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X IS FOR X-TREME CHANGES by THOTHMES

Summary:A butterfly wing stirs the air, a storm is born; a little boy goes flying, and a path through life is forged. Through the mirror, the little boy doesn't fly.
Word Count:2,268
Characters: Jack, Sara, Charlie, Original Characters
Era: Preshow/Season 10/Post show
Categories:Character Study
Author's Note: You know, I planned to do all of the original team, but it got -- complicated and unwieldy, so I stopped at the first one, a meditation on how a life changes when not put to its best and highest use. Maybe mirror!Jack has everything we would wish for our Jack, but somehow I feel it's not entirely a good thing. I think his life has made him less somehow.

Excerpt: Oh, God! No more driveway! Out over the edge, and Jack and the sled were flying through the air! Out! Out! Over the snowy ground of O'Hara's back yard, silent and free, until gravity won, and with a mighty whack that drove every last ounce of breath from Jack's lungs, they were earthbound once more.

Jack was still trying to work out exactly how breathing worked, and whether this airless feeling was what grown-ups meant when they spoke of collapsed lungs, when he realized that the big boys were cheering him. At least by the time they got down to where he was, Jack had managed to suck in a couple of big breaths, and was pretty sure nothing was broken, not even the sled. Probably best if he didn't let his Ma see him without his shirt on though. It felt like there might be bruises.





X is for X-Treme Changes


Ours is the only reality of consequence
--Teal'c


The day after Christmas was snowy and not too cold, but Jack's mother had insisted on enough layers to make moving a struggle, and the scarf, which covered all but a thin strip of his face across the eyes was the most annoying thing of all. He was suffocating under all the sweaters and the thick woolen coat and snow pants, and he felt like if he fell he would really battle to get up. He looked at his shiny new Flexible Flyer sled, with its fire engine red runners, a gift the O'Neill aunts and uncles had gotten together to buy him, and realized that sledding, at least as done by big boys of ten, involved a lot of rolling and picking themselves up out of snow banks. This would not do. He went back inside, to emerge a full inch thinner all around, and minus the itchy scarf. Now he was ready for some action! He set off towards Hill Street, where Uncle Jimmy said the best sledding was.

He didn't get there. He was only two blocks from his goal when he fell afoul of some big boys. There were four of them, all at least a head taller than Jack, and they wanted to take his sled. Jack considered letting them go ahead and take it, because he knew that after New Year's when he and his parents piled in to their old Ford station wagon with its wood trim on the side and drove all the way back to from Uncle Jimmy's place near Chicago to their house in Minnesota, the brand new sled, with its smooth finished and coated wood and the runners without a lick of rust would be useless. Minnesota kids didn't use sleds like the Chicago kids did. Except in the very beginning of the season, when the first few inches fell, most of the winter the snow came too deep for sled runners, and the best sledding was with a toboggan. Besides, what would Uncle Jimmy think if he came home without it? Jack's ears got red just thinking about explaining to his hero that he let the big boys take it without a fight.

So Jack held the tow rope for the sled tighter, and put both hands on his hips. He looked the toughest looking one, the one with the greased, slicked-back hair, wearing only jeans, sneakers, and a fake leather bowling jacket, right in the eyes and said "No!" and did not look away. He was on the edge of crying, but the wind was whipping him in the face, and he hoped the big boys would think his eyes were tearing from the wind. The tough boy narrowed his eyes and the other boys pushed in around Jack, surrounding him. Jack pushed his fists harder into his hips and hoped the boys would not see his legs were shaking and his knees were wobbly.

"My Dad's a State Trooper," said Jack. "He has three brothers, and two of them are Chicago policemen, and the other one is a fireman."

His voice was shaky, but he didn't look down, didn't look away. The tough kid looked away first, looking at his buddies for their reaction.

"Okay, pipsqueak." He said. "We'll make you a deal. We were on the way to O'Hara's grandpa's place to clear his driveway. You come with us to old man O'Hara's place, and if you have the guts to sled down his driveway without bailing, and we'll let you keep it. You bail, and that beauty is ours."

"There a tree at the end?" asked Jack.

