Here's my new story. Just a warning - it's angsty, really, really angsty! There will, of course be whump and anguish, and most likely cliffhangers (you know me by now!). Please don't shoot me! But I am counting on all of you for lots and lots and lots of reviews. I only keep writing because I love getting them so much!
By the way - none of these characters are mine. They're simply borrowed because I love (especially poor Jack who keeps on getting it from me!)!
"Are you sure I can't change your mind Jack?" Hammond asked his haggard looking friend. "We still need you."
"No George. I've had enough. I can't do it any more."
"I don't know if the President will let you go. He may not let you retire." Hammond knew that O'Neill was one of the few people the President – and the Joint Chiefs – really trusted. They knew he would tell them the truth, whether or not they wanted to hear it.
"Well then, they'll just after to Court Martial me when I go AWOL cause I'm not going back." The man in front of him spoke softly, without anger or belligerence – without any emotion at all and that's what frightened Hammond the most. He was worried that Jack was about to snap. After all he'd been through it was recent events that had finally been the proverbial straw.
"All right Jack. I'll tell them but what are you going to do? Are you planning to head to your cabin? You'll get bored there in no time. Believe me, I know. I tried retirement and I went stir crazy after a couple of weeks."
"I don't know where I'm going George. I don't know anything right now."
Hammond recognized that the man in front of him was in bad shape – emotionally if not physically. He was truly worried and wondered if he should order the man to get a pysch evaluation. The thought was fleeting however. There was no way Jack would agree to that – he'd just disappear.
"Have you spoken to them?" This was the crux of the matter he knew. He wondered if Jack would discuss it. As he watched he could see O'Neill's eyes grow hard with a look he had rarely seen.
"No, and I don't ever plan to. Whatever happens George you have to promise me that you will not tell them anything about me – not where I am or what I'm doing. You have to promise me that if our friendship means anything to you." This was the first bit of emotion George had seen the man display since he'd come to his door this evening.
"But Jack, surely they'd understand if you explained things to them. They were your team for eight years. They'll listen to you!"
"I shouldn't have to explain George", he spoke softly, so softly Hammond could barely hear him. "I trusted each of them with my life. I would never have doubted them, never have questioned them. I expected the same from them. I would have said to anyone and everyone who asked that there were no people I trusted more in this world than my team. How wrong I was!" he spoke with extreme bitterness.
"The circumstances were pretty damning."
"Yes they were. They were supposed to be; that's what the mission was all about. The only thing that kept me going through it all was that my friends would be there waiting at the end of it. I knew that I could count on them. That when it was all over I'd come back and they'd tease me and joke with me. Oh, maybe they'd be angry but only because I hadn't included them. Yeah, I could hear Teal'c chastising me for leaving him behind. Daniel would lecture me and tell me I needed them and Carter – God, Carter – I thought for sure she'd be there for me. But guess what George? They all judged me. They all assumed I was as guilty as hell. They couldn't even look me in the eye. They couldn't get out of the room fast enough. Didn't want to be tainted by the traitor O'Neill. Well fine – as far as I'm concerned they can still believe that. I don't want any part of them."
Hammond looked over sadly. He couldn't believe that the former SG1 had come to this. He understood Jack's anger. He felt angry and betrayed too. He couldn't figure out why they had been so ready to believe the worst of their former commander. Oh, he knew it was more difficult since Jack had taken over Homeworld Security and they didn't see each other so regularly. But he, like Jack, had counted on SG1 to stand staunchly behind General O'Neill. But instead they'd believed what others had believed – that he was a traitor.
At first he had hoped that they could deal with it, get over it. He knew it would take time to rebuild trust but he was sure it would happen. Looking at Jack he now doubted it. This was a man who had been wounded to the heart and soul. This was not a man ready to forgive or forget.
He sighed and spoke again. "I'm sure they'll figure it out and they will worry about you. Just let me tell them you're okay and-"
"NO!" he almost shouted. "No George, I want your promise. You told me that one day you'd have to buy back your soul – well I'm asking for it today. I'm asking you to not say anything to any of them. I do not want them to know how I am, where I am or what I'm doing. As far as I'm concerned my friends are as dead to me as my son." He got up and grabbed his coat. "I'll send my papers to the Chief of Staff tomorrow. I may not see you again George. I hope you know what your support and friendship has meant to me over the years." As he turned to go George spoke with some urgency.
