By Mary Kleinsmith All ages, but there may be a sugar warning here. . .
Archive: SJD, samandjackalways, Jackfic, and Helio. Anywhere else, yes, just
let me know where
Summary: Jack revisits his childhood on a trip home to his mother's, with a surprising revelation.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish they were mine, I know they're not. They belong to MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. I'm not making any profit out
of this – except, if I'm lucky, some feel-good feedback. g
Author's note: This is, despite the ending, a finished piece. However, if I get enough requests, I may do a sequel. There's definitely somewhere for it to go. g As for the general concept of the story, I was intrigued by how well Jack drew in The Fifth Race (both the power supply and the DHD diagram.), and how he's always doodling.
Feedback: Yes, please?
It was a sad time at the old homestead, Jack thought as he perused what used to be his bedroom. He'd grown up in that tiny room – tiny, yet, at the time, he'd felt like the king of his castle, lord over his lands. Now, another small child would be calling it home. Would it be a boy or a girl?
"Penny for your thoughts," came the soft voice from behind him, and he turned to sweep its owner into a bear hug.
"They aren't worth nearly so much," he said to the gray-haired woman.
She playfully slapped at his arms until he put her down, laughing. Once he'd set her on her feet again, it struck him anew that she wouldn't always be there like this for him.
"Oh, you liar!" she laughed. "I know you better than to believe it." She paused, her eyes studying him inquisitively. "So what had you so lost in thought, sweetheart?"
"Just remembering all the good times in this room," Jack replied honestly. "God, I loved this place."
Her face took on a concerned expression as she took his hand. "You do understand why I'm selling the house, don't you? I know that, living the military life, this was the only home you knew for many years. It's just . . ."
She stopped, letting him complete the thought silently. "I understand, Mom," he smiled warmly. He knew he was lucky – many parents of people his age had long since passed on. He was fortunate to have her here with him. And if keeping her healthy and happy meant her moving from the Chicago home where he'd spent his formative years to a condo in Florida, then he was all for it. It was just hard to say goodbye to the old place.
Trying to lighten the mood, he returned to his examination of the room. "I can't believe you kept this exactly as I had it when I moved out! It's like I'm 18 again."
"Well, actually, I did bring some things back into the room that you'd moved out." She pointed into the corner where a toy box he remembered from his childhood sat, toys spilling over and keeping the top from closing tightly.
"You kept all these toys? Why, Mom?" His face grew dark. "After Charlie . . ."
"I knew you were torturing yourself over Charlie's death," she said with love and concern. "And then when you and Sara divorced, I watched how you withdrew into yourself. I always hoped that you'd find happiness again. That maybe you'd meet somebody who'd make you happy again, somebody with whom you wanted to be a parent again."
Jack wasn't sure how to respond to that. Did he tell her that he'd dreamed of all those things, and that he'd found the woman with whom he wanted to have them? He wasn't even sure said woman wanted the same things – or even wanted him for that matter.
"I wish that could be true, Mom," he said sadly, hugging her again.
She held him tightly, comfortingly, for some time before finally releasing him. "Since I can't take this all with me, I wanted you to have the chance to take any remembrances you wanted back to Colorado with you."
Looking it over, he shook his head. "I don't know where to begin!" he laughed.
She reached around the corner and dragged a large cardboard box into the room. "Let's start together."
They sat on the bed for the next two hours, going through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Items that held no value to either of them were left to be discarded later, and those that he wanted, or he knew she wished he'd keep, went into boxes to be shipped to his house. He didn't keep many of the toys, but one worn bear was reverently placed where it would be protected; it was his first bear, and one of his earliest memories was of waking in the morning with that bear by his side, clutched tightly in tiny arms.
After the toy box and the closet were completed, the next target was the bookcase. Scanning the titles, he was shocked. "Mom, it looks like every book I ever read is here."
"I didn't dare throw them out at first; you re-read your favorites so many times."
"I'll bet the library could use some of them. They're in pretty good shape," he commented, flipping through the pages.
"Let's set them separate from the rest and we'll drop them off on the way to dinner."
"You mean you're not going to cook for me?" he asked with a smile and a nudge.
