Author's note: This is an AU story that takes place about 20 years from the current date. The united countries know about the stargate program, but it is still a secret from the general population. The Goa'uld are now few in number, and are not the force they once were. Replicators are still a threat as well.
In other notes, Daniel never ascended, Janet never died and Teal'c now lives amongst the general population when not on a mission, as he had his Goa'uld mark removed. Colonel Jack O'Neill died about 13 years ago, offworld. As a result, the details of his death are highly classified.
I hope you like it!
"Hey Dad." I whispered as I lay on my bed, and gazed at the familiar brown eyes of my father. He stared at me out of the photograph as he always did, not quite frowning towards the camera as if he didn't want his picture taken.
"You should be proud of me." I said. "I'm graduating today."
I gave him a sad smile and gently touched the photo, as if, despite the laws of physics, I could touch the man himself. But my father was dead. He had died when I was seven, but I still remembered the stories he used to tell me. Sometimes I miss him so much, no matter how many years have passed.
I blinked as I put the creased and battered photo away in my diary and locked it again. It was the only photo I had of him, and all the more precious because of it. You see, I wasn't supposed to know who why my father was. It makes me angry that no one thought that I should know. For years, I knew him as 'Uncle' Jack, or sometimes as the Colonel.
His name was Colonel Jack O'Neill and he was a member of the United States Air Force. He worked on some project he could never talk about, just like my mother. Except she always used to tell me it was 'deep space radar telemetry'. I still don't believe that's the truth, but I know that it wasn't my mothers fault she had to lie.
I still remember the last time I saw my father, as if it were yesterday. He had come over to our house, along with 'Uncle' Danny, 'Uncle' Murray and 'Aunt' Janet. Cassie was there too. We'd always get together all the time, so I didn't think there was anything strange about them all being there. My mother had sent me to bed, which I didn't like all that much, because I loved it when they all came over.
I was lying in bed, trying to think of a reason to go back downstairs and see everyone again, when Jack knocked softly on my door.
"Hey, kiddo." Jack said, moving into the room. "Mind if I sit down?"
"Sure, Uncle Jack." I said, delighted to see him. I didn't want to sleep.
I scooted up on the bed to sit next to him. I grinned up at him and he grinned in return. "We have to be quiet, munchkin." He whispered. "If your mother caught me in here she'd skin me alive."
I giggled softly at the picture he created, just as I wrinkled my nose. "She's just a spoil sport." I whispered back.
Jack looked at me sadly for a minute. "I have something for you, but you have to keep it a secret." He said seriously. "No matter what you can't show anyone. Promise?"
"I promise." I said eagerly, wanting my present and hoping it was chocolate. Mom never let me have chocolate after bedtime.
"You can't show anyone, not even your mother, kiddo. You got that?"
I caught Jack's serious tone. "Okay, Uncle Jack. I promise I won't show mom. Cross my heart."
Jack reached up and took off something he had hanging around his neck. He handed them to me. I clutched them to me chest, the metal still warm. "Do you what they are?" Jack asked.
"Your…" I said, frowning as I tried to remember what mom had once called them. "…dogtags."
I grinned as I remember. "I always thought that was funny, coz the don't belong to dogs…" I trailed off as Jack motioned for me to be quiet.
"Your right as always, smarty." He said. "They have my on them, see?"
I could see. I gazed in amazement at the tiny writing on the metal squares. Then I looked back up at Jack. "How come you're giving them to me?" I asked.
"Because I want you to have them." He said. "To keep them safe, until I get back. Can you do that for me?"
"Sure, Uncle Jack." I agreed.
We sat in silence for a moment, and I looked at the tags in my hands again. This was so cool! It's a pity I couldn't show anyone though, because the boys at school would flip to see these!
"I have another secret I need you to keep, kiddo." Jack said quietly to me. "Something that you can never tell anyone I told you. This is even more important that my tags, okay?"
I looked solemnly up at Jack. "I promise that I will never tell anyone, ever." I said. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
Jack smiled softly at me. "Thanks, munchkin." I watched him take a deep breath. "Do you know who your father is, kiddo?"
I shook my head. "No." I said. "My mom just says its someone she loves very much, but he can't be with us."
"Mom says he has something important he needs to do first. But that he'd love me too if he was here."
"Oh, he does. He loves you so much." Jack whispered.
"Really? You know my Daddy?" I asked delightedly. If he knew my daddy, maybe he could tell him that I loved him too…
"Can you tell my daddy that I love him too? And that I wish he was here?" I asked Jack. "Just so he knows."
I looked at Jack in surprise when I saw a tear trail down his cheek. "Don't cry, Uncle Jack." I said, giving him a hug. "Please don't cry."
He hugged me right back, before leaning down and whispering in my ear. "I'm sorry I never told you, kiddo. I'm your daddy."
I gasped in surprise and pulled away from him, angry that he had never told me. "Why didn't anyone tell me?" I demanded.
"I couldn't sweetheart." Jack said. "Please believe me. I wanted to so much."
"Didn't you love me?" I asked as I began to cry.
"Oh, no, sweetheart." Jack said gathering me close. "I want you. I love you so much. Just like I love your mother. But she's right. There's something important I need to do."
I hugged my father close, feeling safe in his strong arms. "You're really my daddy?" I whispered.