"Jack, I promise I won't say anything to SG1 but please, let me know you're okay. Don't shut me out too. I'll worry if you don't tell me where you are."
Jack paused but then turned back. With the world-weary expression of one who has lost everything he nodded. "I'll send you a message every few months to let you know I'm alive. That's all I can do George." With that he left, as quickly and quietly as he had come.
As Hammond watched him walk down the walkway to his truck he felt a deep sense of sadness; one he had only ever experienced once before, upon the death of his wife so many years ago. O'Neill might still be alive – at least in body – but Hammond knew that he was watching a man whose soul had died. He thought to himself that this was much worse.
"Hey Sam, I just asked Teal'c if he wanted to come over tonight for pizza. What about you? Are you up for pizza and a movie."
She looked at Daniel as if she couldn't figure out what he was saying. Pizza? Why would she want pizza? Her world felt like it had ended and he wanted a Team – no a 'movie' night. There was no 'team' anymore.
"No." she answered, looking back down at what she'd been doing.
"Come on Sam. You need to get out of here. We need to keep going. Teal'c said he'll come."
"Good, then you won't be alone. I have work to do."
"Nothing that's very important. Look, I know you're not working on anything big right now so let's get out of here and relax."
She looked up, starting to get angry. "Look, I said I don't want to go for pizza okay? You and Teal'c can go off and pretend everything is just fine. Go watch Star Wars for the 900th time. Just leave. Me. Alone!"
Daniel walked in the room. It was only as he got nearer that she could see the dark circles under his eyes, the worry lines etched permanently on his forehead. She knew she was being unfair to him. He was just trying to help. But she couldn't deal with it all right now.
"Sam, look, if you don't want to watch a movie we don't have to. We can just go and have a drink and talk. We all need to get away from here for awhile."
"What should we talk about Daniel? Maybe about the Ori or the Asgard? Or how about those Rockies! Look how well they're doing. Hey, have you heard about the economy – it's not doing so well. And what about that General O'Neill? I hear he's a traitor and betrayed his country and everything we hold dear. Yeah, let's go 'chat' Daniel. Why don't we have a Latte with that!" She slammed the piece of equipment she was holding down on the table and stood up. Grabbing her coat she headed for the door. She had to get out of here.
"Wait Sam!" Daniel grabbed her arm and swung her around. "You're not the only one who's hurting here you know. This hasn't just affected you. We're all suffering. I'm just trying to keep us from tearing each other apart. I'm hoping we can help each other through this. Please don't shut us out Sam. We need you and you need us."
"That's very trite Daniel but frankly, I don't need anyone. I've decided I'm much better off on my own. Needing someone just causes hurt and I don't need any more of that." She tried to pull her arm away but Daniel held on.
"Oh, so because you've been hurt by Jack you've decided to get rid of the rest of us? What, you plan to be a loaner for the rest of your life? That'll be great Sam – something to look forward to."
"Don't you get it Daniel, there's nothing to look forward to. Now please, just let me go." Finally doing as she asked he watched as she left her lab and headed for the elevator.
He shook his head in anger. "Jack, you bastard, why did you do this to us? Why did you destroy everything with your arrogance and stupidity?" He turned and headed for Teal'c's room.
Sam reached the top as quickly as she could, feeling like the elevator was moving through thick sludge. By the time she went through security and made it outside she was gasping. She felt like she could no longer breath underground and needed to be outside. She glanced up and realized that she could just see one or two stars coming out as dusk began to fall. The site made a sharp pain go through her chest. She wondered if Jack was off somewhere watching the stars. She knew how much he loved to do that.
Do traitors still like to look through their telescopes, she wondered. Laughing ironically she headed to her car. Unlocking the door she started to drive home but instead ended up heading in a different direction. It wasn't until her car started driving down Jack's old street that she realized where she was headed. She stopped suddenly, pulling over. What was she doing? He didn't even live there anymore. He'd rented it out to a military family posted to NORAD. For a moment there, however, she'd needed to see something of his, to connect somehow to him. With a soft sob she pulled away from the curb and headed home.
