Author’s Note: Where did this come from? I honestly don’t remember anymore, but occasionally an idea will hit me that, even though it seems insane even to me, I just have to write. This was one of those. Credit where credit is due must be given to the talented author Mildred Ames, whose young adult novel, Anna to the Infinite Power, first got me thinking about one of the central themes of this story. Also, many sincere thanks to my beta-reader, Em, for her help with both the story and the title!
Pretty much everyone at Cheyenne Mountain was acquainted with what had become known as “Hurricane Janet.” It was a standard part of the education every newcomer received upon joining the SGC–when Dr. Fraiser was in a temper, there was only one thing to do to preserve life and limb: get out of the way.
Of course, despite the warning, it usually took new recruits at least one run-in with the petite CMO before they believed what they’d been told. But sooner or later everyone learned not to judge the “Doc” by her size. And no one had learned that lesson better than SG-1, who had logged more hours in her infirmary than just about any other team on base.
This particular morning, from the minute Dr. Fraiser arrived at the mountain, she was given an expansive berth. And word spread quickly, making injuries that were grievously exaggerated before suddenly became minor again. It was only a scratch. A Band-Aid from one of the many first aid kits kept on base should be more than enough medical attention for whatever ailed. At least until the storm had passed.
By the time she arrived on duty, the infirmary was almost deserted, except for a few frightened nurses…and SG-1. They were due for their annual physicals today, and all four members knew it would be even more dangerous to try to weasel out of them when she was in this kind of mood.
So Jack had nowhere to run when Janet stormed into the infirmary, stalked straight up to him, and slapped him hard across the face.
“Ow! What the hell was that for, Major?” the Colonel demanded in a shocked, angry voice, one hand flying to cover his stinging cheek. The emphasis on her rank was both a warning and a reminder.
“You know, I’ve pegged you for a lot of things, Colonel,” she responded, her voice taut with fury. “But a dirty old man was never one of them.”
Jack exchanged a confused glance with his three equally confused teammates. “Huh?”
Janet’s eyes and nostrils flared. “Your duplicate–” she spat out, referring to the teenaged clone that Loki had created of the Colonel a few months before. “–is dating Cassie.”
“WHAT??” This time, the Colonel’s wasn’t the only voice raised in shock–Sam and Daniel both chimed in, and even Teal’c raised an eyebrow. The few remaining nurses scrambled to find a safe place to hide.
“Wait a second, our Cassie?” Jack continued alone and incredulously, his mind not quite wrapping itself around the idea.
“Yes, ‘our’ Cassie. My Cassie. The little girl who’s looked up to you like a father for six years.” Her voice still shook with rage. “I came home last night and found them making out on the couch.”
“So why are you beating up on me?” he protested. “Why not him?”
“He is you, isn’t he?” Janet shot back. “He has your personality, your memories–it stands to reason that anything he does is something you would do.”
“Ah, maybe we should–” Daniel interjected suddenly, waving a hand towards the door.
“–wait outside,” Sam finished the sentence for him, looking equally desperate to escape.
“I will accompany Major Carter and Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c put in. Even he wasn’t immune to the fear of Dr. Fraiser’s wrath.
“Fine.” The word was forced out through clenched teeth. Her eyes never left the increasingly panicky Colonel O’Neill, and her arms folded across her chest in a way that suggested she was daring him to try to offer her an explanation she could accept.
Jack shot a pleading glance towards his team but they were already beating a hasty retreat.
“Well?” Janet demanded.
“He’s not me,” O’Neill protested weakly. “He’s…teenage me, I don’t know! I swear, Doc, I have never and would never even consider Cassandra that way…she’s…”
She was like a daughter to him. Or a beloved niece. Quite frankly, the idea that she could be anything else to anyone even remotely resembling him boggled his mind completely.
“Then explain this to me,” she challenged him.
“How the hell should I know?” he fired back, getting desperate. “So he has all my memories up to a point; I’m not the one who got turned into a hormonal teenager–that’s gotta have some effect on a guy.”
