Jackfic Archive Story

 

Loaded for Bear General Jack Year Three - Part Eleven

by Flatkatsi

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).




Plunk.

Now that was a sound I could never get enough of.

Plunk.

I reeled my line in again then released it with a slight flick of my wrist, watching the hook fall into the water.

Plunk.

Ripples rolled outwards across the otherwise still surface of the pond. I tipped my hat forward over my eyes, stretched my legs even further in front of me, crossing them at the ankles, and shifted my grip on the rod until it was lightly balanced.

Bliss.

My pocket vibrated.

For a few seconds I pondered on ignoring it, maybe even getting some tiny pleasure out of the feeling as it frantically tried to attract my attention, but decided against it. Even I'm not that desperate, plus I suspected I knew who was calling. I pushed my hat back and squinted up at the sky, gauging the time by the sun.

Yep.

I had missed my daily check in.

Don't take it out on the phone. Don't take it out on the phone.

Muttering the mantra under my breath, I yanked my cell from my pocket.

"O'Neill."

"Good evening, General."

"Yes, I know. I didn't call. What can I say? I hope you haven't been sitting by the phone waiting. You know we agreed you could go out with other guys."

"Very amusing, sir." Doctor Kasanji's tone was light, but I could tell he wasn't seeing the joke at all. "A condition of your being alone at your cabin is that you contact me once a day, before six in the evening."

"Sorry, I lost track of time. Those two bottles of Jim Beam I drank for breakfast sure killed a few brain cells. Couldn't even remember my own name, let alone your number."

"Sir. . ."

"All right. I was fishing, okay. I was relaxed. I was happy. At least until this call. Thanks for killing the mood, Doc." I felt a rush of anger and squashed it down, continuing in as calm a tone as I could manage. "Look - I apologise. I really did lose track of time."

"I do understand, sir, but you also have to understand that making regular contact isn't for my benefit, it's for yours. As I explained, we need to carefully monitor the effects the medication you are taking may have on you."

I nodded wearily. "Yes, I know and I do understand. It isn't a miracle cure. I will probably still experience some flashbacks and mood swings, yadda yadda yadda."

"Yes, sir. And if you do experience any of these symptoms or anything else out of the ordinary, you need to report them to me so the dosage can be adjusted if required." There was a pause and I waited for the inevitable question. "Have you experienced any of the symptoms we have discussed?"

"I'm feeling annoyed now. Does that count?"

"General O'Neill. . ."

I interrupted, not liking the warning tone I heard in Kasanji's voice. I didn't want these brief few days of freedom cut short because of a stupid fit of temper. Besides, I knew he was right.

"No, Doctor, I haven't, and I will be sure to tell you if I do."

"Good." There was another, longer pause and when he spoke again I could hear an uncharacteristic hesitation in his voice. "I understand General Hammond is visiting you tomorrow to discuss your future. Would you like me to attend the meeting?"

I genuinely thought about his offer for a moment. I had come to value Doctor Kasanji's advice, but this was something I needed to face on my own.

"No thanks. I take it you have discussed my case with him?"

"Yes, I have. As you know, I was asked, by the Joint Chiefs, to report on your progress."

"And?" I wedged my rod between my leg and the chair, pulled my hat off and ran my hand through my hair, wriggling in the seat to try and ease some of the tension that had suddenly sent my muscles into hard knots.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'd rather not discuss this over the phone. We should set up an appointment." There was the tap tap of one of those stylus thingies on a PDA. "Would Thursday at 10am by convenient?"

"Given that it is after I speak to General Hammond, I don't think there would be any point, do you?" And yes - this time I allowed my annoyance to show in my voice.

"Sir - I have only told my superiors as much as they need to help them make a decision regarding your future. I have not disclosed anything you have said in confidence to me while in our sessions, nor have I volunteered anything other than what was necessary to assist them. I have no idea what conclusion they have come to - I am not privy to that information, therefore I would like to see you, my patient, after you are told their decision." I didn't speak, so he continued after another brief pause. "General, you need to see me after you meet with General Hammond. A brief phone call is not enough. I hope you understand that."

I did. Of course I did.

"Alright, Thursday then. Pencil me in." I didn't wait for his answer. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

I terminated the call, and looked at the phone, feeling the urge to throw it into the lake.

