrugged casually as if it really didn't matter one way or another.

"That's pretty impressive when you consider it was hidden away all this time under who knows what kind of conditions. It's amazing Sam managed to develop the film if it's been sitting unexposed in a camera for years."

"Yeah, isn't it though?"

Frowning, Daniel recognized there was more than met the eye beneath Jack's thinly veiled sarcasm. He was missing something. Something Jack found disturbing, but being Jack, he was not going to open up and share. "It was in your grandfather's camera. So do you think it might be a relative?"

"Let it rest, Daniel."

Ignoring the overt warning, Daniel reached over and snagged the photo. "You know, now that I look at it, this looks a lot like you." He smirked and added, "When you were a lot younger, of course."

The grin died away as Jack slammed his fist on the table rattling the tray and gaining the attention of everyone in the room. "Dammit, Daniel, I said drop it. It isn't important. It's just an old picture of some soldier no one will ever know. What the hell does it matter?" Giving his tray an angry shove, Jack pushed past Daniel without another word, leaving him staring soberly at the smiling, unnamed face.

* * * * *

The deep sense of betrayal and guilt was still clinging to him like lichen when he found the letter in his in-box three days later. Worse he couldn't get a grip on why he felt the way he did, but there was no denying the dread, and even a wisp of ghostly fear, as if he were trapped between the past and future with no escape. He needed an enemy he could see, one he could identify and fight against. This left him confused and angry. He had buried himself away for the past few days, ignoring his team and pissed with himself for snapping at Daniel in public over something as stupid as an old picture. Daniel was just being himself - a naturally curious pain in the ass with a badger-like tenacity that could drive you nuts. Daniel had no way of knowing what was going on in his head. Hell, Jack wasn't even sure himself what it was about that damn picture that was bothering him so much. And if he were being honest, he didn't much want to go wading through the muck to find out. It was easier and safer to hide behind his anger.

It was hidden beneath the stack of forms and official government hoo- hah which habitually comprised his mail. The size alone, the fact that it wasn't the normal business-size envelope, made it stand out from its Air Force counterparts. Nope, it was a standard white envelope with his name and rank scrawled in blue ink above the address - remarkable in its unremarkable-ness.

Jack turned the letter over in his hand. As with all the mail that came into the base, it had been scanned so he was pretty sure it wouldn't blow up in his face. Still, it was weird for him to get personal mail here at the mountain. Hell, in this day of e-mails, it was weird to get it at all. The return address was from a town in Minnesota, not too far from where he'd grown up. He didn't recall knowing anyone from there, but there was always the off chance someone he'd known when he was a kid had moved there and was now going to the effort of tracking him down for God only knew what reason.

Still staring at the envelope, turning it over and over in search of non- existent clues, Jack scowled. Of course, that didn't explain why the postmark read Colorado Springs. Someone was playing an elaborate joke on him and had apparently gone to some effort to dig up what part of Minnesota he hailed from. That person was prying in his personal life in the name of this prank and it was royally pissing him off. When he found out who it was, his or her ass was going to be in a sling. Someone was playing with fire and had no idea they were about to get burned. He had connections.

Slitting the envelope carefully, Jack pulled out a single folded sheet of stationary. As he opened it, a picture fell onto his desk. He picked it up and gazed at the faded snapshot. The scowl melted into a puzzled frown. It was the picture from the Brownie, the nameless soldier.

Bewilderment was not an emotion Jack O'Neill enjoyed, despite the fact he had gleaned quite a bit of experience with juggling it since joining forces with Doctors Jackson and Carter. Still, in his experience, bewilderment meant surprises and surprises could get you killed. But as he stared at the youthful face, the cocky smile of a boy in a man's uniform, Jack could only wonder what all this was about. Laying the picture down carefully, he slowly opened the folded letter. The handwriting was neat and surprisingly familiar.

Dear Jack,

I'd like to introduce myself. I am your Grandpa John's older brother. William - Will, to most folks. Guess that makes you my grand-nephew which doesn't mean a hill of beans to me. Never could wrap my head around that kind of nonsense. Looking at names on a chart doesn't tell you much of anything about a person. What does matter to me - and to you I hope - is people: who they are; what they believe in; and what they're willing to die for. What's inside and how you show it. Those are the important things in life.

