Just a Small Experiment - Part Twenty


Things on Thor’s ship went smoothly, the clone’s DNA being fixed and Daniel’s status as the original being confirmed. Once the procedures were finished and the Asgard had been brought up to date as requested, Thor asked if it would be possible to take a sample of Doctor MacDonald’s serum with him for further study, especially after seeing the effect of the modified version in the teenage Jack O’Neill. Janet agreed. But when Thor learned there was a limited quantity, he synthesized more, doubling what Janet had originally and satisfying his own and Jacob’s needs, the blended human requesting a sample for the Tok’ra when he and the base CMO were contacted.

There was a briefing the next morning, and afterward Jack spoke with Hammond about having Daniel officially reinstated to SG-1. The general agreed. The only thing that wasn’t resolved at that point was what to do with the teenage clone. The young man wasn’t sure where he wanted to go, and no one else wanted to force him into anything.

The clone shut himself away in his on-base quarters on Saturday while Sam and Danny took advantage of the day off to spend their time together with Jacob, who would be returning to the Tok’ra the following day, at home. Jack also was grateful for the time away, deciding to clean and retreat his cedar wood deck. Teal’c spent his time as he usually did, working out and holding various classes for SGC personnel. Jonas and Daniel worked together in what was now their joint office, translating some of the backlog of documents that had built up slowly but surely over the past year.

As time went on through the day, Jonas kept sneaking looks at the brown-haired archaeologist, knowing the time had come to speak with him as he’d promised Sabrina but still gathering the courage to do so. Finally, when they’d finished a more recent translation from a world the SGC was still in negotiations with, Jonas was startled by a direct stare when he glanced over at his companion out of the corner of his eye.

“What’s on your mind, Jonas?” Daniel asked patiently. “You’ve been looking at me sideways all day, and I really don’t think your attention has been fully on our work. Is something bothering you?”

“You… could say that,” Jonas admitted with a defeated sigh. He’d been hoping to be able to say he’d started this conversation on his own.

“Does this have to do with the way you’ve been depressed, especially around me, ever since I got here with Shamda and the rest of the refugees?” Daniel asked softly.

Jonas stared at him. The man was amazingly observant. But then, the Kelownan knew that already. “I had just started to find my feet here when you came back,” he whispered, meeting the gentle gaze from the archaeologist. “It finally felt like the shadow you cast over me was lightening a little, or maybe that I was starting to step out from it. Then Sam and Janet found you in the infirmary, and that shadow felt as dark as it had ever been all over again.” He gave a short, rueful chuckle. “You have no idea how large your shoes are to fill, Daniel Jackson.”

Daniel’s lips twisted wryly. “Oh, I doubt they’re as large as you made yourself think, Jonas,” he said in a tone that matched his expression. “Not that you should have been forced to do that in the first place.”

Jonas shook his head. “No one forced anything on me, actually. I wanted to be here, to help, to… to do something for my people, who will not see a bigger picture, and for the people who made me see it. And most importantly, I wanted to do right by the man whose sacrifice saved a world full of people he didn’t know and then was vilified for it. Who sacrificed himself when it should have been me…” He sighed again and let his eyes close. That was still a very painful memory to relive.

“It shouldn’t have been anybody,” Daniel said firmly.

“But it was,” Jonas refuted. “With the experiments that the scientists were doing, an accident like the one that happened probably couldn’t have been avoided. That’s not the issue here. Those scientists were my colleagues, my countrymen… some of them were even my friends. That’s not to mention everyone else. And I’m the one who failed to act, who froze when something needed to be done.”

Daniel narrowed his eyes slightly when Jonas paused to take a few deep breaths with his eyes closed. “Remind me again,” he said after a moment, “what was your position when we met?”

Jonas’ eyes popped open with a look of confusion. “Special Advisor to the High Minister,” he replied automatically.

“How long had you held that position? How long had you been assigned to the naquadria project?”

“Six years. Doctor Kieran recruited me almost directly out of university. It was a couple of years later that I moved up the ranks to the actual position of Special Advisor, though.”

“So, a man of academia, one focused on science and politics. Not the military and tactics.”

Now Jonas could see where Daniel was taking this. “That’s really no excuse…”

Daniel raised a hand to cut him off. “Before you met the members of SG-1, had you ever had your life threatened? Directly, I mean. Like in an accident or illness of some kind, or a mugging or robbery. Maybe even someone at school who didn’t like that you were so much smarter than they were so they beat you up and you thought they’d never stop.” The man’s blue eyes bore into the blue-green ones before them.

