Just a Small Experiment - Part Seventeen


It was amazing how fast everything fell into place for Daniel and Jonas. With only a little bit of digging, they found that all eight continental addresses were valid, then went to work on figuring out the most efficient travel plans to be able to cover them all in the shortest amount of time. Once that was done, Sam did as promised and arranged a private plane with a pilot, scheduling the trip to begin before dawn the next day.

Around ten o’clock the next morning, Jack sat in the almost-empty commissary slowly eating a large bowl of Fruit Loops. He’d helped Sam prepare the briefing room for their afternoon meeting with the F-302 pilots just after breakfast so she could take Danny to lunch and lay him down for his nap just beforehand instead of completely throwing their schedule off. Now he was just killing time.

“Did you not eat breakfast earlier, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked as he sat across from the miniaturized colonel with a tray full of fresh fruit.

“Yeah, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do with my time until the pilot briefing,” Jack admitted, not reacting to the Jaffa’s sudden appearance.

“Is there not paperwork to be done?” Teal’c asked, an eyebrow rising.

Jack shrugged. “Some. But nothing that can’t wait.”

Teal’c’s eyebrows furrowed at the slightly depressed tone of his friend’s voice, the golden symbol in the center of his forehead creasing. “Are you concerned that a solution will not be found for your condition?” he asked.

Jack looked at him, startled. “What makes you think that?” he asked defensively.

Teal’c merely stared at him, his expression impassive.

“Fine,” Jack muttered after a long moment, frowning. “But I’m not exactly worried about everyone finding a way to fix this. I know I’ve got the best people doing everything they can.”

“It is good you realize this,” the dark-skinned man said in a tone of approval, giving a single nod of his head. “But if that is not your concern, what is it that bothers you?”

Jack blew out a sharp breath. “Considering the discussion we had when Daniel showed up on our doorstep and the fact that we know the Asgard are involved in this, I’m sure the thought has occurred to everybody that there’s a possibility that…” He swallowed hard. “That I’m a clone,” he finished in a harsh whisper.

Teal’c nodded once again. “We discussed the possibility when Doctor Fraiser’s tests revealed your DNA matched Colonel O’Neill’s.”

“Yeah.” Jack sighed, his eyes dropping to the table for a moment. A moment later he took a deep breath and released it before bringing up his gaze. “I didn’t want to even consider the idea. I mean, I’m me. I feel like me. I don’t feel like a copy. But then, I wouldn’t, would I? And it’s kind of hard to ignore that I’m currently in a body that keeps developing new zits and doesn’t need to shave.

“Geez, Teal’c,” Jack continued, flopping back in his chair, “after I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror I almost freaked. When I caught my breath I knew I had to get to the mountain and focused on finding some clothes I wouldn’t automatically drown in, not that I was incredibly successful. I’m just lucky my feet are close enough to full size so I wasn’t stuck wearing clown shoes. It wasn’t until I got into my truck and started driving that I finally had a chance to really think about what was happening.”

The man-turned-teenager sighed again and closed his eyes for a moment. “I thought about how everyone was going to react when they saw me, what kind of things they might say happened to me, what kind of tests I was going to have to go through... And then I thought of the rogue faction of the NID and all the alien technology they proved they had access to at the lab where we found the little sport a couple of months ago. I thought of how worried we’ve been that Daniel is a clone. I just knew that the suggestion would have to be made that I was a clone, too.” He scowled. “I hate the whole concept, but I can’t deny it. And that makes me hate it more.”

Teal’c considered the brown-haired teenager. “What will you do if the suggestion proves correct?”

Jack’s lips pursed into a tighter scowl. “I’m kind of holding onto some hope that it’s not.”

“But if it is?”

A flash of fear lit up the darkened brown eyes in the childish face. “I don’t think it’ll matter,” he finally said in a low voice. “You’ll get the real Jack O’Neill back somehow, wherever he is, and I’ll just fade away into the sunset. I’ll figure out something to do with myself. Maybe the air force can set me up.”

“Is that what you desire?”

“Of course not!” Jack replied indignantly. “What I desire is that I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and that my team will come up with some way to re-age me to where I belong.”

“What do you desire to occur if it is discovered you are a clone?” Teal’c asked, not allowing the subject to be turned away from the possibility.

