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This was  a bit way too long to enter as comment-sized fic at Pentangular Gate, so I have posted it 

Five Ways It Would Have Been Different if Charlie Lived

O’Neill vs. O’Neill was still filed in the State of Colorado in 1996, but it contained a custody agreement, and the spirit motivating the party filing was quite different. 

 

“Jack signed the papers yesterday, Dad” Sara said, squeezing the phone between her shoulder and her cheek as she continued to chop up the onions for the dinner. “We’re rid of him. The violence, the killing, the guns, they can’t touch Charlie anymore. I feel so relieved!”

“Is Charlie home? Is he going to hear you say that about his father?” The voice on the other end was sharp, accusing.

“No! No!” she assured him. I wouldn’t say something like that in front of Charlie. But it was Jack’s gun, Dad. Charlie wasn’t safe in his own home, Dad, in his own home! Besides if Jack really cared, he’d have tried to get custody, or at least visitation rights, and-“

“Sara, you know that’s not fair to Jack. He loves that boy. And he’s a good man.”

“Yeah, you’re right Dad. It’s just that every time I think about what could have happened, I just get so furious! And why did he just hand him over to me? My lawyer put in for full custody and no visitation rights, but we expected to have to back down from that some. Jack didn’t say boo. It’s just not like him!”

“Guilt can make a man do strange things, Sweetie. If you ask me, Jack’s twice as mad at himself as you’ll ever be. Probably thinks this is the best way for the boy.” 

Mike sighed. He’d been there, in the waiting room with his daughter and son-in-law for that long tense wait before the surgeon came out to tell them about Charlie’s condition.   Sara had wept, silently, so silently, rocking back and forth in her seat, filling tissue after tissue, and dropping them unnoticed to the floor. Mike had kept busy ferrying them five or so at a time to the trash bin in the corner. Jack had been still, utterly, completely still, face impassive, hands flopped nervelessly palm up on his sprawled thighs, his usually oh-so-noticing eyes unfocussed and staring. Whatever the outcome, Mike thought, Sara would have been okay, maybe not right away, but with time. He wasn’t so sure about Jack.

Then the surgeon had come in at last, her hair under the hospital-green cap plastered down with sweat, mask still hanging around her neck, hands de-gloved and spotlessly clean, but still showing a few spatters of blood on her scrubs and one of those bag-like shoe covers she had on. She looked tired, but summoned a smile. 

“Mr. & Mrs. O’Neill?” he asked. “I’m Dr. Tedesco. I’m happy to tell you that your son is doing fine. It was a bit tense in there for a while. He came very close to bleeding out, but we’ve put a nice little patch in his aorta, he’s been transfused, we’ve got his blood volume back up, and his pressure and pulse rate are back where we like to see them. Dr. Fowler, my resident, is just putting in some closing stitches, and then they’ll clean him up and bring him into the P.I.C.U. – that’s the Pediatric I.C.U. - and you can see him. Should be less than half an hour…”

Both parents and Mike had risen when the doctor had entered the room. Mike had felt the rush of air out his mouth as he let out the breath he’d been holding as if he were starting his own internal wind tunnel. Sara flushed with relief and joy, and began repeating over and over again, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou…” whether to God or the surgeon or both, no one knew, probably not even Sara. Jack just stood there, face still impassive, but eyes sharply focused on the surgeon’s lips, as if he could physically see each word dropping from his mouth, newborn and squalling, and at Jack’s side, his hands drummed on his legs ceaselessly.

When the doctor left, Sara had turned to Jack, who had started to reach one hand out towards her nearest shoulder, but as she turned her body language changed, becoming rigid, her face paling and contorting with rage. Jack had let his hand fall, and drawn back his head in a defensive posture, but his face had given away nothing. His eyes were hooded.

“This was your fault, Jack O’Neill. It was your gun. I almost lost my son, my beautiful son. I want you away from us. Out of our house. Out of our lives. And take your damn gun with you!” Her voice was raw, rust on rust, a sound Mike had never heard from her before, pain, fury, and hatred in equal measure.

