stringertheory: (Stargate)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: F is for Future Tense
Rating: PG
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: George Hammond
Word Count: 2111
Categories: character study, drama
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for "1969" and anything related.
Beta: [personal profile] fignewton
Summary: George and the past and the future. Written for the Time Travel Alphabet Soup.

When George met Jacob, his first thought was of another Carter he had met not long before. He wondered, even then, whether there was a connection between the two. 'Carter' was a common surname, though, and he decided that the odds of the two being related were too slim to even be considered. Still, he couldn't help but search his new friend's face for traces of the young woman who had told him his future.

He and Jacob were both young lieutenants when they met. George had just transferred from Cheyenne Mountain when Jacob discovered him, lost, on the opposite side of the base from where he was meant to be. In the time it took them to walk the width of the base, the roots of a deep friendship were planted. On the surface, the two men couldn't have seemed more different – Jacob energetic and brash, George reserved and methodical – but they got on famously. They shared a strong sense of duty and a deep love of family and country, which had led them both to military careers. They bonded over the similarities and appreciated the differences.

One day, Jacob pulled a photo out of his shirt pocket, unfolding it to show George the pretty woman and two children it featured. George's heart skipped a beat, his eyes drawn immediately to the younger child. What's her name, he asked, heart thundering in his chest, reading the answer in the familiar features of the woman holding her. Samantha, Jacob replied, voice warm with love.

For a split second, George felt sick to his stomach, but almost immediately a sense of calm acceptance replaced his unease. He wasn't one to rely on fate or destiny, but he did believe that some things happened for a reason, that some things were meant to be. Whether it was knowing Jacob that would lead to him meeting Samantha in the future (and his past), or if his meeting with Samantha before was why he eventually encountered Jacob – the order didn't really matter. It was the age-old story of chicken and egg, albeit on a more mind-numbing scale. The universe clearly meant for them to meet. He accepted that, even as he held fast to his belief that there was always a choice – even if the choice always led to the same end.

He never second-guessed his friendship with Jacob. Their bond was genuine and unforced, and had solidified before George knew about Jacob's family. But there was always that whisper in the back of his mind, Jacob's voice repeating Samantha's name.

Over the years, George made it a point not to ask too much about Samantha. The normal inquiries about the family, the catch-up between friends was maintained, but he didn't pry or ask for details. He was afraid to know, concerned that he might somehow influence things in a way he shouldn't. So he nodded along with polite interest when Jacob spoke about Samantha or her brother Mark, but never pushed beyond what Jacob offered. He learned in bits and pieces about the girl and wondered about the woman she would become. From the way Jacob talked, George could tell that she had taken after her father with a stubborn streak a mile wide.

By the time Samantha entered the Academy, the updates Jacob gave George on her progress were often no more detailed than what George heard on his own. In truth, it was difficult not to hear about Samantha Carter by that point. With every record she broke, her star rose higher and word about her spread farther. From the young girl her father had described to the young woman she had become, George could see hints of the captain who traveled through time and into his past. He wasn't surprised when rumors reached him that she had joined a top secret program. He just wondered if it was the same program that would lead her to him.

With retirement looming, George began to consider the possibility that whatever had happened to the man who wrote the note he received in 1969 wouldn't happen to him. If what Samantha Carter had told him held true, he was still in the military and in command when he gave her the note. The end of his career would put an end to that scenario.

Then he was offered a retirement post, something easy and simple for the last tour of his career. A retirement post in Cheyenne Mountain.

Returning to the mountain so many years later was an odd experience. George walked the halls, so little changed, and relived memories of his previous time there. He paused to stare into the rooms that had, decades earlier, served as interrogation rooms for the suspected spies who had so inexplicably appeared in the base. Even then, George had thought it strange (and rather self-defeating) that spies would work their way to the dangerous end of a missile silo. The note he had found in their gear had simply nudged his thoughts into questions. Questions that he was finally beginning to find answers for.

The mission file for the Cheyenne post varied greatly between ranks. Everyone but the base commander got a slim file containing a broadly sketched explanation for the base (“storage facility”) and their role within it. George's file was slim, too, but it was only an overview. The true file filled an entire three-drawer filing cabinet and had its own heavily encrypted drive on the base server. Reading the entire thing took George nearly two weeks; comprehending it was an ongoing process. There were early notes on the discovery of the Stargate and how it came to be in the hands of the American military. George wasn't surprised to find Samantha Carter's name heavily featured in the segment on Gate research and development; proof of the intertwined nature of their lives no longer gave him pause. He pored over the report of the first – and only – mission through the Stargate, fascinated. Though he hadn't given it much thought before, the idea of there being other intelligent life in the universe didn't seem all that far-fetched to him. Even the details of how they came to encounter that life weren't all that shocking; after all, he had already encountered time travelers.

