Artwork by KaylaShay. For more, visit Artistic Collections.Authors Note:
This is not a conventional Laney fic. I’d even go so far as to say it won’t be a fic most people like. I expect a backlash because I’m painting some characters in a not so positive light. It’s not a character bashing fic, that is not my intention with this, but an exploration of something the writers neglected to address in the episodes that follow Fragile Balance (damn, I keep typing Fragile Existence… Doh!). Disclaimer:
None of the characters of Stargate or Supernatural belong to me. Warnings:
No happy endings. Not a dark fic, but not a fluff piece either. There will be a sequel. Spoilers:
Stargate – Fragile Existence. Supernatural – Absolutely nothing.Dedication:
Thanks to Mhalachai for the beta and thanks to KaylaShay for the wonderful manips for No Deals and this fic which can be found Here
.Summary: There’s no joyous reunion for them, no slaps on the back or shaking of hands.
JACKSON: "We think the Asgard took the real you and made a copy. An unstable one, at that."
YOUNG O'NEILL: "The real me?"
JACKSON: "Yeah ... the original. That's not your real anything. I'm ... I'm sorry."
~ * ~ * ~
It takes his mind a minute to register just who he’s staring at and when it does Daniel’s mouth goes dry and a lump forms in his throat. This is not a reunion he’s anticipated. To be honest, he’s never really thought about it – probably didn’t want to – and now that it’s here, he isn’t sure he’s ready.
Guilt slices through him as he watches the clone of his best friend laugh loudly at whatever the man next to him is saying.
The laugh is so achingly familiar and, although Daniel heard that laugh recently, it makes him feel like shit. He knows that laughter will fade the moment Jack sees him. There will be no joyous reunion for them, no slaps on the back or shaking of hands.
In fact, Daniel’s pretty sure Jack will be out the door the second he lays eyes on him.
After all, it’s been, what, two and a half years since Jack walked out of his Denver apartment? Away from the life he chose without so much as a ‘see-you later’. Daniel still remembers the day General Hammond called, telling him that the young O’Neill was gone. It isn’t a day he’ll ever forget. It was the day he realised how much he – all of them – had failed young Jack.
It hadn’t been intentional, not for any of them.
Abandoning Jack (he hates to call it that, but there’s no other word to describe it) was an accident. At first, Daniel stayed away to give him space to adjust - at young Jack’s request. It made sense. Jack needed time to get used to his new situation, his new life. Time where he wasn’t constantly reminded of what he’d lost. After that, however, time just seemed to disappear. It was always yet another enemy, one battle after another. Whenever Daniel did think of his best friend’s clone, he couldn’t bring himself to make the call.
He never knew what to say to him.
What could he say? He couldn’t tell Jack anything about the SGC. He couldn’t tell him that his other self is now a Major
General, that General O’Neill and Sam finally gotten their act together… He couldn’t tell him about the dangers now facing Earth or explain unusual lights in the night sky. He couldn’t tell him anything. Whatever he did or didn’t say would have only rubbed salt in the wound. It would have reminded Jack of everything that was ‘taken’ from him.
So weeks of silence turned into months and months turned to years.
Then he was gone.
Almost two years to the day he was cloned.
They looked, but he had disappeared without a trace. At the time, Sam suggested they use Asgard technology – and some of their more recent acquisitions – to locate him, but Jack – General
Jack – refused. Clone Jack wasn’t a security risk (no one dared to suggest otherwise to the original O’Neill) and the fact that they couldn’t find him meant that he didn’t – doesn’t – want to be found.
Daniel didn’t blame him when he disappeared, and he doesn’t blame him now.
It just figures that he would find Jack accidentally.
From months after his disappearance, Daniel silently wondered how long young-Jack waited for one of them – any of them – to get in contact with him, to try and establish a relationship of sorts. Had it been months? Weeks? Years?
Did he sit in vain at Christmas hoping he would get a call?
God, it was so easy not to keep in contact, to believe that Jack would call if he needed them. Jack had asked himself not to keep in touch, but Daniel never really knew for sure if that had extended to them as well.
“Okay, who’s buying the next round?”