Jack didn’t answer right away, his eyes dropping to the colorful bowl of soggy cereal before him. “I don’t know,” he eventually whispered. “I still feel like me, like Jack O’Neill, so I want to stick close. But at the same time it would be so weird to be anywhere near the real Jack O’Neill, to constantly see the reminder of what I wasn’t really a part of anymore. And I know it would bug the heck out of him. Just think of the other times he’s had to deal with other hims. Harlan and the robots, the alternate universes…” He sighed. “It would be… awkward.”

“If you were given the choice, however…” Teal’c left the question hanging, wanting his friend to face everything about the situation he could find himself in at the end of this adventure.

“If I knew everything could be worked out, and everyone would actually accept me as my own person instead of a defective copy of the guy they really wanted around?” Jack expanded with a wry twist to his mouth. He gave a humorless chuckle. “That won’t happen, T, and you can’t tell me it will.”

Teal’c’s eyebrow rose. “Can I not? I believe I can assure you that my feelings of friendship would not change. Until the day before yesterday, your path and the original O’Neill’s were the same, and thus entwined with mine. It was on that path that I formed a deep bond of brotherhood with you, and I see no reason to sever it because of a technicality. Once we have discovered the cause of your current situation, we will know for certain the reality of what is to come. If it is true you are a clone, your future life will diverge from the path you remember, but it is not necessary for that divergence to be greater than you allow.”

Jack had brought his eyes back up at the immediate rebuttal, and he now gazed in awe at the large man seated across the table from him. “You can really get your mind around the fact that, if I’m a clone, I’ll be my own person, even though I share a whole lot of years of memories with another man, a man you consider a friend?” His tone was incredulous. Teal’c merely bowed his head in response. “I don’t get it. I can’t get my mind around that.”

“It is a simple concept, O’Neill. While your memories until the day before yesterday are the same, from that point forward they will be separate. Thus, you are two separate individuals. Yet, because you both share the memories that are the basis of our brotherhood, I choose to recognize that bond in both of you.”

“That’s a pretty simplistic view of the situation, T,” Jack said quietly, something in his eyes saying he was trying to find something in it to hold onto.

“The view only becomes complicated if you choose for it to become so,” Teal’c replied.

Jack stared at the Jaffa for a long, silent moment, his eyes narrowing slightly as he tried to fit the new point of view into his own perspective. “You know,” he said finally, “I never thought I was one to overcomplicate things.”

Teal’c’s expression lightened somewhat. “It is difficult to see clearly what has become second nature,” he commented. “However, this discussion may have been unnecessary. It may be that your body has been transformed to that of a younger age. If it cannot be reversed, perhaps you should enjoy the increased health and vitality your situation provides.”

“Hey! My vitality was just fine, thank you!” Jack sputtered, surprised at the turn of the conversation. He was about to continue ranting in the same vein when he saw the corners of Teal’c’s mouth twitch slightly upward, and he knew the comment had been made to provoke just that kind of reaction. “Very cute, Teal’c. I guess I should just be happy that Carter and Daniel weren’t here to add to that.” He shook his head, chuckling, as he checked his watch. “I suppose I should double check the briefing room, make sure everything’s still in place, maybe bring down the blast shield so we don’t have to worry about the distraction of the view when the pilots arrive.” He picked up his bowl and spoon to dispose of the now-inedible snack, then looked at his friend. “Thanks, Teal’c. I needed to hear what you had to say. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“I could do no less for my brother. If you wish to speak further, do not hesitate to contact me.”

“You got it, T.” Jack gave his brother-in-arms one last smile then left the commissary as Teal’c finally tucked into his mound of fruit.

* * * * * * * *

Sam sighed as she made her way down to the briefing room, having just laid Danny down for his nap an hour earlier than normal. She’d told him about the change in schedule the day before once she’d worked everything out with the colonel, so Danny had been prepared, but she was beginning to realize the move had been unnecessary. Since Teal’c had stayed on base while Daniel and Jonas were off re-interviewing the alien abduction victims, he most likely would have been glad to take care of the boy while she was involved with the briefing, laying him down for his nap at the usual time. But she found she hadn’t wanted to give up the little ritual, especially after having to do just that the day before.

