He pulled the flowing black gown off his shoulders, rolling them to relieve the stress of the last few hours. Balling up the graduation gown under his arm, he pulled off the appalling hat and restyled his hair quickly with one hand, holding both the hat and rolled up scroll in the other. He smiled and nodded at other class members as they walked past, but as always, he stayed slightly apart from them, separate. Not alone, just detached.
`So, John.` He heard a voice address him from behind, and he turned to look at one of his old professors, who was watching him with proud eyes.
`Hey, Simon.` He replied, grinning. Professor Simon Benson had not only been a professor of his, but a good drinking buddy. John had never had any difficulties getting along with the older generations. His grin turned sly as he remembered why that was so.
`You finally get outta here, huh?` The older man replied, nodding his head at the graduation gown and hat. John nodded back, shuffling slightly in his dress shoes.
`Yup. Got a few weeks off to see the world before the Air Force drags me back to real life.` He was looking forward to the break, the long winding road stretched before his Ducati, helmet on and backpack full of all he needed a few changes of clothes and a couple of books to keep him company on the trip.
`Got the Ducati all ready to go?`
`Ready and waiting, Simon. Just gotta dump these back in storage, and I`m off. Should be in the middle of nowhere by sundown.` The professor shook his head in bewilderment at the eagerness in his former student`s voice.
`You know, John, one thing I never asked you that`s been bugging me these last few years.` Simon told him, gesturing for John to continue walking.
`What`s that?` John asked, turning with Simon to walk towards the car park.
`Why on earth would you choose to study military history, ancient history and astronomy?` Simon grinned as he asked. It was the question almost all of John`s professors were keen to have answered. Simon was about to be disappointed however.
`Classified, Simon.` John replied with an evil glint in his eye. He stuffed the gown and hat into the small compartment on the rear of the bike and picked his helmet up.
`One day, John, that answer is just not going to cut it.` Simon growled good naturedly. He, and several of John`s closer friends knew that there was something unusual about John, knew that he had some sort of arrangement with the Air Force, but beyond that they knew nothing. Which was how John wanted and needed it to be.
`See you round, yeah?` John said, putting the helmet on and doing it up. Simon nodded in reply, stepping back as John started the motor-bike and revved it slightly. He kicked it forward to knock the stand off, then backed it out of it`s parking spot and put it in gear.
`Bye, John. Good luck. Check in now and then, let us know how you`re going.` Simon said in fare-well. John nodded his head, then put his sunglasses on and roared off, the throaty sound of the bike gaining a few interested stares as he rumbled out of the car park.
He stood outside the recruiting office staring up at the flags gently waving in the breeze. His last three weeks of touring the eastern half of the country had done him a lot of good. He was relaxed after the long break from anything resembling study or civilisation. It was something he`d missing in the last six years, since he`d reinvented himself. The solitude and serenity of the forests and rivers, of the wilderness he`d come to love as a child. It had taken a lot to make him give that up, that serenity, that aimless wandering. To make him come back here, to where it all started. To where it would start again.
John took a deep breath and stepped forward, towards the automatic doors that swished open mechanically as he approached. He looked around the room, noticing the young men and women who were talking with the recruiting officers, the young officers in their crisp blue or green uniforms and unexpectedly felt a surge of feeling that he belatedly recognised was one of coming home. He mentally turned away from the aimless wandering that still hankered deep in his soul, turning towards his future towards where he belonged.
`Can I help you?` A Lieutenant asked, coming up to stand near him. John sized him up quickly, with a scan of the man`s posture, his body language. A fairly new Lieutenant, still out to prove himself. He sighed internally.
`Yes. I`m John Stewart.` He`d taken his mothers name. Forward thinking made him realise that keeping the name of O`Neill along with the name Jonathon would complicate things far beyond what was necessary. So he was now John Stewart. `I believe you`re expecting me.`
`John Stewart?` The Lieutenant repeated as a question. He frowned, then shook his head. `No, I don`t remember anyone by that name. Did you have an appointment?`
John stared at him in blank shock. An appointment? For him? Since when did he need an appointment? Wasn`t this all supposed to have been arranged?
`Ahh, no. I don`t. I didn`t realise I`d need one. Sorry.` John replied after a few seconds, still reeling. Maybe they got the date wrong?