This whole idea of getting away and forgetting about the situation was pointless if I was reminded of it at every turn. Daily calls to my psychiatrist and now Hammond's visit . . .

I reeled in my line, picked up my stuff, and headed for the house.

**********

I wanted a beer.

I didn't need one, but boy, did I ever want one.

I had to stop thinking about Hammond and the fact he was coming all the way from Washington DC to Minnesota just to talk to me.

A trip into town would do the trick. It was far too early for the only bar to be open, and my drinking buddies would be working, so there was no temptation there. I could take a leisurely stroll down the main street, and have a look at some of the shops that had opened over the last few years.

I grabbed my jacket and wallet and headed out.

**********

Stevensville had changed. It had gone from being a small town of a few hundred people who all knew each other, to a town flooded with summer tourists where McDonalds vied with KFC for the dining dollar. Even finding a parking spot was difficult until an SUV filled with kids and driven by a frazzled looking mother pulled out right in front of me without indicating. I narrowly avoided hitting her rear and instead of giving her a blast of the horn slid smoothly into the space she had vacated.

I left my jacket in the truck and jumped down, making sure it was locked - something else that had changed over the years. The time when you could leave your car with the window down and the shopping on the front seat had long gone.

It came as quite a surprise to realise how many of the stores around me were new since my last vacation here. I hadn't been to my cabin in over a year, and even then it was a fleeting visit after being dropped there by Ancient transporter. I tried to remember how long it had been since I'd done more than pass through town, stopping only to pick up a few groceries. Maybe three, four years? It could have been longer. Damn - no wonder it had changed.

A small shop beckoned me in, its front window tastefully displaying a few vases with some rather well arranged flowers, with a distinctly Japanese feel. It seemed the perfect place to start getting reacquainted with the local shopkeepers.

I pushed the door open and stopped.

What the hell?

The interior was dim and darkly painted in what I would have taken to be black if I didn't find that too hard to believe. The crowded space was taken up with candles, some burning brightly from stands, others glowing from inside glasses and vases. I entered, letting the door slide shut.

Candles. Nothing but candles.

And it stunk like a cheap whorehouse after the marines had landed.

"Can I help you, sir?" A small woman, dressed in muted greens, smiled up at me. "Are you looking for a gift?"

For Teal'c perhaps, but I couldn't see him getting much value out of the tiny excuses for candles that filled most of the shelves.

I shook my head, feeling the need to explain. "Ah, no. I haven't seen your shop before and wondered what you sold."

She nodded genially. "We stock the widest range of candles in this part of the county."

"Yes, it's certainly impressive." Her smile broadened. "What else do you sell?"

"Of course we have many different accessories. Candle sticks, vases, small ponds for the floating tea-lights, and oil burners, along with a lot more."

"Oil burners?" I looked around for some sort of heating equipment, but she gestured around the shelves.

"We have over fifty essential oils and other aromatherapy products."

The smell was clogging my nostrils and beginning to give me a headache, so I thanked her politely and promised I'd be back when I needed a birthday present for the lady in my life, then made a strategic withdrawal.

Standing out on the pavement once more, taking deep breaths, I wondered how a shop that sold nothing but candles managed to be economically viable. And who the hell bought stuff there. I couldn't see the point myself.

The next store seemed a better prospect. It was a bookshop and I'd always liked books.

It took me all of five minutes to decide the universe was playing some sort of cosmic joke on me. There were books on home decorating, cooking, quilting, needlework, cottage crafts, and even, ironically, candle making, but not a single mystery novel or best seller. The closest there was to fiction was a collection of tiny books on the counter with titles like "The Little Book of Happiness" and "One Hundred Ways to Say You Love Him." And no, it wasn't a sex manual - just some trite and rather sickly poems illustrated with pastel drawings of flowers. I should know, because I looked, actually having gotten my hopes up after reading the cover.

The next shop was filled with needlework kits and knitting wool. I could see that through the window - no way was I going in there.

The final store in the row seemed to stock jars of jelly with little cloth hats on and ribbons around their necks.

I had been sucked up by an alien device and deposited in an alternate reality populated by people who seemed to have an awful lot of time on their hands and way too much money to spend.

