Title: A Rush of Blood to the Head
Summary: "You volunteering to come with me, Carter?" Sam and Jack deal (or don't) with the creation of mini!Jack.
Categorization: Drama, angst, Sam/Jack, 'Fragile Balance' episode addition
Warnings: Older teens. Language.
Author' s Notes: Well, look at that. I wrote mini!otp fic. Who knew I had it in me? Just to warn you, this is a bit…weird. Many thanks for dizimo
I'm going to buy a gun and start a war, if you give me something worth fighting for…
A Rush of Blood to the Head
Everyone is standing around Loki, listening to Thor explain exactly what the rogue Asgard's punishment will be for kidnapping and cloning Colonel O'Neill. Sam lifts her head to find the Colonel—or rather his clone—standing some distance away.
For the first time since all of this insanity started, her single-minded drive to find the real Colonel recedes long enough for her to contemplate just what this all means for the clone.
She tries to see him as a stranger, just some random kid, but he's not.
She backs away from the pod, moving across the room to stand by the young man.
"Hey," she says.
He looks up at her, but there's already something distant in his eyes. He's done the math, clearly knows what all of this will mean.
"Are you going to be okay, Jack?" she asks, the question rushing out her mouth before she can stop it.
He covers his surprise well, giving her a jovial, if not superficial smile. "You volunteering to come with me, Carter?" he jokes.
She stares back, not answering, because that is exactly the insane idea that's been racing around in her mind since the moment she saw him standing over here. It wouldn't be impossible, just…terrifying.
The transformation of his expression as he realizes what exactly it is she's not saying is almost dizzying, straight past humorous deflection and shock and something else unguarded but painful to see, slamming to a vicious halt at pissed.
He grabs her arm. "Not a chance in hell, Carter," he says, shaking her a little.
His voice is hard and she doesn't mistake that familiar tone, coming from a teenager or not. She stares down at his hand against her skin and feels the idea solidify and come into focus.
"So this is goodbye then," she says, the words thick on her tongue.
"Yeah," he says, his hand snapping back from her arm like a broken rubber band. "Yeah, I guess it is."
She waits for him to say something else, be unfailingly honest with her for once in his entire life. But she knows she'll be waiting a really long time for that day.
His mouth remains shut in a stubborn line that is at once disarmingly cute and juvenile, but also familiar. She shakes her head, trying to wrap her mind around all of this.
All she can think of is him, out there alone.
The rest of the team reappears, plans already building for what his new life will be. She stands to the side and bites her tongue. Toes the line.
Just like always.
"You sure about this?" Jack asks the kid leaning against the door of his truck. "I mean…it's high school."
The kid glances back over his shoulder at the green grass covered in teenagers as it slopes up towards the building. "I'll be fine," he says, sliding on a pair of sunglasses. "No need to worry, old man."
Jack frowns, but the kid has already pushed off the truck, heading into the throng of high schoolers.
From here on in, you and me are different, his clone had said. Jack can believe it.
He watches his younger self walk up to the school. He hasn't even been on the campus a full minute when some girls walk by. Something Mini-Me says must catch their attention because they laugh, tucking their hair behind their ear in the universal language of flirtation.
Maybe the kid wasn't completely off base after all.
Jack turns over the ignition, ready to drive away and do his best to forget any of this ever happened when something makes him turn back one last time, catching sight of the kid right before he disappears into the building. Someone steps up close to him, grabbing his arm. Jack catches a flash of gold before he loses them in the crowd.
For a second he thinks maybe… He dismisses it as quickly as the insane idea appears.
There is no possible way.
She would never be so reckless.
He drives away.
Jack spins as a girl appears from nowhere, grabbing his arm. He has to sit on the impulse to counter what feels distinctly like an attack, reminding himself that beating up high school students would not be a great start to his new life. He's getting pulled into the busy hallway inside before he can even catch sight of long blond hair.
He has to be hallucinating. He has to be.
But then she's facing him, the familiar blue eyes and stubborn angle to her chin unmistakable.
