Authors notes: This story is part of my The Sentinel/MacGyver Series, set ahead in my timeline. It is also crossed with Stargate:SG1, and contains major spoilers for the seventh season episode, Fragile Balance.
If you are unfamiliar with my series, I recommend you either read the first five stories ('The Maze', 'Control', 'Coatlicue', 'Ares Bugle' and 'Heirs to a Nightmare'), or read the spoiler at: http://www.geocities.com/garnet_tm/crossgate/CindyNote.html In addition, original character Cory Buchanan is introduced in 'Follow the Tiger', Ian in 'The Promise of Christmas Future', and Amanda Chambers in 'Mishaps with Dinner'. How Jack O'Neill meets MacGyver is in 'Weardians and Witans'.
For those who are familiar with my series, this is a leap forward in my timeline to Christmas 2003. I have planned three to four stories between my last story ('Chance Destiny', set in January 2002) and this one, including: 'Revenge for the Scorpion' (Mac helps Jack O'Neill deal with Daniel's ascension while Blair is entangled by a woman with ties to MacGyver's past); a second tale about Sam and Cory's one and only trip through the Stargate; and a third story of Jim and Amanda's wedding (and you thought their first date was bad).
Sorry for the skipping around. I had gotten stuck on 'Revenge for the Scorpion', and decided to see if this story would shake loose some bunnies. With crossed fingers, I think it has. I'm having way too much fun with Mini-Jack (played by Michael Welch, before he got the role as Joan's brother Luke on 'Joan of Arcadia'). Consider this a Christmas present to all the nice people who enjoy my stories and email me.
As always, I wish to thank several people. To Zadra, who's always there to lend an ear; Shallan and Toni Rae for pep talks and brainstorming sessions; Ian's self-declared Godmummy Sealie, for all her encouragement and asthma talks; Gabrielle and Sirius for beta'ing, and as always wolfpup, who gives my stories such a happy home.
Please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Most of characters are not mine. I'm borrowing them out of deep reverence, affection and respect. I will accept only personal fulfillment, and no monetary gain. If you do sue, you will not get much and I will send over my graying Black Lab mix, who will stare at you pathetically for hours, sleep on your couch, and probably con you out of all your food.
Please do not reproduce, copy, or otherwise use any part of this story without permission from the author. A copy for personal use is allowed.
Rated PG-13, mostly for language
Dedicated to the memory of my Grandpa Sol, who raced cars and motorcycles as a young man, learned to fly in the 30s, patrolled the Gulf of Mexico with the Civil Air Patrol during WWII, MacGyvered many solutions to everyday problems, built experimental airplanes during his late 70s and flew them, went parasailing for the first time at 81, loved his family, and lived life to the fullest for most of his 94 years. Love ya and see you on the other side, Grandpa.
December 8, 2003, Lakewood, CO
MacGyver entered the supermarket at a swift pace. He needed toothpaste before returning to his hotel room, but didn't want to take too long. If he got back to the hotel in time, he could call home before Sam put Ian to bed. He'd only been gone for a few days, yet it seemed like it had been months since he'd seen his grandson.
He found the personal hygiene aisle at the south end of the store. As he searched for his brand, a hard cough drew his attention. A blond teenager was standing in front of the cold medicine section.
Mac frowned as he turned back to the toothpaste. After nursing his asthmatic grandson through several illnesses, he had become an expert at coughs. The kid's sounded especially bad to his ears. Yet it really wasn't any of his business, and Mac knew from experience where meddling in other people's business led him. Plus, he really did want to talk with Ian. Telling himself that the kid was probably on his way home to his parents, he reached for a box.
He turned back just in time to see the kid bent over, coughing. Tossing any thoughts of non-involvement to the side, Mac trotted over to the stricken youth. "Hey, do you need help?" Laying a hand on the kid's back, he was shocked at how hot the he felt.
Red rimmed brown eyes looked up and blinked. "Gus?" Then the eyes closed as his legs folded. Mac just managed to catch him before he fell to the hard linoleum.
Denver General Hospital
Colonel Jack O'Neill entered the waiting room and immediately spied his double sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs. He waved at Dr. Janet Fraiser, who was on her way to talk with the ER doctors, while he walked over to stand in front of Mac.
MacGyver looked up. "Jack."
The two looked at each other a moment, then Mac asked, "Okay, who's the kid?"
Jack glanced down a moment. "Nobody."
"Then why are you here? And wasn't that Janet who just hurried by?"
Jack was searching the room with his eyes, looking everywhere but at the man in front of him. "It's classified."
"Classified? He's just a sick kid."
"Like I said, it's classified."
"It's not secure here."
Mac blinked. His maybe cousin was dead serious. He thought a moment. "Okay, follow me."
Jack followed Mac up onto the roof of the building. Jack folded his arms to ward off the chilly night air as his double carefully placed two small metallic buttons on the roof railing, then a third on a chair someone had left behind. Standing within the triangle formed, Mac turned to Jack and spoke. Jack couldn't hear him.
Jack stepped inside the triangle next to Mac. "What's this?"
"Something I've been developing for Jim and Cory. If they're overloaded, Blair or Sam can use these to either block out all noise from their partner or use them to encircle an offending noise and give their partner a chance to regain their equilibrium."
"Now tell me what's up."
"Jack, the kid called me Gus. The only person who calls me Gus is you. How'd the kid know that?" As Jack rubbed his eyes, Mac added, "I've got the clearance for the Stargate program. What gives?"
Sighing, Jack met Mac's eyes. "You know how we work with various... ah... 'cultures'?"
Mac rolled his eyes. "You mean aliens."
"Yeah, well, a renegade from one of the advanced groups decided he wanted to study me."
Eyes wide, Mac asked, "Study you? Why?"
"Apparently, I'm the next evolutionary step for the human race."
Mac's eyes grew wider as he tried not to laugh. "You?"
"Don't look so surprised."
"And the kid?"
"The renegade made a clone to take my place while he was studying me. Only my friends from his race realized I might be a target, so they did something to try to prevent someone from messing with me. So instead of being exactly me, the clone ended up a teenager with my memories."
"Cloning AND memory transfer?" Mac gasped. "How?"
"Don't ask me. That's Carter's and Fraiser's jobs."
"So we really can do that?"
"No, not us. The Asgard."
"As in the Norse Gods?"
Jack smirked. "Where do you think those myths came from?"
Mind bending in several different directions, Mac shook his head and forced himself back on track. "So that kid is your clone? With your memories?"
"What's he doing?"
"Going to high school."
"Going to high school? I thought you said he has your memories. Don't they include high school?"
"Yeah, but he decided to do our, his, life over. Thought he'd try it again, now that he knows what mistakes to avoid. He's all set to start the Air Force Academy once he's old enough. Well, technically, he's less than a year old, but physically old enough. Well, I mean, when he looks 18... I think."
Mac nodded to himself. The situation did sound confusing. "So where's he living? With you?"
"Hell no. It's just too weird for both of us. The Air Force has him all set up with emancipated status and an apartment." Spotting Janet as she stepped out onto the roof, Jack waved her over.
Once Janet was within the triangle, MacGyver greeted, "Hey, Doc."
"MacGyver," Janet returned with a smile and a nod.
"How's Mini-me?" Jack asked.
MacGyver noticed he seemed pretty concerned despite the 'weirdness' of the situation. When Janet frowned, he assured, "We're secure."
"He's caught that flu that's hitting the schools so hard. It's gone into pneumonia."
Jack frowned. "How long has he been sick?"
Janet was frowning too. "From what I could get from him, less then 48 hours."
Mac whistled. "That's fast."
"Yes, and that worries me. While I'm sure he was given some immunity when the Asgard fixed him, originally he was only supposed to live for a week. I'm not sure if his immune system is as strong as a six month old baby, let alone an average teen."
"A week?" Mac repeated, stunned at the callousness.
"You mean fighting off germs and stuff?" Jack spoke over him.
Janet nodded. "Exactly. Duplicate Jack may simply need to catch and recover from more illnesses, but this year's flu is a bad way to start. Normally healthy kids are ending up in the emergency room."
"Is his cover still intact?" Jack asked.
"Yes," Janet replied. "The medical staff believe his mother is dead and his father's overseas. I've told them that his uncle just happens to be in town."
"Yeah, but it may not be a good idea for me to hang around," Jack pointed out. "If the NID gets a whiff that Mini-me is anything other than a normal, American kid, Lord knows what they'd do to him."
"NID? What do they have to do with this?" Mac asked.
"They want to take over the Stargate Program," Janet explained.
"Except they believe that they should simply take any technology they find, damn the consequences to the cultures involved or our relationships to them," Jack added grimly. "We've had a few run-ins with them."
"And you think they'd want to study the kid to figure out how the, Asgard, right? How the Asgard cloned him?"
"That's not good."
"Agreed. So I don't dare hang around."
"I can keep an eye on him," Janet suggested.
"He is going to be okay, right?" Jack asked.
"If he responds well to the antibiotics, he should be okay." Noting the two worried faces staring down at her, Janet assured them, "He's technically never had an antibiotic before, and it looks promising so far. We should know in a couple of days."
December 12, Denver General Hospital
Mac took a deep breath before stepping out of the hospital elevator. It was still mind-bending to think of 50 plus years of experience in a teenage body. Yet in a twisted way, it was his friend who nearly died of the flu, kinda. Mac felt obligated to visit him, no matter how awkward.
Checking in at the nurse's station, Mac learned more than just directions. The nurse studied him. "Family?"
"Distant cousin," Mac replied easily. "I live in L.A. and just happen to be in town."
She smiled at him. "Good. It's sad when a pediatric case doesn't have a parent worried about him."
Her words followed him to the room. Mini-Jack looked like he was sleeping, various monitors keeping track of his condition. Mac examined the pale face resting on the pillow. He looked young and so familiar. It was like looking through a time machine to his own teen years. Then the brown eyes opened. For an instant, Mac saw a desolation that did not belong in such a young face. Then he brightened and tossed Mac a tired smirk. "Hey, Gus."
"Hi yourself." Mac sat in the chair next to the bed. "How you feeling?"
"Fine." After Mac lifted an eyebrow and stared at him, the 'kid' shrugged as he coughed. "Okay, breathing's hard."
He still sounded hoarse, too. "I bet your throat's sore from coughing."
Shrugging again, Mini-Jack twisted the edge of the blanket with his fingers. "Mostly bored."
Mac glanced around. The TV was shut off, and there was nothing else besides hospital equipment in the room. "Then these should come in handy." He tossed two magazines onto the bed.
Mini-Jack picked them up. "Field and Stream? Air and Space? Sweet." He met Mac's eyes. "Thanks."
