Irrevocable Decision Part 2

He knew them too well; knew they'd come. So he made sure he wasn't around to face their shock - which he knew would in time turn to anger and resentment - to have on view his own failings and fears. He'd had two frenetic weeks to sort out his house and finances and then he'd escaped to his grandfather's cabin by the lake, the one he'd invited Carter to on a number of occasions, but which she'd never accepted.

He'd seen her, this time from a distance. Her, Daniel and Teal'c. She'd banged on his door so hard he could almost believe he could feel the pain in his own hands and then she'd turned to face the woods, seeming to find his hidden position, piercing him with an accusing glare, her blue eyes filled with a terrible pain which was reflected in his own. They'd left, eventually, but he hadn't returned until it was dark and he could be sure they had really gone; gone from his life, gone from his nightmares, gone from his soul -the same as he'd gone from the Stargate.

There was a haunting finality to that visit that encouraged Jack to celebrate his success – his victory at being free once and for all from the choking responsibility of the SG-1 team. No more decisions except those which concerned himself. He'd raised the beer bottle, his fifth in succession, to the heavens and to the many stars which adorned the black sky and given a silent toast. And when he awoke in the early hours of the morning, hung over and surrounded by empty bottles, he had staggered to his feet and had removed the dog tags from around his neck as the last symbolic gesture, cutting the ties to his past life. And reeling to the small wooden jetty, he had hurled the cool glinting metal as far out into the silently waiting lake as he could manage.

If he had thought life was going to be simpler or easier once he'd retired, he was to be proven wrong. Small problems on the cabin neglected over the years and which hadn't posed any major discomfort on short visits, suddenly erupted to gigantic proportions and all at once the tall, lean ex-airman found himself coping with rotting floor timbers, a leaking roof and the general wear and tear of a building that hadn't had any work done on it for the past six years.

In the following weeks the sounds of drill and hammer were a constant accompaniment to all that Jack undertook and as the glorious autumn weather gave off hints of the colder weather to come, Jack worked unceasingly to put his new home into order.

Late autumn eventually turned to winter with a heavy fall of snow and icy conditions forecast on the roads for the coming night. The banging on Jack's door that same afternoon interrupted his work on the waste disposal system and biting back an oath, he dragged himself out from under the sink and padded to the main door, wondering if it was the rangers again warning about the deer poachers.

It wasn't a good moment to be disturbed as he hadn't come close to solving the disposal problem and his irritation was clear to see as he threw open the front door.

For an instant he wondered if he was imagining things, seeing an apparition, but the crisply spoken 'Jack' as the figure brushed past him into the cabin was clearly no phantom. He turned slowly being fairly obvious about still leaving the door wide open.

"Jacob?" His tone was anything but welcoming, but the large framed man standing well inside his home stared back through uncomfortably familiar blue eyes. "What are you doing here?"

"Nice welcome, Jack." And observing the younger man's appearance enquired, "Lost your razor, Colonel?"

Ignoring the question and still remaining by the open door, Jack stood stiffly, arms crossed, eyes narrowed. "What do you want, Jacob?"

For a long moment the newcomer regarded the sloppily dressed man in grey T-shirt and baggy jeans, grey bearded stubble covering much of his face, with his hair definitely on his collar – if he'd had one.

"The cold doesn't bother me too much, Jack, but seeing as you've gone to the trouble of getting this place so cosy, it seems a shame to waste the heat."

Jack glowered, knowing he hadn't a cat in hell's chance of forcing Sam's father to leave and with a growl of irritation he pushed the door closed.

Walking back to the kitchen he snapped, "Make it quick. I'm busy." And he returned to the pipes under the sink ignoring Jacob as best he could, yet all too aware the man was walking around the cabin. Eventually he sensed him standing close by.

"Can't a man drop in on an old acquaintance?"

Miscalculating his aim with the hammer, Jack muttered a string of obscenities as he threw the tool down and hauled himself out yet again, shaking his left hand which had all too obviously borne the brunt of the hammer's blow.

