Between Two Worlds
Category: Slash, Angst, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: 8 - July 9-16, 2005
Spoilers: Cold Lazarus, Tin Man, Message in a Bottle, Learning Curve, Prodigy, Entity, Double Jeopardy, Menace, Unnatural Selection, Fragile Balance, Gemini
Written: March 21-23,25, April 1,26, May 26, 2005 Revised: March 17,19,26-27, 2007
Summary: How do you define life, and when you're 16 going on 53, how do you survive day by day?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Tin Hearts” and “The Pact”
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: QuinGem, Claudia, Ali, Allexandrya, Linda, Sara!
Between Two Worlds
~I could turn around and leave, and no one would know the difference,~
the lanky youth thought as he began to question if this had been such a
great idea after all. He stopped outside the familiar
country-style house and swallowed past the lump in his throat. He
slowly made his way up the driveway, his eyes drawn to the sight of the
black F-350 and the silver Shelby-American sports car, parked closely
together. He closed his eyes against the onslaught of
emotions. ~Geez, this is harder than I thought it would be.~
Pushing back the tears threatening to fall while, at the same time, cursing teenage hormones, the teenager parked his ten-speed bicycle carefully between the truck and the garage door.
~Needs a polish,~ the youth thought about his truck. No, on second thought, it wasn't his truck. ~Mustn't forget that.~
How was the youth going to get through the next few minutes? He needed Daniel; that much was certain. That's why he was here, outside his home. No, it wasn't his home, anymore.
~Mustn't forget that, either.~
Now that he was here, everything became harder for the boy. He missed his life; the one he'd worked all those years to build. He missed his job, his truck, his TV, and his study, where he could relax and read his National Geographics in peace. He missed being treated like an adult.
~This emancipated youth business is ridiculous; it just makes me feel more alone, but, crap, I couldn't handle being the 'chip off the old block' for some guy, either. Sorry, Mac, been there, done that. I had a father, and I loved him.~ He sighed. ~Had my own 'chip', too; hard to forget that, not that I'd want to, either.~
The youth studied the shrubbery that lined the walkway, recalling the simple joy of tending to them.
~Who says you need to talk to plants to have them grow?~ The boy sneered, ~Okay, I talked to them. He ... talked to them.~
The teenager missed this house; the place that had been his home for so many years; the place that had come to mean 'family'; Daniel's home. He missed his fireplace, his bed, his shower; so many happy memories of talking, crying, and making love to Daniel, were all forged here. More than anything, he missed his friends, and, more painfully than he could possibly express, he missed Daniel. His Daniel. No, he wasn't his Daniel.
~Really mustn't forget that.~
Dressed in a too-long khaki shirt that hung over his faded jeans with an iPod in his pocket, the boy-man began to recall that life: his parents and grandparents, Billy, Sara, Charlie, fishing at the cabin in Minnesota, all the missions through the Stargate, the fears, the joy, and the blessed relief when his team all came home safe and sound. He remembered it all, especially falling in love with Daniel, their first night together, buying the Silver Fox, and the happiness that had been growing everyday of their romance.
Their love affair was supposed to be forever.
~The beagle? Did he follow through with that?~ the boy wondered about a deal he'd made with an old Air Force buddy, Jeff Cornell. ~Jeff was supposed to give me the mama beagle.~ She was going to be a belated birthday surprise for Daniel after her litter of puppies had been weaned and given away to good homes. ~Did he forget? Did Danny get the dog? Every kid should have a dog. Crap, I should have a dog. That's something no one should forget.~
The youth also remembered their pact. He and Daniel had decided long ago that neither could ever go on alone if something happened to the other. He was still in love with Daniel and his 'old' life. In his memories, they were a nation of two, a couple who were growing stronger in their life together. It was supposed to be the start of the rest of his life with his Danny.
~Our pact, and, for crying out loud, it is our pact,~ the boy thought agitatedly. He'd come so close to honoring their pledge many times over the last two years, not the least of which had been on their June anniversary, when best friends had become lovers. ~You'd find out, Danny. I had a gun to my head once; won't tell you how I got it, but they'd tell you, and you'd feel guilty. I couldn't handle that. I want to make you laugh and smile, not add more guilt to that arsenal of pain you've carried around with you for decades.~
The youth had tried so hard to build a new life for himself. He went back to high school, to start anew with his life, but it had been a dismal failure. The coming year would be his senior year, and the mere thought of that made him want to throw up. The idea of dealing with fancy dances, yearbook pictures, and senior antics just paled in comparison to the deep emotions of his memories, recollections that taunted him from the moment he opened his eyes in the morning until he closed them again at night. There was no peace then, either, because at night, the dark dreams came out. He just couldn't do it anymore. He was between two worlds, and he couldn't seem to find his place in either of them.
Drying the silent tears he hadn't realized were falling, the 'old' teen stood tall and forced himself to remember why he was here. He might remember it all, but this wasn't his life anymore. Regardless of how hard that realization was, he had no choice but to accept it. It's not like he didn't feel different; he was, after all, about thirty-six years younger.
~Or maybe it's thirty-five, or thirty-seven,~ the teen groaned inwardly. The truth was that his age was a mystery. It had been that way from the start, from the beginning of the clone's life. Was he fourteen then? Or fifteen? No one knew. All anyone could do was guess. He hated that uncertainty, not that age mattered all that much. Nothing really mattered now that he thought about it. What did matter was that he was a man hiding out in a teenager's body, and, physically, he felt the differences between his two selves. ~It's so hard. I need you, Danny.~
The teen had come to accept a few weeks ago that he needed help; hence why he was standing here, trying to summon the courage to knock on the door and ask for it. He reached the front door and raised his hand to knock. He paused, hearing the most beautiful sound, one he hadn't heard in far too long. Daniel was laughing. It gave him strength, and he smiled, realizing that despite his own sadness, he was glad that Daniel was happy.
The youthful-looking soul closed his eyes. It was time. Jack and Daniel were happy, and he knew he had no right to his old life or what he used to have. He needed to move on.
~Right! Here goes. I need help, Daniel. Please, help me just one more time,~ the teen thought. He took a deep breath and raised his hand again to knock forcefully on the door. Continuing his barrage, he banged harder, knowing that if he stopped, he'd have a chance to re-think and run away. ~Can't run, or I will blow my brains out.~
“Gawd, Jack, stttoooppp!” Daniel gasped in laughter.
