This story was part of the 2005 Jack-fic-a-thon. Please go to Jackfic dot com to view the other stories.
Spoilers: All episodes with Cassandra and all manner of minor things through Season 8
Season: Eight- between It's Good To Be King and Full Alert
Content Warnings: Slightly bad language, descriptions of death and suicide (no actual death though)
Summary: Their lives in flux, Jack and Cassie spend their annual father-figure/daughter-figure weekend in Denver.
Disclaimer: All standard disclaimers apply. Just for kicks, pallies.
By Vicky Ocean
'Look down, look down
That lonesome road
Before you travel on
I'm weary of toting, such a heavy load
Trudging down, that lonesome road'
Lonesome Road by Nathaniel Shilket and Gene Austin
This was the first time Jack had been home in a week. There hadn't even been an end of the world type crisis. Even so he couldn't seemed to make it out of the mountain. Back when he was on SG-1 he used to wonder how it was that Hammond always seemed to be on base no matter what hour or day. It was, Jack had unfortunately found out for himself, because Hammond had spent ninety percent of his time there. Jack had Colonel Dixon as his second in command and Walter, bureaucratic genius that he was, to assist him, but still there was always something demanding his attention.
Even when he found time to go home, Jack discovered that he was reluctant to do so. He had the oddest feeling like he'd only been recently divorced. And that was stupid. He'd been divorced for almost a decade. Sara had long since remarried. She was part of another lifetime. Jack thought of her infrequently and no longer wished for her love and affections to be bestowed upon him again. He had long since decided she was much better off with her oh so boring insurance agent husband than she had ever been with Jack.
No, it wasn't Sara he missed, but he couldn't seem to put his finger on what it was that he did miss. His house just felt so lonely every time he came in the door. He felt silly for feeling that way. He'd been the only occupant of this house since he moved in shortly after the first Abydos mission and his divorce. There hadn't even been the occasional girlfriend sharing the space. When you're out saving the universe there's not exactly a lot of time for dating. He'd always hated dating anyway. That was one of the great things about marriage. Marriage means you don't have to date again and you have a wife to come home to at the end of the day or week or month or year. Not exactly fair to the wife, but Jack knew had been a selfish bastard in his marriage to Sara. Maybe this was his penance, a lonely home.
Jack didn't even understand why he felt lonely. Maybe it was because he had been an only child, but he generally didn't mind being alone. He relished it. It was safe. Easy. All his life he had sought out solitude when he was hurting, physically and emotionally. It was what had driven his wife away when Charlie died, his inability to do anything but lock himself in his son's room attempting to numb his pain with booze and cigarettes and contemplating following Charlie into death. Sara had blamed his masculine pride and warrior code, but that wasn't it. Not really. He just simply didn't think sharing his pain with Sara would help either one of them. He knew he had a lot of darkness in his soul and he had never ever wanted to burden his wife with that. Jack wasn't even sure how to share something like that. Sara always wanted to talk. Talking never helped Jack. Talking had never eased his pain.
If he was really honest with himself and Jack supposed he should if he was getting this maudlin…
If he was really honest with himself, he could pinpoint the exact moment this new loneliness had set in. It was the moment they pinned those damned stars on his shoulders. Jack had known he wasn't cut out to be a general, but it had been an ego trip, not to mention his mind was still slightly scrambled from the Ancient download at the time. Accepting the promotion had not been one of his wisest moves. He should have told Weir and the brass to go to hell and stayed on SG-1 until he died in the line of duty or his knee finally gave out and he retired beside a beautiful lake with a dog named Homer and even possibly a brainy blonde.
He missed his team, his friends, his family. He had been naïve enough to believe being 'The Man' wouldn't change his relationship with them. Carter had been so damn proud of him for making Brigadier General. He had basked in her proud smile every time she saw the stars on his collar. His enjoyment had been tempered by the 'Generals' and 'sirs' laden in her every sentence and the distance he was forced to increase between them because he couldn't afford to be accused of favoritism.
Daniel had seemed to think that because his best friend was now in charge of the SGC that he could get anything he wanted. He wondered if Daniel even realized that Jack was now in charge of a whole base of people not just SG-1. For every little archeological mission and trip to Atlantis Jack denied Daniel, their friendship seemed to drift further apart.
Teal'c understood what Jack was going through. Being First Prime to a System Lord was pretty much the equivalent of being the Commander of the SGC. He offered his support and Jack valued his advice and experience. He just missed hanging out with his friend and exposing him to the weirder aspects of Earth culture.
