A/N- I have apologize everyone about the lateness of this part. This last month or so has been hell. Since posting the first park I got the flu. Then a damaged powerline connected to our house caused the power to fluctuate so quickly and badly that it fired most of our appliances, my computer included. Luckily someone was home or it could have caught the house on fire. Anyway I have just gotten a replacement computer and everything has settled down enough that I have been able to write again. I assure the remaining to parts will be out in a timely manner, probably once a week. Oh, and if I haven't responded to your review or e-mail, I'm sorry. I'm still wading through the backlog.
"And she said losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow"
'Graceland', Paul Simon
Sam watched a cascade of emotions pour over her husband's face until it finally settled on fury. "What the hell is wrong with you people! Just because you're all advanced and crap, it doesn't give you the right just to snatch people up and do what you want to them! It makes you no better than the Goa'uld!" His fist clenched at his sides and she thought it took all his rapidly diminishing self restraint not to knock Thor to the floor. "We are not your playthings!"
"O'Neill-" Thor began, backing away a couple of steps. Jack followed him and she really feared for Thor's safety.
Sam rose from her seat and stood between Thor and Jack. Her hand wrapped around his balled fist and pried his fingers apart. "Jack," she spoke quietly. "It's not Thor's fault."
He looked down at her, some of the anger leaving his face, but none of the hurt and confusion. His hand relaxed and his fingers twined with hers gripping them tightly. "It's not fair, Sam," he whispered hoarsely.
"I know, Jack."
Jack bowed his head slightly and took a deep breath. When his head rose again his face was perfectly composed in his usual emotionless mask. He stepped away from Sam but didn't release her hand as he turned to face General Landry. "Where is he?"
"Isolation room 5."
The anger threatened to crack his façade but he kept it in check. "For all he knows he's been abducted by aliens and you've got him sitting by himself in an isolation room?"
"No, Jack," Landry responded calmly, not intimidated by Jack's anger. "Colonel Dixon is with him. He said he knew Charlie. Before."
"Yeah," Jack nodded and Sam felt a tiny bit of the tension drain out of him. "Dave and I were stationed together for a while. Charlie always liked him"
"I authorized Dixon to tell him the basics of the Stargate program, enough so curiosity is satisfied and he doesn't ask awkward question. You know how kids are. I thought that would be safer."
Jack nodded and turned back to Thor, who was visibly relieved at the calmness of his manner. "Is he okay?" Jack asked. "I mean there's nothing wrong with the clone like Mini-Me?"
"He is in perfect health," Thor told him.
"Well, what are we waiting for then?"
Sam and Jack followed General Landry and Thor to the isolation room. Jack still held her hand. Normally they wouldn't exhibit such a display of affection on base, but she couldn't deny him any kind of support that he might seek from her at such a confusing and emotionally trying time. Jack was not the most open person and she was just happy he wasn't shutting her out.
As they got closer to the isolation room Jack's feet seemed to drag. They got further and further behind the general and Thor. By the time the two ahead of them had already entered the observation area of the isolation room, Jack stopped completely. "I can't do this," he whispered, seemingly more to himself than to Sam.
"Jack, are you okay?"
He glanced at her a humorless smile twisting his lips slightly. "Oh, that's a hell of a question, Carter." He squeezed her hand tightly. "I can't do this."
"Of course you can."
"I can't lose him again."
"You're not going to lose him, Jack," she said running a hand up his arm, trying to reassure him, but he wouldn't reassured.
"I'm not the same guy he knew, Sam," he said quietly and she couldn't bear the anguish in his eyes and voice. "What if he doesn't like me now?"
"You'll just have to get to know each other all over again," she smiled at him and took a couple of steps toward him wrapping him in her arms. It took a moment, but his arms came up and held her tightly, burying his face in her neck. "No matter what, he will always love his father."
After a couple of minutes, he lowered his arms and stepped back from her embrace. She was glad to see he had pulled himself together and the uncertainty and fear that had once been etched on his face was now replaced by determination. "I have to go."
He turned and began to go back down the hall. Sam trailed after him. "Where are you going?" she grabbed his arm, stopping him.
He turned back to her. "I can't do this now. My head's all twisted up. I won't screw this up. I won't let anyone screw this up."
"You can't just leave him here, Jack."
"I'll be back," he assured her. "Take care of him."
"Jack!" He ignored her and kept walking. She stared after him in disbelief and muttered, "Bastard."
All eyes turned to her as Sam entered the observation room. The door shut behind her and General Landry looked behind her, curiosity written on his face. "Where's Jack?"
"He left," she replied evenly.
"Yes, sir." Sam stepped past Landry, Doctor Lam, Thor, and the various security and medical personnel. She made her way to the window looking down at where Colonel Dixon sitting on the end of the bed playing Go Fish with the boy sitting at the other end. The speakers were on and she could hear their quiet conversation.
