Shadows

By Mary Kleinsmith ()

Rating: PG at the worst

Pairings: Oh, yeah. Sam/Jack (who else? g)

Category: Missing scene for Fragile Balance

Spoilers: Fragile Balance; Show & Tell, general Jack history

Disclaimer: These characters and the situation do not belong to me. I'm only borrowing them for entertainment purposes. I promise, I'm not making any money on this.

Author's Notes: This is a continuation of the scene in the infirmary, just after the duplicate Jack (although nobody knows that's what he is at this point) is told that he's dying, and just before Jacob shows up.

Feedback: I'd love it!

Shadows

By Mary Kleinsmith ()

"All past evidence to the contrary," the young O'Neill said from his seat on an infirmary bed, "I do not want to die. Even if we can't fix . . . this . . ." he waved a hand, encompassing his now-adolescent form. "I'd rather live in a 15-year-old body than not at all."

"We're not going to let you die, Sir," Carter said, her reassuring smile never dimming the sadness in her brilliant eyes. "We'll find a way."

Ever the pragmatist, Frasier wasn't about to mince words. "We just don't know how to do that right now. Genetic breakdown is not within our medical ability to heal."

"Oh, yes," O'Neill said grimly. "I remember that very well."

"Colonel, I'd like to call my father. Maybe Selmac can help."

"I'm not so sure that's the best idea," Jack responded. "We've been through this before, if you remember, and I know how they're going to recommend curing this body's breakdown."

And it was true. The General and Teal'c and Daniel, and even Carter and Frasier seemed to have forgotten about what happened with Charlie. Not his son, he'd long since come to grips with that, even if he still carried the guilt wherever he went. If it hadn't been for his own carelessness, the boy would be older than he himself looked now, he realized. No, the Charlie he meant was the boy created by the Reetou to serve as ambassador, for lack of a better word, between his mother's race and the humans of earth, who were imperiled by a rebel faction attempting to eliminate all possible Goa'uld hosts. Thankfully, they'd managed to defeat them, but the boy's health had suffered even more for the stress; his body's breakdown had been accelerated until he passed out in O'Neill's own arms.

The only way for him to survive was for the Tok'ra to make him one of their own. He'd never seen the boy again, although he'd been reassured more than once that he was doing well and progressing as a child should, albeit with the added "benefit" of hundreds of years of experience floating around in is head. He hoped that Charlie had had a better experience than his own, which had been nothing short of a disaster.

"Colonel?" He was drawn from his reverie by Carter, her hand lying gently on his arm.

"Sorry, Major," he said. "What did you say?"

"I just said that the Tok'ra have many other ways of healing – ways more advanced than our own – than with a blending."

"Please, don't use that word," O'Neill said in earnest. The first few times he'd expressed an aversion to those expressions . . . blending, joining, implantation . . . he knew they'd thought he was kidding. Being his usual crotchety old self. But it was more than that, and those closest to him soon realized that, for him, it was no joke. It was a painful reminder of something he hated remembering more than just about anything. More than the Goa'uld, more than the Tok'ra, more than Colonel Simmons and Harry Maybourne put together. Losing control of himself. He'd had control taken from him in Iraq all those years ago, and most recently by Kanan, neither of which was forgivable. So he knew Carter wouldn't have used the word if she hadn't absolutely needed to.

"They couldn't fix Charlie," he said quietly, pulling his arm from under her touch. That was another thing he'd lose if he couldn't get his own body back. Carter was too much woman to let herself settle down with a kid, and that was what he ultimately hoped for some day. It might be too much to wish, but it was what he'd held on to through it all, and continued to do so.

He expected she'd think he was talking about his son, but she surprised him when she caught on right away. "Colonel, Charlie's genetic breakdown was much more advanced."

Dr. Frasier, confused at first, seemed to catch on with Sam's words. "By the time he came to us," she said, "Charlie was in the end stages. If he hadn't gone with Selmac, he wouldn't have lived out the day. Thankfully, you're not nearly that far gone."

