I Hope You're Smiling

Summary: Alternate ending to Line in the Sand. Cam delivers a letter...

Disclaimer: Their asses will never be mines... sadly.


A cold day lit by a wan light from a winter sun barely upon the horizon and frost on the grass and trees; it was early morning and his doorbell was ringing.

He rose off the couch feeling like his spine was stuck to the cushions as he tried to straighten his bones, his whole body, into some semblance of life. It had been another night spent awake, eyes blindly focused on a grey nothing in the middle distance of his living room, a couple of empty beer bottles and a whole stack of memories keeping him company through the relenting hours.

And now he had some real company, a-knockin' at his front door. He released the lock and chain with a tight jaw and square shoulders. He needed them to go away as soon as could be dealt with without the thrill of bloodshed. He wasn't in the mood for thrill.

"Sir." Said before the door was even half opened. And then a hand on the doorframe, a slight quiver of anticipation in the fingers, as if expecting a fight. Holding a letter that was white and clean in an unmarked envelope was Cameron Mitchell, come to hammer the nail home.

They saw each other's eyes briefly, long enough to know that neither hated the other; that instead there was a miserable acceptance in knowing life had dealt a bad hand of fate, something anyone in their same military position would understand bitterly.

Jack let him in by leaving the door open and falling back towards the living room. When he heard Cameron follow he waved freely towards the fridge. "There's beer; grab a couple before you sit down."

Cameron obliged and then sat silently across from Jack, taking a fast draft from the cold bottle before setting it down on the coffee table. Jack sipped hardly a mouthful and slowly, eyes on Cam. A wary gaze, expecting worse to be coming.

"When..." Cam started and stopped, ran a trembling hand through his hair. He was in civilian gear; this was not an official call but one of personal duty. In an odd and painful way Jack appreciated just that alone. Not for his own sake, but for hers.

"When Sam and I were on P9C-882 together, hiding in the phase, she... she told me the password to her personal files. As part of a request. She knew... Well, she wanted someone to be able to pass on some letter's she'd written. One to Cassie, one to her brother and his family. A letter to Jackson. And one to you."

Like a small white flag Cameron held up the envelope again. Jack looked at it, but he did not reach for it.

"Did you read it?" he asked without accusation.

Cameron managed a weak, surprised laugh. "What—no. No... I printed it and sealed it, that's all. I know I should have given it to you at the... Well, I hadn't gotten round to printing them off then. Landry's posted out the one to her brother now. And I thought you might want to give Cassie hers..."

Jack tilted his head, working a knot out of his neck as he frowned. "And Daniel's?"

Cam gritted his teeth. "It's in my desk, waiting."

Jack nodded, as if satisfied with that. He reached for the letter now and Cam relinquished it. After a pause of just sitting in mutual silence he stood up to leave. He had no intention of sitting in on the man's grief.

Before he headed for the door though he hesitated, tense with nerves, sick with guilt, weighed by a thousand things he wanted to profess, wanted to scream out loud.

"Thanks."

Cam looked over his shoulder. It was about the last thing he'd expected Jack say.

"You were there for her. You did everything you could. Did everything I would have done. To be there for one of your own when their time comes. To be able to hold their hand and tell them they did their fight proud. It's more than most soldiers ever get in their last moments. We all owe you for that. I owe you, for giving that to her."

Cam's brow trembled; he had hardly the resolve to process the gratitude. After days suffering under a guilt so black and heavy it had almost caused him to starve in a stupor at home, it seemed wrong somehow that the throbbing intensity of it should suddenly begin to ebb. But... if there was one thing Jack never did it was bullshit. His had just been the most honest opinion during all of this, and now to see the man's eyes wet and grey... It was morbid comfort, but it was comfort all the same.

Jack let him leave in peace. He had his own grief to handle now. Next time they met it would be easier, but just now it was almost too much, to have to bare back his own misery as well as comfort the others.

He took his beer and went to brace the morning chill outside. Without thinking he climbed onto his roof, sat next to his telescope and opened the letter.

.

Jack,

If you're reading this then, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't make it through so that I could say what I have to say in person to you. But I don't want any feeling- sorry- for-me bull, not from you because whatever happened, it was for the right reasons and you know it. It was because we were fighting till the end, because I wanted to fight till my end, and I can only hope that some part of the war was won, if it's come to you reading this and I've had to leave the crusade behind.

That sounds lame, doesn't it, was that lame? I mean who says crusade anymore... ...

I hope you're smiling. I hope you're remembering the first time we met; my priggish feminist defences, my determination bordering on an obsession to fit into the man's world that the SGC once was. I hope you know that you spoiled all my misconceptions, showed me that it was all six and half a dozen after what it really came down to; the skill and the spirit of the individual...

Because of that, there was a time when I felt there was no stopping us – SG-1. We were as such that we made each other invincible. We were a team, the best. But no one told me that time would be the one to move us on. Bring us into other people's lives and new responsibilities and a new order. I never thought that you wouldn't be there. But I'm happy for what you have now, I hope as happy as you are. There's no one I know who deserves peace more than you. I hope that you've allowed yourself that little luxury now. That you've stopped blaming the cruelty of life's unavoidable tragedies all on yourself. And if you're thinking that my death has anything to do with you... well stop it, or I'll haunt you, I'll make sure you never watch another episode of The Simpsons in peace again.

Smiling yet?

You meant more to me than what we both knew was responsible feelings. Intrinsic to our worldly roles we kept it at bay and yet I think there was still a satisfaction in just having the privilege to be at your side as your first commanding officer for eight years. To have your respect, your trust and your loyalty all in turn. Facing into the midst of the galaxy's worst battles I felt there was nowhere greater to be than at the muzzle of the best team I've ever known, at your shoulder whilst we fired against the enemy together, with Daniel and Teal'c at our backs, with all of us combined to bring hell to the Goa'uld.

I'm lucky that I can look back and talk about my life like this. I'm lucky to have had someone like you in it. Normality is nothing if it means we've lost the chance just to know the one we love. It could never have been normal for us. But I hope I made you smile as many times as I made you angry, or tired or worried, or as many times as Daniel defied you and Teal'c showed us all a different way of believing. I hope... I hope you're happy. I was. Right to the end.

Sam.