I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Jack after the season 6 episode "Abyss." I have no idea why, but this story was stuck in my brain.
Summary: A friend visits Jack at his cabin where he's taken refuge. Yeah I know, I'm not revealing the NCIS:Los Angeles character. It's kind of a surprise.
Rated T only because I mention Jack being tortured to death. No other warnings, except it contains spoilers for Stargate SG-1 season 6 episode "Abyss," which originally aired in 2002. No spoilers for NCIS:LA.
Ba'al Would Not Win
As he pulled his truck up to park, Jack knew someone had been at his cabin because there were tire tracks with the absence of a vehicle. He'd only been gone long enough to pick up a few groceries at the small store a few miles away. The refrigerator and pantry had needed restocking after he'd decided to stay another few days. The front door had been left unlocked and he wondered if the visitor had left a note or perhaps something else. His Minnesota cabin had always provided refuge and this time had been no different. Finally escaping the mountain base, he had spent several days at his house in Colorado Springs only to have Fraiser, Carter, Teal'c, Jonas and several others calling him and calling on him several times a day. Only General Hammond had understood his need to be alone and had authorized the trip, much to the annoyance of Dr. MacKenzie who didn't think he should be allowed to ride a bus by himself let alone drive by himself to upstate Minnesota and stay by himself for a couple of weeks.
He pushed the door closed with his foot and glanced around as he carried the large brown paper bag and the two 6-packs to the kitchen, setting them on the counter. Someone had indeed been there and they had made themselves right at home. The tea kettle was on the stove, an empty mug was in the sink and a used paper napkin was in the trash. Guessing that whoever had been there might still be there, he quickly put away the items needing refrigeration and went to investigate further. Going from room to room he cleared the house and then glanced out a window toward the pond before looking out another to the deck where relaxing in a lounge chair was just about the last person he expected to see.
After returning to the kitchen to put away the rest of the groceries, Jack pulled two bottles of beer from the cardboard carrier and headed outside, but he didn't go to the deck. Instead he went to the small dock next to the pond where his fishing pole, tackle box and chair waited for him. A minute after casting his line into the water his guest arrived lugging a similar chair which was set down next to his. The sky was a gorgeous blue and the brilliant yellow sun was bright, but Jack had his ball cap and his visitor was wearing a white bucket hat which was actually a good choice. Jack reeled in the line causing the float to bob on the water before he lifted it out and cast again. He hadn't needed to do that and he certainly didn't need to check the hook because he wasn't using any bait. Only a small weight was tied to the line. After a couple of minutes of silence he handed over one of the bottles. Some might think it was a little early for beer, but Jack didn't and he knew his friend wouldn't either. Four hours later his guest had departed.
Jack had watched the water striders dart and skate across the still pond. He had looked on as a pair of Blue Jays tended their nest in a tall tree nearby. He had relaxed with his line in the water for a while before going into the cabin to fix bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. The two had eaten in silence with neither of them saying a word until long after the dishes had been washed and put back in the cupboard.
Believing that he knew why his guest had come to visit, Jack finally asked, "Someone worried I'm not going back?"
A rich, but slightly gravelly voice replied, "Not exactly."
The silence stretched. Jack leafed through an old National Geographic while his guest read a hardback book he didn't recognize. After a few minutes the book had been returned to a canvas bag next to the chair and the magazine tossed back onto the bookshelf. More silence until his guest approahed him.
Standing in front of Jack with hands clasped together, his diminutive friend admitted, "Nowhere in recorded history is there mention of a person being tortured to death….. over and over."
Jack didn't respond. He just stayed still, sitting in the chair and staring at the floor with his visitor watching him, studying him. He didn't blink. His body didn't fidget. His feet didn't tap. His open hands didn't become fists. His jaw didn't clench. He just stared... and waited.
After a relatively long silence, his guest revealed, "There are those who do not believe a person can truly recover."
Maybe a person wasn't supposed to recover. Maybe it was enough to just survive. For a moment, perhaps too long a mment, Jack thought about the consequences of just surviving and a vision of a small isolated cell in a secure lockup flashed in his mind.
Before he could dwell his caller added, "I am not one of those people."
Jack looked up from the floor into blazing eyes that he knew had been closely watching him and for a second he thought he saw anger, but it was quickly replaced by compassion. Embarrassed he looked away. For some reason, no matter how much he liked and trusted this person, it just wasn't enough to have one person believe he could be whole again.
"George Hammond is not one of those people."
Hammond believing in him shouldn't have been a surprise and it wasn't, not really. The man had been very supportive and understood more than anyone that he'd needed to get away and be alone. He had stood up to pressure from MacKenzie and Fraiser who had been extremely concerned that he had spoken little about what had happened to him at the hands of Ba'al.
