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Fanfiction: The Wrong Timeline - Part III

For disclaimers and author's note see Part II.

 

The Wrong Timeline

Changing Tracks Continued

Year 2002

Teal’c made his way through the Aschen ship to the commander’s quarters. He knocked briskly on the door.

‘Come in.’ Jack’s voice called out impatiently.

Teal’c waited as the doors slid open and he stepped through. As the commander of the Aschen vessel, Lujo, Jack’s quarters were impressive; a stateroom consisting of private sitting room and study with a large bedroom and private bathroom out to the back.

Jack sat at his desk. The steel surface was covered in plans, reports and schematics.

Teal’c wondered at how tired Jack looked. The lines that marked Jack’s face told their own story of the two years they had been fighting the Goa’uld. ‘O’Neill.’

‘Hey.’ Jack waved him into a seat and Teal’c saw his eyes flicker up to the bare patch of skin where Teal’c’s gold symbol had resided. It had been gone for four months after the Aschen had found a way to remove it but Jack always seemed surprised by the change. Teal’c had to admit it always surprised him when he caught sight of himself in a mirror.

‘What’s up?’ Jack asked pulling Teal’c’s attention back to him.

‘We have received word from Major Carter.’ Teal’c ignored the way Jack winced at her name. ‘She confirms the Aschen have modified the biogenic weapon again in the hopes of matching the physiology of Anubis. The new poison is being sent to us by courier ship and should arrive in the next seven days.’

Jack pulled a face. They had learned from hard experience that putting Apophis out of action hadn’t been enough. The symbiote poison developed by the Aschen had worked remarkably well. Jaffa planets had been declared off-limits as targets; as had the new Tok’ra home base where the few survivors of Apophis’s attack remained. The Jaffa had begun to rebel in force as more System Lords fell to the poison but Anubis was unlike any other Goa’uld they’d faced before. He seemed to have technology more advanced than the Goa’uld before him and he had proven impervious to the poison.

‘She also wished to inform you that the new gliders will be ready for operation in two weeks.’

‘They finally got that naquadria stuff to work, huh?’ Jack commented without taking his eyes off the plans.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c said.

‘Who did the test flight?’ Jack asked idly.

Teal’c wondered if his friend was thinking of their own ill-fated test flight in the X301. ‘I believe Major Carter insisted on taking the glider out herself.’

‘She did what?’ Jack’s brown eyes snapped to Teal’c.

‘Major Carter is a competent pilot, O’Neill.’ Teal’c pointed out seeing the rising fury in Jack’s glower.

‘She’s a damn fine pilot but she’s the only one who can figure out the Aschen tech half the time.’ Jack shot back. ‘She shouldn’t have taken the risk.’

Teal’c stared him down. He knew Major Carter had hated the Aschen’s insistence on her being assigned to their home-world during the war just as he knew O’Neill’s reasons for agreeing had been valid and layered; the Major had the best chance of understanding the weapons the Aschen provided; was capable of assessing their usage in Earth driven, and more specifically O’Neill driven strategy and tactics. Yet she was also safest on the Aschen home-world. In the past year, Earth had become a nightmare for the original members of the SGC following the Stargate going public; any time they were Earth-side, they were treated like celebrities but more than that Earth remained the primary target for the Goa’uld. Teal’c believed it was partly the latter reason that O’Neill had had in mind. The Aschen had also insisted Daniel Jackson remain with Major Carter and Jack had agreed; Daniel was their best linguist, after all.

‘Dammit.’ Jack muttered and pushed his chair back from the desk. He stalked over to a small cabinet on the other side of the sitting room and retrieved a bottle of whiskey. He offered it to Teal’c who shook his head. Jack poured himself a glass and threw it back. His eyes watered at the sharp sting of alcohol. He collapsed into the small sofa. Teal’c got to his feet and walked over to the sitting area. He sat down.

‘You should contact Major Carter.’ Teal’c advised.

‘And say what, Teal’c?’ Jack asked bluntly. ‘You want me to reprimand her for the glider stunt?’

‘She has provided you with three pretexts on which to communicate.’ Teal’c pointed out.

Jack scowled at him. ‘We’re not having this conversation.’ He rested his head back against the soft cushions of the sofa and closed his eyes.

‘It was you who advised me not to believe everything I read, O’Neill.’ Teal’c pointed out. The last time their ship had visited Earth, a month before, the newspapers had been filled with gossip about the Major and Ambassador Faxon; ‘The Golden Couple’ as they had been dubbed. Teal’c believed the newspapers were incorrect in their conclusions; that his former team-mate and the Aschen Ambassador remained nothing more than friends despite the photos of them attending a White House reception together. He also knew O’Neill had not drawn the same conclusions and believed Sam was seeing Faxon. O’Neill had avoided all contact with her since.

