Disclaimer: I made no purchases of these characters because I made no money on this story. If I had made money, would I have bought any of them? Hmmmmmm... (cue wicked laughter)

In Mourning?

by Linda Bindner

A/N: thanks goes to Noda2, KEF, and Sash713 for being such great betas on such short notice - thanks!

General O'Neill had been in denial for awhile now.

But even this stalwart king of denial couldn't hide it from himself forever, no matter how much he wanted to.

So one night when he was alone in his office, no planned interruptions and his calls on hold, he settled deep into his leather chair and let the cold truth wash over him.

His promotion to General had come at a propitious time: he would have had to retire eventually on his own anyway had he not (luckily) been assigned a desk job. Now that he had a more complete understanding of the reality of his situation, he realized that he would have had to say something eventually or risk putting his team in danger... more danger than they were in already.

The second download of Ancient knowledge had changed him. He didn't know how he was changed, only that he was. He could feel it.

He supposed that this was what it was like for Carter to feel the presence of a symbiote. Her knowledge was based on nothing more scientific than an emotion. That must be pure hell to someone like Carter. Her mind was so concrete, her knowledge of the finite kind - basing such important information as the presence of a symbiote on what was nothing more than a gut instinct must drive her to distraction on most days.

But Jack didn't dare mention this to her. Carter being Carter, she would insist that he go to the Infirmary to get checked out, and then once one doctor or one nurse knew, they would mention it to others, and put it in reports, and the next thing he knew, the entire planet would know that Jack O'Neill wasn't entirely human any longer.

He didn't even dare say something to Teal'c, who would surely be as able to lead him on his 'feelings' journey as well as Carter could. Even if the T man didn't carry a symbiote anymore, it didn't mean that he could no longer remember what it was like to feel a symbiote, turning a potentially dangerous situation into an even more dangerous one.

And Daniel... forget it! One word, and that man wouldn't be able to keep a lid on his mouth for anything. Jack would be handed over to the first governmental research group to come along, probably before Daniel was even able to shut his mouth against inadvertently telling on his friend.

When he'd first discovered the truth about himself, he'd been terrified. If certain nefarious beings (human and otherwise) ever discerned this little nugget of knowledge about him, he was in for a mountain of trouble. But that first rush passed, and he realized that unless he mentioned this (which was NOT going to happen) he had nothing to worry about. For unless he was once again forced to deal with a Tok'ra Zatarc detector and reveal a hidden truth about himself, it was a trillion to one shot that anyone (besides himself) would ever figure this out. All he had to do was keep his cool, and he would be home free.

So he started playing his pretend game: all those on or off the base who thought they knew the reason for his rather morose expressions of late when looking at the Gate believed one thing, when it actually was because of something completely different. He knew that everyone thought that he now felt left behind, that he missed going throught the Gate like crazy, that each time he witnessed his old team departing through the Gate, he was busy missing the action, the adrenaline rush, being part of something bigger than just himself, being on a team.

But the truth was far from that. Truth was, he liked not being part of that team - it gave him the time to get to know those former team members on a whole new level. He also liked not going through the Gate - not going into all that danger, not getting thrown in to life and limb situations that he no longer had the body for.

And above all, he liked the game of pretend that he had been playing with everyone else. It gave him a secret thrill to let the others continue with their own game of pretend each time the Gate opened. So he feigned ignorance, displaying puzzlement whenever someone had the temerity to stare at him too knowledgeably, as if they knew something that they suspected he should also know, and pitied him for what they thought they knew.

On the down side, he hated the pity he occasionally saw on other's faces. Even the slightly agonized look that Carter gave him every now and then, or the pained expression from Daniel was enough to cause a bad dream or two. He even caught Teal'c looking at him with sorrow in his eyes once when the big Jaffa thought he wasn't paying attention.

But he was. And once he realized why they were all affording him looks as if he should be in mourning, it gave him such a secret kick to realize that they had no idea, not really. He was the one, the only one who knew THE TRUTH.

And what was the truth?

The truth - the official truth - the truth according to General O'Neill:

“Um... it really is out there?” he would always guess, as if this was a test question and he didn't know the answer.

Everyone thought they knew... well... everything and he knew... well... nothing.

But they didn't, not really, and he did.

They didn't know that Thor had not quite been completely truthful after the Asgard had taken care of that last Ancient knowledge download. He'd claimed that he'd wiped the knowledge from Jack's mind, that Jack was now free of anything Ancient and was now just like any other human.

The little gray guy had only bent the truth a bit.

In actuality, Jack was now so much more knowledgeable than his fellow Earthers were that he literally knew the secrets of the Universe. He was on the same intellectual level as the Asgard, maybe even as the Ancients. He could solve a math problem faster than Carter could now, he understood the most obscure physics references, he could actually talk shop with Carter all day and not repeat himself... or even break a sweat.

But no one knew that, particularly not Carter.

And Jack sure wasn't telling.

The End

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