"Have you ever seen a Wookie, Dave?"
"No, haven't run into any of them. Got any fives?"
"Go fish. What kind of aliens are there besides Thor and the snake people? Got any twos?"
"Well, there's some primitive lizard people, the Unas. No twos. Go fish."
Sam studied the boy. The boy whose death had very nearly broken Jack O'Neill. His hair was the same slight reddish brown Jack's had been when she had first met him. It was long and straight, cut in the bowl style all little boys seemed to have at the time he died. He had his father's eyes too. He looked faintly ridiculous in the oversized scrubs rolled up to expose the large floppy socks on his small feet.
"Colonel Carter, where did Jack go?"
She turned away from the window at the sound of the general's voice. Even though she was more than a little angry at the way Jack ran off virtually no explanation, she wasn't about to tell Landry about that. "Home, she told him. "He wants me to bring Charlie home." She desperately hoped that Jack had in fact gone home and was waiting on them there. Sam knew he had his reasons for leaving and however mystifying they were now, she knew they had to be good reasons.
"I would've thought he couldn't wait to see his son."
Sam glanced over at that monitors that were showing the pictures that the cameras in the room below were recording. Then she looked back at the array of people waiting to observe the reunion. She could almost taste the anticipation and morbid curiosity. "Well, sir, I don't believe he would have enjoyed the audience."
Landry looked a little shocked at being called out. "Fair enough."
"If you'll excuse me, sir. I'd like to take my stepson home." She stepped around him and made for the door. To her surprise Thor followed her out.
"Colonel Carter, please express my sincerest apologies to O'Neill. Heimdall's experiment was not sanctioned by the High Council and he will be punished. Some of the council wanted to dispose of the clone, but I though O'Neill would not want that."
"No, he wouldn't," Sam agreed.
"I hope this incident will not damage our relationship with the Tauri and with O'Neill."
"I'm sure once Jack has calmed down everything will be fine. He'll probably even thank you one day." She smiled at him and Thor seemed relieved.
"Thank you, Colonel Carter," Thor said before disappearing in a beam of light.
Sam stepped into the isolation room plastering her friendliest smile on to cover her tremendous unease. Dave Dixon gave her an intensely relieved look until he realized Jack wasn't behind her. He looked up to the observation window and confusion spread over his face at no sign of Jack.
Sam walked over to the pair. Dave covered his puzzlement and introduced Sam, "Charlie, this is Sam, your dad's- um- uh…" he trailed off not really knowing how to tell the boy this strange woman was his step-mom.
"Friend," Sam finished for Dixon quickly. The boy had just been raised from the dead by little grey aliens, she didn't want traumatize him further by immediately telling him his parents had gotten divorced and she was his father's new wife. "Your dad got delayed and he asked me look after you until he got back."
"Is he mad at me?" Charlie asked, his face screwing up and Sam could hear tears threatening in his voice.
"No, of course not. Why do you ask?"
"Because I- I-" he turned his face and swiped at his eyes.
"You're dad's not mad at you," Sam gently took his chin and turned him to face her. She wiped away his tears and smoothed back his long damp, bangs. "He's not mad at you, I promise. He just couldn't get away as quickly as he would have liked. He's a general now, a very important man in Washington. He had to get a few things straight before he left so he could spend lots of time with you."
"Dad's a general?" he asked, tears disappearing and excitement creeping into his voice.
"Yeah, a Major General. Two stars. Cool, huh?"
"Yeah! Wait till I tell Joey, his dad's only got one star."
"Charlie," Dave broke in. "Remember what we talked about? You've been gone for nearly ten years."
"Joey won't remember me?"
"I bet he will," he assures him. "But I don't think you're going to be able to tell him. Your coming back is classified. It's a secret. You won't be able to tell anyone you're back."
"Not even Mom and Grandpa?"
"I'm sure we'll be able to work something out when your dad gets here," Sam told him. "So
you wanna come stay with me until then?"
"I guess." He looked up at Dave seeking permission.
"Sam's nice." Nice apparently wasn't a ringing endorsement to Charlie, so Dave added. "You'll have fun with her. She's was your dad's second in command for a long time."
"You fought evil aliens with my dad?" Charlie demanded, suddenly in awe of her.
"She sure did," Dave said. "She even blew up a sun once."
"Wow, that is so cool!"
"Excuse me, ma'am." Sam turned to find Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman standing beside her holding several Wal-Mart bags. "I took the liberty of procuring General O'Neill's son some things."
Sam took the bags from him, glancing through to find an assortment of clothing and a pair of shoes. "You're wonderful, Walter."
"Let me know if there's anything else I can do."
Sam smiled at him. "Thank you."