"Goddamn it, Carter," he bellows, not caring about staring eyes and proper youthful behavior. His eyes sweep over her teenaged body. "What the fuck did you do?"
Her cheek flexes, but she doesn't look so much surprised by his outburst as resigned to it. "What does it look like?" she launches back, not giving him an inch.
The edge in her voice automatically makes his shoulders tense, but it occurs to him that in these halls they have no rules to guide their interactions. The way she's standing just a little too close, hands on her hips, with nothing close to contrition on her face, tells him that she knows it too. It scares the crap out of him.
Why the hell is she here?
"What is this?" he hisses. "Are you here to baby sit me? Or is this just pity?"
To his utter surprise, she shoves him back towards the lockers lining the hall. "I didn't do this because you trained me not to leave a man behind, you incomprehensible, stubborn, block-headed ass," she says.
Jack blinks back at her, trying to tamp down the automatic reprimand for having the gall to speak to him like that. He settles for staring at her in awe because this is part of Carter he's always suspected existed, but was never witness to—Sam Carter reckless and free of rules.
All bets are off.
It's almost as hot as it is frightening. He glances around. Shouldn't there be a hall monitor or something?
"I only did this for one reason," she says, poking him in the chest.
He swallows. "And what is that?"
There's a whole world of emotions traveling across her face and it's beyond him to successfully decode even a single one. Her fingers curl into the front of his shirt. "Let me see if I can put this in a way you'll understand."
For a moment he's almost convinced she's going to throw a punch, but then she's leaning in and kissing him, right there in the middle of the flow of young bodies shuffling between homerooms or whatever the hell it is they have now.
There are some mocking catcalls and giggles and possibly a teacher's voice raised in objection, but all Jack feels are the soft lips of a 16-year-old Carter who sure as hell knows how to use them. His 16-year-old body is not at all objecting.
God, is this what it used to feel like? Or is Carter just as fatal to his system as he always suspected she would be?
His fingers find her belt loops, pulling her tight against him and he's rewarded with a soft hum from her, the kiss deepening.
She eventually pulls back with a soft pop at the loss of the insanely wonderful suction, looking just as dazed as he feels.
"Wow," she says, her mouth slightly swollen.
No kidding. He's fairly thankful he's leaning back against the lockers.
It's breaking his brain a little to be looking at this tiny slip of a girl and feeling this wild tangle of emotions that part of his brain is loudly telling him is So Wrong on so many levels, but when he looks into her eyes staring steadily back at him she is so familiar, and all he can see is this woman who gave up everything to come after him.
"I can't believe you did this," he says.
"Did you really think I wouldn't?"
He didn't know. He really didn't. This is beyond anything he could have asked of anyone. But now she's staring back at him and he's forced to realize he misjudged her, or maybe just deluded himself.
Of course she would do this.
Her expression sobers slightly, and it's weird to see such a world-weary and calculating expression on her achingly young face. "Would you?"
He knows what she's asking. Would he have done the same for her? Hell, in a second. It's not even a decision.
"Yes," he admits, because it's the very least he owes her—the truth. His arms tighten around her waist. Nothing in the world would make him leave her out here alone. "Yes."
She smiles, and it's only then that he can see what a giant, scary leap this had been for her, hiding underneath all the bluster and anger. But she'd done it anyway.
"Then I think you understand why I'm here," she says.
He touches her face. "I can't believe you did this."
She leans her cheek into the touch, smiling. "You already said that."
The bells ring, the halls rapidly emptying, and some part of his brain is remembering his resolution to try this high school thing again, but the resolve Jack had felt not even ten minutes ago seems to have dissolved with the appearance of Carter.
She's watching his face carefully.
"Does the Air Force know?" he asks.
She nods. "They were over the moon. Almost as much as Thor. Now they have a spare set."
God, he can only imagine, bitterness unexpectedly rising on his tongue at the thought of how giddy they must be to have a second Carter. He feels intensely protective of her in that moment, and it's strange how fast the Air Force has gone from being their identity, their life, to their adversary. Everything looks completely different from this side.