With a shake of her head, she let it go, realizing it was just the mother in her asserting itself and finding she liked the sensation. She’d just call Teal’c once she got to her destination and see if he could check in on Danny later if the briefing hadn’t ended by the time the child was supposed to wake up. It would be best if he didn’t wake up alone if he didn’t have to.

Teal’c was happy to oblige when Sam reached him, then she chose to ignore the smirk her miniaturized team leader gave her regarding the phone conversation. “Is everything still ready, sir?” she asked him, eyebrows raised. If he decided to throw a sarcastic remark at her…

“As ready as it’s going to be,” Jack replied, his smirk getting a touch wider at the defensiveness he could see in the blue-grey eyes. He actually thought it was cute the way she was looking out for the kid, but wasn’t about to tell her that. “I figured I’d just sit on a chair in the corner behind the podium while you start it all off, let you warm them up. I can use the time to go over my notes.”

“That should work out just fine, sir,” Sam said, fighting back the urge to comment about his notes. The stapled papers in his hand spoke to the reality of them, but she knew he was just going to end up winging it. It was how he handled his speeches to the SGC’s new recruits after all.

“Don’t be surprised if they get a little huffy with you,” Jack warned her. “These pilots were expecting me to be giving this little lecture, alone. Some of them might get their panties in a bunch at the unannounced change in plans.”

Sam gave him a smile. “I think I can handle myself.”

Jack nodded. “Oh, I know you can. But I’ll still be here to back you up, just in case.” His mouth turned up in a wicked smile. “And I will more than enjoy putting them back in their place. I could use a little tension release about now.”

Sam’s eyes widened a bit at the comment just as a knock came at the door. “The F-302 pilots are here, ma’am,” the SF on duty in the hall announced, poking his head inside.

“Let them in, Airman,” she told him, grabbing the remote control to the projector off one of the chairs in the front row and stepping behind the podium at the end of the room closest to the general’s office. It stood just to the side of the lowered screen that hid the window of that office, mostly shielding the chair Jack quickly made his way to. “Come in,” she said to the pilots that began to stream into the room. “Please, find a seat, and we can begin.”

“Um, excuse me, ma’am,” one of the newcomers said as Sam pressed a button to lower the lights and another to call up the slide of the schematics at the vehicle that would be discussed.

“Yes, Captain?” Sam replied, taking note of the bars on his jumpsuit.

“Are you running this briefing?” He wore a skeptical expression.

Sam smiled at him even as the others opened the folders that had been left on each of the chairs and began to review the information there. “Yes, after I give you a moment to look over the intel in those folders. Why don’t you go ahead and do that, and we can get started?”

The captain frowned slightly, but did as requested.

About five minutes later, Sam cleared her throat to announce her intention to begin. The pilots had been given identical packets to review over the past couple of days, but she had wanted it all fresh in their minds when she went into detail. “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Major Samantha Carter, and I’ll be introducing you to your latest mission. Now, as your intel packages show, the F-302 is a space-worthy, fighter-interceptor aircraft reverse-engineered from goa’uld technology. Your upcoming mission has been dubbed Operation Blue Phoenix. It’ll be a live fire combat simulation to test how well the 302 fares against actual death gliders.” The captain that had questioned her before raised his hand. “Yes, Captain?”

“Major, according to our mission reports, you were second seat during the first attempt to open a hyperspace window.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Sam replied, wondering just where he was going with this.

“Didn’t Colonel O’Neill pilot that mission?”

Sam’s brows furrowed. “Yes, as a matter of fact, he did,” she said as calmly as possible.

Another one of the pilots spoke up, this one a major. “The colonel also commanded the X-302 during the following hyperspace window mission, didn’t he, Major?”

Sam frowned. “What is your point, Major?”

“With all due respect, ma’am, shouldn’t Colonel O’Neill be running this briefing?” the captain asked.

“Like we were told he would be?” the major added.

Here it was, the attitude the colonel had warned her about. She refused to look at the teenager sitting just behind her; she’d told him she could handle this herself. “Well, I’m here now, and I’ve prepared several computer models which should help you understand how the 302 handles in combat situations.”

“Major, no offense, but those aren’t going to help me when I’m pulling 6 g’s in a dogfight against an alien ship,” the captain interrupted. There were murmurs of agreement from some of the others.