In short, Jack missed his family. He missed sunny days cooking out in the backyard. He missed having a couple of beers after tough missions that turned into a lot of beers and a couple of shots. Daniel would pass out on the couch, though he mostly seemed to end up on the bathroom floor. Carter would claim the spare room sleeping in one of his old Air Force t-shirts that she had stolen for her use during SG-1's first year. Teal'c would kel-no-reem in the living room. He missed cold winter nights with fire blazing away and the Tauri members introducing Teal'c to a must see movie. He missed the rainy days spent in chess tournaments with his team. He didn't know why they all seemed to congregate at his house, but they had and now he just missed them. That's why his house was so empty.
He didn't like it.
Cassandra had always been fascinated by the windmills that turned above her village. She sat upon a high branch of a tree at the edge of the forest near her village. It was her tree. She would sit there for hours on end watching the twirling windmills and daydreaming.
She realized she must have lost track of time because the sky was turning into a dazzling array of red, orange and purple. She wondered why her mother hadn't called for her yet. Surely supper was done by now. Cassandra decided she might as well head home before someone was sent after her.
The village was too quiet as she walked down the center street. People should have been milling about on their way home from the fields. Cassandra opened the door to her house to find it just as quiet as the rest of the village.
"Momma?" she called out but received no answer.
A scrap of fuchsia cloth caught her eye and she moved around the heavy trestle table to see what it was. Her mother lay there on the floor by the stove. Her skin was covered in red sores.
"Papa!" Cassandra ran through the house to her parents' bedroom. Her father was there with her baby brother in his arms, lying dead next to the crib.
Cassandra rushed out of the house. She burst into her sister's home next door. "Penelope?" She found her sister and her new husband still in bed both covered in the ugly sores.
She ran out of the house and through the village, the windmills spinning lazily above her head. She ran through the fields until she came to the Chappa'ai. The shimmering blue filling the huge ring drew her towards it.
She stepped through and came upon a battlefield. Cassandra wasn't bothered by the dead Jaffa. She was glad they were dead. She picked her way through the carnage until she was standing over the body of a small woman with bright red hair. Their was a huge charred hole in her chest. "Mom!" Cassandra turned and ran all the way back to the Stargate.
She stepped out onto her front porch. "Robin!" She called but she didn't see her dog scampering across the yard as she normally did. She walked out to the street and found him by the mailbox. His little back broken, his ribs crushed, bleeding onto the asphalt. She rushed back up the steps and through the door.
Cassandra stepped out of the Stargate. She followed the path to a huge stone fortress. She opened the door and met no resistance. She moved through the winding corridors until she came to a large chamber. Firelight reflected on the gilt walls and blonde hair. "Sam!" She stepped up to the dais. Sam lay there, her body bruised, bloody, and battered, in a pool of her own blood. On either side of her, equally abused and dead, were Daniel and Teal'c. She backed out of the chamber and ran back to the Stargate.
She walked out of the cabin toward the frozen pond. "Jack!" she called. Cassandra caught sight of a dark shape at the edge of the ice. She made her way through the pristine snow. Jack lay on the dock with half his head missing, alizarin crimson blood marring the virgin white canvas of snow.
Jack knew he should be in bed, but he couldn't sleep and the blanket of stars was much more interesting than his bedroom ceiling. He wouldn't have minded a couple of beers or maybe a glass or two of scotch. He knew in his rather morose mood he wouldn't be able to stop at one or two. It wouldn't do for General O'Neill to show up hungover. So Jack contented himself with a little stargazing.
He had lost track of how long he had been sitting there wishing for a little alcohol and dwelling on thoughts that were best not dwelled upon. He heard the gravel crunching in his driveway. Odd, this time of night. He pulled his cell from his pocket to make sure it was on and he hadn't missed a call from the SGC. Power on. Volume loud. No missed calls.
The car door slammed. Feet walked up the gravel path to his house. Someone opened his front door. Jack wasn't concerned. They obviously had a key. A few minutes later the sliding glass door opened on the deck and someone began climbing the ladder. A happy little fuzzy red face appeared at the top of the ladder.
"Robbo!" Jack exclaimed and the dog scampered excitedly over to greet him and he gave Robin all the attention he wanted.
Jack glanced at Cassandra as she pulled herself onto the deck holding two beers in one hand. He gave her a questioning look. She was supposed to be spending tonight and tomorrow with Carter, before Jack and Cassie took their annual father-figure/daughter-figure cultural trip to Denver.
