I am ignoring the movie/COTG plot inconsistency that Kawalsky didn’t know about Jack’s son Charlie- he had to know Jack at least as far back as 1982 (see:-The Gamekeeper). I’ve also given Kawalsky a wife. They can’t all be divorced… (See Dixon and Wells in Heroes pt 1). Sara snuck into the fic at the end…
Pain that I’m used to.
‘All this running around
It’s getting me down
Just give me the pain that I’m used to’
Depeche mode.(Playing the angel)
It had been a long year and a half. Time which he had spent regrouping and coming to some sort of reconciliation with himself, his now ex wife and the world. The return trip to Abydos last week and the ‘thing’ with Kawalsky had made him think of things he’d rather not think about- that’s obvious only to him, standing in front of his son’s gravestone, idly flicking his plastic cigarette lighter on and off.
Flip, spark, phut.
Flip spark, phut.
He cleared his throat and rolled his shoulders to ease the ache there. He’d collected quite a few bruises and contusions fighting off the Jaffa on Abydos and Chulak, not to mention being catapulted several hundred yards onto his back by Skarra’s ring. He’d seen the guards with Ra last year but Hammond’s recall had shown him what they really were- alien parasites. No, he amended- Teal’c said they were slaves to the Goa’uld- the God wannabees. It was the Goa’uld that were the parasites.
Jack had come to a decision when General West’s men had come for him last year. Numb on the inside and only peripherally aware of the outside world- only duty and an ingrained response to orders had made him get a buzz cut and put his dress blues on to go the Mountain complex. Ready to wait it out until the scientist geeks figured out the translation or not. And within two weeks Dr Jackson had done what the others had been futzing with for two years.
Once he’d read the classified reports and registered the full implications of the project and potential mission- his mind was set. He’d do the deed and not worry about coming back – just so long as no-one else died and there wasn’t any threat to Earth. It was why General West had picked him; he’d been brutally honest about that. He was a human weapon. So he’d gathered his special teams and gone through the Gate with his little ‘surprise’. The only problem being Dr Jackson, the civilian scientist who had to get his men back through the Gate afterwards.
He’d wanted to die, and been ready to, on that alien planet but Dr Jackson had made him see things from his perspective.
“I don’t want to die, your men don’t want to die and these people don’t want to die. It’s a shame you’re in such a hurry to.”
As it turned out he was pretty wise for a geek. And he’d managed to get them back home to Earth, which Jack had doubted he’d be able to do. Later Dr Jackson or Daniel, as he had now become in Jack’s mind- had chosen to stay behind, and if Sha’re had been Sara and Charlie (before all the sorrow and the fighting) Jack would have stayed behind too.
He flipped the lighter shut one last time and clenched the warm plastic tight in his fist. It was late and he was exhausted, running on fumes now that the adrenaline rush was fading. But he had things to do, paperwork to file, phone calls to make, a widow to visit.
Last year when he got back to Earth he’d decided to give up the ‘on duty-with-the-guys- cigarette smoking’. It was a bad habit, could kill him…huh….funny. Besides Skarra and his buddies had his favourite silver lighter.
Jack had done it for them- the kids and Abydos. Sara’d been pleased too…or was it too late for her to care any more? He’d retired; West reactivated him, the bastard. Jack had done his job, lied, bluffed and protected everyone’s sixes. He’d had forceful words with Ferretti and Kawalsky. They’d toe the party line for sure. He’d come back …alive, breathing and god-damned surprised. He went home and found there was no home. No Sara, just papers on the table and a card to call his lawyer.
He spiralled a bit then, drinking and shouting- Sara in tears, him confused- but he didn’t smoke any more. But he bought a cheap plastic lighter to have on hand. You never knew when you might need one.
He retired…again and threw himself into existing from day to day until he could pack it away into sealed boxes in his heart and mind. Boxes with his life and heart and hope in. The divorce came through and Jack was on his own again in different house. He bought a telescope for the roof and hoped Daniel was leading a fantastic life, because, really- someone should be after all they’d gone through on Abydos.
