It wasn't until after he had his head chewed off for the third time that week, that he finally
started to think that maybe there was more to the bad moods, the vacant stares and the self imposed
solitary confinement than was meeting the eye.
So, being a good little colonel, Jack O'Neill had set about trying to reclaim the good and sane side
of his commanding officer, General George Hammond. And he reckoned a little ol barbeque-come-bonfire get together just might do the trick.
After a great deal of persuading, which ended in a little dirty work on Jack's behalf, (He just
happened to mention the party when Tessa and Kyla had been paying a visit to Grandpa.) ol George had agreed to attend.
Jack had grinned to himself, sure that all his CO and friend needed was some quality time. Spending
it with his beloved grand daughters would assure George got just that.
The weather was better than anyone had hoped for. The late October sun had made an appearance mid afternoon, and was trying keep off the autumn chill as the Jack slaved over the barbeque.
Looking around the yard, Jack watched his team and colleagues in relaxed mode. Listening in on Carter and Fraiser's chat, he was pleasantly surprised to hear them discussing dresses and shoes, rather than wormholes and sutures. Suddenly, something Carter said made Fraiser throw her head back and laugh. Jack watched, fascinated by the way her face lit up and her eyes sparkled with amusement. The explosive, uncontrolled laughter - so un-Doc-like - made Jack grin.
His eyes wandered to where Daniel lay on a lounger, basking in what remained of the afternoon sun.
Snuggled deep into a heavy coat, the younger man appeared to be asleep. It had only been a month
since the Shyla incident, and despite his efforts to hide it, some days the struggle against the
effects of withdrawal still left Daniel weary. Jack hoped that today would help to recharge his
A sudden squeal from the far end of the yard grabbed Jack's attention. Cassie, Tessa and Kyla had
taken Jack at his word over the bonfire, and had managed to rope Teal'c into helping them build a
small one. It was Kyla who had squealed with delight as Teal'c lifted the little girl almost above
his head, so that she could place the last piece of kindling on the mound of assorted bits of fencing,
old wooden crates and branches. Jack hadn't particularly wanted a fire in his yard, but he had sort
of promised. Looking on the bright side of it now -- entertaining the girls, as well as getting rid
of garden rubbish was killing two birds with one stone. Three birds, if you counted forcing General
Jack looked around, frowning when he realised the older man was missing. Flipping a burger onto the
hotplate, he retrieved the burger buns from a plastic container.
"Chow time!" He called, taking off his Worlds Greatest Chef apron and throwing it onto a deck chair. "Carter, take over here for while, would you?"
"Sure thing, sir," came the reply.
Leaving the party behind, Jack headed for the house.
George Hammond was happy to have found this place. Somewhere where he could lean back and enjoy both the quiet and the view. He could still hear the children's excited voices as they drifted
up to him on the still afternoon air, but essentially he was alone. Of course he had known he wouldn't
be for long, and he smiled when he heard the footfall on the ladder.
He didn't bother to look. He already knew who was coming to join him.
"Ah. I wondered where you'd got to." Jack said, hauling himself up onto the deck.
"Sorry, Jack. Major Carter told me about the views you get from up here, so I thought I'd take a
look for myself. I hope you don't mind?"
"Nope. Don't mind at all, but on a chilly day like this, you have to come prepared." Jack said with
a grin, and produced a bottle of whisky and two tumblers. "Mind if I join you, George?"
Hammond grinned. "Be my guest, son. A drop of Jack and Daniel's would be welcome about now."
"Jack and Daniel's?" The colonel queried as he unscrewed the cap.
Hammond chuckled softly. "A couple of years back, Tessa saw someone give me a gift of JD's. She read the label and thought it said Jack and Daniel's. I had the devil's own job to convince her you and
Dr Jackson didn't have a distillery going some place."
Jack laughed and handed over a glass of the amber liquid. Sinking into a deck chair beside his CO,
Jack sighed and looked across the expanse of forest and fields before him. In one part of the sky,
the sun had already kissed the tree tops and had started it's descent, while in another a pale moon
hung like a ghost. A thin, cold blanket of cloud had began to move across the mountain, softening
the light of the few stars that were already twinkling against the darkening skies.
"I never get tired of looking at that," he said, waving a hand at the skyline.