“N-n-no,” Jonas stammered, his brows coming together. For some reason he couldn’t tear his gaze away. “My… my life wasn’t perfect, of course, but in general I was liked by my fellow students. And I guess I was lucky enough to avoid getting seriously hurt in other ways.”

Daniel smiled slightly. “While that certainly explains a lot of your optimism, it also explains a few other things. Like freezing when faced with your imminent death. And backing away from the source of that imminent death.”

Jonas frowned. “But still…”

“I know you read all of SG-1’s mission reports. So you already know that I had actually died a number of times before I ever got to Kelowna. Facing it again was…” Daniel let out a short, wry chuckle, “old hat, I guess you could say. I normally wouldn’t, by the way, but this is a special occasion.”

“So what does that…” Jonas’ words trailed off as his confusion returned.

“You’ve been with SG-1 for approximately a year now, Jonas,” Daniel replied. “You know the kind of things this team does on a regular basis, what kind of threats it deals with. You know the kind of reflexes that kind of career choice produces first hand. And you also know how people react to threatening situations who have never experienced the kind of things we have. Do you blame them for that reaction?”

“No, of course not,” Jonas immediately answered. “But…”

Daniel shook his head. “What ‘but’ could there be here? If you don’t blame other people in the situation you were in, you can’t blame yourself.”

Jonas sighed. “But if you hadn’t been there…”

“Don’t do that to yourself, Jonas,” Daniel interrupted firmly. “We can always say that about something; what-ifs can drive you insane if that’s what you focus on. What if you and I had gone to the temple instead of the observation room so you could show me everything first hand? What if we’d stopped walking while we had our discussion about the translations of the temple and the merits of the naquadria bomb your people were trying to build? What if you’d been called away and it was Tomis Leed showing me around?” The archaeologist paused and blew out a gust of air. “Do you see what I mean? There are an infinite number of possibilities; that’s where quantum theory says alternate realities come from.” He shrugged. “Well, at least according to Sam. The point is, things happened the way they happened. I don’t blame you - I never blamed you - and you shouldn’t blame yourself. I really wish you wouldn’t.”

The two men continued to stare at each other for a long, silent moment, and then Jonas let his eyelids drop as he took in a deep, shuddering breath. It was amazing how much weight had suddenly lifted from the Kelownan’s shoulders once Daniel said those last two sentences. Sabrina had been right. Daniel had been the key. Now that the archaeologist had said he didn’t believe Jonas was to blame for what had happened on that horrible day almost a year and a half ago, the Kelownan finally thought he could start to heal - and maybe, just maybe, start to forgive himself.

Jonas finally opened his eyes once again. “Thank you,” he said softly.

Daniel smiled. “For what? Telling you the truth? Nothing to thank me for.” His expression softened. “But you’re welcome anyway.” He glanced at the paperwork covering the main table in the office. “Why don’t we take a break from all this and get something to eat? I’m sure the translations can wait that much longer.”

“That sounds good,” Jonas said, recovering his equilibrium. “That sounds really good.”

The two men then left for the commissary, their steps - and at least one of their souls - lighter on the journey.

* * * * * * * *

It was a couple of hours after Jacob had left through the stargate the next day when Janet, Danny, and the members of SG-1 received a request to get together in Sam’s lab by Jack’s teenage clone. Not long after that, everyone but Jack had gathered there, the Air Force colonel sending a message that he was still involved in catching up with the paperwork that had been done during the week he’d been gone. Danny was the only one who didn’t realize it was just an excuse for the older man to avoid the situation.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve asked you here,” the young clone began once everyone was settled, a half-smirk on his face.

“Would it have something to do with your day of thought yesterday?” Daniel retorted, amusement twinkling in his eyes.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” Jack said haughtily. “I tried to think things through and figure out where I wanted to go next. But I’m guessing you all knew that already.”

Sam smiled at him. “Well, we suspected,” she said gently.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow. “Have you come to a decision then, young O’Neill?” the Jaffa asked.

“Well, I’d say it’s more like I narrowed down my choices,” Jack refuted. “I made a promise a few days back, if you’ll recall, and there’s only so many ways I can fulfill it.”