At the question, Daniel’s eyes goes back to the three men. He has to admit that Jack looks good. Relaxed, even. He’s leaning back in his chair, arms folded across his chest looking directly at the man with hair that rivalled his own back in his Abydos days. Both men looked to be a few years older than Jack… than his body, at least. The one to his left has short hair and carries himself with confidence that actually reminds Daniel of Jack. The other man, however, is taller than both men and has an intensity about him that Daniel can’t quite describe.
The three of them seem comfortable with each other. Daniel can tell, just by the rapport, that they’ve been friends for a while. There’s no way Jack would be that relaxed around someone he’s only know for a few days – or even months.
“Don’t look at me,” the long-haired man says, shaking his head. “This wasn’t my idea.”
The other man, older than the others, leans forward and slaps him on the arm. “Come on, Sammy boy, Jack and I saved your butt.”
Daniel’s heart stops at the words, but ‘Sammy’ doesn’t seem at all bothered. “And our butts still would be in deep shit if I
hadn’t come up with the best escape plan of all time.”
Jack laughs. “Maybe not the best
escape plan, but he does have a point, Dean.”
“Dude! Are you insane?” Sammy protests, feigning offence. “I totally saved your asses!”
Jack laughs louder this time. “Why don’t we call it a team effort?”
Daniel’s heart constricts at the word ‘team’.
“Team effort?” Sammy repeats, nodding in approval. “We do make a hell of a team, don’t we?”
“That we do,” Dean agrees, raising glass in toast.
Jack is suddenly silent.
“In that case…”Sammy begins, a mischievous glint in his eye. “I say we should buy rounds alphabetically. Starting with D.”
This starts an argument that probably would have gone on for an hour if Jack hadn’t frozen. Daniel doesn’t realise it at first. He’s too busy watching Dean and Sammy, but when the argument tapers off and Dean follows Jack’s line of sight he knows he’s been spotted.
He doesn’t want to look at Jack, but he can’t stop himself.
And just like he feared, Jack is staring right at him.
Jack’s never been one for sharing his feelings. Daniel gave up trying to have deep and meaningful conversations with him years ago. No, he doesn’t share his feelings in words… but he does share them with his eyes.
And staring into them, Daniel wishes he didn’t know Jack so well.
Young or old, those eyes are exactly the same and the pain Daniel sees gives birth to a new level of self-loathing.
Now it’s Daniel who’s frozen.
“Dude, you okay?” the one named Dean asks, his eyes going to Daniel, then back to Jack, and then to Daniel again.
God, he would give everything he owned for an alien invasion right now, anything to distract the attention away from him. Anything to give him time to figure out what to do and say.
It’s ironic, really, when he thinks about it. He’s spent most of his life talking to people, learning about their lives, their culture, their world, yet he can’t seem to find the words to say to Jack.
They’re essentially strangers.
‘Sorry’ is the first word that comes to mind, although he’s pretty sure Jack’s not going to appreciate it. Not really. Why would he? Clone or the real Jack O’Neill – Daniel, Sam and Teal’c had been his team. The people closest to him. Three people he would probably still
give his life for.
Three people who left him behind, the man who has risked his life so many times to ensure no one ever
got left behind.
It’s what they did, really. They left Jack behind, on his own, to face the world as an adult in the body of a child. An adult who, for years
, would never be able to touch a woman because she would always be too young. An adult who would have to sit through hours of school with ‘friends’ who would never really know him, not the real him. Not ever.
Jack could never be honest – not completely honest – with anyone. Not any woman he met, not even the two men he’s sitting with.
He’ll never have a open friendship with anyone, not like what he had with SG-1.
And it’s with that realisation that makes Daniel look away, because he can’t bear to see Jack’s face. Can’t stand to see the silent pain that his friend is in.
Not that Daniel or any of them has ever really been a friend to this Jack.
“Jack?” It’s Sammy who says his name this time.
“I’m fine,” Jack says, finally.
No one believes that, not even Daniel.
“Maybe we should go?” Sammy suggests.
Daniel wants to jump to his feet and yell no. He doesn’t want them to go because he knows… Somehow in his gut he knows that this is going to be his one and only chance at a reunion. Finding Jack here was a fluke to begin with. If he believed in fate, he probably would call it that. He’s never going to get this chance to talk to Jack again… and he doesn’t want it to end like this.