`So let me guess.` The Lieutenant said condescendingly. `You`d like to join one of the armed forces?` John stared at him, a flat stare that had cowed so many Lieutenants, just like this one. Unfortunately it wasn`t working for once. He inwardly cursed his youthful appearance and nodded silently in answer instead.
`Air Force.` He said after a second. `I`m interested in the Air Force.` He cast a quick look at the Lieutenants green uniform before shooting his eyes over towards the blue-garbed Lieutenant sitting with another young man.
`Oh.` The Lieutenant said softly. `Look, John, I`m sorry to tell you this, but the Air Force isn`t currently looking for recruits. They have an over-abundance of personnel at the moment, and have suspended recruitment for the next twelve months. If you really are interested, I can give you some pamphlets to look over, and you`re more than welcome to come back this time next year. Or you can maybe join the Army or Navy? We`re still looking for recruits.` The Lieutenant smiled winningly. John shook his head.
`I`m not interested in the other arms. I`m Air Force. Now let me talk to the other Lieutenant.` John ordered. As suspected and as he`d dreaded, the Lieutenant barely even listened to him.
`The Army has some great opportunities. Here, look at this.` He reached over to a wall of pamphlets, but John grabbed his wrist, preventing him from grabbing one of the brightly colours fliers.
`Lieutenant. I am not interested in joining the Army. I will speak to the other Lieutenant as soon as she is available. Thank you.` John spoke firmly and softly, his voice carrying the weight and authority he`d learned over years. The Lieutenant bristled and raised his voice.
`Listen here, sir. I have already explained to you that the Air Force is not recruiting at this point in time. And if you wish to pursue a career in the military, you are going to have to learn to take orders.` His raised voice had garnered the attention of the others in the room, who had turned to look. John disregarded them, and stared the young Lieutenant down.
`Lieutenant.` He said softly. `Shut up and go away. Now.` The Lieutenant blanched at the menace in his voice and took an involuntary step back. By this time, the Air Force Lieutenant had made her way over and was looking to interrupt. John turned to her and took a deep breath. `My name is John Stewart. You are expecting me.` The new Lieutenant looked shocked, her eyes flashed open wide and then she nodded, gesturing John to a small cubicle.
`David, can you look after Jason for me, please? I need to see to this right now.` The Air Force Lieutenant told her Army compatriot. David the Army Lieutenant - looked stunned, but nodded and headed over to the young man that the Air Force Lieutenant had been talking to previously.
John walked into the cubicle and sat down. The Air Force Lieutenant sat down opposite him, and placed her hands neatly clasped on the desk in front of her.
`John, my name is Lieutenant Macy Franklin. It`s an honour to finally meet you.` John frowned. Finally meet him? What did Lieutenant Macy Franklin know about him. She read the question from his expression and continued.
`I`m on secondment from the SGC, John. We`ve been waiting for you to arrive for the last three weeks.` She frowned at him in silent irritation. He shrugged in return. His holiday was not something he was going to feel bad about. He`d enjoyed it. And more importantly, he`d needed it. He caught a small flicker of a smile in the corner of Macy`s mouth and wondered at it. `Now, as to the recruitment process you`re going to have to go through. We`ve got your records from Minnesota State University. Pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.` She cast him a look from beneath her lashes, eyes flashing with amusement.
`I had nothing else to do. Wasn`t legal until five months ago. So I figure studying would give me something to do on those Friday nights.` A part of his mind wondered why he was explaining his results to this Lieutenant. Sure she was pretty. She was young, he guessed a few years older than he was. Her hair was a neat, tidy brown. Almost sable in colour. Her skin was pretty much flawless, marred only by a few moles that gathered around her right ear. Her eyes were a brilliant green, and John estimated she stood at about five foot eight inches tall. But as to why he felt the need to explain, he was still not sure.
`Fair enough. As I was saying. You`re still going to have to go through officer training. We can`t skip that. But we can accelerate your post graduate skills development. Normally you would finish your knife and fork course, then head out to your special field of training for further education. But seeing as how we`re picking you up and you pretty much have all the training you could need, we`re going to skip that part.` Macy reached into a drawer of the desk and pulled out a thick wad of paper, which she thumped down in front of John. `Here`s some reading I want you to do in the next few days, while we get everything sorted out. Now that you`re here I can get the ball rolling and get us both out of here.` John shot her a look of his own, surprise and amusement warring across his face. `Oh yes.` She continued on his look. `I`m busting just as much as you are to get back to the SGC. David is driving me nuts.` She grinned at him, a co-conspirator. John grinned back. It was nice to be back in the loop again.
