Title: Identity Crises

 

Author: FoxPhile

 

Email: foxphile@gmail.com

 

Status: Complete

 

Category: Character Study?

 

Pairings: Jack/Sam - it may not seem that way at first, but trust me <g>

 

Spoilers:  Lots and lots -- especially Season 7 through "Grace".

 

Season:  Seven

 

Sequel/Series Info: N/A

 

Content Level: 13+ - Some bad words and heavy petting

 

Content Warnings: Shippy to the max

 

Summary:  Jack tries to figure himself out while Sam deals with her feelings after "Grace"

 

File Size/Word Count:  137Kb, 18K words

 

Archive: Jackfic.

 

Disclaimer:  Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II)  Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended.  Please do not post or archive without the consent of the author.  © FoxPhile

 

Feedback is almost as good as Bailey's...but more intoxicating.

 

Author's Notes: This fic owes its existence to Jackfic-a-thon.   I have never in my life actually finished anything of any length at all.  It took a challenge (and a deadline!) to get me to do it. 

 

Many thanks to SGCGategirl (dee) for organizing Jackfic-a-thon.  And thanks to the rest of the Jackfic-a-thoners for their encouragement and enthusiasm, not to mention all the laughs.  And for reminding me of the big bottle of Bailey's out in the living room.

 

And, of course, thanks and {{{{{Hugs}}}}} go to CSuzy, my beta extraordinaire with whom I so often share a brain.  Which at least means I know where it is when it's missing <g>.

 

 

**********

Chapter 1

**********

 

Following the other members of SG-1, Colonel Jack O'Neill walked down the ramp, balancing a large platter on his two hands while his P-90 was gripped firmly under his arm. 

 

"Welcome home, SG-1.  Colonel O'Neill, what the devil have you got there?"  General George Hammond made it a point to greet as many returning gate teams as his busy schedule allowed for.  It was always a bell weather day when SG-1 returned in one piece, without injury or pursuing weapons fire to herald their arrival.

 

"It's a cake, sir.  As in, ‘They knew we were coming and they baked a...' I for one, think it may be one of the nicest welcoming gifts we've ever received.  And it's not even my birthday!"  Arriving at the bottom of the ramp, Jack relinquished his weapon to an SF, carefully maintaining his hold on the top heavy platter.

 

"You're not planning on eating it, are you Colonel?" 

 

Jack paused to answer his CO cocking his head a moment in thought.  "Not the entire cake, no sir.  I could be persuaded to share a bit.  But we might have to hold it down to just gate level personnel.  It's a big cake, sir, but I don't think there's enough for everyone in the mountain."

 

~*~*~

 

Having paused to receive the General's welcome home greeting, Teal'c was hard put to maintain his usual humorless expression.  Lately he had found himself becoming more relaxed in the company of his Tau'ri comrades.  He especially appreciated O'Neill's wry sense of humor, although his friend's cultural references often eluded him.  He felt at home on the base, but it did not provide much to occupy his time when he was not involved with the team in off world missions.  He would have to speak with GeneralHammond once again about the possibility of spending more of his down time outside the base.  Perhaps even secure a small living space of his own, an apartment, similar to the one where DanielJackson had lived before his ascension.  His on base quarters, while small, were certainly sufficient to his needs, but he had begun to feel a sense of confinement and wished for the opportunity to have some life of his own.  He wanted to meet other Tau'ri, and learn more about his adopted home and the people he had fought so hard to protect.

 

~*~*~

 

Major Samantha Carter and Dr. Daniel Jackson stood flanking Teal'c, but took no pains to hide their amusement.  Daniel even thought he heard Sam giggle at her CO's irreverent remarks.

 

"Colonel O'Neill," the General began with a sigh, "I can't allow you to consume food prepared off-world, let alone distribute it to base personnel.  It'll have to be quarantined, to avoid the possibility of contamination.  And it will most likely be destroyed once a few scientists have had a chance to analyze it."

 

"Oh, for cryin' out loud, General, this is hardly the first time we've eaten off-world food.  It's just the first time we've brought home a doggie bag.  And if the chow in the mess doesn't kill us, this cake sure won't.  Besides, this is phenomenal cake -- I've already had some."  Jack winked hugely at his teammates, the grin on his face, if possible, spreading to be even broader.

 

Exasperated, the General decided it was prudent to save his energy for bigger battles.  "Very well, Colonel.  But humor me and at least take that monstrosity down to the infirmary while you get your post-mission work up.  Let Dr. Frasier have a quick go at it before anyone *ELSE* has any.  Your debriefing is in 1 hour people."

 

"Yes sir!"  Jack turned to walk out the door, followed by his team.  "Oh, sir?  Could you have a pot of fresh coffee waiting?  It'll go real good with the cake!"

 

~*~^~*~

 

Along with the usual papers, pencils and other meeting paraphernalia, the table in the briefing room was also littered with used paper plates, cake crumbs and half-empty coffee cups.  Jack enthusiastically reached across to drag the cake platter towards him to snag another slice.  He loved cake, and this one was particularly delicious. 

 

Daniel removed his glasses and lay them down atop his notebook.  "There are significant ruins and other items of archeological interest on P9Z-438, General, but even I wouldn't want to risk the safety of those people by repeated visits.  They have somehow stayed below the Goa'uld radar.  If we continue to go there, or leave their address in our database, the Goa'uld are bound to find them.  I recommend the planet be designated ‘Hands Off'.  And I've got plenty of pictures and video tape to keep me busy for quite awhile, anyway."

 

The General turned to Carter.  "Major Carter?"

 

"I agree with Daniel, sir.  These are wonderful, pleasant, happy people who have no knowledge of the Goa'uld or the threat they represent.  There are no significant mineral deposits, certainly no Naquadah.  Nothing at all to justify our continued presence."  Sam nodded to the General to indicate she had completed her summary.  Knowing he would call on Teal'c before asking the Colonel for his final summation, she turned toward the Jaffa.

 

Teal'c did not wait for the General to address him.  The protocol of these meetings was well rehearsed.   "I do not recall any references to this planet or its people in my years of service to the Goa'uld.  It is indeed likely that the Goa'uld are unaware of them.  We should endeavor to avoid any activity which might compromise their security."

 

All eyes turned to Jack, who was just scraping the last crumbs of cake off his plate with a plastic fork. 

 

"Colonel O'Neill," General Hammond addressed the leader of SG-1, "Do you have anything to add?"

 

"No weapons, no technology, nothing of value, except, of course their snake-free status.  I'm thinking of retiring there, sir.  But in the meantime, we should erase our records of the place.  Leave them alone."

 

"Very well, people.  Your recommendations are noted.  Major Carter, please have all traces of the address of P9Z-438 removed from base computer systems.   However, I would like you to transfer the information to the security log.  We'll keep the hand written record available in the vault, in case we need a safe location.  The Goa'uld have had too much luck lately finding our off world sites.  We need to maintain our ability to set up new ones when needed.  And a world unknown to the Goa'uld is worth its weight in Naquadah for that alone."

 

Carter spoke up, "But sir, any record of this planet, whether electronic or hand written, could fall into the hands of the Goa'uld, making these people vulnerable."

 

General Hammond understood the Major's objections, and even agreed with them.  But the strategic needs of the Stargate program, along with their deteriorating alliance with the Rebel Jaffa and the Tok'ra, sometimes made it necessary to consider the needs of his own people first.  Even if it meant endangering the people of another world.  While he knew he did not need to justify his orders, he respected Major Carter, and felt she deserved an explanation.  "Major Carter.  Any one of you, or any of the gate room personnel, could be captured by the Goa'uld and the information extracted directly from your minds.   We have no means of erasing your memories to prevent that from happening.  Removing the information from all electronic sources is a significant step towards preventing the Goa'uld from finding this planet by usual means.  I have to balance our realistic ability to protect the information against the very real need we have to ensure that the human race has safe locations to escape to, in the event the worst occurs and our allies are unable or unwilling to help us."

 

Before Sam could respond, the General's personal aide stepped into the room.  "I'm sorry to disturb you sir, but there's an urgent call for you from the Air Force Academy.  General Riggs would like to speak to both you and Colonel O'Neill, sir."

 

General Hammond stood quickly.  "I believe we're basically finished here.  Colonel O'Neill, please join me in my office.  The rest of you are dismissed.  I believe you've all got a few days down time coming."

 

Jack stood to follow the General, shoving a last bite of the cake into his mouth and grabbing his coffee cup.   Carter stood quickly, and sketched a brief salute to the General.  Teal'c and Daniel came to their feet as well, Teal'c nodding solemnly in deference to the leader of the SGC, while Daniel gathered his papers together. 

 

Jogging a few steps to catch up with the General, Jack asked, "Any idea what the Air Force Academy might need from us that's so urgent?"

 

"No clue, Jack.  I talk to Bill Riggs on a regular basis, of course.  But nothing we've ever discussed has been exactly urgent."

 

"I guess we'll find out soon enough, General."

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Chapter 2

**********

 

It was déjà vu, except the cake and its leavings had been removed by a fast-moving grunt.  Carter, Teal'c, Daniel and Jack sat on either side of the briefing room table, where they had been less than an hour before, with General Hammond at the head.

 

"General William Riggs arranged to have the clone of Jack, whom we dealt with a few months ago, placed in foster care with the family of an instructor at the Air Force Academy.  The instructor, Colonel Avery Sampson, is a semi-retired Air Force intelligence officer, so we were able to share with him some knowledge of the younger Jack's situation.   Even though I'm quite sure that Jack's clone will adhere to the same rules of secrecy that I would expect from the Colonel, given the knowledge he possesses, the Air Force felt it was important to house him in a situation where some informed supervision would be available.  Up until now, the arrangement seems to have worked out well for all concerned."

 

Hammond paused a moment before dropping the bomb on the remaining members of the team.  "Yesterday afternoon, Young Jack didn't return from school. Apparently, not unlike you, Colonel O'Neill," Hammond glared sternly at O'Neill, sitting to his right, "Young Jack is rather independent-minded.  He frequently goes on after-school excursions on his own and doesn't return until late at night.  But when he still wasn't home this morning, Colonel Sampson and his wife called some of the boy's acquaintances and checked around the neighborhood.  No one has seen or heard of him since yesterday morning. As far as they can tell, he never arrived at school yesterday, which means he's been missing for well over 24 hours. And he's not answering calls to his cellphone.  Given the potential security threat, the Pentagon has been informed and they've tasked the SGC with finding the boy.  There's concern that he may have been kidnapped -- either by the Goa'uld, other aliens, or by more Earthbound threats.  Of course, it's also entirely possible that he's just following in the footsteps of his namesake and being a pain in the..."  The General paused, trying to think of a politically correct term.

 

"...mikta, Sir?" Jack O'Neill volunteered, trying his best not to sound too sheepish.

 

"Well, it takes one to know one."  Hammond assumed his best long-suffering expression and continued.  "Which means that Colonel O'Neill, I expect you to give us some insight into this boy's mind.  After all, he *is* you...just in a younger body."

 

Jack winced slightly at the reminder of just how young his younger self was.  And of the 50th birthday he had *not* celebrated, just a bit over a year ago.