"I bet you don't. You're a lucky man." Hammond replied softly, his tone full of despondency.
Thank you for inviting us out here, Jack. The girls get on so well together, it's nice to see
them having a good time."
Jack stole a quick glance at the man who, over the past few years, had become as much a friend as
he had a respected commanding officer. Even in the dimming light Jack couldn't fail to notice the
sadness emanating from George Hammond, and it disturbed him to see it.
"Is something bothering you, George?" He finally asked.
"Bothering me?" He asked, trying to sound casual. "No, everything's fine, Jack."
For a moment the two sat in silence. Jack trying to work out how to push without actually pushing,
and George trying to work out how to run from inevitable questions, without actually running.
"It's just that you've seemed a little..." Jack hesitated.
"Well, I was going to say pre-occupied, but now that you mention it, there is that too." Jack said,
Hammond smiled, and stared at his drink. "You know, you have been pushing your luck lately."
"Huh?" Jack managed to feign indignation for a couple of seconds before a smirk appeared on his face. "Okay, okay. So calling General Lynski a jackass wasn't the brightest of things I've done, but I
thought he was out of ear shot. And maybe the prank I pulled on Trennaman was a little over the top,
but it was an accident, and Doc says it was a clean break and he'll be back at work in a couple
or three weeks. But even you have got to agree, McKay got what was coming to him."
Hammond lifted an eyebrow and giving Jack a bemused look, swallowed a mouthful of whisky.
"Okay. I concede." Jack squirmed. "Maybe I did push, a little bit. Maybe."
Hammond chuckled softly. "Sometimes, Jack, I wonder how you made it through boot camp."
"You know what, George? I sometimes I wonder myself."
Then pulling his sweater against the growing cold, Jack gently bit the bullet.
"But my misdemeanours aren't the only things that have been bothering you lately, are they?" He
Hammond drew deep breath as if to say something, changed his mind, and instead watched his breath
curl up into the evening air.
"George?" Jack pushed. "I'd like to help if I can."
Hammond sighed heavily. "I appreciate it, Jack, but there isn't anything to help. Take no notice
of a sentimental old fool."
"Fool? No way. But old?" Jack paused for effect, then grinned. "Old I can't help you with."
Hammond chuckled again.
Encouraged, Jack carried on. "There's nothing wrong with a bit of sentiment, George. It helps the
world go around."
The general turned and looked at Jack with unconcealed amazement. "You know there are days when
I think I really don't know you at all?"
Jack smiled in reply and waited.
With that silence, Hammond knew he had over stepped the boundaries and now there was no turning
back. Jack had cleverly gotten him to take the first step toward unwrapping his feelings -- something
he couldn't help but be impressed over -- and he wasn't about to let it drop easily.
"Do you have a particular time of the year that you look forward to, Jack? I mean really look forward to,
and when you do get to it, don't want it to end?"
Thrown slightly by the question, Jack shrugged. "You mean like Christmas, vacations?"
"Yes, that's it." Hammond nodded. "A time in the year that open the flood gates open to a lot of
memories. October is that time for me. So many memories come with that month, some bad, but mostly good."
Hammond shifted in his seat and unconsciously pulled at the collar of his coat as the chilled air
began to seep through the layers.
"October 31st 1962," he stated with a slow smile. "The night I asked Margaret to marry me for the
second time. She said yes the first time, but her daddy was less than thrilled at the idea of his
daughter marrying a soldier. He'd fought during the second world war and had witnessed some fairly
unscrupulous goings on. Looking back now, I can't say that I blame him. He was a good man, who doted on his children, only ever wanting the best for them. For all Margaret and I were both of age and could have just skipped off somewhere and got a license, we respected his wishes enough not to do that. So we waited.
Six months later, and the night of the Halloween Ball he had me wait with him in their living room
while Margaret was getting ready.
"George, I've been thinking. These last few months have given me time to know you, and I realise
now that I was a little too quick to judge you," the older man said honestly. "It's plain that you
"I do, sir. Very much." George interupted.
"...And I don't doubt that you'll try to provide her with anything she needs. I appreciate that you
didn't just go ahead and get married when you knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent
you from doing so. It showed both restraint and respect, and I liked that."