`What is this, exactly?` John asked, picking up the stack of paper.
`Basic advancements in our officer training, plus anything else that you may have missed out on because you`re not doing the further training.` Macy hesitated briefly, and John looked up at her. `It`s also got a brief history on your old team-mates. Well, on O`Neill`s team-mates.` She hesitated again. `General O`Neill thought you`d like to know what`s happened in the last six years.`
`I`m.. I mean, Jack`s a General?` John repeated in shock.
`Yes.` Macy nodded and smiled softly. `Jack was promoted to General approximately three years ago. But you can read all about that later. For now, let`s get this started.` Macy grabbed a pen and handed it to him, pulling out some paperwork as well. `Here`s where you get to sign your life to the Air Force.`
`Again.` John added, tongue-in-cheek. Macy shot him a look, then nodded.
`Again.` She replied, smiling that soft smile again.
He`d graduated. Again. Once again, top of the class. He may come across as foolish and stupid, but his grades always said differently. He thought back to last time he`d sat in this bar, so many years ago. He thought of what had come after, the years, the pain, the missions. This time, hopefully, he`d go through without too many marks on his record. It was a vow that he`d made during the ceremony earlier that day, but didn`t really expect to succeed in keeping.
He was in a bar with the other officer-recruits now officers in truth. They were all getting blind drunk, beer shots followed by Sambuca shots, followed by beer shots. It was a blessing of his body that he could keep up with the young men. A blessing of his body that he was now young himself.
`One. Two three!` They all yelled in chorus, downing the latest shot. He`d forgotten what beverage they were up to, and didn`t really notice the taste as the alcohol bypassed his taste buds and went straight for his throat. He grinned at his fellow-Lieutenants, thumping his hand down on the table in apparent glee. Smacking his lips together to see if they were still attached to his face, he scanned the crowded bar.
`Oh my god.` He slurred out loud. Three of his training buddies turned to look in the direction he was looking. One of them moaned in appreciation. The other two whistled. Or rather, tried to whistle. Spittle and beer exited their mouths rapidly as the wind rushed through lazily pursed lips. Hilarity ensued as they tried to wipe up the mess now staining their shirts and the table-top.
``Scuse me.` John said, standing up and leaning heavily on the hand on the table-top. `I gotta go see a lady about an alien.` He staggered away, weaving in the direction of the bar.
`Isn`t it a guy about a log?` Geoff asked, confused.
`Nah, it`s a man about a dog.` Matthew replied.
`For fucks sake, guys. He`s taking a leak. What is it with you guys and cliché`s?` Martin said, in perfect imitation of John Stewart. The rest of the table erupted into drunken laughter. Then they all drank their next shot.
John reached the bar without any major incidents, and leaned up on it, standing side-on and staring at the Captain in front of him. A Captain that the last time he`d seen had been a Lieutenant, more than eighteen months ago.
`Scuse me.` He slurred, tugging on her sleeve. Her head turned, and he could see the put down already formed on her lips, ready to deliver. It died a rapid death as the Captain got a look at the man in front of her.
`John!?` She guessed, looking him over. He nodded in reply, grinning stupidly.
`Heya, Macy.` He looked at her empty glass. `What can I get ya?`
`I`m on my way out, John. But thanks. You just graduate?` She asked, stepping back and gathering her coat and handbag off the bar-stool in front of her.
`Yup! Getting drunk with the guys before reporting for duty on Monday.`
`Well, I`m on Level 24, with a few others in one of the offices. You get a chance, look me up. Of course, they`re probably going to keep you seriously busy for the first few days. General O`Neill can be a demanding commander.`
`So I hear.` John replied, walking her out of the bar. He`d sobered up slightly at the thought of reporting to General O`Neill on Monday. How do you talk to yourself? He wondered in his drunken state. Lieutenant you reporting for duty, sir? He shook his head. A song popped into his head and he started humming along with the tune, singing in his head `every me, every you. Ah hah` . He shuddered, shook his head them smiled at Macy in confusion. Every now and then being General Jack O`Neill`s clone got very confusing.
`Don`t think about it too much.` Macy advised with a smile, knowing his history very well. `You`ll get a headache.`
`That`s pretty much guaranteed, Captain. Congratulations, by the way.` He smiled, tapping her shoulder tabs gently. She smiled back, flushing slightly.