It had been two weeks since everything had come crashing down and they'd discovered what General O'Neill had done. Surprisingly there was nothing said about it. It was as if the whole thing was being kept quiet. Other than General Landry no one seemed to know anything.
There was a lot of whispering and talking but it was because of the way SG1 was acting, not because they'd heard anything about General O'Neill. As far as he was concerned the men and women at the SGC still worshipped the ground he walked on. To them he was a hero, someone they all aspired to be. That's what made it so hard for Teal'c, Daniel and Sam.
The three friends had barely spoken to one another since the episode in Sam's office. She felt badly but couldn't bring herself to get the energy to even apologize to Daniel. She walked around in a daze most of the time. It's a good thing she wasn't working on anything important or she might have blown up the base.
Teal'c spent most of his time in his room, doing what she didn't know. He no longer had to Kel'noreem so maybe he was just watching reruns of old movies. Daniel was also in his office, probably madly translating some useless old writing about how many sheep and pigs someone had purchased or how many goats they'd gotten for their daughter.
She was sitting there staring when a call came through from Walter asking her to go to the Briefing Room. She wondered idly what it was about but really didn't care. She didn't care about much these days.
When she arrived she could see Daniel and Teal'c had been called too. They all walked in and sat down, not saying anything to each other and not even looking at each other. A couple of minutes later Landry entered closely followed by someone they hadn't seen in a while.
"General Hammond!", they all exclaimed at once. It was good to see him, but what was he doing here? He'd retired 6 months ago when Jack had taken over from him. He was in his uniform however, so this must be official.
He nodded but didn't reply, simply sitting down at the end of the table. He looked very serious. The way he was acting was very strange – the General they had all known would have shown some pleasure in seeing them again, even if something bad had gone down.
"General Hammond is here to brief us on what's going on in Washington." That's all he said as he turned to Hammond.
"I came to explain to Hank what's happening with Homeworld Security and he suggested I speak with you as the premier team at the SGC." He didn't look up as he was speaking but continued quickly. "I am working as interim Commander in charge. The Joint Chiefs are looking at new candidates as we speak but we expect it will take some time before a permanent replacement is found. In the meantime things will continue as always. Hank will continue in charge of the SGC and you will report to him as usual." With that the General stood up and looked like he was ready to leave.
SG1 looked at each other in confusion. Was that all? He'd come all this was to say that? It didn't make sense. They all wondered about J – O'Neill. What had happened to him? Had he been arrested? Would he be tried? Oh God, wondered Sam, would he be tried as a traitor? He would be executed if he was found guilty. She could feel her throat become tight.
"Ah General?" It was Daniel who spoke before Hammond had a chance to leave. He stopped but didn't turn to face the table.
"What is it Dr. Jackson?"
"Uh, we were wondering about Jack? I mean … what's happened to him?" They all waited breathlessly for the General's answer. At first Hammond didn't move but then they could see his back straighten and his shoulders tense. Turning slowly he looked at the three teammates sitting at the table.
"He has retired." Saying no more he turned and left.
Daniel, Teal'c and Sam all sat there stunned. Not just at the words the General had spoken but at the look of anger and disgust that was clearly written on his face. He looked like he could barely stand to be in the same room as SG1. What the hell was going on?
"Why didn't you tell them General?" Hank asked as they walked back in to his office. "Surely they can know now that it was just a sting operation. They've been feeling pretty badly about it."
"I shouldn't have to say anything Hank. They should have known it from the beginning."
"Oh come on Sir. The evidence was pretty damning. I saw the video tape too. It certainly made O'Neill look guilty."
"Yeah, but they've known Jack for over eight years. He counted on the fact that they would know it must be an act."
"So, when they reacted the way they did he was hurt?"
"Hurt is not the word I would use. Devastated is more like it. It just about destroyed him. In fact, I'm worried that it has."
"Is that why he resigned? I thought that maybe he'd been forced out as a result of this last operation – that there were some who may have believed it."
