Title:  An Innocent Man
Author: Winterstar
Category: Angst
Warnings: none, Spoilers through The Quest Part II

Author’s Notes – Just a simple quick write up – and even though Daniel doesn’t appear – he’s the main star of this story.


            A summons to Washington was never a good thing. A summons to Washington at three o’clock in the morning could only be designated as ass kicking time.  He cringed as he smoothed the brim of his uniform hat. Yep, definitely ass kicking time, Mitchell thought as he kept a quick clipped pace next to the Sergeant.

            He glanced at his watch as the Sergeant led him to a compact car in the garage at Reagan National Airport. It was now a little past noon, Eastern Time. He’d gotten his act together as fast as he could; shaved, dressed, raced to the air strip to catch the next transport to D.C., yet somehow Mitchell knew it wasn’t going to be enough. There was hell to pay, and he was about to give the Devil his due.

            The heat of the day warmed Mitchell as he straightened his dress blue jacket. At least he could look like he tried. He shook his head. Who the hell was he fooling here? He should have listened to Sam and brought the team with him. But that would have signaled weakness, and he was never one to show weakness. His dad taught him to always be strong. Looking out the car’s window, Mitchell watched the thick traffic move by. Washington traffic always reminded him of ants scrambling about when their hive had been found, lots of movement but little accomplished.

            Maybe it was time for some of Grandma’s God Almighty fearing prayer. He smirked, it was time for something. He squinted against the glare of the sun’s rays as it bounced off the chrome of the vehicles clogging the beltway. Mitchell guessed it would be unbecoming of an officer to beg the driver to conveniently lose his way to the Pentagon. He watched as the large green signs on the beltway announced the exit for the military building.

            Going to the Pentagon for a Bible Belt Boy like himself was like stepping up to the altar of God. His Grandma was sure to tell him that was sacrilegious just to think, but hell, he was a good ole boy in the end. Mitchell straightened his shoulders, preparing himself as the exit loomed.  He issued a small yelp when the exit flew by, when he watched any other exit to the Pentagon fade into the swarm of traffic.

            Mitchell cleared his throat and leaned forward to the driver. “Um, are we not going to the Pentagon?”

            “That’s right, sir.”

            “So, we’re traveling exactly where?”

            “To see the General, sir,” the airman replied. “Those are my orders. I was told to transport you to the General, and that you are not to be informed where you are going.”

            Major league, shit. Shit, shit, shit. Mitchell bowed his head and closed his eyes. This was more than ass kicking time, this was a come to Jesus, throw yourself at His mercy meeting. Why did it have to be him? Why him?

            He pursed his lips. Technically, it really wasn’t him, was it? Both Sam and Mitchell led the team. The arrangement was totally unofficial. She headed up the team on those outings where technology was a big center focus of the camping trip, and him? Well, he headed up the team when big explosion featured prominently.

            As far as he could remember, there really weren’t any blow out your eardrums explosions. The dragon’s breath could not be counted as an explosion, could it? So, why wasn’t Sam here taking the wrath of the General instead of him? They had been after technology when Jackson was left behind. So, technically this was really Sam’s responsibility, right? He squirmed in the seat and realized, the car was moving off 495 to an exit.

            Where the hell? The car found its way through a maze of streets. If Mitchell didn’t know better the damned driver was purposefully turning this way and that just to confuse the hell out of him. This wasn’t an off-world operation, what the hell was going on?

            The car slowed to a stop. The airman turned to Mitchell and said, “Just across the street, sir. A place called ‘Boots On’.” He gave a gesture to Mitchell and nodded.

            Mitchell smiled, but it didn’t feel like a smile at all. It felt more like a sneer. Shit. He slipped out of the car, studied the opposite side of the street until he found his destination, and stepped to cross the roadway.

            The airman called out of the car, “I’ll be here when you’re done.” He offered a cheerful little wave.