`Thanks, John. See you next week. Enjoy yourself tonight.` She told him, and before opening the door, leant in to kiss his cheek softly in farewell. He walked back to the table and sat down, completely ignoring the ribald jokes coming his way from the rest of his friends.
The Mountain was no different. The guards still paced the perimeter. There was still three security checkpoints to get through before you entered the mountain itself. There was the metal detector and guard waiting to scan any visitors to the complex, and the NCO waiting at a desk by the elevators for any visitors, ready to ring down for an escort. John walked up to the NCO and stood at ease, waiting for the Sergeant to finish his telephone conversation. Several seconds later, the Sergeant hung up and looked up at his visitor.
`Holy` The Sergeant whispered, before standing up and saluting. `Welcome to Cheyenne again, sir. I`m Sergeant Dennison. I`ll just ring down for an escort.` He fumbled the phone off the hook and dialled a short series of numbers. `Lieutenant Stewart is here, sir.` He said down the phone, waited a few moments, then hung up. `Ahhh, someone will be up shortly to escort you down to General O`Neill`s office, sir. Why don`t you have a seat.` Dennison gestured to the waiting area, and John gratefully took a seat. He`d gotten progressively more and more nervous as this morning approached, and it was now all he could do not to shake with nervous tension. He laid his hat on the seat beside him, leant forward and rubbed his hands through his hair, a nervous habit that had been with him longer than he could remember. Coming back here, back to the Mountain, back to the Stargate Program was something he`d wanted since he found out he wasn`t the original Colonel Jack O`Neill. That he was a facsimile. A copy. A clone. It was all he`d wanted for eight years now. And now that he was here, he was a nervous wreck. He wasn`t Jack O`Neill anymore. He didn`t have that life. But he still remembered it. Still remembered his pseudo-family, his team. SG-1. Daniel Jackson, Teal`c and Samantha Carter. His heart twinged briefly at the memory of her. Her brilliant, beautiful personality. Vibrant and vivid in his memory. Someone he`d lost before he even had the opportunity to have..
The elevator pinged, announcing it`s arrival. He stood up quickly, grabbing his hat and turning to face the elevator. The doors opened slowly, revealing a large man standing in the middle of the elevator room, who was staring at him with calm brown eyes. The man nodded slowly before exiting the elevator, coming to a stop a few steps from John. Again, the man bowed, this time more formal, lower.
`It is an honour to once again speak with you, JonathonStewart.` The man said, his low voice soft in the waiting area.
`You too, Teal`c.` John replied, his voice slightly hoarse. He cleared his throat roughly. `You haven`t changed a bit, T-man.` John admired his old comrade-in-arms. The big black man was still muscular, his face still did not show any sign of aging. He was well over one hundred years old now, but still looked no more than forty.
`Thank you. Will you follow me? GeneralO`Neill is waiting for your presence.` John nodded and indicated Teal`c should lead the way.
Teal`c led the way through the corridors of Level 28, straight up into the briefing room and beyond that into the office that had once belonged to General Hammond. George Hammond had retired several years ago to be replaced by General O`Neill. Whom John was about to meet, for the first time face to face since that day eight years ago when Jack had dropped John off at school and left him to get on with his life. Teal`c hesitated at the door, then stepped inside. John followed and his jaw dropped when he saw Dr Daniel Jackson perched on the mahogany desk.
`Holy Shit. Daniel, what the hell happened to you?` John asked, horrified. The man in front of him had aged in the past eight years, which was to be expected. He still had a boyishness about him, still had the blue eyes behind those thick glasses and a smile that would knock women dead at ten paces. But somewhere in the past eight years, Dr Daniel Jackson had been wounded. That wound had robbed the man of his right leg. His trouser pant ended at the midway point between his hip and what would have been his knee, and the trouser pant itself was pinned up at his hip.
`Hi, John.` Daniel replied with a small smile. He`d had over four years to accustom himself to his disability. Four years and some very close friends that helped him through the rough times. It all helped. `I lost it fighting Ba`al back in 2007. It`s okay though. Teneile doesn`t seem to mind.`
`Teneile?` John echoed stupidly.
`My wife. I got married two years ago, to the surgeon who operated on me.` Daniel grinned, a flush rising and falling on his neck.
