The Colonel had elected not to be with the first wave of nerds heading to the pyramid on the moon after hearing that Dr Felger was already on the ship. He would have to head up there eventually, but there was no rush for him to go there right now. For the moment, he was occupying himself with the task of caring for the child who'd come from the Goa'uld transport. The child suffered from an apparently severe case of separation anxiety, and had only stopped having a tantrum when Carter left her company because he stayed to keep her occupied in the Major's absence.
He didn't mind saying with her till she felt more comfortable being on her own. The kid, by all accounts had been through some serious shit in the past day. He'd been in enough war zones to get a sense for when people shouldn't be left alone, and the kid really shouldn't be left alone. She was possessive in the extreme, devouring her food as though she weren't sure if there would ever be another opportunity to eat. In the time since Carter left she'd taken every item that had any sort of glass or metal and put them together in a pile on her bed, wrapping them in the blankets and shoving them under the bed frame before sitting atop the bare mattress, cross legged.
Jack just played along, handing her things she pointed at and suggesting that they double wrap the more fragile items in towels. The kid wasn't hurting anything, and if bundling her world up and pushing it under the bed helped the kid feel more in control of the world she was living in – then who was he to judge? There wasn't any one best way to cope with trauma.
And really, as troubling as this behavior was, it was only really a minor aberration from kids just being kids. Which, in part, was why Jack had excused himself to the restroom to center himself. Because for a moment, if only just for a moment, Jack had felt like he was back in his old life playing with Charlie.
"Snap out of it Jack." The Colonel looked at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror, taking deep breaths and counting to three. "You're fine – this is just a feeling and it will pass."
Jack O'Neill had always wanted to be a father as far back as he could remember. It hadn't always been a conscious thought at the forefront of his mind, but the white picket fence and 2.5 children had just sort of been a foregone conclusion in his life. Even before he'd joined the military it hadn't even really been a consideration for him that he wouldn't have kids at some point.
Sara had wanted kids as much as he. She was a good woman, a good partner, and a good mother. Jack, for all his faults, had been a good father as well. He hadn't been present as much as he would have liked, but between his salary as an officer and the benefits the military paid for dependents, Sara and he had been able to carve out their little niche of Winter Park Colorado and make a proper hope to raise a child.
He'd missed most of Sara's pregnancy while he was in turkey. He was simultaneously ashamed and deeply relieved was how events had played out. Ashamed that he had not been able to be present for his ex-wife's time of need and deeply grateful that he'd not had to deal with the more confusing and hormonal aspects of a pregnancy. A deployment was about the only socially acceptable way for a man to leave for seven months and just show up for the birth and end up looking like a hero. They'd been seven months' worth of back-breaking labor, but it had been of the physical rather than emotional variety.
He was better equipped for the latter. Perhaps if he'd been a bit more comfortable in dealing with that sort of work Sara wouldn't have left him after their child died playing with Jack's gun.
To this day, he still wasn't 100% sure how Charlie got ahold of the firearm. Perhaps he had been careless with the weapon and forgotten to put it back in the safe. Perhaps Charlie had just watched his father input the code so many times that he knew it by memory. All he knew for certain was that Charlie had pulled the gun from his closet and decided that he should play with it.
Jack didn't think about using that same gun on himself as much as he had three years ago when he'd agreed to join the suicide mission to Abydos, but he still had his moments when the darkness felt like it might overtake him. It was weird how the idea of pointing that gun at the back of his head and just pulling the trigger didn't alarm him in those moments, instead it comforted him. It felt good to know that if it truly became too much to bear, he would be able to just make it all go away.
He wouldn't though. Not even in the moments where it felt like the best option, his team would never forgive him for abandoning them. He had a role in life, a purpose that was greater than who he had been doing things on a grand scale. It was the sort of job that nobody who valued their life would ever actually choose to do, fighting enemies who were near guaranteed to kill entire population of Earth someday. Jack didn't have a death wish – not most days any more – but he was at peace with the idea of dying in service to something greater than himself.
