by Rebecca Ratliff

EMAIL: June 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: Action/adventure, angst, UST, hurt/comfort

RATING: R, language, violence toward children. This story is certainly not intended for children or young teens.

SPOILERS: Fragile Balance

SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season 7. Granny Garrett, from the previous story "Granny," is a major character in this story.

SUMMARY: Jack's young clone faces a very adult danger as he starts a new life away from Cheyenne Mountain.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set in the same reality as the Gates of War series. The text of A. E. Housman's poem, "To An Athlete Dying Young," mentioned in this story, may be found at www dot bartelby dot com. Thanks to Badger2395 for pointing something out that needs a little clarification. Jonathan discusses the battle of Khe Sahn in his history class. While Jack served in Viet Nam, it was later in the war. He did not personally fight at Khe Sahn in 1968, but he did serve in Special Forces with men who had. He certainly has enough knowledge and experience of the war in Viet Nam to discuss it from a position of authority. Jonathan's collective "we" refers to "our side" and isn't meant to imply that Jack was there.

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 looked around the small apartment over Agnes "Granny" Garrett's garage. "Granny, thanks for letting me rent the place. I don't know where else I coulda got a landlord to rent to me."

Granny smiled, "You're doing me a favor. I've been wanting to rent this apartment out, but I don't have time to screen tenants."

The apartment was sparsely furnished, enough for now until he had a better idea what he was going to do with it. This was more like his cramped quarters on base than his house-

Damn. Did it again. None of that was his. Jack O'Neill was the one with the house and the job and the friends. Jonathan O'Neill was a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, orphan, emancipated minor, receiving a not-too-shabby monthly allowance from the US Air Force which, if asked about it, neither he nor the Air Force would discuss. A bank account came with the check, and a debit card came with the bank account. Also in his wallet was his high school ID, a library card, and a Social Security card. His background was sketchy, but well crafted, including a woman who would swear that she had found him on a group home doorstep, and a paper trail that led through a series of similar revolving door group homes. Daniel had given him the voice of experience on that, including a lot of unpleasant stories he'd never gone into detail about before. That kind of thing made it obvious why he had filed for emancipation, and why a family court judge had allowed it. It also explained why he was more mature than anyone might expect a fifteen-year-old kid to be. The rest of the blanks were all his to fill in as he desired.

He couldn't remember when he had ever felt so completely lost and alone. His impulse to pick up the phone and call Daniel only underscored how alone he really was. And Carter-God, oh God, he couldn't even let himself think about her. No matter what his memories and his heart were telling him, for everyone's sake, he had to close that book and walk away.

Granny said, "Well, I think I've shown you where everything is. I have a meat loaf in the oven. Why don't you come over for supper?"

"Thanks, Granny," Jonathan said immediately. He had intended to cut all ties with Jack, the SGC, and the life he remembered. He was glad now that Granny had used the apartment as an excuse to keep him from doing that. It meant the world to have someone who knew the whole story in his corner.

She said, "I seem to remember someone saving my life and putting a roof over my head and food in my mouth when I got in a bit of a jam. I'm not sure if this is paying back a favor, or paying one forward. Anyway, I'm glad for the chance. And it would be a crime to eat a whole apple pie by myself."

Jonathan followed her down the stairs. "You have the keys to the garage and my house there too. You're welcome to use my washer and dryer if you want, and if you get a bike, put it in the garage with mine. The guy next door left his bicycle in the yard and someone stole it."

He hadn't even thought about transportation. Getting a bike was going to have to be a priority. Tomorrow after school, he guessed.

Granny put on a feed, and it was a good thing. He was starving.

"Sorry, Granny. You must think I'm a pig."

"No, I think you're a hungry teenager and I'm not exactly new to that, you know. You'll probably eat half again what you're used to," she laughed. "It sure does me good to have someone enjoying my cooking again." She dished up another slice of pie.

Jonathan offered to clean up, and while he was doing that, Granny filled up a box with linens and towels and stuff. He thanked her for that, although her generosity was a little embarrassing.

"Don't be silly, you need to get by until you can get moved in. It's a hell of a job to set up housekeeping from scratch."

After that, Jonathan walked a few blocks to the supermarket and got his first good look around the neighborhood. Unlike the quiet dead-end street he was used to, there was a lot of traffic at all hours, and lots of people out in the yard who waved at him as he walked by. He found his bus stop at the end of the block.

He bought groceries, as well as a cooking pot, a frying pan and a coffee maker, and he purchased a pre-paid cell phone. Then he remembered he was going to need some things for school and went down that aisle as well.

After he got back home and put everything away, it was getting late. Jonathan made the bed and put the towels in the bathroom.

He hadn't accomplished much at school earlier today, besides getting registered and getting his class assignments and textbooks. He leafed through the books and soon realized he knew most of this stuff. The only one that was less than familiar was biology, and having already learned Latin wasn't as much help as he had thought it was going to be. He read the chapters that the class had covered. If he wasn't a straight-A student in biology, the sky wouldn't fall.

He set the alarm on his watch and turned in. He didn't even have a TV yet. But he was too tired to worry about it tonight. He pulled the blanket over his head and fell asleep.

Jonathan awakened about 0300 from a dream about Carter. They'd said goodbye less than twenty-four hours ago, and already he missed her so much it hurt. Because that had been goodbye forever. Alone in the darkest hours of the morning, he found himself crying for everything he had lost.

Before he let himself make an itemized list that would tear him apart, Jonathan got out of bed and looked for something to do. By the time he had to fix breakfast and get ready for school, he had the whole apartment sparkling and he had a pretty good idea of everything he was going to need.

He stuffed his book bag and walked down to the bus stop. A skinny little black kid in thick Harry Potter glasses was sitting there with his nose stuck in a book.