“Say uncle!” Jack insisted, laughing heartily and continuing his movements as he straddled his lover.
“Nooooo. Nnnnnot fairrrrrrrr,” the younger man replied, determined not to give in as he rocked back and forth on the carpet.
Jack kept up his tickling assault on his husband. The two were in their living room on a Saturday afternoon. It was a pleasant day, and they'd spent the morning outside, under the scattered clouds, attending to yard work. Now they were inside, playing.
The attack had begun when Jack's train, Ole Lucky 97, aka: the Flying Irishman, had derailed, and Daniel's train, the Egyptian Express, had won their latest race. It escalated when, in the middle of their banter about who won, Daniel had reached over and snatched one of Jack's Big Hunk candy bars. It reached its current state when Daniel had wiggled his hips invitingly, but then tried to evade his soulmate's capture.
Daniel might be a faster runner than Jack, but when he wiggled like that, Jack rarely lost the chase. Of course, when Daniel wiggled like that, he seldom intended for Jack to lose the chase, especially when he was shirtless and wearing his ragged cut-offs that were designed to get Jack all hot and bothered in the first place.
“Say 'uncle', Danny.”
“I can do this all day,” Jack sing-songed, his fingers continuing to make contact with his lover's skin.
Daniel had tears of laughter running down his cheeks as he responded, “Gawd, uncle!” His body was convulsing from his fit of hysteria long after Jack stopped his fingers from tickling in just the right areas. “Oh, geez!”
The younger man had a few very sensitive ticklish spots, and Jack treasured each and every one. He lay down next to Daniel and kissed him passionately.
“I love you, Danny.”
“I love you, too, but that was so not fair,” Daniel claimed, still giggling.
“So sue me,” Jack suggested just before kissing his Heart again.
Both lovers moaning with pleasure, their passion flamed. Before the fire could really kick in, it was doused by a pounding on the front door. They might have ignored it, except that the pounding was constant. Clearly, whoever it was, wasn't going to go away.
“Crap!” Jack exclaimed as he got up. “Ouch.”
“Knees?” Daniel asked, sitting up.
Jack groaned, “I need a new pair,” while rubbing the body parts in question for a moment.
“You can kiss and make them better when we get rid of whoever it is,” Jack smirked.
“Deal,” Daniel agreed, stealing another kiss from his lover as he stood up.
While Jack headed for the door, Daniel located the Big Hunk bar that had been tossed by the fireplace. Finding it, he bent over to pick it up.
At that precise moment, Jack opened the front door, and, immediately, their visitor barged in, without waiting for an invite, and started talking.
“This isn't working. Do you have any idea how difficult the last two years have been?” the youth began. “Danny, please, you have to think of something and ...” He stopped mid-sentence, having turned to address Daniel and been greeted by the perfect sight of the well-toned archaeologist, naked from the waist up, in his cut-offs, bending over. ~I *so* didn't need to see that~. “For crying out loud, Daniel, will you *please* get dressed!”
Automatically crossing his arms in front of his chest, Daniel stood like a statue, completely stunned, as was Jack, who stared at the youth in disbelief.
Standing in between them was Clone Jack, the one created by Loki during one of his renegade Asgard experiments. Loki had been beaming humans aboard his spaceship for years, replacing them on Earth with replicas. However, because of a marker placed in Jack's genetic code by the Asgard, the maturing process of this clone had been incomplete. As a result, Clone Jack's growth had ceased as a teenager, somewhere around the age of fifteen.
When the crisis with Loki was over, Thor had been able to save the clone's life, allowing him to grow and mature at a normal rate. By his choice, Clone Jack was allowed to leave the military's care and live on his own as an emancipated minor. He went to school and lived in a tiny apartment near the campus. Until he graduated from high school and could get a job, he was receiving monthly income, courtesy of the United States government.
By mutual agreement, the real Jack and his youthful counterpart had agreed not to stay in touch. It would just be too strange and difficult for them.
Daniel had always had reservations about the choices that had been made during the crisis. Though uncertain about what should have been, he was to this day concerned about the decision to just unleash the teenager into the world. After all, the boy was Jack. He was a teenager, but with all of the Air Force general's memories and life experiences.
“Daniel, get dressed,” Clone Jack ordered in a raised voice.
Jack opened his mouth to object to his clone talking to Daniel like that, but closed it again when he saw Daniel shake his head and put up his hand to silence the unspoken objection.
“I'll be right back,” Daniel said, staring at his husband for a couple of seconds and then going up the stairs.
“So, how goes things?” Jack quipped in question, rubbing his hands together quickly.
“How do you think?” the clone snapped back.
“You were going to high school.”
“Yeah, and that's turned out to be such a peachy keen decision,” the clone spoke sarcastically. “I want a beer,” he said, heading for the kitchen.
“Hey, I tried to warn you,” Jack said, raising his hand and waving it to emphasis his words. “And *no* beer. You're underage,” he stated, cutting the look-a-like off at the kitchen counter and giving him a warning look.
“You could have tried harder,” the clone replied as he turned, looked around, and then picked up a small statue that he began to fidget with.
“Put that down,” Jack ordered, not wanting any harm to come to one of Daniel's favorite artifacts. Receiving a glare back that said, 'You do it all the time', he returned to the hot topic at hand. “What did you really expect me to do?”
“Exactly what you did: wipe me out of your mind,” the clone answered. “And lie to yourself. You're good at that.”
“Hey! You're talking about yourself here, you know,” the general spoke. He added, “You knew it wouldn't be easy.”
“Easy? *Easy*?” Clone Jack shouted. “Have you ever tried to make out with a girl in the backseat of a car and suddenly have your wife pop into your head? Or, try this. You're babysitting some dude's kid only to realize he has the same shaggy hair and eye color of your son; yet, he's only a few years younger than you? Or, wait, I can do you one even better. How about not being able to stop thinking about your *lover*? How about still being in love ...”
“Stop,” Daniel interrupted forcefully, taking the last couple of stairs slowly. He looked over at Jack and then back at the teenage version of the man he loved. “What's going on?”
“I think you know,” Clone Jack answered more softly. Taking in the sight of a now fully-clothed Daniel, he sighed and uttered, “Geez, you didn't have to wear blue.”
