Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.
Spoilers for 'There But For The Grace of God', 'Point of View', 'Divide and Conquer', 'Beneath The Surface', 'Absolute Power', '2010' and '2001'. A '2010' addition, but actually set several years before the episode takes place.
And yet another story idea I've had for a very long time. Really sorry this isn't the next part of a WiP. My brain is fried, and can't deal with multi-part things at the moment. Special thanks to Anna, who I keep forgetting to mention. Without her, my last three stories probably wouldn’t have been written.
He knew what it was as soon as he held the envelope.
A majority of people didn't bother with the postal system anymore. Using the Global Communication System was faster, more convenient - and instantaneous.
Everything was instantaneous these days.
Not that the old postal system had gone the way of the dinosaur completely. It was different - you had to visit the collection office yourself to pick up your mail, rather than having it delivered right to your door - but there were enough traditionalists to keep things running.
He didn't see himself as a traditionalist, or anything else. He just was.
So he'd made his weekly visit, collected his mail - there was never much - and drove home.
Still, after all these years, the same people who saw him make the same journey fifty two times a year continued to gawk at his truck.
Or maybe just at him.
He wasn't sure which of the two looked more battered.
Parking with learned familiarity, he climbed out and opened the house. He had a hard time thinking of it as a 'cabin' anymore. That had been its description when he paid a twice-yearly visit. That is, if he were lucky.
But it wasn't really a home, either. Despite how much he loved it, and the endless warm memories it contained - every tree, every animal noise, every corner of the house reminded him of something - it didn't feel quite...right. As beautiful as it was, and as fondly as he thought of it, when he began to live there permanently, it always seemed as if something was missing.
So 'house' was the word now. That was its identity.
Throwing his keys onto the side and making his way into his small but perfectly formed kitchen, he pulled a cold beer out of the fridge. Thumping the fridge door shut with his right hip he headed back outside - to the porch, then the ground, then towards the chairs at the side of the house.
It was a nice day. The sun was particularly bright, and though he had a routine he adhered to almost every day, today he suspected he was going to sit on the dock more than usual, fishing for fish that weren't there.
Pushing his shades further up his nose and still grasping the mail in his non-beer hand, he carefully lowered himself into the chair closest to the water. Placing the mail on his lap he opened the beer - one of the advancements he *didn't* mind was easy open bottles - and took a hefty swig. Swallowing the mouthful he then carefully balanced the bottle on the arm of the chair, and started going through the mail.
There wasn't much of interest. Someone had requested an interview. No matter how often he'd stated he never gave them, every few months a new letter arrived - usually offering lots of money.
Maybe, one day, he'd give someone their damn interview. But not today.
One of the things the advent of the GCS certainly hadn't put a stop to was junk mail. There were a lot of companies that specifically targeted traditionalists as their future customers but, just like the interview request, the junk mail was going straight into the recycling.
Not long after there was only one piece of mail left. Using both hands, he picked it up.
It wasn't a letter. Whatever was inside was much too hard to be just paper. Cardboard, then: maybe actually a card.
He knew what it was.
He took another swig of his beer.
Putting the bottle back on the arm and with hands that weren't shaking, he turned the envelope over.
It was hand written.
That *was* unusual. Everything now was typed, printed, computerised - especially for her. So were the hand written envelopes *his* idea? Or had she decided on something special, just this once?
His gaze dragged across the words; his name and address written in silver pen, in handwriting he was too familiar with.
Turning it over again, deciding to just get it over with, he ripped the envelope open - but being careful, despite himself, not to rip through her handwriting. The envelope fell to his lap but he wasn't paying attention to it anymore; his mind, his eyes, his everything were focused on the folded piece of card in his hands.
His name was on the front but he didn't much care. Lifting up the top of the card, he studied the text inside.
And there it was.
'...request the honour of your presence...'
There it was.
He'd known about the engagement, of course. Even if he hadn't read about it in the paper - everything relating to the original SG-1 was big news - Daniel had made sure. Coming up to the house, with that damn puppy dog 'I'm so sorry' expression.
What was he expected to do? Transport to her house and demand that she couldn't marry Suit Guy just because old, crotchety, pissed off Jack O'Neill was still, despite everything, despite the failed trust, despite himself, still in love with her?
That wasn't him; and besides, she'd made her choice. But...
He just hadn't expected to get *this* so soon.
Hell, part of him hadn't expected to get it at all.
Samantha? She'd actually agreed to that? Still, at least her name was first. Never the underdog. Not her.
In fact, no titles at all: just Sam and Joe, getting married.
No titles. How nicely ironic.
He didn't look at the date or the place; instead he moved his right thumb up and across the card, obscuring most of Joe's name.
He might have imagined that once. What with alternate realities, za'tarc machines and feeling feelings, the idea had solidified in his brain. Never for very long, because as soon as she or Hammond turned up, that part of his brain was clamped down so tightly that he could barely hear the squeals for help.
But occasionally...he'd wonder. Would it be the perfect thing it appeared to be in those alternate realities? Would one or both of them have to die a horrible, messy, untimely death - apparently another prerequisite of those alternate realities?
Would it be worth breaking regs for?
If his thoughts ever did get to that point, he'd sternly remind himself that this was to protect Earth and, hell, sometimes the entire universe. Nothing got in the way of that.
The thumb covering the name moved away, and the hand attached to that thumb moved further still, wrapping firmly around the beer bottle. He didn't drink from it; it was simply reassuring to be able to hold onto something so cold, so hard, so *real*.
The card in his other hand was so light, so insignificant that it he held it just by the corner, just like that, it could easily blow away.
Then it wouldn't be up to him. Fate, or nature could rip it away - throw it up into the sky, carry it through the air and eventually land God knew where, but somewhere, anywhere, where he wouldn't have to see it.
Fate and nature were not complying. There was a breeze, but it was so faint that barely anything was moving.
Still holding it by one corner between his thumb and his index finger, he waved the card about. Hoping for just one big gust of wind. Couldn't Oma or Shifu help out? Just turn up, do a little of their magic, and poof! It'd be gone.
He closed his eyes.
Just take it away from him.
He opened his eyes.
God wasn't complying either.
That wasn't a surprise.
He moved, standing roughly. The bottle fell onto the grass, its contents glugging into the ground. Letters, junk mail and envelopes fluttered from his lap, spiralling downward.
Jack ignored all of it - grasping the invitation, thumping into the house. He knew exactly where he was going, reaching the bedroom and yanking open a drawer, grabbing and throwing the neatly folded clothes out of the way...
And then he stopped.
Pulling his shades from his face he studied the contents: what had been underneath the clothes. A worryingly obsessive catalogue of items, displaying, even to him, the mind a man not able or ready to let go.
Still, there wasn't much there. Not really. A few clippings, a few pictures. A necklace that had been bought four months early as a Birthday present but hadn't been taken out of its box for almost ten years.
Before the Aschen.
He placed the card next to that, and with a strange calmness slowly re-folded and replaced the clothes.
When that task was complete, he got his fishing gear out.
And that was how he spent the rest of his day: sitting on the dock, in his special fishing chair, a beer to his right, his feet propped up on a box, and the line slowly sinking into the water.
Fishing for fish that weren't there.
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