"Forced out? In fact, he was awarded a medal by the President for this last one. No, they didn't want him to leave, refused to let him retire. It was only when he threatened to go AWOL that they let him. The President and the Joint Chiefs were mightely pissed."
"But I still don't see why no one has told SG1."
"Jack didn't want them told. Made me promise – even told the Chiefs and the President that he'd raise hell if they were told."
"Because he's hurt and desperately wounded. It's his way of lashing back at them and we owe him that much for all he's done. Right now I'm so angry and disgusted at the lot of them I really hope they're suffering for this. I could barely stand to be in the same room with them and I've counted them my dear friends for many years." He walked restlessly around his former office.
"Where's Jack now? Has he gone to his cabin?" Landry wondered if maybe he should go and see his old friend.
"I don't know. No, he's not at his cabin. It's locked up tight. All his things have been cleared away from his house in DC. He's just disappeared."
"Aren't people worried? I mean, he could still be a target. He's an important man who has a lot of vital information."
"Yeah, I think the Pentagon is probably having a fit. The fact is, if Jack O'Neill wants to disappear he will and I doubt very much anyone, short of God, could find him."
"What about the Asgard thingy – the transmitter? Doesn't that work?"
"He insisted it be removed. Threatened to cut it out himself if they didn't get it out of him."
"God, he can be such an ass at times." Hammond had to grin at this. Landry obviously knew him well.
"Yes, but a brilliant one. He promised me that he'd let me know he was safe every few months. I doubt he'll tell me where he is – just that he's okay. I'll let you know when I hear from him. I'm afraid we'll have to be satisfied with that."
General Hammond looked around once more, remembering all the good times and the close calls they'd had together. He felt an incredible sadness as the loss of it all. He knew that SG1 and this place would never be the same.
"I have to go now Hank. Good luck with everything and call if you need anything. I'll be in touch in a few days once I've had a chance to catch up on things again."
"Thanks General and good luck." I just wished I knew what to do here, he thought to himself as the General left. He was the one that now had to deal with a broken and hurting team.
He wasn't surprised when a knock came on the door a short time later. He knew that Jackson would be the first to visit and he was right.
"What can I do for you Dr. Jackson?"
"Uh, I wanted to ask you about Jack – er General O'Neill."
"Yes? I don't think there's much I can tell you Doctor. I don't know much."
"It's true he's retired?"
"Yes", that much Hank could say.
"Uh, he's not in trouble or anything?"
"Trouble? Why would he be in trouble?"
"Uh, I thought you were aware of what had happened?"
"I wasn't aware that anything had happened Dr. Jackson. As far as I know Jack simply decided it was time to retire and left."
"Without any kind of goodbye or retirement party? Without even a word to his friends or those under his command?"
"Maybe he did tell his friends Dr. Jackson." Hank stood up and realized that he was on the verge of saying too much. "Will there be anything else?"
Daniel stood in shock. What did Landry mean? Jack had told his 'friends'? But he hadn't said anything to any of them. He was sure no one at the SGC knew, at least not yet.
"Did they do something for him in Washington?"
"I don't know Doctor. I can't imagine Jack would want anything like that. Now, if you'll excuse me I have work to do."
"Uh, just one more thing General."
"Yes?" Landry sighed. This was as difficult as he imagined it was going to be.
"Do you know if Jack is still in Washington or has he gone to his cabin?"
"I don't know. I believe he's left Washington but that's all I know. Now, I really must ask you to leave."
"Okay. Thanks General." A very sober and confused Daniel left the office. Something was wrong but he couldn't get a handle on it. Somebody in DC had obviously found out what Jack had been doing and rather than causing a scandal had simply forced him to resign. Otherwise they would have had some kind of a celebration or recognition of Jack's years of service and contribution to the country – hell to the whole damn universe!
He wanted to go and talk to Sam about it but relations between them had been so strained that he turned instead to Teal'c's room. He knew the man was suffering greatly over Jack's betrayal. He wouldn't be surprised were he to end up leaving the SGC and returning to his home world. If he did it would be a great loss, to earth and to Daniel himself who counted him one of his best friends.