Daniel looked down at his clothing. He hadn't even realized that he'd selected blue jeans and a navy blue shirt. So much of his wardrobe was blue anyway.
“Oh, uh, sorry.”
“Right.” Turning pleading eyes to Daniel, the teenager pleaded, “Daniel, please get me out of this.”
“Out of what?” Daniel questioned, afraid to hear the answer. He crossed his arms in front his chest and stood near the wall, keeping his distance from his husband's clone. He'd hoped this day would never come but deep down, he'd known better. ~I never wanted to see him again. Gawd, he must be living a nightmare.~
“Here. I don't know what to do anymore, but I can't deal with this. I'm not sixteen, and acting like I am is driving me out of my mind. Everyone thinks I'm loopy or something,” the boy stated frustratingly.
“Too many Froot Loops,” Jack quipped, grinning.
“Can it, Jack,” the clone snapped back.
“Okay, let's, uh, talk about this calmly,” Daniel suggested.
“Daniel, you *have* to do something,” the clone demanded, the plea in his eyes cutting through Daniel's heart.
The archaeologist asked, “What do you want me to do?”
“What you should have done the first time.” The teenager saw Daniel's questioning look, then added, “Find a way for me to live without every second of every day being a friggin' nightmare.”
“I don't know how,” Daniel replied softly.
“Find a way.” The youthful version of Jack stared at the archaeologist, his eyes begging him, while also having an assurance in them. ~Please. You can do it.~
There was a belief in Clone Jack's eyes that melted Daniel's soul. The clone was Jack, just younger. The eyes -- Daniel couldn't avoid them.
“I ...” Daniel shrugged, shaking his head. “I don't know how.”
“Yes, you do. You can do anything. I have faith in you, Daniel. I *know* you, remember? You *always* find a way. Help me,” the clone begged, and as he did so, his brown eyes bore into Daniel's blue ones, and what Daniel felt, tore him in two.
**He's hurting, Jack.**
**I don't friggin' care.**
“Will you two cut it out! I know what you're doing,” the clone spoke.
Suddenly, two sets of eyes whipped round and stared down at the clone.
Aware of the potential for privacy invasion, young Jack said, “No, I can't do that thing we, I mean, you do, but I know you're doing it.”
“All right, that does it,” the real Jack said angrily, not liking that his 'mini-me' knew about their non-verbal communication, although secretly pleased that his clone didn't have the treasured ability. He moved forward to face off against his teenage self. “Listen, you want our help, fine. You can ask for it, but you're not going to barge your way in here and take over, especially by trying to bully Daniel and ...”
“Jack, it's okay.”
“No, Daniel, it's not. The little wimp is trying to ...” Jack began.
“Trying to what, Jack?” Daniel questioned pointedly.
“Wimp?” the clone said at the same time Daniel spoke.
“Daniel, what can we do?” Jack asked his husband, his eyes wide with questions.
“I don't know, but I told you back then that this was wrong,” the younger man stated.
“What do you want him to do, move in?” the older man asked in a raised voice. ~So help me, if we argue over this ...~
“Great idea,” the teenage version of Jack jested. “I'll get my bags.”
“No!” both Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.
“Way to make a guy feel unwelcome,” Clone Jack stated, knowing full well he could never live here again. He walked over to stare out the patio window. Releasing a long sigh, his eyes searched out for a beagle. “That's her!” he exclaimed, seeing Bijou asleep on the grass under a tree. He looked back at Jack. “Bijou. I, you, whatever, it was like yesterday that ... never mind,” he said, looking back at the beagle. “Who's that with her?”
“Katie. She was the runt of the litter, and no one else wanted her, so Jack brought her home, too,” Daniel answered quietly.
As he turned around, Clone Jack opined, “Every kid should have a dog.”
The problem was that Jack had spoken the exact same thing at the exact same time. There was a poignant pause afterwards, no one knowing what to say or how to react.
“Was it a surprise?” Clone Jack finally asked, needing to know if things had played out the way that he had hoped they would.
“The best,” Daniel answered as he nodded. He smiled, getting lost in the memory, and added, “I found 'home' when Jack brought the girls here.”
“Yeah, who knew a couple of mutts would lead to Danny proposing and our getting married,” Jack revealed, smiling.
“*Married?* the clone asked, his mouth dropping open from the surprise.
Daniel closed his eyes, fearing things had just been made worse for the teenage version of his husband.
“Uh ... yes,” Jack answered, staring at his young self. “We ...”
“Shut up, Jack,” the clone ordered, not wanting to hear the details, but liking that Daniel was truly doing so well. ~He is happy.~ Unable to prevent the question, he looked at Daniel and asked, “*You* proposed?”
“Yes. I'm ... well, I'm ...”
“The word is happy,” Jack said for his soulmate. “Look, Mini-Me, if you are so much like me, then get rid of that look. Daniel *is* happy, and that's what I always wanted, and that's as much as you need to know.”
“So, happy?” the clone asked, looking at Daniel.
“Very,” Daniel confirmed quietly. **Jack, did you tell him that on purpose?** he asked, a bit perturbed that his lover had spilled the beans about their November 2003 nuptials.
**He wanted to know.**
**I think it just made him feel worse, Jack. How do you know he'd want to know?** the younger man challenged.
**He's me, right?** Jack answered, having realized that if he were in the clone's position, he'd want to know. In fact, he would need to know that the love of his life was happy. **You want empathy, Daniel? I just gave it to him. Trust me on this.**
“You're doing it again,” Clone Jack sighed, turning back around to stare at Bijou and Katie. “I knew Bijou would make a difference.”
“She did,” Daniel affirmed, adding, “She made the biggest difference in the world. Bijou and Katie are the best presents I've ever received, except for ...”
“Don't say it, Daniel,” the clone requested, knowing that Jack's love was going to be the next thing out of the archaeologist's mouth. ~I can't hear those words.~
There was another awkward silence for all three as the poignancy of the moment filled the room. Jack and Daniel shared a look of understanding and sympathy for the young man's plight.
“Okay, let's think this out,” Daniel finally said, walking towards the door.
Standing next to the clone, Daniel looked outside at Bijou and Katie, wondering if they would be able to sense that the teenage boy was Jack.