He sees it in her face, the same distaste. The government thinks they own them. This starting over bullshit is just that. Their futures are already mapped. Stipends and government appointed guardians and non-disclosure agreements.
"I don't want play by their rules," Carter says in a rush and she's almost unrecognizable for a moment, the flinty gleam to her eye.
"Do we really have a choice?"
She blinks back at him, looking a little nonplussed by the question. "Yes, we do," she insists. "She gave me her nest egg."
It takes him a minute to track what she's saying. "She what?"
"It's nothing insane, but it's enough. Enough to disappear, if that's what we want."
"Why would she do that?"
"I don't think she thought we'd want to stay here."
Jack thinks about it, really thinks about it, glancing around the near-empty halls with peeling linoleum floors and flickering florescent lighting. "Smart woman."
Her lips twist. "She has her moments. Occasionally."
There's a odd mix of self-censorship in her tone and it's weird, to be already thinking of their older counterparts as separate people. Different people, different decisions. Already the gap is widening.
"Does he know?" Jack asks. "The other me?"
She looks sad, resigned. "I don't think so."
They stare back at each other and he knows they are both thinking the same thing. It'd probably be better for all involved if he never found out.
She draws his attention back by looping her arms around his neck and grinning up at him. "So what do you say, Jack? Are we going to first period Chemistry?"
He thinks the Devil himself must look a lot like a 16-year-old Carter in jean shorts and a t-shirt, holding out this offer of a life without any constraints. No longer adrift, but free.
He knows she'll stay here with him if that's what he decides. They would disappear into the vapid banality of SATs and Homecoming and maybe even somehow survive to come out on the other side. Eventually. And then would come the real test of how much the Air Force or the U.S. government has planned for them. Of just how tight the noose has become.
High school or disappearing out into the world with Carter.
Is it really a decision?
Jack marches up to Carter's front door and bangs on it a few solid times, taking juvenile satisfaction in the overly loud thud of his fist against the wood. He doesn't pause the onslaught until the door pulls open, Carter standing there looking calm and not at all like he'd tried to break down her door.
"Sir," she says like maybe she's been waiting for him.
"Thought you might like to know that Mini-Me has disappeared off the face of the planet," he announces.
Her expression doesn't change and that's clue enough.
His eyes narrow. "Something told me you wouldn't exactly be surprised though."
"I don't know what you mean, sir," she says.
God, she's good. If he didn't know her quite so well, he might have bought that bullshit. She is such a shitty liar in general though, that he has to wonder if this means she's just managed to delude herself enough that she almost believes it herself. Out of sight, out of mind. Like a lot of things.
"What the hell did you do?"
She calmly raises one eyebrow. "What exactly are you accusing me of, sir?"
Her placidity is only pissing him off more. "You know damn well what. It was bad enough with one of me running around out there! And now-." He breaks off, throwing his hands up in frustration. "Do you have any idea what you've done, Carter?"
Her chin lifts. "What have I done?"
Jack's anger is thudding against his chest, and all he can think of is a Carter out there living through something he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy, the sinking suspicion of why grinding into his mind. "You've doomed her to a life on the run, with no money, no past, and no future! And for what?"
Her eyes harden. "That's not true."
He doesn't understand why she doesn't seem to get that this isn't some lark. At the very best it's exile. "She has nothing."
Something seems to snap in her then, her careful composure shattering. "She has more than I'll ever have."
There's a moment of ringing silence as those words sink in. She's staring somewhere near his knee now, her face pale and he can tell that was the last thing she meant to say.
"And what is that?" he asks, hating the way his voice automatically softens, the way he can't hold on to his rage and anger in the face of her blurted, confused confession. The way she's always been able to disarm him like this without the slightest effort.
She looks up at him, such a raw display visible on her face that his chest burns with the intensity of it. Her eyes travel across his face, full of yearning and pain and recklessness and in that moment he has the horrid feeling that he doesn't really know Sam Carter nearly as well as he thinks he does. But, God, does he want to.
Another flash and it's gone as quickly as it appeared and she is cool and collected as she regards him. Familiar.