“Yeah…” Jack speaks slowly, almost hesitatingly, as though he’s not sure if they should go.
Neither man protest as they stand. The celebratory mood Daniel witnessed just seconds before is gone. In its place is the awkward silence that comes with having secrets.
Secrets that can never be shared.
Unable to let this end, Daniel gets to his feet.
The second he does, both of Jack’s friends go on immediately alert. Daniel knows, without a doubt, that if he were try to touch Jack, he’d end up with a broken wrist for his trouble, or worse.
For the first time since seeing Jack, he smiles.
It means something to Daniel that his friends are so eager to jump to Jack’s aide, even though they have no idea what the ‘danger’ is. All they know is that Jack’s not okay.
It’s exactly the kind of thing SG-1 would have done.
Jack, however, doesn’t seem so happy his two friends have gone on the defensive. He sighs. “Dean, Sam…” His eyes are fixed on Daniel as he speaks. “I’ll meet you back at the motel.”
His heart skips a beat.
Dean tears his eyes from Daniel to look at Jack. “You sure, man?”
Jack nods once, in that ‘O’Neill’ way that tells you that there’s no point arguing. The two men reluctantly nod before heading towards the exit, the younger one, Sammy, touching Jack on the arm before he leaves.
Unsurprisingly, the silence grows between Jack and Daniel. Even though the bar is unbelievably loud, the silence that surrounds him and Jack dwarfs it.
God, he wishes he knew what to say.
“Jack…” he begins after an eternity, not sure what words are going to come out but desperate for the silence to end.
His mouth closes unceremoniously and Jack smiles.
“It’s good to see you, Daniel.” The look Jack gives him is enough to tell Daniel that he means it.
And the knife in his chest slides in that little bit deeper.
God, Jack has missed him. Missed all of them, but none of them can say the same. Daniel wants to say that it’s good to see him too, but he’s afraid how Jack would react to it. He’d see through it in a heart beat. After all, Daniel sees the other Jack surprisingly often considering he lives in a different state.
In the end, he keeps his mouth shut.
Nothing he can say will make any of this easier… only worse.
“So… you just passing through town?” Jack says, his eyes searching the room fearfully – or maybe hopefully. He can’t tell.
“I’m alone.” On his way to visit Sarah, actually.
Maybe he’s not as good at reading Jack as he thought. He can’t work out if Jack’s happy that Daniel is alone or not.
“How… How are you?” It’s not the question he wants to ask, it’s the only one he dares.
Jack nods, his expression almost pained. “I’m good. You?”
The awkwardness – the distance – between them is almost overwhelming. “I’m fine. We’re all fine.”
Again, Jack nods, this time Daniel sees the relief on his face. Relieved that his team is still alive. “That’s good.”
Silence descends upon them once again and Daniel’s heart breaks. He could speak and shatter it, but it would still be there.
“Well, um…” Jack begins, reaching for his jacket. “You’ll give me a few hours head start?”
Daniel blinks, stunned. “A few hours head start?”
“Yeah, just enough to put some distance between us and you… before you call –”
“No!” Daniel protests. “I’m not going to call SGC. I won’t tell the Air Force where you are.” If Jack wants to hide, he’ll respect that. He will.
The smile Jack gives him makes Daniel’s heart ache. “I’m not trying to avoid the Air Force, Daniel.”
“Then who are you trying to avoid?” He suspects he doesn’t want to know the answer.
“You know who.” Jack slips his leather jacket over his shoulders. “Tell them I’m okay. I don’t need you guys looking for me again.”
“There’s no point to it.”
Daniel wants to deny it, wants to tell him he’s wrong, but he’s not. There’s no miracle solution for this. Even if they forced Jack to come back to Denver (which they can’t) they’ll only have to leave him again when the next battle begins.
At least the way his life is now he’s not alone.
okay, Daniel.” Jack reaches out and grabs his shoulder, squeezing it, before walking out of the bar. Even though he wants to, Daniel doesn’t call him back.
He was right. There is no joyful reunion for them. There’s too much pain between them, too much betrayal. They left him behind and there’s no way to fix that or bring him back.
There’s no room for him even if they do. He can’t get his old life back.
It wasn’t even his to begin with.The End