 

"But he has all your knowledge, skill and, apparently, some measure of your personality.  If anyone knows what he might do or where he might go, it's you.  And as much as the Pentagon is worried about foul play, I think we have to consider the very real possibility that the boy has simply run away from home.  Something tells me you might have done that yourself, a time or two."

 

Before Jack could respond, Carter interrupted.  "Sir, has Colonel Sampson given any indication that Young Jack was unhappy at home?"  It felt strange calling Jack O'Neill "Jack", even when she was referring to the younger version.

 

"Not unhappy, precisely.  But, as I said, he's a very independent young man.  Sampson says he hasn't made any close friends among his schoolmates and keeps to himself mostly."  The General paused a moment and looked down at his hands, clasped in front of himself on the table.  "Not surprising I suppose.  I can't imagine what it's been like for him.  However much we may think wistfully of our youth, I don't think many of us would really want to go back to our teenage years and do it all over again.  Unfortunately, for this young man, there wasn't much choice.  In spite of his mental age, his appearance of youth makes it impossible for him to do much other than cope while his body catches up, in some measure, with his experience."

 

Carter turned to Colonel O'Neill.  "Sir, do you think it's likely that he might have gone to Minnesota?  To your cabin?"

 

"If he has, Carter, he's forgotten most of what I know about going into hiding.  That's the first place anyone would look.  Still, it's worth a shot, I suppose."

 

Hammond was anxious to get the ball rolling.  "Air Force intelligence is investigating possible involvement from terrorists and unfriendly governments here on Earth.  They've been told that the boy is a risk because he could be held as a hostage in exchange for information from his foster father.  Carter, I want you and Daniel to see what you can find out about any alien involvement in this.  See if the Tok'ra might have heard anything.  Jack, you start off by heading up to that cabin of yours.  On the way, be thinking of anyplace else you might go in Young Jack's shoes.  Teal'c, you go with Jack."

 

"GeneralHammond," Teal'c spoke up for the first time, "I believe I would be of greater assistance to MajorCarter and DanielJackson."

 

"C'mon, T," Jack recognized the note of reluctance in the Jaffa's voice, "It won't be that bad.  It's the middle of winter -- no fishing and no bugs, I promise.  Besides, we're not going up there for fun.  If we get up there and there's no trace of the kid, we come straight back.  On the other hand, if he is up there and he doesn't want us to find him, I might need your help.  I was a pretty fast runner at his age.  And I fought dirty."

 

Hammond stood up, signaling the end of the briefing.  "The Colonel has a point, Teal'c.  In case of any problems, I don't want him going up there alone.  This isn't a weekend getaway.  And in the event there are any difficulties, you're the only other member of the team who has been there.  If you don't find anything I want both of you back here posthaste to investigate other possibilities.  On the other hand, if you do find the boy, he'll be much more vulnerable out in the middle of nowhere.  If any hostiles are interested in him, he's just made their job a whole lot easier.  Colonel, we need to keep a low profile on this, but I want you and Teal'c equipped with sidearms in case of trouble.  The two of you will fly up to the National Guard Station in Duluth.  I'll send a team with you, just in case, but they'll stay behind at the base while you and Teal'c check out the cabin.  If you so much as sniff anything out of the ordinary, call in the troops.  Let's get moving, people."

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Chapter 3

**********

 

Daniel absently picked up his coffee mug and took a sip.  When no liquid actually entered his mouth, his attention was momentarily diverted from the computer screen full of lines of characters.  He starred into the empty cup, trying to remember how many he had actually drunk that day, and wondering at how fast his latest had become empty.  Realizing that he still had several hours of work ahead, he determined that another cup was inevitable.  After saving the file of translations he had been working on, he stood up and stretched his cramping neck and shoulder muscles.  He took his cup and walked out the door, headed for the cafeteria.

 

Just as he was turning down the corridor, he saw Sam turning the corner ahead, walking toward him.

 

"Hi, Daniel.  I needed a break and thought I would snag a cup of coffee from you.  The pot in my office is on the fritz."

 

Daniel looked ruefully down into his empty cup and then back up at his friend.  "You're out of luck, Sam.  I forgot to restock.  My pot works fine, but I haven't got any filters, so I'm stuck drinking the stuff they make in the mess hall.  I could use a bit of a break though, too, if you want to join me."

 

Sam executed a near perfect parade pivot and fell into step alongside Daniel.  "Well, it's a good thing I like the company, ‘cause I sure can't say the same thing about the mess hall coffee.  Still, I'll never make it without something, so Air Force sludge it is."

 

As the two walked through the utilitarian hallways of the SGC, they compared notes.  "Have you heard anything yet?" Daniel asked.

 

"Not really.  We contacted the Tok'ra, of course.  Dad called back earlier this afternoon and said he was flying back from an assignment, but he would be here as soon as he can get to a planet with a secure gate - probably first thing tomorrow morning.  General Hammond didn't want us to transmit any specific information on the situation, of course, so we couldn't just ask him if he knows anything.  I haven't heard anything back from the Rebel Jaffa, other than Pak'tal.  Have you had any luck translating the Goa'uld transmissions he brought back from the Alpha Site?"

 

They had reached the elevators, and Daniel pressed the button that would bring a car to take them down to the mess hall.  "No, nothing.  It's mostly routine chatter, of course.  Although it never ceases to amaze me how the Goa'uld can make a request for a supply shipment sound like an Imperial edict." Daniel grinned at his own joke, then turned to watch the floor indicator as it ticked off the numbers, one by one, descending slowly to their level.

 

~*~*~

 

Sam smiled.  Daniel's wry and understated sense of humor was invariably endearing.  She paused a moment to contemplate the friend she had known for so many years.  She wondered why her not-so-secret affections had always been directed toward Colonel O'Neill.  Was it true that he was the sure thing that kept her safe from a real romance?  Daniel was handsome, unattached, and un-military.  Why had her feelings for him never gone past that of an affectionate sibling?  In the beginning he had been married to Sha're, of course, and she would never have tried to intrude upon his quest to find his wife, or on his grief after her death.  But it had been four years.  Sam didn't think Daniel had been actively pursuing a romance, and she knew he still loved his dead wife and that she would always hold a special place in his heart.  But there had been a couple of occasions when women had shown interest, and Daniel hadn't entirely spurned them. 

 

The elevator car arrived and the two teammates stepped inside.  Sam pressed the button for the appropriate floor, and stepped back to the rear of the car.  They rode up in comfortable silence and Sam continued to reflect on her feelings for the archeologist.

 

He was undeniably intelligent, dedicated and committed.  He was also perhaps one of the most compassionate human beings Sam had ever known.  No one would ever mistake Daniel for a real military man, but his fighting skills were excellent, and Sam would trust him to cover her back as much as she would the Colonel or Teal'c.  Still, while he was skilled with weapons, she knew he hated the need for them.  Daniel wouldn't hurt a fly.  Unless that fly was threatening one of Daniel's teammates, in which case the fly was history.

 

He was thoughtful and sweet, and if she allowed herself a moment of fantasy, Sam could imagine that he would be a terrific, passionate, and gentle lover.   Except that if she closed her eyes and imagined Daniel kissing her, when she opened them, it was Jack's face she imagined pulling back from the kiss.  It was Jack whose fantasy voice whispered "I love you" in her ear during an imaginary evening at home, cuddling on the sofa and watching a movie.  It was Jack's hot, sweaty, glistening biceps that cradled her on top of his chest as they lay in each other's arms after imaginary lovemaking.  And it was Jack who turned to her, handsome in his Class A uniform, chest covered with medals, as he slipped a simple gold band on her finger, proclaiming, "With this ring, I thee wed", in the imaginary wedding that would never happen.

 

"Sam?"

 

"SAM?"

 

"What?  Oh, right."  Somehow, they had gotten into the mess hall line.  Sam was standing with a hot cup of coffee in front of the cashier, holding up the line.  She fumbled to get some cash from one of the pockets of her BDUs.

 

"It's ok, Sam, I got it.  But we need to go find a table and let these other folk pay for their food."

 

Blushing slightly at the memory of where she had gone while she walked, zombie like, through the last few moments, she smiled an apology at the others in line behind her and followed Daniel to a table on the other side of the room, next to the wall.

 

~*~*~

 

Setting his cup down and taking a seat in the hard, plastic chair, Daniel looked at Sam, noting with concern the sudden, sad look in her eyes.  And the tired lines that surrounded them.

 

"Sam, is everything ok?  Maybe you should skip the coffee and go home tonight, get some sleep?"

 

"No, it's ok.  I'm definitely tired, but it's nothing I can't handle.  I've just been doing a lot of thinking lately.  Ever since I got back from Prometheus.  A concussion can do wonders for one's introspective abilities, I guess."  Sam paused to blow across the coffee and take a cautious sip.  "And there was awhile there that I really wondered if I ever would get back.  I guess that kind of thing makes you take a look at your life, see if you're on the right track."

 

Now Daniel was really concerned.  He had never known Sam to question her path in life.  As far as he knew, she was doing exactly what she wanted in life and had everything she wanted.  Well, *almost* everything.  When he had joined the original team that traveled to Abydos all those years ago, Daniel had been pretty naïve about the affairs of men and women.  But even he had recognized the sparks that flew between Jack and Sam when the two had stepped through the gate together the day they came to warn the Abydosians of the renewed Goa'uld threats.  And later, when Sam had been dolled up in that magnificent dress in the village of the Shavadai, the attraction, at least on Jack's part, had been obvious.  Of course, he and Teal'c had been struck by her beauty, too.  But something about Jack's reaction had been different.  And it had definitely sent a signal to the other two male members of the team.  Jack might let regulations keep him from ever making a move, but Sam was still his, and everyone else better keep their hands off.

 

"So, have you been contemplating a new direction?"  Daniel wondered if maybe Sam had decided to take matters into her own hands, perhaps leave the SGC in order to free herself to pursue a life with Jack.  It would be a major blow to the team, and to the program, but Daniel couldn't help but hope that it might be true. He wanted his two friends to find the kind of happiness he'd had with Sha're.

 

"Contemplating, yes.  But I haven't really made any decisions, yet."  Sam studied the rim of her cup, wondering if she had the nerve to jump into unknown waters.  "Daniel, you can tell me this is none of my business, but...have you ever thought about getting involved with another woman?  I mean, since Sha're's been...gone...for a few years now, have you thought about moving on, finding someone else to love?"

 

~*~*~

 

This was definitely not a direction Daniel had expected the conversation to take.  But if insight into his own love life was what Sam needed to get direction for her own, he would try to open up to her.  "If you're asking if I've been on a date in the last 4 years, no, I haven't.   What I had with Sha're was amazing, and special.  And, as much as it hurt to lose her, I'd do it all over again, just to have those few years we had together.  It was worth anything, because she truly was the love of my life.  So I'm not looking for anyone, because I don't believe that anyone else could ever be as much a part of me.  But I'm trying not to completely close myself off from the possibility, either.  Believe it or not, as much as I love my work, I really don't like to think of myself alone for another 30 or 40 years, slowly gathering dust with my "rocks", as Jack likes to call them.   Still, I can't help but think that anyone else would be second best.  A true love is an amazing thing, Sam.  If you think you've found it, don't waste the chance, no matter what."

