smg01: (jackbreathe)
[personal profile] smg01
Title: One Chapter Closes
Author:: suzannemarie
Word Count: 2458
Rating: G
Spoilers: Set between season 8 and season 9
Prompt: 69. Jack and Cassie. the colonel consoles Cassie when the dog dies.

Summary:: The hardest part of having a pet is the inevitable goodbye at the end. When the day comes for Cassie and her dog, Jack is there for her.

Between the claiming of the prompt and the writing of the story, the colonel became the general.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and all of it’s characters, etc. are owned by people who are not me. People like MGM, SciFi, etc., etc. This story is just for fun. An homage, if you will.



Jack returned to his office with a tuna sandwich, dropped into his chair, and wearily eyed the stack of reports awaiting his attention. It was 2:00 and it had already been an unbearably long day of meetings and reports, all of which had begun to blur together. Sandwich in one hand, he opened a folder with the other and began reading.

The phone rang just before he took a bite of his sandwich. With a small grunt of annoyance he put down the food and answered the phone.

“O’Neill,” he said absently, still scanning Reynolds’ mission report.

“Jack?” Her voice was a little too carefully controlled.

Jack turned his full attention to the phone call. “What’s wrong Cassie?”

He could almost feel her gathering herself together. “Remember when you said that I would know when it was time?” She stifled sob as she finished speaking.

“Hanka?” Jack understood immediately.

“Yeah.” She breathed for a few seconds. “Today we looked at each other and I knew what he was telling me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I made an appointment with the vet for tomorrow morning. Since Sam’s at Area 51 for a few more days...” Cassie took a deep breath. “Would... would you go with me?” She suddenly sounded very young and lost.

“As it happens, I’m off duty tomorrow. What time is the appointment?”

“10:30.”

“I’ll be there in time to take you to the vet.”

“Thanks, Jack,” Cassie’s voice broke.

“Sure. Will you be all right on your own until tomorrow? Do you want to stay with me tonight?”

“I think I’d rather be alone with Hanka.”

“If you’re sure. Call if you need anything.”

“I’m sure. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye, Jack.”

“See you tomorrow,” Jack said softly.

Jack cradled the receiver. He stared distantly through his office window. His thoughts drifted back seven years to the day he presented Cassie with the dog. He had been prepared to take the dog himself if things did not work out with Cassie, but there had been no need. The friendly little dog and Cassie had bonded quickly. Fortunately Janet had been a good sport about the matter. Hanka had been a faithful friend through many turbulent times.

For a moment he wondered if he had done Cassie a disservice by initiating something that would end in sorrow. The downside to having pets was the inescapable end, Jack reflected. He thought about the dogs he had owned over the years: the golden retriever that had been his constant companion in childhood; the husky he had as a teenager; the mutt that had come with Sara when they married. They were good and warm memories. He hoped the same would hold true for Cassie.

Jack mentally shook himself. The stack of reports waiting for his review was not getting any smaller. With an effort, he put Cassie and her dog aside for the present. Picking up his sandwich again, he returned to Colonel Reynolds’ report about possible naquadah deposits on P2X 313.



********



Jack rang the doorbell at Sam’s house shortly before 10:00 the next morning.

“Come in,” Cassie called from the living the room.

Jack entered the house and found Cassie sitting on the couch. Hanka rested with his head on Cassie’s leg as she caressed his ears.

“How are you doing?” Jack asked softly.

Cassie’s attempt at a smile twisted into a grimace. “Okay.”

Jack nodded. He knelt beside the young woman and her dog. “Hello, old boy,” Jack murmured to Hanka. He gently scratched Hanka’s flank. Hanka whined and twitched his tail in welcome.

“He cried a lot last night and he didn’t eat again this morning,” Cassie said.

“Did you get any sleep?” Jack asked.

“I was trying to comfort Hanka. Maybe I waited too long,” Cassie said anxiously.

“Did he seem to be in pain before now?” Jack asked.

Cassie thought. “I don’t think so. He wasn’t much interested in food and he hasn’t been very active for awhile, but he still seemed alert. It’s only in the last day that he started whining and crying.”

“It sounds like the tumor finally got big enough to start causing pain. I don’t think you should worry. I think you’ve done everything right,” Jack assured her.

“Okay,” Cassie nodded.

“Ready?” Jack asked.

“No. But it’s time to go.”

With great care, Jack gathered Hanka up in his arms. Cassie watched Jack affectionately. This was the side to Jack that many rarely got to see.

Cassie scrambled to her feet and walked out of the house with Jack.

“We can take my truck,” Jack said as Cassie locked front door.

“Okay.”

Jack continued to hold Hanka as Cassie climbed into the passenger seat of the truck.

“Seatbelt,” Jack instructed.

Jack carefully settled Hanka on her lap. He pushed rather than slammed the passenger door closed and crossed to the other side of truck. He got into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition.

“When I called yesterday to make the appointment, they said I didn’t have to pay today. They’ll send a bill later,” Cassie said, making conversation.