She handed him a Guinness, but otherwise ignored him. She plopped down on the floor and leaned up against the rail, taking a long pull on her Budweiser.
Jack studied her for a few long moments as he petted the dog contentedly lounging in his lap. She looked slightly shell shocked and seemed to be sucking down her beer pretty quickly.
"Carter run out of beer?" he asked, curious about her sudden appearance.
Cassie shrugged noncommittally and stared up at the sky. "Nice night," she commented, pointedly ignoring his concern.
"Yeah." Jack agreed but he was beginning to get more than a little alarmed. "Carter know you're here?"
"No," she responded curtly avoiding his gaze by staring up into the night.
"Maybe you should call her," he suggested knowing Carter would be worried even if they'd had a fight. "She'll be worried if she finds you took off with her car in the middle of the night."
"She said I could use it."
"O-kay…" This was like pulling teeth. "Whatcha doin' here?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"So you just decided to pay an old man a visit in the middle of the night?"
"I didn't want to be alone."
That stumped Jack and he didn't know quite how to respond. "What about Carter?"
"She's not home."
"Oh?" Jack responded feeling the anger suddenly rise in him. If Carter dumped Cassie to go play with some stupid alien technocrap-
Cassie, recognizing the look on his face broke into his thoughts. "She's not at the base, if that's what you're thinking. She's in Phoenix."
"What's in Phoenix?" he asked perplexed. "I thought the two of you were having your slumber party thing tonight and going dress shopping tomorrow."
"We were, but Pete showed up-"
"She dumped you for Pete?" the anger surged back through him.
"Actually, she dumped Pete for me," Cassie responded calmly taking a sip of her beer. "She forgot they had plans for her downtime. Pete's cousin's wedding. Pete wasn't exactly pleased she forgot."
"She's had a lot on her plate lately. He should cut her some slack."
"Err- well, I kind of got the impression it this wasn't the first time."
"He's a cop. He should understand emergencies," Jack took a sip of his Guinness. He was a little calmer, but still not exactly pleased that Carter had chosen Pete over Cassie. Carter taking Cassie shopping for a new dress to wear to the opera was just as much a tradition as Jack taking her.
"It was your standard straw and camel scenario, but my opinion is a selective memory loss."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"She didn't exactly seem excited about being paraded in front of Pete's family like a prized poodle."
"Carter said that?"
"Not in so many words. You know how Sam is. She slaps a smile on her face and carries on like a good soldier. It's just the impression that I got from Pete," Cassie said more than a little anger clouding her voice, though Jack didn't know whether the anger was directed at Carter or her fiancé. "He's really excited about showing off his 'hot' fiancé. Kept talking about it."
"Who wouldn't?" Jack muttered, but it wasn't quite under his breath as he thought. Cassie glared at him and cleared his throat. "But I understand what you mean. Carter isn't exactly fond of the spotlight. Particularly if she's going to be… paraded around like a… prized poodle, was it? Especially over her looks and not her genius brain."
"She looked so unhappy that I almost told Pete she had plans to go with us."
"Yeah, that would have went over well," Jack snorted. He could just imagine it. 'I'm sorry, Pete. I'm going on a weekend getaway with my CO and the girl we both think of as a daughter. We're going to the opera in Denver like one big happy, cultured family. So screw your cousin's wedding. I'm not arm candy.' Yeah, he could so see that happening.
Jack just rolled his eyes.
Cassie huffed a sigh, but thankfully moved on to another subject. "Guess it's a good thing I packed my dress from last year just in case."
"What? I thought it was against girl law to wear the same dress twice."
"Girl law?" she laughed nearly inhaling her beer.
"Yeah, like no white shoes after Labor Day." Jack sat his empty bottle down and stretched, careful not to dislodge Robin. "Tell you what, Cass. I'll get Dixon to take over a day early. We'll head up to Denver in the morning and spend the day shopping. Maybe catch a hockey game. Denver's at home tomorrow."
Cassie stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief. "You want to go shopping with me?"
"It's like watching Wild America. I'll be Marty Stouffer and you be the cougar stalking it's over priced prey."
She jumped up and gave him a quick fierce hug that made whatever agony involved shopping tomorrow endurable. "You're sweet, Jack."
"That is highly classified information. I don't expect it to get out."
A/N-Sorry about removing this earlier. I hadn't realized I was supposed to wait before I posted it at another achive, but it's all good now. Hope you enjoy.