Disclaimer: I own nothing that you recognise.
A/N: For those who have got an alert about this and are now wondering 'what the hell?' - No, I have not forgotten my other stories. This is just a little ficlet that wouldn't get out of my head until it was written. Will now scurry back to the HMS Wolfstar...I promise.
At twenty one years of age Cassandra Fraiser was very much a free-spirited wanderer. She travelled extensively, always in search of new and interesting places to visit. Had those who knew her during this time in her life known of her origins, they would no doubt have made a connection between her having been born so far away from Earth and her desire to travel.
But no one did know of her birth on Hanka, at least no one that wasn't connected with the Stargate project, and she hadn't been in contact with any of those for nearly a year.
Steering her car into the parking lot of the roadside café, she looked around at the desolate landscape; the empty, barren land was probably pictured in the dictionary under 'middle of nowhere'.
Locking her car and pocketing the keys, she walked into the café to see what they had to offer for lunch.
Jack O'Neill pulled a face as he took the first swallow of his coffee. He called the waitress over and gestured to the cup. "Come on," he drawled. "How about a little coffee in the coffee?"
"You got a problem with it?" the waitress replied, raising a single eyebrow as she looked over the table of teenage boys. "You know, if you have, you can always go to the Starbucks over the road." She waved her hand out of the window, reminding the four boys, and her awkward customer in particular, that this was the only café for miles around.
"It's not that bad," one of his friends commented, taking a healthy swig from his own cup to demonstrate.
"I've tasted better coffee from vending machines," Jack replied with a grimace and a shudder.
They continued to discuss the merits of various beverages as they waited for their food to arrive.
After a few minutes Jack began to notice that one of his friends was continually glancing at something – or someone – over his shoulder. Eventually, curiosity won out, and he twisted round in his seat to see who had caught his attention.
He recognised her almost immediately, even though he hadn't seen her in years. Technically, of course, he hadn't actually seen her at all; Jack O'Neill, the other one had been the one to see her, and he simply retained those memories.
Jack didn't think about the other Jack O'Neill very often, and made a valiant effort to keep his memories out of his head as much as possible. It was far too confusing otherwise.
Unfortunately, every now and then, one of those memories surfaced, reminding him that he was a clone of another man. A younger version of him, but a clone nonetheless.
"Hot, isn't she?" his friend commented, nodding towards Cassandra.
Jack grimaced as his friends all voiced their agreement. The other O'Neill had always been something of an uncle to Cassandra, and right now the memories of her as a child were battling with the teenage hormones that were agreeing wholeheartedly with his friends.
In the last four years he had done everything he could to appear to act and behave like any other teenage boy. He tried to think of the memories of the other O'Neill as being of a past life. He was young, still only nineteen years old, and he had his whole life ahead of him. He was also firmly resolved that his life would not involve anything military, or anything else that would remind him of the other O'Neill. The only exception he made to that was fishing…which was in fact the reason why he and his friends were travelling through this part of the country. They were just four friends from college, enjoying the Spring Break with a little camping trip, during which he would educate them in all things fishing.
Now though, he was watching Cassandra Fraiser and trying not to listen as his friends verbally assessed her attributes.
Jack knew he would be the first to admit that he had embraced his life as a teenager this second time around. He had dated a couple of girls back in high school, and although it had been a little awkward at first, he had cast aside thoughts of how much older his mind was and concentrated on the fact that he was very much a teenage boy in every other way. It's not like he had any other options; if he had started looking for women who were the age he remembered being, that would produce a whole new set of problems. As for the other option, that of celibacy, well, he was a teenage boy with all the usual teenage hormones, and celibacy was just not going to happen.
But he knew that dating some random teenage girl was entirely different to checking out a girl that he knew from before.
He turned back to his friends and shrugged uneasily. "Come on, guys. Show a bit of respect for the lady."
His friends looked at him as though he'd suddenly sprouted horns. He couldn't say that he blamed them entirely, he didn't usually preach at them about such things. But this was Cassandra, and that made all the difference in the world.
"Why don't you go and say hi to the lady?" the more mouthy of his friends suggested with a snicker.
"She looks busy," Jack replied. It wasn't entirely a lie, for Cassandra was studying a road map and had no apparent inkling of the attention she had garnered from the only other customers in the café.
Unfortunately, his friends weren't taking no for an answer, and continued to tease him, urging him to see how far he could get with her.
Eventually Jack decided that it would be far easier for him to go over and talk to her, if only to save face with his friends. Cassandra was sitting far enough away from their table that his friends wouldn't be able to hear what they were saying, and there was no harm in his going to speak to her. Not to mention, he was rather curious about what she was doing all the way out here.
