by Suz

Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.

Spoilers for 'Tin Man', 'Nemesis', 'Small Victories', 'Serpent’s Venoms', 'Meridian', and 'Revelations'. General knowledge of the show. Set anytime from late season six onwards.

Man, I depressed the hell out of *myself* writing this one. Anyone who's seen the MacGyver episode 'The Widowmaker' may know what's coming...


Turning off the engine of his car, George Hammond glanced at the old truck he'd parked next to. He suspected Jack kept it somewhere in the local area when he wasn't there - it was splattered with dried mud, and he knew without a doubt that it hadn't been used for days. Maybe even weeks.

Sighing, the reason for his visit never far from his mind, he pulled the door release, pushed the door open, and stepped out of the car.

It wasn't a bad day. A few more clouds than he'd generally like, but it certainly wasn't about to rain anytime soon, and he was comfortable enough in his loose fitting top. Certainly no need for a jacket.

Slamming the door shut, he didn't even bother locking it, simply sliding his keys into the right hand pocket of the beige pants he was wearing, and taking a few moments to study the surroundings. It really was quite beautiful; it was everything Jack had always rhapsodised about.

Half-chuckling at his own purple prose, he began walking. A few small stones crunched beneath his shoes, but then the 'driveway' petered off and soon it was just grass.

George didn't bother even going up on to the porch. He knew from his informants and from what he knew of Jack as a person that it'd be pointless to look in the cabin. So, still walking, he soon reached the edge and stepped around to the side.

The view from there was even more spectacular. The grass rolled onto a pond that somehow seemed to grab what little sunlight there was and hold onto it fiercely. A huge range of trees surrounded the immediate area, making the whole thing seem cosy. Complete.

The absolute opposite of what the man sitting on the small wooden dock must have been feeling.

Jack would have heard the car, and his walk across the drive, but he gave no indication that he knew he was there. Spying a folded plastic chair leaning against the side of the cabin, George picked it up and carried it over to the dock, where he unfolded it and sat next to his subordinate; his friend.

He couldn't help but wince internally at how close to the edge he was sitting, but as he was a General in the US Air Force, he was good at hiding it. "It's beautiful here. I can understand why you were forever trying to persuade people to come." He glanced towards the man who'd yet to say a word. He'd lost some weight, and had a good couple of days of facial growth, too.

Jack finally spoke, still staring out towards the water. He wasn't fishing, wasn't even really looking at anything. Just sitting. "Wondered how long it'd take before you showed up."

"You think I'd leave you out here forever?" Teal'c and Jonas had already had no luck at talking to him, so it was apparently time for the big guns.

At least, that was how Teal'c had phrased it. Something that *he* had picked up from Jack.

"I could do worse that stay here forever,"

"Not if it involves starving yourself to death." George closed his eyes as soon as he'd said it; he hadn't meant to start berating him so quickly, though he'd have to get to that eventually.

"I eat."

"What? Air?"

The head finally moved, angling towards him. "I *eat*. I have no intention of killing myself, General. I just haven't been hungry lately is all." The head turned away again.

Though it hadn't been a huge fear of his, George was nonetheless relieved to hear it. His life in general, and especially his time at the SGC, had taught him that anything was possible. Needing to lighten the mood just for a moment, he focused on something else. "The beard looks good. Trying to grow it, or just couldn't be bothered to shave?"

His right hand moved up as if to touch it, but it stopped before it got there and lowered back down. "What do you think?" His face was tight, controlled, trying to betray nothing - and in so doing, actually betraying everything.

Glancing out towards the water, George's gaze soon fell to his own lap. Pale jokes and time wasting weren't going to help him. Still staring down, he focused on his tightly clasped hands. "When it happened, I thought it would be like it was when Dr Jackson went. You'd throw yourself into your work; I wouldn't be able to breathe from the amount of paperwork that'd suddenly come reaming out of your hands and into my office." He paused, discovering he was smiling fondly. "I guess I should have known nothing was ever as I expected it to be between you two." Shifting, he lifted his head.

Jack had turned away. "There never was an 'us two'."

"You know that's not true. *I* know that's not true." They may never have had that kind of relationship, but almost from the beginning they were their own little team within a team. Laughing at the same jokes, pushing each other's buttons, learning to communicate non-verbally - like all good partnerships.

He didn't deny it this time; apparently when a General corrected you, it simply had to be the truth. George had always known there were *some* perks to this job.

"It was different than it was with Daniel."

George nodded sombrely. "Because you never got to say goodbye? Because it was so sudden?"

