Author: Christi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: Not mine. Don’t sue. Please. You’ll end up owing me money, I’m that broke.
Spoilers: Anything up to Fragile Balance is up for grabs, though if they’re there, they are small. Very small. Happens one month after the end of that episode.
Author’s Note: I swore to myself that I wouldn’t do this. I mean, repeatedly. And then…I made the mistake of talking about it in the Monday night chat room. Somehow, the niggling little thought lurking in the back of my mind from a really peculiar dream then managed to spiral into an all-consuming force to be reckoned with. So really, if you think about it, this is all their fault—you know who you are. Don’t try and play innocent. This is on your heads. *Hands them the blame* There, take it. As always, thanks to Eva, because she’s wonderful.
I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there.
Over the course of his life, Jack O’Neill had been in a countless number of perilous situations. He could navigate through hostile territory without blinking, devise backup plan after backup plan if that’s what was required, and he would complete his mission because that was his job. So really, after all that, it was no surprise that he had managed to conquer South Colorado Springs High School with little more than a blink, a cocky smirk, and a really good pair of shades.
Even as a lowly sophomore, the guys feared him. The girls worshipped him. The teachers were reluctantly but irrevocably charmed by him. Without even trying, Jack O’Neill had become an undisputed teenage god—a fact that he tried not to think about too hard considering his previous career.
Predictably, he was miserable.
The guys were inane. The girls were vapid. The teachers were patronizing. He could have dealt with all that if he had to—if he could live through and manage to cope with Ba’al and his never-ending box of death-defying fun, he could certainly make it through high school. But he had been here a month now, and could almost see himself slipping into the black despair of depression, a feeling he was much too familiar with.
He didn’t want to be in high school, damnit. He had barely tolerated it the first time, what in the world had made him think that a second go around would make things any better? He just wanted to be back home at the SGC, going through that insane piece of technology that broke him into a billion pieces and put him back together again, his friends by his side.
God, he missed them.
Jack had always been cautious about letting people into his life, and after Charlie died and Sara left, ‘cautious’ had morphed into downright unwilling. Yet here he was a little over seven years later, having lived a whole new life surrounded by three of the most mismatched friends he ever could have imagined, feeling like he had managed to misplace his right arm because they weren’t with him anymore.
In the face of their loss, hockey tryouts and pubescent cheerleaders really didn’t hold much appeal.
So he coasted through the halls with his trademark unflappability, feeling a little more numb each day, praying that feeling would stop entirely because at least empty was better than trying to hide this constant gnawing in his gut.
Peripherally, he was aware of the students gathered around him, not actually having the nerve to sit as his table, but trying to get some of his overwhelming coolness to rub off on them by positioning themselves nearby, watching him. He couldn’t find the energy to give a damn, instead showing undue interest in what was spread on the cafeteria tray in front of him. The food resting there was mostly colorless and lacking any sort of defining shape or texture other than general mush, but it didn’t really matter because Jack had no intention of actually eating it anyway. He just pushed it around on his plate, back and forth and back and forth, making it even more disgusting than it had been previously, if that was possible. The grayish blob matched his mood.
“Please tell me you weren’t actually planning on eating that,” a feminine voice said from above him.
His entire body froze and for one terrifying moment, it felt like he was in the freefall of his first parachute jump gone awry. It wasn’t possible. It just….
Without his conscious permission, his eyes slid away from the glop on his plate, making their way up the curves of the figure standing at the other side of the table. Long legs encased in denim shorts, a simple sky blue T-shirt, a long rope of braided sunshine hair…and smiling blue eyes. There was a surreal moment where everything seemed to stop as her gaze locked with his own, Jack suddenly forgetting to breathe or think or function on some basic level.
“Because honestly, I think MREs are more edible than that mess,” she continued, a dimple wavering in the side of her cheek as he gawked at her.
“God, Carter…” he finally managed to gasp out, making a conscious attempt to keep his jaw from hanging open. “What did you do?”
“That’s quite rude, Jack,” a chastising voice said as a new figure stepped into the picture flanking Sam’s left side, tall and scrawny with tell-tale floppy brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses. “Care to try again?”
Jack’s head couldn’t seem to wrap itself around this new development, spinning with too many emotions to sort through. “Why?” he demanded. “Why would you do this?”