Charlie wouldn't have wanted his old man to die doing something as foolish as committing suicide for no reason. Heroes only got to die when they took out the bad guy as well – and even then, they were supposed to come back at the end. He splashed cold water over his face, exhaling and turning around to come face to face with the strange little girl.
"Oh, uh hi there." Jack was relieved that he hadn't needed to use the bathroom for anything more serious than a moment of privacy. Wherever she came from must not have had the same social taboos for using the toilet – assuming that she had even the remotest ideal what the washroom even was. Oh hell – was he going to have to teach this kid where to pee?
"You left." The girl stated in a staccato statement of fact, her thin arms crossed over the air force logo of her shirt. "No play."
"I just needed a moment kiddo." Jack ruffled her hair affectionately. "Nothing to worry about."
The child pouted, batting his hand away from her head and pushing her long blonde hair back from her eyes. She made a growling noise that was more of a squeak than a proper growl, and said something in a guttural language that Jack didn't understand.
"Sorry kiddo. No offense meant." Jack lifted his hands, palms up. "I can leave if you want me to."
She shook her head, grabbing Jack about the waist. "No leave."
"Calm down kiddo. I'm not going anywhere." Jack walked the girl back into the main room, her arms still firmly attached to his waist as they moved. She was surprisingly strong, he would likely have had trouble removing her without her cooperation. "You're getting good at English."
"I listen." The little girl replied, curling up on the sofa next to him and nuzzling her cheek into his chest – cat like. "Not hard."
"Most people take more than a day to learn a language." Jack pulled a remote from the table in front of them, instinctively lifting his left arm as the girl blurred into motion. He held the black plastic rectangle at arms-length as the girl tried to reach past him, eager to add whatever it was to her collection.
"Mine!" The girl smiled, greedily eying the multicolored buttons and shiny sony sticker.
"Woah there, kiddo, I need this." Jack chuckled.
"Need more." The girl replied, a stern look on her young features.
"But with this I can do a magic trick." Jack replied, wiggling the fingers on his left hand as he made a "woo-ooh-ooh" noise.
The girl flinched, unsure. "Magic?"
She tilted her head, seemingly a little nervous as she sniffed the air around Jack. Her eyes bulged in recognition, "You… you wizard?"
"No but I play one on TV." Jack replied.
She narrowed her eyes in confusion. The joke was apparently lost on her. She actually sounded afraid as she said. "You magic?"
"Magic." Jack replied, adopting a tone of stone faced seriousness as he pointed the remote to the TV. "With this I can make entire worlds appear on that little box."
She inhaled in shock, staring as the television turned on watching the changing colors and sounds in amazement. He pointed to the remote and talked her through the process of changing channels, how to turn the volume up, how to turn the volume down and how to turn it on and off. The little girl was outright enthralled by the machine, and seemed astonished when he handed the remote over to her.
"Mine?" Jack was sure that it was a question rather than a statement. She actually seemed afraid to accept the item now that she knew what it did, as though the power of it might overwhelm her if she weren't careful.
"Yours." Jack replied.
"What want?" The girl replied, nervously looking at the bundle of items under her bed as though afraid of how much she'd have to part with.
"Nothing." Jack replied, snorting in amusement.
The idea of not paying him for the arcane power being offered seemed more frightening to her than whatever payment she'd been planning to offer, her lip started to quiver and he thought she might be about to cry.
"Hey there – no, none of that." Jack lifted her chin with his thumb and finger. "You're a guest, right? It would be rude for me to ask for a guest to pay for hospitality."
"Guest." The word seemed to calm the girl even as she spoke it. "Jack wizard guest."
"Jack Colonel guest. But you can just call me Jack seeing as how we're friends." Jack smiled at her and pointed to two buttons on the remote. "Now press the one and the three. I want to see what movie is playing."
She pressed the buttons he pointed to, laughing excitedly as the "magic" box obeyed her command. Jack smiled, "You see? You can do it as well as I can."