"Yes, I am." He agreed.
"I love you, daddy." I told him.
"I love you to, sweetheart." Jack replied.
I blinked away tears at the memory. I was grateful that he had told me, and that I knew he loved me. Because he never did come back. I still had his dogtags, too. I wore them every time I needed luck. They were my good luck charm. And I never had told anyone I had them.
I smiled as I slipped them over my head. I didn't so much need luck today, but it felt good to have something of my father with me today. Especially since I was graduating from university.
Suddenly the door burst open, and my two room mates burst into the little flat we shared just off the campus of the University of Chicago. "Shannon Hope Carter." Jessie yelled. "Get your butt out here!"
I smiled and walked out of my bedroom into the lounge, where my roommates were waiting. "Hey Jessie." I greeted. "Hey Alec."
"Hey, girl." Alec greeted, grinning as Jessie bounded over and gave me an enthusiastic hug. "So, how does it feel?"
"How does what feel?" I asked.
Jessie looked at me as if I was completely insane. "I don't know." She said. "Maybe graduating with a PhD in Astrophysics before your 21st birthday?"
"Oh." I said. "That."
Jessie rolled her eyes. "Come on! We have to celebrate!"
I laughed. "I'm still recovering from our celebrating last night." I said, remember the many empty bottles of alcohol from the previous night.
"Me too." Alec agreed, slinging his arm around my shoulders. "Which is why I vote for ice-cream this time."
I grinned back at him. "Now you're talking." I said.
"Just as well I've got some, then isn't it?" Jessie grinned.
Laughing, she shook her red hair out of her face and went to the kitchen for some spoons. Digging out the ice-cream, Alec and I sat on the couch and waited. "What flavours did you get?" I asked him.
He grinned at me, his blue eyes sparkling. "Three guesses." He said.
"Hmm." I looked at him and considered. "Easy: coffee, chocolate and pecan." I said, stating all our favourite flavours.
"You got it." He told me, laughing.
"And if anyone touches that pecan, they will die hideously." Jessie called as she walked out of the kitchen.
I laughed. "I wouldn't dream of it."
The next few minutes were filled with silence, as we each grabbed a spoon and dug into the ice-cream. I moaned in bliss as I the coffee flavour slid over my tongue. I love coffee ice-cream – almost more than I love coffee. But not quite.
"So," Jessie began after a moment. "I your mom coming down?"
"Yeah." I said. "So my grandfather."
"And how do you feel about that?" Alec asked softly.
He, just like Jessie, knew that I hadn't been getting on well with my mother recently. She still refused to tell me who my father was, and we'd had a big argument about it. She didn't know that I already knew. But one day, I hoped she'd just tell me.
We'd never been that close, either. My mom had always been there for me, but as I grew up she had spent days away from me, doing whatever she did. I'd missed her, and I knew she was keeping secrets from me. Despite trying to understand that, I still resented it. I just wished she'd tell me.
"I guess I'm okay." I said. "I mean, despite everything she is my mother."
Alec nodded, before eating another large spoon of chocolate ice-cream. Then he looked at me consideringly. "Trade?" he asked.
I laughed and offered him some coffee ice-cream, while I grabbed a big spoon of his chocolate. Jessie just watched us with narrowed eyes. "Don't even think about trying that with me." She said.
Alec and I just laughed. "We wouldn't dream of it." I said, as Alec winked at me.
The actual graduation ceremony passed as a rather large blur. Although it was a great feeling to now be able to call myself Dr. Carter. I had to keep saying that out loud, in hope I would actually start to believe it. This had been my dream for as long as I could remember, and it was awesome to have finally achieved it. And scary.
I finally caught up with my mom and grandfather when they came to pick me up and take me out to dinner. "Mom." I greeted with a hug, glad to see her despite our argument. "Grandpa."
"Honey." My mother greeted. "You look great."
"Thanks." I blushed slightly at her compliment.
I was pleased, since it had taken my hours to find the dress. It looked rather simple, but the elegant lines made my look as tall and graceful as my mother. "It seems is my lucky night." My grandfather said. "I get to escort two of the most beautiful women I know to dinner."
I grinned. "So where are we going?" I asked.
"A little Italian place I'm fond of." Jacob Carter said, an arm around the waist of both me and my mother.
"Sounds great." I said.
The Italian restaurant was just as good as my grandfather had said it would be. And for once, both my mother and I were getting on well. We hadn't talked this well in years. It was almost as if she was making an effort to put me in a good mood.
I found out the reason after dinner. "Shannon," she began. "Now that you have your PhD in astrophysics, you'll be looking for a job."
"Yeah." I agreed. "I was looking at joining a research team. There's this one that's looking into the nature of black holes…"
"I want you do want you to do me a favour, honey." She began. "Before you look at any other projects."
Warily, I looked at her. "What do want me to do?"
"I want you to come back to Colorado Springs with me. There's something I want to show you."
"It's important, Shannon." My grandfather added. "I really think you should see it before you decide to do anything else."
"Okay." I agreed cautiously. "I guess I could take a few days to visit."
"Thank you, honey." My mother said.
I nodded, already thinking. What did my mother want to show me? And did it have anything to do with my father and all those secrets she had kept from me over the years?