Author Notes: TACP stands for Tactical Air Control Party. These are Air Force officers assigned to army units to act as liasons with Air Force assets.They are the only Air Force officers authorized to wear a black beret and could conceivably receive training by Special Forces(Army) personel in addition to Special Operations(USAF) training. Because Special Forces training was mentioned several times in the show and because of the black beret worn by Kurt Russell in the movie, I assumed that part of O'Neill's background included time as TACP with a Ranger unit. The credo "Never leave a man behind" is an intrinsic part of the written Ranger Code.
I added a couple of events to Broca Divide based on Dr. Fraiser's comment that Jack had been more violent than the others.
If you haven't seen Fragile Balance yet, a renegade Asgard made a clone of Jack without his permission. The clone had all his memories and everyone thought he was Jack initially. Due to a marker placed in his DNA by Thor, Jack's clone did not age as he was supposed to and presented as a 15 year old. Additionally, his body was breaking down due to the inept cloning methods used by the Asgard scientist Loki. Prior to Selmak realizing he was a clone, the Tok'ra offered to place him in stasis until a cure could be found and the clone ran away after ripping up at Jacob. After discovering what had happened, SG1 used the clone to capture Loki and when Thor arrived, he fixed the clone's genetic breakdown at Jack's request. The clone is last seen as Jack drops him off at highschool. The clone declares that from then on, he and Jack are different people, and agrees not to contact Jack unless he needs something. As the clone walks toward the school, Jack looks disturbed, then drives away.
Somehow, he had thought it would be different.
That he could do this. Be this. Be somebody different.
Be somebody who could live without the people he would kill for, die for, and for whom he would even take a snake in the head. Jon's hand shook as he lifted the beer high enough to swallow and stared blankly in surprise when the colors ran together. Heat burned across his face and he realized with astonishment and futile rage that he was crying. Crying! Like the child he looked. Jack O'Neill never cried. Not emotional tears. You had to think about the pain in order to cry, and Jack was too well trained for that to happen. Often.
There had been times in his life when he had wished he could.
Damn them to hell.
The crash of the bottle against the pavement of her driveway had him freezing in reflex. A dog barked somewhere off to his left, but apparently her neighbours were stone-deaf. Good thing Carter knew hand-to-hand. She'd be raped, murdered, and three days dead before anyone on this street thought to wonder about the newspapers. None of which meant anything to the non-person he had become. He grabbed blindly for the bike he had left lying under the hedge. He had not even bothered to hide the sucker. Kid's bike on the lawn of the typical suburban home. Nothing strange about that. Nothing strange at all.
By the look on her face she wanted to take the word back. Hell, for all he knew, she was regretting opening her front door.
He closed his eyes and imagined himself smiling at her casually. Saying 'It's Jonathon now, Carter'. Instead he found himself weaving as he watched her, unable to force the words past his throat and wanting nothing more than to get down on his knees, rest his head against her, and plead with her. Promise her anything. Just to have her call him Jack. Once. That was all he needed. Just...once. Instead, he knew his eyes were going flat. He'd seen it happen himself, a lifetime ago. In the hallway mirror the day Sara signed the papers and walked out the front door. The day he was screaming inside and he could not say the words. Now, he was dying inside, and he still could not speak.
That's what they had called it.
It had saved his life in Iraq. It had saved his sanity on Ba'al's ship, kept him alive on Edora, and allowed him to treat his 2IC like the soldier they both needed her to be. Once apon a time, it had been a good thing. Mostly.
"What are you doing here?"
He should go. He needed to go. Now. Only there was nowhere to go. She was the one he trusted to have the answers. She had been the one to know that asteroid was too damn close, and the decay rate of Naquadah, and she had been the one who had known why...
His mind shied from that last thought, but the action loosened his throat. He gave her the only acceptable words he had. A cry for help. A plea for a solution. Words he was allowed to say.
"Carter, am I real?"
She stared at him as though waiting for the punchline. Then she looked at the shattered glass on the asphalt.
"It's an easy enough question for someone like you. I mean - you'd tell me the truth right? I can still trust you that far, can't I?"
Her eyes widened and he thought he heard her breath something that sounded like,"Dear God." Unfortunately the only gods in his future had glowing eyes. Then again, that was a thought. Maybe he should look up Ba'al. See how the old boy was doing.
Maybe the bastard could get it right this time.
His legs went AWOL and decided unilaterally that he needed to sit down. As he stared at the grass-nice bright green grass he sure as hell knew she did not have the time to weed and feed- he started to laugh. He meant to laugh. Hard to tell with all the tears watering the lawn.
"I should have taken option four, Carter." He smiled blindly in her direction, then nodded resolutely," Yeah. Option four."
He did not resist as she managed to haul his ass to his feet and manouvered him inside the house. Her neighbours were still conspicuously absent, but he figured having this conversation indoors was better than trying to remember what he could and could not say in the wide open. She dropped him on the sofa and abandoned him in order to disappear into the kitchen, presumably for coffee. God. He should not be here. He needed to go. Before he said something. Before...
He pulled one of her sofa pillows into his lap and ran his fingers over the embroidery. Sara had had pillows like these. The kind that were about as useful as a three-legged MALP. He caught a whiff of perfume as he flipped the thing over in his hands and found himself drawing it towards his face in some sort of involuntary reflex. He caught himself before he could embarrass himself by having her discover him sniffing her pillows like a dog. For all he knew, it wasn't even her perfume. He had never noticed her wearing it.