He sauntered over to Cassandra's table and slid into the seat opposite her. He gave her one of his winning smiles. "You're not from around here, are you?" he asked in a mock confidential tone.
Cassandra rolled her eyes and smiled a little. "Considering the location, I doubt if even the staff are from around here," she replied.
"You lost?" Jack asked, gesturing to the map.
Cassandra shook her head. "Just checking my route."
"Where you heading?"
Cassandra sat back in her seat and looked at him appraisingly. It was then that Jack remembered that Cassandra would have no idea who he was. Whilst he, of course, retained the other O'Neill's memories of her, she wouldn't have any idea of the cloning incident, it being classified information, after all.
He breathed an internal sigh of relief that he had not referred to her by name, something that would no doubt have caused her to freak out on him.
He grinned widely as he praised her for her sensible reaction in not immediately telling him where she was going.
Cassandra smiled back and folded up her map. "So, what about you?" she asked.
"Me?" Jack sat back and nodded towards his friends. "Camping trip, lots of relaxation, and plenty of fishing."
"Fishing?" Cassandra replied.
"Nothing wrong with fishing," Jack told her.
"Never said there was."
"You didn't have to," Jack huffed. "It was the look you had on your face. It said it all."
"Sorry." Cassandra smiled. "And to answer your question, I'm just passing through this way."
Cassandra shook her head, and something flashed across her face, something Jack recognised. In that moment, he knew that she was running, too.
He took a moment to spare a thought for the young woman sitting across from him, and what it might be like to be in her position.
She was the last of her people, living out her life on a strange planet, with no idea of whether she would be able to keep running, or whether her unique circumstances would continue to call her back to the Stargate.
The only difference between the two of them was that he was trying to forget a past that wasn't his, while she was trying to run from a future she may not be able to avoid.
He wondered what Janet thought about her daughter travelling around the country alone, and it was on the tip of his tongue to ask.
"Not much to go back home to," Cassandra said, forestalling his rather ill advised question before he had given voice to it.
"What about your m- parents?" he asked, hoping she had not caught his slip of the tongue.
Cassandra shook her head. "There was just me and my mom, but she died about four years ago."
"Four years ago?" Jack questioned, realising even as he spoke that it meant that she must have died very soon after he had been created by Loki. "I'm sorry." He wanted to add that Doctor Fraiser was a good woman, and a fine doctor, but he knew that such a comment would raise too many questions. He wondered if it had been such a good idea to break all ties with the Air Force, and whether anyone else he knew had succumbed to a similar fate.
Suddenly the conversation was getting awkward, filling with questions he wanted answers to, but could not ask. It was almost a relief when he saw, from the corner of his eye, his friends standing up, getting ready to leave. He called across for them to get his food to go.
"Nice talking to you," he said, as he stood up.
He pulled his shades from his pocket, put them on and gave her a wide grin. He didn't look back as he followed his friends out of the door.
"You get anywhere with her?"
Jack shook his head and smiled as they approached their van. There was a car parked close by, one with Colorado licence plates, and he knew immediately that it was Cassandra's. "Hey, you got a pen and paper?" he asked.
His friends gave him a strange look, although they did manage to produce the items. Jack took them and scribbled a quick note on the paper, securing it under the wiper of Cassandra's car.
"What did you write?"
Jack grinned. "Just left her my number, you know, in case she changes her mind…"
They laughed and joked as they clambered into the van and continued on their journey.
Cassandra watched as the young man disappeared out of the café, the door swinging closed behind him.
She frowned, trying to figure out what was so familiar about him. She knew she had never met him before, but still there was something about him that told her that she had.
There was something in the mannerisms, in the way he spoke, in the gestures and the smile…something that told her that she knew him.
She shook her head to clear her mind of such ridiculous fancies and finished her meal.
She was already sitting in her car when she spotted the piece of paper tucked under her wiper. Winding down the window, she reached out and took it.
She opened the note and read the few words several times.
She smiled and reached into her purse, pulling out her mobile phone.
The answering service picked up her call and she left a message. She wasn't surprised; she knew that Samantha Carter was a busy woman and may not even be on Earth at the moment. But she was like a second mother to her, and Cassandra knew she would call her back as soon as she was able to.
Cassandra smiled again and looked back at the note.
It was only a few words long, and simply read, 'You're not alone.' Alone, those words may have given her cause for concern, but the doodle on the bottom stalled her fears. It was a crude drawing, and would mean nothing to anyone who had not seen the original, but she had recognised the image of the Stargate immediately, and it had eased her mind like nothing else could have.
She knew who had left the note for her, although she still had no idea who he was. It had served its purpose however, and reminded her that it was good to touch base every now and then.
She read it one last time before slipping it into her purse.
She smiled as she pulled out of the café's parking lot and continued on her journey.