 

Sam looked intently at Daniel, trying to decide just how far she should take this.  "So, if a woman you know, a friend maybe, let you know that she was interested in something more than friendship, you'd consider it?"

 

Daniel smiled, excited that he might actually be witnessing a breakthrough in the odd saga that was Jack and Sam.  Sam was obviously worried that Jack wasn't over Sara.  And, apparently, in spite of what was obvious to everyone around them, she was concerned that Jack thought of her only as a friend and colleague.  Daniel reached across the table to take one of her hands in his own, squeezing gently to lend encouragement to his words.  "Of course I would, Sam.  Any man would.  Just because I lost my first love doesn't mean I can't find love again.  And as special as a first love is, who's to say that a new love can't be just as special?  As for falling in love with a friend, I would welcome that.  We've all been through so much, I can't imagine trying to have a relationship with someone who doesn't already know me, someone that I would have to hide so much of my life from.  I think that may be one of the reasons I haven't been actively looking for anyone."

 

~*~*~

 

Sam was stunned, and not a little self-conscious, that Daniel was holding her hand, right there, in the middle of the mess hall.  And he had even given it an intimate little squeeze.  Maybe she really had been overlooking something all these years.  True, it violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the regulations.  A relationship with Daniel would complicate the team dynamics.  It could compromise their ability to work together on dangerous missions.  But since Daniel was not military, and not her superior, it wasn't actually forbidden.  Maybe this was the answer.  Now she just had to find the right time to approach him.  The mess hall was definitely not the place.  She really couldn't do anything while on base.  She would have to come up with a casual reason to see him off base.  Or maybe she should just be bold and direct.  Go to his house at the first opportunity and just tell him what she was thinking.   Her father would be proud of that idea.  Reach out and grab what you want from life, and get what you deserve, Sam!

 

Feeling decidedly adventuresome, she returned the squeeze before quickly retrieving her hand to wrap it around the almost-forgotten cup of coffee.  She smiled warmly at the man across from her.  "Thank you, Daniel.  I really appreciate how you've opened up about this."  Suddenly, she remembered the situation that had kept them both on base for so many hours.  Mentally chiding herself for thoughts more appropriate to a teenaged schoolgirl, she stood to go.  "I should really be getting back.  General Hammond wants me to go over all the reports on Young Jack, see how much we can safely share with the local authorities on this.  Before the Air Force had a chance to bury it, the school truant officer reported Young Jack missing.  So now we have to come up with some background that explains how a 15-year-old suddenly turns up out of no where.  The cops ran across a Lt. Colonel Beck who remembers talking to Young Jack about his "Uncle Jack O'Neill", so they're asking lots of questions about the connection."

 

Sam headed towards the door, but flashed another dazzling smile at Daniel.  "See you later?" 

 

~*~*~

 

Daniel nodded, smiling back.  He couldn't believe how well this had worked out.  He'd always thought someone needed to give Jack and Sam a good, solid shove towards each other, but he'd never really contemplated taking on the job himself.  He certainly didn't think of himself as a matchmaker.  But the smile on Sam's face told him that something he had said had obviously brought her to a decision.  And it was apparently one that made her very happy, judging by the bright change in her mood.  Daniel felt that he had accomplished something momentous.  He couldn't wait to see what happened next.

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Chapter 4

**********

 

Jack and Teal'c flew to Duluth immediately after the briefing.  They spent the evening getting supplies and renting a truck, then billeted overnight on the base.  The drive out to the cabin the next morning gave Jack some quiet time to think.   In the past few months, Teal'c had become a regular chatterbox compared to the silent stoicism of his first few years with the SGC.  But he was still a man of relatively few words.  When Jack and the boy had parted outside Colorado Springs High, the kid seemed excited about the prospect of school.  It was a chance for a "do-over".  Not many people got that in life.  But Jack the older hadn't thought much of the idea then, and he sure didn't think much of it now.  Still, there hadn't been much choice.  There wasn't enough room in the Air Force for two Colonel O'Neills.  Jack was beginning to wonder if there was enough room in the *world* for two of him. 

 

"O'Neill," Teal'c broke Jack's silent contemplation, "I am curious about your choice of lodging here.  Often, when we arrive on a planet, you express disdain for the arboreal growth that is frequently present in great abundance.  Yet you choose to spend your free time in a location surrounded by a great number of the trees you so dislike."

 

Jack couldn't resist the urge to pull the Jaffa's leg a bit.  "Oh, but Teal'c.  These are different.  These are *Minnesota* trees.  They're very special.  I *like* these trees."

 

Teal'c lapsed back into silence, staring intently out the window of the truck at the passing forest.  "I fail to perceive any significant distinction, O'Neill."

 

Jack smiled, and decided to go for broke.  "Well, you're just not looking hard enough, T.  See, these trees, they speak to me.  I understand their language."

 

In spite of some recent comments on the habit, Teal'c couldn't stop himself from raising one eyebrow and looking askance at the Colonel.  "O'Neill.  The trees are silent.  They do not speak."

 

"Sure they do, Teal'c.  In fact, they sing."

 

Turning back to look at the road ahead, Teal'c clasped his hands in his lap, having concluded that he was once again the target of O'Neill's humor.  "I suspect, O'Neill, that you are attempting to deceive me in a manner meant to be humorous.  I believe you call it, ‘pulling my leg'."

 

Jack began to chuckle.  It'd taken 7 years, but the Jaffa was finally starting to catch on. 

 

The two grew silent again, as Jack navigated through the twists and turns of the narrow roads that would eventually lead to his private hideaway.  Driving wasn't easy.  The state was pretty good about clearing even these roads during the winter, but accumulations of piled up snow on either side had compressed the already slim track down to just barely the width of one vehicle.  If they met another car coming from the other direction, someone would have to drive in reverse until they reached a turn off with some maneuvering room.  Which started Jack thinking.  He didn't want to drive right up to the door, which might tip off the young man.  He would have to turn into the driveway of a neighboring cabin about half a mile down the road.  If he remembered right, there was a sharp turn in the neighbor's driveway, just a little past the entry, which would effectively hide the truck from anyone passing by on the road.  That was important in case he and Teal'c actually arrived before Young Jack.  Even though the boy had a more than 24-hour head start, Jack felt sure he wouldn't have arrived at the cabin just yet.  He hadn't taken either of the Sampson's vehicles, so he would be coming by bus, or by train, and most likely hitching and hiking the last several miles.  Jack sincerely hoped the boy hadn't dredged up really old memories and hot-wired someone's car.  On the other hand, Jack knew, and was certain the kid also knew, that a good 30 miles of the trip to the cabin could be cut off by hiking cross-country from the highway.  It wouldn't be easy in snow, but if the kid had snowshoes with him, or could fashion some, the hike could be done in just a couple of hours.

 

Jack hadn't done much hiking through the snow recently.  It was too darn hard on his knees.  In fact, he rarely came to the cabin in the winter months anymore, although there had been a time when he loved it.  But he and Teal'c would have to walk from the place where he parked the truck over to the cabin itself, keeping themselves hidden as best as they could in the bare trees of the sparse winter forest.  And if they did arrive before Young Jack, they would have to hole up in the cabin without a fire or any lights that might warn the kid of their presence.  It was beginning to look like a very long couple of days of waiting.

 

~*~^~*~

 

Jack parked the truck as far off the driveway as he could manage.  On the off chance that his neighbor might choose this week for a winter getaway, he didn't want him running into the truck.  Fortunately, the snow cover here, though deeper, was more even, and didn't have the walls of plowed snow looming on either side.  This meant that the driveway was actually considerably wider than the road had been.  He and Teal'c got out and loaded up with gear from the back of the truck.  Teal'c had a bit of a hard time adjusting to walking with snowshoes, especially while carrying a heavy pack.  Ever the warrior, though, he adapted quickly and soon had to slow his pace so as not to get ahead of O'Neill.  He might be stronger and more fit, but he had no idea how to get to the cabin.

 

Even for O'Neill, hiking the half-mile along the road wouldn't have been difficult.  But crossing uneven terrain, hidden by snow, made the going a bit tough.  O'Neill was glad when they approached the edge of the forest, and could see the outline of his cabin by the frozen lake. O'Neill chuckled silently at the fleeting thought of teaching Teal'c to ice skate, if the ice was thick enough.  The roof and half the porch were covered by about a foot of snow.  Icy crystals of frost clung to the corners of windows. 

 

Luckily, they had approached from the direction of a stream that provided water for the cabin.  Jack was able to check on the reservoir. Jack always drained the reservoir in the late fall, so that the water would not freeze and crack the concrete tank.  He also disconnected the pump mechanism and stored it inside the cabin, where it would be protected from the extreme cold.  The tank was still empty, and there was no sign of the pump, which meant that Young Jack probably hadn't arrived yet.  Still, he silently directed Teal'c to hike inside the tree line to the other side of the property, while he went the other direction.  The lake would prevent them from doing a full 360-degree reconnaissance, but they would be able to view the cabin and the surrounding property from nearly all sides.

 

Satisfied that the place was unoccupied, he backtracked with Teal'c to the backside of the cabin, the back entrance of which was only a few feet from the edge of the trees.   Anyone approaching from the driveway wouldn't see them, or the marks they made in the snow.  Even obliterating their tracks with a tree branch wasn't quite the same as the pristine, untouched plane of solid snow that had been there before.  It felt strange to be using stealth tactics on his own property. 

 

Jack carefully turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open.  Inside, he silently surveyed the small kitchen.  There were no signs that anyone had been there since he last left it, several months before.  He signaled Teal'c to check the two bedrooms while he went into the living room and checked on the bathroom. 

 

Finding nothing, the two men decided they could afford to relax and settle in.

 

~*~^~*~


**********

Chapter 5

**********

 

"How long do you believe we should wait for the young man to arrive, O'Neill?  It is entirely possible that he will not come here at all." 

 

Teal'c and Jack were huddled on the floor of one of the cabin's bedrooms, where they couldn't be seen by anyone through the windows.  In addition to heavy underwear and parkas, they had wrapped themselves in several blankets to keep warm.  Although Jack kept the oil furnace burning all winter, to prevent the cold from damaging the furniture or the wood paneling and floors, it was kept at a low temperature.  He felt it was safe enough to raise the heat a bit, but it would take some time for the cabin to heat to a comfortable temperature.  They had been waiting for about two hours, though, and it didn't seem like the temperature inside the small room had risen more than a degree.  The sun had set, and it had begun to grow dark outside.  And with the dark, the world outside grew colder.  Jack hoped his young counterpart wasn't stuck out in it.

 

"I'm figuring, if he's headed here, he's going to get here as fast as he can, without stopping anywhere along the way if he can help it.   I don't think he has a whole lot of money, and if he's really trying to get away from it all, he'll need to spend what he does have on supplies.  He'll know I don't keep much here over the winter.  If he's coming, he'll get here tonight or tomorrow.  If he's not here by the next morning, we'll head on back."

