Title: Goodbye

Author: Jodi Marie

Classification: S/J, sort of, UST

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Fragile Balance

Summary: Missing scene. Sam says goodbye to someone special.

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be. *sigh*

Carter loped down the hall as fast as she could without breaking into an all out run. He was leaving and she hadn't yet said goodbye.

Yesterday Thor had completed his genetic manipulations and declared the 'duplicate O'Neill', as she'd dubbed him, stable and now aging normally. After his return from the ship O'Neill, *her* O'Neill had whisked him away to his home. Or was it *their* home? The younger version had every memory, the exact same little nervous habits and an equal penchant for sarcasm as the original. It was, to quote the Colonel, 'weird'.

O'Neill spent several minutes alone with General Hammond and finally got permission to take his clone off the base for a while. The young man had undergone debriefings and psych exams until he was ready to explode, not to mention daily sessions with Thor in the science lab on his ship. It seemed the necessary changes could only be done in small increments, all told he'd been at someone else's mercy for seven days and he was *not* a happy camper.

Finally done with everyone who wanted a piece of him the clone had but one request before starting the new life the Air Force had created for him; he wanted to go home.

The Colonel understood immediately, he would have felt the same need to close the doors on his old life if he'd been the one moving on. He didn't explain but simply went to the General and told him this was something that needed to happen. Hammond didn't question it and let them go.

Carter could only guess at what the two men had done or talked about, free from the prying eyes, ears and security cameras of the SGC. O'Neill wasn't someone who became nostalgic often so she imagined much of it would be about their military past and security issues. Of course Charlie would have been in there somewhere and his parents and other family too. Duplicate or not it was cruel of fate to make him give up everything and everyone he'd ever known all at the same time. No one should be expected to be able to do that.

She wondered if her name had come up in conversation; she could only imagine what they might have said about her. Past admissions had laid bare how the Colonel felt about her and it was a given the younger version had those same feelings and memories. What was different was how she felt about *him*.

During those few days before she knew he was a clone, something had changed. It may have been his vulnerability but she didn't think so. Seeing him handle a classroom full of cocky pilots with utter confidence dashed that thought before it was fully formed. Perhaps it was that the tables had turned on their non-relationship relationship. She became the older one, with nearly as much of an age discrepancy as there was between she and the *elder* O'Neill, yet strangely, she felt the same tug at her heart when she looked at him.

If it had turned out that he *wasn't* a clone and there was no older version of himself off somewhere else, and the change had been permanent, she wondered what might have come to pass. In three years he'd be eighteen, and legally an adult. She had no doubt he'd be permitted to stay in the Air Force and most likely with the Stargate program on experience alone, and her mind reeled at the thought of a twenty-something year old leading an SG team with all the knowledge, skills and competency of the man she knew as her CO. Without a doubt she knew it would happen. Then there were the implications of what it could mean for them personally. Suddenly she understood the man on a whole new level; she couldn't help but appreciate him even more.

That was some of the reason she had to catch him now. This new connection she'd developed with the clone was something not shared by the original, it had developed *after* the separation, unique to *them*. She had no fantasies about pursuing a relationship but still had to let him know that to her he wasn't just a cheap copy; he was his own self and a piece of her would always care for him; she had to tell him so. He would only be there a short while to gather his meager belongings from the VIP quarters before meeting the elder O'Neill topside and being driven to the 'Springs' and his new life. It was now or never.

She turned the corner and saw the door to the room just slightly ajar; no security personnel were around. That was one concession that was first on the list to go; if the United States government trusted Colonel O'Neill with the level of security he held, they must by default trust his clone. The body was young but the dedication to honor was that of a mature and seasoned professional.

She heard him moving about the room and slipped in quietly, latching the door behind her. He turned and stopped packing for the moment. "Carter."

"Sir."

His shook his head and smiled. Some things just never changed. "You know, you're possibly the only person on the planet that still calls me that."

She took a step forward. "Technically speaking it is correct, right? I thought they were keeping your commission on the books, you still have the knowledge and experience required."

"But not the age or years of service. Actually they are, covertly. I've been dropped to Captain, which I think *sucks*, but from their point of view they're giving me an 'honorary commission' and credit for stuff like already attending the Academy. Makes me feel like I didn't earn it though." He paused. " Which, I guess I didn't." He rolled his eyes accepting another one of those strange inconsistencies that plagued him daily. "At least they haven't rescinded my clearance level."

"So you *are* staying with the Air Force."

He resumed packing. "Guess so for now. Gets me a paycheck anyway. I'll have to check in weekly and serve some weekends and stuff like reservists do. I've already set it up to do my time on the flight line. Of all the things I could change on this go 'round I still want to fly. Gonna be the youngest jet pilot at Peterson, they tell me."