A third figure joined their little party, covering Sam’s right side now, and while there was no gold tattoo and the definite presence of black fuzz that could loosely be described as hair, it was nice to see that even as a fifteen year old, Teal’c was built like Colossus and tended to have an inexplicable fondness for Hawaiian shirts. At least some things never changed. “We believed it to be the best course of action, O’Neill.”
While he was still sitting there speechless, the figures moved as one, settling into the other three seats at the table without discussion. Carter’s hands, the ones he was used to seeing load P90s and disarm naquada reactors, stole onto his tray and snatched the plate of mush out from under him, wrinkling her nose as she handed it to Daniel. He threw it into the trash with a shudder while he pushed his wayward glasses back up his nose. It seemed that much like Teal’c had always been WWF-worthy, Daniel had always been a geek.
Before Jack had a chance to protest, Carter handed him an apple with a look of resolve in her eyes that he was pretty sure had nothing to do with his choice of lunch menus. Jack could feel the anger building in him, gathering itself for what promised to be a truly spectacular explosion. That is, until she just held his gaze unapologetically and said softly, “We don’t leave people behind, remember?”
His nice little bubble of righteous indignation popped almost audibly and Jack slumped over onto the table, his forehead resting on his folded arms. Of course they had gone and done something ridiculous like this. Why hadn’t it occurred to him that they would? Because it really hadn’t, not back when all this had first happened and not during any time of the month since then had this particular scenario ever entered his mind. But, Christ, they had followed Carter’s dad into hell, you didn’t think they’d follow you to high school? It was wrong; now they were condemned to this weird-assed existence, too. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to work—you shouldn’t be able to meet the best friends of your life at the age of 44 and then end up with the same Alma Mater. It was just wrong that they had done this for him, and it was easier to be angry about it than own up to the overwhelming gratitude.
“I really don’t like you guys right now,” he muttered.
“We figured as much,” Daniel said easily, taking out a sandwich from a plastic baggie and munching on it.
“We also figured that would pass fairly quickly,” Sam stated calmly, working on a bag of potato chips.
A disbelieving snort emerged from him as he sprawled half prone across the table. Of course they had. It was so like them just to assume that he’d get over it and accept it. Well, if they thought he was just going to make this easy on them….
At some point, Jack realized that his fingertips were resting against the skin of Carter’s forearm, just barely touching her. Some part of him needed to know that she was really here. As it turned out, touching a teenage Carter was pretty much the same as touching a full-grown Carter, a comforting thought in itself. That was when he realized with startling clarity that they had been right again. And now, he had an entire lifetime of them being right to look forward to.
“Hey, how come Teal’c gets to take Remedial Pre-Algebra and I get stuck with Pre-Calculus?”
“Teal’c has never had any kind of math before, and you used to fly fighter jets for a living, sir.”
“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean I actually want to apply myself or whatever. And seriously, you gotta drop the sir thing. Not only is it no longer true, it’s kinda…creepy in this setting.”
“I’ll work on it.”
“While I understand that this ‘math’ is required of your culture and therefore will attempt it to the best of my ability, I see no class on my schedule that will allow me to continue to hone my battle skills in preparation for one day rejoining the war against the Goa’uld.”
“Erm…well…they don’t really…teach…battle here, T.”
“Actually, that’s not entirely true, Jack. There’s one thing he could try.”
“By all means, Daniel, enlighten us.”
“Well, he could always…join the football team.”
Practically overnight Jack’s high school existence went from slightly ridiculous to downright surreal. Whereas before he had been comfortable with his notoriety as some sort of unwilling teenage icon, the presence of his team made it even more noticeable. Without conscious effort, the team had managed to take over the institution, four unlikely misfits amongst a sea of adolescents. They were equally revered and reviled, awed and misunderstood, and in general, they were too wrapped up in each other to notice much. This, of course, made them even cooler.
A loner no longer, Jack could always be found with one of his team by his side. In his old life, this constant companionship might have gotten real old real quick; here in this new life it was one of the things that kept him sane. Finally, he could be himself again, minus the attachment of a bottle of Guinness and the license to handle dangerous explosives, both of which he fully planned on reacquiring at some point in the future. As predicted, he soon gave up on being angry with them. It wouldn’t change anything anyway, and even though they drove him up the wall sometimes, he wouldn’t really want to go back to trying to live through this without them. Besides, at least this way he had Daniel to conjugate Spanish verbs for him, Carter to explain Calculus, and Teal’c to…be Teal’c.