Sam made her way to the General's office, not realizing that Daniel had already been. Her thoughts had been running along much the same paths as the archaeologist but there was something that was really bothering her and she couldn't quite figure it out. She, like Daniel, figured he'd been forced out but there was something in this whole mess that didn't sit right with her.
She laughed ironically to herself. Right? This whole thing had been wrong from day one. When they'd first found out what Jack was doing they'd been stunned, but sure that he was innocent. It was only as the evidence had piled up and they had seen the tapes that they had been forced to believe. Unfortunately, their source for information was impeccable!
She knocked softly on the General's door. The 'come in' sounded weary, as if the General didn't want to speak with anyone. Little did she know she was correct.
"Colonel Carter", he sighed, "what can I do for you?"
"I wanted to ask you about General O'Neill Sir."
"Of course you did." She looked confused at this so he gestured to the chair in front of his desk. "At ease Colonel. What is it you want to know?"
"I'm just surprised that he retired and none of us knew about it. We've been his friends for years."
"Have you?" She looked up, a frown appearing on her forehead. The General's attitude was puzzling to say the least.
"Yes, of course Sir. We were a team for eight years."
"Hmmm", was all he said.
"I don't understand. What's wrong?"
"You tell me Colonel?" Okay, he'd had enough. He wasn't supposed to say anything about where Jack had gone or why he'd disappeared but he was not going to sit here and let people think that Jack was some kind of traitor!
"I understood that the last time the General was here you and the rest of your team refused to see him unless you were 'ordered to do so'. Those are your words exactly Colonel. They don't sound like the words of a friend to me."
"No Sir", she answered softly. "It's just that we were shocked and hurt by what he'd done. We couldn't, we didn't … we didn't know what to say or do."
"I see. You thought he was guilty of betraying the earth, is that it?"
"Yes. We know he was Sir. We saw the evidence that the Asgard showed us – that Thor showed us."
"I see, then there's really nothing more to say is there Colonel?" He stood up, waiting for her to rise and leave but she stayed seated. "Colonel?" he asked pointedly. It was not protocol to stay seated when your commanding officer stood up.
"Sir. Was Thor wrong? Did the evidence lie?"
"I think it's too late to be asking that now Colonel. Now please, I'd like you to leave. I'm placing you and the rest of SG1 back in the mission roster starting Monday. I suggest you get yourselves ready."
Sam finally stood up, looking dazed. "Where is he Sir? Where's General O'Neill?" She sounded panicked.
"I have no idea Colonel, and I suggest you don't try and find out. I don't think he has any desire to see you. You are dismissed." He sat down and looked at the papers on his desk, pretending to read them. After almost a minute he could hear the Colonel turn and leave his office. God, that had been one of the hardest conversations he'd ever had, but, like Hammond, he felt angry and disappointed at these people. He was pretty sure they'd destroyed Jack O'Neill, one of the most honest to goodness, decent men he'd ever met.
Practically stumbling out of Landry's office Sam knew she had to talk to Daniel and Teal'c right away. She had a horribly sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. With a blazing flash of understanding she knew, without a doubt, that they'd been wrong, that Jack hadn't betrayed anything. How she knew she couldn't say but she knew she wasn't wrong – at least not now. But she had been, they had been. They'd been so very wrong. Jack wasn't the one who had betrayed them – they were the one's who had betrayed him!
With a sob she started to run down the stairs, a startled Walter watching as she fled. Instead of taking the elevator to Daniel's office she ran the entire way. When she got there and saw it was dark she turned and began to run to Teal'c's room. The security guards looked puzzled as she ran past and one even tried to stop her but she shook him off simply saying that she needed to check on an experiment and he let her go.
Finally arriving at Teal'c she slammed the door open without even knocking. Two pairs of very startled eyes looked up at her.
"What is it Sam? What's wrong?" Daniel stood and walked towards her, worried at her wild look. Teal'c stood as well, knowing something serious had happened.
"We were wrong Daniel, Teal'c. We were wrong! Jack didn't betray the earth. We betrayed him because we believed the lies. Don't you see – he's left because of us. Oh my God, what have we done? What have we done?"