AUTHOR'S NOTES: After the Season 7 episode 'Fragile Balance, various people have commented on the inappropriateness of middle-aged Jack in a teenaged body perving on teenaged girls. It sparked some thoughts about how, even in a fifteen year-old's body, Young Jack's still going to have the mind of an adult man – and that's going to be manifestly incompatible with the teenage minds of his 'peers' at school.
The Difference Between Men and Boys
When you're fifteen, you're just looking for a pretty girl. Someone to listen to you, admire you, adore you, and to get into bed.
When you're pushing fifty, your priorities are very different.
Which is why I rather hate what's been done to me.
I'm a fifty-year-old in a fifteen year old's body. Do you know the kind of paradoxes that makes?
Do you know how guilty you feel for looking at your thirty-something teacher and thinking that she's really quite beautiful if a little young for your tastes?
And hell, my body's only fifteen years old!
His body's fifty years old, which means aches and pains and knee reconstructions, looking forward to old age and all the attendant infirmities. Peachy.
Hmm, I should ask the Doc if the memory fails because of time, or because of the physical body. If it's because of time, then I'll be senile at thirty-something. What a cheerful thought.
The real down-side to this whole cloned-body experience is that the females I find myself looking at twice are women, not girls.
I never realised how inane girl-talk is the first time around. Probably because my libido was too busy paying attention to their youthful figures and pretty faces to really pay attention to what they were saying. And while it wasn't quite as crass as thinking that women wouldn't have anything worth listening to anyway, it probably came pretty close.
At a mental age of fifty, and after six years serving beside a very intelligent, personable woman, I know better. I'm no longer looking for a pretty face and a beautiful body – I'm looking for a woman who'll titillate my mind and not just my senses.
Unfortunately, the kind of woman who'd do that for me is at least twenty years my senior in body, and isn't looking for a teenaged boy as a partner – either sexually or emotionally.
It didn't seem so bad to begin with. Until I realised that my checking out the girls in my class actually classifies as perversion. Hell, I'm an mature man in a young man's body. While it might seem acceptable to the world for a fifteen year old guy to check out fifteen year old girls, it's definitely a no-no for a fifty year old guy.
And what am I but fifty in a fifteen-casing?
The Air Force is taking care of me. They gave me a name and a background – I'm still Jack O'Neill, but a very distant relative to Colonel Jack O'Neill of the Air Force. I'm a child prodigy of sorts, which means they've got me in Advanced classes. In a year or two, they'll 'enroll' me in the officer program and start using all that knowledge I gained the first time around for the second time.
Hopefully this time I won't get stuck in Iraq for four months. Once was more than enough, thanks.
Anyway, in the two years of the interim, I'm stuck here in classes, reminded of why I didn't take the academic path the first time around.
Classes on stuff we'll never use are boring.
And it's only the start of the year.
The present class is math and there's a lazy haze over the room. Partly because we're doing calculus and partly because it's an unseasonally warm autumn afternoon.
I'm staring at two lines full of x's and y's, and I'm apparently supposed to use the two lines to somehow get the value of y.
There aren't even any astrophysicists handy to explain it to me in terms of apples and oranges...
Someone remind me why I need this again?
That's right, I didn't do the education thing the first time around.
Not that I really want to do it the second time around.
But hey, maybe at the end of it, I might have just a slightly better clue about what Carter and Daniel were always talking about, even if he doesn't.
Man, that's weird. Thinking about myself in the third person. Because he is me. Kinda. Sorta. We were the same person, and now we're not. Everything changes from here.
The class is boring, but I get the equations done. It's all that military discipline – the kind of stuff that you don't have when you're fifteen but acquire along the way to fifty. The understanding that life is not all about you and it won't always be easy.
Still...I'm sure I remember my first youth being a lot more interesting than this...
My name is Jack O'Neill and this is my life.
At least, it's my life for the next two years – until the interesting stuff begins.
Class finishes and we head out to lunch. My friends – or at least the 'crew' I 'hang out' with – meet me in the cafeteria. One thing that hasn't changed over thirty years, and doesn't change from military installation to public school system: cafeteria food.
The kids I sit with aren't the most fascinating gang in the universe. They don't know there's a war taking place over their heads, most of them don't realise how many times they've come close to extinction. Their chatter is totally trivial and very specific to their age group.
The worst thing? That there isn't a single person in the world who understands where I'm at. Not the kids I'm sitting with, not the teachers who lecture me, not the General who told me that I could re-join the Air Force Academy once I turned eighteen, not even the man whose memories I share up to two weeks ago.
It's a lonely feeling.
"...blitzed the math problem the teacher set up on the board – and then began setting up another equation that stumped old Nick!"
"She'll probably end up in the chess club," dismissed one of the girls.