Slightly uncomfortable with so much gratitude coming from O'Neill's eyes in a young face, Mac glanced around again. The 'kid' had been here for four days, but there were no cards, no flowers, no balloons. Not what one would expect in a room with a sick teenager. Of course, he wasn't dealing with a teenager per se, but still, he was going to high school. Surely he had made some friends. Trying not to frown, Mac turned back. "Do you need anything from home?"
The eyes brightened again. "My Gameboy?"
"Sure. Where's your keys?"
"I think they're in that drawer."
Mac pulled it open and found the key on a 'Denver High' key ring next to a small billfold. "Do you need anything from school?"
"Nah, Doc Fraiser's going to pick up my homework for me."
"I think there's some clean sweats in my laundry basket." The 'kid' frowned for a moment. "I think it's in the living room. And could you pick up my robe?"
Mac gave him a warm smile. "No problem."
Mini-Jack coughed, "Thanks."
When the coughing continued, Mac leaned over and squeezed the slim arm. "Why don't you get some more sleep, and I'll see you tonight."
The brown eyes looked cautiously hopeful. "Tonight?"
"Tonight." Mac replied firmly.
Mac was still unsettled when he entered Mini-Jack's apartment that afternoon. He wasn't sure why, but it bothered him that the kid had no other visitors besides himself and Dr. Fraiser. While half of his mind pointed out that he wasn't really dealing with a teenager, the other half kept thinking that physically, the 'kid' looked enough like him to be his kid. Heck, at roughly 15 years he was young enough to be Blair's kid, if Blair had had a kid as early as his parents.
The thought of being a Grandpa to Blair's teenager was enough to spook him into concentrating on the task at hand. It was easy enough to find the Gameboy. Grabbing a duffle bag near the closet, Mac dumped the hockey skates and uniform onto a worn chair, then tucked the requested toy into it. He also picked up a book containing a grocery receipt as a bookmark. Mac glanced at the items purchased, noted that Mini-Jack's eating habits were even worse than Sam's, and tossed the book in with the Gameboy. He found the laundry basket, double checked that the clothes were, in fact, clean, folded a few items and placed them into the duffle. As he turned to the bedroom for the robe, he spotted a small, framed picture. It was of Jack and his team. Since Daniel's hair was long and Sam Carter was wearing captain's bars, Mac guessed it was early in the Stargate project.
The small token slammed home why Mac felt so uneasy. Like himself, Jack O'Neill was a bit of a packrat. His home had pictures of his friends and family scattered amongst old mementoes, awards, and sports equipment. The overall effect was of a masculine yet warm home not too far off from Mac's home, though Jack's was neater. In this apartment, the picture, a fishing pole in the corner, and a poster of an F-15 were the only personal touches. If the kid was Jack, why was his home so bare?
Because all his memories belonged to someone else.
For the first time, Mac realized just how lonely it must be for the clone. The people he considered old friends were actually friends with the original Jack, not him. Even his cherished possessions were no longer his. In fact, Mac was willing to bet the Colonel had no idea his 'Mini-me' had this picture. Frowning, Mac made a gradual turn in the center of the small room. Here was a person starting from scratch because he had basically lost everything and everyone. A person who nearly died four days ago because he was sick and there was no one around to realize just how sick.
Could MacGyver return to L.A. and leave this person behind to lead such a lonely existence?
Mac was still pondering the question as he returned to the hospital. He ran into Janet Fraiser next to the nurses' desk. Janet greeted him with a smile. "Hello, MacGyver."
Janet waved back towards Mini Jack's room. "You may want to wait a few moments. His hockey coach and a few of his teammates are visiting."
"Good," Mac replied, glad someone thought enough of him to visit. "How's he doing?"
Janet led him to a small alcove. "He's improving. And just like another Jack we know, he already wants to head home."
Mac frowned, thinking of the bare apartment. "Is that wise? Especially with no one there to look after him?"
"I'm worried about that, too." Janet glanced around. "With winter around the corner, I'm afraid of what something as simple as a cold might do to him while he's already run down."
"And he obviously won't call someone if he's sick." Thinking hard, Mac remarked, "Jack said you were picking up his homework. How's he doing in school?"
"He's doing quite well, which apparently surprises some of the teachers since he doesn't seem to pay attention," Janet chuckled. Mac smiled, too, but noticed when Janet's mood changed. "They did say he tends to be a loner. Admittedly, so is the original O'Neill, but I thought that was due to the military structure, which shouldn't apply here."
Making sure no one was around to overhear, Mac pointed out, "Yeah, but how well do you think you'd relate to teenagers?"
Janet made a face. "I don't have to think. I have a teenager at home. Sometimes it's all I can do to figure out what she and her friends are saying."
"So basically, Jack's stuck all day with people who could be his children or younger, speaking a language he might not fully understand. Add in that he can't really say what his background is, and doesn't have the same perspective..."
"It would be hard," Janet admitted. "But he seems to be adjusting."
"Yeah, but that still brings us to his 'getting sick and not telling anyone'." Mac made a decision. "Let me run something by you."
Mini-Jack looked tired but more upbeat when Mac entered his room. Mac noted that there was now a big card, a teddy bear wearing a hockey jersey and skates, and a balloon saying 'Get Well Soon' on it. Smiling, he set the small duffle down next to the bed. "You doing okay?"
"I'm cool," the 'kid' replied.
Mac reached down and pulled out his robe. "In case you need it later."
Mac examined his face again as he sat down, wondering if this was a good time to bring up the topic he wanted to discuss. The original Jack could be both touchy and contrary, so his clone was probably the same. He had to present this just right to get him to agree.
Mac blinked. "What?"
"You want to say something." From Jack's face, he obviously didn't think it would be good.
Mac leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Janet and I were talking." Seeing the blank look appear on Jack's face, he continued, "She says you want out of here."
Jack snorted, then coughed. "You bet I want out of here. I hate hospitals."
"But it's not a good idea for you to be on your own yet."
Mac could feel the anger boiling out of Jack's gaze. "Just because I look like a kid doesn't mean I can't take care of myself." A few more hard coughs did nothing to lessen the anger, though it did seem to contradict his statement.
Mac calmly pointed out, "This has nothing to do with your age, Jack. Janet's worried that your immune system might not be all it needs to be."
Silence reigned for a moment, then Jack coughed again. Mac reached over to pour a cup of water, replaced the lid with the straw, and handed it to the 'kid'. Jack sipped, then sighed. "God, I hate this."
Mac nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. But I do have an idea."
Lifting an eyebrow, Jack waited.
"How about you stay with me and the family in L.A. for a little while? At least until you're over this crud."
"You want me to stay with you?"
"I'm not a kid."
"I know that."
"I'm just a duplicate of the Jack you know."
"I know that, too."
Tiredly, Jack closed eyes briefly, then opened them again. "Then why?"
"Because no matter how you got here, you're family. I don't have a lot of family, and so I tend to get a little protective of the few I do have. I don't like the idea of you getting sick again without anyone to drive you to the hospital if you need it. Even if you don't want to admit it, you need help right now. So let me help."
From the vulnerable look in his eyes, Mac could tell the offer meant a lot. "What about Sam and Ian? And doesn't Cory live with you, too?"
Mac shrugged. "There's a spare room at the firehouse, so you won't be putting anyone out. Ian will enjoy having someone else to play with. Besides, he's very good about sharing germs, so he may help you build up your immunity. Sam and Cory have clearance, and you will have the chance to talk with someone over the age of 18 for a change." A teasing light entered Mac's eyes. "In fact, I bet Cory'll help you with your homework."
"Ah hell, did you have to bring up homework?"
"It was your idea to go back to school."
Jack coughed again. The 'kid' looked even more tired than before. Mac reached over to gently squeeze his toes. "Why don't you get some rest and think about it?"
"You'll be back?"
"Tomorrow around lunch."
So Janet was worried about his immune system. Did it have something to do with being a clone? It would explain all her trips to Denver to check on him. The lady was busy between her duties at the SGC and raising Cassie. He had wondered why she was taking so much time out of her life to make the drive from the Springs.
A life that no longer included him.
He hadn't realized how much it would hurt to see her again. Most of the time, he simply didn't allow himself to think about the life he had lost, or more accurately, the life he remembered but never had. Denial and compartmentalization had always been his key coping mechanisms. This was no different. He focused on what he had to do and moved on.
It had been challenging, looking like a kid and having to make a new life. He still had six months to wait before he could get a driver's license; he'd been forced to bike everywhere and in all types of weather. School had changed, too, though the social cliques were still going strong. He had some acquaintances, especially on the hockey team, but no close friends. Yet staying on the edges didn't hurt like it might have when he really was a teen; he knew that such petty divisions were meaningless once he got to the Academy. In less than four years, he'd be in the Air Force, flying again and working his way back to the Stargate. So when he grew tired of the mindless chattering of teenagers, he told himself it was an undercover assignment. Then he told himself it could be worse. He could be listening to Daniel's lectures on rocks and the meaning of life stuff.
The problem was that he'd almost kill to hear Danny talk about rocks again.
Damn Loki. Why couldn't he have kept his lousy cloning techniques to himself? And now Janet's worried the Asgard did something wrong? It would have been nice if she had told him. Of course, he'd been pretty sick. He'd never had the flu hit him so hard. At first, he figured he just needed sleep, cold medicine, and chicken soup. It wasn't until he couldn't even stand up in the grocery store that he got a tiny bit scared.
Then MacGyver had been there. He definitely hadn't expected that. In fact, he never expected to see Gus again. Then he figured Gus would be like everyone else and ignore the clone. He wasn't the real O'Neill, after all. They had a Jack; they didn't need another one.
He should have known that MacGyver would go against the flow. Gus didn't treat him like a clone or a teenager. Gus treated him with more respect than Jack had received since waking up and finding out that none of his clothes fit.
Did he want to stay with Gus in L.A.? He hadn't lived with anyone since Sara... and Charlie. Ian would be a constant reminder of Charlie, yet it would be nice to receive another of the little guy's hugs. How would it feel to see Sam again? Would it hurt too much? Or would he find a place where he might fit in?
Sometimes you had to take a big risk to gain something. He might as well give L.A. a shot. If it backfired, he still had his apartment in Denver.
December 17, Jefferson County airfield, CO
Resting his head against the door, Jack dozed in Fraiser's car. In spite of his jacket and the blanket MacGyver had wrapped around him, he still felt cold. Maybe it was the drugs that the docs kept forcing on him. He certainly felt dopey. Hopefully, he could convince Gus he didn't need to take all those pills and sprays and what-have-yous.