With that in mind, I'm going to tell you a little about myself. It was my privilege to be born and raised on a little farm in central Minnesota, in the great county of Crow Wing, near Ironton. It's a speck on the map now and back then it couldn't even claim that dubious honor. But it was a wondrous place to grow up. I always counted it a blessing to be raised in a land where you didn't have to search to find a quiet place to fish.

If my brother did his job right and told you about your heritage, you probably know some of the things I'm going to mention, but it bears repeating. My father, your great-granddad, was a miner. He dug ore dawn to dusk. I'm here to tell you, times were tough. But before you start wasting your pity on me, let me just say I was one of the lucky ones. I learned early on the meaning of hard work and making an honest living. I had prime examples in my mother and father.

I turned nineteen three days before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Hell of a birthday gift. I joined up the next day, me and half the county, just a wet behind the ear kid with more heart than brains. My mother cried and my father shook my hand like a man the day I left for Basics at a camp near Chicago. As excited as I was, I was more scared than anything, but determined to do what I saw as right. I couldn't sit back and let others fight for my country and not have a hand in it. From the moment I put on the uniform and raised my hand to take the oath, I knew there was no turning back. 'For God and Country' is more than just a motto, it's a life choice when you're a soldier.

I learned to fight; I learned to kill. That's not something I'm proud of, but it comes with the job. They say 'war's hell,' but until you've looked into the eyes of a man and known that in the next moment one of you will lay dead and forgotten in the snow, you can't understand. Until you're willing to shed your blood to protect the stars and stripes, those are just words. And in my way of thinking, it's action that built this country and action that keeps it safe.

In 1944, my division, the hundred and third was sent to fight on the border of Germany and Belgium. It was in the Ardennes Forest and was called the Battle of the Bulge. Over a million men were sent into fight and when it was over, there were over a hundred eighty thousand casualties. Nineteen thousand Americans lost their lives. I was one of them. My folks received the standard message via telegram and some time later, I came home in a simple pine box. If you ever get a chance, stop by for a visit. You'll find a small, white granite, government-issued tombstone with my name and dates carved on it at the Ironton Cemetery. I'm resting here near a big oak just north of the pond. It's peaceful here. It's a good place.

Your great-granddad used a pick and shovel to dig iron ore from the flinty soil. As a soldier, I used my own set of tools to extract freedom. Sometimes, those tools consisted of nothing more than iron will and the belief that what I was doing mattered. I'm proud to have served my country. Proud to have given my all, which may not be much in the scheme of things, but it's all I had to give - all any of us ever has to give. You only have to look up and see the flag proclaiming freedom to know that what I and others who don the uniform do is important, and though our faces may fade, our sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Yours truly,

Will O'Neill

Under the scrawled signature, a simple addendum had been added.

Remember the words of Caius Tacitus, 'So, as you go into battle, remember your ancestors and remember your descendants.'

There are no forgotten soldiers in my book, Jack.

Daniel

A soft knock interrupted Jack's reverie. Without waiting for an invitation, Daniel stuck his head in the door. "Want to go grab some lunch?" Seeing the letter in Jack's hand, the invitation died away.

Jack stared at the tiny sepia photo, looked into the eager brown eyes of a boy about to go off to war, a kindred spirit reaching across the generations. Without looking up, he could feel Daniel watching him intently, no doubt unsure how he was going to react. "How?"

Daniel took a step into the office and gave a lazy shrug. "Sometimes an archaeologist uses a hammer and pick to dig until he finds a treasure, but sometimes he Googles and goes from there. You'd be amazed what you can find if you know where to look."

"I'm sure." Jack's smile was slow and spoke volumes more than his simply reply. "I never knew. No one ever mentioned him." He stopped and looked away.

"And if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone." When Jack made no comment Daniel added quietly, "I guess sometimes it's easier to forget the hurt if you don't talk about it. But in the process, you risk forgetting the good as well."

"Will O'Neill," Jack murmured as if speaking only to himself and perhaps to someone long gone, an ordinary soldier called upon to do an extraordinary task, buried and nearly lost to time. "Forgotten. Not a chance."

**fin**


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