“Promise?” Jonas asked.

The teenager met Danny’s startled gaze. “I told a certain special someone that I would do what I could to help SG-1 no matter what. I plan on keeping my word.” He gave the younger boy a smile and a wink, then returned his attention to the others. “And like I said, there’s only so many ways I can do that.”

Daniel leaned forward. “So what are you trying to decide between?”

Jack shrugged. “The best way to do what I can is to be a part of the program. And the only way to be a part of the program is to either be a part of the military - I’m thinking Air Force - or, well…” He let his words trail off.

“Um, I’m not sure the military would work out for you,” Sam said slowly and thoughtfully.

“Sam’s right,” Janet agreed in response to the confused expression that appeared on Jack’s face. “DNA profiles as well as fingerprints are standard components of a person’s military record nowadays, and yours are identical to the colonel’s. There would be a lot of strings to pull to slip you through without that being noticed by someone without clearance.”

“And it’s not likely anyone wants to go to that kind of trouble for me,” Jack concluded with a sigh. “Yeah, I can see that. So that just leaves one way to get in the door.” His expression became one of mild distaste.

Daniel began to smile. “Civilian scientist,” he said, amusement in his tone. “And we all know how you feel about them.”

Jack met the archaeologist’s gaze and let the distaste fade from his features. “No, that’s how he feels about them,” he refuted, pointing down at the floor. “When I was doing my thinking and came up with this alternative, I realized I needed a bit of an attitude adjustment. I’m not exactly over it yet,” he added when he saw the skeptical looks on the adults’ faces, “but I’m working on it. Look, this is my chance to really make myself into a true individual, to be different. And if I’m going to get back into the program, it looks like that’s the way to do it. I’m just not looking forward to all the classes I’m going to have to take. I don’t even know which classes I’m going to have to take.”

“So you haven’t decided what you want to study?” Jonas asked.

“Not even close.” Jack rolled his eyes. “I guess I’m going to have to take some classes to figure out what classes I’m going to have to take.” He stopped and considered what he’d just said, then nodded when he figured it made enough sense.

“You’re not actually going to take college courses, are you?” Daniel asked, suddenly tense.

Everyone looked at him. “I think the Air Force can arrange for a simple college admission,” Sam said.

Jack waved her off. “I was thinking more along the lines of high school, as weird as that’s going to be. Dip my toes in the water, so to speak.” His eyes narrowed. “Is there a particular reason for the protest?”

Daniel straightened to his full height and sighed, letting his muscles relax. “You don’t want to be a fifteen-year-old college freshman, trust me.”

“Gotcha,” Jack replied with a smile, while realization dawned for the other adults.

“High school, huh?” Janet said in a tone that was a deliberate attempt to steer the subject away from college. “Has Cassie taught you nothing?”

“Why do you think I’m nervous?” Jack retorted.

Sam tapped the table in front of her as she frowned in thought. “It’s been a while since you remember attending high school,” she began. “Maybe it would be best if we got a hold of the appropriate curriculum and did a little tutoring before you register for classes. That way you can be up-to-date knowledge-wise.”

Daniel nodded. “And it should be easy enough for us to help you with that.”

Jack smirked. “I don’t know. I think you guys will be dumbing yourselves down. I don’t want to slow you up too much.”

“I think we’ll be just fine,” Sam said, returning the smile.

“I’ll take care of getting the information,” Janet said. “I’ll give Cassie’s school a call tomorrow morning and have them email it to me.” She eyed up Jack speculatively. “I’m sure I’ll have it by early afternoon.”

“Thanks, you guys,” Jack said softly after a slight pause. He took a deep breath and released it. “Well, I guess that means there’s nothing to do until tomorrow then.” He looked around almost nervously. “I’m, um, going to go back to my quarters. One of you guys can let the good colonel know it’s safe to come out now. I’ll talk to you later.” And before anyone could say anything, the young man was gone.

Daniel looked at the others. “I guess that means the meeting is over,” he quipped. Everyone else simply nodded.

* * * * * * * *

Janet sat in her office the next day, staring at her computer screen and one email in particular. She’d gotten an idea while they’d all been talking with the teenage clone of Jack O’Neill, and had spoken with Cassie about it over dinner. The teenage girl had enthusiastically agreed, and had even offered to do some talking of her own if there was any resistance. Janet had laughed and said she’d use that threat as her ace in the hole.

