Jonathan had always felt at home in General Hammond's house even before he'd been cloned but now that there wasn't a chain of command thing, Hammond was like a father to him.  Because Jack was offworld so much--and because the two of them had needed time apart at first--the General had taken on the next-of-kin role without hesitation. After their bond had been sealed when he pushed the general's granddaughter out of the path of a car, he knew where the spare key was.

Margaret, General Hammond's daughter, answered the door.  She and the grandkids had moved in with the General after his wife and her husband had passed within a year of one another.

Hammond wasn't surprised to hear that Alvin's dad was causing trouble.  They had always expected that.  The general was furious when he found out the man had gone after Alvin with a bat.  He told his daughter, "Hon, I have to go out with Jonathan and put out a fire.  Don't wait supper."

"No problem, Dad.  This is about that little boy Alvin?  I couldn't help overhearing his name."

Jonathan said, "Yes, ma'am."

"Dad, there has to be something we can do."

"I know.  I'm going to see exactly what the situation is, and then I'll call our attorney and see how we can put a stop to this baloney."

Hammond followed Jonathan back to his apartment.  In a volatile situation like this it seemed prudent to have both cars.

Nancy's dad answered the door.  Jonathan introduced them.

With the expertise of a father and grandfather, Hammond checked Alvin for a fever.  "How do you feel, son?"

"Better.  Tylenol."

"The flu this year is nothing to play around with.  Feel like telling me what happened last night?"

"Well, I was at Lydia's house, we have a history project.  I went home...I never go home until after he leaves for work.  But he was there, drunk and asleep on the couch.  I tried to sneak past him. You usually can when  he's drunk."  Alvin told him about the beating, and how he'd run for his life after getting clubbed with the ball bat.

Lydia said, "Usually Alvin just lies low here when his dad's on the warpath, but this morning he was over at my house hunting for him. Mom called to let us know."

Jonathan said, "I'm not sure how to handle this one, sir.  Alvin can't go back there and I don't know how much longer he's going to be safe here."

Hammond said, "Let me give my attorney a call, and we'll see what the legalities are."

Nancy said, "We'd better go so Alvin can get some rest.  We'll come back tomorrow, unless you need us sooner."

Jonathan thanked Mr. Spencer.

"No trouble at all, son, you'd have done the same if there was something going on at my house."

"Yes, sir."

Alvin staggered to the bathroom.  As he was coming back, he took a coughing fit and grabbed his sore ribs.  Hammond caught him and helped him back to the couch.  "Is that where he hit you with the bat?  Let me see."

Alvin started to shiver violently when he pulled his tee-shirt up, in spite of the warm apartment.  He flinched when Hammond touched the bruise.

Jonathan said, "Granny didn't think anything was broken, but she still thought he should see a doctor."

Hammond couldn't feel anything moving that wasn't supposed to. Jonathan had dark circles under his eyes.  He squirmed with embarrassment when Hammond felt his forehead.  "You're coming down with it yourself, son.  Hit your racks and get some rest, the both of you.  I'll call Wesley & Brooks and see what we can do about this mess."

Actually Hammond had a good idea for an old fashioned Texas solution--kick Connell's ass and promise more of the same if he ever even thought about slugging a kid with a baseball bat again.  But that would only make things worse.

He sat at the kitchen table and checked his PDA for his attorney's home number.  "Kenneth, George Hammond here.  Listen, I'm sorry to bother you at home on a weekend, but I've run across a situation here.  I have a young man whose home situation has been pretty dismal for a while.  Last night his father assaulted him with a bat.  He's in hiding now, and I believe him when he tells me his life would be in danger if his dad found him.  To complicate things, he has a bad case of the flu.  We've got a sick kid here who doesn't dare seek medical care."

The lawyer thought about it.  "Are there other kids involved in this?  Because if there are, we need to get children's protective services involved right now."

"No, the boy's an only child, and as I understand it, his mother passed away a few years ago."

"George, just how involved in this are you?  Would you be willing to put your money where your mouth is?"

"It's only money, Kenneth, if things could be that simple."

"Now, there are some very strict laws involved here and I'm not counseling you to offer this man a bribe under any circumstances."

"I understand, I'm not talking about that.  Only about taking care of any legitimate expenses involved in getting this thing settled," Hammond replied.

He heard the lawyer's chair creak.  "I'd suggest talking to the man and trying to persuade him that it would be in the child's best interests to make someone else his guardian while he gets treatment for his emotional problems.  Make it clear to him that responsible adults are aware of the situation and that if he decides not to co-operate, he's going to be up on charges.  Just the fact that there are some adults involved who give a damn might be enough to make him go away."

"Thanks, Kenneth.  See you at the charity banquet Tuesday?"

"Not this year.  Everyone else has the flu?  My kid gets chicken pox."

"Right.  Well, I sure hope it doesn't spoil his Christmas."

"Thanks.  Let me know what you decide to do, George, I should be around the house all week."

"Will do.  Give my regards to Betsy."

As he ended the call, Lassie whined and he reached down to pet her. She wagged her tail a few times, then pushed the bedroom door open and jumped up on the foot of Jonathan's bed.  He barely stirred, which was enough under the circumstances to convince Hammond that he had not one but two sick kids on his hands.  He called home. "Margaret, it's Dad.  I'll probably be here all night, sweetie, Jonathan's down with the flu also."