It had been for him, too - the day he'd dreaded for far too long. Standing in the gate room as Jack thudded onto the ramp, holding a limp body and screaming for the medics. Having to listen to Dr Fraiser's broken voice as she'd told them that not even a healing device or a symbiote could repair that much damage.

And then Jack, standing next to her body in the infirmary, had disappeared in front of their very eyes.

His body had followed shortly after.

When he didn't receive a reply, he tried again. "It's time to come back, Jack. You've had a long time to-"

"I know, I know I have," He cut him off, still looking away.

"Then come home. Your friends miss you. Maybe they can help. Maybe getting back to work will-"

"No." The word was softly spoken, barely a murmur.

"No?" He wasn't really surprised.

"I...can't. Not yet."

There was no way to put a time on these things, but Jack *had* had time to try and deal with what'd happened. Part of him wished that Jack were the type of man who could cry his eyes out, who could just openly express something; not shutting it up inside a mask that took too long to slip. "You grieved for Charlie, didn't you?" He hated having to bring him up, but it was necessary.

The head jerked down. "Yeah."

"Then why can't you grieve for her? There's nothing wrong with it; nothing that says you can't be upset that she's gone. There's nothing holding you back except *you*."

Jack moved suddenly, surprising him, climbing out of the chair and walking towards the cabin. "Yeah, that was always the problem."

And George understood. He pushed himself up, and called out before Jack reached the front of the cabin. "Holding back?"

Stopping just as he reached the corner of the building, Jack's hand stretched out to rest against it. To rest his entire body.

Knowing he was onto something, George circumvented the chairs on the dock without falling into the water, and within a few moments was standing behind the man whose letter of resignation was still sitting in his desk drawer, unopened.

"You always thought..." That he'd have a chance to be with her. That maybe, they'd at least have a *chance*. And now he was regretting that he'd never broken the regulations.

His hand tightened on the wood it was grasping, the knuckles turning white. "General," His voice was thick, obstructed. "I *can't*."

George simply observed; his down bent head, the shoulder muscles bunched tightly together, the cracks that he was sure were going to start appearing in the wood soon. "You know how hard it was for me when Marie died, Jack." He still wasn't sure how that conversation had started, but during SG-1's first year, the two of them had ended up spending most of the night in his office, talking about his wife.

When he woke up in the morning, he still expected to see her sleeping next to him.

"I know what it's like."

The muscles un-bunched, just a little. "Yes sir."

"And I'm not leaving here until you do." This was his last plan, but probably the one he'd prepared for the most. The arrangements had been extensive, but made.

The hand lessened its grip. "You'll be here for a while, sir."

"Not a problem," George declared, moving back towards his car. Unlocking the trunk, he opened it up and pulled his travel bag out. "Though we should clear a few things up first. Number one: I like to cook and I like to eat a lot, so you'd better get used to doing the same." Closing the trunk, he made sure he had a firm grasp on the bag before he made his way towards the cabin. "As I'm officially on vacation, I'm not getting up before 0800 on any morning. And I do have one question for you," He paused, waiting for a reaction.

Jack seemed to be in shock, so George pressed on.

"Why did you never invite *me* here?"

He finally blinked, as if clearing his head, his hand moving away from the cabin. "I, uh...didn't really seem appropriate, sir. But you know you were always-"

"I know," George interrupted, a small smile appearing on his face. "It's just good to hear." Moving again he stepped up onto the porch, grabbed the door handle with his free hand, and was pleased to discover it wasn't locked. "So, where's my room?"

This was the moment. This was the moment where Jack O'Neill was either going to run away screaming, or accept that the madman in front of his cabin wasn't going anywhere.

Fortunately, he chose the latter.

"I'll show you," He muttered, not particularly happy, but that was partly the point. Indicating for George to precede him into the building he did just that, taking the time to appreciate the décor.

As Jack got him a beer, he took the opportunity to investigate the rest of the cabin without a guide - not that there was much. He eventually found himself in what was essentially the front room; picking up a picture that had been placed face down.

It was SG-1. The old SG-1. The original.

He knew Jack had walked into the room, but he didn't look up. "I have a picture of the four of you somewhere, taken on Cassandra's first birthday here. Even back then, I never thought that any of you would..."

"Yeah. I know."

An open beer bottle appeared under his nose, so George dragged his gaze away from the picture and grabbed it. He'd done his share of grieving; had shed his own few tears. Lifting the bottle, and his gaze, he wasn't surprised to find that Jack wasn't holding one - probably a good idea - or that he was moving away, shoving his hands in his pockets, to look through the window.

"To family," He declared, taking a swig only because it was tradition, not really wanting the drink at all.

Jack said nothing, staring out at the cloudy day.


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