He drew the pillow into his body and wrapped his arms around it.
She came back into the room and silently set a cup of coffee on the table. For one horrified moment he thought he was going to start crying again. It was actual, real, live coffee. Not hot chocolate. Not some herbal substitute. Coffee fixed just the way he liked it. He stared into the mug, mesmerized by the thought that it was not really his preferences she cared about. But maybe he could pretend.
The sound of a low knock at the door should have had him shooting to his feet in alarm. Her only solution to the security risk he presented in this state was to call the SGC. He could not find it in himself to care. Five seconds later Jon wished his instincts had been sharper as the door closed and the last person he ever wanted to see walked into the living room. Jack O'Neill stared across the room, eyes expressionless and Jon glared at Carter.
"You didn't have to call him. I'd have left if you asked."
From the look on her face, she had never considered otherwise. Jon snorted. Of course she hadn't. From her point of view, he was a skinny fifteen year old kid. She would not even need her weapon. Not that he would ever let himself get into such a situation with her. Way too much potential for humiliation from his point of view. That damn virus of the Touched had provided plenty of grist for his stock of private fantasies over the years and his adolescent body was likely to react far too obviously. He would be damned if he'd give her one more reason to look at him with uncomfortable pity.
A second knock at the door had Carter glancing at Jack in surprise. With a sinking feeling, Jon waited for the inevitable. Yep, his day could not get any worse. He leaned back against the back of the sofa as he discovered his pride was not as whipped as he thought. He took a quick gulp of too hot coffee and glared at them mutinously.
His team. His family.
He should have known the minute Carter had grabbed the beer from his hands, back when she had still thought he was him. Only younger.
He was just the copy.
"You knew, didn't you? On the ship."
Jack did not pretend to be surprised by the question.
Too bad Jon had not been thinking about what being the copy meant.
"That's why you hesitated."
Guess that was not the surprise it could have been. That was what he did, afterall. Jumped in with both feet trying to help and realizing five minutes later that maybe he had just made things worse. It should have been enough - knowing that he still had the SGC waiting for him. That SG-1 was still alive, somewhere. Hell, his knees and his age should have broken up the team within the year anyway. Kan'an and Ba'al, ironically, had added years to his field status. But his body was still on a clock. He had honestly thought he could do it. Rebuild another life for himself. He just had not realized...and now he knew what was wrong with him. The knowledge loosened something inside.
Brown eyes met his unflinching, for once with no sign of laughter.
"I'm not going to make it, am I?"
There was a short silence. Then, "No. Probably not."
Another silence and then the explosion.
"Jack, what the hell do you think you are doing?"
Daniel. Of course.
"Are you sure that was wise, O'Neill?"
He did not mean to, but Jon found himself turning his head sideways towards Carter. Habit, he supposed. Unfortunately, she did not even see the problem. He rested his cheek against the pillow and felt his attention drifting away. Felt the emotions spinning off into familiar paths where nothing and no one could touch him. He let their familiar voices surround him, the inevitable pain for that luxury accepted as a fair price to pay for the moment.
"That is the most irresponsible...I can't believe you said that."
"He would have known if I'd lied to him, Daniel."
"Well, you didn't have to tell him that it was okay to give up"
"He needs help, Jack."
He should not have come here. Oh god, he had been so wrong. The pain was not the only price. Thor...Thor should have warned them. Opening his eyes he saw Daniel squaring off for round two. So familiar. So...Danny. He wanted to smile at the familiarity of the argument and the strength of the anger spiralling out of nowhere terrified him. Daniel was pleading with Jack. Pleading with Jack to help someone who was not Jack. Just the copy.
They had lied to him. He had rebuilt his life on false promises - again. Built himself on a foundation of lies. Christ - you would think he'd learn. Never leave a man behind. They had fooled him into thinking they believed that. Would live up to it. He had let his guard down and they had thrown him away. He was just the copy. Just a copy and god he didn't want to hate them for the things they could not help. They had chosen Jack. But he was Jack and it hurtithurtithurt. Movement shattered his runaway thoughts and he reacted to her hand reaching for him without thinking.
"Don't touch me!"
He was half over the back of the sofa before Teal'c drew the hidden zat gun from beneath his shirt. It might have been all right if she had not moved again. If she had not shifted protectively toward the other Jack, gaze suspicious. He threw his entire body into the attempted blow, knowing it would never reach her. He had a heartbreakingly close look at shocked blue eyes before fire exploded along his nerves and his body collapsed in agony. Then she was on her knees beside him and he found that he could still remember how to push the pain away. Maybe even far enough away that he could do what he needed to do.
"I won't become Goa'uld."
It was a weakness, this need to explain. As was his need to apologize. He should not say anything. Let her believe he had simply snapped. But the pain and betrayal that blossomed on her face as he wrapped his hands around her throat clawed out an instinctive response. No matter how many ways she betrayed him, he could not betray her. He would not. Time froze and he whispered softly, " I never lied." Then he tightened fingers that were too weak to do any real damage before a second zat blast would end the problem forever.
His only thought as the back of his head exploded in pain was that it did not hurt as much as he had expected.