Title: Hell, Reclaimed

Author: Jodi Marie

Email: ag4bk@juno.com

Category: Action/Adventure

Warnings: Language, Violence, Character death-temp.

Pairing: Some S/J

Season: Any with Daniel

Spoilers: None

Rating: PG

Summary: Jack, Black Ops, Iraq

Disclaimer: Ah, you know the drill. Not mine. Wish they were.

Author's note: Many, many thanks to my Betas, Michelle and Jill who offered encouragement and correction, both of which I sorely needed. This fic is much better because of you.

Hell, Reclaimed

The folder made a pleasant slapping sound as it landed on top of the 'out' pile, possibly an effect that was enhanced by the fact that the 'in' box was completely empty, a rarity anywhere in the facility but in this particular office, unheard of.

Colonel O'Neill leaned back in his chair and stretched out his lanky frame, he hated paperwork with a passion and it was more than phenomenal he'd managed to get through it with but a single curse. Before shutting down the computer and heading for home he tapped out the few keystrokes that would retrieve any waiting e-mail.

As usual the subject headings were more work related than anything else; with updates to personnel files, mission reports and possible new destinations identified by Carter's random dialing program with a little spam thrown in for good measure.

A simple one-word subject line caught his eye. 'Humpty'. The senders address was only a long string of random characters denoting the encryption used to hide the identity when it was sensitive in a 'top secret' classification sort of way.

He clicked it. Only one person ever called him that and it was ages ago. Dorsey was a Lieutenant Colonel back then and O'Neill had been a Captain, both Special Forces hot shots, or so they thought until O'Neill had taken that plunge out of a plane with a defective parachute. Dorsey figured his teammate was so screwed up by the experience he'd never come back. Just to challenge him, Dorsey started calling O'Neill Humpty Dumpy after the storybook character that took a 'great fall'. He taunted the young Captain time and time again about pulling himself together and getting back on that plane. Little did either of them know so long ago that what the fall from the airplane couldn't do, four months in a dank dark cell would at a later time. Broken could only begin to describe what had happened to one Jack O'Neill.

After months in a rehab facility he was recovered of his injuries from the fall and insisted on rejoining the team instead of taking the ticket for home he'd been offered. The whole team was thrilled to have him back since his special skills were often sorely needed. He *was* quite simply the best his Commander had ever seen, and that included the Navy's number one Seal team. As soon as his particular brand of genius was recognized in the academy, he'd been encouraged to go Special Forces.

While in training he'd often impressed senior officers with his ability to perceive a threat long before it was obvious and then show his strength of character by making whatever hard choice was necessary and dealing with it. Add to that his almost immediate understanding of any weapon placed in his hands and the young airman was a force to be reckoned with.

He rejoined his team, determined to overcome the setback, and in no time at all had found his 'edge', and was once again an integral part of the group. Then *it* happened. A mission gone wrong. Separated from the team. Left behind. He'd never forget the sight of the helicopter taking off and turning its tail to him and never forgive the men aboard her.

He shook off the clouding memories as the document loaded. Oddly it wasn't just a letter or note like he'd expected. It was a map with a specific site marked in red. The only words were a cryptic 'Tomorrow, 1930 Hrs'.

O'Neill squinted at the screen memorizing the location and hit the 'delete' key twice, permanently removing the message. The document disappeared from view and he leaned back in his chair again, this time not to relax but to consider the request. If this was about renewing an old friendship Dorsey had a strange way of going about it. He was certain it was about something else; he just didn't know what.

"Second star, nice."

The older man almost leapt out of his skin. One minute he'd been sitting quietly on the park bench tossing bits of bread to a flock of pigeons while waiting for his 'appointment' to arrive and the next he was startled nearly enough to wet himself by the soft voice speaking no more than an inch from his ear.

Major General Dorsey composed himself in record time; he wasn't about to let his former teammate see how easy it had been to get the drop on him, despite the person doing it was admittedly an expert in the field of covert ops. In fact it was one of the reasons the General had kept an eye on one certain Colonel's career since coming out of retirement for, unbelievably, the second time. Skills like that were rare and needed to be utilized. Something Dorsey had seen to several times over the last few years.

"Jack. Glad you came."