Teal’c didn’t know everything that had transpired between his team-mates but he believed they still loved each other despite the physical distance between them and the philosophical. Jack remained suspicious of the Aschen even though he fought alongside them in the war.

‘She deserves to be happy, Teal’c.’ Jack said opening his eyes and staring at the ceiling. ‘I just wish…I just wish she’d told me.’

‘Perhaps there is nothing to tell.’ Teal’c pointed out. He believed O’Neill was jumping to assumptions – assumptions that were leading him to pushing Major Carter away from him unfairly.

Jack sighed. ‘Was there anything else?’

‘You should rest.’ Teal’c advised. He got to his feet.

‘Teal’c?’ Jack stopped his friend as he got to the door. ‘Thanks.’

Teal’c bowed his bald head and left O’Neill’s quarters. There would be another battle to fight the next day.

o-O-o

Year 2003

Hammond spotted the smoke curling around the side of Jack’s house and smiled despite himself and the circumstances that found him at the house. He hoisted the beer out of his car and slammed the door shut. It was the only warning he was going to give Jack. He found Jack by his grill; the steaks were being burned to a cinder. Jack already had a beer and by the way he was splashing it liberally over the meat, it wasn’t his first.

‘Colonel.’ Hammond greeted Jack fondly even as he inwardly winced at the toll the war had taken on the other man. Jack’s grey hair was askew; his brown eyes sunken and shadowed. The lines that carved across the man’s face were deep and heavy. Jack hadn’t shaved and his lower face bristled with the beginnings of a beard. His t-shirt was stained and rumpled; his jeans looked like they had seen better days. Hammond didn’t want to contemplate what the inside of the house looked like. His ears caught the faint strains of opera from the house and he smiled at the tiny hint of civilisation.

‘General.’ Jack managed a half-smile. ‘What are you doing here?’

Hammond raised the beer he carried. ‘You up for a little company?’

Jack waved at the bench on his deck. ‘Pull up a chair, sir.’

The General sat down and offered Jack a fresh beer.

‘What the heck, right?’ Jack emptied the beer he held onto the coals of his grill and accepted the beer Hammond gave him as he took a seat next to him.

‘How are you doing?’ Hammond asked softly after they had both taken a gulp. Dutch courage they both needed, Hammond thought sadly.

Jack put the beer down. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands clasped loosely together. He didn’t answer the question and stared sightlessly into his backyard.

‘You went through hell, Jack.’ Hammond said softly. ‘We all know that.’ Jack had spent the last two months of the war being tortured by one of Anubis’s lackeys, a Goa’uld called Ba’al who had managed to miss the previous attacks of the symbiote poison. It had been Jack’s former team who had tracked the Colonel down and brought him home.

Home to an Earth radically changed by the public nature of the Stargate programme, the Goa’uld war and the new Aschen alliance. Home where he was a bona fide American hero. Where the clamouring masses didn’t want to know how broken Jack was; what he had sacrificed to save them. He’d pushed everyone away since his return; Sam, Daniel and finally, Teal’c.

‘Forgive me, General, but I’m sure this isn’t just a personal call about my mental health.’ Jack stated bluntly. His gaze landed on Hammond’s and the gleam of intelligence reminded Hammond painfully of another time when they’d both been much more innocent even with all of their chequered history.

‘You’re officially retired, Jack.’ Hammond informed him sadly. ‘After the stunt you pulled in the Oval Office I couldn’t stop it.’

Jack gave a short bark of laughter. ‘Don’t worry about it, sir.’ His lips twisted in a mockery of a smile. ‘I knew that going in.’

‘What the hell were you thinking?’ Hammond asked, giving into the urge to ask him ever since he’d had the conversation with an irate President. Jack had ostensibly been there to collect a medal of honour. Instead, according to the President, he’d protested strongly against the Aschen being allowed full access to Earth with the end to the war with the Goa’uld. The President had ended up throwing him out.

‘I was hoping to get through to him that handing our world over to another race wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I was out fighting the Goa’uld.’ Jack said dryly.

‘You have to admit the Aschen have proven themselves worthy allies.’ Hammond argued. ‘You can’t deny that.’

‘Can’t I?’ Jack picked up his beer. His brown eyes returned to his garden. ‘You know how I was captured?’ The question was asked idly.

‘Why do I think I’m not going to like this answer?’ Hammond sighed. He took another gulp of his own drink.

Both men ignored the stink of burning meat.