As he stared at the two, Jack fidgeted, his gaze going back and forth between the clone and his lover. Reluctantly, he began to acknowledge to himself how he might feel in young Jack's shoes. He shivered at the thought.
~Daniel will fix this. Jack will be fine,~ the general assured himself, turning his attention back to Daniel and awaiting his next remarks.
Clone Jack turned and walked towards the sofa, giving Daniel space, or perhaps he was just giving himself desperately-needed space.
~Daniel will come up with something~ the young Jack thought.
Two minutes later, the clone was tapping his foot as he waited impatiently.
“Daniel!” both Jacks called out in unison.
“Will you stop that!” the real Jack demanded of his clone.
Frustrated and a bit confused, Daniel spoke, “Okay, look, I need time.” Turning back to young Jack, he said, “You have to leave. Come back in a couple of days, but I can't do this with you here.”
As Daniel hurried up the stairs, not looking at either his lover or their guest, Jack glared at the teenager.
“What?” the clone asked innocently.
“Get out, Jack.”
“I hope you realize that you're not really mad at me,” Clone Jack pointed out.
“Just do what Daniel said.”
“I'll be back,” Jack's mini-me said.
“Looking forward to it ... not,” Jack retorted, letting out a bit of a grunt as he watched the teenager disappear through the door.
Jack walked into the den, hating what he saw. Daniel's head was leaning on his arms as they rested on the desk. Sighing, he ambled over to his husband and placed his hands on his shoulders. He began to rub gently, hoping to massage away the pain.
Daniel's head shot up, and he requested, “Please don't.”
“Jack, just ... leave me alone for a little while, okay?” the younger man requested.
“Okay,” Jack replied, backing away slowly and leaving his Love alone in the den. ~If I ever get my hands on that Asgard clone maker, I'll break his neck,~ he thought as he stood in the doorway for a moment before going downstairs.
Three hours later, Daniel joined Jack outside. The older man had been puttering away on chores, though, mostly, he was just worrying about Daniel.
“Jack,” Daniel called softly.
“Hey,” Jack responded, turning off the hose and walking to his soulmate. He put his hands on Daniel's upper arms and rubbed gently up and down. “Are you okay?”
Gazing into his Heart's eyes, Daniel spoke, “I didn't mean to push you away; that's the last thing I'd ever want to do.”
“I know; I wouldn't have left you alone for so long if I really thought you were serious.”
“I just needed to think,” Daniel explained.
“And now?” Jack prompted.
“Now, I need you to hold me,” Daniel answered vulnerably.
Jack smiled, wrapped his arms around his anguished archaeologist, and promised, “I love you, Danny.” He let out a tiny sigh as he thought, ~Why can't Mini-me just get on with his own life? Can't be that hard,~ he lied to himself.
“And I love you.” Daniel knew his husband was in denial. He could see it on his face and in his tone. He sighed before trying to explain his thoughts. “Jack, he is you. Don't you understand that?” When his lover didn't respond verbally, he backed away slightly so he could look into Jack's eyes. “Come sit with me, okay?”
The couple strolled slowly over to the patio steps and sat down. Daniel put his arm through Jack's and also held his hand.
“Jack, in our travels through the Stargate, we've come across so many different lifeforms. We've met species like the Nox and the Asgard who look similar to us, but we've also met other ... races, who are vastly different to us, but no less 'alive'.”
“Danny, is this going to be a lecture?” Jack questioned.
“No, but I want you to listen, okay?” Daniel requested.
“I always do, Love.”
Daniel smiled, then continued, “Well, one of the first unique races we came across were the unity crystals. I remember kneeling down and picking one up. It was just a pretty piece of blue glass. I thought maybe it was some kind of junk field. Then we found out it was alive, had feelings, felt pain, and could do wondrous things. I learned a lot from that wrong assumption. Then there was Harlan.”
“Oh, geez. Kumbaya-land. Nutcase.”
“Jack, he's not, and you know it.”
“He made copies of us, Daniel,” the older man reminded, still not happy about what had transpired on that planet.
“He needed help, and he was lonely. He never intended to hurt us, or anyone else.”
“That makes it okay?”
“No, of course not, but Harlan's intentions were good,” the archaeologist insisted.
“If you say so,” Jack sighed, not really wanting to argue over Harlan. “Danny, what does Harlan have to do with anything?”
“Jack, Harlan was like a clone. He's a synthetic lifeform, but he's sentient. He thinks, and he feels.” Daniel looked down for a moment before saying, “I think our doubles may have been together.”
Jack looked at Daniel in surprise and asked, “What are you talking about?”
“My copy: he, uh, was curious. I guess ... I mean I was, too, but I wasn't in a place in my life where I could admit that, not yet, but he was. He was looking ahead to a forever that was in an underground hole. He didn't think he'd ever be able to leave. He, uh, knew how you felt.”
“You never told me,” Jack stated.
“I thought about it, but you have to remember, Babe, that back then my world revolved around finding Sha're. I didn't think I had a right to think about myself when she was still out there because of me,” Daniel explained.
“So you think that Clone Daniel ...”
“Uh, synthetic, not clone. Mini-you is a clone. Our doubles were synthetic. There's a difference that ...”
“Daniel!” Jack interjected, giving his lover a nod to move forward with what he was saying.
Daniel bobbed his head back and forth for a second, saying, “That's neither here nor there at the moment, but the point is that, yeah, I think our doubles ... they, uh, got together before we did,” the younger man opined.
“How about that?” Jack expressed with a smile.
“The point, Jack, is that they weren't human, but they felt like they were. They felt things, just like we do, and from what you told me, they died, saving us. They were brave, but they didn't just give up their lives; they fought to survive, and when they lost a teammate, they grieved.”
~That teammate was you, Danny.~ Jack suddenly turned serious, replying, “I don't want to think about that. I know what you're saying; I just can't deal with talking about you, any form or type or kind or race or whatever of you, dying.”
Daniel leaned forward slightly. At the same time, he brought Jack's hand to his mouth. He kissed it and then stroked it against his cheek. He didn't say anything; instead, he let their hearts speak. It was all they really needed.
After a minute or so, the younger man continued, “Okay, well, I'm sure you remember the orb.”
“Like I could forget,” Jack responded, wincing at the recall of the orb's spike piercing through him.