"Thank you, sir." George nodded, his gut suddenly in knots.
"So. If you still want to ask for my daughters hand, then you have my blessing."
"Go, dad!" Jack enthused, grinning.
Lost in his memories and not registering the comment, Hammond carried on.
"At that precise moment in time I was probably the happiest man in Texas. A couple of minutes later,
Margaret made her entrance." Hammond's face lit up at the memory. "I still see her now on top of
those stairs. She was wearing a beautiful red gown, a gold chiffon wrap and her hair was piled up
on top of her head, tied up with thin red and gold ribbons. She took my breath away."
In the growing darkness, Jack smiled and listened, aware that he was being privileged with some
very personal details in his CO's life.
"We danced the night away, barely aware of anyone else around us. It was like the ball was just for
the two of us. No one else existed. As we walked home in the moonlight, I asked her once more to
marry me. She cried, saying she wanted to marry me more than anything in the world, but she didn't
think her daddy would approve. Then she cried some more when I told her what he had said.
The next time I saw her cry it was on our wedding day, October 11th, 1963.
After that, anniversaries, birthdays, events and traditions all seemed to evolve around October
time. The following February, Margaret discovered she was pregnant. We were so excited at the prospect of becoming a complete family and wished those months by. Susan arrived on October 3rd, yelling her lungs out at the injustices of it all. Small wonder she chose law for a career.
Margaret was a strong, level headed woman who could hold her own in any situation, but at times
there was an almost childlike air about her. When Susan was about three weeks old, we had the first
fall of snow that year. Margaret wrapped the baby up in a thick blanket, took her out onto the porch
and introduced her to snow butterflies. Big, thick flakes of snow. You know the kind I mean - the
ones the size of a quarter.
Margaret loved the snow; something she passed onto Susan. They used to spend hours playing snowball fights, sledging, making snowmen. But their favourite game was catching snow butterflies. As soon as the first fall came, I'd watch from the warmth of the house as they ran around the yard
with a butterfly net, laughing and shouting, catching the snow as it fell."
Without speaking, Jack leaned across to pour some more drink into Hammond's glass.
"Margaret also loved a house full of children, so Halloween was a great excuse to fill it to the
rafters. I'd come home to find her in the kitchen making mallow spiders and ghoul jello, with what
seemed like a hundred mini vampires, mummies, and ghosts running around the place. She was in her element.
The years slipped by and before I knew it, it was my turn to worry over who had their eye on my
daughter. The first was a fake tanned, medallion wearing, rich kid who used to tear around the neighbourhood in a Porsche his daddy bought him for his seventeenth birthday. He'd screech to a halt on the driveway in a cloud of rubber and fancy after shave and shout, Hey babe, daddy's here. Are you ready for good time? That boy used to bug the hell out of me just by breathing."
"Sounds to me like he's a lucky boy to be still drawing breath." Jack muttered coldly.
"Who said he's still drawing breath?" Hammond laughed and continued.
"Then came the numbers man. His life revolved around solving mathematical problems. Oh, he was a
nice enough kid, and was a real gentleman - when he remembered there was a world beyond the blackboard. Susan eventually got tired of playing second fiddle to the square root of eight."
"Sounds to me like Carter missed her match." Jack joked, a lazy smile reaching his lips.
"Then Stewart arrived on the scene, bringing with him a ray of hope. Finally, someone I could
trust to take care of my daughter. He was a port in the storm. A safe harbour in a raging sea of
testosterone. It thrilled me to pieces when he proved to me that the chivalry of my generation
was not dead, by asking me for Susan's hand.
Margaret was so excited at the prospect of organising the wedding. The months flew by and three days
before our own anniversary, I walked my beautiful daughter down the aisle. By the time their first
anniversary came around, they had a five week old daughter of their own."
By now the light had almost completely gone, and with it any remaining warmth. Jack noticed that
the noise from downstairs had been transferred from the garden to somewhere in the house. He was
also aware of the frigid air, but didn't want to suggest that they go inside for fear that Hammond
would not continue with his story. So instead, he took another sip at his JD and listened on.