Jack bit back the stream of swear words that popped into his head when the movie in question turned out to be a film about Dennis Quaid's character befriending an animated creature voiced by Sean Connery. A film in which Sean Connery played a creature not unlike the winged monsters who'd likely been responsible for the little girls injuries. The little girl's eyes were nearly popping out of her skull as she watched Dennis Quaid sitting in a dragon's mouth with a blade pressed upward, ready to slay the beast if it bit down.
"It's ok!" Jack reached out to comfort the girl but she slapped his hand away, shaking in fear as she watched the knight fighting for his very life. "No, seriously – wait. Look, just wait. They're friends."
She replied in her guttural language with something that sounded incredulous.
"No really, wait and see." Jack continued, pointing to the screen as Dennis Quaid got spat out from the beast's mouth and started talking with the dragon. "They become friends and go on adventures together. They're mean now, but they become friends. Good friends. Like you and Jack. We're friends."
"Friends." The girl replied, watching as the dragon spat the man on the ground and chose to let the knight live. She watched with keen attention as the dragon and knight hatched a plan to fleece the kingdom for their wealth. "No fight dragon?"
"Friends don't fight." Jack made a crossing motion over his heart. "I swear. Cross my heart and hope to die."
And just like that, she didn't seem afraid anymore. Kids were like that though, they would be terrified of some bogeyman one second and determined to befriend it the next once they realized it was an option to have it on your side. As she continued to watch the movie, Jack realized that her reactions were not just in response to the tone of what was being said – she seemed to have a firm grasp of the actual words being used. She even laughed at a couple of puns that wouldn't make sense on their own.
"You understand a lot more than you can say, can't you Kiddo?" Jack queried politely.
"Yes." The girl replied. "Took from Carter and Fraiser. Not speak well. Not used to talking. Words new."
"You didn't used to talk?" Jack replied, incredulously.
"Words have meaning. I used few, with much meaning. You use many with little meaning." She shook her head. "Small words are difficult. Hard to pick right ones. Father better at little words."
"Your father?" Jack asked. "Was he with you on the ship?"
"Father, brothers, sisters – all dead." She shivered. "I followed when they went. We all did. When the bad ones came, I was too slow. They cut me, so I ran. I was scared. I hid."
She grabbed Jack tightly, tears rolling down her eyes. "I waited for Grandfather. Grandfather is strong, but he screamed. The bad ones hurt Grandfather. Grandfather was big. I am small. I hid. I waited. Grandfather did not come. Carter came. Carter helped."
"She's good at that." Jack agreed, mentally cursing the Lord Warden for taking a ship full of slaves into a section of space he doubtless had known was fraught with peril.
"Should have stayed – fought." The girl hugged her knees to her chest as she put her head in Jack's lap. Wet tears dripped onto Jack's leg, staining his uniform. "Not run like coward."
"Kid, what you did was smart. You don't fight a battle that you can't win." Jack patted her arm gently. "I've run from more fights than I can count. I run so that I can live. You can't beat the bad guy if you're dead."
She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand, sniffing loudly. "Still should have helped."
"Your parents want you alive, kid. No parent is ever sad that their child survived." Jack insisted, thinking of his own boy. "Trust me."
"Grandfather will be angry." The girl replied in a voice that was just above a whisper.
Jack very much doubted that "Grandfather" was even alive for it to be a problem, but elected not to voice that sentiment. "Your grandpa won't be angry. And if he's angry, then he's a capital "J" jerk and not worth your time."
"But he is very big, and I am very small." She continued in that same quiet tone.
"Then he's a very big jerk." Jack replied. "I tell you what, your grandfather shows up here and has a problem with you living – I'll protect you from him as long as you're our guest."
There was a long moment of silence from the girl as the only sounds in the room came from the movie on TV before she asked. "Promise?"
"Promise." Jack replied.
"Swear on the magic?" She held up the remote in a grave tone that sounded comical coming from the child.
"I swear on all my magic that I won't let your grandfather do anything to you that you won't want him to." Jack replied flippantly. "Scout's honor."