She wasn’t bending, and his backup–his team–had deserted him. A fact they were going to pay dearly for if he survived this interrogation. Daniel in particular, since he had been the first to run.
“Look, if you want I can have a talk with him–see if I can get him to tell me what the hell he was thinking.” Jack winced a little even as he made the offer. He hadn’t been comfortable around his young clone back when they’d first met, and the feeling was both mutual and persistent. He’d been looking forward to never having to see the teenager again.
Never mind the Cassie thing, that alone was reason enough for him to wring his duplicate’s scrawny pubescent neck when he got his hands on him.
Janet nodded curtly, seeming appeased at least for the moment. “Fine. But between the two of you, you’d better come up with a damned good explanation for this one, Colonel, or I’m going to have a little talk with General Hammond about writing you both up on charges.”
She stalked away, leaving Jack with his mouth hanging open.
The rest of SG-1 cornered him the minute he emerged from the infirmary, Daniel and Sam speaking together: “Jack–” “Colonel–”
He held up a hand. “Ah-ah–don’t say it.”
“Not even–” Daniel started, but Jack cut him off again.
“No, Daniel, and you want to know why? Because you three are supposed to watch my six, remember? That’s why they call us a team. But did you back me up in there?”
Two of the three suddenly found the floor very interesting. Teal’c’s gaze remained level and even, but even he didn’t try to defend himself.
Jack shook his head. “No, you all deserted me. So for that…” Here he flashed them a bright, facetious grin. “…you get to wonder.”
The Colonel pivoted on one heel and stormed down the hallway, not even looking back to see the expressions on their faces. “Oh and by the way,” he shouted over his shoulder. “Doc says she’s still on for the physicals. Have fun!”
The public high school that the Air Force had designated for keeping an eye on some of the more embarrassing human side-effects of the Stargate project let out every day at 3:00. After a brief, awkward and dodgy conversation with General Hammond, that was where Colonel O’Neill found himself at that particular hour. Waiting outside the main entrance of the school for a very familiar face.
A face that he would be tempted to just throw up against the side of his car and smack senseless, if it wouldn’t look to observers like child abuse.
Was there such a thing as clone abuse? Probably not–Jack somehow doubted that Earth laws had caught up with Asgard technology. Besides, to the unwashed masses–who still thought cloning a sheep was remarkable–there’d already been talk about replacement organs as a possible use for human cloning, so there didn’t seem to be much concern about the rights of such not-so-individual individuals.
But damned if he wanted to explain that to a group of angry parents and teachers.
He didn’t have to wait long for the kid to appear. The figure he remembered from his mirror almost forty years ago burst through the front doors out into the sunlight, shouting something to a couple of boys who were probably his designated cronies. They snapped to attention like cadets caught napping by a CO, and Colonel O’Neill smiled in spite of himself. You could take the clone out of the military…
The younger Jack was halfway down the sidewalk when he spotted the original waiting in the car. Suddenly his steps slowed, the jaunty smile on his face disappearing in favor of a wary frown.
“I thought we agreed never to see each other again,” he pointed out as soon as he reached the open window of the vehicle.
Colonel O’Neill just smiled a slow, dangerous smile. “Well, you should’ve thought of that before you decided to get us in trouble with Doc Fraiser.”
From the panic in the clone’s eyes, he knew exactly what his older self was talking about. Drawing more than a little satisfaction from that, the Colonel leaned over and patted the passenger seat. “Hop in. We have to talk.”
Reluctantly the younger Jack obeyed. The older O’Neill put the car in first gear and headed away from the school.
For the first several minutes of the drive no one spoke. Finally, Jack turned to the teenager. “Okay, explain this to me–Cassie?”
Mini-Jack rolled his eyes and stared stubbornly out the window. “I’m not sure I could explain it in a way you’d understand, Colonel.”
“Well, you’d damned well better try, because if you don’t explain it, there’s a very good chance that the Doc’s going to have both of us court-martialed,” the Colonel snapped. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly relish the idea of spending the rest of my life in a military prison, and I’ve got a lot less life left than you do.”