"After all the work we've done today, I think I've earned a dinner out with my handsome son. I can cook for you another day." She smiled again, adding, "there's a wonderful new place I want to try."
"Sounds good, but let's finish this first."
A few books made their way into his box, and even fewer were in poor enough shape to be discarded, but the majority were set aside for donation to the library. Three shelves' worth of books, eventually gave way to a fourth, full of magazines and other miscellany.
"Mom, there's something intrinsically wrong about putting a Highlights magazine next to a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, even if it is from 1968."
"Would you have felt better if I'd put your comic books between them?" she laughed.
"Hey, I'll bet those comics are worth a fortune these days."
"I know. They're already packed up and ready for you to take with you."
Many of the magazines went into the recycle bin. They were almost done when he came upon a large scratch pad. Jack's eyes lit up.
"I remember this!" He opened it to reveal pages and pages of charcoal drawings.
"I have never been disappointed in anything you've done, honey. But the one thing that I was disappointed that you didn't do was to keep up with your art. You're so talented. Do you ever draw anymore?"
"I'm afraid the Air Force doesn't leave me much time for it, but I've been known to doodle from time to time."
"You should do more than doodle, sweetheart. It might give you that creative release that I know you've been lacking."
If only you knew, he thought, just how creative I've had to be since joining the SGC. But he'd found over the years that, while he might have been able to get permission to tell her about the Stargate and the Goa'uld, he didn't want to. Better for her to feel safe in her world that wasn't in danger of weekly invasions by aliens or being blown to bits by a long-distance weapon.
He continued to flip through the pictures, surprised, with the luxury of time, at how good they were. He'd drawn them when he was barely a teenager.
"Who'd have thought that a kid so young could draw like this?" There were pictures of athletes, animals, family members . . . all depicted with uncanny accuracy.
"You always had that talent, Jack." He blushed, something he seldom did, and she enjoyed it. "Let me show you one you probably don't remember."
She ruffled through the stack of papers and notebooks they hadn't yet gone through until she found a single Highlights magazine that had been kept separate from the rest. He couldn't help but wonder what she was after, when she pulled out a single sheet of paper from between the pages.
Jack's mother held the paper close to her chest. "When you were seven years old, I came into the living room one day, expecting to find you watching cartoons. Instead, you were drawing with an intensity I'd never seen from you before. I didn't want to disturb you, so I just sat down and watched. It took you over half an hour – it was unusual for you to concentrate on any one thing that long – and when you finally finished, you brought it to me proudly.
"I had to fight not to laugh when you spoke to me so seriously. I asked you what you had drawn, and you said that it was a picture of the woman you were going to marry. I expected, until you showed it to me, that it would be one of the little girls from your class, but it definitely was not. But it also wasn't anybody I recognized. Years later, when you married Sara, I looked at it again. Just out of curiosity, to see how close she was to what you'd predicted as a child, but although both were blonde, it wasn't her."
Jack sat in silence, mesmerized by her tale. He didn't remember any of this, and certainly didn't remember a drawing of his 7-year-old self's hopefully-future wife. But one thing caught his attention. "How could you tell? I mean, how accurate could a picture drawn by a kid be?"
Rather than answer him, she lowered the picture from her breast, handing it to him with a flourish.
Okay, he was speechless. More than that – he wasn't sure he'd ever speak again. Because not only was the drawing as clear as if it was done by a 30 year old, but it was unmistakably . . . Samantha Carter.
He was trying to concentrate on what his mother was saying during dinner. Really, he was. But he just couldn't get that drawing out of his mind. His mother's voice droned on, until something suddenly told him that he should be paying attention.
"So what do you think, honey?" she asked, and he scrambled to filter through his subconscious for the essence of the conversation.
Before he could say anything, she chuckled. "Don't try so hard, Jack. I could see you were miles away."
"I'm sorry, Mom. What were you saying?"
"I was saying that I never dreamed I'd get done packing the house this quickly, or I'd have ordered the moving van to come much earlier."
"When did you ask them to come?" Jack asked.
"Not until next week! I guess I could go visit your Aunt Ida for a few days – it's been awhile since we had a visit."
"Mom, I wish you'd finally come and visit with me in Colorado Springs. I've been there for years, and you haven't been there since Sara and I divorced."