She grinned. It was great to see him so upbeat about moving on. She doubted she would have been able to muster the same courage. "So. You've decided to go with 'Jonathan'?"

"Yeah. My mom never liked to call me 'Jack'. It'll work for me." He shrugged.

"What about your family? That must be really hard."

"Never been close with them anyway, so it's okay. Back at home, I mean um, Jack's house, he gave me a bunch of photographs and some personal mementos so I'd still feel 'connected' to where I came from. He's been pretty decent about sharing stuff, said I didn't deserve a raw deal for something that wasn't my fault. We talked about seeing the folks but it would be too hard to explain why I look like I do. Probably scare the sh-, um pants off them. The only option would be to introduce me as another son-" His voice trailed off.

"Uh, that *would* be hard."

"On everybody, me included. I'd feel like I was impersonating Charlie." Jonathan's voice fell to a whisper. He turned and sat on the bed beside his small suitcase, eyes downcast.

"I'm so sorry."

"Hey, I'm a new *me*." He shook himself and spoke with forced levity, "I just have to accept that all my friends and family belong to *him* and get over it."

"But you know them all as well as he does."

"They don't know me."

"Some of us do." She sat down beside him close enough their elbows brushed.

He turned and stared into her blue eyes, holding her gaze for a moment then his eyes narrowed and closed as he looked away. "Funny." His mouth twitched. "I can't win. If it's not inappropriate in one way, it is in another."

She reached over and took his hand.

He jerked his shoulders upright and pulled away, "Sam, I'm *fifteen*!"

She paused before answering and bit her bottom lip. "I know, you're a minor, and that dredges up all kinds of legal issues so..." She paused and took a deep breath. "I disabled the security cameras before I came in, thought we might want to say a proper goodbye."

He glanced at the camera, just now noting no little red light glowing then looked at her. "I can't really...say goodbye to you. Not ever."

She smiled and touched his cheek. If the situation had been reversed she would have felt the same way. "I don't expect you to. But you do have to move on."

She caught him blinking back a tear and leaned forward to nuzzle her cheek against his. She had to smile at the smoothness of his skin; there was no beard stubble to grate against her.

He shivered at her touch and tentatively reached out his arms. A moment later they were embracing each other tightly. "Sam."

He shook his head slightly and she felt an objection coming on; she quickly leaned back enough to capture his face in her hands and hold it still. She surprised him and pressed her lips firmly to his.



The contact was so odd, his mouth being smaller than hers, but his response was that of experience and she melted against him reveling the sensation. Her hands fell slowly to his shoulders and his arms encircled her slender form. He pressed their bodies close as their mouths moved against each other. When their tongues touched he suddenly pulled back with a grunt.

His fifteen year-old body was definitely making itself known. His pants were big enough to hide it but he still felt his face flush with embarrassment. "Ugh. Hormones. I knew this was a bad idea."

"It's okay." Sam smiled. "You think your other self would have a different response under the same circumstances?"

"Probably not." His eyebrow twitched. "More guilt maybe." He stood and faced her then leaned down and kissed her again, this time chastely. "Goodbye, Sam."

She took his hands and held them tightly, gazing into his dark eyes, "If there's ever anything you need..."

"Call Auntie Sam?"

She laughed and released his hands, "Something like that." Then her voice changed in tone. "I've thought about this whole thing a lot; do we accept Thor and the other Asgard as themselves, knowing they are all clones, simply because the original doesn't exist anymore? Could it be possible Thor's original 'self' is in stasis somewhere? And would that make a difference?"

Sam saw him wince at her theorizing and stood up and to be more on his level. She reached out and grasped his upper arm lightly. "Sorry. What I mean is, yes, you *are* a clone, but in every way," she smiled and inclined her head, "but the obvious one, you are him."

"*Was* him." Jonathan's eyes darkened. "From here on out, we're two different people. We just happen to share a lot of memories."

She looked down and swallowed then looked back into his eyes. "As far as I'm concerned, *we* shared something too, a lot of things, even if it was kind of by proxy. I won't forget and I *won't* hang you out to dry. If the Air Force ever gets stupid on you, and we both know what kinds of things can happen, I'll be there."

"Thanks." He turned to the suitcase, closed the top and zipped it securely. "But I think I'll do all right. Nice to know I've got back up if I ever need it, but I need to sort myself out first." His hand drifted from the suitcase to her cheek. "There are a lot of things I need to get over."

His hand fell and he picked up the suitcase. "Time to go, the old man must be wondering what's taking me so long."

Sam stiffened her shoulders and clasped her hands in front of her. "Good luck, Sir."

He smiled again and gave her a curt nod then turned and walked toward the door. As he left he heard her add a final comment. "I still think you're cute."

He didn't turn back but shook his head and chuckled. Maybe there were one or two more things he should discuss with his elder self on the drive into town, 'Cuteness' and certain Major's being at the top of the list.

~fin