O'Neill took a seat next to the General and eyed the man from head to toe. Older, of course, both of them were, but Dorsey had a bit too much of a paunch to his stomach, and far too immaculate a uniform with every crease just so. The man had become an ace paper-pusher. "Thought you'd retire as a Brigadier."

"Could have, but you know-" A tiny smirk began to show on his lips. He knew what O'Neill was thinking and despised paperwork just as much. "It's so damn exciting I couldn't pull myself away."

O'Neill allowed himself a full and genuine grin at his old CO. "Good to see you Dorce."

"I see you're still a Bird."

He shrugged as he answered. "Too many retirement breaks and too many little black marks in my file."

Dorsey looked away and off to the horizon. "Your file is just like mine Colonel, all the black is where the censors inked over the stuff we can't talk about."

A silence fell as the mere mention of the link between them dredged up memories best left forgotten.

"Why am I here?"

"Right to the point; you haven't changed much, you know. Okay then." The General took in a deep breath and blew it out. "Since your most recent 'reactivation' you've been called upon for a few missions that were shall we say, more akin to your previous occupation."

O'Neill's expression hardened just slightly; the older man now had his full attention.

"As you may have guessed it was me behind them."

Actually he hadn't, but now it made sense. Dorsey was the highest-ranking surviving member of the elite team of which they'd been a part and knew full well the Colonel's capabilities. O'Neill wondered how it was he'd been asked to take on a few 'special' missions over the past few years that were not related to his current assignment. The only one that had anything to do with the SGC itself had been to expose Makepeace as a mole and it was authorized by Hammond; the rest had come from somewhere in Washington.

Even Hammond had been privy to only two others; the remaining ones had taken place while he was on supposed 'downtime'. Luckily no one ever questioned why he sometimes came back from 'fishing' with serious jet lag or unexplained bruises, though once it was necessary for Fraiser to be contacted by a direct link from the Pentagon with orders to 'treat, ask nothing, and exclude from records'.

At first she'd been irritated and had stalked around the infirmary like a frazzled wet hen then threatened to go directly to Hammond. O'Neill had grabbed her arm and forced her into her own office and shut the door.

The manhandling didn't bother her so much, except to raise her ire even more, but when she turned and looked into his eyes all that changed.

In that moment she knew fear.

It had a name and a medical file three inches thick that she'd read cover to cover. Twice. She, possibly more than anyone else on base, save Hammond, knew exactly what the Colonel had been through during his career and the price he'd paid to get where he was now.

She felt the bile rise in her throat and hoped she wouldn't throw up.

He blinked once, twice, and it was gone, replaced with a quiet softness that she dared not intrude upon by speaking. Her breath finally came to her, and she prayed to never see that look turned in her direction again. For all the mock hostility she and her staff endured at the mercy of the Colonel, she'd always managed to stay in control of her little kingdom, that was, until now. Now she knew the truth; she only ever controlled him because he allowed it.

He shook himself as if the intensity of the atmosphere was something tangible he could remove like a cloak, and reached into his back pocket, producing a page from a newspaper folded upon itself until it was not much larger than a half sheet of paper. He plopped it on her desk, unfolding it partially so that a particular story was on top.

The infant daughter of a Texas senator was kidnapped and had just been returned two days before. The article was a blow-by-blow account of a vicious firefight between the kidnappers and Police and how when the captors knew it was over they decided to destroy themselves and the child with a couple live grenades. From out of nowhere an unnamed officer had appeared and grabbed the girl. The grenades went off and the man turned his back to the explosion with her in his arms to protect her. The rest of the story was about the flurry of activity as the Police Swat Team took over and returned the child to her parents. No further mention was made of the man who pulled her out of harm's way.

Fraiser looked at the Colonel and opened her mouth, but he shushed her with a look. Not quite as menacing as before, though just as effective. He turned the paper over to hide the story then slowly, and with obvious pain, removed his jacket and T-shirt and turned his back to her. The vest had done its job and protected most of him, but his upper arms and shoulders had several small lacerations, which had already been cleaned out and sutured as necessary. Her job would be to keep an eye on the healing process and take out the sutures when it was time.

