By Kate O'Riley
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, I'm just kidnapping them for a little while to put them through a little emotional trauma. I'll return them more-or-less intact when I'm done. Promise!
Spoilers: Some for "Divide and Conquer" (I love that episode! Except the part where Martouf…well, you know…and if you don't, you probably don't want to). You really won't know some of this unless you've watched "Cold Lazarus" too.
Season: 4 – between "Divide and Conquer" and "Window of Opportunity"
A/N: OK, personally, I thought this was really weak at the end, and I wasn't going to post it. However, as they do in so many things, my younger sisters interfered, by finding this on my old laptop where I'd failed to delete it. I complained I thought it was bad, and Mollie goes, "Oh no! I nearly cried! Post it!" I was somewhat surprised and a little annoyed they'd been poking in my files, but…OK…
All of my "Stargate" fanfiction is sponsored by Stargate Chat Network's Creative Unit. Check it out at Feb. 8, 2005
"Have you seen the colonel anywhere?" Sam Carter asked, poking her head into Daniel's lab. Her friend was hunched over his latest set of translations. At her question, he looked up and blinked several times, startled.
"Uh, no, I don't think I've seen him since he left yesterday," he said.
She frowned. "He's not usually late for work, but I can't seem to find him anywhere."
"Hey, Sam, actually, I wanted to talk to you about him. Come in here," Daniel said, pointing to an empty stool. She sat down warily. What was Daniel wanting?
"Has Jack seemed…different, to you these last couple days?" Daniel asked.
"Different?" She frowned. "Yeah, he has seemed kind of, I don't know, off."
"I wonder what could be causing it," said Daniel thoughtfully.
Sam bit her tongue. The za'tarc testing…but Daniel hadn't been around for it, not when they were being re-tested, and as far as she knew, no one had told him what she and Jack had said.
"I don't know," said Sam. "I do know, he's not here today, there has to be a reason, and I'm going to see General Hammond and find out."
"General?" said Sam, poking her head into Hammond's office.
"Major. Come on in," he said, sitting behind his desk and working on some papers.
"General, sir, I was wondering if you knew where Colonel O'Neill was," said Carter, stepping into the room.
General Hammond looked surprised. "I'm sorry, Major, I thought you knew. Colonel O'Neill took today off. Said he was sick. I suggested he come see Doctor Fraiser, but he refused, said it wasn't that bad."
She frowned. "General, if he's not here, we're essentially grounded, so I'd like to request permission to go check up on him."
Hammond looked at her keenly. "Are you sure?" he asked softly.
So. He'd heard, probably from Janet. "Yes, sir…as a friend," she said.
He nodded. "Go ahead. Send him my best wishes."
"Thank you, sir." She turned and left.
She pulled up outside his house and parked. It was quiet. She hesitantly walked up to the house, suddenly feeling nervous. Standing on the step for a moment, she listened, but could hear nothing. She knocked.
"Come in!" His voice called from the inside. So, he was home. After hesitating a second more, she opened the door and went inside.
She quickly found him. He was sitting on his couch, staring at a picture. He gave a brief glance to see who it was. "Oh. Hello, Carter," he said disinterestedly.
"Sir," she said cautiously. Something wasn't right… Walking over, she sat down on the couch next to him. "Jack," she said softly, resting her hand on his arm, "What's wrong?"
"Five years," he said, staring at the picture. "It's been five years."
Looking closer, she could see it was a picture of Charlie. Her heart ached as she suddenly understood. "Jack…" she whispered, putting her arm all the way around him. She hugged him to her as he began to cry.
After a moment, he stopped and looked at her. "Sam, what are you doing here?" he asked, her presence finally registering.
"I was worried about you, when you didn't show up today. I didn't realize…" she drifted off, the words suddenly escaping her. How did you say how sorry you were in a situation like this? Even though she'd never met Charlie, had never even met Jack until over a year after his death, she grieved for her friend. She knew what it felt like to lose a loved one prematurely…even if it wasn't a child who'd killed himself by accident with your own gun.
"I was outside with Sara," he said suddenly. "We were outside, talking. Our anniversary was in three days, it'd be ten years. We were going to leave Charlie with Sara's dad for the weekend and get some time by ourselves. And then…" he drifted off, looking blankly out into space. Sam laid her hand on his shoulder, letting him know she was there, she was sympathetic.
"I'd heard that sound so many times before…I knew that particular one as well I knew myself…I knew, instantly, it was my…my…" he grew silent again. Then he swore and slammed his fist into the table.
"We stood there, frozen for a minute, shocked, and then, I guess we ran up there. I don't remember it. I just remember running into our room, and finding him…finding him there…blood all over the place…" his voice cracked and for a moment, he couldn't speak.
"Jack, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to," Sam said quietly.
He let out a shaky breath. "No, Sam, I…I need to."
He continued. "Sara called 911, but…it was pretty obvious…it was too late. He musta've been looking at it, straight down the barrel, when it…it was bad."
He could still remember, every second. How Charlie had laid there, still, and how Jack had realized in an instant his son was dead. The sharp, acrid tang of blood in the air. The blond hair, matted with blood. He involuntary shuddered.
Sam felt horrible. On the one hand, it felt like she was intruding, on the other hand, O'Neill needed a friend to support him, to help him with the personal demons he was so obviously facing.
"Jack, I'm so, so, sorry," she said, feeling strangely helpless.
He turned to face her. "Sam, will you do me a favor?" he asked, his brown eyes staring straight into her blue ones.
"Of course," she answered immediately. "What can I do for you?"
"Just…come with me."
They walked outside and got into Jack's truck. The drive was short, but silent. When they pulled into the cemetery, she knew instantly why they were here.
Jack stopped the truck, and she followed him as he walked. They hadn't gone very far before Jack kneeled down in front of a small headstone. Sam read the stone. "Charles Joseph O'Neill", date of birth, date of death. A baseball glove holding a ball, and a bat, carved onto the stone.
Out of respect, Sam stayed back. She could still hear, though, as Jack talked.
"Hey, Charlie," he said softly. "I'm back, again. Dad's not going to leave you behind, not today. Not ever, if I can help it." He was silent for a moment. "I've been very busy, lately, but I haven't forgotten you. I've gone offworld several times, I've met the president, and I went through some…interesting, testing. But I haven't forgotten you. I still think of you every day. I love you, son."
Sam took a few more steps back and fought the tears that were threatening to come.
After several more minutes, O'Neill slowly stood up. With one last look back, he slowly walked over to Sam. "Let's go," he said quietly.
Again, the ride was a silent one. When they arrived back at O'Neill's house, as they stood on the sidewalk, he looked at her.
"Hey, Carter," he said, somewhat abruptly. She looked up, startled. "Yes, sir?"
He looked at her. "Thanks for being here. You…you've really helped me out, a lot," he said softly.
She looked at him, straight in the eyes. "Anytime, sir," she said softly.
He looked at her for a moment more, then leaned over and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. She hugged him, holding him close to her for a moment, taking some time to enjoy it.
Then, without another word, he walked back into his house, and she walked to her car.
A/N: Standard procedure, read and review. Please leave your e-mail so I can thank you! Flames are used to power Teal'c staff weapon, or beat up on the characters. So, if you want to be responsible for major whumpin' to your favorite characters, and possibly emotional scarring, go ahead and flame…they're currently being recycled into one called "Accidents" if that gives a hint…
(oh yeah, I'm a BIG believer in recycling!)