For a long moment Jack had not reacted at all, and then he had shifted his gaze to look Sara in the eye and said quietly but firmly, “I need to see him Sara. I need to see him to know he’s alright.”

“And then you’ll go?”

“Yes,” was all he’d said, and he’d done just that.

When the nurse came to say they could see Charlie now, Jack had led the way in. He’d stood a good two feet away from the bed staring at his small son, so pale and lost in the tangle of bedding and machines, tubing and monitors, and then he’d slowly reached out his right hand, bending slightly to reach in and cup the boy’s far cheek, as he ran his long curved thumb gently across his forehead in a gentle caress.

“Charlie,” was all he’d said, his voice almost a whisper. And then he’d left.

When Mike had driven Sara back to the house five hours later, Jack’s Jeep, his clothes, his medals, his hockey gear, and a few photos and keepsakes were gone. The responding officers had taken the gun with them as evidence, since it was possible a criminal case could be filed. A note on the table said:

The officer in charge gave me the name of a cleaning company. I’ll call them in the morning and arrange for them to start asap. –J.

And that was it. He was gone.  Mike worried. Sara seemed to think she’d won. It was impossible to tell for sure what Jack thought, but if Mike had to guess, Jack thought he’d lost everything. He’d tried calling Jack’s commander to try and get in contact, see how he was, but General West had said Jack was no longer in the service. Mike knew who the real loser was in all this. Charlie. A moment of curiosity, a life forever altered.

 

Jack adopted Cassie. She never had to experience losing two mothers. Sometimes her Dad went missing for a few weeks, and occasionally for a few months, but he always made it back.

Charlie stood for losing his father from his life for just over a year, but finally he could stand no more. If Mom and Grampa Mike and even his O’Neill grandma, Grandma Kathryn in Minnesota, wouldn’t tell him where his dad was then he’d have to find someone who would. He took last year’s phone book from its place by the basement phone, and hid it under his bed. He began calling every friend of his dad’s he could think of, the problem being that he could only come up with a few where he knew the last names. And some of the names could be spelled a lot of ways. Like Jeffries, which made sense, and Geoffreys, which was just plain weird. He almost gave up hope when he came to the final name. 

He’d saved it for last because it was so hard.  Sheriff Andy was nice, and he always treated Charlie like a real person, not just a little kid, but he was a sheriff, and probably that meant he’d feel like he had to tell Mom. And he was a Smith. There were an awful lot of Smiths in the phonebook. It was hard calling wrong numbers. Charlie was afraid that someone would think he was doing prank calls and get him in trouble, even though he tried to be polite and respectful and say sorry and stuff. But as luck would have it, Sheriff Andy turned out to be only the third Smith he called, and Charlie got his Sheriff Andy’s daughter, who obligingly looked in her dad’s address book, and gave Charlie both an address and a phone number.

The phone number, which Charlie had dialed immediately, had connected him to an answering machine. Charlie had called it again and again just to listen to the wonderful heart-squeezing sound of his dad’s familiar voice. Finally he’d left a message:

Daddy! It’s me Charlie. Please call me. I miss you. There was a long pause, and when the voice resumed it was shaky and tense and several notes higher, a twelve year old’s voice sounding no more than eight. I know I was bad touching your gun. I won’t ever not do what you say again. Don’t you love me anymore?

Jack had walked in the door after returning from Chulak, and the third message on his machine, right after the call from the dealer thanking him for buying his new F-250 at Congress Ford, and looking forward to servicing same with genuine Ford parts and award winning service, and an offer to reduce his credit card interest rates with NO ANNUAL FEE, had brought him to his knees.