"Choice," she answers, her hand wrapping around the edge of the door and pulling it halfway in front of her like a shield. "She has choice."
The one thing they never had.
Her eyes are firmly on the ground again, and he knows this conversation has gone as far as it ever safely can. He takes a step back, turning on his heel and stepping off her porch.
He stops halfway down the path, still feeling her eyes on his back. "She'll regret it," he says.
"No," she says, the word hardened with absolute certainty. "She won't."
He turns back to look at her, but she's already closed the door.
Julie Miller shoves a strand of dark brown hair out of her face, securing it in place with the pencil tucked behind her ear. She has her feet propped up on Noah's knee, her back wedged into the corner of the booth. The Norma Rae wannabe behind the counter is shooting Julie daggers for lounging on the job, but she's allowed to take her damn fifteen whenever she wants, so she ignores her. Plus, her feet hurt.
She hadn't done the teenage rebellion thing right the first time around. This time she's pulling out all the stops.
She watches Noah eat an enormous piece of pie, only occasionally pausing to wash it down with a gulp of chocolate milkshake. One of the good things to be said about teenage metabolism, she supposes, he can eat like a pig with very little consequences.
She lets her eyes sweep down his body. Three months and she's almost gotten used to seeing him this way, all gangly limbs and soft skin. Slowly he's replacing that other man in her mind, that other life.
Out there somewhere, Sam Carter is no doubt hard at work, her head down, focused on saving the world, investing everything she has into a job she loves. There will be joy for her in it. Pride in her work. Maybe even a life someday to complement the career, a shift building in her that might help her find some small shade of the freedom she so desperately wants.
It's a life Julie will never have, can never have, and that exile is exactly the gift Sam knew it would be.
Julie knows that right now some tiny, repressed part of Sam is jealous, no matter how hard she might try to pretend otherwise.
Julie doesn't blame her.
She's not stupid. She knows playing happy homes and doing odd jobs in places like this run-down diner will only sustain them so long. They'll need lives, purpose. They'll go insane otherwise.
But that's okay, because she has a plan growing in the back of her mind.
"Uh-oh," Noah says, bite of pie suspended halfway to his mouth.
"What?" she asks, turning her attention back to him.
"I know that look," he says, his eyes narrowing. "It usually precedes someone shooting at me."
She blinks back at him, her eyes wide.
He snorts at the attempted subterfuge. Most people may look at her and see nothing but a harmless teenager, but he knows better.
She shifts up in the seat, sliding closer to him until her thigh is brushing his knee, resting her elbow on the back of the booth above his shoulder. "I was just thinking that between the two of us, we have a rather unusual skill set."
"True," he says, still sounding cautious.
"Seems a shame to let it go to waste."
His eyebrows lift. "What exactly are you suggesting?"
She shrugs. "I just thought maybe it was about time someone did something about the NID."
For a moment his mouth falls open, and she can see it in his eyes, the hard ass commander thinking of fifty million reasons why that would be the stupidest, riskiest, out of control thing they could ever dream of doing. Only then she can see Noah catching up.
"A little independent oversight?" he asks, his expression thoughtful.
"Something like that."
Who better to make life easier for the SGC than a couple of nondescript teenagers with knowledge and skills well beyond their years, and no one to answer to?
There are no rules. No rules but their own. No oaths or honors that they don't choose themselves.
"That could be interesting," Noah says.
Yeah, it really could.
They grin at each other and Sam leans over and steals his fork, shamelessly pressing up against his arm.
He lets out a breath, the air trailing across her neck and making her shiver. "How long will it be until we stop feeling like pedophiles, do you think?" he asks, his fingers trailing down her bare arm.
Julie smirks, tugging at the open collar of her shirt, not missing the way his eyes automatically track the movement. "You'll always be a dirty old man to me."
His hand rubs above her knee, thumb brushing under the edge of her skirt. "Good to know," he says with a grin.
She leans in and kisses him, ignoring the pointed glare of Norma.
She could really get used to this teenage rebellion thing.