by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: December 2003
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: Birthday Fic
SPOILERS: Fragile Balance, the whole Jonathan arc in this fanfic series
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season 7, Oct. 20, 2003. This story is part of the Gates of War fanfic series, and won't make any sense unless the reader knows who Jonathan, Granny & friends are. Previous stories in this series may be found at http://buckeyebelle.tripod.com/
SUMMARY: Jonathan turns sixteen.
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. :)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: A belated happy birthday and thanks to my very patient beta reader, Mamabeast.
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
Late October in the mountains brought with it snow flurries for the third morning in a row. Jonathan O'Neill's breath fogged in the chill dawn air as gravel crunched under his running shoes. It was one of his favorite 5K routes, through the neighborhood.
Old Mr. Finster was feeding his pigeons. Deaf as a post, he didn't even look up as Jonathan and Lassie passed his back fence.
Half a block further, he cut through a church parking lot and crossed the street, on the last leg home. Lassie barked at the big pine tree in the corner of the Swensons' yard, which puzzled Jonathan until he saw a pair of blue eyes under the branches. The Swensons had a huge, ill-tempered Siamese cat. Lassie didn't chase cats, but she sure did bark at them.
He and the dog took the apartment steps two at a time. Lassie stood over her food bowl, wagging her tail and grinning at him. He poured kibbles for her and cereal for himself--ha! One of these days he was going to get the bowls mixed up, then they'd both get a big surprise!
Jonathan made quick work of his morning shower, and made sure he had all his paper work together before he left.
It was an average Monday at school. As far as Jonathan knew, hardly anyone was aware of the significance of the date. Today, he officially turned sixteen years old. That had little meaning for him. He had actually been around less than a year, and what did birthdays mean to somebody who had never been "born" in any traditional sense of the word? But there was one very important fact about this particular birthday. Having already passed the high school's driver's education course, today he met all the State of Colorado's requirements to obtain a driver's license.
Sitting still through school that day wasn't easy. When the last bell rang, he got out to the parking lot so fast that he ended up leaning on Nancy's car for ten minutes before she got there. She had been through the whole rite of passage a few weeks ago, complete with a sweet sixteen party thrown by her girlfriends.
She put her backpack on the back seat and drove to the exam station. Jonathan filled out several papers and the clerk made a copy of the court order declaring him an emancipated minor. Then he and the examiner went outside. Nancy turned over her keys with a smile and a quick kiss for luck.
Until then, he hadn't been nervous. But the examiner had a glare to put a drill sergeant to shame. And it would be damned embarrassing if he flunked his road test and Jack ever found out about it!
He needn't have worried. It was the same as when Jack had got his driver's license back in Chicago. Turn right, turn left, take the on-ramp, pass that blue car, take the off ramp. Then he had to parallel park between two police cars. All the same, when he went back into the office to pay his fee and get his license photo taken, he felt like he'd just flown a combat mission.
Nancy grinned. "Want to drive?"
"Thanks! Do you mind if we go over to Frank's Used Cars? There's a Chevy over there that I've been looking at. I want to put some earnest money down on it till I get my check, if it's still there."
"Sure, but I need to drop some things off at Lydia's first. It'll just take a minute."
Lydia's parents' cars were both in the driveway so he had to park down the block. Nancy got some boxes out of the trunk. He took the largest one and followed her inside.
Jonathan stared around the room, which was crowded with people. Lydia and Alvin, of course. Granny. His martial arts teammates. Some of the younger folks from the mountain, people that he knew from volunteering at the day care center. General Hammond's daughter and granddaughters.
Jonathan couldn't believe so many people had shown up. He had thought Nancy, Alvin and Lydia might do something, but this was a complete surprise.
"Thanks, guys. I don't know what to say."
"Then save your breath for blowing out the candles," Celeste advised, as she carried in the cake and everybody sang Happy Birthday. Nancy helped Lydia bring in the rest of the goodies, pizza, chips, punch and ice cream.
After that, he opened his gifts. Two new games for his playstation and another for his gameboy. Some DVD's and music CD's. A nice winter sweater from Granny. A new tackle box from Alvin.
