A/N: I'm on an uploading kick, sue me.
"Nice tattoo – what's it mean?"
"It's a barcode," Jon's new roommate replied as he carefully folded his clothes. "What do you think it means?"
"Attitude, nice," Jon turned towards his bunk with a nod, muttering under his breath. "This'll go great."
Bran smirked to himself as he set the perfectly folded plain gray shirt aside.
Going to college was a joke for him – he was more than smart enough to run circles around his professors – but a college campus was the perfect hideout from Manticore. Where else were you going to find the largest concentration of disenfranchised twenty-something's if not in the higher education system?
All those brains trying to make a difference, trying to better the world through their achievements and whatnot.
Careful, Bran warned himself.
Too much ambition was a terrible thing – he only had to look in the mirror to know the truth of that one.
"So, what you in for?" Jon asked, tossing himself down on his bed and propping his head up with his pillow. "Chemistry? Sociology? Hospitality and Tourist Management?"
"Double major in Biochemistry and Genetics," Bran replied. "With a minor in Molecular Biology."
"Wow." Jon's eyebrows skyrocketed as he blinked at the other boy. "Impressive. So I take it you're smart?"
"Genius," Bran replied, grabbing a stack of perfectly folded shirts and heading for the dresser. "You?"
"I have a wealth of experience to fall back upon to make up for any mental deficit I may encounter," Jon's reply had Bran giving him an odd look but the other boy let it be – he didn't want Jon to start asking questions anymore than Jon seemed to want him to ask questions.
"Cool," was all he said in reply. "And you? What are you in for?"
"Aeronautical Engineering," Jon replied. "And Astrophysics. With a minor in Film and Theatre studies."
"Film?" Bran blinked at him, struck by the abrupt departure from Jon's apparent theme, but he let it go with a simple headshake.
"Well, I wanted to have some fun," Jon replied, providing Bran with an answer and an insight – the other boy had an obvious sense of humor.
The two of them lapsed into an oddly comfortable silence while Jon watched and Bran organized and they both did silent assessments of the other.
To Jon, Bran had an obvious military background – no civilian folded shirts that well or made a bed with such precise corners.
Military brat, he hazarded, but it didn't sit quite right. There was just something in the way Bran held himself that was off – too clean, too professional for him to have merely been the son of a military family.
No, Bran had training – lots of it. He moved on cats feet and he had the eyes – the half-haunted always fighting look of someone who had been there, seen that.
Bran was having similar thoughts about Jon. There was something off with his roommate. He had a self-possession about him that only came with experience and knowledge.
He could be a Pulse orphan – there were thousands of those around. Kids who'd been caught in the riots that had followed had received the worst blow.
Anybody west of the Rockies had lost everything – money, homes, cars, jobs: all gone in an instant.
America had largely survived for the most part by performing the most basic function of survival – they cauterized the wound.
West of the Rockies became a militarized state – governments were handed over to local militias, new political entities were formed.
Too much attention had been focused on grabbing that power, too little on gaining the support of the people. Orphanages were haphazard solutions at best. Most of them had been raided by out groups looking for supplies, anyways, so the only sure way to survive was to fight.
A lot of kids had grown up in that sort of environment. Bran had run with his fair share of groups during that time and while most of them were undeniably vicious, they weren't very organized. They hadn't provided much training beyond point and shoot or keep hitting until it doesn't get up again.
Jon was lean and lanky like most street rats but he had muscle and he had presence no street rat did. Even the good leaders had uncertainty in their gazes but Jon knew exactly where he was and what was going on.
"How old are you?" Jon had found a stress ball in his bag while Bran had been busy organizing and he was tossing it absently in the air as he asked the question.
"Nineteen," Bran replied about as honestly as he could. He wasn't really sure how old he was. His production year had been the second one, and he could vaguely remember being assigned to a squad in 2001 when he was around two. "You?"
"Eighteen," Jon replied. "You win."
Bran's lips quirked.
"I wasn't aware this was a competition."
"Everything's a competition," Jon informed Bran as he tossed the ball in the air again. "People just don't always know what they're competing for."
"And now?" Jon shot Bran a look so he elaborated. "What are we competing for now?"
"Beer," Jon replied, setting the ball aside and getting to his feet.
"Beer?" Bran arched an eyebrow as Jon gestured him over.
"Beverage of the gods," Jon informed him as Bran, against his better judgment, set his folding aside – ignoring the voice of his inner soldier, chastising him for leaving his work unfinished – and walked towards the door.
"And because I'm older you'll be buying?"
"Sure, why not?" Jon shrugged his shoulders as he opened the door, shutting it behind them before slinging his arm over the transgenic's shoulders. "As long as you order it."