`Er.` John was at a loss. Here was half of his pseudo-family talking to him, but talking to him almost as though he were a stranger. Which he supposed he was. Not only was he NOT Jack O`Neill anymore, but he`d been away from these people for too long now for them to be comfortable with him. `Where`s the.. General.` He almost swallowed his tongue pronouncing Jack`s rank. The thought that he could make it to General, even if it wasn`t him, per se, was a thought that had remained with him during the last eighteen months of training. If HE could make it, then so could John.
`Caught up in a medical briefing with Janet and Dr Medieski.` Daniel explained, reaching for his crutches and standing up. `John` He started, but then all three of them heard footfalls approaching the office. John turned to watch as the approaching person walked around the corner into the office and felt his heart crumble into tiny pieces as Samantha Carter walked into the room. General Samantha Carter, John noticed almost instantly, seeing the insignia on her uniform.
She`d aged. Aged well, but almost sixteen years of fighting a war always takes it`s toll, on any person. She had a small scar on her neck, up close to her left ear. Her eyes were still that bright blue that had always captivated him, but now they were weathered with the sights and horrors she`d witnessed. The deaths she`d caused and the deaths she`d escaped. Her hair was shorter, harsher than when he`d last seen it. But it suited her. Defined the hollows in her cheeks and made her eyes stand out that much more.
John jerked awake and saluted her, a twisted smile skirting over his lips as she returned it. She looked at him solemnly, scanning her eyes over his body, looking for something John could not fathom. Differences between himself and O`Neill? Similarities? John could guess what she saw. A young man, in his mid-twenties, scar and wrinkle free. Sandy blond hair cut short and neat, gelled slightly to stick with the current fashions, which were blessedly tending towards the shorter styles once again. Tall, he still towered over her and even with the assistance of the academy gym, at the physical age of approximately twenty-four he was still lanky. Still slightly on the thin side. But beneath the ropy exterior he was just as strong as he`d always been.
`I`m glad to see you back here, Ja-Jo-Lieutenant.` Samantha finally said, her voice stuttering slightly over his name. `It`s been a long time.`
`Yup. Eight years, four months, two days and about,` John checked his watch, `eighteen hours since I was last on base. That`s a bit of water under the bridge.`
`A cliché, John?` Daniel said from behind him. John shot him a grin, still rattled at seeing Carter, but recovering fast. Eight years was a long time, and he`d had a chance to resign himself to his fate.
`Right, well, if you`ll give Lieutenant Stewart and I some time, please, gentlemen?` Samantha asked pointedly. Daniel and Teal`c nodded, both at Samantha and John, then left the room and closed the door after them. Much to John`s surprise, Carter then sat down behind the red-mahogany desk, picking up a folder from on top and opening the manila front page.
`Ahh. Won`t General O`Neill be pissed to see you sitting at his desk?` John asked, shifting uncomfortably. Carter shot John a surprised look, then a flash of guilt and pleasure washed across her face in quick succession.
`Lieu-John. This is my desk. This is my office. I`m the CO of the SGC now.` Carter said gently.
`But all the forms said General O`Neill` John drifted slowly to silence, finally understanding what she was telling him. SHE was General O`Neill. `Oh.` He sat back, trying to analyse just how he felt about this news. He rubbed a hand over his mouth, fingers rasping against the new growth of whiskers that was just starting to come through. He closed his eyes, blocking out the sympathetic eyes of Samantha O`Neill, nee Carter.
`We`ve been married for just on three years now. He retired in early 2006, just after he made general.` Sam explained softly, apologetically. John opened his eyes to stare at his. Wife? No, not his wife. JACK`s wife. The woman sitting in front of him was now nothing more than his CO. He did some mental arithmetic over the dates that had been mentioned.
`It took you guys two years after he retired for you to get married?` He said disbelievingly. Sam flushed with embarrassment, then chuckled, relaxing slightly. She`d understood by his comment that he would survive this shock.
`Well, it took him six months to ask me on a date, so I`d say we did pretty well after that.`
`Six damn months!?` John was aghast. `What the hell took him so long?`
`He says it was a mourning period. Something about letting go of the old, yadda yadda.` She waved her hand in the air, a gesture that John recognised from his own body language. A gesture she`d obviously picked up from her husband. He thought for a few moments.
`He was nervous.` John said, feeling suddenly more comfortable.