The general's daughter embarrassed Jonathan to no end by kissing his cheek in front of everybody. "Jonathan, Dad wanted to give this to you, but he has some bigwigs in from the Pentagon and couldn't leave the base. This is from all of us."
He opened the card and found a certificate for a year's membership in the auto club, a paid-up gas card, and a bunch of gift certificates for oil changes and so forth. "This is really thoughtful. Thanks."
The girls had made the birthday card. Crayon lettering on construction paper brought Jack's memories of Charlie flooding back to Jonathan, but it was a good memory, a celebration of the boy's life rather than a reminder of his death.
The next box was from Celeste. He recognized the object inside as a dream catcher. But this hadn't come from some trendy gift shop. "You made this yourself?"
She nodded. "My grandmother was a Native American. She taught me how."
She smiled, realizing that he understood the gift had a significance beyond the decorative.
Another card from Sam contained four tickets to the hockey team's first home game and a generous gift certificate from a Denver steakhouse. Lydia, Alvin and Nancy were just as excited about that as he was.
Belatedly, Jack realized he should have been keeping better track of who had given what, so that he could send thank-you cards. "Nancy, have you been keeping a list--?"
She smiled and held up a small notebook where she had been jotting everything down.
There were more gifts, each just as thoughtful as the others. The last was a plain envelope with nothing in it but a worn leather key ring with three keys on it. He recognized the key ring and one of the keys. It was the spare key to Jack's cabin.
For long moment he didn't trust himself to say a word. There was no way that he could ever explain to anyone what that key meant to him. For both Jack and himself, actions spoke louder than words. It was a statement that they were and always would be family, and an acceptance that Jonathan would always hold dear some of the same things--and people--that Jack did. And that Jack knew they were safe in Jonathan's hands.
"What is it?" Nancy asked.
"The key to my brother's cabin," he explained softly.
The other keys were...car keys?!
Grinning, Nancy opened the side door. The little red Chevy that he'd been eyeing for weeks was sitting in the driveway. He hadn't seen it because it had been cleverly hidden behind the Spencers' cars.
"Guys--you shouldn't have--thanks."
Fred Spencer said, "Nancy let the cat out of the bag about which car you wanted, but everybody--and I mean everybody--all went in on it when she passed the hat. I drove it up here and it acts like it's in great shape, but the dealer knows you haven't had a chance to take it for a spin yet. If you don't like the way it handles, you can pick another one tomorrow."
Nancy said, "There was money left so we made a donation to the homeless shelter in your name. I hope that was OK."
He gave her a quick hug. "That was great, Nancy."
Granny laughed. "What are you kids waiting for? Take it for a ride!"
Fred opened the garage doors so that they could get out without moving all the other cars. "Stay in the neighborhood, son, give yourself time to get used to the car before you get in traffic."
The genuine caring in his voice gave Jonathan a lot of patience with being treated like a sixteen-year-old kid who'd just got his driver's license. "Yes, sir. We'll just go up to the school and straight back."
Fred grinned, knowing a lot of their classmates would be shooting baskets in the schoolyard. His first truck had been a hand-me-down from his granddad with no heater and more primer than paint, but he'd loved that old clunker.
Jonathan adjusted the seat and the mirrors and glanced to check that everyone was buckled up.
Celeste said, "They grow up so fast. My God, they'll be seniors next year."
Fred nodded. "Wasn't it yesterday that Nancy and Lydia were playing on that tire swing that you used to have in your back yard?"
"I thought it was just this morning," she replied.
The Chevy stopped for a moment while Jonathan checked that the alley was clear, then disappeared behind the line of garages.
Today, they wouldn't be gone long. The first flights were tentative, as they tried their wings then came back to the security of the nest. But very soon now, they would find the wind and soar, while their parents cheered them on and hid their fear of all that lurked in the wild world outside.
Fred and Celeste went back inside and gossiped with the other parents about first days at kindergarten and first bikes and their own first cars.
Jonathan stopped at his apartment to get his play station controllers so all four of them could check out his new games. It had turned out to be a great birthday after all.
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