For now, the petite physician had all the information she needed to get the ball rolling on everything. However, there was one person that could make things extremely difficult, and she knew she had to cut that possibility off at the pass. With a nod, she shut down her email program, double checked that everything was running smoothly in the infirmary, then headed out on her appointed round.

It wasn’t long before she stood in front of her destination. A quick knock and command to enter, and she once again had entered Jack O’Neill’s office ready to do some butt kicking if it was called for. She’d give him a chance to play nice first, though. “Hello, Colonel,” she said pleasantly as she closed the door behind herself.

“Hey, Doc,” Jack replied warily, looking up from a report that he’d been reading. “What brings you here?”

“I’m here to remind you that no matter what’s happened lately, you’re still unique, and no one can - or is trying to - take your place.”

Jack stared at the auburn-haired woman, blinking at her nearly serene expression as he took in what she’d said. “What the hell are you talking about?” he asked finally.

Janet’s expression turned skeptical. “Oh, I think you know.”

“No, really. You lost me.”

“There’s a clone of you living here at the base for the time being, and you claim not to know what I’m talking about?” Janet asked incredulously.

“Oh. That.” Jack unconsciously stiffened as he deliberately turned his attention back to the report he still held. “I don’t see what the problem is.”

Janet clenched her jaw and mentally counted to ten before continuing. “I’m not saying you have to accept him with open arms, but there’s no reason to let yourself be threatened by him.”

Jack sighed and put down the folder. Knowing he wasn’t getting out of this one, he met Janet’s gaze. “The whole ‘other me’ thing weirds me out, Doc, you know that. I don’t know how Daniel deals with it.”

“I’m guessing he understands that he and Danny are two different people, even if they share the same DNA,” Janet said simply.

“Well, they are two different people,” Jack agreed. “Now my clone, on the other hand, shares almost all my memories with me.”

Janet paused, then nodded. “Ah, yes. That does make a difference.” She took a breath and released it before continuing. “But you should know that he’s doing his best to establish himself as different from you, as his own person. Can you imagine what this is like from his perspective? As soon as we figured out he was a clone, he had to start coming to terms with the fact that he’s a copy. I’m still not sure how he’s managed to stay as positive as he has.”

Jack’s gaze fell to his desk, suddenly remembering the last moments of his android copy on the planet Juna. “If he’s managed to pull that off with the memories he’s got, I don’t know how, either,” he murmured.

Janet just nodded, then took a deep breath and released it. “He’s trying to figure out what to do with his future; he talked about going to school so he can join the Stargate Program. And I think he’s talking to us about his plans because he wants to gage whether or not we’ll accept them - and more importantly, him. Are you going to give him a hard time if he decides to go to school around here?”

“You mean he wants to stick around here?” Jack blurted out, totally surprised. “I thought you said he was trying to deal with being a copy of me?”

“He is, and this is how he’s doing it,” Janet told him. “He wants to go back to high school, move forward from there. And there was something in his eyes when he told us about it that just screamed out his need for our support.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you said he wasn’t trying to take my place,” he said suspiciously.

Janet frowned. “He’s not,” she snipped back. “He’s finding his own place. He just wants his friends around as he does that, friends who have told him they can accept him as someone separate from you.”

The silver-haired man’s eyes narrowed even further. “You guys told him that?” he asked a bit darkly.

“Now you sound like a jealous little boy, worried that his friends might decide that the new kid in town would make a better best friend,” Janet told him, exasperated. “Yes, I told him that, while Jacob and I were running tests on the effects of Doctor MacDonald’s serum. He was looking a little lost and a lot exhausted, and I figured it would make him feel better if he knew I wasn’t just running my tests out of scientific curiosity. I also know the general told him he was still considered one of us, and we were all just as worried about getting Loki to fix his genetic degradation as we were about getting you back. I think it’s safe to say that even if no one else explicitly told him they accepted him, their actions said it loud and clear.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No,” Jack answered shortly, his face closing off. “It won’t be a problem, Doctor.”

“Colonel,” Janet began, but was cut off by Jack deliberately rising to his feet.

“No, Doctor Fraiser, it won’t be a problem,” Jack repeated softly but emotionlessly. “And I will not sit here and have you berate me any longer. Unlike my clone, I am not a fresh-faced teenager who can be taken to task for anything that just doesn’t sit well with you. Now, I suggest you take your meddling attitude and get back to the infirmary where you can pretend that the people putting up with your heavy-handed criticisms actually want to do it!” He slammed his hands on the desk as his words ended in a sharp shout.