 

"Can you think of any reason why he might leave his foster home, O'Neill.  It does not seem a wise decision.  Most particularly given the season."  Jack thought he could detect a slight shiver going through the big Jaffa's body.

 

"Teal'c, old buddy, I'll take it as a compliment that you assume the kid will always make wise decisions, but tell me, haven't you ever known me to come up with a real corker of a stupid notion now and then?"

 

"I have noted that your ideas sometimes appear to lack forethought.  Although you have remarkable fortune in that even your less wise decisions seem to work out in an advantageous manner, O'Neill."

 

"That's what we call luck, Teal'c.  I only hope my young namesake shares that with me.  If he really is heading this way, and he's on foot like I think he is, he's gonna need luck if he doesn't show up soon.   As to why he might run away, probably for the same reasons I ran away when I was his age.   Except I couldn't really explain it then and I don't think I can now.  Call it an independent streak combined with an insatiable wanderlust.  I got to a point where I couldn't stand being stuck in one place, and I couldn't stand doing what my folks said to do.  For him, it's probably 3 times worse, considering that he's 3 times older than I was then."

 

Teal'c seemed to absorb that for awhile.  When he spoke again, Jack could hear the genuine concern in his voice.  "You believe the plan for the young man to assume the ‘normal' life of a teenage boy was unwise, O'Neill?"

 

Jack sighed, remembering the misgivings he'd had about *that* plan.  He'd tried once more, when he dropped the boy off, to get him to reconsider.  He should have known it wouldn't work.  He was sure Young Jack was just as stubborn as he was, and would not easily give up on an idea once it took up residence in his thick head.  "I didn't do well in high school, Teal'c.  And I don't mean academically, although I wasn't exactly inclined to hit the books too regularly.   You may have noticed I'm not exactly enamored of authority figures."  Jack thought he saw the ghost of a smile crack the dark façade of his friend.  Or maybe it was just a trick of the dimming light.  "Anyway, I was feelin' my oats in high school and the teachers, my parents and just about everyone around me was trying their best to keep me in line.  It wasn't a happy time.  And I haven't changed that much in 30 odd years.  I can't think of a worse fate than to have to go back to that."

 

Teal'c nodded.  "I often wonder, as I have observed Rya'c struggle with the difficulties of coming to manhood, how it is that I managed to survive it, myself.  I wonder, too, how my own father was able to deal with me at that age."

 

It was Jack's turn to chuckle.  "Are you telling me you were a rebellious teenager, Teal'c?  Did you give your folks Ne'tu?"

 

"Indeed."

 

A comfortable silence settled between the old friends.   The light outside had completely gone, except for a silver haze of moonlight, reflected off the snow.  The men's eyes adjusted to the dim light.  Jack got up once to relieve himself in the small bathroom that wasn't much more than a closet wedged between the two bedrooms.  Gratefully, he crawled back under the blanket and shivered awhile as his chilled body absorbed the preserved warmth.  He had nearly dozed off when he was startled by Teal'c's whispering voice.

 

"It was about 3 years after the ceremony of prim'tah.  A young Jaffa is considered to be a man and a warrior once he has had a symbiote implanted.  It is a great responsibility -- one that every young Jaffa is expected to live up to.  Although we adults are fully aware that the young still have much to learn and a great deal of maturity yet lies ahead of them.  Still, the young are expected to conduct themselves with the seriousness of a warrior.  There was a young girl in our village, one who was of about my same age.  She was exceedingly beautiful.  We had grown up together and were good friends.  Two years after the Age of Prata, she was sent to be a priestess of the temple.  About a year after that, during the time of a festival, she had returned to visit her family and to assist with the festivities and ceremonies.   As is the custom, one of the other novices accompanied her.  During the festival, I convinced her to steal away with me into the woods.  I had missed her very much and thought I could convince her to leave the temple and run away with me.  Her companion saw us leave.  It was our good fortune that she went to my own father, and not the girl's.  It is forbidden for novices to consort with men, and doubly forbidden for a man to seduce a novice.  Had her father known, he would undoubtedly have had me killed.  I'm certain my father considered it, but perhaps my mother stayed his hand.  As it is, he punished me by requiring that I train continuously, without break, for five days.  It took me 2 full days of Kelno'reem to recover my strength afterwards.  And I was not allowed to leave the village for a year, except for training exercises."

 

Jack almost couldn't believe what he'd just heard.  "You, Teal'c, a regular Romeo?  I've always known you had a certain appeal with the ladies, but I never realized you were a hot-blooded young stud!"

 

Teal'c leaned his head back against the bed.   "The incident served to cool my ardor for young women.  And I had a full year during which my only outlet was combat training.  I believe my father was wise - it has served me well."

 

"Bet you didn't think back then that he was so wise, did you?"

 

"No.  I did not."

 

"Well, it *does* sound like it was a pretty dumb thing to do.   Still, we guys do lots of dumb things for women.  You mind taking watch for a bit, Teal'c?  I think I'll see if I can get a little nap."

 

"Very well, O'Neill.  Sleep well.  I will awaken you if there is any sign of the boy."

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Chapter 6

**********

 

Sam had finally decided to take Daniel's advice and go home.   She had finished the report for General Hammond, who passed on the information that she recommended to the local authorities.  After that, there wasn't much left to do but wait for responses to their calls.  They had called the Asgard as well on the off chance that perhaps Loki had gotten loose and taken back his little "experiment". 

 

The next morning, while Jack and Teal'c drove through the snows of Minnesota, Sam was drove through light flurries in Colorado Springs, headed back to the mountain.   Waiting for the elevators to get down to her office, she remembered why she so often elected to just stay there.  Getting in and out took so long it sometimes didn't seem worth the effort.  

 

As soon as she arrived in her lab, a message was waiting for her to report to General Hammond's office right away.  She found Daniel and the General waiting for her. 

 

"Major Carter, I'm glad you're here.  The Asgard have responded to our call, and have assured us that Loki remains in custody.  I didn't make any mention of the boy, of course, but with Loki secure, it seems unlikely that the Asgard would know anything about Young Jack's whereabouts.  I'm afraid your father's been here and gone.  We would have contacted you, but he was in a hurry to return.  There are some issues heating up at the Alpha Site that Selmak feels require his presence.  We discussed the problem with Jack's clone, and he said he hadn't heard anything among either the Tok'ra or the Jaffa, but that they would continue to monitor any communications intercepted from the Goa'uld for any likely references, and pass on anything that might be significant.  Oh, and he sends his love and asked me to give you a big hug.  Consider it done, Major."

 

Sam blushed slightly at the familiarity.  Even though General Hammond had been "Uncle George" when she was growing up, she made a concerted effort to maintain proper military decorum with him, especially while on base.  Leave it to Dad to brush all that aside.  General Hammond, of course, sided with Sam.  So he wouldn't give her that hug here.  But she knew he would make a point in the next few days to drop by her home so that he could share the more private parts of her father's message with her.

 

Hammond continued.  "Dr. Jackson hasn't gotten anything useful out of the first set of Goa'uld communications.  It's beginning to look more and more like the boy has simply disappeared himself somewhere here on Earth.  Major, you and the Doctor know Jack better than anyone on this base.  Which means, that you also know Young Jack.  I'd like you two to think of anyplace in town or in the surrounding areas that *Jack* would go if he were trying to get away from things, or hide out for awhile.  Check places out...talk to people.  And be sure to drop by Jack's house, see if you see any sign of the boy.  For all we know, Young Jack is holed up there, expecting Jack to come home from a mission.  If you don't have any questions, you're dismissed."

 

Sam snapped to attention.  "Thank you, sir.  We'll get right on it."  She and Daniel exited the office, and proceeded to the elevators for the long ride back up to the surface, including stops along the way to pick up coats from their respective offices.

 

~*~^~*~

 

They spent most of the morning, and a good part of the afternoon, driving around looking for the missing young man.  As instructed, they stopped by Jack's home first.  Sam couldn't help but marvel, as she did each time she visited his home, at what a beautiful place it was.  So peaceful, and so in harmony with nature.  Jack might travel the stars on a regular basis, brandishing his P-90 and his zat, but he was a real nature boy at heart.  Having determined that no one had been in the house, other than the "real" Jack, they scoured nearby fishing streams and campgrounds, most of which were all but deserted in the dead of winter.  They knew that Jack frequently stopped by a bar or two around town, but they discounted those.  It was unlikely that the Young Jack would be allowed inside.  While executing their search, they checked out any likely shelters that Young Jack might have used.  A young man seeking a place to get out of the cold could easily break into offices and ranger stations in the closed campgrounds and parks.  But those, too, had yielded nothing. 

 

They grabbed a quick lunch at a fast-food restaurant, but by 4:30 they were exhausted and hungry.   They agreed to call it quits for the evening.  Sam decided this might be a good time to pursue her plan of action.

 

"I'm gonna call the base and report in to General Hammond.  What do you say we go back to my house and order a pizza?  My treat."

 

Daniel was driving.  He glanced over at Sam, a little surprised at her sudden change of subject.  "Well, I'd like to see if there are any more Goa'uld communications to translate before I decide to call it a night.  But if there's nothing new, sure."

 

After she finished her report, Sam dutifully asked if any further communications had been received.  Feeling a little guilty, she crossed her fingers and hoped there were none.  She wanted to find out if her encounter with Daniel over coffee the previous night had been all that she thought it was.  If maybe there was a spark of something there that she had overlooked all these years.  On the other hand, if there were more communications, they might contain information that would lead them to Young Jack.  Still, she felt a little thrill when the answer came back that nothing further had been received. 

 

"What about your car, Sam?" Daniel asked, when Sam told him they could go straight to her place, "don't you want to pick it up?"

 

"No -- that's not necessary.  And it would be a bit out of the way.  I can just take a cab in tomorrow morning."  Sam leaned over and turned on the radio.  It was tuned to a station that blasted out heavy metal rock tunes.  "Daniel!  Is this what you usually listen to?"  Sam had to shout to be heard above the din.

 

Daniel laughed and turned the volume down.  "No.  But sometimes in the morning, when I haven't had enough coffee yet, I'm a little groggy.  This helps keep me awake on the drive to work.  You can switch to anything you like."

 

Sam quickly scanned through the stations and stopped on one that played oldies.  Daniel glanced over at her again.

 

Seeing the look of surprise on his face, Sam defended her choice.  "Yeah, I know.  I'm a child of the 80s, but I like music from the 50s and 60s.  Mom used to play this stuff when I was really young.  It makes me feel good.  I guess it gives me a connection to her."

 

"It's ok, Sam.  You can listen to anything you like.  Actually, I kinda like this music, too, for similar reasons.  Mom and Dad used to love to dance around to this stuff when I was real little.  Hearing it reminds me of that."

 

During the rest of the drive to Sam's house, the two chatted, sharing memories of growing up.  Sam knew Daniel's parents had been archeologists, but she never realized all the fascinating places that he lived before their tragic deaths.  And it amazed her how vivid his memories of those years were, considering he was only 8 years old when he was put into foster care.  She shared with him some of the exotic locales she and her family had been posted to while her father was on active duty.