`What?` Sam blinked at him, not sure what his meaning was.
`He was dead set scared stiff of what you`d say when he finally plucked up the courage to ask you.` John expanded on his explanation.
`Why, for crying out loud?` Sam demanded, then smiled at John`s sudden burst of laughter. They paused for a second to recover themselves, then Sam continued. `How can you know?`
`Cause I would have been, too, Sam. Ahh, Sir. Ma`am. General. Oh crap.` He threw his hands up in the air. `What the hell do I call you now? This is so damned confusing.` He grumbled, scowling. Sam grinned back at him.
`Considering the circumstances, John, why don`t you call me Sam? Or Carter, if you feel more comfortable. Hell, Jack still calls me Carter half the time.` She paused for a second, fingering a pen on her desk. `Are you going to be okay with this John?` She asked finally, looking at him from beneath her eye-lashes. John snorted softly.
`Bit late to ask that now, isn`t it?` He pointed out sarcastically.
`True, we.. I should have spoken to you prior to this, but I just couldn`t. We`ve discovered since Jack retired that his presence made a difference to the SGC. He had a way of keeping up morale, of never giving in.`
`Sam I`m not Jack. Not any more.` John pointed out gently, finally understanding the truth of the statement. He wasn`t Jack, wasn`t even a clone of Jack not anymore. Not since that day eight years ago when his life had diverged from Jonathon O`Neill`s. From that day forth, he was someone different.
`I know, John.` Sam replied gently. `You`re not him. Trust me, I know that. For one, you`re a gentler person.`
`Gentler?!` John was indignant.
`Well, softer? Calmer? Whatever it is, you`re easier to talk to than Jack was in that last year before he retired. He`d become a hard unbending arrogant jackass. Pun intended. You`ve had eight years break from this insane world we call the SGC. And it`s helped you. Just like retirement helped Jack.` Sam stood up and came around her desk to lean back on it, closer to John and more relaxed. `What I want off you for the next six months is for you to learn what you`ve missed in the last eight years. We`ve managed to defeat quite a few of our old foe`s, but as always along the way we`ve gathered a whole lot more.`
`What about going off-world?` John asked, listening to her explanation of his next few months with interest.
`Not right now.` Sam held her hand up to stop his automatic protest. `Hang on a second, John. Not right now, but that`s because you`re not up to date on our advances. Once we`ve got that sorted out, we`ll be sending you out for a few months with SG-13, as their junior team member to get you used to the field again.`
She smiled at his silent protest, knowing his expressions very well after living with his other half for three and a half years. `John, you`ve been out of operation for eight years now. And you`re much younger than when you last remember going out in the field. You need to get your sea-legs, for wont of a better term. Once that`s done the chances are very high that you`ll be put on either SG-2 or SG-4 as both have positions that are soon to become available.`
`What about SG-1?` John asked with interest, thinking through what she was telling him.
`SG-1 doesn`t exist anymore. Not as it did. When Jack retired, we put a replacement on the team and I was promoted to Colonel with a jump right over Lieutenant-Colonel for various reasons that I`m not going in to right now. Then Daniel lost his leg. And all of a sudden, SG-1 wasn`t SG-1 anymore. I,` She hesitated, looking directly at John to gauge his mood. `About five weeks after Daniel lost his leg, I discovered I was pregnant. Within a year of Jack retiring, SG-1 consisted of Teal`c. And no one wanted to join the team. Something about revering the original members or some such. Anyway, after a few weeks it was decided that SG-1 would not be replaced, and that their duties would be divided up between several other teams. So now, SG-2 and SG-5 go out on new planet recon`s. SG-4 and SG-7 go out on alliance negotiation talks. SG-3 goes out when we need brute force and not too many smarts they are marines, after all.` Sam smiled evilly. John wasn`t listening. He`d stopped listening after the word `pregnant`.
`John?` Sam called his name, waving a hand in front of his eyes to get his attention.
`Pregnant?` John repeated the only thing worth paying attention to. Sam nodded, looking sombre and hesitant.
`Jack and I have two lovely daughters, John. Twins, born just over eighteen months from when Jack retired. It was one of the reasons we had to wait two years to get married. I was pregnant.`
`You have two daughters?` Curiously, he wasn`t hurt. His heart was still beating. In fact, it was beating rapidly, and he could feel this small glow warming the pit of his belly. Sam and Jack had children. Two daughters.