Walter turned and left the room and Sam pulled out a sweat shirt and pants, socks, and a pair of tennis shoes. "You want to change your clothes and then we can go home?" She quickly pulled the tags off and handed the clothing to him. Charlie walked over to a door off to the side containing a bathroom.
Dave was scooping up the cards and replacing them in the box. "Where's Jack?"
"Err, I don't think wanted to be the entertainment for the night."
He glanced up at the observation window at the occupants unashamedly watching the scene below. "Yeah, can't say I blame him. Gotta be tough."
"Look when you get Charlie settled in, bring him by the house. He can play with my little hellions."
"Thanks, Dave. We will."
Dave cleared his throat and stared down at the pack of cards in his hands before looking back at her. "Look, Sam, I'm sorry I didn't tell him you were his step-mother, but I thought it might be a bit overwhelming with everything. I did tell him his parents were divorced. He seemed to take it pretty well, but I don't think it really sunk in. Any of this."
"It's fine, Dave. I understand."
The bathroom door opened and Charlie walked out in his new clothes. "Ready to go
He nodded and Sam helped him on with his jacket. Dave walked with them to the door and they were met by Doctor Lam.
"Excuse me, Colonel Carter, can I have a word?" Sam followed her a short distance down the hall and Dave kept Charlie occupied. "I'm going to give you a mild sedative for Charlie. He's probably much too wired to sleep, but I think it would be better before he gets too overwhelmed."
"Thank you, Doctor," Sam said politely and began to move away.
"I'd like you come in for a check up before you head back to Washington."
The driver took them to Jack's house in Colorado Springs, the house they still hadn't brought themselves to sell. Sam had sold her house shortly after moving to Nevada with her reassignment to Area 51. Jack, even after becoming Head of Homeworld Security and renting a lovely but small house a short distance from the Pentagon, was unable to completely sever the link to Colorado Springs. It was the place that had for the last decade had been his home. She knew he would never truly be at home in Washington and ever since she had become pregnant his rumblings about retirement increased. She wasn't sure that they could afford to lose him and who could possibly replace his experience and good, although slightly unorthodox, sense.
They had just begun discussing where they would eventually settle. The small houses would be okay for a baby, but as the child grew older there simply wouldn't be a enough space.
And now there was Charlie.
Would he live with them or his mother? Or would custody be shared? Would telling Sara that her son was reborn even be allowed? Sam leaned her head on the cold window and closed her eyes. It seemed to be a hopeless mess and she had no idea how to untangle it.
Charlie had been quiet since leaving the SGC and had been staring out the window watching the passing landscape. She looked over at him and wondered how he could handle being cloned so well. If she had died when she was nine and come back from the dead as a clone ten years later, she was sure she would have been hysterical. On the other hand, Mini-Jack had felt like he was the 'real' Jack. She supposed Charlie might very well just be glad to be alive and the reality of his new situation hadn't really sunk in yet.
The driver came to a stop outside the house. She was disappointed to see that the driveway remained empty and no light was on. Jack wasn't waiting for them. "Bastard," she muttered under her breath before she turned to Charlie with a smile. "We're here." She opened the car door and Charlie silently followed her out. She thanked the driver and the walked up the path to the door. She led Charlie in the house quickly whisking him through the dark house past any evidence of Jack's life with her to the guest room.
Sam took a pair of Colorado Rockies pajamas out of one of the bags and pulled the tags off. She shook them out and held them out to Charlie, "Here you go, Charlie. Let me show you where the bathroom is." He took the pajamas from her but stared at them in distaste. "What's wrong with them? Aren't they your size?" she asked.
"I don't like the Rockies."
"I like the Cubs."
"Chicago fan, huh?" she smiled, knowing whose influence that was.
"Dad was born there."
"I know. Did he ever take you to a Cubs game?"
"Yeah, we went on vacation to Chicago last year."
It was going to be tough for him to come to terms with the fact he'd been dead for more than ten years. "Tell you what, Charlie. You wear these tonight and we'll get you some different pajamas tomorrow."
"Will Dad be back then?"
"I hope so."
Sam led him to the bathroom and started water running in the tub. She rummaged around, pulling out a towel and wash cloth along with a new tooth brush. "Let me know if you need anything, okay?"
He nodded and she closed the door behind her. She went and turned on the heater, before turning down the bed in the spare room. Then she made her way to the kitchen, collecting the pistol Jack had stored in a drawer there. She took it to the bedroom and removed another gun from the nightstand. She locked both guns in the small safe Jack kept in his closet. However unlikely the odds were that Charlie hadn't learned his lesson about playing with guns she wasn't willing to risk even the remotest chance.
By the time Charlie was through with his bath, Sam was waiting for him with a glass of water and the sedative. "Doctor Lam said you should take this to help you sleep." He took it without question and laid down on the bed. She pulled the covers over him and told him, "I'm just down the hall, if you need anything."