He opened his eyes when Janet stopped the car. A sleek Lear jet sat on the runway, a hefty man in a bomber jacket walking towards them. "That our ride?" he asked.
"Yep. That's my friend, Jack Dalton. He'll fly us out." Mac stepped out of the car.
"Hey, Mac!" Dalton called out. "You and your guest ready to go?"
"Yeah, just help me with the bags."
As Mac and Dalton pulled out the suitcases and duffel bag, Dr. Fraiser turned around in her seat. "You ready for this?"
Mini-Jack gave her a sleepy smile. "I'm too dopey to object right now. Maybe once we get to California."
Janet chuckled, then turned serious. "Just remember that you've been really sick, Jack. Take it easy, and if you have any problems, give me a call."
"Thanks," Jack replied. He briefly wondered if she was happy the troublesome clone was out of her hair. But that wasn't fair to Janet.
"I've placed your medical charts, minus the unusual stuff, in your bag for that doctor Mac mentioned. Oh, and the Colonel wanted me to give you this."
Frowning, Jack opened the small box. Inside was a fishing lure and a note.
Thought ole Bess would like to entice the fish in California for a change. Say hi to Sam for me.
Jack was touched. Ole Bess was his, and the original Jack's, favorite bait. He closed the box and looked at Janet. "Tell him thanks."
"Ready, Jack?" Mac called out.
"Keep your shirt on," Jack returned as he stepped out of the car. For a moment, he felt like he was being watched. The clone glanced around, but didn't see anyone. The drugs must be making him paranoid.
Jack Dalton glanced at Mini-Jack, did a double take, then glanced at Mac. Mac shook his head, then rested a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Let's get you out of this chilly air."
"I'm not an invalid," Jack snapped.
Not the least bit intimidated, Mac continued to lead him to the plane. "Maybe not right now, but you were last week, so let's try to keep the streak going, okay?"
It did feel good to be in a plane again, even if he wasn't doing the flying. Sitting down, he asked, "Phoenix jet?"
Mac nodded. "I told Nicki you were from the Stargate program and needed a new location for a while. She knows not to ask too many questions." Glancing around, Mac asked, "Do you need anything? There's a bar with soft drinks in the corner for when we're airborne."
"No beer?" Jack asked, then smirked at MacGyver's glare. "I'm cool, Gus. Thanks. For everything."
"Gus?" Dalton asked as he passed by. He chuckled. "You mean someone dares to use a variation of the dreaded name, Mac?"
"Just fly the plane, Jack," Mac retorted. He followed him to the cockpit and sat in the co-pilot's seat.
Once they were on their way, Mac glanced back through the door. Dalton asked, "How's he doing?"
"Asleep." Mac turned back.
Dalton then quipped, "So, Jack, eh?"
"He's named after his uncle," Mac replied, sticking to the cover story he and O'Neill had put together.
"Uncle?" Jack asked with a big smile as he raised an eyebrow.
"Not you," Mac replied, exasperated.
"He looks a lot like you did back when we were in high school."
"I know. His uncle's a distant cousin who looks a lot like me."
Jack glanced at his old friend. "I didn't think you had any family besides your boys."
"Neither did I, until Blair ran into O'Neill a while back. Blair thought he was me at first glance. We've talked, and we think there's a connection back to Harry's grandpa."
Jack whistled. "Now that's distant. And 'Gus'?"
"It's what O'Neill calls me."
"I'm going to have to meet this O'Neill. So why do you have his nephew?"
"The kid's been living on his own for the past few months."
"On his own? The kid's what, thirteen, fourteen?"
"But what about his folks?"
"Mom's dead. His father's on a covert assignment and can't be reached. And while Jack's pretty mature for his age, we're worried he might get sick again. He caught that flu going around and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. O'Neill's too busy to keep an eye on him, so I invited him to stay at the firehouse."
Dalton nodded. "Sounds like you, Mac. You've always been a sucker for a sob story."
"Kid's had it rough," Mac replied defensively. "He lost just about all his possessions a few months ago, and had to start from scratch in a new location. Plus his eating habits are worse than Sam's. I'm hoping that with a little good food and some people who care about how he's doing, his health will improve."
"It should, as long as you don't serve your tofu casserole."
"What's wrong with my tofu casserole?"
Los Angeles County, CA
Sam sat on the hood of his Subaru as he watched the traffic in and out of the airfield. To say that his curiosity was piqued would be an understatement. His father had said that he was bringing a 'guest' and requested that the spare room be ready. When Sam had pressed him for more details, MacGyver would only say that it was too complicated to discuss over the phone. Cory suspected that it was probably classified. Add in that his father was a few days overdue and had apparently told Nicki that it was related to the Stargate program, Sam's journalistic instincts were going wild with speculation.
He had always regretted that they couldn't have worked more with Jack O'Neill and the SGC. But Cory's sensitive head along with his heightened senses made gate travel painful for his sentinel. Sam couldn't justify exploring new worlds at the expense of his friend unless the circumstances overwhelmingly demanded it. Still, he had thoroughly enjoyed reading the classified reports before their one near disaster through the gate. It made him wonder if his father was bringing home an alien, and if he'd be allowed to ask about the alien's planet.
The Phoenix jet finally appeared, making a smooth landing. Sam hopped off his car and walked over to the hanger. Jack Dalton gave him a vigorous wave, making Sam smile. He liked Jack Dalton, though he knew the friendship made his father nervous. He jogged over to help Jack with the suitcase he knew was his father's, and another suitcase and duffel.
"Thanks," Dalton greeted him, handing off the two suitcases.
Sam was rolling his eyes at getting the heaviest load when he spotted his father with a teenager. Sam's first thought was that the kid seemed familiar. His second thought was that the kid looked like he'd been sick. The eyes in the pale face were framed with dark circles. Sam's internal speculation kicked up another notch. Outwardly, he gave the kid a warm smile. "Hi."
"Hi, Sam," the kid replied with a weary smile.
Sam blinked. Before he could ask how the kid knew his name, his father quickly interjected, "Sam, this is Jack Nielsen. He's going to be staying with us for a while."
So the kid who knew his name was the mystery guest. "Welcome to L.A., Jack. Let's get you home." He lugged the suitcases to his car and placed them in the back. Then he turned back to his father, who had followed with the duffel bag. Jack Nielsen was trailing behind them. Mac gave Sam a big hug. "Missed you."
"Me, too." Sam stepped back. "It's good to have you home." They both waved at Dalton, who was preparing the jet for a trip to Vancouver.
"Where's Cory and Ian?"
Sam turned to unlock the car doors. "Cory's finishing up, and Ian's at the Coltons' for the afternoon. Mama Colton said she'd drop him off later." He opened the door to the back passenger's seat. "You guys hungry?"
"Kinda," the kid replied as he climbed in. "Mostly still sleepy."
Mac frowned as he studied him. "We can pull together something when we get home." As the kid shut the door, Sam lifted an eyebrow at his father. Mac quietly replied, "He got hit hard with the flu and pneumonia. He just got out of the hospital."
"Gotcha." That did explain some, but not the whole deal. Sam climbed into the car and started up the engine. Knowing that his father wasn't going to satisfy his curiosity until they got back, Sam caught him up on what had happened on the homefront during his trip. As they talked, Sam glanced through the rearview mirror at their guest. The kid was leaning against the door with his eyes closed.
Soon they were at the firehouse. The guest took one look, and turned to Mac. "You mean, it really IS a firehouse?"
"It was," Mac returned. "I'm remodeling it."
"You're remodeling a firehouse? Next you'll be telling me it still has the pole."
Mac shrugged, slightly embarrassed. "It does."
"Unbelievable," the kid declared.
Sam took in the conversation with a slight frown. The tone felt wrong. Sam mentally scurried around for an explanation as he carried the bags, but came up empty.
As his father took the guest back to get settled, Sam pulled out the ice tea pitcher still trying to sort out what seemed off. The kid wasn't treating his father like teens normally treated adults. It was more of a conversation between long time friends then an adult and a kid who had recently met. But that didn't make sense.
The door to the garage opened. Cory waved at the pitcher as he entered. "Can I have some of that?"
"Sure." Sam was still thinking hard.
Cory tilted his head, studying his partner. "You picked up your dad and the mystery guest, right?"
Before Sam could explain his thoughts, Mac and Jack entered from the bedrooms. Cory took a breath, then suddenly smiled. Turning, he started, "Hi Col--" Then he stopped, staring at the teen next to MacGyver.
"Cory, this is Jack--"
"O'Neill?" Cory finished, grabbing Sam's attention. The sentinel turned to his guide. "Someone shrunk O'Neill?"
"O'Neill?" Sam returned, astonished. "You sure?"
"Guys..." Mac tried to interrupt.
"He smells like O'Neill."
Sam glanced between his partner and the teen, wide-eyed. "A relative?"
"He smells exactly like the Colonel, and I mean exactly. Someone shrunk O'Neill!"
They all turned to the kid, who shuffled his feet. "I'm not the original O'Neill," he quietly explained. "I'm the reduced Xerox copy."
Both Sam and Cory blinked. "You're the what?" Sam exclaimed.
Eyes blank as if in preparation for a bad reaction, the kid expanded, "Reduced Xerox copy. I'm a clone."
Cory frowned. "We can do that?"
"Not us," Mac assured him. "Some alien."
"Loki," Jack nearly spat out the name. "A renegade Asgard."
"Oh, Thor's race." Sam nodded.
"Thor, God of Thunder?" Mac asked.
"The little skinny green guys who look like they came straight from Roswell?" Cory asked thoughtfully, trying to remember.
"The God of Thunder is green?" Mac gasped.
"Gray," Sam and Jack corrected together. Jack continued, "Short, gray guys who like to make my life complicated."
Sam turned back to Jack. "Why did the Asgard want to copy you? I mean, the Colonel?"
Jack sighed, then coughed. "Loki wanted to study him, so he made me to take his place. Only the rest of the Asgard did something, so I turned out as a kid with O'Neill's memories instead of full grown."
Sam's eyes grew even wider. "You've got Jack's memories, too?"
Cory's eyebrows pulled together as he thought. "Aren't the Asgard the good guys? The ones with the treaty and all?"
"Treaty?" Mac asked.
"Protected Planets Treaty," Sam explained. "That's what keeps the Goa'uld from invading Earth any time they want. They're afraid the Asgard can kick their collective butts if they give them enough cause. But the Asgard said they'd leave them alone as long as they don't touch certain planets, and O'Neill helped them place Earth on the list."
"So why did they want to duplicate Jack?" Cory waved at the kid in front of him.
"Because Jack is the next evolutionary step in the human race," Mac answered trying to keep a straight face.
"He is? We're doomed," Sam announced.