Sam quietly blew out a quick breath, not wanting to show just how much she was getting upset. Why couldn’t they just accept that she had more experience with this aircraft? Was it a testosterone thing? “As you should know, Captain,” she replied coolly, “the 302 has inertial dampening systems, which I am more than qualified to explain in detail. So let’s just begin, shall we?” She let her icy gaze travel around the room. “Unless there are any other objections?”

The major who spoke earlier raised his hand. “I’m sorry, Major, but you have to understand how hard it is to hear the details of flying one of these things from someone without any real practical flying experience.”

Sam’s eyes grew wide and her jaw clenched. But just before she could lash out with a detailed list of her practical flying experience, a major sitting in the second row leaned forward and smacked the back of the head of the one that had just spoken. “Just shut up, Barnett,” he said. “Didn’t you read anything about the members of SG-1? Major Carter is more than qualified to give this briefing, so back off and leave her alone.”

“Thank you, Major,” Sam said, trying to cover her surprise at the unexpected defense. She could hear Jack resettle himself into his chair; he must have gotten up to do a little defending of his own. The blonde woman cleared her throat. “Okay then. Let’s go over the schematics, and I’ll describe just what the 302 is capable of. Then we can go over the computer simulations I told you about.” She glanced over her shoulder then began her lecture with no further interruptions.

Once she’d finished the last simulation, she looked over the small squadron of pilots. Some were still not happy with her, looking a little frustrated that she hadn’t been able to give them any first-hand knowledge of the feel of the 302. She couldn’t blame them, really; that’s what she would have wanted in their place. Then again, that’s what Colonel O’Neill was for, what he was going to cover in the second half of the briefing, along with more details about death gliders and their pilots. She just had to give him the right introduction so they wouldn’t have to go over all the hassles again.

Sam smiled as she closed her folder and rested the remote control on the top of the podium. “That concludes my part of the briefing. Now, before we move on, there’s something I need to explain to you. The reason I was included in this meeting was that an unexpected…” she searched her mind for the right word, briefly wishing Daniel was there to help, “accident happened to Colonel O’Neill.”

“Is he all right?” the major that had defended her asked quickly, a look of true concern on his face.

“He’s fine,” Sam assured him. “In fact, he’ll be presenting the second half of your briefing. However, I wanted to prepare you before introducing him. Apparently this unexplained event has left him in the body of a teenager.”

“A teenager?” one of the two female pilots parroted in surprise. “Are you serious?”

Sam had to fight back a laugh, remembering her own shock and awe when she was presented with the same scenario the day before. “Oh, I’m definitely serious. One thing you’ll all have to get used to while working with the Stargate Program is that the odd, unusual, and impossible happen on a relatively regular basis. This is just one of those times.”

The man sitting to the left of the cooperative major raised his hand. “I promise I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but really? A teenager?”

“A teenager, really,” Sam replied. “Look, I understand. This is hard to get your head around. We’re still getting used to it ourselves. And if you think we’re having a tough time…”

“You should try it from my end,” Jack said, stepping forward at last to join Sam in front of the podium.

The pilots’ eyes all widened, and they started to look back and forth between the two people standing in front of the room as though for confirmation. Sam smiled and nodded. After a long moment, there was a room-wide straightening of posture and clearing of throats as the pilots sensed the age and experience in the young man who calmly stared at them. Jack let himself grin at the reaction before moving forward to take note of the name patches of the two men that had given Sam such a hard time.

“Barnett and Henning,” Jack said, mentally filing the information away. “I’ll have to take you to task for your little display of disrespect earlier at a later date; we have a briefing to finish.” He gave them one last glare then stepped over to the podium, taking up the remote control. “Now then,” he said to the room at large, “it’s time for a little Death Gliders 101.”

* * * * * * * *

When Jack was finished with his half of the briefing, he dismissed the pilots, but called back the major who had spoken up in Sam’s defense. “I just wanted to say thanks for stepping up for Major Carter,” the teenager told him. “She’s good at defending herself, but she shouldn’t have had to when she was the one in charge.”

The major shrugged. “I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t leave it alone, sir. Besides, that’s not how I was raised to treat a lady.” He smiled.

“What’s your name? Um…” Sam trailed off as she began to read his nametag.

“Cameron Mitchell, Ma’am,” the major responded. “Major Cameron Mitchell.”