"Dad, you're an old softy where kids are concerned.  Do you need me to go by the store for you?"

"No, Jonathan already sent Nancy.  I think he had a pretty good idea he was going to catch it."

"OK, Dad, just call if you need anything."

"Good night, honey."

About 1100h, Granny Garrett saw his car still parked out front and called to make sure everything was all right.  He made sure both boys got a dose of tylenol, then decided to have a look around.

The garage apartment had a good view of the alley and the surrounding yards.  He turned the kitchen light off so that he could see outside, incidentally without silhouetting himself against the windows.  It had been a long time since he had pulled guard duty but old habits die hard.

The back yards on both sides were both clear.  Jonathan and Granny's Christmas lights illuminated the driveway and side yard of her house. The alley out back was somewhat darker, but there were a couple of lights over garages and the kitchen window had a perfect view. Satisfied that the coast was clear, he poured a cup of coffee and put on a new pot.

The next morning Jonathan took a shower and got a couple tylenol down.  By then he was really feeling rotten, but Hammond had kept watch through the night.  "Sir, I'll be awake for a while, if you'd like to try to catch a little sleep in case something happens up at the mountain."

Hammond had to concede the common sense in that.  He got a few hours' rest in the recliner.  He didn't need as much sleep now as when he was younger, and he commonly saw emergencies at the SGC through with only occasional naps in his office.

Nancy and Lydia came up about 1000h, stamping snow off their boots before they came inside.  Hammond drove over to Alvin's building and noted the presence of a truck matching the description of Connell's pickup.  He climbed to the third floor and knocked on the door of apartment 3B.

The door swung open.

Joe Connell was hanging from the ceiling fan.

Hammond shook his head.  "My God."  For a little while he'd dared to hope for a Christmas miracle, that the poor SOB would for once do the right thing for his son and himself and turn himself around.  With a heavy heart, he called 911.  At least Connell had turned his demons inward instead of loosing them on anyone else.

He talked the police into letting him break the news to Alvin, after making an emergency call to Kenneth and having him draw up a set of guardianship papers on the double.  In turn, Kenneth found a judge to get a temporary order signed so that Alvin would never have to go into foster care.

Hammond stopped at the bottom of Jonathan's stairs to pray, "Lord, give me strength!"  It certainly wasn't the first time he'd delivered this kind of news in his many long years.  But telling people that their loved one had taken his own life was always horrendous.

The kids had been playing Rook, and left the game when they heard the car pull in.  Jonathan knew immediately that something had gone very wrong.

"Alvin, I'm afraid I have some very bad news.  I went over to have a talk with your father today, and when I got there, I found him dead. I'm sorry, son."

Alvin stared in shock.  "Oh, God.  What--oh, my God.  How...?"

"He hung himself."

Alvin started crying as it soaked in.  "I guess I should have seen this coming.  If I'd called the police then he could still be alive."

Jonathan said, "Oh, hell, no, Alvin.  When someone decides to kill himself there's nothing you can do to stop him.  He's gotta find a reason to stop himself, or at least want to be stopped."

Hammond said, "He's right, Alvin.  Whatever was hurting your father to make him lash out--we may never know.  I just hope he's found a better place."

Alvin nodded.  He mourned his father, but the truth was he had been mourning him for a long time now.  He was relieved that his dad's suffering was over, and although he was ashamed of feeling that way, he was relieved that he didn't have to be afraid anymore.

"What's going to happen to me now?"

Hammond replied, "I had my lawyer arrange to make me your temporary legal guardian.  They'll set a date for a hearing to decide what's best in the long run.  Do you have any relatives?"

Alvin shook his head.  "I don't think so.  Dad was raised in foster homes, and I don't remember Mom ever talking about any relatives."

Hammond decided to hire an investigator to find out.  In the meanwhile he called Dr. Fraiser to check the boys out.

Alvin asked, "What do I do about the funeral?  And the apartment?"

Hammond replied, "We'll worry about that tomorrow, son.  Sufficient unto the day."

Janet called in prescriptions for both of them and gave Alvin a sedative.  Jonathan let Lassie out in the yard for a while after she and the General went home.

Lydia sat on the couch with Alvin's head on her shoulder until the sedative knocked him out, then wandered into the kitchen with the others.  "I never thought I'd be saying this about Alvin's dad, but that poor man."

Nancy said, "I'll save my pity for Alvin, thanks.  Doing this at Christmas--that old bastard found one last way to hurt Alvin. Otherwise he would have made it look like an accident."

Jonathan said, "He probably wasn't thinking about anybody but himself."

Nancy nodded.  "You know, Jonathan, you should sleep while Alvin is. We'll stay a while."

He realized how tired and achy he really was.  "You're sure you don't mind?"

She hugged him.  "Of course not, don't be silly."

"They said the drug store bill would be about forty dollars.  I put it on my credit card.  All you should have to do is sign for it when it gets here.  Lassie will bark when she wants back in."

"OK," she smiled. "I think we can handle that."

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