 

When they arrived at her house, Sam invited Daniel to make himself at home while she went back to the bedroom to quickly change out of her uniform.  When she returned, she was wearing a soft, but loose teal green sweater and a pair of comfortable jeans.  She had briefly pondered the idea of something a bit more alluring, but decided it would be too obvious.  And besides, it really wasn't her style.  Daniel had found her audio equipment and tuned the radio to the same station they had listened to in the car, turning the volume down to a level that would allow conversation.  Sam detoured into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.  "Would you like something to drink, Daniel?  Beer goes great with pizza, you know. I've got St. Pauli and Guinness, any preference?"

 

"St. Pauli sounds good.  Thank goodness you have better stuff than Jack."

 

Sam grabbed two bottles and quickly opened them on the counter.  She opened a drawer and snagged the pizza menu on her way back to the living room.  Sitting down on the other side of the sofa, she handed Daniel his beer and offered him the menu.  "Anything in particular you want on your pizza?"

 

Daniel took the beer, but waved off the menu.  "Anything is fine.  I'll even do anchovies, if you like ‘em."

 

"I usually keep it pretty simple.  I like some kind of meat on it, just not pepperoni.  So I usually go for sausage.  And then I like mushrooms and maybe some olives."

 

"Sounds good. How long will it take, ‘cause I'm starving!  And if I don't have something to eat with this beer pretty soon, you may have a drunk archeologist on your hands."

 

"This place is just around the corner, so it usually doesn't take more than half an hour."  Picking the cordless phone up off the coffee table, she called in their order.

 

While they waited for the pizza, Sam continued their interrupted conversation.  "I can't believe we've never discussed this stuff before.  I feel like I know so little about you, Daniel.  So what sort of things does a geeky 6 year old do for fun in Giza?"

 

"Lots of things.  You can play a mean game of Hide-and-Go-Seek around the Sphinx.  And, of course, it *is* the world's biggest sandbox.  Actually, mostly my parents had a nanny who looked after me while they were working.  We'd go to the sites with them, but usually there was a camp set up and the nanny and I would stay there.  A few of the workers brought their kids, too.  So I'd play with them.  That's really where I got my ability with languages.  I think I spoke four or five by the time I was eight.  But occasionally my parents would take me through one of the digs.  I was fascinated by how long all those things had been buried.  Like buried treasure, until mom and dad dug it up.  And when dad told me that the hieroglyphics were like a secret language, I was hooked."

 

The doorbell rang.  Sam got up and paid for the pizza.  Daniel joined her in the kitchen, bringing the empty beer bottles with him.  Dropping them in the recycling bin, he got a plate and loaded it up with two large slices of the pizza.  "Should we eat this at the table, or back in the living room?"

 

Sam opened the refrigerator and got out two more bottles.  "Let's go back in the living room."  She handed one of the bottles to Daniel and getting a slice of pizza on a plate for herself, led the way back to the sofa.

 

~*~*~

 

Daniel devoured his pizza, washing it down with most of his second beer.  He was feeling a bit of a buzz and realized he would have to stay awhile before he would be good to drive home.  Talking about his parents had also made him nostalgic, almost to the point of melancholy.  The music added to the mood.  He longed for a way to relive those days, when he had spent his days playing around the pyramids, and his nights watching his parents dance to scratchy old records.

 

"Sam, would you dance with me?"

 

~*~*~

 

Sam nearly dropped her bottle.  She had been trying to think of the best way to approach Daniel, to let him know that she would be interested in changing their relationship, and here he was making advances of his own.  "I'd like that, Daniel."

 

Daniel stood, holding his hand out to her in silent invitation.  Taking his hand, Sam walked into his arms.  The song was a slow ballad, and Sam was surprised that the intellectual doctor was also a smooth and talented dancer.  As the two slowly swayed together, she began to really believe this could work. 

 

~*~*~

 

Daniel had been thinking of his parents.  Now, his mind drifted to thoughts of Sha're.   His talk with Sam the previous evening had brought back memories, and he savored those.  He had never succeeded in teaching Sha're to dance, but sometimes, in the evenings, when the desert winds were still, he would hold her in his arms, and hum something, while they swayed a bit in the cool evening breeze.  He forced his mind to return to the present.  He really felt he had to do something about Sam and Jack.  She was a bright and beautiful young woman and it was a crime that she lived by herself when there was someone who was so obviously aching to love her.  And Jack was just as deserving of someone in his life.  He decided it was time to be more direct.

 

As the music came to a close, Daniel pulled back a bit, just as Sam did the same.  "Sam", he began, looking into her face. 

 

Sam looked into Daniel's eyes.  The beer was definitely affecting her.  She almost never had more than one.  Her courage bolstered by the alcohol, she leaned up just enough to touch her lips to his.

 

~*~^~*~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


**********

Chapter 7

**********

 

It seemed as though Jack had only just closed his eyes when Teal'c nudged his shoulder to waken him.  Immediately, Jack heard the reason why.  Someone had entered the cabin, and was dropping things on the floor in the main room.   A quick glance at his watch told him that he had slept about two hours.  It wasn't even that late -- just a bit after ten o'clock.  He truly was getting old if a short walk in the woods could tire him out that much.

 

Jack stood up cautiously, careful not to make any noise.  Jack walked quietly across the room and leaned up against the wall, just inside the doorjamb.  The angle of view allowed him to look down the short hallway that separated the bedrooms to the main room beyond.  As he suspected, a young man stood in front of the fireplace, apparently contemplating the pros and cons of a trip back out to the wood pile and the warm, crackling fire it would produce, versus simply waiting for the furnace to kick in and heat the place up.  As if reading his mind, the furnace chose that moment to kick in, evidenced by the whoosh of warm air rushing through the ductwork.  Signaling Teal'c to follow, Jack crept out into the hallway.

 

"It took you long enough to come out of there.  I've known you were here practically since I walked in the door.  You know, you should have just turned the heat all the way up.  It would have saved you spending time in the cold.  I always set it at 50 over the winter, so when I noticed it was at 55, I figured you must think I have a *really* short memory."

 

The whole, ‘Did you think we wouldn't think to look for you here' speech flew out of Jack's brain while the boy turned around to face the two older men.  In fact, Jack was momentarily speechless as he looked at the face he hadn't seen in over 30 years.  In the months since he'd last seen Young Jack, the boy had grown into the young man Jack remembered himself to be.  Most of the gawky youthfulness was gone, replaced by the beginnings of a rugged handsomeness that had only recently started to turn a bit craggy in the older version.

 

If only he could really look in a mirror, and be that young again.  But hadn't he just told Teal'c he didn't, wouldn't...couldn't want that?  Still, youth held an amazingly powerful siren song.

 

Jack decided the wise move now would be to sit down.  Young Jack didn't appear to be armed or particularly dangerous.  Especially given that there were no sixteen-year-old girls in the room.  And Jack needed a moment to figure out just what to say to him.  Charlie had died at an age when he still looked up to his father with hero-worship in his eyes.  Jack really didn't know quite what to do with a rebellious teenager. 

 

Before Jack could think of anything to say, his younger self continued.

 

"Maybe we should start with some introductions.  I've decided to go by Jonathan.  I thought it would help me to think of myself as not...you."

 

"Did it work?  I seem to remember really hating that name."

 

"Not really. But it works better, for me.  There just aren't that many Jacks among kids these days.  It's not a cool name anymore.  But Jonathan -- Jonathan is cool.  Unlike when I was growing up...the first time that is...when Jonathan was a sissy name.  Things change."  Young Jack, or rather, Jonathan, sat down in a recliner, opposite the older man.  Teal'c quietly took a seat in the dining area, far enough away to lend the two men some privacy, but close enough to be of assistance if it was needed.

 

Jack got back to his feet and began to pace in front of the fireplace.  "So, how'd you get in here?"

 

The young man leaned back in the chair, settling in for what was apparently going to be a lengthy interrogation.   "You forget, Jack.  I helped design the security system on this place.  I know every wire and relay.  And I've still got the Special Ops training.  It was a piece of cake gettin' in here."

 

"Am I really that much of a smug smart ass, or have you been practicing?"

 

"I'm a high school student, Jack.  I've got nothing to do but brush up on stuff that I learned 30 years ago and think up smart ass things to do and say.   So yeah, you could say I've been practicing."

 

"So why'd you run away?  Do you realize half the Air Force is looking for you?  We thought maybe the Goa'uld had gotten you.  Are you having problems with school?  The last time I saw you, you had a girl on each arm.  Isn't that enough to keep you busy?"

 

"The girls are cute and all that, but I've been married for cryin' out loud.  I don't think I have it in me to fool around like I...you...we used to.  I've got the body of a sex-crazed teenager, but somewhere between 15 and 50 you, my friend, developed a heart and a mind and I'm stuck with them.  Besides, I start thinkin' about some sweet young 14 or 15 year old and I creep myself out.  The term ‘jail bait' keeps goin' through my head and everything else just sorta shrivels and dies."

 

Jack was way over his head and he knew it.  Sitting back down, he leaned forward and brushed a hand over his head, ruffling his short-cropped hair, so different from the wavy blond locks of the man sitting across from him.

 

"So, it's not working out after all, then.  Too weird?"

 

"Way, way too weird.  I haven't had a beer in over six months.  After driving for thirty years, I just got my driver's license three months ago.  And my ‘parents' insist on a ten o'clock curfew on school nights.  You can say ‘I told you so' if you want to.  I know you're dyin' to say it.  I know I would.  The really weird thing is that the only thing that is working out well is school itself.  I decided I wanted to take a different path this time.  After spending seven years around all those scientists, I guess something rubbed off.  I've really gotten into science - especially physics and math.  I even talked to Colonel Sampson about taking a class or two at the Academy, while I'm still in high school.  But he was worried there was too much chance that someone would recognize my name as yours, think we're related, and get too interested."

 

"Well, we can solve one problem here and now."  Jack got back up and walked toward the front door.  A blast of cold air rushed in as he opened the door.  Leaning over, he opened the top of a cooler that sat just outside on the porch and pulled out two frosty bottles.  Remembering his manners, he leaned back inside.  "Teal'c, you want a cold one?"

 

"Thank you, O'Neill, but I am not thirsty at the moment."

 

"Suit yourself."  Jack closed the cooler and retreated quickly back into the relative warmth of the cabin, securing the door behind him.  Handing one of the bottles to the younger man, he sat back down, twisted off the top and took a long swallow.  "One good thing about a Minnesota winter -- free refrigeration."

 

Jack sat back down and took a healthy swig from the bottle. "You could've just called, me, you know?"

 

"Jack, in a similar situation, would *you* have called you?"

 

"No, probably not."  Jonathan took a reverent sip, savoring the cold bite of the beer.  "You were right about another thing, you know.  Being here with you - with myself - is pretty weird, too."