`Yes. Julie and Jennifer. Two adorable four year olds who are driving their father mad.` Sam was watching John closely, waiting for the eruption, the anger, the anguish. Something. But there was nothing bar a small enigmatic smile that graces his lips. Lips that were full and flushed with youth.
`Wow. Jack has got to be in seventh heaven right now.` John said finally. Sam sighed when he spoke.
`He is. So am I.` Sam cleared her throat and got back on point. `Now, back to my original question are you sure you`re going to be okay with coming back here? Admittedly a good sixty percent of the staff have changed since you last remember it, but there`s still a good amount of people who will remember you. Never mind the unbelievable resemblance to Jack.` She smiled at her own words. The resemblance was unbelievable because it was true. Very few people who worked outside of the Stargate program would ever believe that such a thing could happen that a clone could be made to act as a replacement, without anyone the wiser for the swap.
`I`m okay. I`ve been itching to get out and kick more butt, to be honest.` John admitted. Sam nodded her head in response, then stood up.
`In that case, I want you to go down to 21, get checked out by the doc`s and then head over to Daniel`s office for a brief history lesson.` She cast him a look as she walked back behind her desk. `I understand that you took ancient history and astronomy while you were at University?`
`Yup.` John replied, bouncing on his toes with his hands in his pockets.
`And your marks were fairly impressive.` Sarcasm and understatement dripped from her voice.
`All good.` John grinned. `Now you can take that back to Jack and argue his `dumb` mode.` Sam grinned evilly back, a glint in her eye. Somehow, John had a feeling Sam had already done just that.
`Good. Daniel will give you a brief verbal history, but he`s prepared a few reports for your perusal. And Teal`c`s prepared some weapons training with you for tomorrow. Welcome back, John.` Sam dismissed him. John saluted smartly, destroying the show by grinning sardonically at his CO. Sam returned the salute with her own wry smile before sitting down and getting back to the job of running her base.
John almost bounced into the infirmary, eager to see Janet Fraser and the rest of her team, curious as to who was still there, who had left and what had changed. The first thing he noticed was the lack of equipment in the room. The second thing was Janet.
`Holy shit, doc!` He breathed, taking in the changes in the doctor. Janet spun around and opened her mouth to spew out words of reprimand, when she suddenly stopped.
`Oh my god!` She squealed before running over and hugging the breath out of him. `John, look at you!` She stepped back, running her hands through his short sandy hair. `Wow, have you grown up!`
`Thanks, doc.` John replied sarcastically. He and Janet had always been close, good friends that had been forced repeatedly into each others company. Generally due to the injuries one of his old team-members had suffered from. Then, as himself, as John, he`d become close to Janet as they tried to discover just how to reverse the damage that had been done to his body. He`d stayed in touch with the doctor for a year or so after leaving the SGC, until he`d moved away from Colorado, back to Minnesota.
Since then, the Doc had changed. Her hair was almost shorn off, a style even more severe than Sam`s was. And her hair was now a pure pristine white.
`What the hell happened, doc?` John asked, brushing his own hand through the woman`s hair.
`I pretty much died a few years ago. They got me back here and implanted a tok`ra in me, but the trauma of the injury did this. Within two months, my hair was completely white. But Tu`lian says it looks good, so I`ve gotten used to it.`
`Tu`lian?` John repeated, fearing the worst. It was confirmed when Janet closed her eyes and then opened them again slowly, and suddenly John was no longer looking at Janet. He was looking at the snake infecting her.
`It is an honour to meet you, John.` The Tok`ra said in that echoy voice that they all used. `Janet has been looking forward to your presence here for some time now. I look forward to working with you in the future.`
`Yeah.` It was pretty much all that John could think to say at that point in time. By the time he`d gotten himself sorted out, Janet was back in control and walking him towards an infirmary bed all the while instructing him to take his clothes off.
`Doc!` John protested half-heartedly, then shrugged and started undoing his shirt buttons.
Three weeks later, John had settled in to his old/new life once more. He`d found a nice neat apartment on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, overlooking a green park and small lake. He`d come to terms with Sam and Jack`s marriage a feat that took him little to no time at all, surprisingly. Time heals all wounds apparently. He`d tentatively established a new friendship with both Teal`c and Daniel. A changed, more subdued friendship, but friendship none-the-less. And while Sam was now his CO, he still found himself popping in to her office to chat with her about her children, the latest developments from her science team, and the latest results from teams off-world.