When he turned back to face her she had tears in her eyes, perhaps the 'mother' in her showing. She helped him back into his T-shirt, and as their eyes met she smiled at him and mouthed the words 'thank you'. He'd come as close as he could to breaching classification protocol and telling her what happened, a gesture she'd remember for a long time. His only response was to give her a sharp nod, then pick up his jacket and saunter off. To anyone else it was just *him*, maybe a little stiff, but that could be chalked up to showing his age. Only Janet Fraiser and one frightened little girl knew what a hero he was.

Then again, only O'Neill and the unnamed source in Washington knew what a near failure the mission had actually been. The Colonel wasn't supposed to grab the child and get himself injured; that had happened only when events moved along faster than he'd anticipated. His orders were to neutralize the grenade threat and position himself to take out at least one of the men when the SWATs moved in. He'd earned a reprimand for foolhardiness from Washington and a handwritten note from the Senator thanking the 'anonymous officer' for what he'd done. Two sides of the same coin.

Dorsey continued. "Something has come up, another mission, and your skills and knowledge would be most useful."

"That's no different than before. So why reveal yourself now, and why meet in person?"

Dorsey's eyes fell to the ground. "This one's special. You remember Toby?"

"Sure, last time I saw him he was packing it in. Going home for good. He intended to keep his wife pregnant for three or four years and raise at least one of them to be a major league pitcher."

The General had to grin at that one. Toby was relentless when it came to baseball; he knew every stat for every year since before he was born. The grin quickly faded, and he raised his eyes to once more give his attention to O'Neill.

"Some of that happened. I think there are three kids, two of them boys." He paused before dropping the bomb his companion knew was coming. "Jack, he stayed in the reserves, got called up with this last war and shipped out."

"And?" O'Neill was becoming visibly impatient.

"And, four days before the end he was out on a routine patrol. They were ambushed and taken hostage. Six of the nine have been accounted for and are back home, two in body bags."


"We've just recently received intel that even this long after the surrender, there are strongholds where people are loyal to Saddam, and some of them have American prisoners in their custody. One such camp is near where Toby's patrol was attacked. We believe he is there. The diplomatic talks are failing, and there's such an uproar about how bad conditions have gotten since we took over, who knows when they'll actually start talking prisoner exchanges and such."

In his mind O'Neill was already ticking off the logistics of a hostage extraction. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and squinted out across the small lake in front of them, deep in thought. "How good is your information?"


"Precise location, opposing force strength and possible back up by locals, firepower estimates and usual patterns of the guards and anyone else who might be in the vicinity?"

"All available."


"You'll drop in as close as we can get you; for pick up we'll use Turkish Helos. They make frequent runs past the border, and the locals are pretty used to seeing them. Hardly pay attention to them anymore."

"Time frame?"

"From go to completion? A week or two, but you should prepare for more in case of complications, it *is* Iraq after all, and I don't expect it to be a one-man op this time, for obvious reasons. You can hand pick a team from the SF's attached to the local Command if you want, but keep the compliment small, two or three only." There was a short pause as the General gave O'Neill a moment to consider the options. "As usual I won't order you to do this, your choice alone. This could be a bad one and no official sanction."

O'Neill snorted at that. Since when had the government *ever* backed him up on one of these missions? He didn't answer right away but then suddenly sat upright and crossed his arms in front of his chest, a look of resolve on his face.

Dorsey's eyes brightened. "So, you in?"

"I'll need a cover story for Hammond, I'm not due for any time off right now."

"Don't need it, unless you want to work out something for everyone else who might be affected by your absence. Due to the nature of this mission I've decided to let Hammond into the loop if you agreed to go. I'll brief him within the hour and then head back to DC. You'll be ready to ship out at 0600?"

"Usual place?"

"Usual place."

O'Neill stood to his feet. "How many besides Toby?"

"Two others, I'll have files and photos of all relevant persons waiting for you on the plane."

"As usual." The Colonel nodded once then turned to leave. He shot a sly grin back over his shoulder as he walked away. "Two stars, huh? Wouldn't have guessed."

The restaurant parking lot was full as a testament to their claim of having the 'best steaks outside of Texas', and the only parking O'Neill could find was on the street. This team outing had been planned several days ago and he'd been looking forward to spending some time with his 'kids' outside of work. He wasn't about to miss out on it completely despite running 45 minutes late and once again being called upon to do some extra-curricular work for good Old Uncle Sam.