But things change and not always for the better. A little over a year later and Daniel had lost his beautiful wife to the new wannabe God Apophis and he’d lost Skarra and now Kawalsky- Charlie was dead.
He idly wondered if Skarra, still had his silver lighter and what he made of it now he was a Child of the Gods. Carter and Daniel thought that ‘something of the host survived’. Maybe one day they’d meet him again and remove the snake. Then Jack could tell Skarra for the third time that he could keep his lighter.
How close does Death have to come before you see the whites of its eyes, breathe its foul air and hear the rattle of its bones?
His son Charlie’s death was a red heavy weight in his arms as he ran down the stairs and rushed to the ER department. Charlie’s death was a dead weight in his heart that could never leave and a solid pain that he felt every day. Charlie’s death was the death knell to his marriage and life in the Air Force.
Jack O’Neill was alive-here and now after Ra and Apophis- and all he could think about was death and the loss of all he had once had.
He didn’t want to go home just yet; there was no one there anyway. No, hang on. There was- the stray he’d taken in- Daniel.
“They don’t know what to do with me and I don’t know what to do with myself.”
Jack knew that feeling and had brought Daniel to his home, fed him and put clean sheets on the spare bed. Daniel was welcome for as long as Jack felt he could stand it and when the SGC had sorted out accommodation and other issues.
Daniel had found him a few hours back, clearing out Kawalsky’s things from his locker.
“What are you doing?” Jack had glanced at him, seen the surprised look on his face- or was it outrage?
“Checking his personal effects - what do you think I’m doing?”
“But it’s personal; shouldn’t his wife or somebody do that?”
Jack sighed. Daniel didn’t get it yet. He carried on checking coat pockets before finally finding the biscuit box in the back of the shelf.
“Daniel I’m only going to say this once. One- we are working in secure top-secret military base- wives and the kids don’t come visit daddy for lunch. Two- even if they did come for NORAD, the part of Cheyenne that they *think* they know about- they sure as hell are never going to know abut us 30 odd floors underneath! Three- Ferretti’s still in the infirmary, I can hardly ask him can I? The military comes first, just in case there’s something she doesn’t need to know about. I’m pretty sure there won’t be, but I have to do it anyway. Damage control.” He’d opened the tin and was looking through the letters and photos. For a second he flashed to his own cigar box with the new additions of his wedding ring and the last photo of Charlie, his son.
“Yes really. When it happens to me someone, maybe even General Hammond, will do exactly the same.”
There was a pause as Daniel digested this. Jack was struggling to maintain a blank façade; he’d killed his friend and used Teal’c’s strength to do it.
“Right. So if I died- you’d do it?”
Jack stilled for a second, there was to be no more dying- not if he could help it. But it wasn’t that simple, today’s events had shown them that in spades.
“I guess,” he replied slowly. “Don’t you have somewhere else to be Daniel?”
“Yes - you do. Go away. Now.” Jack knew Daniel was looking at him trying to catch some flicker of emotion, but Jack wasn’t playing that game.
“See you later?”
Jack made a non committal noise. When he next looked up Daniel had gone. Jack had lots of things to do. Knowing whether he would see Daniel on base or at home later wasn’t something he could predict right now. He made a mental note to get the geek squad to check and wipe Kawalsky’s computer after he’d had a look.
He opened out the flat pack cardboard box he’d propped against the next locker and loaded the clothing , biscuit tin, and photos stuck to the inside of the locker into it. As he shut the metal door he took the magnetic name off and dropped that in too. Finally he put the lid on and taking a marker from his jacket pocket wrote Kawalsky’s name, adding ‘3 of 3’ on it. Just to make sure that everyone knew there were three boxes to go.
He picked up the box and took it to a secure lock up room a few floors down. He added the box numbers to the list attached to the end of the shelf and signed and dated it. They would be safe there for the time it would take for them to notify Kawalsky’s family, have the funeral and ask for his stuff. It was difficult knowing how people were going to react. Jack knew that- he had boxes of his own in his new loft that he *couldn’t* look at yet-it was too soon. But they were there waiting for when he could and he took some comfort from that.