He felt an odd tingle running up his spine as he said that, the same tingle he'd felt every time he spoke the Commissioning Oath as an Officer. It was a promise that he knew he'd keep. Strange to feel such conviction for something that he was sure would never come to fruition, but he'd grown accustomed to trusting his gut. It hadn't lead him astray so far.
He helped her clean her face with a tissue, wiping away the tears and snot. "Now. Seeing as how you understand me, I think we should have a proper introduction, don't you?"
The girl nodded once, still rubbing at her face with her sleeves even though there weren't any more tears to wipe away.
"Good." Jack smiled. "So, how about this. I'll give you my name if you give me yours? Does that sound fair?"
The girl hesitated for a moment before saying. "True name?"
"Sure – friends don't lie." Jack smiled. "I've already promised to protect you from your Grandfather, seems like we're the sort of friend who get to know each other."
"Like Bowen and Draco?" She pointed to the screen.
"Yeah – sure kiddo." Jack replied.
There was a long moment before the girl lowered her head, and shook it. "Can't."
"Sure, you can." Jack gave the girl a playful shove. "I'll show you. My name is Colonel Jonathan J. O'Neill. That's O'Neill with two "l's but everyone calls me "Jack." The "J" at the center doesn't stand for anything, by the way, it got added to my birth certificate as a typo and I've just been running with it since then. Now you go."
"Can't." She shook her head, seemingly scandalized.
"I thought we were friends? Like Bowen and Draco." Jack chided her in a voice of mild reproof.
"Want to – but can't." She looked genuinely ashamed. "I am nīðing Sárkány. No true name."
"You don't have a name?" Jack replied. "What did your parents call you?"
"Not use names. Family is nīðing Sárkány. Have no true names." She replied, in obvious embarrassment. "Unworthy."
Well, that was downright chilling. Jack had encountered basically every combination of prejudice imaginable even before joining the Stargate program. The thought that an entire family could lose the right to even name their children because of some social faux pas committed by an ancestor sounded altogether too plausible.
"Well, you're not kneey sarkiee here." Jack replied even as the child said "nīðing Sárkány" in an effort to correct him. "Yeah, that – you're not that here. Here, while you're our guest, you're considered an equal. And equals get to have names."
"But I am nīðing Sárkány." Insisted the girl, horrified at the idea. "I have not earned it. Grandfather will –"
"Kid, as far as I'm concerned your Grandfather and anyone else who has a problem with a kid having a name is more than welcome to hit the bricks." Jack replied firmly. "So you're leaving here with a name. You can use it, keep it, or toss it away forever when you leave here, but as long as you're under our roof you're an equal not this nīðing Sárkány that you're ashamed of being. Consider it part of our hospitality."
There was another long pause as she chewed her lower lip, clearly locked in deep thought. She cleared her throat before asking. "What name?"
"What name do you want?" Jack asked. "It's your name after all."
"Not sure…" Replied the girl, seemingly genuinely confused by the prospect. "Never considered. Kiddo?"
"Kiddo is more of a nickname than a real name." Jack replied. "How about Mary."
The girl make a gagging sound that got a chuckle out of Jack. "Not a fan of that one, eh? How about Emily?"
"Emily." The girl spoke the name as though she were trying to taste its very meaning. "I like Emily." She looked up hopefully. "Does Emily get three names like Jack?"
"Sure." Jack replied. "Why not? Got any preferences?"
"Emily Bowen Draco." She said without even a second's pause.
"You're naming yourself after the characters from the movie?" Jack replied in deadpan monotone. Give a pre-teen the chance to name themselves whatever they want and of course they picked the two coolest names they knew. If her pop-culture knowledge was greater than twenty minutes long she might have ended up being Neo Skywalker-Durden.
She nodded. "My name is Emily Bowen Draco."
"Good for you." Jack tousled her hair. Emily did not stop him this time, choosing instead to cuddle up to him so that they could finish watching the movie.