 

Jack swallowed another large gulp before responding.  "Well, for tonight, at least, we're pretty much stuck here together.  And I, for one, am tired.  Even you, with your 16 year old knees, must be a *little* tired.  I'm assuming you hiked up from the highway.  I suggest we get some sleep.  We can figure out where to go from here in the morning.  But *you* sleep in the spare bedroom.  I'm going to sleep in my regular room.  This body is too old to adjust to a different bed.  T, there's a second bed in the spare bedroom, if you don't mind bunking with the kid."

 

"That will be acceptable, O'Neill.  However, I believe I will stay here for a short while.  I do not yet feel the need for sleep."

 

"Ok.  I'll check in with Hammond before we turn in.  Let him know everyone is safe, sound and accounted for."  Jack walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.  As he was dialing, he watched his younger self finish off the bottle of beer, get up smoothly from the chair (obviously not having any problems with *his* knees), and head down the short hall to the bedrooms.  He was glad the boy was safe.  But he really had no idea what to do next.  And he would have to think of something.  Fast.

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Chapter 8

**********

 

For the third time that day, Sam had surprised Daniel to near speechlessness.  This time, he knew, he would have to handle things very carefully.  One false word could ruin so much, not least of which were two of the closest friendships he'd ever had.  Gently, he pulled away from Sam.  Holding her a few inches away, he waited for her to open her eyes.

 

"Sam, I'm flattered, really.  But I don't think this is really what you want."

 

Sam looked into the eyes of the man who was holding her gently, but firmly, at arm's length.  "Oh God, Danny.  I'm sorry -- you're right."  Sam pulled away from Daniel and sat back down on the sofa.  "It's just that I've been confused lately.  I told you I'd done a lot of thinking while I was stuck on Prometheus.  I think part of it was the concussion, but I also had dreams.  My father talked to me in one of them, started telling me that I was missing out on love.  In another dream...someone told me that I was fixating on something in order to avoid getting involved in a real relationship.  Ever since then, I've been looking at the people in my life in a different way.  Wondering if I really have been using my work and...other things...to avoid getting hurt."

 

Daniel sat down next to his friend, and in spite of her initial reluctance, drew her into his arms.  "It's all right Sam.  I meant what I said -- I'm truly flattered.  You know I love you, and I always will.  But even if my feelings for you were of a romantic nature, which they *aren't*, I still wouldn't pursue them."

 

Sam pulled away, "Gee thanks, Danny.  You really know how to comfort a girl!"

 

Daniel stifled a laugh.  "It's not meant to be any reflection on you, Sam.  And I won't insult you with the standard ‘Any guy would be lucky...' speech.  Especially since you should know that already.  In my mind, Sam, you're spoken for.  That's been obvious to me from the moment I met you.  And I'd never piss Jack off that way.  Well, I actually enjoy pissing Jack off occasionally, but this would really hurt him.  He loves you, Sam.  We all know it.  And I know you two have regulations to worry about and all that, but those regulations don't govern your hearts.  I think Jack could handle it if you were to get involved with someone he didn't know, someone he would feel free to hate.  But for a friend, like me, to betray him like that.  I don't think he could handle it."

 

~*~*~

 

Sam sat back on the sofa for a moment, trying to take it all in.  Apparently the cat was out of the bag, and had been for some time.  It didn't really change anything, except that now she had to worry that General Hammond was just as wise to them as Daniel, and would eventually feel he had to take action.  But, if she became involved with someone else, maybe that would throw the General off the track.  And if, to spare Jack's feelings, that someone had to be a stranger, then so be it.  Her brother Mark had been pestering her for some time to go on a blind date with an old buddy of his who lived in Denver.  She would have to call Mark as soon as this latest little crisis was resolved.  Denver was just far enough away to ensure that any relationship that might develop would be slow moving.  And it would hopefully allow her to avoid a lot of awkward questions when she was ‘out of town' for several days at a time.

 

Just then the telephone rang.  Sam reached over to the other side of the table to pick it up.

 

"Hello?...Oh, yes sir."  Sam glanced briefly at Daniel.  "No sir, I don't know quite where he is.  He did say something about getting something to eat.  I know a few of his favorite places; I could call around.  Yes, sir.  Oh, that's terrific news, sir.  Yes, if I find him, I'll have him call you right away.  Yes, good night sir."

 

Sam pushed the off button and, setting the phone down, leaned back again.  "That was General Hammond.  The good news is that Jack called in from Minnesota; Young Jack turned up this evening.  The bad news is that there's some sort of trouble at the Alpha Site and Hammond wants you and Teal'c to go there, see what you can do to smooth things over.  He's sending a helicopter to the cabin first thing in the morning to pick Teal'c up and bring him back.  I didn't want to tell him that you were here."

"Well, I don't think I'm quite sober enough to drive yet.  I'll wait a half-hour or so and give him a call.  Then I'll take a cab in, find out what's happening.  If I'm going to the Alpha Site tomorrow, I'd just as soon spend the night at the SGC."  Daniel put his arm around Sam again, pulled her towards him in a companionable hug.  "Sam, I don't want you to feel awkward about what happened tonight.  I wouldn't want anything to affect our friendship.  And if things were different, believe me, I probably would have kissed *you* a long time ago.  For a moment there, I actually considered letting Jack deal with his own problems.  You're beautiful and wonderful and...whoops, I promised I wasn't going to give you that speech, didn't I?"

 

~*~*~

 

Sam laughed wholeheartedly.  She was glad that Daniel hadn't been completely discomfited by the incident.  She, too, would not want to lose his friendship.  And she didn't want any awkward moments between them to follow them to work.  The more she thought about it, the more she realized that starting something with *any* co-worker was absolute folly.  No matter how handsome and caring that co-worker might be. 

 

Daniel smiled, happy that he was able to get Sam to laugh.  Then he turned serious once more.  Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her face towards him.  "Sam, I mean it.  I would never hurt Jack in that way.  But if he was out of the picture..." with that, Daniel lowered his face to hers, and touched her lips with his.  When he felt her respond, he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss.

 

Sam felt as though her breath had been taken away.  There hadn't been the slightest hint of a spark when she had kissed Daniel earlier, but now...  It didn't change anything, of course, but at least she would never wonder what she was missing.

 

After what seemed an eternity, Daniel pulled away.  "And that's the last we'll ever say on the subject.  Deal?"

 

Sucking in air, Sam responded breathlessly, "Deal."

 

Again, the telephone rang.  Sam let it ring twice, to catch her breath, before answering. 

 

"Hello?"

 

Sam realized it was only her guilt that made her think the voice on the other end of the line sounded suspicious.  "Carter, it's me.  Hammond just called to tell us that Teal'c and Daniel are needed at the Alpha Site.  I was wondering if you could make it up to Duluth tonight and come out here on the ‘copter that's coming to pick up the T man?  I really don't want to drag the kid back yet.  I'd like to try and work something out, first."

 

Sam had always avoided Jack's repeated invitations to the cabin.  Spending time alone with Jack, in the middle of nowhere, seemed to be just asking for trouble.  "I don't know, sir.  Don't you think you'll get farther with him, man to man, than if I'm up there, intruding?"

 

"Carter, you won't be intruding.  I know you've never accepted my invitations just for fun, but this time I really need you up here.  Look, Sam, this kid is a lot like me.  Hell, he *is* me.  And you probably know me better than anyone on the planet...or in the universe, for that matter.  I could really use your help getting inside the kid's head.   And...there's something else going on that's just really outta my league.  But it's right up your alley.  Would you please just get your...self up here?"

 

On the rare occasions that Jack used Sam's first name, it always undid her.  "All right, Colonel.  I'll call Patterson and see if I can get a transport up to Duluth tonight."

 

"Thanks, Carter.  I really appreciate the help.  And I'm sorry if this screws up your night.  I hope you can catch some sleep, sometime."

 

"No problem, sir.  You know I can sleep anywhere.  Good night."

Once again, Sam put the phone down.  "Looks like I might be taking that cab in with you.  I can check in with Hammond and make sure there's nothing he needs me for before I go to Patterson.  I better get a bag packed, though.  I can't exactly take a standard mission kit."  Sam got up and started towards her bedroom.

 

"Ok.  I'll call Hammond.  I'll tell him that you found me at a pizza joint, where I went after I dropped you off.  I'll let him know I've had a couple beers, and that's why we'll both be coming in together.  And we're taking a cab because you don't like driving my car."

 

Sam chuckled as she walked down the hall.  "Oh what a tangled web we weave..."

 

~*~^~*~


**********

Chapter 9

**********

 

The next morning, Jack, Jonathan and Teal'c stood on the porch watching as the small helicopter landed carefully in the area where Jack usually parked his truck.  It was the only treeless area large enough, besides the lake itself.  Long ago, it had been a horse paddock, when the previous owner had lived here full time and kept horses to explore the woods with.  Jack was glad he had torn the fencing down long ago. 

 

As soon as the ‘copter touched ground, Teal'c grabbed his pack and ran to meet it, being careful to keep his head tucked down to avoid the still-spinning rotors, and to keep his black wool cap securely on his head.  Sam tossed her own pack on the ground and jumped down.  She surprised the big Jaffa with a quick hug before he threw his pack inside and climbed in.  Running to get out of the way, she ran up the porch steps and turned just in time to see the helicopter lift off.  Jack grabbed her bag and opened the door, motioning for her to go inside.  He and Jonathan followed.

 

"Have you had any breakfast yet, Carter?  The kid makes a mean pancake.  Even with Teal'c wolfing them down, there are still a few left."

 

"No thanks.  But if you have any decent coffee, I'd love some."  Sam took off her heavy jacket and hung it on a hook by the door with the others.  She sat down on the slightly worn sofa, sidling close to the cheery, cracking fire, where she could get warm while she took in the surroundings.  Not surprisingly, everything was neat and clean, even if most of the furnishings did show signs of age and use.  It was simple and rustic.  There was little in the way of decorations, although there was a picture of Charlie on the fireplace mantle.  Sam would have been surprised if there hadn't been.  She was glad to note the absence of any stuffed or mounted animals.  Somehow, even if he were a hunter, she couldn't imagine Jack making trophies of his kills.  The walls on either side of the fireplace were solid, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, filled to near capacity.  For someone who protested to be uneducated and unintelligent, the Colonel was a voracious reader.  But Sam had known that for some time, too.

 

"One coffee, coming up.  Jon, take Carter's bag into the big bedroom if you would.  I'll be bunking in with you tonight."

 

Jack returned with a hot, steaming cup.  Carter took it gratefully, wrapping her cold hands around its warmth.  Jack sat down in one of the recliners across from her, setting his own cup down on a wooden coaster.

 

"Well.  I finally got you up here.  I'm just a bit disappointed that it took a sixteen-year-old kid to do it, Carter.  Do you just not like the country?"

 

"No, it's not that, Jack.  I wanted to come up here with you.  It's as beautiful as I always knew it would be.  But ever since the za'tarc thing, it didn't seem like it would be very smart.  To be alone with you, I mean."

 

"Well, you don't have to worry about that.  Jon makes a good chaperone.  At least, he kept Teal'c and I in line last night.  And I'm hoping, with your help, we can come up with a solution to his problem and get out of here tomorrow.  This cold is murder on my knees."

 

"Just what *is* his problem?"