"Look at me, man – I look like a twelve year old. Nobody will sell me alcohol – I know, I tried." A wealth of annoyance colored his words. "But you, on the other hand – you have the look."
"The look?" Bran found himself repeating his roommates words a lot but he was admittedly having an interesting time attempting to follow the younger boys logic.
"Mature, distinguished – old enough to order beer and not get carded for it. You get what I'm saying?"
"So basically I'm bait," Bran stated.
"Bait, schmait – do this for me and I promise you we'll be friends for life."
Bran's lips quirked.
"With an offer like that, how could I refuse?"
He was being followed.
"Damnit," Jon swore, shooting an annoyed look over his shoulders at the two men doing a half-assed job of shadowing him.
"Friends of yours?" Bran asked blandly.
He'd tagged the two shadows the second they'd left the campus but a quick diversion had made it clear they weren't after him – Jon appeared to be the sole focus of their attention. Which just made Bran's instincts scream.
"Not really," Jon replied, clapping him over the shoulder with a sigh. "Wait here for a second while I talk to them?"
"Sure thing, man," Bran stood, arms crossed and body tense as he watched his roommate make his way back to where the two men stood waiting.
He felt a wave of surprise as the two men came to attention as Jon approached, the one of the left going half to a salute before Jon snapped something that had him lowering his hand.
Transgenic hearing was good, but it wasn't quite good enough to make out what they were saying. He could half read their lips, but they were saying things that didn't make any sense.
Stargate? Alpha site? Asgard?
None of these words had much meaning – aside from Alpha site – but even that was impossible for Bran to put in context.
The conversation lasted two or three minutes and ended with Jon trotting back over, jaw clenched, and one of the men pulling out a cell phone, turning so his back was to them while he made his call.
"Trouble?" Bran asked, keeping an eye on the two men.
"Bodyguards," Jon replied. "My…uncle's kind of a big deal in the Air Force. Likes to send people to keep an eye on me, keep me out of trouble."
"How nice," Bran replied blandly, feeling both relieved and alarmed. Relieved because the men had nothing to do with him. Alarmed because Jon obviously had military connection and the last person Bran needed to be hanging with was someone who could inadvertently be linked back to Manticore.
"What do you say we have some fun?" Jon interrupted Bran's thoughts, drawing his attention back to Jon.
"What kind of fun?" Bran asked, interested in spite of himself.
"Ten bucks says I can lose them in five."
"Twenty says you can't," Bran agreed readily enough.
"Loser buys drinks?" Jon prompted.
"I don't lose," Bran replied. Jon grinned.
"Funny, I think you just did."
Bran lost with grace and dignity, buying Jon several shots of tequila and admiring the younger man's intestinal fortitude as they made their way back to the dorms.
"Most fun I've had in years," Jon informed Bran as they made it back to their room.
Jon's cell phone rang, interrupting anything Bran might say in response.
Jon picked the offending instrument up, pulling a face at the caller ID and having a very obvious debate with himself before he hit talk and answered it.
"Junior," Brigadier General Jack O'Neill expected a lot of things from his clone – unfortunately, this just happened to be one of them. "Did you have to be mean about it?"
"What?" Jon protested. "It's not like they were gay! They just happened to be drag queens."
"Drag queens who doubled as pro wrestlers in their spare time. Faulkner's gonna need weeks of therapy before we can let him off-base. And Jensen screams everytime he sees a bird."
"Feathers," Jon nodded his head. "Fuckin' evil."
"Hey! Watch your language!" Jack protested out of a belated sense of duty.
"Why? You don't."
There was really nothing Jack could say in reply.
"Why don't you send Sam next time?" Jon's voice had a peculiar note of wistfulness that held Bran's attention as he went back to his organizing.
"Sam's off-world right now," Jack replied. "And besides, even if she wasn't you know she wouldn't go. It's just too…"
"Weird. Yeah, I get it." Jon fought the urge to sigh as he ran a hand through his hair. "Anyways, just make sure the next ones aren't complete pussies. I'd like to have some fun at their expense."
"I'll send Kirkland," Jack promised and Jon fought the urge to wince.
"Cruel, Jack. Very cruel."
"Stay safe," Jack ended the phone call with a note of humor.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Likewise."
"Your uncle?" Bran inquired blandly as he shoved his now empty duffel under his bed.
"He acts like I'm criminally irresponsible or something," Jon replied, throwing himself back onto his bed and slinging an arm over his eyes.
"Night," he stated, his breathing promptly evening out as he fell asleep leaving Bran to finish setting up his space with a shake of his head.