“Okay, okay, you’ve made your point,” the younger Jack groused. “I just…I’m not sure I know how to explain it.”
The elder waved an impatient hand. “Fine–at least answer me this. Do you or do you not share all my memories up to the point where Loki created you? Including my memories of Cassandra?”
“Then how can you even look at her…like that…?” He gestured vaguely, his face screwing up in distaste.
“Hey, it’s not as if I planned this–” the duplicate protested defensively.
“I don’t give a flying fuck!” O’Neill exploded. “Jesus, what the hell were you thinking? This kid is the closest thing I have to a daughter–”
“And I’m not you!” the clone finally shouted back. “Yeah, I have those memories, but they’re not mine. In case you forgot, nothing I remember before the past three months actually happened to me–it happened to you. If you want to get technical, Cassie’s the one robbing the cradle, not me–I’m a fucking infant!”
“But the fact remains–”
“The fact remains that if I live the rest of my life still pretending to be who I remember being, I’m going to be too goddamned old for any woman I meet.” Jack O’Neill the teenager stared defiantly at Jack O’Neill the aging colonel. “You want another fact? I finally accepted that having your memories doesn’t make me you, any more than Rogue having Wolverine’s memories makes her him. I would think that would make you ecstatic, considering how well you tend to get along with yourself, Jack.”
The fight subsided into a tense silence for a moment, then Colonel O’Neill asked, “Who the hell are Wolverine and Rogue?”
The younger Jack smirked. “Right. That’s another one of those movies we’d never seen.”
“Yeah, well, you know me and–”
“–science-fiction. Yeah.” The smirk turned into a full-fledged grin. “Guess I decided that since my whole life–literally–is a science-fiction story, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to understand half of what comes out of Carter’s mouth.”
The voice and the echo shared an uneasy moment of understanding in the form of matching weak smiles.
“Okay,” the Colonel finally conceded, “I get that you can’t keep thinking of yourself as an old geezer with bad knees if you’re going to survive high school. But still…why Cassie of all people? Does she even know–?”
“Yes, she knows,” the teenager cut him off. “And before you ask, no, I didn’t tell her–I didn’t sprout loose lips as well as zits, I still know how to keep a secret. She figured it out on her own.”
“She did, huh?”
The kid’s voice took on a familiar wry tone. “Apparently it was the combination of the name and the attitude that gave it away.”
“You could have changed the name, you know.”
“Hey, I may not be you, but I’m still Jack O’Neill,” the clone insisted. “And it’s not like you’d give up the name just because someone else had it first.”
Well, that was true enough. “Okay…”
“Cassie and I connected because we get each other,” the younger Jack explained. “You have Carter and Daniel and Teal’c and the rest of the SGC if you need to talk to someone about something classified that happened to you. People who are, for all intents and purposes–rank aside–your peers. All Cassie has is her mother and other ‘adults.’ But with all her friends, all her peers, she has to lie about who she is. And I get that, I understand that, because I don’t exactly have a whole slew of people I can talk to about it either.”
“And even knowing who you are…sort of…she still sees you as a peer?”
“Look at me, wise guy–do I look like someone she would consider older and wiser?”
Jack made a dismissive little gesture with his head–once again, the kid did have a point. Damn, that was annoying.
“Cassie knows that even if she could tell her friends at school that she was born on another planet, most of them would laugh her out of the room. Just like they would if I could tell them I was created in a laboratory three months ago and made to believe I was a fifty-year-old man rejuvenated overnight.”
“Hey–watch who you’re calling old.”
“You’re the one who used the phrase ‘geezer with bad knees,’ not me,” the clone defended himself. He then shot the Colonel a look that was way too perceptive to be comfortable. “You’ve been thinking about retiring–again–haven’t you?”
Nails in the head were painful things, Jack grimaced. “I have not!” he lied. “Where the hell would you get that idea?”