            ‘When you’re done’. Like Mitchell was the pig at a roast and the airman was waiting for his share in the banquet. He ignored the driver and, watching the approaching cars, jogged across the street.

            Hidden in a tiny alcove, the tavern was dwarfed by the buildings neighboring it. Mitchell glanced at the shiny new office buildings butting up against the shabby wooden shingled saloon. If murder was to be done, this would be a perfect place. Peering over his shoulder, he caught a glimpse of the airman, and swore the man was laughing.

            With a quick shake of his head, Mitchell pulled open the thick wooden door of the tavern. The large handle on the door squeaked, and the hinges groaned in protest. It sounded like no one had opened the door in ages. Coming in from the bright outdoors, Mitchell blinked a few times to adjust to the dim surroundings.

            A bar immediately greeted him. A few lopsided tables with mismatching chairs were scattered across the middle of the room. On the opposite side of the room a series of booths lined the wall. He zeroed in on his target and, without hesitation, walked up to the General.

            A sharp salute and Mitchell said, “Sir, reporting as ordered.”

            The General grimaced at him, lifted the shot in his hand, downed it, and nodded to Mitchell. It didn’t escape Mitchell’s notice that the table was lined with empty shot glasses, and that it was just past noon. He glanced over his shoulder at the bartender; the man looked haggard. It occurred to Mitchell that the General might have been camping at this table since the night before.


            “Sit.” The order was short, sweet, but laced with acridity.

            With his hat tucked under his arm, Mitchell slid into the booth. The bartender tossed his thin white and blue stripped hand towel over his shoulder and walked up to their table. Mitchell only raised a hand and shook his head to indicate he didn’t want anything.

            “Come on, Mitchell, get a beer. It’s on me.”

            “No, sir, really sir, I’m fine.”

            “No, you’re not.”

            “Yes, I am.”

            “No.” The General glared at him. “You are not. I’ve been in your place before, I’ve had those eating out your heart nights a dozen or more times. Right now, you’re thankful I called you because you knew you wouldn’t be getting any sleep. You’d of spent the entire night, tossing and turning wondering what you could have done to save Daniel.”

            Mitchell dropped his head and stared at the rough grain of the table’s wood. It was marred and scratched and stank like old beer, cigarettes, and sex. He gave a great sigh and said to the bartender, “A beer, anything’ll do.”

            “That’s more like it,” the General said as he raised his glass.

            Sighing, Mitchell collapsed against the high straight back of the booth, his shoulders sagged. “How’d you do it all those years, sir? How?”

            The General snickered at him as he held the small glass to his lips. Waving at the glass littered table, he replied, “This doesn’t give you a clue?” He shook his head and placed the glass lightly on the table. This was the first clue Mitchell had that told him the General was not drunk at all. Far from it.

            “Let me tell you a little something,” the General said. “That very first mission, Daniel died on me. Actually died trying to save me. It turned my stomach, but it really didn’t phase me quite as much as I thought it should. But then I was dead inside already.”

            Nodding, Mitchell accepted the beer from the bartender. He knew this story from the files he’d read. The General didn’t have to tell him this at all, but there was a point. As Grandma used to say, keep your mouth shut and listen, boy. That way you won’t collect as many flies.

            “Daniel made me care, each time he died, got captured, beat up. He made me care. It didn’t even seem to matter when he matured into the role, when he got all the muscles and the training. Each time the world, hell the universe beat up Daniel, I felt like it was my fault.”

            Mitchell swallowed the beer, but it tasted like nothing to him. It fell flat in his stomach as he recalled the last seconds seeing Jackson fighting off Adria on his knees. God, he should have done something more, should have fought harder. Now, Jackson was being devoured by Adria, and the weapon was in Ori’s hands. “I should have tried harder.”

            “Yeah, you should have.”

            Mitchell peered up at the General and, for the first time, he realized the General was in his civies. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t expect you to say that.”