"Okay," he said his eyes already growing heavy.
By George Hammond's expression Jack knew he was the last thing the retired general expected to find on his doorstep at such an ungodly hour of the morning. Jack didn't even really know himself how or why he ended up there.
"Jack? What in the world are you doing here? Is Sam-"
"Sam's fine. The baby's fine."
"Well, thank goodness, but that doesn't explain what you're doing here at 0500, son."
Jack didn't even know where to begin and floundered for a couple of moments.
Hammond seemed to realize that whatever it was probably shouldn't be discussed on the doorstep. "C'mon in, Jack. I'll put some coffee on."
Jack followed him in the house to the kitchen and sat down at the table. He studied the grain in the wood of the table intently, losing track of time and where he was. It was something of a shock when a steaming cup of coffee appeared before him.
"Okay, Jack. What's going on?" George asked, sitting down across from him. "Did you and Sam have a fight?"
"No, nothing like that." Jack took a sip of his coffee and added, "Though she's probably pretty pissed at me right now."
Jack sucked in a deep breath and met George's eyes. "The Asgard cloned Charlie."
Jack broke eye contact and stared down at his coffee mug and repeated, "The Asgard cloned Charlie."
Jack gave him the explanation that Thor had told them and how he left Sam to take care of Charlie. "I've spent all night at Charlie's grave, trying to wrap my head around how Charlie could buried under that slab of rock and be living and breathing now. I've spent so long trying to move past his death and now he's back like magic. What about all the pain Sara and I went through? Does it mean nothing?" Jack asked his friend the same questions that had been swimming around his head all night.
"I don't know what to tell you, son," his former CO shook his head, not even knowing where to begin. "We saw a lot of strange stuff at the SGC. Hell, you've been cloned, Jack. More than once if you count the robots. The clones were you. They had your memories, your knowledge, and your feelings."
"What about their soul? Can a clone have a soul?"
"I don't know, Jack. Thor's been cloned who knows how many times and you wouldn't call him soulless would you?"
"No." Jack stared out the window into the back yard, mulling over what George said. There was so much about the whole thing he didn't understand. He couldn't even go with what his gut was telling him, because his gut had been all twisted up the moment he heard the news. He figured he was thinking about it too hard. Probably Carter rubbing off on him. Jack shook his head as if trying to clear the maelstrom of emotions swirling around his head and turned his attention back to George. "I've got to be the world's biggest idiot, don't I? I've got everything I ever wanted and I don't even know what to do with it."
"What you need to do, Jack, is go home to your wife and son."
Jack nodded. That's why he came here. He needed a kick in the ass. He sat back and squared his shoulders, determined to make this work no matter what it took. "I've got to go to Washington first."
Jack lips twisted in a bitter smile. "Charlie is a dead boy cloned by aliens. Do you really think there aren't people who would love to study him? Once they find out about him they're going to want to take him away. I'm not going to allow that. I'm not taking any chances. I'm going directly to the president and have him sign whatever the hell it takes to keep him safe. Nothing is going to take him away from me again."
Sam was awakened the next morning by a crash and ran quickly to the room Charlie had slept in, but he wasn't there. She found him in the den sitting on the floor by the fireplace. One of Jack's model airplanes was lying broken beside him and their wedding picture was in his hands.
"Charlie, are you okay?" Sam eased herself down on the floor beside him
He looked over at her, studying her intently for a few moments, before looking back at the picture. "You're my step-mom?"
"Yeah. Err, is that okay?" she asked, unsure of where she stood with him.
Charlie stared at the picture of Jack in his dress blues grinning madly with his arms around his new wife who was also grinning like a fool. "Did you," he stopped then glanced shyly up at her through his long bangs. "Did you take my dad away from my mom?"
"No, your parents were divorced for more than a year before I ever met your dad. He was my commanding officer and my friend for about nine years before we got married."
"Why did they get divorced?"
"I think you'll have to ask your dad about that." She knew, of course, that his death was what broke his parents marriage, but she would never want to place that guilt on his small shoulders.
"Oh." He didn't speak for several minutes and Sam was about to ask what he was thinking about when he asked, "Will I live with you and Dad or Mom?"
"I don't know, Charlie. I think your parents will have to work that out."
"When will Dad get here?"
"Today hopefully. While we're waiting for him how about you and I hit the mall and by you some new clothes and toys."
"Okay," he replied, seeming to like the idea of getting new stuff. Then a sudden though struck him and he asked, "Do I have to call you 'mom'?"
"No, of course not. You can call me Sam if you want."
"That's a boys name."
"My real name is Samantha, but I never really liked it."
"Me either," he told her in that innocently straightforward way kids have. Charlie studied the picture again. "Dad looks old."
Sam laughed before she could stop herself. "God, don't tell him that. He can be a little insecure about the grey and all. He's a little vain."