"Hey!" Jack protested.
"So the end result is that we have two Jack O'Neills," Cory summed up.
"Yeah," Jack replied. He sounded exhausted and still on edge.
"Which isn't all that much weirder than sentinels and guides." Sam pulled out a chair. "Here, sit down."
"You'd like a drink, DJ?" Cory asked, also noticing the kid looked ill.
"DJ?" Mac asked.
As Cory turned, he caught Sam's eyes and tapped his chest, looking worried. Sam mouthed, 'pneumonia', and Cory nodded. The two silently exchanged a look, then continued to make their guest comfortable.
A clone. An honest-to-god human clone. The very thing that governments, scientists and theologians had hotly debated, secure in the knowledge that such a feat was at least a decade out into the future. And here was their greatest hope and fear, sitting in the kitchen with a bowl of soup and discussing The Simpsons with Sam.
Cory was still trying to work his mind around the latest twist for his friend's family. Jim wasn't kidding when he told him two years ago that trouble followed the MacGyver clan, though he doubted Jim could have foreseen this.
In the midst of his turmoil, two things stood out. The kid was very human and still sick. Those two facts kicked at Cory's protective nature. He could hear DJ's weakened lungs working hard. The exhaustion in the young face declared how much it was taking out of him. The sentinel could understand why soft-hearted MacGyver brought him home. No matter how the kid came into being or whose memories he held, he needed help to recover.
He also needed security. Cory could easily imagine the uproar the clone's very existence would cause. There would be those who would consider him an abomination who should be killed immediately. Then there would be those who'd want to tear him apart to figure out how the Asgard had done it. Considering Cory had his own nightmares of being a lab rat, he could sympathize. Then there would be the elderly and the sick lining up, wanting their own clone to transfer their memories into and thus stay alive. DJ wouldn't stand a chance and he knew it. His very survival depended on his true origins remaining secret.
O'Neill hadn't asked to be duplicated. DJ hadn't asked to be made or be given O'Neill's memories. Yet Cory firmly believed that life was precious. DJ was here and very much alive. It was up to the sentinel and his guide's family to make sure he stayed that way.
Jack looked up from the table to spy Ian race to MacGyver. The curly blond cherub was picked up and hugged tightly. Mac had a huge smile on his face. Jack was going to miss not being Ian's other grandpa.
"And who is this young fella?"
He must be tired to have missed the lady behind Ian. The large African American woman, her hair full of white and gray streaks, was studying him intently.
"This is DJ, Mama Colton," Sam spoke up. He gave Jack a reassuring smile. "He's a nephew of Dad's cousin."
'Mama' Colton only lifted an eyebrow at that. "You look tired, child. You feeling okay?"
"I'm fine," Jack softly replied.
Now Mac was looking him over. "It's been a long day, considering you just got of the hospital this morning. Why don't you take a nap?"
Before he could declare that he wasn't an invalid, Mrs. Colton scolded, "You've kept that boy up this long? Go on, child, scoot off to bed."
Jack raised an eyebrow at the word 'scoot', but knew when not to argue. This woman could give his old drill sergeant lessons. He stood up.
"Ian." Mac walked over with his grandson still in his arms. "This is your cousin DJ."
"Hi, DJ," Ian greeted him, brown eyes huge.
"Hi, Ian," Jack returned with a smile. Seeing another glare from Mrs. Colton, he added, "Maybe we can play later."
"Play?" Ian repeated hopefully.
"Scoot!" Mama Colton ordered.
"Scooting," Jack replied as he walked towards the hallway. He could hear Mac launch into his defense as to why 'DJ' wasn't in bed if he was only just out of the hospital. Jack smirked. There were some benefits to not being an adult.
As he sat on his bed and kicked off his shoes, he considered his new nickname. He had been in military establishments most of his life, so the habit of giving people nicknames wasn't new. As an Army brat, Cory had a knack for it. There were usually two reasons why a person got a nickname -- either they were universally hated, or it was a sign you belonged to the group. The hated people rarely had their nickname spoken to their face. So that meant he fell into the other category. It was a sign Cory was welcoming him into the group. That Sam used it as well also indicated that he had been accepted.
He was a clone, a copy of someone. He hadn't been accepted by anyone who knew the original Jack. Yet first Mac, then Sam and Cory had welcomed him with a speed that made him dizzy. Jack didn't understand it. As his head hit the pillow, he wondered how long this lucky streak would last. He hadn't reached any conclusions before he fell asleep.
December 19 , 9:30 am, MacGyver's firehouse
Jack tapped his pencil against his geometry book as he read the word problem. The firehouse was quiet with everyone off to work or daycare. He had decided to wade through his backlog of homework before taking a turn at Cory's playstation.
So far, life at the firehouse wasn't too bad. Jack was finding that he still enjoyed talking with Mac, Sam and Cory. They didn't talk down to him, which was a nice change from all the other adults he'd had to deal with since going back to high school. They had also allowed him to set his own schedule. Mostly, Jack had slept. It was frustrating, but his body simply didn't have its normal energy. He would be so glad when he was over this crud. At least he seemed to be doing better today.
After writing down the equation he had gleaned from the problem, Jack quickly calculated the answer and wrote it down in the format Mr. Randell insisted was proper. Carter would be so proud of him, after she died of shock that he could do it. Sure, it wasn't naquada generators, but it was math. Jack was still in shock that he kinda enjoyed it. Not that he would ever admit it, not even under pain of torture.
Jack shook the unpleasant memories that were not really his out of his head and turned his attention to the homework. After three more problems, a knock on the front door broke his concentration.
Frowning, he stood up and walked over to peer through the peephole. Mrs. Colton loomed large on the step. Jack was puzzled, but touched the keypad with his thumb and punched in the code. Once the alarm was disarmed, he opened the door.
"Hi, DJ!" Ian exclaimed as he walked by his startled cousin.
"Ian?" Jack stepped back to allow Mrs. Colton through. "What's up?"
"Apparently, the flu has struck the daycare center, so they're sending all the kids home. MacGyver asked if I could pick up Ian for him." It was all Jack could do to keep from squirming under the woman's intense gaze. Then she smiled warmly at him. "You're looking better, young man."
"Thank you, ma'am." He glanced over his shoulder to see Ian dragging out his dump truck.
"Are you up to babysitting? MacGyver said you wouldn't mind."
Jack smiled, understanding the level of trust implied by the request. "No, I don't mind, ma'am. Ian and I are buds, aren't we, Ian?"
"Yep," Ian interrupted his engine noises to reply.
"You can just call me Mama, like my boys and all their friends do, child." She studied him a moment more. "I've got a pot of my chicken soup working at home, so I'll just bring some of that over for lunch. That should be good for what ails ya."
"Thank you, ma'am. I mean, Mama. I don't want Ian to get what I had."
"Sam said that Ian had a flu shot, so that should help. His asthma places him in high risk, you know."
Jack nodded. He could easily imagine Sam taking all precautions possible to protect his son. He would do the same in his place.
"Well, I better get back home. Got some invoices to ship out, but I should be in all day. MacGyver has our card on the fridge, so if you have any problems, give me a hollar."
"Will do. Thank you, ma'am. I mean, Mama."
Jack closed the door behind her and turned back to Ian. "No daycare, huh?"
Ian looked up. "Starry and Sage didn't come, so I got to play with the fire truck. Miguel didn't want to play. Miss Lam didn't come, either."
The four-year-old looked healthy enough, but Jack didn't want to take any chances. What was good for colds? Oh yeah, vitamin C. Surely it should work for the flu, too "You want some orange juice?"
"I'll take that as a yes." Jack walked to the kitchen. Stopping in front of the refrigerator, Jack spied the business cards held to the freezer door with magnets. After a moment, he spotted the one declaring, 'The Colton Brothers: You lose them, We find them.' Jack could feel his mouth drop open. That woman ran an office for bounty hunters? And MacGyver called her to pick up Ian? Maybe clones weren't all that strange in this household.
Five hours later
A sudden shift of his environment jolted Jack out of a light doze. Lifting up on his elbows, he discovered Ian bouncing on his bed, his teddy bear Tubby held by a paw.
Seeing his new cousin's eyes open, Ian squealed. "You wake!"
"I am now," Jack groaned. He'd forgotten how much energy a four-year-old had. After they had eaten the chicken soup Mama Colton had dropped off, he had hoped to get some peace while Ian napped. Unfortunately, the nap did not last nearly long enough for the still recovering Jack.
"I wanna play!" Ian declared.
Rubbing a hand up and down his face, Jack pondered his options. "Didn't your dad take you to a park yesterday?"
Ian nodded. "I like the swings."
"Do you think you could find the park if I went with you?"
Ian nodded excitedly. "Yep."
"Let me get my shoes on."
The small park was three blocks away from the firehouse. Large trees shaded the grassy landscape. Ian broke away from Jack to run towards the playground in the corner. Jack followed his charge, noting the sturdy construction of the swings, bars, and slide. It was a nice place for kids. A couple of young mothers sat on the nearby bench, watching their young children in the sandbox.
Ian was running around through the loose sand surrounding the equipment. "I wanna swing high, DJ!"
"So you shall, young man, so you shall," Jack returned gaily. Soon he was pushing the small back, watching Ian kick his feet into the air. Reflectively, he wondered what the System Lords would think if they could see him now. Probably be the first time the snakeheads collectively laughed their butts off. On the other hand, he was actually kinda enjoying himself. He could see why Mac lit up every time his grandson was mentioned. The little guy reminded him how wonderful the simple joys of life could be.
Later, while Ian climbed up the steps to the slide, he noted a large white van drive by slowly. As he watched Ian climb the lower rungs of the monkey bars, he spotted it again. Jack frowned. It could be a delivery van, but there was no insignia on the side. It could be just someone looking for a new address. Yet the old covert ops training made Jack memorize the license plate.
Glancing at his watch, Jack called out, "Come on, Ian. Your Dad and Grandpa should be home soon."
"Okay." Ian obediently joined Jack and took his hand. Apparently, the arrival of Sam and Mac were part of Ian's happy routine.
Swinging the small arm, Jack listened to his excited chatter while studying the neighborhood. He and Ian were walking down a quiet side street when the white van skidded to a stop next to them. The side door slid back to reveal two men with black nylon pulled over their heads.
Jack's old training kicked in. "Run, Ian!" he ordered, shoving Ian in the direction of the firehouse. As the boy race down the sidewalk, Jack turned to face the men. As one bogey reached for his arm, Jack spun and kicked him in the gut. Ducking another grab by bogey number two, he sent two sharp jabs into the man's side. Knowing he had achieved a few precious delaying seconds, Jack ran after Ian.