Sam offered her hand to shake, and it was heartily accepted. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Major Mitchell. I’m sure you’re going to make a fine 302 pilot.”

Jack smiled at him. “You sure know how to roll with the punches enough to fit in around here, that much is obvious.”

“Thank you, sir, ma’am. I do my best.” Mitchell’s smile faded, then he cleared his throat. “Um, Colonel? What exactly are you planning to do to Barnett and Henning?”

“What makes you think I’m planning on doing anything?” Jack asked innocently.

“Well, you said…” Mitchell stopped and narrowed his eyes. “You’re not going to do anything, are you, sir? You’re just going to let them think you are.”

Jack looked at Sam with an amused expression. “The kid’s got brains, Carter. Got to give him that.”

Sam grinned. “Very true, sir.”

Jack looked back at Mitchell. “Go ahead and catch up to the others, Major. And if you could keep your… guesses… to yourself…”

“Consider it done, sir. It’s good to see those two taken down a peg or two.”

“Oh, and Mitchell,” Jack said as the young pilot reached the door. “Don’t think I won’t be keeping an eye out for those two. I find out they put one toe out of line…”

Mitchell nodded. “Understood, sir. Have a great day, and I hope they figure out something for you soon.” He gave a short salute and left.

After the door had shut behind the pilot, Jack turned to face Sam. “I think I like him. He gets it.”

Sam smiled. “Yes. Yes, he does.”

* * * * * * * *

Jack went to his office once the meeting with the pilots had ended, Sam going to her VIP room, but had only sorted through a third of the paperwork in his inbox before wanderlust kicked in again. He decided to head to the infirmary and Janet’s office to see if she and the genetic experts that had been called in had any answers on how to fix his situation. It wasn’t likely, but patience had never been Jack O’Neill’s strong suit in situations like this.

As he walked down the hall from the elevator toward his destination, his eyes widened slightly upon recognizing Sabrina Marconi heading toward him. “Hey, Doc,” he greeted the black-haired woman once she was close enough. “What are you doing here? Wasn’t your session with the squirt yesterday?”

Sabrina stopped in her tracks and blinked at him for a moment before realization dawned. “Jack!” she blurted, then blushed. “Sorry,” she murmured in response to Jack’s wry smirk. “Sam told me about what happened, but I wasn’t expecting to run into you.” She took a deep breath and smiled. “I came to check on how things were doing, actually,” she said, answering the young man’s first question. “Maybe find out if there was anything I could do to help.” She shrugged.

“I take it Fraiser wasn’t available,” Jack said.

“No, she’s still conferencing with the genetic team.”

Jack sighed. There went that idea. “I hate waiting,” he muttered.

Sabrina chuckled. “Why am I not surprised?”

Jack scowled at her. “Oh, and I suppose you’re better about it? You’re not even stationed at the SGC, and yet, here you are.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed to like waiting, especially when it involves a solution for a problem one of my friends is having,” Sabrina retorted, not losing her smile.

“You’ve got an answer for everything, don’t you?” Jack grumbled. He turned around and gestured for her to follow. “I’m suddenly in the mood for pie. You might as well join me for a snack of your own.”

“Cool. I can do that,” Sabrina replied as she hurried forward to walk side-by-side with him.

They settled themselves at a table in one of the far corners of the commissary, Jack with a slice of apple pie and Sabrina with a bowl of butterscotch pudding. The teenager smiled blissfully after a large bite then leaned back in his chair. “Charlene did the baking today,” he said once he swallowed.

The Italian woman smiled and shook her head in amusement. “So when are you expecting Daniel and Jonas to get back?”

“Late tomorrow if everything goes according to schedule. They’re definitely not doing any sight seeing on this tour.”

“Understandable,” Sabrina said as she nodded. “Have you heard anything from the Asgard or the Tok’ra?”

“Not as far as I’ve been told.” Jack sighed and scowled. “And to be perfectly honest, it’s getting kind of annoying.”

Sabrina silently chuckled and shook her head. “I can understand that, too.” She sighed and gazed at him speculatively. “So how are you doing with all this?”

Jack returned the look with one of slight suspicion. “Are you trying to dig in my head, Doctor Marconi?” he asked, his light tone masking the seriousness of the question.

“A little, yes,” Sabrina answered honestly. “It’s not what I came to the mountain for, but I’ll admit to being willing to take advantage of my current situation.”