Observing the swelling on Jack's thumb, Jacob grinned none too sympathetically.

"You might want to put some ice on that – it looks pretty sore."

Shaking his head in disbelief, Jack threw Jacob a withering look. "It's almost five hundred miles from Cheyenne Mountain to here – I wouldn't call that 'dropping in'."

"Really?" asked Jacob innocently setting Jack's teeth on edge. "Well then, I reckon a cup of coffee would go down well, if you're offering that is."

Wondering what it would take to get rid of his unwelcome intruder, Jack decided he could manage a cup of coffee if that was what it took to help move the situation along.

As he scooped instant granules into a mug, Jack's tone took on a slightly defensive quality, "Did Carter send you?"

He watched Jacob carefully but there was no reaction other than a mild surprise and raised eyebrows. "Why would she do that?"

Jack shrugged indifferently, "Maybe because I pissed her off."

Jacob accepted the coffee enthusiastically putting it to his lips and sipping carefully. "Sam doesn't need me to fight her battles, she knows how to kick ass."

Jack wasn't sure whether he was relieved or not to hear this – if it wasn't his former 2IC then what had brought Jacob here?

"Anyway, what did you do to piss her off?" He actually sounded as if he wanted to know, but Jack felt himself erecting barriers which kept others out – now that Jacob had Selmak within him Jack didn't trust his abilities to keep the Tokra agent at bay.

"Ask your daughter."

"I will, next time I see her."

By now Jack had had enough of the pussyfooting around and decided to go on the offensive.

"Maybe you weren't aware that I've retired, Jacob. I'm no longer a part of the Air Force. I'm a civilian – have nothing to do with the Stargate or anyone involved in it," he finished coldly.

"So I heard," Jacob sounded unimpressed at Jack's revelations, merely handing his empty mug back to him and moving to the door much to Jack's relief.

"Nice seeing you Jacob."

Jack watched the older man walk to his car, open the boot and to his consternation extract a small holdall, close the boot and retrace his steps.

"What are you doing?" Jack didn't care that he sounded ill-mannered.

"It's getting too dark for me to drive on these back roads Jack, I'll just use your sofa – don't mean to put you out."

"You don't seem to have much trouble negotiating a hundred planets but a few dirt tracks put you on hold?" he demanded witheringly, his brown eyes flashing heatedly. "How come Selmak doesn't offer his assistance?"

Jacob eyed him indulgently, smiling agreeably, apparently oblivious to Jack's foul mood.

"Selmak tries to stay as much in the background as possible when I'm back on earth."

Jack looked askance as the older man sat himself down on the large, comfortable sofa, holding his hands out to the blazing fire.

"Got yourself a nice place out here Jack – a bit away from things though."

"That's how I like it."

"Don't get lonely?"

"No!"

"Hell, Jack. Teal'c tells me there aren't even fish in the lake."

"There are – they're just way too smart to get caught."

Far from relaxed, Jack had forced himself to take a seat opposite Jacob watching him suspiciously.

"Whatever it is you've come for – the answer is no. Two simple letters which have a definitive meaning which cannot be misinterpreted – even by you. Got that Jacob?" Well aware of just how offensive he sounded, Jack felt compelled to make his position crystal clear.

"Well, it's transparently clear that life in the country hasn't softened those hard edges of yours." Jacob laughed, but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

Unable to sit still any longer, Jack lunged to his feet. "I'm going for a walk."

"It's dark."

Jack didn't answer, simply going to where his black leather jacket was hanging. He shrugged into it pulling the collar up and putting on gloves.

"From what Sam told me of your little escapade in Antarctica, I'd have thought you'd have had enough of ice and snow."

Hand on the door handle, Jack hesitated and not turning to face Jacob, his voice roughened so that it was more a growl than words, he muttered, "If you change your mind and decide to leave, consider our farewells done."

The door closed loudly, not exactly slammed shut Jacob reasoned, grinning to himself at Jack's barely controlled emotions.

"Let's see how long that restraint's going to last, Colonel."

Go to Part 3 (to be posted shortly)