Janet gasped harshly and immediately straightened to her full height as she involuntarily took a step back from Jack’s desk. “You arrogant, self-centered son of a bitch!” she hissed, a deep pain blossoming in her chocolate brown eyes as she completely tensed up. “I came here to remind you that you can’t just ignore this and make it go away. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your friends, who are actually worried about how you’re taking this, heaven knows why. And I wanted you to know that your clone - who underneath the tough Jack O’Neill exterior is feeling pretty vulnerable and hating it - isn’t planning on making things any easier on you by leaving. I was trying to give you a heads up. I was trying to show you I gave a damn about how you felt about it all. But now…” She shook her head as she let her words trail off, doing her best to keep the tears that were welling up in her eyes from falling. “You know what, Colonel O’Neill? Permission to speak freely or no permission to speak freely, go to hell. I’m going to help your clone establish himself in his new life, and if you don’t like it, tough. And don’t you dare even think about getting in my way.” With that, she spun around and stormed out the door, slamming it behind herself.

All Jack could do as the sound echoed around the room was stare at the closed door and wonder how in the hell he’d managed to screw this up so very badly.

* * * * * * * *

Janet was still in her office fuming an hour later when a knock sounded at the door. “Come in,” she called, doing her best to keep her voice neutral and school her face to match. She blinked when the door opened and she saw Sabrina Marconi standing there. “Sabrina! What are you doing here?”

Sabrina shrugged and entered the office. “I came in for my rescheduled meeting with Danny, actually. Sam arranged it with me early on Thursday. So what’s going on with you?”

Janet sighed. “Oh, just working out some things in regards to Colonel O’Neill’s clone now that everything with the Asgard is settled. He’s going to need some help establishing a new life for himself.”

“I can see that.” Sabrina looked at the physician more closely. “So what’s wrong? You seem upset about something. Did something not work out with the plans?”

“Let’s just say that the colonel can be nasty when he lashes out,” Janet said after a moment of hesitation.

Sabrina blinked. “Um, then I take it you talked to him about your plans to help his clone.”

Janet took a deep, shuddering breath and released it before telling the psychologist about her earlier discussion with Jack. “If I were someone who had a little less solid hold on her emotions, that man would be wearing my handprint on the side of his face right now,” she concluded.

Sabrina had to fight back a bark of laughter at the mental image. “Well, I suppose this attitude of his isn’t entirely surprising, considering how he reacted to Danny’s appearance,” she said thoughtfully.

“So what do you plan on saying to him?” Janet asked.


“Nothing?” the petite physician parroted incredulously.

The Italian woman shrugged. “I don’t think an outside, objective perspective is what he needs here. At the core of it all is his need for reassurance that his life is his and no one can come in and take his place, even if that someone is a clone and shares almost all of his memories. And only the people whose opinions matter most to him can give him that.”

Janet frowned. “As long as we can tiptoe through his emotional minefield, that is,” she added darkly.

Sabrina nodded. “True. But then, you’ve all done that before, so it’s not exactly new territory for you.” Her eyebrows rose. “I even seem to recall you doing it rather recently when a certain grouch of a colonel had a thorn in his paw when Daniel came back without his memories. What’s different now?”

“What he said hurt,” Janet whispered after a long moment of silence, her gaze having dropped to the desk in front of her. “He threw my attempt at comfort and sympathy back in my face, complete with a punch in the stomach to go with it.” She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “The worst part is he has every right to feel the way he does. I can only imagine just how strange and unsettling it has to be to have a clone running around with almost all of your memories. It makes sense to lash out. But it still hurt like hell when he did it.” She brought her eyes up to meet her friend’s. “And I’m having a really hard time letting that hurt go.”

“Wow,” Sabrina said softly, her mind going a mile a minute trying to figure this one out. “Um, it sounds like your biggest problem, then, is the hurt you’re feeling rather than the lashing out the colonel did. Am I right?”

Janet considered it. “I guess it is, now that you put it that way,” she admitted. “But why would I feel that way?”

Sabrina smiled, a suspicion blooming. “I think that’s the question you need to answer for yourself,” she replied, trying to keep her tone neutral. “That’s the only way to get past the pain.”