At the end of the block, a red Jeep Cherokee had stopped. Dark arms were pulling Ian into the vehicle. Jack fought back the coughs bubbling up from his chest as he forced a burst of speed. He couldn't let them get away with Ian. As Jack approached, a black teenage boy inside the jeep held out a hand. "Hurry, they're getting back into the van."
Before Jack could figure out what was going on, the kid and his own momentum propelled him into the back seat. Coughing, he found himself being jumped on by Ian as the jeep roared away from the curb. "That was fun, DJ!" Ian told him excitedly.
Jack stared at him, shocked. Yep, the kid was thrilled. Looked like the family had another adrenaline junkie on their hands.
"Do you know who those guys are?" a deep, slightly accented voice asked from the driver's seat.
Warily, Jack shook his head as he continued to cough. A teenage girl, dark hair a mass of braids and colorful beads, turned from the front seat and asked worriedly, "Are you okay? Grandma Colton said you'd been sick."
Relief relaxed Jack's muscles. They were connected to Mama Colton, who led a family bounty hunting business. He and Ian were relatively safe. "I'm -- okay." Then Jack coughed some more, glancing out the window. The van was still following. The Jeep picked up speed.
"Man, those were some sweet moves you pulled on them!" the teenager next to him declared with admiration. He handed Jack a water bottle.
"Still a good thing we spotted you." Jack pegged the driver's accent as Asian. Yet the two teenagers sounded American. The driver suddenly ordered, "Everybody, hold on!"
Jack grabbed Ian and the seat as the jeep made a series of sharp turns through a business district. He had to hand it to the driver. The young man was obviously both skilled and knowledgeable of the area. When he finally merged onto a highway, the white van was no-where in sight.
The girl breathed a sigh of relief. "I think we lost them, Willy."
"That was fun, Unca Willy!" Ian declared with a deep chuckle. "Can we do again?"
Jack could only shake his head. A swig from the water bottle only seemed to aggravate his raw throat.
The girl was studying him. "You don't look too good."
"Yeah," the boy next to him agreed. "Maybe we should take him to the hospital."
"I'll be--" Jack attempted before another coughing fit hit him.
"DJ needs howler," Ian stated seriously.
The driver glanced at him through the rearview mirror. "We're not far from Community General. LaShawna, call Grandma Colton and let her know where we're going. She can call MacGyver and Sam."
As the girl pulled out a cell phone, the teen next to him clicked a seatbelt around Ian. Then he smiled. "I'm Levon Smith Colton. LaShawna is my twin sister up front, and Willy's our cousin. I'm guessing you're DJ."
Jack nodded as he took a cautious breath. "Smith Colton?" he rasped.
Levon nodded. "When our mom married Frank, he adopted us, but said we should honor our Daddy by keeping his name. So LaShawna and I came up with Smith Colton."
Jack had no idea who Frank was, but decided he could figure that out later. "How'd you find us?"
"Willy was driving us home from school, and I spotted Ian running down the block. When we saw you kicking that one guy, we knew you were in trouble."
The Jeep smoothly pulled into a parking space near a building with a sign declaring 'Community General Hospital'. Willy shut off the car, and turned to the back seat. "Let's get you checked out."
The telephone ring cut off as the answering machine clicked on with a loud 'Beep'.
"Mac? Sam? Cory? Ian? Well, guess none of you are home yet. Anyway, this is Blair. A case we're on is about to crack, so I'm not going to make the flight tomorrow morning. I'll try to arrange something for next week... I'll call back when I've got the details. But I'm really looking forward to seeing everybody. See you in a few days."
As MacGyver and Sam entered the waiting room, Ian jumped up from his chair. Racing away from the Smith Colton twins, he grabbed his father's legs. "Daddy!"
"Hey, Buddy." Sam picked him up and gave him a tight hug. Mac understood his son's feeling of relief. "What's going on?"
"Unca Willy drove the car fast!" Ian declared as he leaned back, legs tight around his dad's waist. "It was fun!"
Sam shifted his gaze to LaShawna and Levon. Levon explained, "Some men in a white van tried to grab Ian and DJ. We picked them up, and Willy lost the van down near the business district."
Ian nodded excitedly. "DJ told me to run, and I did. Willy, Levon and LaShawna picked us up."
"Was DJ hurt?" Mac asked worried.
"He was coughing and having a hard time breathing," LaShawna reported. "I think he wasn't ready to run like that yet."
"Or fight like that," Levon added. Mac could hear the admiration in the teen's voice. "Man, I'm going to have to have him teach me his moves, once he's feeling better."
Mac hid a smirk. He was sure Jack could teach Levon a lot about fighting, if he wanted to. "Where is he now?"
The twins both pointed towards a curtain at the end of the hall. Mac squeezed Sam's shoulder as he walked by, signaling that he would check on DJ. He knew Sam needed to hold Ian a bit longer.
As Mac approached, Dr. Jesse Travis stepped out. The slight blond man gave him a reassuring smile. "You here for DJ?" Mac nodded. Jesse pointed towards a nearby corner. "Let's talk."
Once they reached the corner, Mac handed over DJ's charts. "His records."
Jesse quickly scanned the paperwork. "Fits in with my exam." He glanced at MacGyver. "How are you connected?"
"Jack's the nephew of my cousin," Mac continued the cover, "and needed a place to stay after being so sick."
Jesse nodded as he continued to peruse the records. "And DJ?"
"Nickname Cory tagged him with."
Jesse nodded, looking up. "Well, his run didn't help him, but he's breathing easier now. Doesn't seem to like doctors or hospitals, though."
"I hope he wasn't too difficult."
"Nah, I've dealt with worse, though I've never had a teenager ask me how old I was before. And I can't blame the kid for being grumpy. I'm sure he's feeling pretty miserable."
"When can I take him home?"
"I'd like to check on him in about 15 minutes, see how he's handling the meds. But if everything checks out, he can leave then."
Mac nodded as Jesse hurried off, still studying DJ's charts. He paused by the curtain. DJ was stretched out on the examining table, eyes closed. Willy was sitting next to him. "...MacGyver arranged for my passport out of Viet Nam along with the sick children, so I could go with my father and join his family. I'd do anything for him and Sam. I know my father and his family have been good friends with MacGyver for a long time." Looking up, Willy smiled. "Hello, MacGyver."
"Hi, Willy." Mac shook the extended hand. "Thanks for saving DJ and Ian."
Willy shrugged. "We always look out for your family. It was Levon who spotted Ian running by himself and this guy being attacked."
Mac studied DJ as Willy spoke. He looked pale. "You doing okay?"
DJ opened an eye. "I'm fine," he rasped.
Mac rolled his eyes. "Sure you are."
A tall, husky man stepped into the area. "MacGyver?"
"Hi, Steve." He indicated the man with his hand. "Lieutenant Steve Sloan with the LA PD. Steve, this is Willy Colton and my cousin, Jack Nielson."
Steve gave each a nod. "I heard Ian's name connected to a kidnapping attempt, so I decided to investigate personally. Is this the other kid Sam mentioned?"
Mac nodded, letting DJ and Willy launch into a report of what happened, with Willy doing most of the talking. It was obvious to Mac that DJ was barely awake.
As Willy finished up, he added, "My cousin, LaShawna, managed to get a partial plate."
"JKY," Steve confirmed.
"964JKY," DJ rasped.
Everyone looked at him. "You got the plate?" Steve asked, surprised.
"I saw it driving around the park a couple of times." DJ closed his eyes a moment. "It acted kinda suspicious, so I memorized the plate." He caught Mac's eyes. "I didn't know Ian and I were the targets."
Mac squeezed his slim shoulder. "No way you could know."
"You did everything right," Steve assured him. "And the license plate is terrific. I'll call it in."
Willy followed the detective out. Mac turned to DJ. "Any ideas?"
DJ shrugged. "They seemed more interested in me than Ian. But since I'd ordered Ian to run, it might be that I was just the closest."
Mac sat in the chair. "None of this makes sense."
"Could be the cat's out of the bag." The bleakness in DJ's eyes tugged at Mac's heart. Was that the fear DJ lived with, that his status as a clone may become known?
"Or it could be someone mad at me. Or Sam. Or even Blair. I've lived with the fact that Sam and Blair are targets because of me for years. You're now under my roof, and look enough like me, to place you in the same category."
"Ian's just a baby."
"Yeah, but Sam and I agreed that we won't have Ian shut away just because there might be a problem. We want him to have a normal life. Besides, this might be something totally different. Did you see anything suspicious besides the van?"
"No, but I don't know the neighborhood." DJ coughed again.
Mac squeezed his shoulder. "Okay, we'll have Jesse check you over again, then we'll get you home and in bed."
"Travis? Is he really old enough to be a doctor?"
Mac laughed. "Yes, Jesse is older than he looks and a doctor. He's been great working out Cory's little problems."
DJ nodded, obviously catching the reference to Cory's senses. "We need a game plan."
"And we'll work one out. But now you need to rest."
December 20, 1:00 a.m., Cascade, WA
Blair Sandburg ran hard, chasing a burglar down a dark alley. The black-clad man climbed up and over the brick wall at the end. Blair scaled the wall after him, quickly regaining his momentum as he landed gracefully on the other side. Another burst of speed allowed Blair to tackle the suspect. The pair tumbled across the pavement and over a curb. The man struggled face down beneath him, nearly bucking off the gasping detective. Blair swore under his breath. Then none too gently, he yanked the man's arm behind his back.
"What part of 'Freeze, Police', don't you understand?" he wheezed as he slapped on the handcuffs.
"You're the one who said we can't just shoot 'em," Jim Ellison huffed as he walked up, his own suspect already cuffed and looking at him anxiously.
"I may have to rethink that policy." Blair finished and hauled his prisoner to his feet. The man began to struggle, then froze when he spotted Jim's glare and gun.
"Now you freeze," Blair declared with disgust. Jim mirandized their quarry as they walked the pair back to where their backup was waiting. Once the suspects were safely stowed into the patrol car, Jim turned and studied his partner. "You okay?"
Blair was bent over his knees, hands on his thighs. "Oh, yeah."
Jim wordlessly pointed at the bloody tear in Blair's flannel shirt.
Blair turned his head to look. "Ah, man, I liked this shirt."
"At least those two are out of our hair, except for the paperwork." Jim led his partner back to his truck, where he pulled out the first aid kit. Jim glanced at his watch before taking Blair's arm. "Looks like you may be able to catch the early flight after all, Chief."
Blair smiled as he winced. "Cool. I need a break, man. We both do."