The biggest thing he`d found during the last few weeks, the most reassuring and comforting reaction was from the junior staff around him. Everyone by now knew who he was, his history. And being the SGC, they had accepted it without so much as a blink. Carter (John still called her Carter in his head. Would always think of her as Carter or Sam. It was how he remembered her. How he treasured her. And he was happy with the way things were now) had rostered him in to SG-13 and they were due to go on their first mission together in just under two weeks. They were currently training together under Teal`c`s instructions, coming together as a cohesive team. The leader of the team, Major Simpson (Bart to his friends), had not been with the SGC when Jack O`Neill had worked there, which made both his and John`s transition much easier.
John found that the hardest part of his new life was remembering that according to all information, he was a Lieutenant. And a first year Lieutenant at that. He continually had to bite his tongue when being given orders. It was the hardest part of his job, the lack of command-respect. But it would get better, he was sure.
John checked his watch and started in surprise. His meandering thoughts had just lost him half an hour of time. He jumped up from the kitchen table and grabbed his keys, slamming the door to the unit shut behind him. He trotted down the stairs and unlocked his car by beeper, the big black truck flashing it`s lights back at him. He grinned as he hopped into the drivers side. The air force had given him a stipend over the last eight years, something with which he could survive, he could maintain some semblance on normalcy. It wasn`t a lot in fact, it wasn`t much at all. But John had managed to make the money work for him. And now, just a month out of the academy, he`d had enough money for a significant down-payment on the F-250. It was a touch of home that he was glad to have back.
John pulled up outside the large brick house, noting the two cars in the driveway. One was a large silver convertible, with it`s black vinyl top up and it`s nose nuzzling the garage door. The other was very familiar to John. It was a large green F-250. It was Jack`s truck. An older model of the very truck he was driving now. John chuckled to himself as the irony. An older model with an older truck. The newer model had the newer truck. He pulled up behind the convertible, noticing now that he was closer, that it was a 1998 model Trans Am.
`Nice.` He said under his breath as he got out of his truck, locking it behind him. He was distracted briefly, and started to peer in through the windows at the interior, his mind rattling over the performance capabilities of the vehicle.
`John!` He heard someone yell, and it took a second for him to realise that the voice belonged to his CO. He pushed his brain away from drooling over the car and turned to approach Sam, a smile on his face. The smile froze and then shattered when two blond whirlwinds ran out from behind Sam`s legs and out onto the front lawn.
`Oh God.` He breathed, watching the two little girls run around and giggle as they played. He blinked, hard, then turned back to Sam. `Sam, they`re gorgeous.`
`Thank you, John.` Came the reply, and it wasn`t from Sam. Jack now stood behind her, on arm around her waist. He was studying his clone, looking at the younger version of himself with a sense of unreality. John studied his older self in equal fascination.
`Man, you age well.` John finally broke the tension. They all laughed, slightly unhinged, but it helped. The slightly louder voice he used caught the attention of the two children, who looked over in confusion at hearing their father`s voice coming from the stranger standing talking to their parents. They looked at each other and then skipped over to stare solemnly at the stranger for a few minutes.
`You look like Daddy.` One of the girls said. John smiled down at her, his heart breaking and healing simultaneously `Except without the silver hair and scars.` He laughed at that, wanted to hug the child.
`Jenn, Jules, this is.` Jack started to say, but was unsure how to finish the statement. John looked at him, in sympathy and understanding. But he was okay. These children weren`t his. They were Jack and Sam`s. He was his own man now (and he heard his fathers voice as he thought that his father, who had died so many years ago). It was time to move on.
`I`m your Uncle John.` He said with a smile, bending down to shake each girls hand. `I`m very pleased to meet you.`
`Captain Franklin, R&D Department`
`Macy, it`s John.`
`John! How are you! How was the barbeque on the weekend? You okay? Did everything go well? How are Jules and Jenn?`
`Macy! Man, is this twenty question time, or what?`
`Yes. Now answer them!`
`How about I answer them over dinner?`
`Dinner? As in....`
`As in a date. You, me, food, conversation. The usual.`
`John, what about the command structure.`
`Not a problem. You`re in R&D. I`m in exploration. The two don`t meet until we hit Sam. Now, would you like to have dinner with me?`
`..I`d love to.`