“Me, too. Gawd, I thought it was a time capsule, not a lifeboat,” Daniel recalled.
“At least, you figured it out.”
“We can't blame them, either,” the scientist spoke. “Life seeking survival, just like the little energy bugs from M4C-862. We don't understand them because they aren't human or humanoid. They don't even fit our standard definition of an alien.”
“Creature from the Black Lagoonish?” Jack questioned, referring to the cult horror film.
Daniel chuckled as he agreed, “Yeah, some nasty-looking creature bent on our destruction, but, even so, those tiny beings were, I mean, are life. Then, uh, there's Reese.”
“Danny, do we have to talk about her?”
“She was a machine, Jack, but she had feelings. I'm not sure she was as advanced as Harlan, but her actions were that of a spoiled child who only wanted to be accepted and be loved,” Daniel stated, still feeling regret over her destruction.
Jack retorted, “She created the Replicators. You remember them: nasty Lego-things that think they are the Borg and want to assimilate us.”
“Unfeeling, unthinking nothings just swallowing up the universe? Is that what you're saying?” Daniel questioned.
“What about Fifth?” Daniel challenged.
“What about him?”
“He cared about Sam,” Daniel asserted. “He betrayed his ... his kind to help us escape.”
“Probably defective,” Jack smirked, still hiding behind this humor.
“He cared about her, Jack, and we lied to him,” Daniel responded, still feeling guilty about their betrayal of the human-like Replicator a couple of year's earlier.
“We didn't have a choice.”
“Maybe,” the younger man agreed.
“Okay, I know, but it showed an evolution,” the anthropologist pointed out.
“Danny, I'm not trying to argue here, but what about that Replicator Carter? From where I sit, I didn't see an ounce of Carter's compassion or caring in that machine.”
“I don't know,” Daniel sighed. “Jack, all I'm saying is that life out there comes in a lot of different packages. It might not be life as we'd live it, but Reese felt emotions, and she fought for her survival; that's not wrong. Remember Merrin?” Daniel asked with a small smile on his face.
“Yes, but there we were, inflicting our values on the Orbanians' society, and we almost ruined them. We made an assumption based on our experience, which, again, wasn't wrong, but ... well, it reminds me again that the Nox were right.”
“I know, Daniel. We're young.” There was a pause as the two looked out on the yard. “Danny, this has been such an exciting stroll down 'Unpleasant Lane', but why?”
Daniel took a deep breath, then explained, “Jack, I mean, young Jack, is alive. He's not even synthetic, he's flesh and blood, and he's you. Just because he's a clone doesn't mean we can take him for granted. Jack, I didn't have the answer back then, but I knew it was wrong, just letting him go. He knows everything you know, and he feels what you feel, at least up until a couple of years ago when he was created.”
“So, when you talk to him, I think you need to remember that he knows what it feels like to have his son die in his arms.” At Jack's haunted expression, Daniel quickly continued, “He recalls everything, and you need to bear in mind that he remembers *us*, and that he, uh, loves me,” he put forth a bit cautiously.
“Daniel, he's ...”
“He's *you*, Jack. I know you, and I know what you've done in your mind is try to say that he's you in high school, but Thor wasn't able to wipe out his memories. We don't know how to do that. Jack, we unleashed a mini-you with Special Ops training and a lot of pain into high school, and we expected him to go on dates and pretend that the worst part of his day was whether or not he got a new zit.”
Jack gave his lover an odd look as he remembered the angst of zits on his teenage self. Then, he shook his head.
“Danny, it's hard. I don't know how to deal with me as a teenager, especially if he's not really a teenager. I'm sorry he's having a hard time, but what am I supposed to do -- assign him to an SG-team and give him visitation rights?”
“No, Jack, of course not.” Daniel felt exasperated with Jack's denial. He continued, “You have to be aware that he's living between two worlds, the past that he's not allowed to share and the present where he has to pretend his past never happened; and, in his case, the lines are very blurred.”
“Danny, you're giving me a headache,” Jack claimed, frowning.
The linguist searched for the words he needed, finally explaining, “Young Jack: he remembers Sara, meeting her, loving her, losing her. He knows what it felt like when we were on Abydos and he was about to kill an entire planet. He has memories that a child shouldn't have. How can you expect him to keep his ear glued to an ... iPod like it's the most important thing in his life when he knows freakin' well that the Goa'uld are out there?”
Jack sighed, really not wanting to think about all of this.
“It's a second chance,” the general tried to argue, though his voice had been a bit unsteady as he'd spoken.
“Babe, you've been there, trying to bury your past. It's not easy to do. I hid in books and behind relics; you gazed at the stars and pretended that nothing in life mattered. Now, you're actually trying to get me to believe that you as a teenager, with all those memories, can both bury the past and be concerned with history lessons and deciding who to take out to the movies next weekend?”
“He just needs to try harder,” Jack maintained, still lying to himself in what was actually a protective mechanism.
“Jack, it's not his fault that Loki created this situation. All he is trying to do is survive, just like Reese, the energy beings, and the unity crystals: just like us. He's just ... trying to live as best he can.” Daniel paused, wondering how he could get his lover to understand. “Babe, put yourself in his shoes. How would you feel leaving everything behind; everything we have here in this house, in our lives, me? How would you feel, not having any of this, not having the girls or me, ever again in your life?”
Jack swallowed hard and his eyes teared up as he responded, “I can't think about him, Danny. I know what you want from me, but I can't,” the older man said, letting out a tiny groan as he finished.
“Jack, you don't know what I want,” the younger man expressed gently.
“No, you don't understand. Jack,” Daniel spoke softly, his eyes moist from the emotion of what was flowing through him. “You don't understand. He's *you*. It kills me to not be able to help him.”
“I don't know what to say, Danny.”
“You don't have to say anything; just ... listen, with your heart. Turn it around, Jack. What if there was a clone ... a mini-me, and he was in the same kind of pain that your clone is in? Wouldn't you care?”
Jack nodded. He knew that having any form of Daniel, the man he loved and treasured more than life, in pain would cause him pain and distress as well. He sighed.
“Okay, I think I understand,” Jack stated. ~Stop lying to yourself, at least for a minute. I can do that ... for a minute ... maybe.~
“I love you, and it hurts, Jack, to see him like that because I can't help ... I mean, he's you. My heart goes out to him.”