"Weird kid," he muttered to himself, reaching for his toiletries and heading for the bathroom without a backwards glance.
Lying in his bed, Jon floated in a half-asleep daze and managed a smile and a whisper.
"You have no idea, man."
He dreamed he'd been captured.
Bright lights shined down on him, searing his eyeballs.
The only thing missing was the laser.
"You're a traitor, 386," the cool voice was smooth even, pitched so that it could be either male or female. "A deserter – you abandoned your country and left the remains of your unit behind. You deserve death."
Death would be a mercy and he knew better than to expect such kindness from Manticore.
"You will be reindoctrinated," the voice continued on. "Your personality will be erased and you will be retrained until you have learned how to function as you were meant to."
To be a soulless, faceless, mindless killer – to take and take and take and take without thought or consequence.
To give up his freedom, his personality, even his name. He'd be forced to surrender everything he was to them.
Like hell, he snarled, gripping and tugging at his restraints as he reared up, fighting the light and the voice until his chest heaved and his body was covered in sweat.
"Give it up, 386," the voice taunted. "We're always going to find you. You'll never be safe, not from us. We made you and we don't let go of things we make."
"Fuck you," Bran snarled and pushed against the fabric of the dream until, with a start, he landed back in his own bed, eyes wide and breathing heavy.
"You okay man?" Jon asked, rubbing his face tiredly as he rolled from his stomach onto his back to peer across the dawn-touched room.
"Fine," Bran assured him, carefully bringing his breathing back under control. "Bad dream."
"Had a few of those myself," Jon replied, pushing up to a sitting position and yawning wide, cracking his jaw in the process. "You know what the perfect cure is?"
"What?" Bran rubbed his eyes – ignoring the voice that chastised him for the display of weakness – blinking a few times before focusing on his perpetually amused roommate.
"You got a meal plan?" Bran asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and pushing to his feet.
"Courtesy of Uncle Jack," Jon agreed readily enough.
"You're buying, then." Jon grinned.
"All you can eat, it is. Come on – let's get down before all the good stuff is gone."
Bran adjusted easily to a life of learning. College, he'd discovered, was similar to a lot of the classworks they'd done back at Manticore only minus the armed guards and labcoat scientists studying their every move.
The teachers were a lot nicer, too. They were more than happy to answer his questions and not once had any of them gotten annoyed or threatened him with solitary confinement when his questions got too elaborate or too many.
Jon found his classes to be mildly interesting – it'd been several decades since he'd last attended college and there were so many advancements that had been made since then. He was thrilled to discover that part of their curriculum offered him access to some of the latest and greatest in military tech – it was something even if it wasn't no Tel-tak.
He'd discovered, much to his embarrassment, that he understood a lot more thanks in part to his near eidetic memory when it came to one Samantha Carter.
Don't go there, he cautioned himself. It'd taken him a while to get over his thing for her and even now he wasn't entirely sure he was over it. Still, he'd progressed to a point where he didn't feel like a leech when looking at other women and it wasn't ground he was willing to give up without a fight.
Their class loads kept the two roommates pretty busy so they didn't see a whole lot of each other, but they talked often enough that it was a complete surprise to Jon when he returned to the dorms one day to find Bran and another guy glaring at each other from across the room.
"Lovers quarrel?" Jon inquired as he stood in the doorway staring between the two of them.
"Zack, meet Jon, my roommate. Jon, meet Zack, my brother."
"Funny," Jon set his bag on his bed as he glanced back and forth at them. "You don't look anything alike."
Jon was being flip again, Bran knew.
He'd been purposely designed to be ethnically ambiguous. He could pass for white, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern and even Black if he stayed out in the sun long enough. He could look like anybody's brother and most people would accept his claim of relation at face value but Bran knew there were very few things that Jon accepted at face value.
He didn't know whether to be grateful or annoyed that this wasn't one of them.
Zack said nothing as he took Jon in, looking him up and down once before turning to face Bran.
"Walk with me."
Bran's jaw clenched, making it abundantly clear this wasn't high on his list of things he wanted to do, but he grabbed his jacket anyways.
"Hey!" Jon called out, causing them to pause at the door. "We still on for tonight?"
Bran shot Zack a quick look before nodding his affirmation and slipping out the door.
Jon waited a ten count before dropping his bag and slipping out the door after them.
It was a matter of trust – and Jon did not trust Zack.
A/N: Okay, for real this time - I wrote this in September last year and haven't really got a chance to revisit it since but I'm posting it as a possible WIP because I've always wanted to write a DAxSG1 crossover and this has some serious promise in my humble opinion. And Mini-Jack, aka Jon, has so much potential! So...what do you think?