I regret to inform you that…

Jack sat at his desk, brooding: before he'd accepted the promotion, this had been Hammond's job. This one was going to be harder than most: he knew for a fact that the dead man had kept his military career a secret from his family, and that that secret had cost him his marriage and the love and respect of his two daughters.

He could, technically, have someone else write the letter and just sign it, but this was one thing he insisted on doing himself. Taking a deep breath, he turned back to the keyboard.

Dear Miss Summers,
I regret to inform you that your father, Captain Hank Summers, was killed two days ago in the performance of his duties. I cannot, for security reason, tell you the events surrounding his death, but I can tell you that he was not alone at the end, and that he did not suffer.

I know that your father kept his involvement in the military secret from you, and that he deeply regretted the pain his long absences caused you. I can remember him once showing me a photo of you and your sister, beaming with pride when he told me that you'd graduated High School, and were intending on entering collage.

Your father was a brave man, a good friend and comrade, and his sacrifice saved many lives. We were able to recover his body, and will arrange for it to be shipped back to LA for a funeral. All expenses will be paid by the Air Force, and as his next of kin, you will receive his full pension and back pay.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should either you or you sister wish to discus anything about your father's time in the military, but please remember that I cannot disclose anything about his most recent assignment.

I know these may seem hollow words to you, but Captain Summers will be missed by those who served alongside him, and our thoughts and preys are with you.

Yours with deepest sympathy,
Brigadier General Jack O'Neill


Buffy re-read the letter before finally putting it down on the coffee able. The envelope it had arrived in had been redirected several times in order to reach her, having originally been sent to Sunnydale two days before the town had been destroyed. Almost three months had passed before it caught up with her in Rome.

Three months!

She'd missed the funeral, no doubt attended by the General who'd written the latter and other people who evidently knew her own father better than she did. She couldn't even begin to imagine what they thought of her and Dawn.

She felt like shed been run through with a sword, pain and regret welling up from somewhere deep inside her gut. Her already mixed feelings for her father were churning around inside as flashes of memory started to play through her mind:

Seeing her father step out of a swimming pool, unexplained scars on his back.

Phone calls in the middle of the night that sent him off without warning of explanation.

How pained he had looked when her mother accused him of having an affair.

Letters, with stamps and postmarks from all over the world, that she'd never read, just throw away.

A silent scream resonated from Buffy's very core; she felt cheated. Cheated by her father, who had kept the truth from her all these years, and by a universe that stopped her from ever reconciling with him.

The prospect of telling Dawn was not something she was looking forward to: her little sister had been close to their father before the divorce, and had taken the break-up harder than Buffy.

She decided that she needed more information before she proceeded. Walking over to her desk, she grabbed the phone and hit one of the speed-dial buttons. Her fingers tapped the desk as she waited for someone to pick up on the other end.

"Lt. Finn." A familiar voice picked up.

"Riley, it's me; I need some information on an Air Force General named Jack O'Neill…"

The End