Jack understood better now, but he still felt helpless. He *really* didn't want his clone sleeping on the sofa.
Daniel smiled slightly and shook his head. He could see that Jack's awareness had grown, but he also knew that his husband still didn't quite understand what he was saying.
“Babe, I don't want him here, but we shouldn't have just turned him loose into the world, either.”
~Good; I couldn't handle having him around.~ Jack inwardly let out a sigh of relief that Daniel didn't want his clone in their lives, either. Thinking slightly more clearly now, he said,“He can't be in the military. There can't be two of us,” he stated, frustrated at the lack of a solution to the problem at hand.
Daniel replied confidently, “I don't think he wants to be. I think he wants a real fresh start, away from here, away from everything familiar, and away from any reminders of us.”
“So, what are you suggesting? We send him to live with Thor?” Jack quipped.
“Something like that,” the younger man affirmed, smiling slightly when his lover looked at him.
“Danny, I don't think Thor wants him around. He's a little busy these days.”
“Right, so we try something else,” Daniel replied, a closed smile on his face as he and Jack looked at each other.
“Are you nuts?” the clone asked incredulously, his hands on his hips as he stared at Daniel.
It was two days later, and Clone Jack had arrived at the uniquely-built home that Jack and Daniel shared just minutes ago in the hopes that the genius archaeologist would have an answer to his problem.
“Jack, just hear me out.”
“Get to the point before I turn twenty-one again,” Clone Jack said, unimpressed with Daniel's solution.
“It's a chance to grow up, away from here, and be helpful while you're doing it. When you're older, maybe it'll be easier, and you can come back,” Daniel put forth. ~But, please, don't ever come back here, I mean ... here.~
“Right. Can I at least have a Daniel double to keep me company?” Clone Jack asked, looking hopeful. ~Mmm, you know, that's really not such a bad idea.~
Real Jack looked outraged and answered sternly, “NO! No way. Daniel, tell him.”
“Jack ...” a torn Daniel began, though his words were cut off.
“No, Daniel.” Jack looked into Daniel's eyes. **I do understand how you feel, Danny. I heard you when you explained everything, and, yes, I know how I'd feel if the shoe was on the other foot, but, Angel, I can't lose you again, not even if it's, he's, a copy.**
Daniel sighed, but nodded. Seeing that, Clone Jack's shoulders slumped in defeat.
“I'm sorry. Besides, there's no way of creating a double that would be your exact age.” Daniel repeated, “I'm sorry.”
“So, your way of helping me is to send me off-world?” the teenager queried.
“It's up to you, but you know what you'd be getting into,” Daniel advised.
“Daniel, he'd drive me crazy.”
“Teach him how to fish,” Daniel suggested lightly.
“There's no lake!” the youthful Jack exclaimed.
“There's no fish,” Daniel retorted.
“Smart aleck.” Clone Jack ran his fingers through his hair, then paced the room. “Peace and quiet. No whiny girls. No stupid jock games.” He looked at Daniel. “I want my Froot Loops, and my National Geographics, *and* a PlayStation.” He paused just a quick second and added excitedly, “including one of those new portable ones!” ~Maybe this won't be so bad after all, and in a few years ...~ He smiled for a reason that neither Jack nor Daniel understood. ~Maybe.~
“I'm sure we can set you up with whatever you want and need, and teams go there four times a year to assist Harlan, so if you need something, they can bring it,” the archaeologist pointed out. “We'll keep you well stocked with your ... toys.”
“Very funny,” the clone snarked, then sighed. “What if he really drives me nuts?”
“Phone home,” Daniel answered with a slight smile. “You can always come back, if you want. The Stargate is there, and you know the number.”
“To this messed up world? I think I'd rather own a cat,” the boy clone stated.
“You don't like cats,” Jack reminded his younger image.
Jack walked his younger self outside, to his bicycle. Basically, he just wanted to make sure the teenager left and didn't hang around. Daniel hadn't been sleeping well, the weight of young Jack's happiness on his mind, and seeing the boy again today wasn't going to help, even if the teen had finally agreed to go to Altair to live with Harlan.
As Clone Jack pulled his bike away from the garage door, he said, “Daniel's happy. What about Sara?”
Jack looked at the clone in surprise.
“Have you seen her? Talked to her?” the clone asked before Jack could respond to the question.
The general stared, still uncertain about the question or how to respond.
“That Mark dude she married, does he treat her right?” Seeing his older self just staring at him, Clone Jack said agitatedly, “Come on, Jack. You still love her; it's different, but it's there.”
Jack sighed, “She helped with the wedding. We're in touch.”
“She approves of Danny?” Clone Jack asked.
The older Jack saw the need in the clone's eyes. He recognized it. It had meant a lot to him that Sara was supportive of his marriage.
“She loves him. It was a shock when she found out, but she got over it,” Jack confided.
“She knows, right?”
“She knows,” Jack affirmed, knowing the clone was concerned that Sara might have thought their marriage had been a sham, which was far from the truth.
“I saw her once,” the clone admitted. “Okay, I did some intel, found out where she lived, and went by on purpose. I had to see her, just to make sure.”
Jack suddenly became more aggressive, leaning forward slightly as he questioned, “Have you been following us?”
“Afraid your covert skills have dried up, Jack?” the clone challenged. Seeing Jack's scowl, he said, “No, Idiot, I haven't. You'd know if I had. I kept our bargain. I had to,” he added more quietly, looking down at the pedals of the bicycle.
Jack looked away, staring at a neighbor across the street a few houses down. The thought of being spied on by his mini-me had angered him. He needed a few seconds to back down from that anger, and to not let the truth get to him.
~The truth.~ The general looked at Clone Jack, who had gotten onto his bike. “For what it's worth, I understand.”
The clone looked up and asked, “Do you? Look, I understand. I know what you have to do to protect yourself. Our past isn't pretty.” He sighed, “Just keep him happy, and make sure Sara's okay, too. Charlie would want that.”
Suddenly, Clone Jack sped away, leaving Jack standing alone in the driveway. He felt a myriad of emotions, but he had to shake them off. This was his life. Sara was his ex-wife, not his mini-me's. More importantly, Daniel was his, not the clone's.