"I know, dear, and I'm sorry. It's just . . . hard . . ." Jack was reminded again how it wasn't only he who missed Charlie with a heart-rending intensity. His grandmother missed him nearly as much.
"I have a whole, empty house for you to explore. Please, Mom." Colonel Jack O'Neill was unaccustomed to begging, but he realized very suddenly that it was important to him that he get to spend this time with her. He knew she wouldn't be around forever, and regretted all the times he'd missed with his father, gone these past several years. He didn't want to miss out on anything with his mother. He'd already lost too many people in his life.
"I hate to be a burden," she said, reaching for his hand. "I know you have a life of your own."
"You're part of that life, Mom. I want you there – I'm already scheduled for leave this week so it's no inconvenience. I'd really like to show you around."
"You ended that sentence in a preposition," she smiled warmly, remembering the games of his youth. She had been a teacher at one time, and made sure that her children were all raised with the proper knowledge of grammar and practiced it. As he grew into his rebellious teens, he'd make the mistakes on purpose, just to see if he could slip it by her. He didn't remember it ever working, and it didn't this time either.
He smiled back at her. "So what do you say?"
"I say . . . why not?" she laughed. "Looks like I'm going to Colorado Springs!"
"Yeah. Who'd'a thunk it?"
Two days later, Jack, his mom, and the few boxes of personal items he'd reclaimed from his youth were safely back in Colorado Springs.
"Oh, Jack," she said, taking in his house. "This is beautiful! I love the deck, and all the trees. It's like you found a little piece of the country in a suburban neighborhood."
"I sure tried."
"If it were any bigger, you'd have installed a pond with fish, wouldn't you?" She knew her son well enough to know that was the truth.
"Yeah, but I made do with a telescope on the roof instead," he said.
"Well, if you don't mind, I think I'll just take your word for that. I'm not a young girl anymore."
"Aw, Mom . . ." He put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close and kissing her forehead. "You're a spring chicken and you know it."
"Well, this spring chicken would like to take a short nap before she makes her adorable son," she punctuated this by squeezing his face, "a good, old-fashioned dinner."
"I didn't ask you here to be my maid, y'know," he stated seriously.
"I have no intention of being your maid. I just want to make my son his favorite dinner. You're not going to deprive me of that, are you?"
"Are you kidding? I'd crawl on my hands and knees over glass for one of your meals. But your nap comes first." He picked up her suitcase and led her to the master bedroom.
"Jack, this is your room."
"Yeah, y'know, I noticed that."
"I don't want to put you out of your room."
"It's no big deal, Mom. This house has two other bedrooms, both perfectly good for sleeping."
"Good, then I'll sleep in one of them!" He opened his mouth to object, but she cut him off. "And that's the last word, young man!"
In the field, Jack O'Neill didn't know the meaning of the word defeat. But they weren't in the field, and when on earth, and particularly where the women in his life were concerned, he knew when to give up. And now was that time.
"If you say so," he sighed, turning to take her to the room across the hall. Nearly as big as the master bedroom, it was set up as a guest room with a queen-size bed, dresser, a small seat by the window and a generous-sized television.
"Jack, this is so nice!"
"Yeah, well, sometimes one of the guys stays over. I got tired of waking up to them lying on my couch."
"Well, I can say that I'm going to enjoy staying in this room very much. Now shoo and give your old mother a chance to nap."
He kissed her on the cheek, realizing how much he'd missed this. "Thanks for coming, Mom."
"Thanks for having me, dear."
Her nap was short, not through any particular intent by her for it to be so, but due to the fact that she was filled with so many thoughts, she just couldn't put her mind at rest. Her new home awaited her; what would it be like living all alone in a new city? And what would it be like over the next few days, getting to see first hand what her son's life was like? She wished she could visit his workplace, but Jack had explained that it was top secret, and he'd had enough of those types of postings through the years that she knew for sure that it meant not to ask too many questions.
However, there was this big, beautiful house to investigate. Granted, it was a bit masculine, and didn't look very lived in, but if she knew her son, he spent more time on base than here. It wasn't like he had a nice, good woman to come home to.
