Colonel Jack O'Neill and Dr Daniel Jackson were off base and offthe 'clock' for three days of R&R. After a rather strenuous missionthat had involved a lot of running, shooting, sweating and ducking; SG1had made it back to the gate and back home again without suffering anythingmore painful than dehydration and exhaustion. They had come home, showered,submitted to the outrageous and extensive medical tests, debriefed theGeneral and written their reports. Now they were off duty.
O'Neill was casually dressed in faded, worn blue jeans, turtleneckand hiking boots, his image of choice. Jackson was also clad comfortablyin Dockers, long sleeved v-neck sweater with an open collared shirt andhis favorite tennis shoes. They were on their way to Jack's place asDaniel's apartment building was being 'debugged' by the exterminatorsthis particular week. Dr. Fraiser had suggested that he 'stay well away'from all the prerequisite chemicals so that his allergies wouldn't flareup. O'Neill had graciously offered Daniel his old room back, after hemade some comments about charging him rent or claiming him on his incometax. Daniel, returned the dig with a remark about his overprotective,mother hen attitude; and knowing that it would give his friend differentcomedy materiel for the next week or so had genially accepted. So thetwo were headed for Jack's comfortable suburban house for their nextthree down days.
As usual they had stopped at Jack's favorite bar on the way to havea cold beer and for Jack to discover how the Bears had done that weekand which hockey teams were playing where. Shannon's Bar was a dark,comfortable place done in rich wood paneling and forest green upholstery.Old jazz music played softly on the muted speakers. As they entered thepub, O'Neill took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim lightingand looked around. He then led the way to a table instead of their normalplace at the bar.
"Why are we sitting down, Jack?" Daniel pulled outa chair. "I thought..."
Jack indicated the man on the barstool atthe end of the polished mahogany bar with a nod of his head. "Look, overthere."
Jackson glanced at the designated location then looked back at hisfriend. "Is that who I think it is?"
"Yea," O'Neill gazed with concern at the stocky, bald headed man firmlyensconced on the corner stool. "That's him."
"I've never seen him here before." Daniel said mystified.
"Me either." The colonel nodded at the waitress who came, laid downsome cardboard coasters and stood there waiting for their drink orders."Michelob, Paula." Jack said not looking in her direction.
Jackson looked up at her and smiled to cover for his partner's inattentiveness."Guinness, thanks." The young woman smiled at him, scratched their orderdown on her pad and left.
O'Neill spared the younger man a glance and grunted. "Don't know howyou drink that stuff, Daniel."
"Et Tu, Brute." Jackson replied, nodding at the young woman againwhen she delivered the two bottles and glasses to them.
"Yea, well at least mine is not strong enough to crawl out of theglass." The waitress smiled at his comment. "Thanks." Jack handed hera ten and indicating the man sitting at the bar asked. "Does he comehere often?" Jack asked the waitress.
"No Jack, never seen him before." Paula offered him his change; hewaived at her to keep it. "But he's been going at it for about two hours",she continued. "Jose Cuervo Gold...straight." She saw the bartender motioningat her. "Got to go boys, I'll check back but call if you need something."
Jackson looked from Hammond to O'Neill. "Jose Cuervo, isn't that...?"
"Yep," O'Neill replied. "Tequila, straight. He's a better man thanI am, Gunga Din."
"Wonder what's going on." Daniel commented.
"Well, he's thinking...and he's drinking. That's for sure." O'Neillpushed the glass aside and sipped the cold beer from his bottle.
Daniel tilted his glass and poured his stout carefully so as to notcreate a head. He sipped it then sighed. "Wonder what about."
"Well, Danny. There's only one way to find out." Jack looked at himand arched his scarred eyebrow. "Let's go ask." He got up and headedover to the bar. Daniel picked up his glass and followed his leader.
Jack walked carefully around General Hammond until he was sure theolder man could see him. "How ya doing General?"
"Jack!" Hammond greeted him warmly. Then when he noticed Jackson inthe background. "Danny! How are ya? Siddown, take a load off."
"Thanks, General. Come here often?" O'Neill smiled easily at his commandingofficer as he slid onto the next bar stool over. Daniel took the oneon the other side of Hammond.
"No, no can't say that I do." Hammond looked around at the decor."But it's a nice place. Do you?"
"Do I what? Uh, sir." O'Neill replied.