There was always a time delay, notifying people- family. It was wrong but what else were they to do? If Kawalsky had been killed overseas they might not know for hours or days. The fact they were in the US wasn’t going to make this any easier. Families who knew what their sons, husbands *really* did would accept that they couldn’t know the exact details of where, when, how and why they were dead. In the end it was all the same- in the service of their country, in the line of duty. Jack had to assume that the CMO, Dr Warner was going through the same procedures for his own deceased member of staff- the one Kawalsky’s parasite had killed in the MRI suite. That got Jack wondering for a moment how Daniel was dealing with finding the poor man’s body in the bunk room.
Jack had checked with General Hammond and Doctor Warner about Kawalsky in the SGC’s morgue and what line he’d have to spin for the family. Obviously not an open casket service. His body could be released for cremation the next day. Then he visited Ferretti again, to check how he was holding up and also to see if there was anything he should know about Kawalsky’s family life before he barged in and ruined it.
“Don’t forget to tell her I’ll be by to see her as soon as they let me out of here!” Ferretti insisted.
“Roger that.” Jack replied.
After he’d got everything squared away he changed out of his BDU’s and drove off down the winding road into Colorado Springs. With his thoughts pin wheeling around funerals and arrangements, he found himself on the other side of town, parking in front of the iron gates that led to the cemetery. A few minutes later and he was standing in front of his son’s headstone.
He stood there, his heart aching remembering how much Charlie liked his blue uniform with the braid and badges and that somewhere there was a photo of him wearing the peaked uniform hat. He pocketed the plastic lighter and turned back to the car.
By the time Jack reached the address he’d written down, it was 23.32 and lights were still on in the house as he turned the engine off. Well, at least he wouldn’t have to wake anybody up. For a split second he thought about leaving it until the morning and then immediately squashed it. They had a right to know as soon as possible- Kawalsky would want that. As he stepped out of his car, Kawalsky’s letter crackled in his pocket along with the printed list of contact details the SGC had prepared.
The words he’d rehearsed in the car died on his lips as he stared at the woman who opened the door to his knock and push of the buzzer. Firstly any words he might have said would have been drowned out by the frantic desperate screams and wails of the baby over her shoulder. And secondly, the woman wasn’t Charles Kawalsky’s wife. Or at least he didn’t think so; it had been a while since they’d last met. He was sure even he would have remembered Charlie talking about a baby…
She looked him up and down, puzzled before asking “Yes? Colonel…?” She didn’t know him, but she was military for sure. The girlfriends and wives learned quickly how to spot ranks on uniforms. Or maybe she was a military brat in her own right.
“Colonel Jack O'Neill.” Jack introduced himself as she continued to jiggle the baby, the decibels lessening only a fraction. “This is Major Charles Kawalsky’s house? Is Amy in?”
And he knew the way her face went that she *knew* why he’d come at this strange hour. “Yes, I’m her sister Janet. Is he injured or….” They both knew what she meant.
“Can I come in?” Jack asked taking his hat off at last and fiddling with it.
“Who’s at the door Janet, at this time of night?” came a voice from inside.
“Oh, God he’s dead isn’t he? Where you there? You knew him?” Janet asked as she closed the door behind him. The baby spying a different person from the vantage point of her mother’s shoulder- forgot about crying and stared at Jack instead and stuffed a tiny fist into its mouth.
“Thank Goodness for that, she’s stopped! Oh, Jack. What…what are you doing here?” Amy stared at Jack and then at her sister, and she knew what Jack had come to tell her. They always did.
“Amy, I think you’d better sit down.”
“No, don’t say another word! I know what you’re here for and I don’t want to hear it. Come back tomorrow! Go back and check!”
“Amy,” Jack walked a few steps closer. Janet stood watching, still rocking the baby.
“No, it can’t be Charlie!”
“I’m so sorry but it is. He’s dead.” Amy started to cry and as Jack went to her she hit out at him with clumsy fists. He’d seen this before- Sara had done the same…he didn’t know if trying to comfort her would work any better than it had on Sara and it hurt almost as bad. His gun- his Charlie and Kawalsky at the gate’s event horizon. He’d killed them both by default.