Everyone was already digging into their plates by the time O'Neill stepped into the doorway. He nodded to Daniel who was waving him over then detoured to the bar to pick up a beer before joining the group at a long rectangular table set adjoining the recreation area. Teal'c and Daniel were discussing something decidedly 'X-Files' while Carter and Fraiser were eyeing the pool table and betting whether Carter could beat the current night's would-be pro.

O'Neill sat across from the women and nodded to Fraiser. It was nice to see her joining them. She wasn't specifically a member of the team but was always a welcome addition to the party.


They broke from their giggling and greeted him. "Colonel."

"Sir." Carter glanced at the beer and back up at his face. "I hope that's not dinner."

"Actually," he turned the bottle and made it wobble on the table. "I might get something to take with me. I need to make this an early night."

"Hot date, Jack?" Daniel looked at him over the top of his glasses and took another bite of potato.

"Ah, not really." O'Neill's eyes stayed on the label of his beer, the only overt reaction being his eyebrows momentarily flicking upwards. "Something's come up; I've got to go out of town for a few days."

"Don't we have a mission coming up day after tomorrow?" Carter asked.

"Standard follow-up right? Known friendly. I don't see any reason to delay going on my account. You can handle it." He waved a hand in her direction. "Besides, Daniel's been looking forward to it for over a week; he hasn't talked about anything else."

"Hey! *He* is sitting right here! And what's not to look forward to? They've got a museum that rivals our own Smithsonian."

"Two-headed goats?"

The archaeologist groaned and shook his head. Leave it to O'Neill to pick the one anomalous thing out of the initial contact team's mission report. "You know a museum is about a lot more than oddities and bizarre deformities, how about history?"

"But they *do* have a two-headed goat."

"It's not a goat."

"The picture looked like a goat."

"It's still not a goat."

"As I recall it was a small horned quadruped." Teal'c offered as a compromise. The other two men both immediately looked at him trying to decide if this was another attempt at humor from the Jaffa.

Carter and Fraiser had been watching the exchange and burst out laughing at the same time. Sam leaned over to the Doctor and stage whispered an explanation. "Really, it *was* a goat."

O'Neill grinned and leaned back in his chair, saluting the younger man with his beer bottle. "Three to one."

Daniel chose to ignore him and called to the waitress for a refill on his coffee. Only twenty minutes later O'Neill stood to leave.

"I should be going."

"Anything we can do?" Daniel had gotten over his irritation and was curious about what would take O'Neill away from his post on such short notice.

"Nah, I just have to do something for a friend." He noticed the questioning look in Fraiser's eyes and stared back at her with a hint of sternness, an unspoken reminder of the nature of his occasional exploits.

"Goodnight all. Carter?" He nodded his head toward the exit asking her to see him out.

He didn't speak until they were outside and a short distance from the entrance. "This may take longer than a couple of days. In the meantime, I've talked with Hammond about the status of SG-1. I see no reason to put everyone on downtime because of my absence. You're well able to command, so you'll have the team until I get back." He paused. "If I'm delayed very long you might consider requesting a fourth."

"Sir?" Her eyes opened wide. Suddenly she understood he was up to something more than a social visit and was now preparing her for the possibility he might not come back. Ever.

"Colonel, what's this about?"

"Like I said, something for a friend."

"I don't buy it. If you can't say, then just say you can't say."

He balked at her words; the woman was spending *way* too much time around a certain archaeologist. "All right then, I can't say."

Carter stared at him for a moment blinking. She knew his history and understood covert and classified missions, but it was unsettling to find herself without clearance. She began to reach one hand out, imploring him, but caught herself and jammed both hands in her jeans pockets instead. She fought not to stammer as she spoke.

"Whatever it is, you know you could trust us."

A flicker of dismay crossed his eyes as he recalled the fallout from having left his team out of the loop before. It had taken several weeks for the team dynamic to get back to even close to where it was before he'd taken that mission for the Asgard and Tollan; he'd had to earn their trust all over again.

"I know, and I do." He looked her straight in the eye as he spoke then lowered his head slightly and continued in a softer tone. "Sam, it's all right. I just have to go."