Which brought up another memory: the look on his face when he'd seen his childhood artwork after all these years. She hadn't lied to him, he'd drawn the picture and dubbed it just as she'd said. But she could tell that, while he didn't remember it, there was recognition there. Something was on his mind, and she'd have to keep at him until he finally revealed himself to her.
Finally, giving up on getting any sleep, she rose and wandered out into the house. There, she found Jack doing something she'd never imagined: Colonel Jack O'Neill, Special-Operations trained, was dusting the high shelves of the book case in his living room. With a feather duster, no less!
"Y'know, a Swiffer would make that a lot easier."
Jack spun on the spot, startled for just a fraction of a second before he settled into his comfort zone and regained his balance. "Yeah, but then what would I do with my spare time?"
"You've never had a problem with keeping yourself busy," she laughed. "Now I want to make you that favorite dinner I promised. It's been a long time since I cooked a nice, big pot roast for my son."
"That would be great, Mom, but I don't have the supplies."
"Then you can run to the store and pick up everything I need. I'm sure you have the spices and all, I just need the roast and vegetables."
"Are you sure, Mom?"
"Sure! You can even invite some of your friends over to join us. I've been dying to meet them, and there'll be more than enough for the two of us."
Jack chuckled, picturing his mother sitting down to dinner with the rest of SG1. "I think I'd have to get two roasts for that group!"
"Well, then, you'd better get going. You can call them on the way. I'd love to meet your teammates. Daniel, Sam, and Murray, right?"
Jack had conveniently neglected to tell her that "Sam" was a woman, but she'd find out the truth soon enough. What would his mother say when she met Major Samantha Carter for the first time?
He found, upon introspection, that he wanted his mother to meet her in this way. Some day, if things went well – and why he expected that, he'd never know – Sam would have a long-term, permanent place in his life. It seemed only right that his mother meet her while she was young enough to enjoy the socialization.
Jumping down off the chair on which he was standing, his knee snapped, and he reminded himself not to do that again. Rubbing it absently, he gathered his leather jacket and keys. "Are you sure you'll be okay here by yourself while I'm gone?"
"Jonathan O'Neill! Do you really think that I got to this age without being able to be left alone at home?"
"Yeah, but this isn't your home," he said, kissing her on the cheek. "Lock the doors, and don't let anybody in unless you know them. I'll be back soon."
She smiled warmly and watched him leave the house. It pleased her that he worried, even though it wasn't necessary. Picking up where Jack left off, she set to cleaning his beautiful home.
Sam Carter was feeling an unfamiliar emotion: guilt. She'd promised the Colonel that she'd check his home and water his plants while he was gone visiting his mother, helping her with her move. She was embarrassed to admit that she'd failed to do so, and prayed that she wouldn't find them all dead upon her entrance into the house. She'd thought about it at the last minute, scrambling into her old jeans and a sweatshirt, and covering her blonde hair with a baseball cap, to race over and remedy her neglect. She needed a shower, she knew, but could take care of that later.
Juggling the key ring which he'd entrusted to her, she climbed from her car after parking at the curb in front of his house. He'd be home in three or four days; she hoped that was enough time for her to get his plants looking spry once again.
Turning the key in the lock, it clicked open and she turned the knob, pushing her way into the house. She drew up short when she was faced with the sudden appearance of an older woman, yielding a kitchen knife.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in my son's house?" she demanded. Instantly realizing who this woman was, she also noted that she was anything but frail.
"Mrs. O'Neill?" Sam asked carefully.
The knife lowered slightly. "Depends on who is asking," she stated coldly.
"I'm sorry," Sam said. "Colonel O'Neill asked me to water his plants while he was away. He didn't tell me he was returning so soon."
The woman continued to study her intently, making Sam feel like a bug under a microscope. Removing her cap, she ran her hand through her hair, fluffing it into place. "I'm Sam Carter. We work together."
The woman – Mrs. O'Neill – seemed to only study her all the more closely. "I can show you identification if you'd like," Sam added, looking for some kind of reaction. When the examination continued, she felt compelled to fill the silence again. "Mrs. O'Neill, is everything okay?"
Then the older woman's mouth moved into a bright smile, her eyes growing warm toward the young woman in front of her. A young woman with a very familiar face. "No, child. Everything is just perfect."