‘The Aschen said they had a contact who knew Ba’al’s location.’ Jack raised the bottle to his lips and tilted it. ‘The contact would only meet with me. It was a set-up.’

‘Every war has its share of bad intelligence and bad calls, Jack.’ Hammond pointed out. ‘They gave Major Carter a ship to find you.’

‘Covering themselves. I wasn’t meant to come back from the war.’ Jack stated emotionlessly. ‘If it wasn’t for…’ his voice trailed away and his gaze dropped. He took a deep breath and recollected himself. ‘The Aschen can’t be trusted and we’re just inviting them onto the planet without any restrictions at all? With everything we know they can do? And giving them control of the Stargate?’ He shook his head.

‘You feel that strongly?’ Hammond checked. His pale blue eyes took in Jack’s sincerity; he believed what he was saying – that he had been set up by the Aschen, that they had expected him to die in the war, that they weren’t to be trusted with Earth. He sighed heavily. ‘I don’t know what to do here, Jack.’

‘You’re still on the inside.’ Jack said. ‘Just…promise me, you won’t stop looking.’

‘For what?’ Hammond asked.

‘For whatever it is that will finally get everyone to believe me.’ Jack said wryly. He gestured with the bottle. ‘Somewhere, sometime, they’re going to trip up, General.’

Hammond gave a huff of laughter. ‘You’re that certain?’

‘I’m that certain.’ Jack said. His eyes were steady.

‘Well, I guess I still owe you for that business with the NID back before all of this started.’ Hammond mused. He nodded. ‘I’ll keep my eyes out, Jack, I promise.’

‘Thank you, sir.’ Jack raised his beer bottle and they toasted the agreement.

Hammond lowered his drink and his nose wrinkled at the increasingly acrid smell of the charcoal steaks. ‘What about you, Jack? What will you do?’

‘Oh, I have plans.’ Jack smiled bitterly. ‘I’m going to head to my cabin. Go fishing and ignore the rest of the world for a while.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe I’ll get a dog.’

‘What about your team?’ Hammond questioned gently. ‘They’re all worried about you.’

Jack shrugged. ‘They’re not my team anymore and besides, they’re all going places. Carter’s heading up that new Aschen Science team reporting out of the Pentagon; Daniel’s got that Cultural Liaison gig and Teal’c’s going to be elected leader of Chulak whether he wants it or not.’

Hammond laughed at the latter. Teal’c had led the Jaffa to victory but it had seemed to be a surprise to him in the wake of their success that they expected him to continue with the mantle of leader.

‘They don’t need me dragging them down into my mess.’ Jack said firmly. He looked at his bottle. ‘They got me out of…they got me out of there. That’s enough.’

‘Is it?’ Hammond shook his head. ‘If you told them what you’ve told me…’

‘There’s still no evidence even I know that.’ Jack snapped. ‘Just this gut feeling that we’re walking into a trap.’ He grimaced at his sharp tone and sent Hammond an apologetic look. ‘It’s been four years since we were SG1, sir. I can’t expect them to follow me just on faith these days.’

‘I think you’re wrong about that, Jack.’ Hammond said softly. He had seen them when Jack had gone missing. He knew what they had done to find him. ‘Promise me one thing.’

The younger man looked at him quizzically.

‘No matter what happens, when they need you, don’t turn them away; be there for them.’ Hammond said firmly. ‘You owe them that much.’

Jack nodded slowly.

Hammond stood up and put his mostly full beer bottle onto the table. ‘I’ll see myself out.’

‘General.’ Jack stood up and drew himself into a semblance of a military position. ‘It’s been an honour, sir.’

‘The honour was all mine, Colonel.’ Hammond replied.

Hammond made his way back around the house. He shook his bald head sadly as he got back into his car. He looked at the house for a long moment, his fingers drumming restlessly against the steering wheel.

It’s been four years since we were SG1…’

It seemed like four minutes, Hammond mused wryly. It seemed like four minutes ago he had watched SG1 take apart a cocky young team of Marines with team-work, commitment to each other, commitment to winning. He figured if Jack told his former team-mates his suspicions they would line up with him in a heartbeat but he could appreciate Jack’s desire to protect them from the fallout of his actions.

Hammond sighed and started the engine, pulling out of the drive. He could only hope that Jack’s former team-mates wouldn’t allow the Colonel to drift too far from them, and maybe, just maybe he could find that elusive proof the Colonel thought he needed to completely to get them back on his side. He knew he still owed Jack. The Colonel had joked that Hammond might have to buy back his soul once; Hammond figured giving him back SG1 would have the same value.

Continued in Part IV.

 

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