“You always get more sensitive about your age when you’ve started thinking about retirement, when you start wondering how much longer before they force you to accept a promotion and chain you to a desk.”
O’Neill glared at his junior double. “Remind me again why I don’t like you?”
“Same reason you never liked the robot Jack from P3X-989,” the teenager responded, cheerfully ignoring his counterpart’s tone. “Because we force you to take a step outside yourself and see yourself for who you really are, and you don’t always like what you see. And because I represent a chance you’ll never have, to do it all over again knowing what you’d do differently.”
“Let’s get one thing straight right now; I am not sitting here wishing I were you!”
“And I’m not exactly burning with the desire to be you, either,” the clone retorted, then corrected himself; “Well, not anymore. But it wouldn’t kill either of us to learn something from the experience.”
Learn something? Jack blinked at the clone and then forced his eyes back to the road. Okay, that had to be a sign of the apocalypse, when a copy of him started talking like Carter and Daniel. “What the hell did they do to you at that school?” he finally muttered in disbelief.
The teenager just smirked, rolled his eyes and turned to stare out the window. He kept staring, silently, for a few moments, before his eyes widened in alarm. “Wait a minute–”
“Simmer down, Grasshopper,” the elder O’Neill interrupted. “You knew this was coming sooner or later.”
“And you decided sooner was better? That’s real brilliant, Jack–I thought you were trying not to get us both court-martialed?”
Jack almost laughed as he pulled the car up to the curb. Okay, now this was definitely a problem–he was starting to understand why Daniel and Carter enjoyed torturing him so much. Yet another reason for him to stay far, far away from the kid in the future. As soon as he made this one last delivery…
Unbuckling his seatbelt, Colonel O’Neill shot his double an expectant look. “C’mon. Time to face the music.”
Still grumbling, the clone obeyed, waiting until his counterpart circled around the car and started up the walk to follow him, dragging his feet all the way.
The doorbell had barely stopped ringing when the door flew open to reveal Cassie’s face. “Jack!” she exclaimed in surprise. Then she noticed who was standing beside him. “Uncle Jack!” A look of pure horror crossed her face. “Oh shit.”
“Hey–watch your language, young lady,” Colonel O’Neill scolded lightly. He then glared at his double. “What the hell have you been teaching her?”
The teenager rolled his eyes. “Wrong O’Neill, Colonel.”
“You’re implying that I–? Nah…”
Smiling faintly at his pretended ignorance, Cassie stepped aside to let them in. When she had closed the door behind them, Jack turned back to the two teenagers. “Your mom home yet?”
Janet’s daughter nodded mechanically.
“Okay, then why don’t you two run along and amuse yourselves while I have a little talk with the doc?”
The shock–and relief–on both their faces was almost palpable.
“You’re serious?” the clone asked, incredulous.
Cassie looked downright flabbergasted. “You’re not mad?”
The older O’Neill just waved a dismissive hand. “Go. Before I change my mind and decide to let you two figure out what to tell her.”
The teens didn’t need to be told twice. Exchanging a look, they found each other’s hands and started quickly towards the door that led into the back yard.
“Hey!” The Colonel’s voice stopped them just as they reached it. “Just…” He waved his hand around again in a vague, patternless motion. “…don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Grinning broadly at the admonition, they disappeared just as Janet entered the room, summoned by the murmur of voices she’d heard. She stared at Jack, aghast.
“Colonel…did you just send them outside together…with your blessing?”
Jack O’Neill the elder and original just grinned and sidestepped Dr. Fraiser to make his way into the kitchen. She followed, still sputtering, to find him with his head in her refrigerator, making himself at home. He emerged a second later with a Rolling Rock.
“I assume you have a damned good explanation for this?” she demanded as soon as she could see him again.
Jack popped the bottle cap and raised the beer to his lips. “Yep.”
“Well?” Janet folded her arms across her chest, her eyes flashing just as dangerously as they had in the infirmary that morning. “What is it?”
He shrugged, grinning as if that alone could explain everything. “He’s not me.”