"Okay, okay. Call Jacob. If nothing else, it'll be nice to see him one more time."

Janet left them with a quiet whisper that she'd get the General to make the call, leaving the two of them alone.

"You can't give up, Sir," Carter said, her eyes touching his very soul.

"I'm not, Carter. But I am dying."

"So we'll find a way to save you."

"Okay, say you do. Then what? Unless we can figure out how to get me back to . . . to what I was, I have to face facts. My life, if I live at all, will never be the same. Despite what happened in the F302 briefing, I know that nobody will accept me as a member of the military. At least for four or five more years, anyway," he grinned sardonically. "Appearances are just too important."

"No, they're not," she said reassuringly. "You're the same man you always were. We know that."

"Do you?" he said softly, in a tone she'd never heard from him before. The closest she could remember was all those many month sago, in a room where they agreed to leave it. An agreement she'd regretted ever since.

"Yes, I do," she said, but there was a quiver in her voice that was foreign to him.

"I always thought . . . some day . . ." his hand, less callused and smaller than to what she was accustomed, reached up to brush her cheek gently. "You'd get your own command, or my knees would force me to retire, and we'd have our time." The sadness overtook him in a wave. "Whether I stay a kid or whether I die, we'll never have that now."

"We can still have it. In a few years . . ."

"You deserve better, Sam," he said sadly. "You always did. I was never really good enough as I was, but I considered myself lucky that it didn't matter to you. But at least I knew that you wouldn't face ridicule being with me, eating at a restaurant, walking through a museum, seeing a movie."

"I don't care, Jack," she said, and for a moment, he believed she meant it.

"You'd be okay, having people asking you about your 'son'?"

"I wouldn't care what anybody else thought," she argued angrily. "Do you really think it would make a difference to me?"

Jack mumbled to himself a moment, gathering his thoughts. "No, I guess not. But I can't be who I am, don't you see that? Even if people think they're treating me the same as always, they're not."

"Yes, they are, Colonel. I haven't done . . ."

"I didn't mean you, Carter. But did you see the General in the briefing this morning? When I wanted to discuss who would do the F302 briefing? He cut me off without even listening to my arguments. Can you ever, ever remember hearing him do that before? Hammond has always been a fair man, but this is something I don't think he can get past. And what about SG1? We can't watch each other's sixes with a weak member of the team. We work because there are no weak links. Or, there weren't until now. Unless we can figure out how to get me big again, SG1 has a leader who's not going to be able to cut it. I can feel it. This body doesn't have the strength that an adult body has.

"So not only am I losing my team, and the woman I . . . the woman I love, I may even lose my life. I know Jacob will mean the best, but don't ask me to lose myself along with all that."

"You forget one thing, Colonel. Jack," she corrected, no longer seeing the boy who sat in front of her. Now she saw the man, as if he'd never changed. "I'm not willing to lose you yet. And whatever it takes, we're going to fix this."

"You sound so sure," O'Neill said, looking down.

"I have to be," she answered, causing him to look into her eyes again. "It's not my life that's at stake, but it's my heart."

Encouraged, he seemed to draw strength from her determination. "Okay, let's hear what Jacob has to say. And after that, we'll call Thor."

"Thor?" she questioned, confused.

"Yeah. We know that they're experienced in cloning. Maybe they can make me a new body, an adult one, and move my consciousness into it."

"It's a long shot, Sir," she said, trying to reestablish her objectivity.

"We've beaten the odds before, Carter," he said, leaping down from the bed. "I'm not ready to give up just yet."

Smiling, they exchanged a nod before leaving the infirmary, and assumed their Air Force personas once again. She realized that, when she looked at him now, she no longer saw a child. Perhaps it was his eyes . . . they held the wisdom of the Colonel's forty-plus years, and the warmth and affection of the man she loved. They'd beat it, she thought. She was determined now that nothing would stop them, and reinvested herself in the fact that they would be together some day. The future would be theirs, and nobody, alien or domestic, would keep that from them.