"Come here often, you and Danny-boy?" Hammond nodded towards the youngerman. Jack glanced at Daniel and got a pained expression from him referencingthe use of the diminuative nickname.
O'Neill nodded. "Occasionally. It's quiet and I can catch the scoreson the Bears and the Blackhawks." He nodded at the busy bartender atthe other end of the long polished surface. "Joe keeps track of themtoo."
"Cowboys." Hammond replied, sipping on the shot glass then lookingfuzzily up at O'Neill.
O'Neill didn't get the reference right away. "Beg your pardon?"
"Cowboys,Jack. God's team. That's why there's a hole in the roof, so the All Mightycan watch his team play." The general shook his head sadly. "Haven'tbeen the same since Staubach and Landry left though. Not the same."
"I'veheard that said Sir." Jack nodded and took another sip of his beer.
"How bout you, Danny?"
He had caught Jackson flatfooted. "Sir?"
"Your team boy, your team." The older man insisted.
Daniel looked helplessly at O'Neill who coughed into his hand to hidehis grin at Daniel being speechless at something. "I'm afraid I'm notmuch for sports sir." He managed.
"ts'ok, too young to remember Staubach and Landry. You know Landrydied." This seemed to sadden him greatly. "Lot's o good men have died."
"Yes, Sir." O'Neill suddenly got a flash of insight to where thiswas all coming from. "A whole lot of good men have died."
Hammond pulled a small piece of newspaper out of his shirt pocketand pushed it towards O'Neill. It was the obituary column of the SanAntonio Texas Express and News newspaper. O'Neill took the piece of newsprintand saw it immediately. A Colonel Thomas Fredrick, USAF, Ret., AudieMurphy VA Hospital, San Antonio Texas, had died 3 days earlier. "Friendof yours Sir?"
"Yep," Hammond finished the rest of the shot of tequila he'd beennursing. Jack grimaced. The General refilled the shot glass from thehalf-empty bottle sitting on the bar. "One of my pardners. Me and Jacob,Tom and Bob. We flew F-4s out of Nakon Phanom. We were flying TopCapon the Linebacker Operation."
Daniel concentrated a moment trying to place the location. "That wasin...Viet Nam, wasn't it?"
Jack shook his head. "Thailand, flying into Vietnam."
"Yes, sir-re-bob. We were hotshot pilots takin' it to 'em." Hammondknocked back the shot and poured himself another. "Ya know Jack," hepaused, then went on. "Ya know when you're twenty-four years old andfull a piss and vinegar, you're damned indestructible." O'Neill noddedagain, not wanting to interrupt. "You're indestructible...then you'redead." He looked at the Colonel. "But that id'nt always true, is it Jack?"
Jack nodded, staring at the half-empty beer bottle in his hand. Hestarted picking at the label with his fingers. "No, Sir. Not always."
Hammond kept talking. "Sometimes you want them to be dead and sometimesyou pray that they're dead... but sometimes they aren't dead.'
The two officers sat, not speaking for several minutes, both of themlost in their own thoughts. Daniel sat quietly next to them, waitingfor the rest of the story to come out.
After a time, O'Neill asked. "How long?"
"Three years, Jack. Three long years." The General stared at the goldenliquor in the shot glass. "We didn't know. We thought he was dead. Jacoband I saw them both go down into the trees. Bob was dead, but Tom...Tomwasn't. We didn't know til the Cong gave him back in a prisoner exchange."
Daniel looked a little confused. Jack shook his head indicating thathe'd explain later. The General had started talking again.
"I saw him gettin' off that plane, and my heart just jumped." TheGeneral looked at Jack. "Thought we'd got him back, but too much hadhappened. Wasn't never the same after that."
O'Neill took another pull on his bottle. "No George." He said quietly."It's not ever the same."
"Oh he was happy to see us." Hammond continued. "He cried, we cried,his family cried, but it was too late." He held the shot glass up tothe soft light to look at tequila, then set it back down on the bar."Too late for cryin'."
O'Neill laid a gentle hand on Hammond's arm. "What was it?"
"Cancer. He already had it, eatin' away at him." He looked at Jack'shand, then up at Jack. "After we rotated back to the world, he stayedin for a while. He'd call and we'd talk. We didn't say nothin', but we'dtalk. Jacob too. Then the Air Force retired him. Medically unfit, theysaid. Too et up. Too much Agent Orange." The General was silent for amoment. "Then Jacob got cancer too."