Jim helped Blair take off the ruined shirt so he could see the wound. "Doesn't look too deep. Mostly scrapes." As he picked up the disinfectant, Jim added, "You sure this is going to be a restful break? You know how vacations with your family tend to go bad." He squirted the liquid over the broken skin.
Blair hissed. "We'll be fine. Are you sure you won't get into any trouble?"
A slow smile stretched across Jim's face. "A week alone with my wife? There won't be any trouble I can't handle." He squeezed antibiotic cream over his partner's arm.
Blair smiled, too. "Yeah, well, Amanda's got my cell phone number, just in case."
Jim neatly taped a gauze pad in place. "Kinda late to call Mac."
Blair glanced at his own watch. "That's okay. I just left a message on the answering machine this afternoon, so I don't know if they got it. If there's no one there to pick me up, I'll just grab a cab to the firehouse." He climbed into the truck's passenger seat as Jim closed the kit and walked to the other side. Once his partner started the truck, Blair continued, "With luck, we'll have the paperwork done in time for me to finish packing and get to the airport."
Jim briefly took his eyes off the road to look at his partner. "You need a ride?"
Blair waved him off. "Get some extra cuddle time with Amanda. I'll be fine."
"You call me once you get there?"
"Yes, Mother Hen."
Blair ducked the swat Jim sent in his direction.
December 20, 8:30 am, MacGyver's Firehouse
Sam rubbed his face with his hands as he walked towards the kitchen. He paused in the doorway. Ian was chattering away as MacGyver was pouring cereal into a bowl. Another wave of relief washed over him. After yesterday's events, he was so thankful Ian was safe. He was really starting to get why his father freaked out whenever he or Blair were in danger. While his head knew that he could not be with Ian all the time, his heart knew that failing to protect his small son could destroy him. Yet dwelling on that potential loss would only make him paranoid and a poor father. Sam pushed it to the back of his mind where it belonged.
He walked into the kitchen. Ian turned to him, a big smile on his face. "Hi, Daddy!"
"Good morning, Buddy." He paused a moment for Ian's hug, then continued on his way to the coffee pot. "How you doing this morning?"
"I good," Ian declared, kicking his feet. "Grandpa says I get to stay home today!"
Mug full, Sam turned to smile indulgently at his son. "That's because it's Saturday, Buddy."
Mac nodded as he poured the blender's creamy green contents into a glass. "It's a good day to get things done."
Sam's eyes narrowed a moment. He knew that look. His father was going to double check the firehouse's security, to make sure DJ and Ian would remain safe here. Sam couldn't blame him. Until they knew who tried to abduct the kids and why, a little paranoia might be a good thing.
"Good morning," Cory greeted as he entered the kitchen. He ruffled Ian's hair. "Everybody up but DJ?"
"Figured he needs the extra sleep," Mac replied.
Sam and Cory exchanged looks as Cory headed for the toaster. DJ had been too quiet. While Sam didn't know what was going on in the head of Double Jack, he could make a pretty good guess. The worst had happened to O'Neill. Sam realized a long time ago that the wounds of that loss ran deep within the older man. Thus it would effect DJ's actions, too. The kidnap attempt had to bother him, especially with Ian looking so much like Charlie. He would have to keep an eye on his older/younger cousin.
DJ chose that moment to walk into the kitchen. Yawning, he wandered over to the coffee pot as he waved at the other members of the household. MacGyver lowered his glass of health drink and lifted an eyebrow. "You know, that crud Sam's drinking really isn't good for you."
"And that glass of slime is?" DJ asked, sending a pointed stare at the green liquid as he poured himself of cup of coffee.
Sam smirked as he turned to the cupboard. He was all too familiar with this argument, though he was glad someone else was fighting it for a change.
"This has proteins and vitamins without a lot of fat or sugar."
"Fat and sugar are my two favorite food groups."
Sam barely held back a snicker. While he had to set a good example for Ian, that didn't mean he didn't privately agree with DJ.
"You need good nutrition for your growing body, Jack."
"I need energy and vitamins. Both of which are in here," DJ declared, waving the box of Cheerios in the air.
Before Mac could continue, an alarm shot through the air. Everyone jumped. "What in Hell is that?" DJ demanded.
"The security alarm, and no swearing in front of the munchkin," Sam shot back, grabbing a baseball bat from next to the counter.
"It's the front door," Cory announced to the room at large, drawing his Ka-Bar from his belt.
MacGyver pointed at DJ, then Ian. "You two stay here." DJ frowned, then glanced at the boy holding his hands over his ears. He didn't protest when the three tallest members of the household headed for the door.
Just inside, a curly haired man was cursing to himself and frantically trying to disengage the alarm. Sam lowered the bat and tapped his shoulder. "Blair?" he yelled over the alarm.
His brother turned to wave a hand at him. "Hey, Sam," he shouted back. "Did you change the code?"
"Yes," Mac replied, pushing past Blair. He pressed his thumb against the pad and punched a couple of buttons. The alarm was silenced. Cory quickly pulled out his cell and hit speed dial.
"I thought you couldn't make the flight?" Sam asked, giving his brother a hug.
"We caught the burglars last night," Blair answered before getting a hug from his dad. Then he waved at Cory's knife. "What's with all the hardware?"
As Cory closed his cell and put the knife away, Sam led them back to the kitchen. "There was an abduction attempt on Ian and DJ yesterday."
"What?" Blair exclaimed as he entered the kitchen.
"Unca Bear!" Ian shouted. He jumped off the chair to run to his favorite uncle.
"Hey, Buddy." Blair knelt down to give Ian a tight hug. "How's it going?"
"Good. I don't have to go to daycare today, cuz it's Satday." Ian told his uncle. "Can we play?"
"You bet we can."
Sam frowned as he noticed how slowly Blair stood up. His brother looked exhausted. Before Sam could say anything, Blair spotted DJ. "Hello?"
"Blair, this is Jack Nielsen," Mac introduced.
"We're calling him DJ," Cory added helpfully.
Blair studied the teen, then slowly turned to glare at his father. "Another one?"
Sam snorted. Cory and DJ simply looked confused. Mac glared back. "He's not mine."
Mac crossed his arms. "Jack's sort of responsible for this one."
"No, I'm not," Jack retorted, finally figuring out the conversation.
Before things could get out of hand, Sam interrupted, "Blair, are you okay?"
Blair shrugged a shoulder, then winced. "Just tired and sore. I think I stiffened up on the airplane."
"What happened?" Mac asked.
"No biggie, Dad." Blair replied as he helped Ian back into his chair. He smiled, trying to ease the worry in Mac's eyes. "Just a little banged up chasing bad guys."
"You chased a bad guy?" Ian bounced in his chair. "Did you get 'im?"
"I sure did." Seeing the frown was still on Mac's face, Blair assured him, "Honest, I'm okay. And I've learned that tackling bad guys on pavement's a bad idea."
Hiding his own concern, Sam draped an arm around his brother's shoulders. "Why don't we get you set up in my room, and then you can tell us about it." Then Sam leaned towards Blair's ear. "And I can update you on what's going on here."
Blair nodded as he looked down into Ian's eager eyes. "Sounds like a plan."
Five hours later
Blair sighed as the hot water hit his sore shoulders. While he felt more alive after a four hour nap in Sam's bed, his body was still stiff and aching from the tackle.
Grabbing his shampoo, Blair allowed his mind to wander as he thought about what Sam had told him. Once he got over the sheer jump in technology it would take to produce a clone and fill it with someone's memories, he could see the exciting possibilities. The scientist in him would love to ask DJ tons of questions. On the other hand, considering the clone was Jack O'Neill, he probably would be even less enthused to answer than Jim. The pseudo kid had enough to deal with and Blair had matured enough not to want to stress him further by asking questions. Besides, there was a good chance that Mini-Jack could punch as hard as the original.
Blair tried a moment to think of himself in a teenage body. The thought of starting over had some appeal. There were certainly a lot of mistakes he'd like to undo and things he would like to try that he missed as a teen. Yet starting over meant losing what he had worked so hard to gain. He had a job that he believed in and the respect of a group who gave it grudgingly. More important, he had the trust and respect of a partner who was as close as a brother to him. He had come a long way from the diss disaster, though it had nearly cost him everything.
From DJ's perspective, he had lost even more than Blair had. DJ didn't even get the respect accorded to the regular adult male, let alone an Air Force Colonel. Blair couldn't even begin to imagine how hard it must be. Yet from what Sam had said, he was doing the best he could to start a new life. Blair was willing to help him in any way he could. After all, in a weird way he was family.
If Blair had learned anything from Jim, it was to pick out the most important thing to concentrate on and worry about the rest later. Admittedly, they didn't always agree on what that was, but Blair suspected they would in this instance. The most important thing was the abduction attempt and prevention of another one.
The potential list of suspects and motives ranged from scary to terrifying. Every parent's nightmare was a kidnapping by a stranger with perverted motives. Yet if the target was Ian, it would have been easier to grab him while he was running around the park, not as he was walking with DJ. There was also the slight possibility that a teenager could be a target of a pervert. However, the fact that there were at least three people involved shouted to Blair that it was probably more complicated than just a simple stranger abduction.
Was it someone who had a grudge against the family and wanted to use Ian to get at them? Between Mac, Sam and himself, the enemy list was huge, but they could whittle it down. He knew Mac already had the Phoenix resources checking former foes, but perhaps Blair could help. Then again, Jim and Cory had also made enemies, and Ian would be a good pawn to hurt them as well. He would have to call Jim.
On the other hand, what if the target was DJ? While Blair knew the whole Stargate program was over and beyond classified, it still was government. He had grown up listening to government conspiracy theories at Naomi's knee. It wasn't a stretch to believe in conflicts between agencies and the need to obtain power through new technologies. He felt it was a tribute to Jack O'Neill and General Hammond that the SGC hadn't already been taken over by the more unsavory elements. So, could someone know that DJ was a clone and want to take him to study? It was possible. Could someone simply connect DJ to the Stargate program and want to check him out on principle? That was possible, too. If they did capture DJ, would they find anything other than a teenage male with a potentially shaky immune system? Blair didn't know. The only thing Blair could see that might give it away would be the identical DNA between the two Jacks, and that required the original Jack's for the comparison. Everything else could be explained by family lineage.
Heck, Blair would love to see the comparison between Jack's and his father's DNA. They looked so similar, it would be interesting to see how close their genes were. There was also some professional interest as well. Was there really a guide gene that was passed from MacGyver to his sons and possibly his grandson? While both Jim and Cory seemed to be able to sense a guide, neither could tell Blair why. If there was a guide gene, was it in Jack's DNA as well?