 

"Well, I'd rather he be in here before we start discussing that.  I know when I was his age, I would have hated for two adults to discuss *my* future behind my back."  Jack raised his voice to be heard in the back bedrooms.  "JON?  How long does it take to drop a suitcase?  Could you get in here, please?"

 

Jonathan came out of one bedroom, his arms piled high with clothes, which he quickly tossed into the other bedroom.  Then he came down the hall and sat down in the other recliner.  "I was just picking up your stuff and putting it into the other bedroom.  I really didn't think you would want to subject Sam to your underwear and dirty clothes.  And besides, I figured you two would want a few minutes to talk."

 

Jack took a sip of his coffee.  "Well, we do, but we want to talk to you.  See if we can figure out a better solution to your...situation.  Why don't you give Carter a sit-rep?"  Jack grinned at his own word play.

 

Jonathan turned to Sam and began to tell her some of what he'd spoken to Jack about the day before.  "Basically Carter, I'm 51 years old in a sixteen year old body.  I really thought I could make a better go of the high school thing this time around, but if anything, it's way, way worse than the first time.  I'm not sure there's anyplace on Earth that I can fit in.  At least not until I'm a little bit closer to looking my age...say...23 or 25 maybe.  Between now and then, I figure the best thing for me to do is to hide out.  Keep out of other people's way.  There's just no one that can be made to understand the situation I'm in, so they can't help it -- everyone treats me like a kid.  And I'm not."

 

Carter listened while the young man gave his speech.  She sipped her coffee thoughtfully before she said anything.  "Jonathan, maybe what we should concentrate on is not what you *can't* do, but what you *can* do, and what you eventually *want* to do with your life.  Have you given that any thought?"

 

Jack started to chuckle.  "Well, Carter, that's one of the reasons I asked you to come up here.  Seems Jonathan has gone over to the Dark Side.  He's been studying physics and math and has apparently become a regular geek.  I would have never thought I had it in me."

 

"Really?"  Sam's eyebrows shot up.  Addressing Jon again, she asked, "Have you got any particular areas of interest?  Anything special field you'd like to go into?"

 

"Well," Jonathan warmed to the subject, knowing that Sam was a kindred spirit, "I've been reading a lot about astrophysics.  At some point, I'd really like to return to work on the Stargate program.  Actually, I don't know that I could do anything else, given all that I know about it.  It'd be awfully hard to work with other scientists in the field, knowing what I know, and not being able to share any of it with them.  I've got a lot to learn, of course.  And I have to admit, I still have a hard time with computers -- they hate me.  The one thing I *don't* want to do is go the military route again.  It's been a good life, but if I can't hack the authority of a few high school teachers, can you imagine me trying to play good little soldier when I'm still a Colonel on the inside?"

 

Jack made a face. "Ouch.  No, that has disaster written all over it."

 

Sam nodded.  "Ok, so the military is out.  It's not the greatest place to go for astrophysics, anyway, even though it's worked out pretty well for me.  And it seems a given that any kind of formal schooling isn't going to work for you, at least until you look a bit more like someone people can take seriously.  Did you have any ideas on how to get around that?"

 

Jonathan looked from Sam to Jack and back to Sam.  "Well, it's a little unorthodox, but I thought I would just hole up here for a couple of years and study on my own.  Until I can get into a university, anyway.  I'm just not sure how I would get *into* a university, without a high school diploma and all the SATs and what not that kids need to get into a good school these days."  Feeling a little nervous, Jonathan got up and went into the kitchen to get his own cup of coffee.  "But if I *can* get in, I'd try for a big university.  One with lots of students so no one pays too much attention to any one and there aren't as many stupid rules.  If I keep a low profile, hopefully I can get a degree and go on to graduate school.  Hell, by that time, Sam, you may be just about ready to take over command of the SGC.  I figure you can put in a good word for me.  If I can make the grade, of course."

 

Sam laughed.  "I have no aspirations of command.  I've seen what General Hammond goes through, and I want no part of that.  But if you really are as committed to studying astrophysics as you say; and if you do ‘make the grade', I'll certainly consider putting in a solid recommendation for you, when the time comes."

 

Jack spoke up.  "In the meantime, there's still one major problem with your plan.  You can't stay here."

Jonathan frowned.  "Why not?  It's not like you use it that much.  And if it's that hard for you to be around me, I can go somewhere else for the two or three weekends a year that you manage to come up here."

 

Jack scowled at the younger man.  "That has nothing to do with it.  If it was completely up to me, you could stay here, and be welcome.  You're right, I get so little use out of this place I've even considered selling it.  It's a shame for it to sit empty and unused.  But you wouldn't be safe up here.  We need to keep you someplace where someone can keep tabs on you.  And where there are plenty of other people around.  If the Goa'uld ever got wind that there was another Jack O'Neill, with all my knowledge and memories, they'd snatch you up in a heartbeat.  And stuck way out here in the middle of nowhere you'd just be making it easy for them."

 

Jonathan flopped back down in the chair, defeated.  "So does that mean you're going to force me to go back to the Sampson's, so that they can play watchdog for me?"

 

"You know I didn't like that idea the first time around, I'm not going to suggest that we repeat a mistake.  Maybe you can spend the next couple of years living at the SGC.  You'd have access to lots of top notch astrophysicists there to help you with your studies."

 

Jonathan started shaking his head.  "I don't think so, Jack.  You'd be there, and General George, and even Teal'c.  *You* would all be treating me like I was just a kid.  You did it before.  And I have a feeling you would never let me leave the base.  I'd rather not spend the next two years going up and down elevators for fun. No thanks."

 

Jack was about to say something when Sam spoke up.  "Wait a minute.  You said there isn't anyplace *on Earth* where you can fit it.  What about the Alpha Site?  If we send you there you can still get plenty of studying done.  We can send any books you might need, and you can work on lessons on the computer.  You'll get the hang of them, eventually.  And you can work with some of the scientists there as a lab assistant of sorts.  There's quite a few airmen posted there that are only two or three years older than you, so you won't stick out too much."

 

Jonathan's eyes grew wider as Sam outlined her solution.  "That's PERFECT!"

 

Jack hated to throw ice on Sam's idea.  "Wait a minute.  We'd still need to come up with some sort of cover story about why you're there.  And there's still the matter of ‘legitimizing' your existence.  As you say, it's not going to be easy getting into college without a high school degree."

 

"Colonel, we could say that we found him on planet P-something-something, like Cassandra, and that the Goa'uld want to find him, which would be true if they knew about him.  As for giving him a legitimate identity back here on Earth, with a high school diploma, that's easy.  Have you never heard of the Witness Protection program?  They fabricate identities all the time.  I bet General Hammond can call somebody who knows somebody who can get that arranged.  Especially with two years' notice."

 

Jack knew when he was outnumbered.  He got to his feet and walked toward the door.  "Well, I can see you two have this all worked out.  And truthfully, I think it just might work.  So I'm going to hike back up to where Teal'c and I left the truck.  There are extra supplies in it, and we'll need it here when we pack up to leave tomorrow morning.  Carter, you stay here with Jon and talk about...physics stuff...or whatever.  I should be back in about half an hour."  Jack zipped up his coat and stepped out into the bright sunshine, being careful to close the door behind him.

 

"What got into him all of a sudden?"  Sam starred at the front door, not sure what to make of Jack's hasty exit. 

 

"Well, he's got a point.  I sure don't want to lug everything we've got to wherever he hid the truck.  But I think mostly he's nervous about being here...with you."

 

"That doesn't make any sense, Jonathan.  He's asked me up here a half a dozen times.  And besides...you're here.  It's not like we're alone."

 

"You're right, Sam.  He's asked you.  And you've always turned him down.  But if you had ever taken him up on it, he would have been just as nervous.  And I don't think he puts much stock in my skills as a chaperone."

 

Sam shook her head.  "It still doesn't make sense, Jonathan.  We're teammates.  We've spent hundreds of nights camped together on planets all over the galaxy."

 

"Sam, you're forgetting who you're talking to.  He's in love with you.  And before you ask me how I know that, I know because *I'm* in love with you.  And I am him.  All those nights on other planets aren't quite the same as spending the night with you here, in his cabin.  He's dreamed of this for years.  And now you're here and he doesn't have a clue what to do next.  And the real problem is, he knows he can't do anything.  And it's tearing him up.  And I'm betting it's tearing you up, too."

 

"I always knew the Colonel was smarter than he liked people to know.  I'm learning that he's really wise, too."  Sam got up for more coffee.  When she returned, she stood facing the fireplace, watching the flames dancing.  "Jonathan, how would you...how would *Jack* feel...if I started dating someone?"  Sam turned to face the young man, almost expecting to find the older Jack sitting where the younger one had been.

 

"Sam, it'll tear him up. About the only thing that would hurt him more would be to break up the team.  That team is his life; it means everything to him.  And the only way you and he can have anything is to break up the team. Hell, it tears *me* up to think that one day, you and he might find a way around the damn regulations."  Jonathan got up to stand before the woman he had loved for so many years, but who was just as taboo for him as she was for his older self.  He gripped her shoulders gently.  "Sam, if you think you can find someone, do.  You deserve to have love, even if it means it can never be with Jack. Truthfully, you deserve much better than Jack...much better than me.  Just make sure that whomever you pick, it's someone that Jack can afford to hate, because he will."

 

Sam smiled.  She could still look almost straight into the young man's eyes, but knew that in a couple years, she would have to look up to see them.  "It's funny, Daniel told me almost the same thing last night."

 

"I've always thought Daniel was a pretty smart guy.  For a geek."  Jonathan chuckled, and brought his hands back down to his side, feeling suddenly self-conscious.

 

"You have no idea, Jonathan."  Feeling the need to change the subject, Sam returned to the kitchen and started rummaging for something for lunch.  "So, what made you decide to try astrophysics?"

 

~*~^~*~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


**********

Chapter 10

**********

 

Later that evening, Jack sent Jonathan to bed at 10 o'clock, despite his protests.  When it finally dawned on him that Jack wanted some time alone with Sam, Jonathan shut up and went quietly.  Pausing before going into the bedroom, he glanced back once more at the woman standing by the front window, looking out at the frozen Minnesota woods.  Of everything about his life that was unfair, this was definitely the worst.  He was no longer a colonel, no longer her CO.  He was free to love her, but she would never see him as the *real* Jack. She would never get past the perception that he was 20 years her junior.   And by the time he had aged enough that the difference would no longer matter, she would either be married to another man, or Jack would have retired and removed the obstacles that kept them apart.  Suddenly feeling every one of the 50 odd years his body didn't show, he stepped inside the bedroom and closed the door.

 

~*~^~*~

 

Jack stirred the coals of the fire and placed another large log on the grate; one that would burn through most of the night.   As he returned the poker to its rack, he dwelt for a moment on the photograph of Charlie. 

 

"Charlie would be about the same age now as Jonathan, you know?  Really makes me wonder how I would have dealt with him as a teenager. Not that Jonathan is really a teenager.  But sometimes it's hard to get past appearances.  And I wonder if Charlie would have looked like Jonathan...like I did at that age.  I wonder if Charlie would have been rebellious.  Would we have fought about curfews and grades?  He was always really smart, but sometimes even smart kids neglect the books."