Her head turned to the side, and she glanced at his hand where it had come to rest on her shoulder, his warmth evident through the thin fabric of her shirt.

"Just be careful, okay?"

He grinned as he released her and turned toward his truck. "Hey, it's me. Don't worry."

The plane ride out was nothing special. O'Neill was given a courtesy lift out of Petersen on a commercial commuter flight and met his long-term ride at the airfield in Nevada. From there he wouldn't touch ground again until they were in Kuwait. It was there he'd put together his team, brief them, plan the mission and implement it.

Al Jaber Airfield hadn't changed much since the war's end. If anything it was busier than before. He noted the full hangers and a great many planes parked alongside the runway. Coming into the place via the dusty desert roadway the planes looked like a disorganized mesh of metal they were situated so closely together. Through the rising heat it was impossible to see where one ended and the next began.

O'Neill checked in with the base commander, General Marchman before going to his assigned quarters to rest for a short while. After that, he was set up to meet with the XO and choose his team. He sat on the bunk and gazed out a northward facing window. Just beyond the horizon was the one place on earth he never wanted to see again, and here he was, by his own choice going back.

He glanced at the stack of folders he'd set on the table and sighed. The top file was that of Major Tobias Sellers, the reason he was here. He lay down with his fingers interlaced behind his neck and legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. He knew sleep would not come now, but he needed to rest and get his body in sync with the local time of day.

Two hours later he followed an aide back to the command headquarters and met the XO. Jeff Sykes was a few years younger but matched O'Neill's salt and pepper hair and somewhat worn appearance to his face. His background was Special Forces too, and he'd already set aside several files of likely candidates for the mission. Not surprisingly all five of O'Neill's choices were on Sykes' list. He wanted to meet with each of them before choosing three to go. The remaining two would serve as backup and be waiting aboard the Turkish helicopter to assist with the extraction.

After the meetings O'Neill made his decision: Second Lieutenant Dwight McGhee, demolitions expert, Chicago native and avid wrestling enthusiast; Second Lieutenant Sean Blacksmith, communications and electronics wizard; and a Computer Specialist, Major Rick Barnes.

Colonel Sykes nodded his approval of the choices, his only addition was to add himself to the back-up helo crew, bringing the total number of men to be prepped and ready to seven. All of the men were able pilots and trained to handle any weapon currently available on the planet.

O'Neill had to smile at Sykes boasting; little did he know one member of the team was versed in a variety of off world weaponry as well.

Something niggled at O'Neill as he prepped the day before the mission was to go. His sixth sense kicked in, and he raised his head just in time to see the base CO standing in the doorway. "Colonel. Got a minute?"

O'Neill nodded and followed the General out of the building to a group of tables and benches situated off a small distance from the bunker. None of them were being used at the time, so he and Marchman were alone out in the open air. Somewhat similar to a meeting he'd had only a few days before with another General, O'Neill noted.

"How's the mission coming together?"

"As expected, quickly. You have well-trained men, a credit to your operation."

The General didn't respond right away, so O'Neill continued talking. "In, fact they are extremely well-trained. Makes me wonder just *why* it is I'm here."

"You are acquainted with one of the hostages."

"Yeah, about that; emotional involvement is the one thing that should have excluded me from this particular mission, especially given that you have such able personnel available." He watched Marchman's body language and was pleased to see him tense, tightening one fist until a knuckle popped. "And you brought me all the way from Colorado, too."

"Dammit, Dorsey didn't say what an irreverent smart-ass you are."

"Hmm. Just an observant one."

The General squared his shoulders and folded his arms across his chest then glanced around them making sure no one was approaching. "All right. Here it is. Yes, we've got a few men being held by Iraqis, and if we don't get them out soon I don't think we ever will. But that is only part of the actual mission. The man overseeing the opposing forces is one of Saddam's Generals whom we lost track of back near the end of the war. If he continues he'll soon be able to rebuild his forces to threat level. He already has the backing of hundreds of locals. They're calling him 'Bensada' the next Saddam." He paused before continuing. "You recall how little success we've had in neutralizing these leaders once they've gone to ground?"

O'Neill nodded. The success rate would be near zero except that they'd been very lucky.

"Well, we think there's a chance to take this one out, given the right person doing the job. Colonel, my men are good, but they aren't experienced assassins."