Amy mumbled “No” and “Why?” before she leaned against him and sobbed over his chest ribbons. After a minute or so she pushed herself off him and wiped her face as if coming to a decision. She looked over at her sister and said “Janet, what am I going to do?”
Janet who was also crying by now just shook her head numbly. They hugged and Amy carefully took the baby, Janet tried to stop her.
“No, I need …I need to hold something. Just….let me…” Amy sat on the couch with the baby whilst Jack sat down nearby. Janet went to make some drinks.
“Is there anyone else who can be here?”
“No, I don’t…his dad, but…too far away…umm. When did he…?”
“This morning about 12 hours ago.”
“Is there… a…. body, will we get a… funeral?”
“Yes and yes. He wanted to be cremated.”
Amy screwed her eyes up and tears rolled down her cheeks as she nodded in agreement.
“Oh my God where’s Lou? Does he know?”
“He knows but he’s injured and on the medical list otherwise he’d be here. He told me to tell you he’d be here as soon as he can.”
Janet came back with drinks. “I’ve called the pastor he’s coming right over. I hope that’s okay hon?” and she sat beside her sister gripping her hand trying to lend whatever strength she could.
Amy nodded “thanks”
Jack cleared his throat. They looked at him “ I err, Kawal…Charlie asked me to give you this….” And he brought out the letter. Amy’s hold on the baby tightened and she made a noise. “Do you want this now or I can put it with his belongings back on base, until you’re ready?”
Amy looked Jack straight in the eye “Give it to me now please Jack.” he stood up and put it in her free hand. Janet said “You want me to open it for you?”
Amy shook her head “No.”
“Then let me take the baby.”
“No, I need you here.”
“Let me take her,” offered Jack surprising them both, but it was the obvious solution.
Amy nodded and Jack scooped the baby into his arms and wandered over to look at pictures, waiting for the woman to read Kawalsky’s letter and the padre to arrive. The baby was quiet, her mouth open, dribbling down the front of his uniform. But Jack was glad for the moment that he too, had something to hold.
At oh-dark 45 a.m Jack sat in the dark nursing a glass of Scotch, the bottle open on the table in front of him. He knew he probably still had a set expression on his face. The stoic mask that hid the horror of the reality of Kawalsky’s death, and Charlie’s. The contrast of cauterised no- blood on one Charlie to blood everywhere on the other. But he’d held it together at Amy’s house like he had to. By the time he left he was exhausted, physically and emotionally. He didn’t remember the drive home, suddenly coming to with a jerk as he stopped in his drive. Engine off, he pushed the door shut out of deference to his neighbours and Dr Jackson in the spare room and locked it manually. Jack slipped into his own house and leant back against the front door and listened. The lounge clock ticked and the fridge gurgled, and no light showed under the spare room door.
He slouched back into the couch, thinking hard about everything that had happened the last few weeks. He lived for the adrenaline rush of ‘being out there’ patrolling, being dark- the whole team thing. It was a rush, a buzz he’d sorely missed. The internal agonising over what could have, should have been was not so much fun, but he did it anyway.
The top brass would be asking if there was anything else they could have done. The whole Stargate Program was full of unknowns- who knew that the Goa’uld symbiotes were that fast about abandoning a host for a new one? There was no right or wrong answers because they’d never encountered anything like this. There were no guidelines, no protocol for this, although thinking about it- there would be some new ones as a result- Jack made a mental note. They were going to have to change the SOP for post mission checks. In retrospect they’d been lucky- the immature snake had never had complete control over Kawalsky. Otherwise who knows how many people he might have killed on his quest to go through the ‘Gate?
Jesus, thank God they’d stopped him Jack groaned leaning forward head in his hands remembering yelling at Teal’c to hold Charlie at the event horizon and then….
“Jack? Umm, that you?”
Jack lifted his head and leaned back into the soft couch
“Yeah, go back to bed Daniel.”