As soon as he’d been able to get more whiskey into the shot glass than around it, and had downed it, and felt he could at least pretend he had some control over his voice, he dialed his old number, only to reach Sara who demanded in increasingly shrill and menacing tones to know where he’d taken Charlie, and threatening him with all kinds of prison time and bodily harm if he didn’t give him back. Jack had just finally succeeded in convincing her that he had no idea where Charlie was, and was holding his cell phone up to the answering machine speaker so she could hear his message, when a car beeped impatiently outside, and glancing out the window he saw a cab, with a slender boy’s figure, bigger than he remembered in the back. He’d used all the money he’d picked up at the ATM and a little more from the miscellaneous junk drawer in the kitchen that he’d been planning to use to pay for pizza to pay the cabbie and tip him, and told Sara he’d bring Charlie right home. 

Then he’d thrown his arms around his son and held him tight, almost too tight, until he could be sure he wouldn’t cry. 

After that he’d pulled back, looked Charlie fiercely in the eye, and told him, voice as rough and gravelly as a Mafia don, “I will always love you. Never, EVER forget that. There is nothing you can ever say or do or think that will change that. I left because that’s what your mom and I agreed to do, to keep you safe.” 

Finally, when Charlie’d given a small nod to show he understood, Jack had stood up to his full height, looked him over to see how the year had changed him, delighting in his high, healthy coloring, and the joy on his leaner, longer face, smoothed his own large hand over the boy’ still silky hair that had somehow escaped the O’Neill willfulness gene, drawn him in by the shoulder for another swift one-armed hug, and said, “Let’s get you home, sport, before your Mom sends the police.”

After that, Charlie, knowing where his father was, not seeing any rhyme or reason to the prohibition on visiting him, and inclined to inherit stubbornness from both sides, began a concentrated campaign to run away to Dad’s. Jack and Sara were forced to communicate with one another on a regular basis, and Sara began to see, with Mike’s urging that Charlie needed Jack in his life. The custody agreement was amended, and Charlie began having regular visits with Jack. 

The first time Charlie was to stay at Jack’s house Sara had brought him over, and proceeded to look around at the house with an eye so beady and intent that Jack, who had prepared for just such a moment, sighed, went over to the closet in the hall and emerged with a metal detector.

“Knock yourself out, Sara. You won’t find any guns. And all couch change remains property of the management!”

Sara had suddenly remembered how much she’d liked his oddball sense of humor, and grinned.

“Yeah, Jack. I knew that, really,” she’d said softly, and left.

Charlie was staying with Jack the night Sara was driving to her dad’s and a sudden snow squall had come up. Sara was a good driver, but conditions had gone from flurries to white out with amazing swiftness, and many drivers breaking at once created a pile up. Jack was glad he could tell Charlie honestly that it was quick and she didn’t suffer. As they had agreed when the custody arrangement was revised, Jack received sole custody upon her death, and after helping his son through the immediate demands of the visitation, the funeral, and the burial, and helping him chose which things in his old home would move to Jacks, and which would be sold after Mike had taken what he wanted, Jack began to make arrangements for Charlie’s care when he had to be out in the field.

When General Hammond received the green light to find a home on Earth for Cassie, Jack had already had experience making it all work as a single dad, and the two youngsters, just a year apart and both mourning lost parents hit it off beautifully. Each knew how to offer sympathy and understanding, but knew from personal experience how much was too much, and when to hold back. They were good for each other. Sam Carter had briefly thought of adopting the little girl, whose motherlessness mirrored her own, but seeing how well Cassandra fit into the O’Neill household, and unsure of how she would provide for the caregiver she’d need to hire on a Captain’s salary, had soon backed off. 

Janet Fraiser had suggested to the Colonel that he consider adopting Cassandra. She’d seen how well Jack had handled Charlie’s loss, and the arrangement would be the best thing for Cassie. It was odd the way Jack O’Neill, one of the most emotionally constipated individuals she’d seen in a career in the military, could be so different with kids. But he was and it worked. She kind of envied him though. She’d always wanted kids, but then there was the divorce, and being a single parent was hard, and clearly, she told herself, it was better this way.

 

Team nights became a great deal more entertaining, because of Mrs. O’Neill. She was a goldmine of information on the life and times of young Johnny O’Neill, and Daniel for one would never tire of digging for more.