The final word brought the answer home to O'Neill. He winced at the sound of it. Assassin. So that was how the government classified him now.

"You waited until now to tell me this?"

"Didn't want to impede your commitment."

The Colonel frowned and narrowed his eyes. "General if we get in there, and I find out your intel is off by so much as a hair, that there are no Americans to rescue-" He smirked. "Let's just say, you're right, I *am* an experienced assassin."

Marchman stiffened. Under other circumstances he'd have the Colonel up on charges for threatening a superior officer. "It's not off. You'll see." He turned to face his now nemesis. "But we want that Bensada character neutralized. Am I clear?"

"Crystal." O'Neill answered in a flat and emotionless tone.

The General stood to his feet. "You'll find additional gear stowed under your bunk. If you need anything else specific let me know. The mission goes in-" He glanced at his watch. "Just over 30 hours." The General gave no dismissal, 'goodbye' or even 'good luck'. He just walked off leaving O'Neill to ponder the additional parameters of the mission before getting up and heading for his assigned quarters.

O'Neill knew he'd left his room locked, but just the same when he entered the first thing he spotted was an unfamiliar black case under his bunk. He pulled it out and laid it on the mattress, looking it over once before opening it. Lifting the lid he found a class 1 sniper rifle broken down to its components and tucked neatly in foam. He ran his fingers over the familiar metal pieces, and without even a thought picked up the appropriate parts one at a time and put the weapon together in ten seconds flat. He held it in his hands, testing the balance and weight of it. More than adequate, it was an excellent choice. A Teflon finished M25 with a match grade barrel. If he got a clean shot anywhere within 900 meters his target would fall. He slung it lightly over his shoulder and sauntered out of the room toward the base firing range; there was plenty of time before dark to verify the weapons accuracy and make certain he was comfortable handling it.

It took two days to gear up properly and coordinate with the Turks, but in the end it was worth it. Their contact was an older man who'd been flying recon missions over northern Iraq for twenty years. Yazu had been shot down six times, had broken both legs and three ribs and had a skull fracture- though not all at the same time, and been hospitalized for three months with massive pulmonary edema from breathing superheated air in a fire. He'd had no choice; at the time he was trapped in the cockpit of a downed plane and was slowly being roasted alive. His god smiled on him that day, and a traveler who'd seen the plane crash showed up to offer assistance riding an absconded American Humvee complete with winches and rescue gear. The side of the plane had to literally be ripped off to allow for his exit.

After that incident Yazu quit flying planes in favor of helicopters, he figured he was too old to 'dogfight' anymore and ran recon and cargo runs between Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and Jordan. He tried to keep his political entanglements to a minimum but saw no problem transporting American 'GI's'.

Final weapons check was at 2200, and O'Neill allowed himself a little amusement at the differing opinions of what should be carried in their packs. Of course Blacksmith and Barnes being techno-geeks of one kind or another had their packs crammed with rolls of wire, clamps and an assortment of odd looking gizmos all of which had at least two blinking lights and some kind of gauge. McGhee's and O'Neill's own packs were weighed down with bricks of C-4, detonators, extra magazines for their weapons and various incendiary devices. They all had to carry basic things such as first aid kits and emergency field rations, but the only job-related item they held in common was each of them carried a large roll of duct tape. O'Neill promptly labeled them the Duck Brigade and dubbed his team Huey, Louie and Dewey.

The light-hearted feeling continued as they completed prep. O'Neill had a good feeling about this mission. Success was often the result of putting together the right team for the job, and this one worked well from the moment they were introduced. It felt good; too, to be doing something other than a solo op. Especially since becoming the leader of SG-1, he'd preferred a team to going it alone. He saw a few of them take note of his additional weapon and nod their heads in understanding. All of these men were trained snipers, but he didn't know which of them might have had the opportunity to make use of their training on that level. To O'Neill, their silence was an indication of their support of the situation; he accepted it gladly.

At precisely 2245, they were in position less than two miles from the compound where the Americans were being held. As the helicopter hovered, four corded lines were dropped, and O'Neill gave the signal to descend. Simultaneously all four of them slid down the lines to the ground and dove for cover until the Helo was well away from them.

Night vision goggles in place, they headed for the Iraqi compound.