AUTHOR: Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: May 2004
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
SPOILERS: Major spoilers for The Lost City, lesser spoilers for Fragile Balance
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season Seven. Gates of War series, follows The Lost City Missing Scenes. (Continues the Jonathan plot arc.)
SUMMARY: Life goes on in Jack's absence.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
Jonathan O'Neill put his phone down on the table and sat there stunned. Nancy asked, "What's wrong?"
"My brother--something's happened to Jack." It was like saying that the earth had stopped turning.
"Oh, my God. Is he OK?"
"I don't know all the details yet, everything's still really up in the air and nobody had time to tell me more than the basics. Apparently Jack downloaded--hell, this is a long story. Remember about the Ancients and the Asgard? Well, once before, SG-1 found this machine that downloaded the Ancient's knowledge into Jack's brain. Which was all fine and good, except we're not far enough down the road to handle it, and it started to overwrite his memories and personality. The Asgard got rid of it that time, but--for what reason I don't know, he apparently did it again, and this time the Asgard aren't around. I've got to get up there and find out what the hell is going on. But...he's gone. They want me."
Nancy asked, "Why?"
He took a deep breath. Letting them in on all this was a breach of security, but looking around at them, if he just disappeared on some Air Force thing without an explanation, these three people would start kicking doors and raising hell until they found out what happened to him. Remembering what had happened during the foothold, he figured they would raise a lot of hell for three high school kids. If he explained everything, they'd keep it quiet. "That's the rest of it. I'm not just Jack's brother. I'm his clone. A rogue Asgard named Loki kidnapped him and made me, and downloaded Jack's memories into me. Now the Air Force--or whoever the hell is running things up there now--wants to use that."
For a minute nobody said anything, then all three of them started asking questions at once. Lassie got in on the act and barked loudly.
"Hey!" Jonathan yelled over the chaos.
Alvin stammered, "That's nuts!"
Nancy said, "You mean to tell me all this time you've been acting like a school kid and you're really a 50-year-old Colonel in the Air Force?"
Lydia said, "Let Jonathan tell it, both of you!" Her hand closed over his, a friend no matter what came down the road.
"That's really all there is to tell. Loki did a piss-poor job putting me together, I was dying. Jack got Thor to get me stabilized, but they couldn't age me past fifteen, so here I am. Look, you gotta understand, when I first woke up, we all thought I was Jack, just that I'd been de-aged somehow. When I found out I was a--a damn Xerox copy--I had to get out of there. I couldn't be around Jack and his friends--people I still saw as my friends--and watch him live a life that everything I knew was telling me should have been mine. But where the hell was I supposed to go? This was what I came up with."
"You went back to high school?" Alvin asked incredulously. "Buddy, now I know you're crazy!"
"What else was I supposed to do? You can't make it in the world any more without a high school diploma, and I couldn't exactly put on a job ap or a college entrance exam that I graduated from high school in Chicago in 1970! Besides that, when Jack was in school he was mostly interested in having a good time. He didn't get serious about getting an education until he decided he didn't want to spend his whole career on a 2nd Lieutenant's pay."
Nancy said, "Now I've seen you and Jack together enough to swear on a stack of Bibles that you aren't him."
"EXACTLY! We have the same memories up until last spring, but we're not the same person. Realizing that, was what let us see each other as brothers and get on with our lives. But I do have a lot of remembered knowledge and experience that...they've decided they need me back before I turn eighteen after all."
Nancy was ever practical. "Jamie's the first one you need to worry about. Where's he, still at day-care?"
"No, Sirikat has him."
Lydia spoke up with that serene, otherworldly confidence that always possessed her when she described one of her visions. "Jack isn't gone. I can feel...cold, so cold...but there's something of him that's still fighting, still holding on, and he knows that his path leads right back here." To Sam. She kept that part to herself, and took her friend's hand. "You have to keep believing that, Jonathan. The universe doesn't expect you to take his place, just to take care of things for a while until he can come home."
Nancy said, "Let me get this straight. You remember all about being a teenager, growing up, spending thirty years in the Air Force--all about being a grown man, in other words?"
"Yeah." Jonathan looked down, unable to meet her eyes. He was sure that she'd never want anything to do with him now.
Instead she leaned in and kissed him soundly. Lydia giggled and Alvin whooped. Nancy grinned at the shock in his eyes and said, "In that case, you're plenty old enough as far as I'm concerned!"
"A lot of people would say I'm too old."
"I don't give a rat's ass if they do," was her forthright reply. "I just wish you'd told me all about this a long time ago."
"So do I. But right now I have to get up there."
"Can you drive yourself? You were pretty shaken up."
Jonathan picked up his phone and car keys. "I'll be okay. I don't know how long I'll be, but I'll call you tonight or tomorrow morning if I can."
Nancy said, "If you don't call, I'll come up and feed Lassie and take her for a walk."
"Thanks." Their eyes met for a moment, then the four of them hurriedly locked up the apartment.