"Don't the middle school kids take the next bus?"

"Hey! I'm a sophomore!"

Jonathan held up a hand. "Sorry, my bad."

"Don't sweat it, everyone thinks that. You're the new kid, aren't you?"

"Yeah, that would be me."

The kid stuck out his hand. "I'm Alvin Connell."

"O'Neill," he answered automatically, then amended as they shook hands, "Jonathan."

"Is your dad in the Air Force?" Alvin asked.

"Uh, no. Yours?"

"No, he drives a cab," Alvin replied.

"Hey, are we gonna be in the same biology class? Do you understand this stuff?"

"If you have Forrester first period we are. I do okay, I guess," Alvin said. He snapped the book shut and put it in his backpack. "Here comes our bus."

At the last minute, two girls came flying down the alley and jumped on the bus just as the driver was closing the doors. One of them was a tall girl with long, satiny black hair and a warm smile. Her shorter companion, wrestling with a book bag and a flute case, paid no attention to anything except avoiding several attempts to trip her as she looked for a seat. Jonathan was gratified to see her toe one guy's ankle.

The bus practically emptied at the school. Jonathan found his locker and got to homeroom about half a minute ahead of the bell. The homeroom teacher took attendance and then settled back into working on lessons for the rest of the day.

The good looking girl from the bus this morning was sitting next to him. She smiled at him, but he barely had time to return it before the next bell rang.

With the addition of computers, the science room was just like he remembered from when he had been a kid in Chicago in the 60's. There was this high school lab smell, chemicals and stuff, That apparently never changed.

The only empty seat was next to Alvin, who scooted his books over to his side of the lab table to make room for Jonathan's.

A couple of boys at the next station snickered as he sat down. Jonathan gave them a level, what's-your-problem glance. They just turned away, whispering and laughing under their breath.

They shut up when the teacher entered the classroom and picked up a long wooden pointer. Lawrence Forrester was a tall, extremely thin, dark-haired man who reminded Jonathan of a praying mantis. His expression was set in a perpetual scowl, and his beady eyes were always in motion. Jonathan immediately pegged him as someone attracted to the study of biology by the opportunity to kill and cut up small helpless things.

When Forrester's piercing gaze settled on him, Jonathan couldn't do anything about small, but he sure as hell knew how to give off a strong vibe that he wasn't helpless. He told himself he was being stupid, but his gut instinct replied that this was one dangerous son of a bitch.

He walked down the aisle until he stood directly in front of Jonathan's station. "Mr. O'Neill, I presume."

O'Neill met his eyes with a stare of his own. "That's right."

"I don't know where you came from before you got here, but you are in my classroom now, and you may check that attitude at the door. There will be no talking, no passing of notes, no chewing of gum, and above all, no ringing cell phones. Your work will be completed neatly and on time. Any plagiarism will result in immediate failure of the course. Do you understand all of that?"

If some Jaffa had shoved him to the floor and told him to kneel before his god, Jonathan wouldn't have been a bit surprised. He hadn't checked any attitudes for them, and he sure wasn't starting for this jackass. "Loud and clear, Teacher."

There was a round of snickering, that silenced the instant Forrester looked around the room.

"Open your books to page 148. Mr. O'Neill, perhaps you would like to explain the process of mitosis to the class?"

Jonathan said, "Love to, but we'd only got as far as chapter five in my old school."

Several kids laughed out loud. Forrester whacked his pointer on the desk of the nearest one, a girl who flinched away as if he had just pointed a gun at her. "Then, until such time as you have something worthwhile to contribute, keep your mouth shut." He turned to Alvin. "Mr. Connell."

Alvin swallowed his laughter and recited the process of cell division, in such a way that Jonathan actually understood what he was talking about.

Jonathan realized he had just made an enemy in Forrester. He was OK with that. He sure didn't want the guy for a friend. If Forrester had his heart set on making this the longest hour of the day, Jonathan would be all too willing to return the favor.

The rest of the morning went quietly. He had English and History before lunch. Both classes were easy. He took an immediate liking to the English teacher, Mrs. Branford. She was everyone's favorite aunt, and her genuine love of literature and poetry were infectious.

The history teacher, Mr. Allison, was also the coach of the baseball team. He was an easy-going sandy haired man who held the class' interest by making their studies come alive.

"OK, who can tell me something about Khe Sahn?"

Jonathan answered without thinking, "That's where we won the battle and lost the war in Viet Nam."

"Care to explain that, Jonathan?"

He realized he was too close to the line, but he was in with both feet now. "Well, after we secured Khe Sahn, we were in a position to keep going. Instead we withdrew. The war went on for years but Khe Sahn established a pattern. Our boys on the ground can overcome anything they have to, except the lack of a clear objective in Washington."

"Why do you think there was no clear objective?"

"Politics back home. First the President and then the people weren't told just how hard it was going to be to win over there. Then, the brass were too busy winning the cold war to do what they had to do to win in Viet Nam itself."

Coach Allison nodded. "Good answer, son. Nancy, what can you tell me about the North Vietnamese actions in response to the battle of Khe Sahn?"

It was the girl with black hair from the bus and homeroom. Now he had a name for her.

Her answer was that of someone who had done her homework, but the boys who had given their lives at Khe Sahn had been twenty years in their graves before these kids had ever been born. Jonathan remembered the heat and humidity of the Vietnamese jungle, the smell of cordite and decomposing corpses, the sound of artillery approaching his covert ops team's position, closer with every explosion. You couldn't put that in a history book. The real history of the war in Viet Nam would die with the people on both sides who fought there.

There was another mad stampede for the lockers before lunch. Jonathan kept his biology book as he got what he would need for the rest of the day. He intended to know that damn chapter inside out by tomorrow.