On the whole, Jack thought, the idea of asking his mother to move down and be there to look after Charlie when he was away was a good one. It made it a whole lot easier to make sure she was well looked after herself when she was actually in the same state with her, for one. And Charlie adored her. Mike was also around to share some of the load, and she herself had agreed to the arrangement with a speed that let him know that she had not undertaken the responsibility reluctantly. But there were days…

“I’m so pleased to meet some of Johnny’s friends! Have you known him long?”

“Jack, Mom! It’s Jack. It’s been Jack since I was fourteen!”

Daniel’s grin was threatening to eat him, but “Johnny?!” was all he said.

“Daniel?”

“Johnny!”

“Daniel! Now see what you’ve done, Mom!”

“John James O’Neill! Your father and I gave you that name, it’s a perfectly good name, and I’ll use as long as I want. Your hockey teammates may have thought ‘Jack’ had a certain air to it, but John is a fine old name with a long tradition in this family, and I think you should be proud of it.”

Sam Carter privately thought that the sight of six foot two of tough as nails Colonel being dressed down by a little old lady only an inch or two taller than Janet Fraiser was one of the funniest sights she’d seen in a long time. Kind of like watching a wolfhound submitting to a Scottie.

Then there was this:

“Oh, Samantha. Such a pretty, feminine name. Just like you.”

Carter had looked momentarily startled, but had smiled and said, “I mostly go by Sam, Mrs. O’Neill”

Jack had decided to make himself scarce, before his mother, who was nobody’s fool, picked up on a glance here and a look there and began to make embarrassing comments about Carter being just the thing her Johnny needs, with this great big house and two motherless children. Mom just loved to set the cat among the chickens and sit back and watch. She might act clueless, but she was not.

He retired to the kitchen, and had just noticed a wonderful smell. Ooh! Mom’s oatmeal raisin cookies!

“Johnny! Have you got your hand in that cookie jar?”

“No!”

“I heard the lid!”

“I was just sniffing them!” Then more quietly, “Ears like a bat!”

“I heard that!”

But ultimately Jack remembered that his mother might let her sense of fun and her amusement at the human comedy get out of hand from time to time, but there was a reason that his house had been the neighborhood haven when he was growing up. And it wasn’t just the great cookies. There was something about her. She made each and every person she met feel loved and special. People blossomed around her. She really cared about them and their troubles, and she was unparalleled in her gift for knowing when to push, when to talk, and when to be silent. Soon his kids, not his kid kids - well them too - but his team-type kids were her kids too, and by the time the stroke took her, suddenly, during Charlie’s second year at the Academy. Half the SGC turned out to mourn her. 

Jack buried her in the plot he’d bought in one of his darker moods shortly after Iraq. The one that he’d intended at the time for himself and Sara. The one that he was very thankful not to have had to use for Charlie. It was a pleasant spot, as such things go, with a great view, not that it’d do her much good. Now that he was seldom in the field and not likely to die in the line of duty unless he really neglected a paper cut, he hoped he’d go as quickly and cleanly as she did. 

 

When Jack began to experience the life of a barber in Indiana, he mentioned it right away, to Daniel. Since so little time had passed since Jack had touched the doohickey that set it all off, it was easy to discover what was happening. Officers were dispatched to confiscate the “dangerous object, covered with a potent hallucinogen” before Joe had experienced more than a handful of the odd visions.

Jack had no desire to experience someone else’s ordinary family life. He had enough ordinary family life of his own, thank you very much. The visions were not soothing. They were just weird.

Joe wrote no stories, and the strange little vignettes he experienced soon seemed like a strange pointless little sidebar to his life. He forgot all about them, until Wormhole X-treme made its debut. He considered suing on the grounds that he’d thought of it first, but the first lawyer he saw told him the case was hopeless with no physical evidence in the way of dated computer files or scripts, so he gave it up. He never missed a show, though, and went to one or two of the conventions each year. He enjoyed seeing the show gain in viewership and popularity. He felt a certain proprietary pride.