“That’s a good way to do it.”

“They also said that they could get his ashes for me. Is that weird?”

“Lots of people do that,” Jack told her.

“I guess I could bury them, or spread the ashes somewhere,” Cassie mused.

“Whatever seems right to you.”

“I don’t know if I can do this,” Cassie said shakily as they approached the vet’s office.

“I know,” Jack told her.

“Do I have to be there when they do it?” Cassie asked.

Jack pulled into a parking space and shut off the engine. He turned to Cassie. “There’s no right or wrong way. You don’t have to be there, but you might regret it if you’re not.”

Cassie thought for a minute. “You’re probably right.” She sighed. “I guess we better go in.”

Jack walked around to the passenger side of the truck. He lifted Hanka from Cassie’s lap. Once she exited the vehicle, she took the dog back from Jack. They walked into the clinic together.

The staff met them with tactful compassion. One of the techs led them to a special room that contained comfortable furniture and a homey rug on the floor.

“Dr. Thomas will be in soon,” the aid told them. “Go ahead and have a seat.”

When Dr. Thomas joined them, Cassie and Jack had settled on the couch. Hanka, whining softly, lay on Cassie’s lap.

Dr. Thomas knelt in front them. “You think the time has come?” he asked.

Cassie nodded. “He’s not eating, or really walking. And he’s started to whine and yelp.”

“We knew this day would come when we found the tumor, but that doesn’t make it any easier does it?” Dr. Thomas said.

“No,” Cassie’s voice was thick.

“Think of this as a gift that you’re giving to Hanka. You’re giving him a peaceful end.”

“I’ll try.” Cassie played with Hanka’s ears for awhile. “Okay,” she finally said. “Go ahead.”

Dr. Thomas picked up a syringe and grasped Hanka’s left front leg. “It’s a kind way out for him,” he said as depressed the plunger. “He’ll just go to sleep and then pass painlessly away.”

Hanka licked Cassie’s hand once while Dr. Thomas was speaking. Cassie leaned her head down to Hanka. “I love you,” she whispered. “You’re my very good boy.” He closed his eyes for a final time. His breathing became shallower and shallower until it quietly stopped altogether. Jack put his arm around Cassie as tears slid down her cheeks.

“I’ll leave you alone. You can stay here as long as you need,” Dr. Thomas said softly. “When you’re ready to go, you can leave Hanka here and we’ll arrange for the cremation.”

Jack acknowledged Dr. Thomas’s words with a nod and then they were alone.

“You were right,” Cassie told Jack. “It was right to be here to hold him. It was very peaceful wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Jack said.

Cassie’s face crumbled. She leaned into Jack and sobbed. Wordlessly, he let her cry herself out.

“It seems like all I do is say goodbye,” Cassie said dully once the storm of tears passed. “First my home and everyone I knew. Daniel was gone for awhile. Then Mom last year. Teal’c has gone back to Chulak and Sam’s transferring to Area 51. Now Hanka. And I leave for college in a few weeks. Everything’s changing. I hate it!” she concluded vehemently.

“I know,” Jack said.

“I know I couldn’t have taken Hanka with me and I know it was right to let him go, but it hurts.”

“I know,” Jack repeated.

“I miss Mom,” Cassie said forlornly.

“I miss her too,” said Jack.

“What if I don’t make friends at college? What if I can’t do the work? What then? With Mom gone I don’t have a home to come back to.”

“Cassie, you were able to make friends and do the schoolwork when you moved here from your home world. If you could to that, Georgetown will be a snap.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

“Now that it’s almost time to go, Washington seems so far away.”

Jack studied Cassie for a minute. “Do you want to know a secret?” he asked.

“Sure,” Cassie said politely.

“You’re the first person I’m telling. General Hammond is retiring. For some reason, I’m being promoted to replace him at Homeworld Security. I’m going to be moving to D.C. at the end of the month.”

“Really?”

“Yep. There’s going to be one person in the area that you already know.”

“Jack, that’s amazing. Congratulations!”

“Thanks.”

“Are you excited?”

“More paperwork. More meetings. More politics. I’m thrilled,” Jack said sardonically.

Cassie studied Jack. “I think you’ll be really good at it. And I think you’re at least a little proud of yourself,” she said knowingly.

“Busted.” Jack said sheepishly.

“I’m glad that you’ll be near,” Cassie told him.

“You’ll be the one person I know there who isn’t either a politician, has a stargate agenda, or both. You’ll be busy and you have to live your own life in college so you’ll get plenty of space from me. But I hope we can find time for a meal together sometimes.”

“I’ll always have time for you,” Cassie assured him.

“Back atcha, kid,” said Jack.

Cassie smiled at him. She pulled a tissue from the box on the end table, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose.

“Ready to go?” Jack asked.

“It’s time,” Cassie answered.

Cassie stood up and tenderly laid Hanka’s body on the couch. She kissed his head. “Goodbye sweetie. I’ll never forget you.”

“You were a good dog Hanka,” Jack said, patting him.