 

Sam turned from her contemplation of the beauty of the winter night, not sure how to respond, or even if she should respond.  Jack rarely spoke about his son.  She knew how painful the memories still were.  She knew Jack loved kids.  But it seemed that anytime he really got close to a young person, something happened.  First Charlie, and most recently, Skaara.  Sam thought it comforted Jack to know that Skaara had ascended, but she also knew the young man's death was one he felt deeply.

 

Jack turned his eyes away from the photo.  "Sorry, Carter.  I don't know what's got me into such a funk.  I guess having a mini-me around is weirder than I realized.   Can you believe he's decided to be a scientist?  You *know* how I feel about scientists."

 

Sam walked to stand next to Jack in front of the fire.  "Honestly, sir, I really can't imagine what this all must be like for you.  I don't know if this will be any comfort, but Jonathan has already become somewhat different from you.  As time passes, and your lives continue to diverge, the differences will become more pronounced.  Hopefully, it'll become a little less weird.  I will tell you one thing, though.  You really can't fool me with the know nothing act anymore.  I had a nice little chat with Jonathan while you were out earlier -- he's really very, very smart.  And he hasn't suddenly developed all that brainpower in the last six months."

 

"See...that's *just* what I'm talking about.  The kid's been ratting me out!"  Jack's grin belied the mock-angry tone in his voice.

 

"Well, sir, in a few years, with a little schooling, he may give me a run for my money."

 

"With any luck, Carter, by that time I'll be retired and you'll be commanding SG-1, so you won't need to get by on your brains.  I'll be happy to teach you the stupid act, if you like.  Come to think of it, if you're going to succeed me, I've been remiss -- I think it's a requirement.   Makes the *real* brains on the team look that much better."  

 

Sam's smile faded and she became suddenly serious.  "Are you really considering retirement, sir?"

 

Jack was surprised to see the sudden emotion on Carter's face.  It wasn't like her to expose her feelings so openly.  For the second time that day he was beginning to wonder if it was really such a smart idea to bring her up here.  Without the trappings of their military lives, without the uniforms and the protocol, it was too easy to forget the need to keep their feelings buried.  They had gotten so good at it, that Jack sometimes wondered if the whole za'tarc thing had been real.  But maybe they weren't so good at it if a little time alone, in a cozy cabin with a dancing fire could unnerve them both so much.

 

"Yea, Carter, I've been thinking about it.  I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore. Seeing mini-me in there again has made that painfully obvious.  Chasing around planets and running after aliens is getting a little hard on me.  I can hardly hold my own sparring with Teal'c, even though he goes easy on me.  There are days when I think Kinsey could whip my ass pretty good.   The day is coming when I won't be able to hack it, physically.  I won't put the whole team in danger just because I'm too vain to admit I'm not young anymore. And I've never been a desk jockey, so if I leave, I leave all the way." 

 

Jack almost had to physically restrain himself from reaching out to smooth away the pained expression on Carter's face.  Here, alone with her, he was afraid that any contact would go too far.  He decided to retreat to his chair; put a little distance between them.  In another moment he might tell her the other reason he was considering retirement: Colonel Jack O'Neill, USAF, *Retired* would be free to consort with Major Samantha Carter, if she would have him.  Another reason he had no intention of taking a desk job. 

 

"Colonel, I...I don't know what to say.  Except, of course, that I wish you would reconsider.  The SGC wouldn't be the same without you.  And, if I may say so, sir, I'm not sure you would be the same without the SGC."  Following the Colonel's lead, Sam sat down on the sofa opposite him.  There was a tension in their conversation that was making her nervous and she fidgeted with the sparse array of coasters and knick-knacks that adorned the coffee table.

 

"You know, Carter, I was enjoying my retirement pretty well before Hammond sent his troops to snatch me off my observation deck.   I think maybe I might manage.  And maybe I'll even get a chance to pursue some other interests.  Interests the Air Force has kept me from pursuing."  Jack shifted in his chair.  Now he was speaking in double entendre!  Maybe he should just join Jonathan and go to bed himself, avoid the temptation that was driving him crazy.  Even if he put in for retirement tomorrow, it would be months before he was officially out.  And he had no intention of pursuing *anything* until he could do so with honor. 

 

"I'm sorry, sir.  I didn't mean to imply that you had no other interests.  Of course, you have every right to pursue whatever makes you happy."

 

Jack would give anything if she would just drop the ‘sir' for a little while.  Maybe he was fooling himself, and her feelings had never been quite as strong as his had.  "Carter, I think I should probably call it a night.  We've got a long trip back to Colorado tomorrow.  Your room is at the end of the hall, on the right.  Mine's on the left.  If you need anything, just knock." 

 

As Jack stood to leave, Sam stood too and reached across the table to take his hand.  "Sir...Jack...wait.  I'm not sure exactly what is going on here, but suddenly things have gotten very uncomfortable between us.  And I really don't want to leave it this way."

 

"Carter..." Jack sighed, exasperated.  "Sam.  Do I really have to spell it out for you?  Do you think I've invited you up here all those times to fish?  Is it really that hard for you to figure out what other ‘interests' I want to ‘pursue'?"  Jack gripped the hand that was holding his and pulled Sam around the table.  "I know we agreed to leave some things in that room with the za'tarc machine.  I thought I could do it.  And I probably could, Sam, but I don't *want* to anymore."  Jack paused a moment and drank in the beauty of the face looking up at him, and decided that honor was really overrated. 

 

~*~^~*~

 

As Jack's lips touched hers, Sam felt as though something between them suddenly snapped.  There was still tension, but of an entirely different sort.  She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, as his reached around her waist and drew her closer.  One hand crept up her back and she felt his fingers comb through the hair on the back of her head as he seemed to want to pull her close enough to fuse them together.  

 

One bizarre corner of Sam's mind came up with the sudden realization that she would have to contrive to kiss Teal'c someday; if only so that she could say she had kissed all of the members of her team.  That same bizarre corner insisted that her curiosity was empirical.  Maybe there was something about gate travel that made the men of SG-1 such good kissers?  Or maybe it was because they had all had the opportunity to kiss exotic, extraterrestrial women.  Sam told the bizarre corner of her mind to shut up and enjoy the kiss.

 

It was over much too soon.  She found herself once again looking up into Jack's face.  A face that had softened, but that contained a note of sadness that seemed out of place.

 

"Sam, we can't do this - not now - not yet.  I'll start the paperwork on my retirement as soon as we get back.  Once I'm officially out, we'll be free to be together.  But until then, I can't ask you to sneak around.  And I honestly don't think I could do it myself.  Jonathan told me earlier today that over the years I've developed a heart and a mind and  that's what prevented him from chasing after the girls in high school.  I apparently also developed a sense of honor.  I can't ask you to break regs and I can't do it myself.  We'll do this above board, or we won't do it all."

 

"Jack, are you sure?  I can't ask you to retire and quit the SGC because of me.  I can't ask you to give up something you love so much."

 

"Sam, you're not asking me for anything.  I do love the SGC, but I love it enough to leave when the time comes that my presence is a danger."

 

"But that time hasn't come yet, Jack."

 

~*~^~*~

 

 


**********

Epilogue

**********

 

Sam spent most of the trip back lost in thought.  She and Jack had continued to talk late into the night, without coming to any resolution.  She had ultimately decided, while lying in bed trying to sleep, that it was up to her to save Jack from himself.  As much as she loved him she could not allow him to leave the SGC when it was so important to him.  She hoped she had at least convinced him to wait awhile before requesting retirement.  As much as it might hurt him, she would use that time to find someone that Jack could hate. 

 

Jack and Jonathan broke the permeating silence occasionally with short spurts of conversation.  There was little for them to say to each other.  It was, indeed, too weird.

 

~*~^~*~

 

The morning after they arrived back in Colorado, Jonathan was waiting in the gate room at the bottom of the ramp.  Sam had promised she would come to see him off.  General Hammond had already stopped by and wished him Godspeed. Daniel and Teal'c were still working at the Alpha Site and would help him get settled in before they returned. He really wasn't expecting to see Jack.  After all, he hated good-byes.

 

But the gate was spinning and Sergeant Walter was announcing each encoded chevron.  And Sam hadn't arrived yet.

 

"Chevron Seven...LOCKED!"

 

Jonathan heard the familiar WHOOOOSH of the wormhole as it formed within the ring of the Stargate.  He bent to pick up his duffel bag and began to walk up the ramp, the ringing of his combat boots against the metal another familiar, and strangely melancholy, sound.

 

"Wait!  Jonathan!  Don't you dare leave yet."

 

Jonathan stopped and turned, dropping his duffel in time to be nearly bowled over by a speeding blur topped with bright blond hair that suddenly wrapped strong arms around him in a farewell hug.

 

Releasing him, Sam couldn't resist the urge to ruffle the young man's hair.  "Sorry I'm late.  I should have trusted my instincts and stayed on base last night.  There's a terrific snowstorm outside.  But I couldn't let you leave without saying good-bye.  I'd tell you to stay in touch, but you won't have much choice, since I'm going to be one of your teachers."

 

Jonathan grinned.  He returned the hug and whispered, "Classes haven't even started yet and I've already got a terrific crush on my favorite teacher.  You know, in a few years when I'm back, I'll be older.   There's nothing wrong with falling in love with a younger man."

 

Sam kissed his cheek, and smiled, "Sorry, Jonathan, I only fall in love with older men."

 

"Well, see, I *am* an older man, too.  It just depends on how you look at it.  Mature mind, young body -- what's not to love?"

 

Sam grinned and shook her head.  Gripping the young man's shoulder, she walked up the ramp with him to the event horizon.  After one final hug, he stepped through the watery event horizon.

 

**********

Fin

**********

 

As I mentioned, this was written as part of Jackfic-a-thon:

 

Assignment:

 

Time frame: Season seven or later

 

Pairings: None specified.

 

Story focuses on Jack and mini!Jack. It doesn't have to be comfortable, they don't have to be friends, but there must be some serious interaction. Maybe something happens in mini!Jack's life that makes him seek out his counterpart or vice verse. Could be mission related or personal, but the story should focus on how the two of them are dealing with things, how similar they are/different they've become, etc.

 

Notes: Bonus points if there's a shippy side story.

 

Author's Confession: I have heard authors speak of stories that got away from them and characters that took over.  I confess I never believed that, before now.  I'm not sure how well I executed this assignment, because it seems to me that Sam came out and took over at some point and I just couldn't control that woman!  Still, I did my best to get Jack and Young Jack in there and to let them express themselves. 

 

I will reveal that there is actually, hopping around in my head, another subplot to this plot bunny, with significant adventure, Jack/Young Jack interaction and Jack/Young Jack whumping.  But about one week into writing, real life decided to do some serious FoxPhile whumping, and I was forced to abandon that side issue (which was originally intended to be the main plot) in favor of getting something done.  But fear not, fellow Jackficcers, I do plan to write Identity Crises -- the Expanded Version.