The only things in the files that stunned him were two of the pictures paper-clipped to the mission personnel folders. The men stared up at him – one who seemed so much younger to him now, with his floppy hair and glasses; the other who no longer seemed as old now that George was old himself. He hadn't asked their names – and they hadn't offered them – but he would never forget their faces. Dr. Daniel Jackson. Colonel Jack O'Neill. They had followed him here, back to the mountain. Or perhaps they had stayed behind, and he was only now returning. It was as if the thread of his life began and ended on that August day in 1969.

Or perhaps it truly was just coincidence. The report indicated that Dr. Jackson had been killed during the original mission and had not returned with the colonel. With no Dr. Jackson to meet and no Samantha Carter under his command, George felt it less and less likely that the events of his past would be triggered by events in his present.

Then the Stargate he had been told was useless opened.

As he watched one of his airmen disappear through the Gate, dragged along by armored guards led by a man with glowing eyes, he could feel the pieces of his life clicking into place. Without hesitation, he sent for Colonel O'Neill and the original mission team. They all had a lot of explaining to do, and possibly some damage control, if his suspicions were proven correct.

He wavered over bringing in Samantha, but only momentarily. He didn't appreciate feeling like the hand of destiny, but he was more concerned about what might happen if he balked. And if this was really meant to be, if they were always supposed to end up here, then so be it. He borrowed Samantha from the Pentagon with the growing certainty that he wouldn't be giving her back.

When the colonel and the captain returned to Earth with Dr. Jackson and a fourth familiar face, George accepted his fate. Stargate Command became a fully functioning base, half-formed retirement plans were tucked away, and he found himself back in the business of trying to keep his people alive.

As a commander, you weren't supposed to have favorites, but – much the same as with children – it was difficult not to become invested just a little bit more in a team or two. Whether it was because he had known them without knowing them for most of his life, or because they were there from the start of the SGC, SG-1 was that team for Hammond. He spent more time on them, more time with them, and more time worrying about them – which, to be fair, was a by-product of the fact that they got into trouble more often than any other team.

And every trial they faced hit George a little harder than the rest because of Sam. Every time she was injured, every time she almost died, he wondered if maybe he had made the wrong choice. Most of him was convinced that even if he hadn't sent her on that first mission through the Gate, she would have wound up at the SGC anyway, whether by someone else's orders or her own choice. That belief didn't assuage his guilt over what she went through, though. Nor did the minimal understanding of multiverses he gained after Doctor Jackson's visit to an alternate reality provide comfort; the fact remained that he could still screw up and get her killed before the point where their pasts and futures were meant to collide.

Every morning when he arrived on base, as he had his first cup of coffee, he checked the updated injury report from the infirmary. There he could mark the progress of those soldiers and civilians in treatment, as well as hear of any incidents that occurred while he was off base. Ostensibly, he was keeping apprised of the health of his personnel. And while that was true, he was always on the lookout for one specific wound on one specific person.

While he waited for the day to arrive, he worked on his note. The contents were easy enough to remember – just one command, his name, and two dates and times. He knew what those dates and times were thanks to the extensive and detailed work Sam had done in her initial research on the Gate. The fortuity of having that research at his fingertips was not lost on him. All the pieces had been put into position; the universe had just been waiting for him to arrive at the right place and the right time. With solar flare dates and times in hand, he crafted the note that had started his journey. He was careful to use the same paper, the same color ink, the same formatting as the one seared into his memory. He folded it as he remembered and locked it in the top drawer of his desk. And then he waited.

One morning he arrived at the base to find Sam's stitched-up hand headlining the injury report. He quickly moved to read SG-1's pre-mission brief, eyes darting from solar flares to calibrations to a small chance of error. The time had finally come.

During the briefing, he kept getting distracted by Sam's hand. As he looked around the table, all of their faces suddenly seemed new to him and yet deeply familiar, memories superimposed on reality. He waited in his office, conflicted and uncertain, while they geared up, and paced while Sam made final calculations and updates to the dialing program. The contrarian streak in him wanted to rage against the weight of destiny that had hung over his life by calling off the mission. The part of him that allowed himself to favor SG-1 even when he knew he shouldn't agreed with that choice. But a larger part – the part that had trusted strangers and a note written by his future hand – knew what had to be done.

He stopped Sam in the control room and – 30 years late, right on time – gave her the note for safekeeping. He watched SG-1 step through the Gate. He watched them momentarily reappear, and then disappear into his past.

And he waited.

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