Shuddering, I turned the corner and found myself grinning. There was "O'Neill's Bait and Hunting Emporium", just as it had been since I was a teenager. My grandfather had explained it used to be owned by his elder brother, until he lost his business in the depression, and each new owner had never bothered to change the name. When I was young I had been unsure whether to be embarrassed or proud by my connection and had alternated between avoiding the place at all cost to hanging around in there like a bad smell.

I looked in the window, pleased to see the place hadn't changed much. The shelves were crammed with stock and nets hung on every wall. I wandered in, looking at the lures, rods and reels with eyes filled with avarice.

Maybe I'd get some crawlers while I was here. I could probably do with a new reel. And those lures over in the middle aisle looked pretty - well - pretty.

"Jack, long time no see."

A man even taller than myself emerged from the door I knew led to the back storage areas. He was almost bald, with a fringe of dark blonde greying hair and vivid blue eyes. It took me a second, but then it clicked - Simon, one of my friends from the final year I had spent in high school here.

I strode forward, my hand extended to take his. "Simon, what the hell are you doing here? Last I heard you were in Seattle."

He shook my hand vigorously. "I couldn't stand the place, so the wife and I brought the kids back here and I bought 'O'Neill's'."

"You own the bait shop?" I let out a loud laugh. "You hate fishing."

"I bought the bait and hunting shop." He pointed to the rifles lined up along the back wall. "Fishing I hated, but put a rifle in my hands and I'm in heaven."

"Yeah, I remember." I walked down the row, admiring the weapons. I'd done a bit of deer hunting, but it had never really appealed and now even less so.

Simon followed me, reaching up to take down a Remington. "How long are you here? Maybe we could go hunting. I could organise a licence for you if you'd like."

"No thanks." I shook my head as I accepted the rifle from him. "I'm not really into hunting these days - except fish. You're welcome to come out to the cabin and join me." I indicated the rods further down the store, "Bring a couple of those, maybe we could try them out."

"Depends," Simon took the rifle back and carefully replaced it in its spot. "How long are you here for?"

"I'm not sure. I have to be back in Colorado Springs by Thursday."

"Is that where you're living now? You still with the Air Force?"

I gave him the short answer. "Yep."

"So you can't stay longer?"

"No, why?"

We started walking back towards the front of the shop. I saw that a woman was now behind the main counter and gave her a slight smile as we approached.

"I'm taking the next few days off. Going bear hunting with some buddies. Are you sure you won't come along?"

"No, thanks, Simon. I have to report in on Thursday." I hoped the white lie would be enough to stop him asking again. No way was I going bear hunting - or any other hunting for that matter. I'd done enough hunting of men over the years to last me several lifetimes and hunting animals for pleasure wasn't something I ever intended to do again.

"Patty, this is Jack O'Neill. We were at school together."

The woman was about our age and a lot shorter than Simon. She gave him an exasperated, but affectionate smile and reached out a hand. "Hi, I'm Patty, Simon's wife."

The pleasantries over, she offered me a coffee, which I gratefully accepted. We sat at the counter for a while, sipping our drinks and talking about old times. When the rather sketchily remembered stories of our misspent youth ran out, Patty went out back and returned with some photos of their children - a boy and a girl, both still in high school.

By the time I left it was getting on for lunchtime. I stopped in at the grocery store and grabbed a few things to make a quick meal. George was due to arrive soon and I wanted to have eaten before we had our talk. I didn't know if I'd have much of an appetite afterwards.

The time I'd spent with Simon and Patty had eased my tension a little. It had been good to forget about things for a bit, to relax and pretend I was just an average person on holiday at my cabin for a few days.

I made a sandwich and carried it down to the edge of the lake and tried to think of nothing much of anything.

**********

I heard the car pull up. For a moment I contemplated staying where I was, making Hammond come find me, but it was only for a moment. No blame for this whole situation could be attached to George, quite the opposite in fact, and he didn't deserve to be the outlet for my frustration.

I stood, brushed the crumbs off myself, and walked around the side of the cabin, finding the General just getting out of his staff car.

"Hi, George. Good trip?"

"Long, Jack, long. Why did you have to pick such an out of the way place to hole up in?" He stretched his back, wiggled his head from side to side, and gave a pained grunt. "I feel like I've done nothing but travel for hours."