"Another get together Margaret looked forward to was Grandpa Joe's Walton's Weekend. The old man owned a huge old house over looking a lake in Montana, and every October the whole family would gather to celebrate Joe's birthday. Margaret's parents, myself and Margaret, her brothers, her mother's
two brothers and their families would descend on the place for three days. The house only had four
bedrooms, but the attic room ran the entire length of the house. The adults had to draw lots to
see who got a bedroom and who got to share the attic with ten rowdy kids." Hammond's face lit up
with a huge grin. "I remember Joe would get a kick out of watching the free for all, as everyone
scrambled for the best beds.
The weekend would be spent talking, laughing, eating, drinking and all out relaxing. The view from
the place was nothing short of spectacular. The best part of the day was late afternoon. Everyone
would be lying around the porch, tired after spending the day hiking, fishing and generally having
a good time. No one would be talking, they'd be just sitting there watching the sun drop behind the
trees. It was a glorious time.
Joe eventually passed on, and after the first year when they got together to remember him, the family
kind of drifted into doing other things. The house was never sold. It stayed in the family so anyone
who wanted to spend some time away from the rat race could still visit.
Just after Susan and Stewarts first anniversary we all went up to the house for a few days. During
the visit, the first snows began to fall. Susan and Margaret took the baby out onto the porch, and
just like she had done with Susan all those years before, Margaret showed Tessa the snow butterflies.
It was a beautiful moment.
We spent as much time as we could at the house, and wiled away some long hours on that porch watching the birds sailing across the water. Margaret loved that place so much, it was there she wanted to be when..."
Jack heard the hitch in Hammond's voice, but said nothing. Instead, allowing the man to compose himself in his own time. After a few moments, the older man continued.
"Margaret paid her last visit to Joe's place at the end of June. The cancer had taken a strong hold
by then, and she knew it would be her last visit. She had talked with Susan and Stewart, and they
decided they wanted to try to prepare Tessa for her suddenly not being there.
I remember the evening like it was yesterday. A light, warm breeze pushed at the branches of a huge
oak that grew close to the house. The sun was sinking slowly over the lake, it's reflection rippling
across the water.
Margaret was sitting in a big rocking chair with Tessa on her knee. They were talking about what
she'd done that day when, out of the blue, Tessa asked..."
"Are you going to live in heaven, Grandma?"
Taken aback, Margaret stared in surprise at the top of the child's head.
"What makes you ask that, baby?" She eventually asked.
"Kirsty Leven said she heard her mom tell her dad that you were sick and that you'd be seeing Jesus
soon. Is that true, Grandma?"
Margaret glanced across at Susan to find her daughters eyes filled to the brim with unshed tears.
She smiled, and mouthed; "It's okay," as Susan got up from her chair and went quietly into the
house, Stewart following on her heels. In the chair next to her, George found that he couldn't meet
his wife's eye, but sat watching the water and listened as Margaret turned her attention back to
her grand daughter.
"Yes, Tessa, it's true."
"Can I still come visit you and Grandpa on the weekend?"
"No, baby. I'm afraid you can't visit. Grandpa won't be going with me either. He has to stay here
and make sure you are okay."
Tessa swivelled round and looked up at her grandmother, a puzzled expression on her face.
"But Grandma, you'll get lonely! So will Grandpa and so will I. I don't want you to go to heaven
without us!" The little girl cried, tears beginning to fall.
Margaret pulled her close and rocked her gently.
"Ssh, ssh. Come on now, don't cry," she soothed. "I have something I need you to do for me when I've
gone. You think you can help me out?"
The little girl sniffled, and leaned back into her grandmothers embrace. "What do you want me to
Margaret took up a lock of Tessa's hair and began to twirl it round her finger.
"You know you have a baby brother or sister coming soon, right?"
Tessa sniffed and nodded against her breast.
"Well, I won't be here so I need for you to tell the baby all about the Snow butterflies. How
they are really tiiiiiny little angels sent from heaven, to make the world a prettier place in time
for Jesus birthday. You remember?"
"You think you can do that for me?"
"Uhuh," came the mumbled reply, as little arms snaked their way around her waist. "But I still don't
want you to go."
"I don't want to go either, honey, but you listen now, because I don't want you to forget this -
ever. Whenever the first fall of snow comes you think of me, because I'll be there with the butterflies.
Even if you can't see me, I'll be right there."