"John Jumper is not one of those people."
The Air Force Chief of Staff and Jack had known each other for many years. Their friendship was not general knowledge and they did not communicate on a regular basis. He expected nothing from his long time friend and wondered what else his visitor knew.
Still standing in front of him with hands lightly clasped together, his guest continued. "The President is not one of those people."
Four people believed in him. Was it enough? As he thought about it, it was more than enough. Hammond, Jumper, the President and his guest, with her sculptured features and calm demeanor, had faith in him.
His team on the other hand had cared about getting him back alive, but they had said almost nothing to him about returning as the leader of SG-1. Even Teal'c had said 'only the warrior knows when it is time to leave the fighting to others.' The Jaffa had said he was pleased that he'd returned and then had been like all the others, treating him with kid gloves like he was fragile. He had survived Kanan. He had survived Ba'al. He had survived Daniel hallucinations though he wasn't completely convinced his ascended friend had not actually been there. He had survived sarcophagus withdrawal which admittedly hadn't been nearly as bad for him as it had been for Daniel. A little nausea, a few headaches, some cramps and then he was fine.
Being cooped up in the infirmary and then the mountain had been the worst. Everyone had been afraid that he would snap and hesitated to leave him alone for more than a few minutes at a time. A guard had been stationed outside his quarters and MacKenzie and Fraiser had visited him several times a day. His team had insisted he eat with them, exercise with them, sit with them, read with them, do everything with at least one of them around all the time, but none of them talked about future missions. Needing solitude he had appealed to General Hammond and the next day he'd been allowed to leave the mountain. A few days later he had called Hammond again. At first hesitant to let him leave the city, the General had convinced Fraiser to allow him to leave the state. MacKenzie didn't like it, but he couldn't do anything to stop it and for eleven glorious days Jack had been out of contact with everyone… until now.
Speaking softly his guest said, "Secrecy can be a burden, but in this case I believe it to be a blessing."
Jack totally agreed with that statement: The fewer people who knew about what had happened to him, the better. He already wished that many at SGC would forget that they knew anything about what had happened, starting with him getting sick with the Ancient disease in Antarctica.
In a rich and confident voice his visitor confidently told him, "Embrace your nightmares. Treasure your dreams. Don't just accept survival; expect recovery."
He knew all about dreams and nightmares. Expect recovery? Yeah, he could do that. He accepted that it would be an ongoing process. He expected it to be. The truth was that he demanded recovery. Ba'al would not win. Returning his gaze to those piercing eyes, Jack couldn't help but smirk a little when he saw the soft smile.
In true fortune cookie fashion his guest told him, "Carry only the burden of today." Her eyes were alight with compassion, understanding and friendship, and for just a brief moment her hand was on his shoulder in a gesture of support. Jack nodded once. That was easier said than done, but it was sound advice. And he still had a little time. He was not expected back quite yet, though the fact that he had not contacted anyone probably prompted someone to wonder and perhaps worry about his future plans. Retirement was an option. Reassignment was an option. But he still had time to decide.
His friend suggested, "It goes against your nature, but be selfish for a bit. I suggest you spend the remainder of your medical leave studying clouds, walking barefoot in soft grass, gazing at the stars and laughing."
He would have no trouble doing those things and he thought of a few other things to add to the list including throwing a line in the water just as his visitor jokingly proclaimed, "There are no fish in your pond."
Chuckling softly, he smiled and with twinkling eyes confessed, "Not one."
The remainder of the time flew by until Jack heard a vehicle approaching the cabin, the tires turning on the dirt and small gravel.
"That's for me," his guest announced, rising from the chair to stand up.
Part of him was sad that she was leaving, but mostly he was fine with it. The visit had served its purpose and he had come to Minnesota to be alone. After gathering her possessions she took Jack's arm and let him escort her from the cabin. Out of the car and waiting, the driver accepted a look from her and walked back around to get back in behind the wheel. Jack opened the rear passenger door for her and she tossed her bag onto the seat before turning back to face him. Being so much taller, he leaned over as she wrapped her arms around him in a solid warm hug.
"A new journey is just beginning for you, Jack," she whispered affectionately, gently rubbing her hands on his lower back, her cheek against him. "Take care of yourself."
For a long moment he returned her hug and then planted a kiss on the top of her head. "Thanks, Hetty."
This story is listed as a crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles, not because Henrietta "Hetty" Lange was there in 2002, but because she is there now and her life and NCIS career are kind of mysterious. And because she seems to know just about everything.