I smiled at his complaints, as I know he intended me to. "Maybe because you have? Why don't we go sit out back." I turned back to address the politely waiting driver. "Come into the cabin, Sergeant, and have something to drink. There's coffee in the pot, or coke in the fridge if you prefer."

I led the way and soon had the sergeant settled, somewhat uneasily, in front of the television with a drink and a sandwich. I carried a tray with coffee and cookies out to where I had already set up a small table and a couple of comfortable chairs.

George looked around as he settled into his chair. "This is nice, Jack. I didn't get a chance to appreciate it properly the last time I was here."

I thought of the fleeting visit he and Davis had made to come get me after I returned from offworld, and nodded. The parallels with the consequences of that adventure were unmistakable. I decided I'd had enough of polite conversation.

"So what's the verdict, George?" I put down the mug I had barely touched and leaned forward.

He leaned back and stared out over the water, seeming unwilling to meet my eye. It wasn't like him. He had always been upfront with me and, with a sinking feeling, I knew it was bad.

"Jack, I'm sorry, but you won't be getting back command of the SGC. General Hank Landry will take command officially on Monday."

"Hank's a good man. He'll be fine."

He seemed surprised at my calm tone, not knowing that inside I was dying. I had expected this, but now the words had been said it was as if someone had taken a knife and cut out my heart. "So, that's it? I get to retire on medical grounds and finally get some serious fishing in?"

And Ramsey wins. No way in hell.

I didn't have long to wait for my answer. Hammond finally turned, moving closer and putting a hand on my knee.

"You can't be in command of the SGC while on the medication Doctor Kasanji has prescribed. You still aren't well. You know that, son." I nodded because I did know it, and he continued. "There is a vacant post in Washington. The President was hoping you would take it."

How ironic. I couldn't be trusted to run my own base but I could sit in an office in the Pentagon and make decisions that would affect everyone. I didn't even ask what the position was before I was shaking my head. "I'd sooner retire."

His hand squeezed my knee - hard enough to make me look up from the ground. "That isn't an option. I knew that would be your answer when President Hayes suggested the post. When I pointed that out, he told me that neither he, nor General Jumper, would accept your resignation. As of now you can consider yourself on indefinite medical leave." He sat back again, taking his cup up. "Sort yourself out, Jack. Then, when you're ready, we can discuss your future. None of us want to lose you, and certainly not this way."

I gave a brief nod, having no choice in the matter. I couldn't find anything to say, so I stayed silent, watching the trees across the lake shivering in the breeze.

Everything seemed remarkably serene, like a painting of the perfect landscape, with every rock and blade of grass positioned just right. It was as if the world surrounding us had come to a halt and was holding its breath along with me.

Waiting.

"I'm surprised you're here alone, Jack. I expected SG-1 to be with you."

"They have work to do." I could hear the hardness in my own voice. "They can't be expected to put their lives and careers on hold because I have a problem." I turned, seeing surprise in Hammond's face. "They wanted to come, but I told them 'no'. I don't need nursemaids any more, General."

I stood, collecting up the cups and plates.

"Are you okay, son?"

I didn't turn.

"Fine, thanks, sir." I started for the back door of the cabin. "Could you send the paperwork to my house? I'll be home on Thursday and get everything signed then. I'd rather not have a big fuss made of my leaving the SGC, if you don't mind. I'm sure you understand."

His footsteps sounded unnaturally loud in the unusual silence that now enveloped me.

"Jack, are you sure you don't want someone to be here with you? This must have been a shock. . . "

I cut him short. "No, not really, sir. I expected it. It was the most likely scenario under the circumstances. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to be rude and cut this short. I'm going hunting. It's bear season."

**********

I was back inside before the large black car turned out of the drive and the whiskey was hitting the back of my throat just as its wheels scrunched from the dirt onto the gravel.

I stood at the window, watching the shadows grow long and sinister, changing everything to black.

And I finally took a breath and used it, meaning each word of what I was saying, feeling them settle deeply into every part of me.

"All the old knives that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours."

Phaedrus had said it first, but now, so many centuries later, his hatred still resonated, and it took life in me.


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