~This is *my* life, and I'm not sharing with you, Kid, no matter how much empathy I have for you.~
Jack and Daniel had both paid a visit to Harlan, talking over the possibility of Clone Jack living with him. Naturally, Harlan was enthusiastic. He was a very lonesome synthetic, even with the occasional visits by SG teams. He was confident the two would get along fabulously.
“Fabulously? Daniel, the kid's gonna kill him in three months. I can guarantee it,” Jack had said after their return.
“I don't think so. I think Harlan is exactly what he needs, for now, anyway,” Daniel had opined in response.
Thus, three days later, another team had already taken through the majority of equipment and supplies Clone Jack had requested. Now, Daniel, the young version of his lover, and two more Marines with the final boxes to take through were standing at the foot of the ramp, waiting for the kawoosh of the Stargate.
“Are you ready?” Daniel asked as he double-checked his equipment.
“Anything's better than being here,” the clone responded, wearing a large backpack and carrying a duffel bag.
“I wish we had a better solution,” Daniel said softly.
Clone Jack smiled and nodded as he spoke, “Like you said, I can come back when I'm older and everyone doesn't look at me like I'm a freak.” He chuckled. “Here's a thought. I could go back to Edora. Wouldn't Laira be surprised?” The teenage duplicate saw Daniel's glare. “It was just a thought.”
Daniel looked a little torn as he pondered, ~Maybe Clone Jack would be happy there. What right do I have to deprive him of that?~ “I'm sure we could arrange that when you get older.” Nodding, he said more firmly, “Yeah, you could go there.”
Clone Jack shook his head, flatly stating, “I don't want Laira; never did.” ~Which is why I'm going to have a little private chat with Harlan as soon as possible.~
Daniel couldn't help smiling a little in relief. It was a little too painful to think of Jack, any Jack, with Laira.
“Let's go,” Daniel urged, now that the event horizon was open for business, so to speak.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” the real Jack called out as he hurried into the gate room.
“What's that?” Clone Jack asked, his eyes immediately drawn to the lifeform Jack was holding.
“This,” Jack said happily, “is Samantha.”
Daniel glared at Jack, but the clone laughed, “You got me a dog.”
“She's a great dog; a pup. I thought you might like some company that wouldn't drive you insane,” Jack said sympathetically.
Clone Jack handed his duffel bag to one of the Marines. He took the dog from Jack and quickly rubbed his hand back and forth against her white fur. She licked his hand.
Jack shrugged, quickly adding, “I didn't name her.”
Daniel looked at his lover with suspicious eyes, but opted not to challenge him on the name issue.
Smirking, Jack added, “Think 'Star Trek' and 'Harry Mudd'. You can train her.”
The clone laughed, remembering the episode where a character created a robot of his nagging wife and programmed the robot to instantly stop talking on command.
“You're welcome, Jack.”
“You didn't tell me you got promoted. I can't believe you let them talk you into being the man. How do you reprimand yourself?” the clone inquired smugly.
“Funny,” Jack responded snarkily.
As he patted the dog, Clone Jack chuckled, “Come on, Samantha. Let's go see our new home.”
Shaking his head, Daniel followed the clone up to the event horizon.
Just as the travelers reach the top of the ramp, Jack shouted out, “We'll send plenty of supplies for her; maybe even a dog run.”
Daniel turned and looked at Jack, communicating, **Thanks, Babe, for trying to make this a little easier.**
**Had to, Love. He's me.**
Just as they emerged from the event horizon, Daniel told young Jack quietly, “You'll be okay.”
Not looking at the man standing next to him, Clone Jack responded, “Take care of him, Daniel, but I'm not sure he deserves you. He doesn't know what he's got.”
Staring straight ahead, Daniel refuted, “Yes, he does, and so do I.”
“Comtraya! Comtraya!” Harlan greeted, his arms held high in enthusiastic welcome as he hurried forward.
Clone Jack turned around, practically bumping into Daniel.
“Where are you going?” Daniel asked.
“I forgot how annoying that is,” the youthful soul responded.
Clone Jack sighed and turned around to face the smiling Altarian, who continued his warm greeting.
“Comtraya! It is so good to see you, though you don't look like yourself, but that is okay. We have lots of years; lots of years. Comtraya!”
“Yeah, yeah, kumbaya,” the clone groaned.
“Who is this?” Harlan asked.
“Samantha; she's my dog, and where I go, she goes,” the boy insisted sternly.
“Yes, well, come, I will show you to your room. We have lots to discuss. There is so much to be done. Much to do, and now it will be done.”
“Harlan, no making copies of me. I'm already cloned,” the young Jack reminded.
Harlan smiled, responding, “Oh, I have given up on that; not fair, but I had no choice then, but now, there is you. I will tell you stories about your elders.”
Daniel watched as Clone Jack walked away with Harlan. The young version of his lover turned and glanced over his shoulder. He smiled.
“Good-bye,” the archaeologist called out to the 'mini-me' of Jack.
“So much to do. All will be better now,” Harlan said giddily.
“Better? Don't start that 'better' talk again, Harlan,” Clone Jack warned, twisting around to give Daniel a brief nod before continuing onward.
Daniel chuckled and then dialed home.
After the Gate shut down, Clone Jack turned to his new roommate and said, “So, Harlan, ole buddy, I need you to do me a favor in, say, twelve years from now.” At Harlan's confused look, he continued, “You see, I'll be about the right age then, and I'll need you to dig out your old 'files' from all those years ago and make me a Daniel.”
“Oh, no, that is not possible. I told you before. I must have the original,” Harlan said, shaking his head. “It would not be possible without Daniel's help.”
Clone Jack smiled and said, “Harlan, don't be so negative. Don't you know that there is always an 'or'?”
“Everything okay?” Jack asked when Daniel returned through the Stargate sooner than he expected.
“Harlan is driving him crazy.”
“Daniel, you were only gone five minutes,” Jack pointed out, looking over at one of the returning Marines as he walked by.
Daniel questioned, “How long did it take Harlan to drive you crazy the first time?”
“About sixty seconds,” Jack answered, then smiled. “You really think this is the answer?”
“I don't know, but it might be easier for him, distance and all that. Jack, the dog was a good idea. I'm, uh, not sure about the name, but it was nice.”
“I love dogs; dogs can get you through a lot.”