Silently, George reached across to take hold of Margaret's hand, a hot tear splashing onto her skin
as he lifted it to his lips.
Sadness hung over the two men like a heavy blanket, and after a long moment George continued.
"A few days later, Margaret slipped into a coma and never woke up," he said, before dispelling a
shaky sigh. He leaned forward, resting an elbow on his knee and rubbed a weary hand over his face.
"I miss her so much, Jack, and every day, but it's always that little bit harder when October goes."
Jack stared into his drink, not sure what to say, but honoured at having his CO's personal confidences
bestowed on him. Hammond felt that awkwardness.
"I'm sorry, Jack," he said. "It wasn't my intention to burden you with any of this."
"No, George. It's okay, really. If it helps you to talk about it, then that's a good thing. Sounds
to me like you were a lucky man to find her."
Hammond smiled. "I was very lucky," he admitted. "Very lucky indeed."
A voice suddenly floated up from the back yard.
"Are you two okay up there, or am I going to have to call for a medical team?"
"We're fine, mom!" Jack called back.
"Just a little cold." Hammond mumbled, making Jack laugh.
Jack picked up the bottle and climbed to his feet. "What say we go toast a few toes by the fire?"
Hammond chuckled. "Sounds like a plan to me," and followed the younger man to the ladder.
As Jack began his descent, Hammond said softly. "Thanks for being here, Jack. You're a good friend
and I appreciate it."
Jack looked up and smiled. "Anytime, George. Anytime."
As Jack stepped down, he laughed out loud when he heard Hammond mutter. "But don't think I'm going
to forget the comment about being old."
The kitchen was warm and bright and filled with talk and laughter, when suddenly an excited scream
filled the air. Cassie rushed into the kitchen, grabbed Janet's hand and began pulling her from the
"Mom, guys, come and look!" She cried. "You have to see this!"
Cassie dragged Janet to the opened front door, where already Tessa and Kyla were dancing excitedly.
The youngest girl turned and shouted.
"Grandpa! Grandpa, come look! It's snowing!"
The adults filed to the door and peered out into night. Huge snowflakes were swirling softly from
a heavy, grey sky and were already making a covering on the ground. A smile lit George Hammond's
face as he stepped out onto the porch. He watched as Cassie and Kyla ran around the yard, leaping
up to catch the flakes, and squealing with delight.
Feeling a small tug on his sleeve, he looked down to find Tessa smiling up at him.
"She's here, Grandpa," she whispered. "Grandma's here."
Tears sprung to his eyes as he pulled the little girl into a gentle embrace.
"I know she is, sweetheart," he whispered back. "I feel her too."
Tessa pulled back and reached up to kiss her grandfathers cheek, before running off to join her sister
Hammond walked to edge of the porch and held out his hand. Immediately a large and perfectly formed flake landed in the centre of his palm. It held its form for a couple of seconds before succumbing to the heat of the man's skin.
A voice brought him back from his reverie.
The older man turned to find Jack standing behind him and holding a coat out to him.
"You'll need this." Jack said.
Hammond was puzzled, but non the less took the coat and without questioning it, put it on.
As Jack produced a butterfly net, Hammond's frown morphed into smile full of emotion.
"The snow butterflies are waiting, George." Jack said quietly.
Hammond took the net, and after briefly locking eyes with his 2IC and friend before he turned and stepped
out into snow. The girls squealed as Hammond joined them, waving the net through the air and catching the flakes as they fell.
Teal'c came to stand beside Jack, clearly amazed by Hammonds behaviour.
"O'Neill, what is General Hammond doing?" He asked.
"Catching himself some memories, Teal'c."
The idea for the story was inspired by words from the song, When October Goes, which Barry Manilow recorded on his 2am, Paradise Cafe album. They are probably the saddest words I've ever read, and quite simply, they touched me.
And when October goes the snow begins to fly,
above the smokey roofs, I watch the planes go by.
The children running home beneath a twilight sky.
Oh, for the fun of them.
When I was one of them.
And when October goes the same old dream appears,
when you are in my arms to share the happy years.
I turn my head away to hide the helpless tears.
Oh, how I hate to see October go.
I should be over it now, I know.
It doesn't matter much how old I grow.
I hate to see October go.