Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.
Spoilers for 'Children of The Gods', 'Fire and Water', 'A Hundred Days' and 'Shades of Gray'. A 'Shades of Gray' episode addition. A sequel to the previous story, 'Things'.
"If you make me come up there I swear to God I'm demoting you to sergeant!"
So, he wasn't going mad then. Jack had been up here for the past who knew how long, and truth be told, he was definitely starting to feel cold. Even in the few weeks since the last time he had done this, the weather had cooled considerably, and there was a definite chill in the air that somehow managed to find the one spot of his clothing that would allow contact with his skin.
Anyway, he'd been on his roof, shivering, huddled in a corner, when he heard the voice. At first he thought he was imagining things; then he thought he was going mad. The wind was carrying enough of the voice away that he couldn't quite make out what it was saying until that one complete sentence made its way through.
The ladder - just a few inches from the corner he was huddling in - vibrated. Someone was climbing up. Presumably the owner of the voice.
Well, this was certainly a proactive choice for Hammond. Not that he was the kind of man who would just sit down and let all the action pass him by, but there were certain things that he just didn't do. Climbing up the side of Jack's house on a cold evening was one of them.
Hell, Hammond hadn't even been to his house since...well, probably since Daniel had 'died', and Jack knew it wasn't just a coincidence that he was here now.
It was just...odd. It was also very sweet - which he didn't think he'd mention - because he knew very well what Hammond had come to do.
But Jack just wanted to be left alone.
So, he didn't say anything. He didn't move when Hammond reached the top of the ladder, or when he stepped onto the roof, seeming in surprisingly good health given his rotund stomach. He was barely breathing harder than usual, the little puffs of white smoke escaping from his mouth.
"That's quite some trip," Hammond announced, after seeing Jack scrunched up in the corner.
Jack said nothing.
Sighing, Hammond found and sat in the only chair before turning it towards O'Neill. "I was surprised you left so quickly. Chancellor Travell was hoping for a further opportunity to express her gratitude."
Damn. Although he didn't feel like breaking his silence just yet, that was something he really should comment on. Quickly mumbling a half-hearted "Sorry," he just as quickly resumed his moping.
Hammond shrugged, as if galactic friendships weren't very important at that particular moment in time.
Ha. They were the *only* thing that had mattered these last few weeks.
Here it came.
"...you did a hell of a good job."
"I did what I had to. Nothing else." Oops. So much for keeping quiet.
Clearly believing he was getting somewhere, Hammond pressed on. "I know it wasn't easy-"
"I treated them like crap, General!" Surprised at his own outburst - no less surprised than his superior, judging by the statement on Hammond's face - he lowered the tone of his voice. "Especially Daniel. I don't know how he doesn't hate me."
"It may take some time before things are back to normal," Hammond admitted, before blowing on his hands and rubbing them together.
Jack felt vaguely guilty.
The General continued. "But underneath it all he understands why you did what you did."
Nope, this time he resolutely refused to say anything. He pushed his lips firmly together - yes it was childish, yes it was idiotic, yes it was stupid but he didn't care - and pulled his crossed arms even closer to his body. The area of space he'd been occupying was growing steadily smaller and he was sure he'd reach critical mass soon.
Either that, or his skeleton would implode.
Realising Jack had decided on silence - if not entirely understanding the reasons behind it - Hammond leant forward, almost coming off the chair. "Jack...this is not the worst thing you've done. This is not the worst thing you've ever been forced to do either for your country, your planet, or anything else."
He knew that. He did. The dreams still came back occasionally.
"Why is this bothering you so much?"
How could he articulate it? How could he possibly?
And then he was.
"About a year into the project - the second time it started again, after we brought Daniel back from Abydos - I realised something."
He was so wrapped up in remembering that he couldn't even acknowledge Hammond's statement.
"I was enjoying myself." It may have seemed like no great revelation, something that no one would have trouble admitting, but for him... "Not because of the job, or travelling to other worlds, but...a part of me was actually looking forward to witnessing Daniel's endless enthusiasm day after day. Watching Teal'c grow increasingly confused with human culture until he actually began to grasp that it was nothing but confusion. Waiting for the next time Carter opened her mouth because I knew that whatever she came out with, it was going to be amazing." Telling some lame-ass joke in the small hope that she might just smile. "Even with..." Sara and Charlie. Even with Sara and Charlie. "I was never really happy."