"Smart pipsqueak!" said the red headed kid Jack figured was O'Hara. "Nah. No tree. Just a four foot drop off to my back yard."

The big boys laughed, and turning away from the way to Hill Street, they drove Jack before them, trying to decide whether Jack would piss himself or barf up his toes when he saw that driveway. What made Jack really mad was that the consensus opinion was that he would instead run crying home to his mama. Jack hadn't even done that when he was five and he fell on the ice and another kid did too, and sliced Jack's chin open with his sharp skate blade., even after the ice started getting covered with blood.

Three blocks later they were there. The driveway was not too short, but it was pretty steep, with a garage off to the side at the bottom, and Jack was sure that even with the extra steering he could get from pulling on the crossbar of the sled, there was no way he was going to be able to make the turn into the garage like a car would. Maybe after a few years when the sled was broken in, but now the runners were new and stiff, and the sled would be hard to steer. That landing was going to hurt.

"Had enough pipsqueak?" said the tough kid.

Jack noticed that the kid was shivering now, and the boy's ears were no longer red from the wind but starting to look white. He might be tough, but toughness didn't keep him warm like Jack's thick tan winter coat.

"My name is not Pipsqueak!" he said. "It's Jack. Jack O'Neill."

If it was going to hurt, Jack wanted to get it over with. He started to line the Flexible Flyer up with the center of the driveway.

"Jesus, Gary!" the stockiest kid said, "He's gonna go through with it! What are we gonna do if he breaks something? We're gonna catch it for lettin' him do it! He's just a little kid, and the sled's brand new! Don't make him, Gary! Let the kid go."

The tough kid must have been Gary, and was immediately logged as Gary the Greaser in Jack's mind.

"That's why I want it," said Greasy. "It's new, and I figure we can sell it for some cool cash."

It was going to hurt. Jack needed to get it over with. He gripped the crossbars with both mittened hands and threw himself down onto his stomach.

And because life liked to laugh at Jack O'Neill, he went nowhere. The slope right at the top was not enough for his small weight to set him sliding, but just as he was making the decision to get up and try it again, pushing off harder, one of the big boys kicked the tail of the sled, and off he went, picking up speed as the slope got steeper.

The wind was rushing over his face, cold and clean. The runners made a sibilant hiss as they ran, and Jack was filled with delight by the speed, as he held himself tight against what would come.

Oh, God! No more driveway! Out over the edge, and Jack and the sled were flying through the air! Out! Out! Over the snowy ground of O'Hara's back yard, silent and free, until gravity won, and with a mighty whack that drove every last ounce of breath from Jack's lungs, they were earthbound once more.

Jack was still trying to work out exactly how breathing worked, and whether this airless feeling was what grown-ups meant when they spoke of collapsed lungs, when he realized that the big boys were cheering him. At least by the time they got down to where he was, Jack had managed to suck in a couple of big breaths, and was pretty sure nothing was broken, not even the sled. Probably best if he didn't let his Ma see him without his shirt on though. It felt like there might be bruises.

"Jack, You're not a pipsqueak," said the stocky kid, patting him on his back with more force than Jack deemed pleasant. "You're brave."

Jack didn't think so. Jack thought he was just desperate, but he didn't say so.

Uncle Jimmy was brave. Uncle Jimmy flew jets for the Army Air Corps during the war. Uncle Jimmy said flying was the best way for a man to feel free. For a few slippery seconds Jack had felt that freedom. He had thought he wanted to grow up and be a cop like his dad, but not anymore. He was going to grow up and fly jets and be free.

He turned to Gary the Greaser and held out the tow rope.

"Wanna have a turn?" he asked.

Gary looked at his toes.

"Nah" he said. "I'm not nuts!"

"Oh, and I am?" asked Jack, as he began dragging his sled forward, towards the front of O'Hara's house and the shortest path home. He'd considered flying again, but decided not to press his luck. Landing on those bruises was sure to hurt, and if he went home, Aunt Grace was sure to have some hot cocoa waiting for him.

I'm sorry, I keep thinking I'm gonna step on a bug and change the future.
--Lt. Col Samantha Carter


But there is a world out there, several actually, where Jack O'Neill did not go flying on his sled during that Christmas visit to the Chicago suburbs. Let's visit one.