“What are you doing sitting in the dark?”
“Thinking and drinking.”
There was a slight noise making him squint against the sudden light that Daniel had turned on.
“Turn it off Daniel!” he growled.
“Why are you wearing ….?” Daniel had spied his discarded formal blue jacket draped over the back of the couch.
The light went off.
“I had to make an official visit and I don’t want to talk about it alright?”
“I’m sorry about Kawalsky….”
Finally Daniel got the message that Jack wasn’t going to open up to him. He heard the soft whisper and rustle as he moved away and then a door gently shut.
He picked up the scotch and poured another slug into the glass. In the dark he could be himself unguarded. The light made him feel too exposed. Jack was very sorry too, Kawalsky had been a good friend for a long time. The surgeon had done his best to remove the symbiote and it had fooled them. His friend had died on the table. It didn’t stop his anguish at having to kill the ‘host’ at the event horizon. What hurt most was that Jack had stared death in the face several times in his career but this was the first time a friend with an alien face had stared right back at him and meant it. And, bad-ass Colonel that he was, he was also undone by the squirming, needy baby at Kawalsky’s house too. Memories of how besotted he’d been with Charlie, this life he and Sara had created. They’d had some magical years before it had gone. He blamed the sting in his eyes on the next gulp of scotch.
The shrill of an alarm blaring had him rolling off the couch and scrabbling for a non existent gun before his brain kicked in.
“Sorry, sorry. I was making toast and your smoke alarm went off!” Daniel babbled, trying to fan air under the sensor. Jack reached up, pulled open the cover and ripped the battery out.
“Okay, or you could just do that. Morning Jack. Sorry.”
Jack grunted and headed for the shower. Daniel put more coffee on; Jack looked like he was going to need it.
Toast, Frootloops and many cups of coffee later, Jack drove them back up the familiar route to the Cheyenne Mountain complex. They’d beaten the bad guy once surely they could get this new one too? They just needed to be better prepared that was all. Jack stopped by to check on Ferretti- he was listless from medication, but Jack chatted to him anyway.
At the very long debriefing and resolution meeting Jack pulled out folded sheets of paper and outlined his concerns. He argued for more stringent Medical post mission checks to be carried out; a mandatory respite at the SGC before being cleared off base and for all civilians on SG teams to have weapons training as standard. Also the scientists/civilians were to instruct the military SG teams about the DHD’s, the Gate and wormhole travel. This created a surprised buzz amongst department heads and team leaders.
“Look, I know a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but those ‘things’ out there could take over any one of us and we need to spread our resources around- just in case. The more the SG teams know about how the gate works, the more they’ll be able to help out when the snafu’s come up- which they will. I know the geeks won’t want to learn how to shoot but if they’re going off world, then they have to get through Basic first. No Basic, no off world trip it’s as simple as that. Oh, and medical training for all. As we get more teams up and running I’ll run scenarios to sort the wheat from the chaff- that goes for military, the same as civilians. There’s no shame in working back at the SGC. I repeat- I don’t care if they’re a botanist or a biochemist, archaeologist or an architect- boot camp before wormhole travel.”
He sat back and watched the fur fly. General Hammond had wanted him to think outside the box, and this was what he came up with in the Scotch fuelled early hours of the morning. The din around the table abruptly halted when General Hammond thumped the table.
“People! What’s the problem here? We aren’t ordering you what you’re going to do; we’re showing you how to survive. We are exchanging information. How many times have I heard departments say that the Marines or the Air Force don’t listen to you? Now’s your chance. I think this will work out if you let it. We are going back through that Stargate to find allies, scout for potential new bases, look for weapons and retrieve the enslaved. We are going to need you more than ever. Show us what you are capable of, and we’ll make sure you get home in one piece.”
After that it was all over, bar the shouting and people ran off to make lists, rotas and whatever else made a geek happy. The military contingent grumbled but obeyed.
Later that afternoon Daniel appeared at Jack’s office bearing coffee, a sandwich and doughnuts.
“Missed you at dinner.”