Admittedly, things didn’t always go smoothly. If Teal’c’s culture shock had been funny seven years ago when introduced to the limited world of the SGC, his reaction now was downright hysterical. As it turned out, trying to explain what Oprah was didn’t even hold a candle to the difficulty they had explaining things like ‘study hall’, ‘pep rally’, and ‘homework’. Meanwhile, Sam and Daniel were going nuts with boredom—school had, apparently, been mind-numbing for them both the first time around. The second time…well, Daniel had taken up the recreational hobby of going systematically through his history textbook and correcting the numerous mistakes in it, no matter how many times Jack pointed out that really, you weren’t supposed to write in the textbooks. Carter was taking a much more logical approach, doing exactly what was required of her in school with ease and expending her excess energy on writing endless books and papers and theories that she kept in an ever-growing three ring binder. Maybe it was just the fact that, hormonally speaking, Jack was fifteen again, but he honestly thought that her constantly ink-stained hands were endearing.
So really, it wasn’t any surprise that they didn’t seem to notice their apparent popularity much. In many ways, it was a lot like being SG-1 had been—over the years, they had become accustomed to being infamous and awed in turn. It was, however, a surprise that it didn’t occur to Jack until at least the second week in that their instant status had certain…advantages. Much like having a team-only locker room or extra week of leave had been perks of their old job, there had to be pluses to the current situation.
“I don’t understand what you’re getting at,” Daniel said one day at lunch while munching on a carrot stick and bemoaning the lack of good coffee available.
Jack shrugged. “I don’t know, really. I’m just saying that, for whatever reason, people seem to…like us. Or something. And it could prove useful. For example, Teal’c got on to the football team three weeks after tryouts were over.”
“Well, sure…but look at Teal’c,” Carter pointed out.
Jack shrugged. “I know. I’m just saying. This isn’t the SGC. People here don’t adore quietly or subtly with proper military decorum.”
His point was made a week later when he decided on a whim to join the chess team. When he walked into their meeting room, the team consisted of three teenage boys who were actually geekier than Daniel, aged thirty-five or fifteen.
Two weeks later, chess was the most popular new fad to hit
Surveying the cafeteria full of people attempting to play the game, Jack smirked. “This is what I was getting at.”
The air outside was cold, but it was Teal’c’s first football game, so they dealt with it. Besides, it was a good time to ask an important question.
“Does…he…know about you guys?”
“You know. The other me.”
“Oh. Him. Uh…no.”
“…Well, we…they…whatever…didn’t think…he wouldn’t approve.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Jack, you didn’t approve and we did it for you.”
“And him. Sort of. I came around. Why shouldn’t he?”
“It just is.”
On the field, Teal’c took down another guy. Hard. Hard enough that people winced.
“You did explain to Teal’c that football isn’t actually battle, right?”
“…I’m pretty sure he got the point. I think.”
Strangely, now that he wasn’t caught up in being miserable, Jack found himself sort of enjoying his classes. Not that he’d ever admit it, of course. But it was sort of…fun. Sure, it was stuff he had probably learned before, but he hadn’t really paid much attention to secondary education the first time around, preoccupied with flying and fighting because even back then, he knew where he was supposed to be. Besides, high school was a long time ago for him, so he honestly didn’t remember a lot of it. So it was pretty easy to just pretend that this was the first time around, and ignore Daniel’s indulgent smile when he actually exhibited a moderate amount of enthusiasm for it all.
He could let Daniel get away with that sort of thing now because for every patronizing look Space Monkey sent him, Carter granted him a rather pleased one. So, in the end, it all balanced out. Besides, three weeks after they arrived, Daniel discovered the wonder of books on tape, and quickly got involved in trying to learn whatever obscure languages he didn’t already speak. This week, it was Arabic. Which made Jack smirk, because wouldn’t Danny-boy just keel over if he found out that Jack already knew that one?
Absently, he noted that Daniel’s pronunciation sucked.
They were all lazing about in a field behind the school, waiting for football practice to be over. It had become routine—they couldn’t leave Teal’c by himself quite yet, and besides, it was still warm outside and they were accustomed to spending large amounts of time outdoors together. But it was different now. No more semi-automatics, routine patrols, or soil samples. Just Daniel leaning against a tree with his headphones on, muttering after his tape, Carter stretched out on the grass with her head propped up on her backpack, checking over their homework, and Jack, with his head resting comfortably on Carter’s stomach of all places, after discovering a few days ago that she didn’t mind. It had been weird for all of thirty seconds, until they had simply stopped letting it.