Daniel's smile was warm and tender as he looked at his lover, grateful Jack, this Jack, was his.
“General, you have a call,” Sergeant Davis announced over the PA.
“Tell whoever that ...” Jack began.
“It's the President.”
“... that I'll be right there,” Jack said, finishing his sentence differently than he had originally intended.
“Jack, don't keep the President waiting.”
Daniel chuckled and watched his lover exiting the gate room. He looked back at the circular ring and hoped Clone Jack would find some peace of mind.
Saturday had come round again, and, as they had done the weekend before, the lovers hooked up their train sets and were racing the morning away. Just like last week, Daniel reached over for one of Jack's candy bars.
“Ow!” the archaeologist reacted to the tiny slap of his hand.
“You are not getting my Big Hunk this time, Danny.”
“Jack?” Daniel questioned.
“You are my big hunk -- my big, *big*, BIG HUNK.”
Jack handed over the entire bag of candies, earning him a smile from his lover.
With a broad smile, Daniel responded, “Thanks, Babe, but, uh, I'd rather taste the real thing.”
Daniel put the bag down and leaned forward to kiss his husband, slowly lowering him back to the carpeted floor from their sitting position.
“Danny?” Jack interrupted quietly. “I've been thinking about what you said. I know how I'd feel if I had to leave you behind; if I couldn't have you in my life. I'd die, Danny.”
“Jack, do you think he thought about ... you know?” Daniel questioned, thinking about their pact made several years ago.
Jack sighed, nodding as he spoke, “I'd bet money on it.”
Daniel looked away, afraid to think about their pact for too long, but unable to get it out of his mind at the moment.
“That's why he came here,” Jack surmised.
The words caught the younger man off guard, and his head snapped back to look at the older man intensity.
“Danny, I *can't* live without you.” Jack brought his hand to caress his husband's cheek. He smiled as he then traced his Love's lips, placing a kiss there a moment later. “We made a pact, and I'd carry it out in a heartbeat.”
“Then ... why ... why didn't ...”
“Because there's one difference, Angel. Our pact applies if we die, but you're not dead.”
Daniel stared deeply into his lover's eyes, searching for the answer. His expression grew pale as the truth hit him.
“Yeah. The pact was a curse to him,” Jack stated. “He wanted to die, and he would have, except for one very important thing.”
“I'm alive,” Daniel stated, sighing as his hands rubbed Jack's arms.
The older man nodded, saying, “If he's me, he couldn't do it, because you'd never forgive yourself for not doing something to save me. You'd blame yourself for eternity, and that's one thing I, he, couldn't let happen.”
“That's why he came here,” Daniel whispered.
“Donuts to dollars, Love. It was desperation. He had to come here. He had to find something to stop him from hurting you in the one way he couldn't bear to do,” Jack spoke emphatically. He groaned, “Danny, he didn't want to come here, to interfere in our lives, but it was the only thing he could do. He knew you'd find an answer. I know that's the truth because that's what I'd do.”
“A little pain, a little anxiety, a little ... interruption to prevent ...”
“... to prevent his death from being a shadow that would haunt us both for the rest of our lives.”
“Both of us,” Daniel said with a quiet but certain confidence.
“I have to tune him out, Danny, but it doesn't mean I don't understand. I'm good at lying to myself, but it's hard to lie to myself when I'm staring myself in the face. Geez, that sounds crazy,” Jack chuckled lightly, leaning in for another kiss.
The lovers continued to kiss for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, Jack began to chuckle.
“Excuse me?” a confused Daniel questioned, wondering what was so funny about their make-out session.
“If I stop lying to myself, I know what that little mini-me is going to do,” Jack said, still amused.
“Jack, what are you talking about?”
“Believe me Danny, if that clone is really anything like me, he'll be asking Harlan to create a synthetic Daniel in, oh, about ten years or so.” His expression sobered. “I couldn't live without you, Danny. If there were even the slightest chance, it's what I would do.”
After a slight pause, Daniel asked, “Is it even possible? Jack, Harlan said he needed the originals to make the copies, and I'm not ... I mean ...”
“No, you're not,” Jack said seriously, not willing to entertain even for a second that Daniel willingly agree to be the model for a new synthetic copy.
“It wouldn't be right, Jack. My ... synthetic would know everything: our wedding, our plans for the future. Clone Jack doesn't know anything about that. It would be horrible for him.”
“You're right. Look,” Jack said, sighing. “Danny, maybe Harlan has a way to make a new you; maybe he doesn't. I don't really want to know, but if he's me, he's going to try. He *has* to try.”
Daniel nodded, then said thoughtfully, “I think I'd better stay away from Harlan and Altair.”
Jack chuckled, saying, “That would be a good idea.”
“Jack, if you know that's what he'd do, why'd you let me take him there?” Daniel asked, his eyes searching his lover's for truth.
“I thought you were against another me roaming around out there, getting myself into all kinds of trouble?” the archaeologist questioned.
“Mini-me would take of ... Danny, I can't think about this anymore, but ...”
“I love you, my wonderful, compassionate Silver Fox. Growl all you want, you have a heart of gold, Jack,” Daniel stated confidently.
“It was a weak moment,” Jack refuted, dismissing his choice to let his youthful double go to a planet where there was a possibility that a double of his lover might be created. “He is me, after all. As long as I don't know about it.”
“I don't think I want to know, either. Jack, I think we should make sure the teams going there take precautions, and I don't ... Jack, I don't want to know. I mean, unless there's a genuine crisis, I don't really want to know what's happening on Altair.”
“Me, either. I'll funnel the reports somehow, set up a system so I'm only made aware, if absolutely necessary,” Jack agreed. “Danny, can we please not talk about this anymore?”
“You brought it up,” the younger man teased.
“I was showing you my sensitive side,” the older man teased.
“I'm kinda in the mood for your backside, or maybe you're, uh, front,” Daniel said, his eyes drifting downward.
Jack smiled and replied, “You're all I need, Danny.”
The couple kissed, long and hard, their passion flaring as they edged toward euphoria.
“My Jack ... love you ... love you so much.”
“I love you, Angel, geez, yes, oh, yeah, love you!”
With no interruptions, and, as Ole Lucky 97 and the Egyptian Express derailed together, Daniel and his big hunk heated up their afternoon as only they could do, both thankful they had each other and their nation of two.
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