thothmes: jack lies on an infirmary bed, one hand on his forehead.  He is wincing.  Legend:  Big Headache! (BigHeadache!)
[personal profile] thothmes
Here is my contribution for today's Gen Fic Day Alphabet Soup

Title: Time Travel Alphabet Soup - J is for Just a Little Pocket Change

Season/Episode: Season 2, 1969

Warnings: Duh... it's time travel. Don't blame me if your brain ends up in a bit of a knot!

Disclaimer: No prophet, no profit, no reason to come after me. Really!




Time Travel Alphabet Soup – J is for Just a Little Pocket Change



The woods were quiet, and the fire had died down to embers. The only sound was the sound of the wind in the trees, and an occasional truck downshifting, out of sight up on the road. This particular campsite had been one of the less desirable ones because it was closer to the road, but Jack and Michael, who had picked it out, were more interested in price than communing with nature. The midnight hour had passed long ago, and the others were on the bus, asleep. Well, all except for Teal'c. He would have waited for Jenny and Michael to be sound asleep, and then risen from his pretended sleep to kel'no'reem.

Jack was not ready to sleep, not now, and not anytime soon. Some of it was the inactivity, he knew. Jenny and Michael seemed to be in no particular hurry, and he supposed that if he wanted to get in a run (in his combat boots!) they could get a later start in the morning, but they couldn't afford to miss the solar flares, and if Daniel was not able to get the location of the Stargate out of Catherine, then they would need every single second of the time between flares to try to find the thing, or they were trapped. And that would be unacceptable. Better to drive them all crazy with the restlessness that came when his energy had no other outlet, than to face the problem of what to do with Junior if they couldn't get away. Even Daniel, who seemed to show a particularly low tolerance to Jack's fidgets and drumming would choose that over an early death for Teal'c any day. Year. Time.

Man, oh man, Jack hated time travel. That was the problem, wasn't it? Time. Carter said it was like a river, with currents, eddies, and a destination. She said he shouldn't do anything to change it, that a little thing could make his home, his time, unrecognizable. There was something about butterflies and the weather too, but he didn't quite follow that one. Because he was thinking about the stuff in his pocket.

Not his front jeans pocket, where he had stored the remaining bills from the wad that Hammond had given him. The pocket of his sweet second-hand leather jacket. His hand strayed there now, pulling out three remaining pieces of bubble gum and a handful of change.

The bubble gum had been an impulse buy, ten pieces for a dime, each of them wrapped in a waxy wrapper and a Bazooka Joe comic. It had been the comics Jack was after, although the trip down memory lane buying gum at a penny a piece had been pleasant enough, and Jack enjoyed a bit of bubble gum from time to time. And teaching the big guy to blow bubbles had been amusing right up until he proved that he was the master of bubble blowing, and Jack the journeyman. Jack so totally would have won though, if he hadn't remembered being seven and earning a buzz cut and clipped eyebrows when the bubble he had blown had burst all over his head. He had no desire to sit still while Carter or Jenny cut off his hair, or did the thing Sara did with Charlie when he got gum in his hair, and thinning it out with peanut butter.

Jack wanted the comics as a primer on Earth humor for the big guy. They were certainly pretty basic, funny only to the young, trite and predictable to anyone over the age of twelve, as a rule. The first few had been exercises in frustration. Humor, he had heard tell, was dependent on surprise, and seemed like that was right, because when you tried to explain a joke, it died a gruesome, drawn-out death. One of them had succeeded beyond all expectation and the bounds of safety. Teal'c had gotten it in one go, and let out one of his scary, booming laughs with no warning. Michael, who had been driving, was not prepared, and pulled the wheel as he jumped in his fright. Only the fact that there had been no oncoming traffic had saved them. Now the bubble gum stayed in Jack's pocket until the bus was stopped for a rest break.

It hadn't been the gum he had been thinking about. It was the change. Small change. Just a small handful, such a huge temptation. Things were different back in 1969. A first class letter cost just six cents to mail. Five cents for a postcard. He could get a pretty colored one for a dime or so. His sixteen year old self would like that. He used to collect them.

He knew what he would write.

No guns in a house with a kid, EVER!

He wondered. Had his handwriting changed in the years since he was sixteen? Probably it had. Would his sixteen year old self recognize his current scrawl as his own? Would he listen? Would he remember when it counted?

Maybe he should write Sara instead? But where was she living then? He didn't know, and what would he say?

Jack O'Neill will hurt you.