“You think you know,” Janet accused the psychologist, her brown eyes narrowing. “Why aren’t you telling me?”

“I don’t know anything for sure,” Sabrina retorted with a laugh. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t say anything. The answer will only mean something if you figure it out all on your own.”

Janet stared at her for a long, intense moment, then blew out a loud, frustrated breath when she saw she wouldn’t be getting any more than that. She couldn’t even threaten the other woman with uncomfortable examinations in the future since she wasn’t stationed permanently at the SGC. “Just for the record, this isn’t fair,” she said with a touch of petulance in her tone.

Sabrina laughed. “I don’t deny that,” she said. “So when is your shift over? I was thinking we could grab a drink or two at that coffee shop down the street from my apartment before you head home to Cassie.”

“That sounds good, actually.” Janet checked the clock. “I get done in an hour. But I should have my little chat with the colonel’s clone. I have everything in place for him, but he needs to okay it before it can be put into motion. Are you willing to wait? Cassie has a senior class officer meeting after school and won’t be home until right around six, so I have some extra time.”

“That’s fine,” Sabrina agreed. “I can check in with Jonas and Daniel, see what they’re up to. You should be able to find me there when you’re finished.”

“It’s a deal. I’ll see you soon.” Janet shared a smile with the other woman then watched her leave the office. When the door closed behind her, the doctor sighed, picked up the copies of the information she’d put together and printed out earlier, and headed out to see the teenage clone of Jack O’Neill. She couldn’t hold back the wish that this Jack would be much more reasonable than the older one. She really couldn’t take being rebuffed by both versions of the man.

* * * * * * * *

“I take it you have that information you were going to ask for,” the young clone said once he’d invited Janet into his room after he’d answered a knock and found her standing there. He pointed at the folder that the woman held. “Is that it?”

“Yes, it is,” Janet confirmed. “But there’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

The teenager blinked. “Really? Like what?”

Janet watched him carefully. “What kind of living arrangements were you thinking of setting up for yourself?”

“Well, um…” He cleared his throat nervously. “I figure the Air Force will set me up with a little apartment wherever I end up. It shouldn’t be too big a deal.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” Janet agreed softly. She sighed. “Were you thinking of staying in Colorado Springs?”

The young man hesitated before answering. “I’d like to, if it wouldn’t freak anybody out. But I don’t have to stay.”

The doctor shook her head. “No, you don’t have to. But if you want to, you really should. And I have a solution for you.”

“What’s that?”

“Stay with me.”

The teenager’s eyes widened as his body tensed. “Wait a minute, Doc. I don’t know about that. I’m not going to impose on you when I know I can just get a little place of my own and not be a burden.”

Janet frowned. “I wouldn’t have offered if I thought you were going to be a burden. I just thought that it would be better for you if you didn’t go through everything alone. I have the room, and I’m more than willing to share.”

“But what about Cassie? Don’t you think it’ll be weird for her to…”

“I talked this over with Cassie last night, and she’s thrilled with the idea. This way she has someone to hang out with at home when I’m not around. And she told me to tell you she fully plans to give you a piece of her mind if you don’t agree.” Janet couldn’t fight back a smile.

“That is a scary thought,” he murmured, a tiny smirk turning up the corners of his lips. The expression faded. “But it would be really weird for me, staying with you. I mean, I can remember being on my own for years.”

The auburn-haired woman’s smile turned sympathetic. “I can understand that. But I know you’re going to have one heck of an adjustment period coming up, and I want to be there to help. So does Cassie. And I know Sam, Daniel, Jonas, and Teal’c will, too. Besides, this way you won’t have to hide your living situation, or have to come up with an outrageous cover story for why you don’t have a parent or guardian coming to parent/teacher conferences. And just who would call in for you if you were sick?”

The boy scowled. “I don’t need a parent or guardian. I can take care of myself,” he insisted.

Janet rolled her eyes. “I’m fully aware of that. But the world is going to look at you and assume you can’t, or at least that you shouldn’t. Between us, it would just be a simple roommate arrangement. We can come up with a cover story that explains how I’m your guardian and leave it at that.”

“You know, I can suddenly see you commiserating with one of my teachers about my attitude,” the teenager said after a moment, a spark of humor flashing in his eyes.

“That’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities,” Janet agreed, smiling at the thought.