Jack was so not complaining. If he was completely honest with himself, something he had never been very good at but had been attempting lately, he’d have to admit that in recent years, cuddling with Sam had been a favorite fantasy. Right behind doing…other things…with Sam. Hey, he had been an old man, and he had been alone a long time. Some days, you came home and wanted to just…be…with someone. For him, just anyone wouldn’t do. And because it wasn’t allowed to be her, he had stamped out the craving.
Now, it was allowed. Hell, now everything was allowed. They hadn’t talked about it, of course. They didn’t do that, even now, though they were working on it. Kinda. This was as far as things had gone, and he was okay with that, too. Because with the warmth of her stomach and the early fall sun seeping into him as he paged through Hamlet, her eyes occasionally looking down her body towards him, he was perfectly content.
God, he really hoped he could blame the sappiness on his adolescent brain chemistry. Somehow, he doubted it. But that was okay, too.
From his position against the tree, Daniel butchered a sentence. Jack smirked.
“Stop it,” Carter chastised lightly.
He smiled. “Can’t help it. He’s making a mess of it.” He didn’t know how she knew that he spoke Arabic in the first place, but found he didn’t really care.
“You could always help him.”
“Nah. It’s too much fun to hear him get it wrong.”
He didn’t look, but he knew, just knew, that she was rolling her eyes at him. He didn’t care about that either. Apparently, complacency was another symptom of…young age. He just turned back to the Bard, and when her hand came up and ruffled through his hair, he couldn’t stop it.
He smirked again.
“Whose idea was it?”
“Whose idea was what?”
“You know. The clone thing.”
“Oh. That again. Does it matter?”
“I don’t know, Carter. Maybe. So, who was it?”
She blinked and shifted her weight slightly.
“…You know, I never really got what was so great about that play.”
“Very unsubtle change of subject, Sam. But seriously, you don’t get Hamlet? It’s classic.”
“So people keep telling me. Literature was never my strong suit. But I mean, it’s an entire play about a slightly whiny, indecisive type who talks too much but rarely says anything. His family all dies, he can’t follow some very good advice, and he contemplates suicide and possibly goes insane. Or not. It’s all very confusing.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I just…”
“…Daniel is Hamlet.”
“…Don’t be ridicu…huh.”
They glanced at Daniel.
“Puts a whole new perspective on the thing.”
Silence. Crickets. Grunting football players.
“It was me.”
“I know. Thanks.”
After awhile, Jack just gave up thinking about it. All it managed to do was give him a headache, and at some point he had moved beyond self-flagellation. It was too complicated to try and figure out. He was living in the present, but his present was also his past, and maybe his future was in his past, but it wasn’t really his past because it was the present and it was different than the past…it just kept going around like that. Sam was right, time was really all relative, and it wasn’t until now that he really began to comprehend all the possible problems that statement covered. Somehow, he didn’t think that Carter could manage to explain this one with fruit, either. Though maybe someday, he’d ask her to try.
Right now, he had actually just decided to…let it be. They had been here a month and they weren’t going anywhere and even if Jack didn’t understand it, he accepted it now. He was 52, he was 15. It didn’t really matter anymore. He just was, and that was what mattered.
So, eight weeks after he had left himself on the curb of
It was a good life.
So he didn’t worry so much about how it all worked or what it all meant or even what would come next. Because there were more pressing issues to deal with, like trying to convince them all to dress up for Halloween, passing Friday’s chemistry test, and laughing his ass off when the homecoming theme was announced as ‘A Walk Through The Stars’.
He’d never underappreciate a good bit of irony again.
“So, how about it Carter? Wanna go on ‘A Walk Through The Stars’ with me?”
“I thought we had already done that, sir.”
Really, she had it almost down. Just not quite.
“Right. Sorry.” She wrinkled her nose. “Habit.”
“I know, I know. So…?”
“Well…yeah. Sure. Why not?”
“I don’t know. It just seems so…I don’t know…juvenile, I guess.”
“Look in the mirror, Sam. We are juveniles.”
“Still. I hadn’t really thought…it would be something you’d want to do.”
He shrugged, attempting nonchalance. “Hey, dancing to bad music and mocking cheap decorations. And no dress blues. Could be worse.”
“Sure. I just hadn’t planned on going. But I mean, if you really want to, I wouldn’t mind…”
“Good!” Relief. Giddiness. Sappy again. Damnit. “Besides, I’m pretty sure you kinda have to go.”
“…Carter, you’re on