That evening, Ellisons' Townhouse, Cascade, WA
Amanda walked in carrying cartons of Chinese. Before she could call out, she spotted her husband in the den, frowning at the computer monitor. Worried, she set her load on the counter, then walked forward to squeeze Jim's shoulder. "Is everything okay?" she asked.
Jim leaned back into her arms, still frowning. "Blair called. There was a kidnapping attempt on Ian and a nephew of Jack O'Neill's yesterday."
"What?" Worried, Amanda shifted so she could see his face. "Is Ian all right?"
The corner of Jim's mouth lifted as he took her hands. "According to Blair, Ian thought it was great fun, with DJ telling him to run then going real fast in the car."
Amanda sighed. "Well, that's something. Do they know who did it?"
"No. Which means they're checking all possibilities, including an enemy of mine or Blair's."
"None so far."
Amanda studied him a moment. "When are we leaving?"
"When are we leaving for L.A.?"
Jim ran his thumbs over the backs of her hands. "We planned to stay here, just the two of us."
"With the new circumstances, you're going to be worrying about Ian and the rest of Blair's family. And so am I. So we might as well be close enough to help."
A huge smile stretched across Jim's face. "Have I mentioned how much I love you recently?"
Amanda smirked down. "No."
Jim stood and kissed her.
December 22, 1:30 pm, MacGyver's Firehouse
DJ rubbed his eyes with both hands as he wandered down the hall. His latest 'nap' had lasted nearly three hours. Being sick was getting so old. His growling stomach added that long naps were interfering with other important teenage activities, like eating.
As he approached the living area, he could hear engine and horn noises. He paused at the end of the hall. Blair was down on his knees with Ian, honking like a semi as he pushed the plastic truck along the carpet. Ian made idling noises as his dump truck waited for Blair's to pass. The tension and exhaustion that had hung over Blair when he first arrived had disappeared. Playing with his nephew was good for the young detective.
"DJ!" The small boy called out. "Come play!"
"We better let DJ eat first," Blair told Ian before smiling at their cousin. Jack suspected the kid had become adept at observing people without looking like he was studying them. He wasn't quite in Teal'c's league yet, but he was getting there. "There's some ravioli still left in the fridge."
A few minutes later, Jack had returned with a steaming bowl in his hands. He scooped up a large spoonful as he watched the two on the floor. "Where's everybody?"
"At work." Blair smiled as he watched Ian maneuver his truck to dump out the large Leggos it was carrying. "Sam's hoping to finish things up so he can spend the next few days at home."
Jack nodded thoughtfully as he chewed. "That'll be nice." Suddenly, he realized he meant that. He was getting comfortable here. Was that a good thing?
Suddenly, a loud, rolling sound echoed from above them, occasionally interrupted by a thunk. "Santa?" Ian asked hopefully.
Blair frowned as he stood up, concentrating on the noise. "Sorry, Buddy, it's not time for Santa."
Jack carefully sat the bowl on an end table as he, too, listened to the sound. "That sounds like a--"
Suddenly, Ian pointed at a vent. "What's that?"
"Smoke!" Blair and Jack shouted together as they spied the gray cloud pouring out. Blair glanced down at Ian, then back to Jack. "We've got to get Ian out of here." The smoke detector's penetrating alarm punctuated Blair's words.
The smoke could trigger Ian's asthma. With that realization, Jack held a hand out to his cousin. "Come on, Ian." As the trio approached the front door, it suddenly flew open, revealing two men in masks.
Ian screamed. Blair planted himself between the men and his family. "Deege! Get Ian out of here!"
Hesitating a moment, Jack scooped Ian up into his arms and ran for the fire escape at the other end of the floor. Coughing as the acrid smoke aggravated his already weakened lungs, he still made it in record time. He set the crying Ian back on his feet before pushing hard on the metal bar. The fire door moved with heavy slowness. "Go, Ian," he forced out with his coughs, waving the boy through the narrow opening.
As Ian scurried out and down the short set of steps, Jack followed, trying to figure out in his mind the closest safe place to run to. Either Sam's car or Cory's small pickup should be behind the building. Jack could hotwire it, then zoom to the front and see if Blair got away. Plan made, Jack stepped off onto the ground and into the muzzle of a gun.
Sam fidgeted in the passenger's seat of Cory's pickup. "Sorry."
Cory chuckled. "I got that the first twenty times. But you certainly weren't getting any work done by picking up the phone every other minute then hanging up, and I wasn't getting anything done watching you do it. Your mind is on Ian, I get that." Smirking, Cory couldn't help but add, "Even though he's with your brother, the top-notch police detective, and a kid full of covert ops knowledge."
Sam rolled his eyes at the dig. "A sick former covert ops who's now in the body of a teen and reported at least three masked men. Blair's good, but that may be more than he can handle by himself."
"Do you really believe that? Half the time you talk like your brother and Jim are supermen."
Sam sighed. "Jim's in Cascade. And I can't explain it. I just have a really bad feeling."
"Bad feelings are usually my area."
"Ian's my son."
This time Cory sighed. "Okay, I get it. You do realize you're becoming your dad, right?"
"No, I'm not."
Cory was about to respond when he suddenly tilted his head. Recognizing his partner's listening stance, Sam softly asked, "What?"
"The firehouse's smoke detector's going off."
Sam's brown eyes widened. "Dad's got it set so that the security alarm turns off--"
"--when the smoke detectors turn on," Cory finished. He stepped harder on the gas pedal.
The rental pulled up in front of the firehouse to the blaring of alarms. "What's going on?" Amanda questioned.
Jim's head was tilted, listening. "Blair's fighting somebody." Jim turned to his wife. "Call 911 and report a home invasion. And stay here with the doors locked until I give you the all clear." Jim jumped out of the car and raced to help his partner.
Inside, Jim coughed as gray smoke swirled around the living area. Blair was holding his own against two assailants. Jim grabbed one and punched him out. One-on-one, Blair ducked then shoved the second into the wall, dazing him. Together, the detectives pushed both men out the door. They followed them outside, Blair pausing to pick up a roll of duct tape his father had left on the entryway stand.
"Jim!" Blair exclaimed once he could breathe. He tore off a strip of tape. "What are you doing here?"
"Too many MacGyvers in one spot," Jim replied as he caught the tape. "Amanda and I decided we wanted to be close enough to help with the inevitable fallout."
Finished securing his guy, Blair waved at Amanda in the car. "I should probably be mad about that, but right now we've got to catch up with DJ and Ian. I sent them out the emergency side door."
Jim tilted his head, then frowned. "They're in trouble." Jumping to their feet, Jim and Blair dashed for the side entrance to the house.
Jack felt like his stomach had turned to lead and sank to his toes. One bogey had a gun pointed at his chest. Another had a struggling Ian wrapped in his arms with his hand covering the boy's mouth.
Barely able to breath, Jack asked just loud enough to be heard over the alarms, "What do you want?"
Okay, he could handle that. "If you release the kid, I'll go peacefully."
"No. He's our key in controlling you."
Fighting to keep from panicking, Jack pointed out, "He's just a baby who'll slow you down. Let him go."
Suddenly, the bogey holding Ian cried out. Jack looked up in time to see him drop Ian and shake his hand. In spite of the tears on the boy's face, Ian looked particularly smug.
"Run, Ian!" Jack ordered. The man facing him turned his gun towards the small boy. Jack jumped on the man's arm and fought to knock the gun out of his hand. The man growled and threw Jack against the stairs. The metal edge cut into Jack's arm. When the clone rolled onto his back, he spotted the second bogey reaching for Ian as the first again pointed his gun at him.
Then out of no-where, Sam tackled the man with the gun and slammed his fist into his face. Jack blinked, then noticed that the second bogey was currently getting his butt kicked by Cory. Holding his bleeding arm, Jack found himself rather impressed by Cory's smooth and vicious moves.
Blinking again, he discovered that Blair and... Jim? Blair and Jim had arrived. Blair dashed over to his brother and grabbed his arm. "Sam! Sam! He's down. Ian's safe. Ian's SAFE!"
As Sam leaned back on his haunches, Ian jumped into his arms. Burying his face into his son's curls, Sam hugged his son tightly.
Then Cory was kneeling in front of Jack, helping him to sit on the steps. "You okay?"
Coughing, Jack nodded as he watched two fire trucks pull up to the front, patrol cars screeching to a stop behind them.
Sam was sitting on the garden bench in the front yard holding Ian as the chaos of police and firemen swirled around them. He knew he should probably be talking with the police and the firemen like his brother and friends, but he just needed his son close. Then he noticed the hitch in Ian's breathing. Rubbing the small back, Sam softly asked, "Hey, Buddy, you okay?" He could feel the curly head nod.
Amanda appeared before them, giving Sam a warm yet worried smile. "There you are. Are you all right?"
"Yeah." He ignored Amanda's stern glance at his bruised and bloody fist. "This is a nice surprise."
Amanda smiled. "Ian was in danger. Where else would we be?"
Sam returned the smile, comforted by the sentiment. "Ian, Aunt Amanda is here."
"Aunt 'Manda?" Ian asked breathlessly. He looked up.
"I bit the bad guy."
"What a brave boy you are."
Sam frowned as Ian's breathing grew more labored. "You need howler, Buddy?"
Rubbing his eyes, Ian nodded.
Sam glanced at Amanda. "You mind letting Aunt Amanda hold you?"
Ian nodded, and once Amanda had sat next to Sam on the bench, Ian climbed onto her lap. Sam ran a comforting hand through Ian's curls as he pulled the boy's emergency inhaler out of his jacket pocket. With a little coaxing, he managed to get Ian to breathe in a little of the medicine.
"Did he get enough?" Amanda asked.
"I don't think so. I need to get his spacer." At Amanda's puzzled look, Sam explained, "It attaches to the inhaler and lets him breath it in without having to time it just right." Sam gently turned Ian's face to him. "I'll be right back, Buddy. You just stay here with Aunt Amanda."
Ian nodded as he tucked his head into Amanda's sweater.
Sam stood up and searched for the fire chief. Once he got the okay, he walked into the house towards the bathroom. The house still smelled of smoke, but it wasn't too bad. As he pulled the spacer from the medicine cabinet shelf, he heard a cough. Sam blinked. No one should be in the house except firemen. Worried, Sam tracked the sound to the guest room. DJ was stuffing clothes into his duffel bags. "What are you doing?"
The tightening of the thin shoulders was the only evidence that Sam had been heard as the clone continued to pull clothes out of the drawers.
This wasn't good. There was bound to be more masked men to follow the last batch. A sick DJ would be a sitting duck on his own. "DJ?"
"Those bastards wanted me."
"They pointed a gun at Ian because of me."
"It's not your fault."
"Ian was in danger because of me. It's better I leave."