“And you really think I’m going to let you dig?” Both of Jack’s eyebrows rose as he asked the question.

Sabrina sat back and looked at the teenager with the familiar eyes. “I don’t know what I think,” she mused, watching him carefully. “I know I’d like you to talk to me. I’d like to know I could help you if you needed it.” She paused and leaned forward again. “But more importantly, I want you to be comfortable around me. If that means you don’t share, that’s fine. And to be honest, I’m not asking as a psychologist so much as a friend who cares.”

Jack’s expression softened to something more neutral, and then to something slightly apologetic. “Well, you understand why I’d…” he waved his hand around in a tight circle, “say what I said.”

The black-haired woman gave him a sad smile. “Yeah, I do. It happens to me a lot. Call it a curse of the profession: one mention that I’m a psychologist, and everyone thinks that I’m asking questions to dig up all their secrets.” Her gaze dropped to the table. “Makes it hard to have a comfortable conversation at parties.”

Jack stared at her for a long moment, a moment he could see she was using to get her emotions under control. He was used to seeing the psychiatric profession in a negative light, people to normally be avoided at all costs unless it was absolutely necessary. It didn’t help when there were quacks like Mackenzie running around. But he’d never even considered things from their point of view. Then again, he hadn’t met a psychologist or psychiatrist like Sabrina. She still dug, but maybe - just maybe - it wasn’t always to find something wrong…

“I’m sorry,” Sabrina said softly once she’d successfully pushed her hurt feelings to the back of her mind and brought her head back up. “It’s not like I don’t ask questions that give the wrong impression. But you don’t have to worry about anything. You seem like you’re handling things just fine.”

“I talked to Teal’c earlier,” Jack said abruptly, deciding she deserved to have at least a bone or two thrown her way. “He helped me work through a few things that have been bugging me, gave me a few things to think about. It hasn’t been easy.”

Sabrina blinked in surprise, then took a deep breath before replying. “I bet it hasn’t. I do hope no one’s told you to look on the bright side, that there are days we all wish we could go back to being kids with what we know now. As much as people say they’d want it, the reality would be much harder to deal with, I’d think. I mean, there are limitations, restrictions. Take going to a liquor store and trying to buy alcohol for example. You know you can handle it, but anybody looking at you sees a teenager. They aren’t going to sell you what you want. Any ID you tried to show them would be assumed to be fake.” She shrugged. “And that’s just the start.”

Jack frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that. Damn. There goes restocking the fridge.”

Sabrina laughed. “It might not be good for you to have alcohol right now anyway. Whatever Asgard technology left you like this might have messed with your chemistry enough that a depressant could be harmful, or might interfere with an attempt to correct your age regression.”

“Okay, I’m sold. No beer,” Jack said quickly, looking horrified. “I’m not doing anything that could stop me from getting my adult body back.” He shuddered, then paused. “Do you think it would matter if it turns out I’m a clone?” he asked quietly.

“So you’ve considered that,” the psychologist said, surprised. She shook it off quickly. “Well, I can’t be sure. I’ve had some medical training - it helps to have someone in the field who has some - but I don’t know enough to give you a real answer. I’d wait until you know for sure about your status before worrying too much about it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured you’d say. Oh, well. I guess it can wait.”

Sabrina shrugged. “I doubt you’ll have too many chances to get out of the mountain before this is all resolved anyway.”

Jack sighed. “Yeah.”

The black-haired woman bit her lower lip then spoke again. “Is one of the things Teal’c spoke to you about needing to deal with the fact that you could be a clone?” she asked a bit tentatively.

“He made me start to put things in perspective just in case that ends up coming true,” Jack replied after a moment. “I’ve been thinking about it.”

“I’m glad I can keep my nose out of this, then,” Sabrina said with a soft smile.

“You’re going to trust me on this one?” the shrunken colonel asked, eyebrows raised.

Sabrina shrugged. “You’re talking about it, thinking about it. There’s nothing more to be done until we know exactly what’s going on. While I have to admit I like to be the one to do the helping - and I was hoping to be the one to do the helping here - the most important thing is that you’re doing all right with everything. And from what I can tell, you are.”

Jack gave her a knowing smile. “That was hard to admit, wasn’t it?”