“Lost track of time, been busy sorting out schedules and a whole bunch of other stuff I won’t bore you with. Thanks.” Jack reached out for the coffee gratefully, and started on the sandwich.
“So, the boot camp thing-.is that because of how I did or didn’t do?”
Jack finished his sandwich before answering.
“Both. You were impetuous, disobeyed instructions and slow at the DHD. But you also looked out for Sha’re’s people and figured out how to get us home. You got scared and went with your gut instincts. What do you think we were doing? If you want to help get Sha’re back, then you need to sharpen up a little.”
“Boot camp sounds kind of humiliating though….”
“That’s not my intention at all Daniel- it never has been. You need to be able to carry a loaded pack, fire a weapon and do first aid. Figuring out the DHD and talking to the natives is your area of expertise.”
“I can’t run for 20 miles with a pack or anything!”
“10 miles then.”
“Okay we’ll start easy- 2 up to 5 miles. Just think of it like going on a dig without a jeep for your kit. You must have lugged bags and walked distance on digs Daniel? You’re young and fit, which is more than I can say for some of the lab rats. You opened the Gate- you’re The Man- whatever you can do- they’ll have to do as well- so be ‘worth’ following.”
“Huh, no pressure then.”
Jack grinned and bit into his doughnut.
At the end of a gruelling week, parasitic aliens and dead friends not withstanding, Jack wandered aimlessly round the store. He and Daniel needed real food now they had the weekend off to recharge their batteries. Jack had been firm but thorough making Daniel understand the weapons they used. He’d showed him how to break the 9 mil down and put it back together. How to clean it, how to load it. Next week he would do the same but faster and with his eyes shut and by the end of the week he’d get to shoot on the range.
He stood by the beef section, internally debating steak and potatoes over pizza for speed when a voice broke into his thoughts.
“Jack? I thought it was you. How can you see with those shades on?”
“Sara!” he took off his shades. She seemed happy to see him and she looked great as always.
Her warm hand burned through his shirt as she touched his arm and said
“I was sorry to hear about Char…. Kawalsky. I gather you were….it can’t have been easy…”
“No. Never easy.” Jack cleared his throat. Sara hadn’t missed the flicker of pain across his eyes as they shared a second of synchronous togetherness over their own Charlie. The cremation was first thing next week…
Sara broke eye contact as she looked at his food cart. “Well it looks like you’re doing okay Jack- fruit and vegetables!”
“That’s Daniel’s list. A civilian working with us, new in town, kid’s got no place to stay. So he’s with me for now.”
“Oh, that’s nice of you.” Jack shrugged offhand, but she knew this Daniel had to have earned his place in Jack’s house. It wasn’t the first time he’d brought back a young rookie on the team for a slice of home life, mothering and guiding them. She held back a twist of grief as she realised all his protective father/older brother instincts hadn’t been lost after Charlie’s death- just dormant. She put on a brave smile as she saw a pack of cheese and bag of pasta in the cart. “Mac and cheese. He likes that too?”
“No idea, I’m making it anyway.” He looked at her and he knew what she was thinking about him taking in strays and eating comfort food. Mac and cheese had been their Charlie’s favourite. He put the shades back on, retreating once again. They didn’t hate each other, the divorce had been amicable, and Jack hadn’t put up any fight. They were still working through loss and pain.
“Enjoy your meal and take care. You look good.” Sara meant it as she watched him give a small smile, throw the steak pack in the cart and head off to the checkout. She had hoped that the threat of divorce would be a wake up call for him to make the marriage work. She didn’t understand why he fought for everything else but not that. She had the house and most of Charlie’s things and her dad had moved back in. She had won in all respects but the one that mattered most, Jack was gone, back in the arms of the Air Force doing God knows what.
At dinner that night her dad looked concerned as she ate her macaroni and cheese with eyes bright with unshed tears. “It’s okay, I’m good- eat up.” And she wondered if Jack was eating his at the same time or not. Either way she was glad he was working and functioning like a human being once more and that he had recovered enough to cope with this recent death. It was something he was used to and had shielded her from until it had happened in their home.