There is a meeting in the briefing room of the SGC between the producer of the canceled TV show Wormhole X-Treme. Colonel Mitchell is giving advice on how best to write his character on a putative revival of the show. The line that Martin Lloyd has suggested sounds wrong to him. Martin is waiting for him to finish speaking so he can puncture the man's pretensions. Lloyd knows that the heroic Colonel Danning is in fact modeled on himself, although even in Hollywood the land of massive egos, it would be impolitic to say that. Perhaps he will coyly let it slip to the interviewer for TV Guide, or whatever publication is covering cable television for fans by then when they are doing the Wormhole X-Treme 25th Anniversary cover story, but until then, he needs to puncture the young man's misapprehension that the character that stars in Martin's show has anything to do with this flyboy.

"How many times do I have to tell you?' says Martin. "It's not you Colonel Danning is based on Colonel Kawalsky."

And where is Jack O'Neill? Seated on a floral sofa, in St. Paul, Minnesota, next to his boy who is home from college for spring break. He has this show he's excited about and wants to share it with his dad. The thing is called Wormhole X-Treme. Jack thinks it's rather silly, although he can understand how for a kid Charlie's age all the scantily clad alien babes would have a certain allure, but Gracie likes it too, and he's pretty sure that's not a draw for her. He ponders for a moment whether if he had a chance to go through a big ring to another planet whether he would take the chance. It might be fun, but he has an architectural firm to run, and what would Sara do if something were to happen to him? He has a good life. He's hoping that someday, if he plays his cards right, and so far things are looking good, the sign by the elevator in the lobby of his office will not just say O'Neill Designs. It will read O'Neill and Son and Daughter. Then a few years later, when the kids have their feet under them, he'll retire, and he and Sara will do some traveling and see the world.

It's a fine life he has. He likes the challenge of turning the client's words into a finished space, riding the contractors to be sure that it comes in on time and on budget, no matter what unexpected challenges arise. The best jobs are the ones that keep him on his toes. Still, lately he's been feeling a little stale. Maybe it is just moving from middle age to ever more often facing the indignity of being asked whether he wants the senior discount, but lately he's been feeling like something is missing, like life should hold a little something more. He feels a restlessness. He and Sara will go explore the world. He wants to see giraffes at sunset. She wants to see the sort of places Jane Austen wrote about. They both want to taste the lagers and ales of Europe. He wants to see if the Great Wall of China really is all that great.

The show is over.

Jack tells Charlie that on the whole he prefers Poochini, but that Wormhole X-Treme is fun, and wonders aloud what's up with the weird spelling. He isn't terribly impressed, but the idea of being able to travel the galaxy like that kind of grows on him, and some years later When the box set comes out, Jack orders all ten seasons, and when Charlie suggests that they dress up in costume and go to a convention, he actually considers it for a full five minutes before turning him down.

"You know, much as I'd kind of like to meet Nick Marlowe, I'm betting that actually doing it would be a bit of a letdown. He'd probably be shorter than I expect or something. You take Ashley and make a date out of it, and your mother and I will look after the pipsqueak."

"He has a name, Dad! It's Brantly."

Who names their kid after their wife's maiden name, anyway? Brantly

"Oh, I'll probably get it down before he starts college," says Jack. But he's not in a rush.


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
madders_ahatter
Nov. 4th, 2017 12:15 pm (UTC)
Much as I'm glad that AU Jack still has Charlie, I definitely think OUR Jack is the more fulfilled.
Gotta say that meeting RDA at LFCC was definitely NOT a letdown!
thothmes
Nov. 5th, 2017 05:09 pm (UTC)
Yes. I think Our Jack would drop everything and become This Jack, if only he were given the chance, but in doing so he would be thinking "Save Charlie!" not "Save myself!" He wouldn't care about what happened to him as long as Charlie was okay.

I must say, from everything I've heard, RDA really makes an effort to give back to the fans and avoid letdowns. Very nice in an industry where it's all too easy to become jaded.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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Speak to him, for there is none born wise.

-The Maxims of Ptahotep

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In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.

- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

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But your embraces
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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's no for me,
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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I envy you, drunk with flowers,
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