God, that was a terrible thing to admit.
Certainly, there *had* been moments when he was happy, delighted, overjoyed...but even Sara herself had known the truth: there was a darkness to him. To everyone in some degree, but it seemed to be more prevalent in him. He liked to describe it as dark and foreboding.
She called it moody.
And while being Sara's husband and Charlie's father was sometimes as fantastic as he thought it would be, those moments were the rarity.
Now, it was the other way round.
"I was never really happy," Jack repeated. "Before."
A car engine revved in the distance. "Before them?" Hammond questioned.
Exactly the right group of people, at exactly the right time. "They're my team, General. Betraying them - even for the right cause - is possibly the second worst thing I've ever done."
Hammond didn't ask what the first thing was. Jack figured he probably didn't need to.
Still, apparently understanding, Hammond nodded. "Things will get better. Dr Jackson will just take a little time. You know as well as I do how well Teal'c adjusts to these things, and as for Major Carter..."
Was that pause unnecessarily long?
"She's military. She'll understand."
Jack hadn't even realised he'd snorted until Hammond pointed it out and asked about it.
"Oh, I...I don't know. I mean she seemed happy enough when she found out that I wasn't a traitor but...she's been...weird."
"Yeah. Ever since I got back from Edora."
That maternal smile appeared. "Did you even thank her?"
"Thank her?" He asked blankly.
"She worked endlessly for months trying to get you back home - she didn't work on anything else. As far as I'm concerned, without her tireless work it would have taken us at least a year to get you home. You owe everything to her."
Wow. "I had no idea." Oh, someone had probably mentioned it when he left Edora, in that disbelieving haze as he tried to fathom the fact that he was going *home*, but how could anyone reasonably expect him to pay attention?
And how could no one have mentioned it again? Something like this...well it was...impressive. Then again, impressive was something Carter managed on a daily basis, so perhaps no one thought it worthy of mentioning.
"I'll definitely make a point of thanking her the next time I see her."
"Well," Hammond announced, standing up as he slapped his thighs. "I would imagine that shouldn't be much longer."
Okay, he was confused. And shivering. "Sorry?"
"At this precise moment in time, Major Carter is hiding by lying across the passenger seat of her car, just across the street. She's under the impression that I didn't see her when I arrived. I decided to let her maintain that illusion. For a while," He added, grinning. "I imagine she came to see you for the same reason I did."
Frowning, Jack then grinned for the first time since Hammond had arrived. "I'm honoured, sir. It's not often I get to see your evil side."
Lifting his eyebrows, Hammond grabbed onto the ladder. "I suggest you be on time on Monday Colonel, or you'll see it again."
That was his departing comment.
It wasn't long after that the ladder vibrated again - albeit to a smaller degree. In a few moments Carter's head appeared, and she located him in a matter of moments.
"Sir!" She practically leapt onto his roof. "Why are you in the corner?"
"Hammond knows you're here, you know."
She looked chagrined. "Yeah. He made a point at waving at me when he left."
Extreme confusion. "For what?"
"For bringing me back. I should have thanked you sooner."
Was she actually blushing? Stuffing her hands in her jacket pockets, she turned away and seemed extremely interested in his telescope. "Well, I...know it was hard for you. You'd made a home there."
Is that what she thought? "No. I hadn't. *You* brought me home. Thank you."
Now she was definitely blushing, but she turned to face him. "I don't know what to say to that."
He would have shrugged, but that would have meant movement. And movement would have meant letting more of the cold in. "You're welcome usually covers it."
Arching an eyebrow at him, she frowned. "Why are you in the corner?"
He let it go. "I'm hoping my skeleton will implode momentarily."
That didn't seem to faze her. "Sounds fascinating. Mind if I join you for a close up scientific observation?"
"As long as you don't mind the threat of flying bone fragments, no."
"These risks come with the job." Inviting herself to sit next to him was obviously a body heat issue, as it really was getting drastically cold now. She sat closely to him and he felt compelled to put an arm around her shoulder - purely out of concern for her comfort. This, of course, meant moving.
So he did.
They really should be going inside. The wind was starting to howl, her hair kept getting blown into his face (he was never going to admit how much he loved that), and he was losing all feeling in his hands.
"You did the right thing," She murmured. "You made the right decision. We forgive you."
He couldn't say anything.
So he didn't.
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