“A little,” she said with a sigh. “I try to be the one in control as much as I can. I have for a long time now. What’s hard to remember for me is that as involved as I feel around here, I’m still only on the edges of things. So if I ever go too far…”

“You’re doing it because you care,” Jack finished for her. “I’m glad you’ve been able to be there for Carter and the kid; they’ve needed you. And the fact that you’ve helped out Jonas and Fraiser and some other people around here means a lot, too.”

“You didn’t trust me when I first got here,” Sabrina said matter-of-factly.

Jack shook his head. “Nope, can’t say I did. You were an outsider and a shrink, both facts setting off a lot of my inner alarms. But you’ve been proving yourself. And I have to admit, having spent some casual time with you, that you have a weird sense of humor that I like.” He smirked. “You’re okay.”

Sabrina couldn’t help but laugh. “I guess I’m glad I pass muster.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “And I like you, too,” she whispered. Then she winked and stood. “I’m going to go check in on Sam and Danny, see how they’re doing. I’ll leave you to the rest of your pie.” She gestured to the half-eaten dessert and left to put her tray away and head out.

Jack just chuckled and shook his head. Yeah, he’d been right. She fit in just fine.

* * * * * * * *

Jack had still been in the commissary complimenting Charlotte on another round of delicious baking when Sam, Teal’c, Danny, and Sabrina came in for supper. Once he’d joined them at their insistence, the five of them enjoyed a pleasant meal, laughing and talking like normal. In the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but hope this meant he was the real deal and not a clone.

The only thing off about the situation was that the little squirt kept stealing looks at him. Since he hadn’t withdrawn at the teenager’s inclusion, Jack presumed he’d been told about what was going on. It seemed the kid was extremely curious about it, not surprising considering the source of his DNA.

“What do you want to know, sport?” Jack finally asked him, giving him a gentle smile to let him know there wasn’t anything wrong with the desire. Hell, if this had been happening to someone else, Jack would be just as curious.

The table went quiet at the question, and Danny stared at Jack with wide, furiously blinking eyes. Eventually the boy glanced at Sam, who smiled. “You can ask if you have questions,” the major said. “The colonel meant it when he said it was okay.”

Danny swallowed as he returned his gaze to the young man sitting across from him. “How does it feel to be littler?” he asked in a whisper.

Jack considered it. “Weird,” he answered. “It’s not as easy to reach things as it was before. And I can’t wear the clothes in my closet.”

“People look at you funny,” Danny commented, his volume a little louder as he got more comfortable with the conversation.

“Yeah,” Jack confirmed with a twist of his mouth. “I noticed that.”

“You don’t like it,” the blond boy said more than asked. There was sympathy in his eyes.

Jack gave him a small smile. “No, I can’t say that I do.”

Danny frowned. “They shouldn’t look at you like that then.”

“I don’t think they can help it,” Jack told him, fighting back the urge to laugh at the childish indignation in the statement.

“That doesn’t make it right,” Danny insisted. “If you don’t like it, they shouldn’t do it. You didn’t want to be this way. If you’re a clone, you didn’t want to be a clone. People shouldn’t make you feel bad.”

Jack’s smile faded completely away at the passionate statement of belief, his eyes widening slightly. He swallowed hard to force down a sudden lump. “Thanks, kiddo,” he said with a scratchy voice. He cleared his throat. “That means a lot.”

Danny smiled shyly. “You’re welcome,” he replied softly. Then his brows creased together slightly. “Um, if you’re a clone, will you still be part of SG-1?” he asked.

Jack shot quick looks around the table to cut off anyone else’s response, and if he was honest with himself, to gauge what those responses might have been. “No matter what, I’ll do what I can to help SG-1,” he reassured the boy.

“I’m glad,” Danny said, a touch of relief in his tone as his smile returned. “Then there’ll be two Jacks.” Pleased and satisfied, he went back to his meal.

Jack stared at the boy as the others at the table shared a surprised look. The kid really believed that, that having two Jacks around would be a good thing. After everything one Jack had put him through… Then, finally, the teenager started to smile. Something about that simple belief gave him a warm feeling deep down inside, and he knew that he wouldn’t let it go.

Couldn’t let the kid down now, could he? Back to Gen Fiction          Back to Part Sixteen          Go to Part Eighteen

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