Knowing Sara, that would likely intrigue her, and that would backfire. Without her would he have ever made that nine day walk – well, stagger, more like it – back to safety after his parachute accident? Who else could love him enough to put up with the crap he put Sara through after Iraq? She was no longer his wife, but he had never regretted a day of his life with her, except the one. That one would blacken his soul for all time.

Where would he have been, on the day General West had brought him back to active duty to go through the Stargate? Bleached bones in the desert? Living in that dark space he had settled in after Iraq? Would someone else have gone to Abydos in his stead? Where and when would that Colonel have set off the bomb? Would Charlie's life be bought with Ska'ra's and Sha're's? Daniel's?

Jack put his palms to his forehead, making slow circles, and the squeezed the bridge of his nose.

Too many questions. Not enough answers.

Somewhere in Minnesota, his sixteen year old self was sleeping. It wouldn't be long, Jack knew, before he would drag himself, reluctantly, out of bed to run his paper route. Then he would grab some breakfast and head out in time for his job at the grocery. Idiot work at minimum wage, but opportunities in small towns were limited, and if he wanted the money it would take to fix up his uncle's old Hog he had to earn it. So young. So unaware of the monsters hiding in the dark. So sure he knew where life was taking him. So wrong.

So many mistakes. So many challenges. So many adventures. Would a ten cent postcard, and a five cent stamp change it all? Would his younger self listen? Would that young idiot, so cocksure, so secure, remember when it counted? Would it change the world? And if it did, who would pay the cost?

Jack would give anything, all he had, all he was, to save Charlie. The universe could ask any price he could pay, and he would pay it gladly. But he could not ask another to pay for his most mortal sin.

He poked at the dying embers, but without adding more fuel, there would be no more light in this darkness.

If Daniel died with Ska'ra and the others at Abydos, would he disappear when they went through the Stargate to their own time? Would they ever know? What would a second Daniel do? What would he do? Would he return to an SGC where he was a stranger? Would Sara know him? Could he, knowing what he knew, walk back in his old front door and just occupy a life he'd never lived? Or would he find his place taken, his bed occupied by another Jack O'Neill, one closer to the Jack he once was?

He felt again in his pocket, and with a sigh that was half resignation and half resolution, making sure he left the three bubblegum pieces behind, he emptied it of the change. He looked at the coins, barely visible in the moonlight. The price of a dream. The price of a nightmare. He would never know. He could never know, because he could not calculate the price.

He wished he were brighter. He wished he were wiser. Would Carter be able to figure this out? Would Daniel? Would one of the little gray guys that fixed his brain after he looked into the head-sucker thingy? They seemed to know a lot. He was just Jack, a pretty ordinary guy, with a pretty weird life. He knew what he wanted to do; he knew what he had to do.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

He was a product of Vatican II, but his grandmother had said her rosary in Latin all the days of her life.

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Was it evil to love his child beyond all that the world had to offer? Beyond all doubt it was a temptation.

He tossed the handful of coins into the place where the embers still glowed, and stirred them.

There was a stealthy sound approaching from the bus. Footfalls. Teal'c's by the weight, although for a big man, he made remarkably little noise. And then he was there, by Jack's side. He lowered himself to the fallen log Jack had been sitting on.

“You do not sleep, O'Neill.”

“No.”

“Something troubles you.”

Teal'c offered no possibility that this anything other than a statement of fact.

“Yeah.”

Jack ran a hand through his hair, and once again pinched the bridge of his nose. Teal'c was silent and clearly prepared to wait, forever if need be, for the details. Jack was tired now, weary, body, mind, and soul.

“It's time travel, T. It makes my head hurt thinking about it.”

“Indeed.”

The fire held no warmth from where Jack sat. He stirred it with the same length of green sapling he'd been using for the purpose all night, burying the coins deeper in the ash. The silence was not looming now. It was comforting.

The two men sat side by side in companionable silence and watched the coming of the dawn.
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A Few Words From The Wise

Speak to him, for there is none born wise.
-The Maxims of Ptahotep

In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.
- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

But your embraces
alone give life to my heart
may Amun give me what I have found
for all eternity.
-Love Songs of the New Kingdom, Song #2

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.
-Wendell Berry

Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.
-Robert Burns

Visit to the Hermit Ts'ui

Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.
I envy you, drunk with flowers,
Butterflies swirling in your dreams.
-Ch'ien Ch'i

Mistress of high achievement, O lady Truth,
do not let my understanding stumble
across some jagged falsehood.
-Pindar

Every Gaudy colour
Is a bit of truth.
-Nathalia Crane

I counted two-and-twenty stenches,
All well defined, and several stinks.
-Samuel Coleridge