The young man sighed. “Are you sure about this?” he asked quietly, the humor gone as swiftly as it had come. “I noticed a glaring omission of a certain colonel’s name in your list of supporters. Isn’t that going to cause a problem?”

Janet’s expression turned dark. “Not if he values his health, it won’t.” She took a deep breath and released it. “I told you this once before, I see you as someone separate from the colonel, someone I still consider my friend. And as a friend, I want to help you in the best way I know how.” She gave him a smile. “Most importantly, I don’t think you should be alone if you don’t have to be.”

Jack’s clone locked gazes with the petite woman, searching the chocolate brown orbs intensely. Finally, he released a breath with a shudder, his lids closing when he found what he was looking for. “You’re not going to play mommy,” he said as he opened his eyes once again, his tone turning the statement into a request for a promise.

“I’ve already adopted a daughter,” Janet replied, amused. “I don’t need to adopt a son that doesn’t need parenting.”

“That’ll do.” He cocked his head slightly to the side. “So what are you thinking for a cover story?”

Janet sighed. “I thought of a couple ideas, but when I tried to develop them they ended up sounding… stupid.” She looked a little embarrassed at the admission.

The young man laughed. “Yeah, well, it’s not like that sort of thing is your specialty, Doc,” he excused her. “Don’t worry about it. We’ve got time; we’ll come up with something.” He gestured at the folder the doctor still held as he moved over to the small table against a wall and sat down in one of the accompanying chairs. “What’s in the folder?”

“The information Cassie’s school sent me about what you’ll need to know to enter high school. As Thor has told us your physical age is about fifteen, we’ll see about getting you into the tenth grade.”

“Well, if we can manage to get me ready before the end of the year,” the boy amended with a wry smile. “It is April, after all.”

“Very true,” Janet agreed. “But I think it would be best if we did. It would help you get settled in the long run to have the month, month and a half of experience before going through your first full year. If you find it really too hard to adjust, we can make arrangements for home schooling.” She made air quotes as she said the last two words.

The teenager nodded thoughtfully. “I hadn’t thought of that option. I think I still need to give school a try, though, so I can get used to dealing socially with people closer to my actual age, instead of how old I think I am.” He shrugged. “I doubt it’ll be easy, but oh well.”

Janet smiled. “You’ll be fine. Now, I started some of the paperwork, so if you’re really okay with this, we can get the ball rolling pretty quickly.” She took out some papers from the folder and handed them over.

“I notice you left the name blank,” the young man said quietly.

“I wasn’t sure how you were going to handle that,” Janet replied with the same softness.

“I’ve been Jack O’Neill for a long time. Well, so I remember,” he immediately corrected himself. “It might be too hard to totally change my name. So I was thinking about things yesterday after I talked to you guys, and I realized that all I really had to change is what I go by. I mean, Jonathan is a relatively common name, and so is O’Neill.” He rolled his eyes. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I was related to this O’Neill or that O’Neill. Anyway, I’ve decided to go by Jon instead of Jack. That… should be enough.”

Janet’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Just that little change?” she asked.

Jon chuckled. “Oh, yeah. Trust me when I say it’s more than enough. You have no idea just how much Jack hates being called Jon. That’s the reason he goes to so much trouble to have the name Jack put on his IDs.”

The doctor’s furrow cleared. “I always wondered about that.”

“Now you know.”

“So, Jon,” Janet said with a smile, happy to see it was quickly returned, “do you think I can leave you with this paperwork? I need to get back to the infirmary and check on things before my shift ends.”

“Not a problem, Doc. If I have any questions, I’m sure there’ll be someone around I can ask. If nothing else, I can wait until tomorrow and ask you.” Jon’s smile grew a little wider.

Janet’s expression widened as well as she handed over the rest of the folder. “You can definitely do that. You can feel free to call me, too. Anyway,” she continued after she got a nod of acknowledgement, “I’m going to go. You have a good night.”

“Thanks, Janet,” Jon said quietly, then watched the auburn-haired woman leave the room. He smiled gently at the closed door, his heart full from the determination to help him move forward into a new life. He knew for sure now that his friends really cared about him as his own person, and that would make things easier from now on. This weird new life was actually pretty good.

Jon chuckled to himself and shook his head, then turned his attention to the stack of paperwork Janet had left him.

 Back to Gen Fiction          Back to Part Nineteen          Go to Part Twenty-One

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