The next few days were a whirl of school, helping Sam and Sirikat take care of Jamie, and making himself available at the SGC to answer all kinds of questions that kept popping up. That situation was exacerbated by the fact that SG-1 shuttled back and forth a couple of times between Antarctica and Colorado Springs. Sirikat went along once, hoping she could do something to help, but she found herself as powerless as everyone else.
One of the days that they were all on base, they ended up in the gym together, and Sam brought Jonathan along. No one had quite sorted out Jonathan's official status and she suspected the young man had his reasons for keeping it that way. The last few months had pulled the rug out from under all of them, Jonathan not least of all. She could imagine how alone he must feel here with Janet dead, Jack in stasis and General Hammond transferred out.
She realized she hadn't been wrong when she saw the force behind the punches Jonathan was landing on the heavy bag. How often had she seen Jack do just that to release tension. She dialed up the resistance on the exercise bike she was riding and put her back into it.
Half an hour later raised voices near the punching bags caught her attention. Jonathan was squared off with one of the Marines, Lt. Rizzo. He was a good man in the diamond-in-the-rough category, but he had all the tact of a bull elephant. And, while she didn't know of him ever doing anything stupid in the field, he didn't always have a lot of sense when it came to people.
Jonathan was yelling at the big Marine, "No, I'm not taking my brother's place, because he's coming back!"
Rizzo looked down at him and said, "Yeah, keep dreamin', kid. You know the facts. If he does come back it would be as a vegetable, and he'd never want that."
Sam winced and swung off the bike, reaching for her towel. The Marine's remark had cut her to the bone, regardless that she hadn't been the target. She literally bit her tongue to keep from shouting a reply.
Teal'c's hand closed on Jonathan's shoulder before Sam got there. The big Jaffa's voice carried clearly through the whole gym even though he wasn't shouting at all. "I too believe that O'Neill will return to us. In seven years' time I have seen him defeat greater odds than these, too many times to lose faith in him now. Neither have I lost confidence in the determination of the entire SGC to bring him home safely."
When Sam got there, Daniel had also closed ranks. The message was clear--Rizzo wasn't going to get away with bullying one of them, without taking them all on.
Major Griff walked into the gym, and Rizzo wasn't fool enough to continue the confrontation in front of his CO.
Griff passed along a message from Dr. Weir. "Hey, Jonathan, the boss lady's lookin' for you!"
"Thanks!" He grabbed his towel from the bench and hit the showers.
Griff took a look around the gym, wondering what he had walked in on. Everyone was either looking so innocent they were positively angelic, or studiously minding their own business. Sometimes he wondered which was more trouble, riding herd on a bunch of Marines or a houseful of kids. Whatever, it was over now.
It was still jarring to walk into the base commander's office and find Elizabeth Weir sitting behind the desk instead of George Hammond. But as hard as he tried to dislike her, Jonathan couldn't. "You wanted to see me?"
"I've been reading some more of these mission reports, and I'm starting to read some things between the lines that make me very uncomfortable. I need you to fill in the blanks for me, starting with this rivalry between the NID and Stargate Command."
"Got all afternoon?"
Weir kicked back in her chair. "As a matter of fact I do. I dearly love President Bartlet, Jonathan, but right now I need to know exactly what kind of a mess he's dropped in my lap."
Jonathan sat down. "The NID goes way back before the SGC ever got started. They originally had custody of the gate up at 51, along with the Roswell saucer and a lot of other Project Blue Book strangeness from the Cold War years. Their mission then was to turn anything they discovered into a weapon for use against the Soviets. There weren't a whole hell of a lot of limits placed on them. Couldn't be, because there were no limits on the Soviet programs, and we couldn't afford not to compete on a level playing field. But you pay for everything. The NID got used to running whatever projects they wanted with an unlimited budget and no accountability for the ethics of their actions. That made them useful to crooked politicians and big business alike. The end of the Cold War was a disaster for them.
Then the Stargate was reopened. First they wanted to shut it down, but then they realized they were sitting on a gold mine. They had a new enemy.
The first time the SGC really butted heads with them was over Teal'c..."
Seven years of trouble with the NID and its so-called rogue operations took a lot of telling. Dr. Weir had a lot of smart questions that revealed a thorough grasp of the situation and an ability to read between the lines.
Jonathan said, "Nothing against you, Doc, but you're a civilian. Taking Anubis out gave us some breathing room, but there are still a lot of system lords out there. The war isn't over. Have you thought about what you're gonna do if the base comes under attack?"
"I'll have to depend on the experienced officers here to advise me, with the situation in Antarctica right now that's Col. Dixon and Lt. Col. Feretti."
Jonathan nodded, he trusted Feretti with his life. He didn't know Dixon, but it was enough that Jack thought highly of him. "What kind of shape is my brother in, really? Do you know any more than I've been able to find out so far?"