"I dunno, she may very well end up in the cheer squad," smirked a boy. "She's all leg."
"Deep, Tom," someone else says. "Real deep."
"Hey, that's her now!"
Heads turns out of curiosity, and I'm one of them. Anything new is to be appreciated around here – I mean, the next sixty years is going to be a case of 'been there done...'
They were right. She's all leg.
Even at fifteen, she's all leg.
A fifteen year old's body with a thirty-something year old's mind.
Hey, it's not perfect, but to a fifty year old in a fifteen year old body, it's better than a fifteen year old in a fifteen year old body.
She catches my eye and stalks past. The expression is one I recognise only too well in spite of the unaccustomed youthfulness of the face it's coming from – she's pissed at me.
I'm not even aware I've picked up my lunch to follow her until I'm sitting opposite her, knowing that the kids I left are smirking and gossiping among themselves.
I dump the tray and sit down without an invitation. "Jack O'Neill. And you are...?" I know who she is, I just don't quite know how this is going to work out.
"Still going by 'Sam'?"
"I'm certainly not going to answer to 'Samantha'," she retorts.
"Would you answer to 'Carter'?"
"Only if you're going to answer to 'sir'."
"I guess it would look a little weird?"
"Gee, do you think so?"
"What's with the mouth, Carter?" Oops. Habit. "Sam."
"You're not my commanding officer anymore. I no longer have to say 'with all due respect'."
"And here was me hoping that a little of the respect would carry on..."
She softens, just a touch. "Well, maybe a little. Six years of habit are hard to overcome."
"That's all it was? Habit?"
"Maybe." The look I get is fit to level Stargates. Whatever's brought her here didn't make her happy.
"When did about? Did you find yourself wandering around thinking you were her, too?"
Her cheeks go abruptly pink. "Thor figured you could do with some company."
"She figured. After the Colonel – you – came back after dropping you off here. He said you were eyeing the girls, and she thought that was pretty disgusting since you're...technically older. And somehow Thor got the idea that you'd..." She flushes.
She was made to be my company.
Huh. Adam and Adam's rib.
Carter was never one to take 'being the woman' lying down. Or standing up. Or in any position except fighting mad.
"And you don't mind?"
Her head snaps up, "Of course I mind, sir!" She snaps, still too soft for the kids at the next table to hear, but with enough venom in it to let me know that she holds me responsible for it – given that Thor and Loki are not within reach and I am.
Lucky me. It's that first year when she was trying to prove herself to me all over again.
"Hey, I didn't ask for this, Carter." My natural ebullience is carrying me through – and this life won't be so bad as long as there's someone else who understands. "I didn't ask either for this or for you. It just happened."
She rolls her eyes. "I know you didn't ask for it. But I'm still mad, and you're the closest person I can blame."
The boy I'd been at fifteen would take that entirely the wrong way. The man I am at fifty knows it's a normal human reaction. And she's still human, for all her brains.
"I hear you solved the advanced Math problem in class." Maybe a change of topic will get her in a better mood.
"Not so basic to me," I retort, stung by her nonchalance. "I skipped the path you and Daniel took the first time around for a reason!" It's good to see that although our appearances might be different, our way of relating is still pretty much the same. Back off, keep your distance, stay aloof. That'll have to change. I hold my temper – an easier thing at fifty than at fifteen. "Look, Carter. We're stuck in the same position here. Old minds, young bodies." And all the paradoxes that come with it.
"I didn't ask for this!" Careful, Maj... Car... Sam, that sounds like a whinge.
"I didn't either. But you're here and I'm here. Don't you think we should call a truce? Make the most of it?"
She looks up from the shambles of her lunch, and I nearly forget to breathe.
Why did I never before notice how devastating her glance from under lowered lashes could be?
Maybe I was too busy concentrating on not noticing?
"Is that an invitation, Jack?"
Mouth dry, heart racing, blank mind...
Yup, I remember this feeling from fifteen.
"Maybe, Sam," I tell her. "If you're going to take it up."
The smile she gives me is faintly wicked. The side of Sam Carter I rarely saw – she was too busy being an Air Force Major.
We're not Colonel and Major anymore. Well, we are, and we aren't. And it's going to be an interesting two years, that's for sure.
And now I have someone to share it with.
Of course, we're still going to be carrying the same old baggage as our 'original' versions do, emotional and mental. Things will not be easy from the start. But, what can I say? I'm a big softy at heart.
At fifteen, I'd have been more interested in Carter's looks than her mind.
At fifty, I know that looks will fade – my own didn't hang on that long – and that only the mind lasts. And, boy, what a mind!
And that's the difference between men and boys.
- fin -
AUTHOR'S NOTES 2: For a really good story that deals with the fallout from 'Fragile Balance', I recommend SGCbearcub's "Monkey Screaming."