When Jack and Sam finally married (“You’ve been coveting my kids for years now, Sam. I’ve seen you sneaking them ice cream and trying to interest them in quarks. Don’t think I haven’t noticed! If you’ll marry me in Vegas this weekend, we’ll be all right and tight with the regs before I start in Washington, and you can be mother of the groom next spring at Charlie’s wedding. Whaddaya say we make honest kid outta them…Please?”) it resulted in one of those odd O’Neillian conversations a few years later.

“Hey, Charlie!”

“Hey Dad! Come in, come in! Didn’t know you were in the Springs. In to visit the SGC?”

“Nope. Well, I probably will, just to chat with Walter, and check up on old Sparky, but really I’m here to see you.”

“Ya wanna beer? Here. See me? Why? I mean, not that I’m not glad to see you, and that Jen won’t be pleased too when she gets home…”

“Well it’s about Jen and the baby…that you’re going to have…you and Jen. That baby.”

“What about the baby? Is there something wrong? Is gate travel bad for my-“

“Aht! No! Nothing like that! It just that…This is just a tad bit awkward. You see I’m going to be a dad and a granddad at about the same time.”

“Of course you’ll still be my dad after the baby’s – Wait! That’s not what you meant. You...I mean…Wow! Sam’s pregnant?”

“Yeah.”

“Woah, Dad! That’s great! It is great, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yeah! Except for the bit where I may be wearing a bib and drooling at her high school graduation.”

“Her?”

“Yeah. Hope she gets her mom’s looks and brains, and my…Well, I guess if we’d had any sense we’d just have cloned her mother. Wouldn’t have been as much fun though.”

“Daaad!”

“What?”

“You don’t deserve her, Dad.”

“No. I don’t. I’m a lucky bastard.”

“Me too, Dad, me too.”

 

 

 

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
lilyleia78
Nov. 25th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
That was wonderful! Thank you so much for writing my prompt; I love it when it inspires a lovely, thoughtful story like this.
thothmes
Nov. 25th, 2008 09:24 am (UTC)
Thank you for the prompt. Some of prompts I read and think "Oh, cool. I could do that." This one I read and thought "Oh, that's intriguing, because if Charlie lives and Jack doesn't go to Abydos, then the whole series is almost unrecognizable. So how would it work so that things didn't change THAT much." It was a very thinky prompt, which I really enjoyed.
(Deleted comment)
thothmes
Nov. 30th, 2008 05:16 am (UTC)
As I suspect is true of most writers, the pleasure was mine. Thank you for reading and enjoying them.
sidlj
Dec. 31st, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
Goodness, it took me a long time to get here!

These were so great. I really liked how you stuck to one timeline and showed five moments along the path.

Jack in the waiting room, Charlie hunting down Jack, Mrs. O'Neill(!), Joe the barber (definitely didn't see that one coming. *g*), and an aunt the same age as her niece/nephew. It's a nice new life for Jack with his Stargate adventures intact, and Charlie gets a nice new life, too. Heartaches along the way notwithstanding, because they're just part of life, even second-chance-at-life.
thothmes
Dec. 31st, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, I have a feeling that this one was hard to find because its position at the end of the queue with only a link, rather than a full-length comment or a list made it appear at first glance as if it were yet another reply.

I'm so glad you enjoyed them.

As to the same age aunt/nephew, I've got a brother who is two and a half months younger than my daughter, and even though my Dad is a writer, and usually more verbal-by-nature than Jack O'Neill, we ended up having a similar conversation!
elle11elle
Jun. 5th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
I liked this story a lot and i really appreciated how it was different from most stories.
thothmes
Jun. 5th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it.

I have a sneaking fondness for this one myself, simply because I like to think of Jack having this happier richer life, although I feel badly that it was rather at Sara's expense.
anotherdreamer5
Aug. 1st, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
amazing.
thothmes
Aug. 2nd, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
Why thank you!
scifithinker
Apr. 24th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Much more satisfying than commentfic. :-)
thothmes
Apr. 25th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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Speak to him, for there is none born wise.

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In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.

- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

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alone give life to my heart
may Amun give me what I have found
for all eternity.


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To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
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and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.


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Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

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Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
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