            “Nope, you probably expected me to say something like, I understand Mitchell. Daniel always gets himself in these messes, but it always turns out in the end. He gets out of it.”

            He pursed his lips and cocked his head, agreeing. “Yeah, something like that.”

            “Except you never know when Daniel’s used up all his lives, when his number is called, when the big taco salad in the sky is calling.”

            Mitchell just stared at the beer as the foam head burst and sizzled in the glass. Yeah, this time Jackson’s number was up. How could he fight against Adria with her super powers? She was stronger than Superman, and they had no idea what her Kryptonite was. Giving up Jackson with all of his knowledge, with all of the knowledge of the Ancients stored somewhere in that head plus Merlin’s ghost pinging around in there as well, was not one of his brightest moments.

            “Kick yourself a little bit harder, the ‘Skins need a new field goal kicker this season.”

            “What? What, sir?”

            “You heard me, Mitchell.” The General leaned in. The hardness of his dark eyes glared at Mitchell, cut him deep to the core. “Listen to me, and listen good. You should have tried harder, fought longer. But the truth of the matter is, the end result would have been the same. Daniel would be lost, and you would still be sitting here defending your sorry ass to me.”

            Mitchell shoved the beer away, suddenly pissed and frustrated all at once. This was the same Jack O’Neill who promised him a place on SG1 only to pull that rug out from under him. No, he was tired of it. He wasn’t going to surrender now.

            “I fought hard. Damn, the whole team fought hard. You should have seen Sam and Vala. Teal’c was a raving lunatic when we gated home. Don’t tell me, we didn’t fight hard enough.” Mitchell felt the sweat stream down his back, but he continued, “I had to, I had to let Jackson do his thing with that Ancient device. I didn’t have a choice. None of us did. So I’m sorry, sir, if you’re put out because your favorite archeologist is missing or dead, but this didn’t happen under your command. It happened under mine, and I want Jackson back as much as you do, probably more.”

            The General said nothing for several minutes. His eyes downcast on the row of whiskey glasses, then he slowly lifted his gaze to look at Mitchell. There was the slightest glimmer there. In a quiet voice, he said, “It happened under my command, Cameron. It happened a lot, too many times. I blamed myself each and every time; even when I wasn’t physically there. But the fact of the matter was, Daniel was gone and I needed to learn to live with it. Because you never know when it is gonna be the last time.”

            Mitchell sat, his bones felt frozen in his skin. His skin felt rigid and tight. His eyes hurt and just blinking them scratched the corneas.

            “You’re an innocent man, Mitchell. Don’t blame yourself,” the General said, his voice raspy and choked.

            Mitchell glanced up at the General. “I don’t think I can follow that order, sir.”

            “Consider it friendly advice from one who has been there,” the General said as he waved the bartender over. The man scuttled to the table, his back hunched, his eyes tired. “Check please.”


            Mitchell gave a little laugh as the man left to get the bill. He shook his head as he studied the General. “If you don’t mind me saying, sir, you are a strange man.”

            “No, no I don’t mind you saying that,” the General signed off on the bill and handed it back to the bartender. “But when Daniel gets back, don’t you dare admit that I said that.”

            “When Daniel gets back?”

            The General chuckled a bit. “Of course, when. You haven’t been emotionally tortured and wrecked quite enough by Daniel. Oh he’s coming back, yes sir he is coming back.”

            “You’re sure, sir?” Mitchell rose from his seat as the General slid out of the booth to stand.

            “You just don’t know Daniel all too well, do you?” The General slung an arm around Mitchell’s shoulders and said, “He hasn’t even actually died on you yet.” The General raised a scarred eyebrow. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until he dies on you. Daniel has just begun.”

            “Just begun?”

            The General nodded. “Oh, and are you in for it.”

            Mitchell swore as they exited the bar, but the General gave a short snort as if sharing a private laugh with a certain missing archeologist.


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