“Let’s go,” Cassie said.

They drove back to Sam’s house in companionable silence, each occupied with their own thoughts.

“Do you want me to stay?” Jack offered as he walked her to the front door.

Cassie shook her head. “I think I’d rather be alone. I’m really tired.”

“Okay. Call if you need anything.”

Cassie nodded and entered the house. Jack lingered on the doorstep. He was filled with an uncharacteristic burst of self-doubt. Cassie was a tough kid who had asked to be alone. He wanted to respect her wishes, but Jack knew well how hard the first few hours in a suddenly too-quiet house could be. He wondered if he should have insisted on staying. He raised his hand to ring the doorbell, then dropped it again, uncertainty disrupting his usual decisiveness. At last he turned and left the porch. He had taken a few steps when he heard the front door open.

“Hey, Jack.”

Jack turned to face Cassie. “Yeah?”

“There’s a full container of ice cream in the freezer.” Cassie held up two spoons. “Want to see how much of it we can eat?”

A smile played at the corners of Jack’s mouth and he moved toward the door. “What kind of ice cream?” he asked.

“Chocolate chip.”

“I accept your eating challenge,” Jack said while snatching a spoon from Cassie’s hand.

They sat at the kitchen table with the carton of ice cream between them and ate and talked. They talked about Hanka--both the world of Cassie’s birth, and the dog who was its namesake. They talked about Janet and life and loss and change. They talked about figuring out when to let go and when to hold on. They talked about hopes and fears and new beginnings. Throughout, their conversation was punctuated by silences filled with warmth and understanding. As the day progressed, each had a dawning, unspoken understanding that they were caught in a special moment in time. The sadness of the day had precipitated the strengthening of their bond.

With a mixture of pride and regret they ate the last of the ice cream. They both slumped back in their chairs.

“I may never eat ice cream again,” Jack groaned, dropping his spoon.

“That’s an empty threat,” Cassie said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

They were quiet for several minutes.

Cassie broke the silence as she got to her feet. “Thanks for going with me. It meant a lot to have you there.”

“I brought Hanka to you,” Jack said as he also stood up. “It only seemed right to be there when it was time to say goodbye.”

“Yeah.” Cassie nodded. “Speaking of goodbyes, I think it’s probably time to let you get on with your day.”

“You’ll be all right? I can stay if you want.”

“Yeah,” she said, walking him to the door. She gave him a hug. “I’m sad and tired, but I’m okay.”

“I understand,” Jack said, hugging her back. “You can call me if you need anything. Or Daniel.”

“I will.”

“I feel duty bound to suggest that you have some vegetables or something to balance out all the ice cream.”

“Maybe on a pizza,” Cassie said thoughtfully.

“Now that’s using your head,” Jack approved.

“You so get me, Jack. It’s one of the many things I love you for.” She waited expectantly.

“That was such a nice thing to say that I won’t even point out that you ended that sentence with a preposition.”

“That’s very generous of you,” Cassie said seriously. Then she giggled.

Jack smiled down at her and winked. “On that note, I’ll be on my way.” He opened the door.

“Bye Jack. Thanks for everything.”

“Any time. I’ll see you soon.” He stepped into the brightness of the late afternoon.

Cassie closed the door and leaned against it, looking into the interior of the house. The melancholy remained, but it was softened by a feeling of peace. Friendship and support had blunted the sting of a sad, hard day.

Date: 2013-10-25 03:13 pm (UTC)
marzipan77: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marzipan77
Having just done the same with my kitty of 15 years, this story was a sweet reminder and release for me. Beyond the great characterizations and the perfect voices, I see a good man doing all he can for both Cassie and Hanka, just as we know Jack would do. Beautiful placement of this event just as Cassie and Jack leave the Springs to take a different path in life - different, and yet still close, still there for each other.

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal...To love at all is to be vulnerable." (CS Lewis)

Date: 2013-10-25 10:46 pm (UTC)
sg1jb: (riley)
From: [personal profile] sg1jb
So sorry for the loss of your kitty :-(

Date: 2013-10-25 10:41 pm (UTC)
sg1jb: (riley)
From: [personal profile] sg1jb
Such nice moments between them, during such a difficult time for Cassandra. Jack's support feels just right to me, as does Cassandra's grief and uncertainty. I like that the story ends with optimism - however bittersweet at that moment - for the future, for both of them.

I have to admit, though, that I kinda read really fast through the part at the vet's office - I'm a devoted dog person and have been through that enough times that that the process and the emotional impact are burned into my brain. That part ... affected me (which only goes to show how well you portrayed it).

Thanks for the story, and for all the work you've done with the ficathon. It's been great.
Edited ((edited for stoopid spelling)) Date: 2013-10-25 10:43 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-10-25 11:39 pm (UTC)
ivorygates: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivorygates
Lovely and bittersweet. Thank you.

Date: 2013-10-30 09:04 am (UTC)
sid: (Jack General)
From: [personal profile] sid
Lovely. *sniffles*

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