O'Neill nodded. He glanced over at Jackson. The younger man was sittingquietly; knowing that his place was to listen, not to question.
"Does Jacob know yet?" Jack asked the older man gently.
"No," Hammond took a deep breath. "I'll contact the Tok'ra later,see if he's there." He glanced over at Jack. "First Bob, then Jacob andnow Tom. Then there's me." He sighed and stared back into his glass."Why not me?"
"You were lucky, George." Jack said quietly, staring the brown bottlehe held in his hands. "There's no explaining it. You were lucky, theyweren't. No reason. It just is."
"I'm lucky." The General seemed to think about it for a minute, thenlooked at O'Neill. "You're lucky, Jack."
"Yes, Sir. I'm very lucky." The colonel agreed quietly.
Hammond looked over at Daniel. "Danny, you're lucky too."
He answered the older man in a soft voice. "Yes, sir. I know that."He looked over at O'Neill, who gave him a small smile.
"You know why?" The General asked seriously.
Daniel shook his head. "No, No I don't."
"Neither do I." Hammond sighed deeply. Then looked at the two men,his subordinates and friends. "But you boys keep it up. Keep on beinglucky. You hear me. That's an order." He looked at O'Neill. "You gotthat Jack?"
O'Neill smiled gently at him. "Yes, sir. I'll do my best."
Hammond turned in his seat towards Jackson. "Danny-boy. You got that,son?"
"Yes Sir." Jackson nodded gravely at the General.
Hammond filled his shot glass one more time, then raised it to theceiling. "To Tom, Bob, Jacob and old F-4 jockeys everywhere."
Daniel lifted his glass. "To absent friends."
Jack raised his bottle with theirs. "To Luck!" After the three menhad finished their drinks, he slid off the stool and put his hand onHammond's arm. "Now, General, I'm going to drive you home."
The older man looked at him quizzically. "Are you saying that I'mdrunk, Jack?"
O'Neill smiled at his friend and commander. "No, George, I'm justsaying the best way to stay lucky is to stay careful." He pitched hiskeys to Daniel who nodded his comprehension and approval of the plan."Since I met you, my luck has been good. I just don't want anything tohappen to you."
Hammond nodded reasonably. "Okay, if you put it that way."
He aimed the General towards the doorway. "Come on Daniel. Sometimesluck is not where you find it, but how you make it."
As he started to follow the two men, Daniel Jackson noticed that theGeneral had left some papers on the bar. He picked them up and lookedat them; one was the obituary; the other was an old black and white snapshotof four young men in flight suits. If he looked very carefully he couldtell a young George Hammond and Jacob Carter. The other two in the photohad the same look about them. All four were grinning at the camera withboldness and audacity. He put the pieces of paper in his shirt pocketand smiled to himself as he followed the two officers to the parkinglot, thinking about luck and friends and how careful you had to be withboth of them.
As I was driving to work one day, something told me to write thisstory. On the day I finished 'Obituary' I was sent this e-mail by a friendwho knew I was ex-military and would know how best to disseminate thisinformation. Timing is everything, go figure!
DOG TAGS FOUND IN VIET NAM
On a recent "Today Show" there was a story about two men who wentto Hanoi on a business trip. The men encountered a guy selling old GIdogtags from US servicemen who were killed during the Viet Nam War. Theywere disgusted by the thought of this man profiting from the sale ofthese tags. Upon returning to the U.S., they decided to go back to VietNam and purchase ALL the dog tags. They did so, paying 14 cents per tag!They brought home several hundred tags. The plan is to return the tagsto surviving family members, when they can find them. The process hasalready begun with one set being turned over to a grieving Mom on July4th, (coincidentally, it was on her birthday)!
These two men have set up a website, listing the names of all those whose tags they purchased.
If you lost friends, family, or know of someone who lost a loved onein Viet Nam, I suggest you check out this website. If you recognize aname, there's an e-mail address to contact these two men and to helpin their efforts to return the dogtag to it's rightful survivor. I'msure a family member would be eternally grateful to have such an importantitem returned. Please help by checking this website. And please sendthe website address to everyone you know. The more people who see thelists, the greater the chance of returning ALL the tags to those wholost loved ones in Viet Nam!
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Friendship, Holiday|
|Summary:||Just a scene in a bar.
Dedicated to the memory of Don S Davis