"Why? So I can tell Ian that his favorite cousin's a coward?"
Prepared for a reaction, Sam blocked DJ's swing and gently tossed the slim body onto the bed. "You need to think about this."
"Sam, don't you get it?" Jack coughed hard, then continued. "They want me, and that puts Ian in danger."
"So today it's you," Sam agreed. "Tomorrow he could be in danger because of Dad. The next day it may be due to me. Your leaving isn't going to change that. Hell, we don't even know why they want you."
"Sam, you don't understand..."
"You don't understand." Sam leaned over and wiped the blood still oozing from Jack's cut with his left thumb. "Your blood." He then wiped the blood from his knuckles with his pinky. "My blood." Then he rubbed the fingers together, mixing the two together. "OUR blood. We're family, Jack. It doesn't matter how you got here. And there's two things I've learned about this family. One is that Jim's right; trouble always seems to find us. The other is that together, we can face down any trouble that comes our way. Stand with us, DJ."
Jack stared at him. "You really don't want me to go?"
Sam held out his hand. "I want you to stay and be a part of this family." He held his breath as his cousin thought.
After a moment of hesitation, DJ reached out to take the hand. Sam pulled him into his arms for a brief hug. "Come on. I need to get this to Ian."
DJ was still a little stunned by the recent turn of events as he walked with Sam back to the garden bench. Sam really wanted him to stay, even though he was a threat to Ian? No gesture had touched him so deeply in a very long time. He looked up to see that MacGyver had arrived, hugging Ian tightly. Spotting their approach, he returned the boy to Amanda's arms. He then walked over and wrapped his arms around both Sam and DJ. It was the second shock of the afternoon. Nobody had hugged him in... a very long time. Now he'd been hugged twice in five minutes.
MacGyver stepped back to allow Sam to go to Ian, but wrapped a hand around DJ's neck. He looked deep into his eyes. "You okay? Cory said you're the target."
DJ nodded. "I'm sorry Ian got involved."
"Not your fault."
"That's what Sam said."
"I've got a smart boy."
Jim Ellison then walked up. "Has anyone looked at that arm yet?"
"Arm?" Mac inquired.
Jim gently lifted DJ's arm to show the deep gash. With the oozing blood, it looked particularly nasty. DJ tried to muffle the cough trying to work its way up, but failed.
MacGyver frowned. "Amanda says Ian's asthma's acting up. Anyone else hurt?"
"Sam should have his hand X-rayed," Blair replied, hearing the question as he and Cory approached. "It was bleeding and swelling, and I think he broke that one guy's nose with it."
Mac lifted his eyebrow up. Blair added, "The perp deserved it, Dad. He pointed a gun at Ian."
"Trust me, I would have loved to have hurt him more, but Sam was doing a fine job on his own," Cory supported.
Mac sighed. "Guess we need to make a field trip to the ER."
"Good, DJ needs that arm looked at," Sam interjected as he joined the group.
Just then, the patrol officers walked by, leading the four suspects in cuffs. After subtle shifts of body position, DJ suddenly discovered that the five adults bodies had placed themselves between the defeated attackers and Ian, Amanda, and himself. The full strength of the five sentinels and guides glared at the men, sending a pointed message. DJ suddenly felt more protected than he had since discovering the alien threat.
The third shock of the afternoon was that he kinda liked it.
After the bad guys were safely stowed into patrol cars, Jim's head whipped around to stare at DJ. Then he whispered to Cory, "Someone shrunk O'Neill?"
Cory laughed as he clapped the older sentinel on the shoulder. "That requires a long, classified discussion in a less populated place."
Two hours later, Community General Hospital
Colonel Jack O'Neill stormed into the ER, secure in the knowledge that the rest of SG1 was at his back. He wanted to get to the bottom of whatever insanity was threatening his clone and MacGyver's boys on Earth, and he wanted it now. Spotting Ellison, Jack quickly walked towards him. Amanda was sitting in a nearby chair as Ian worked on a coloring book. Then Ian lifted his head. "Grandpa Neill!"
Jack could feel the anger ease as the little boy ran to him. "Hi, Ian." He picked him up and gave him a tight hug. Then he shook the hand Ellison extended to him. "Jim. Amanda."
"Jack." Jim then nodded to Jack's team, who returned his greeting.
What worried Jack was that there was no one else he recognized in the waiting room. "Where's everybody?"
Amanda waved her hand to the left. "Sam's getting his hand X-rayed, and Cory's with him." She waved in the other direction. "Blair and MacGyver are with DJ as they stitch up his arm and check his breathing."
Jack frowned at the one name he didn't know. "DJ?" He silently directed Carter to check on Sam, then Teal'c to MacGyver's group. Both nodded and went in search of their quarries.
In the meantime, Jim answered, "Short for Double Jack, Cory's nickname for Jack Nielson."
So his clone had picked up a nickname. Mind still pondering all the information, he tickled Ian, making him giggle. "Sam's hand?"
"Broke the perp's nose who pointed a gun at Ian."
So Sam got a piece of the bastards who attacked his son. Jack felt a bit of pride for his cousin's toughness.
In his arms, Ian looked up as his eyes brightened. "I bit the bad guy on the hand," he reported to Jack, obviously proud of himself.
Jack's pride grew as he smiled at him. "Good job. You're going to be just as tough as your daddy when you grow up." He looked at Ellison. "Is there a place to talk?"
Jim tilted his head to the corner. Jack glanced at the last member of SG1, Daniel Jackson. Daniel stepped into Ian's line of sight. "Hey Ian, remember me?"
Ian nodded. "You tell good stories like Unca Bear."
Daniel smiled, pleased that he was remembered. "If you want, I can tell you another one while we wait for your Daddy."
After Ian was safely transferred to Daniel, Jack followed Jim and listened to his update. When Jim had finished, Jack asked quietly, "Do you know, uh, DJ's background?"
Jim nodded. "Cory and Blair filled me in during the car ride here."
"What do you make of these two attempts?"
"All we know right now is that these people seemed to be organized, well-funded, and the main target is DJ. Any intel from your end?"
"We suspect a rogue group within the NID. We've dealt with them before. The complication is that they have ties to the future Vice President."
Jim blinked. "Not the United States VP?"
"Damn. Should have voted for the other guy."
"Do we know why exactly they want DJ?"
"Several possibilities. Besides the obvious, elements within the NID have been known to sneak around and steal, ah, foreign technologies. They nearly destroyed our relations with some of our key allies a while back. But everything on DJ is only known by a handful of people, and the new administration is still in the dark. The NID should have no way of knowing how he got here."
Jim took a deep breath, then his body tightened. He turned to the left. Two men, hands cuffed in front, were being escorted away from the exam rooms. Jack's eyes grew cold as he noted the facial bruises and the bandage on the one man's nose. "Those the ones who attacked Ian and DJ?"
Jack paused a moment, then marched up to the men. Jim followed Jack, and upon noticing his friend's face, Daniel also jumped to his feet to follow.
Jack stopped in front of them. The officers with the men tried to stop him, but Jim appealed to the detective next to them. "Steve, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill, DJ's uncle. Give him a moment?"
Steve Sloan glanced between the cold eyes of MacGyver's double, and Jim's reassuring ones. "Okay, you've got five." He and the two patrol officers stepped back out of hearing range.
Jack stared at the men a moment. "You know who I am?" Both nodded. "Why are you after Jack Nielson?"
The man without the broken nose replied, "A very important man wants his property back. We figured you'd trade it for your... nephew's... life."
Jack lifted his eyebrow. "The property would create quite a scandal if I released it. And I've said I would if another child of SGC personnel was threatened. You don't think that would include my own nephew?"
"Is he your nephew?" The man slyly suggested. "Or has one of your, ah, flings on other worlds caught up with you? There are those who would be interested in examining a child of such foreign roots."
Jack's blood boiled at both insinuations. He forced his temper back. "Hold out your hands!" Reluctantly, both men held out their hands. Jack easily spied the bite mark on the talkative one. Jack pointed at it. "Even the youngest of my family will fight you to protect my nephew. You do not want me on your asses. If anyone goes anywhere near my family again, the public release of the information will be just the start of your problems."
"Other things may come to light."
"Read my lips: I. Don't. Care."
Jack and the talkative one locked eyes for a long moment. Then the man nodded. "I will pass your information on."
"Then we understand each other." Jack waved the police over to take the prisoners.
As they were lead away, Daniel quietly asked, "The election is over. Will your evidence be enough to keep Kinsey away from the Stargate?"
Jack watched the men who had attacked his clone. "The Stargate? Probably not."
"DJ?" Jim asked softly.
"As long as I continue to play it right."
Christmas Eve, MacGyver's Firehouse
Mac leaned against the doorframe between the kitchen and the living area. To his left, Blair was prepping the turkey for tomorrow while Amanda made the finishing touches to her cake, telling Blair stories from her childhood. To his right, Jim and Cory were helping Ian hang the last of the stockings, the window frame filling in for a fireplace mantle. Sam was calling out directions to the trio as he sorted through the Christmas DVDs.
Only one person was missing. Mac walked down to the last bedroom and knocked on the door. "DJ?"
Mac stepped inside. DJ was lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling as he flipped a hockey puck into the air and caught it. Mac sat on the bed and studied him. He was getting some healthy color back into his face. After nearly a minute of silence, Mac asked, "You doing okay?"
"Yeah." He tossed the puck back into the air. "It's been a long time since I've done the whole Christmas scene."
Silence reined for another minute as DJ threw and caught the puck. Mac leaned back against the wall, his legs stretched out over the foot of the bed. "You know, today's the anniversary of my mother's death."
The hockey puck was caught and held.
"I didn't make it back home that year. While my head knew Mom understood, my heart blamed me not being there."
"What she die of?"
"Nothing you could have done, Gus."
"Nope, nothing I could have done." He glanced at the deceptively young-looking man. "Just as there are a lot of things you can't change, Jack."
"And being a clone is one of them?"
"Is this the pep talk about playing the hand that life dealt me?"
"Something like that."
"Sam's speech was much better."
"Ah, but he admitted he didn't use a Grandpa Harry quote. All my best speeches have a Harry quote. Ask Blair."
Mac then asked, "Are you ready to join the rest of the family?"
DJ's face turned serious. "For how long?"
A slow smile stretched across Mac's face as he realized what his cousin was asking. "For as long as you need a family."
"That could be quite a while."
"We aren't going anywhere."
DJ met Mac's eyes. Promises were made and sealed in a moment. DJ smiled that he understood. He dropped the puck onto the nightstand. "Then let's party."
12/18/04: I'll get Revenge for the Scorpion done soon, I promise!
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