"I honestly wish I did, Jonathan. Getting him out of stasis is secondary to figuring out a way to reverse the download, and so far we're at a total impasse without the Asgard. But Sam's probably told you that SG-1 is taking a team of scientists down there tomorrow. The one ray of sunshine here is that this happened during the stand-down. We can bring the full resources of the SGC to bear. In addition, pending security clearances President Bartlet has approved bringing in a couple of specialists. One is Bethesda Naval Hospital's top brain specialist, a man named Gordon Ashford. If anyone can figure out how exactly this was done to your brother and how to cure him, he's the guy. The other is a woman named Frida Hamilton from MIT who's been working on Ancient stasis technology for the last two years, she just didn't know where it came from. We should have them on site by the end of the week at the latest."
Jonathan nodded. He wasn't going to take his fear and frustration out on Dr. Weir. She was obviously doing everything humanly possible. The big question was, where were the Asgard?
Jonathan's own experience with the little gray aliens had been anything but a positive one. Loki and Thor both had treated him like a lab rat. Thor had saved his life, but he'd done it because Jack had asked, not because he saw Jonathan as a person in his own right, as someone worth helping. That was enough for Jonathan to watch his back around them.
Still, he couldn't blame them either. They had no way of knowing Jack was going to get himself into this mess.
Weir was struck by the contrast between Jonathan explaining the NID history a few minutes ago, and worrying about his brother now. He seemed to replay Jack's memories like a videotape, and when he talked about that now, it was like someone discussing a movie he'd seen. There was a distance, and considering the life Jack had led, Weir thought that was a gift from heaven. But when he talked about his brother, Jonathan looked and sounded sixteen. A mature, capable sixteen, certainly, much more a man than a boy, but still not yet the experienced officer that Jack certainly was. "Jonathan, is there anything I can do personally? I can't begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you and your family."
Jonathan gave her a little smile. "There isn't much left to do but wait, Doc, and military families get used to that."
Weir said, "Jonathan, I am sorry. I should have had you out of here twenty minutes ago. You've been a huge help to me, but I don't want to impose like this again. Your priorities have to be your schoolwork and your family obligations right now."
He laughed. Schoolwork wasn't exactly a priority at a time like this, but family obligations were. He had to be there for Jamie. That child would never feel abandoned if Jonathan could help it. "That reminds me, I need an excuse for school."
She took out a sheet of official stationery from her desk drawer and wrote a few lines. "If the school has any questions, my number is on there. Have them call me. I'm sure in this day and age they'll understand the terms 'classified' and 'national security.'"
"Yes, ma'am," he grinned. "We'll make an Air Force officer out of you yet."
"Perish the thought," she replied in mock horror, inwardly grinning at her academic colleagues' probable reaction to that. But Jonathan had a point. Her experience with the men and women of the SGC had changed her opinion of the military irrevocably. While she still might not be the Pentagon's biggest fan, she was coming to feel a boundless admiration for the people who wore the uniform. "Jonathan. If I have anything to say about it, we will get your brother back in one piece. And I'm very used to getting my own way."
If faith could only make it so. Jonathan nodded, "You bet we will."
Jonathan drove up to his apartment and went straight in. He called Nancy to ask what he'd missed in school that day, though he had no idea how he was going to keep his mind on homework with everything that was going on. Nancy brought his assignments over and sat beside him on the couch.
"It's awful when you've got a relative in the hospital or something," she said gently. "There's nothing you can do and that has to be the worst thing ever."
"Yeah," he agreed. "There isn't a damn thing I can do to help him."
"Well, that's not exactly true. If he's awake enough to be aware of anything, then it has to be a load off to know you and Sirikat are helping Sam look out for Jamie," Nancy pointed out with her usual practicality. "It had to be hell to go through that and know he was leaving his kid. Thank God he knew Jamie has you guys to take care of him."
Jonathan nodded, she had hit that nail right on the head. Ordinarily if you took a bullet for someone, you didn't have time to regret it too long. He knew full well Jack had stuck his head in that thing to keep Sam or Daniel from doing it first. Then he'd had all damn weekend to realize exactly what he was losing.
Unexpectedly, the tension came crashing in on him and his eyes filled. "Damn--"
With surprising strength Nancy pulled him to her and held him tight, an anchor in the storm. "I'm here. I'm here for you no matter what," she promised. And he had the sense to realize that was the promise of a woman who knew exactly what she wanted, not a starry-eyed girl having a case of puppy-love. Jonathan wondered what he had done in his life to deserve this, but he wasn't about to let go. Whatever crazy fate had dropped him into this life, had given him some precious gifts at the same time, and having Nancy in his life had to top the list.
Nobody was going to give up on Jack. If there was any way humanly possible to get him out of this mess, his team and the whole SGC would manage it somehow. In the meanwhile, there was a lot he could do here to keep things on an even keel so SG-1 could keep their focus where it had to be right now. He pulled Nancy up with him and stuffed his books in his backpack, slung it over his shoulder.
"Where are we going?"
"Sam's house, to watch Jamie while I do my homework. If I know her and Sirikat, they both need to get some sleep. If Sam won't do that she can get on her computer and get her mind off stuff. And we can at least make sure they eat something."
Nancy nodded and picked up her own book bag. She had the feeling her life had just changed, that after that one hug things would never be the same again--and she liked the change.
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