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Ay, There's the Rub

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"To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there 's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come." --From Shakespeare’s Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon watched from the team box as his hockey team practiced. Being the big bad Colonel meant that he had seldom got to practice his skating; let alone play hockey. Now with a new life to live, he was enjoying picking up on some of his old hobbies.

Summer had come and gone. His time at the cabin had helped him cleanse the lingering doubts he had over his chosen path. Seeing Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c had been harder than he thought. But it had helped him bring closure to that part of his life. He felt freer now to live for today and to make a new future.

Towards the end of summer, Jack had been rescued by the Asgard. Jon could have predicted that without any fancy alien gizmo. What he and Jack could not have predicted was the promotion. Not only did they not predict it, but they both didn’t like it.

Through Jack’s memories, Jon knew that to refuse the promotion would have effectively retired him. So, either way he was out of the field and off SG-1. To refuse a presidential appointment would only have been worse. So Jack had accepted the star and tried, unhappily, to adjust to life behind a desk.

Oddly enough the whole situation had made the clone thing less weird between the two of them. Jon spent more of his down time over at Jack’s house. He listened to Jack bitch about paperwork, and Jack listened to the trials of teenage life. In a way, Jon thought that the normalcy of his new life grounded his older version. Brought him back to Earth, so to speak. But Jon still avoided Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c. He just wasn’t ready to meet them under these new social terms.

“Come on, Perkins. Henson is wide open,” Jon shouted at his teammates. The puck was passed but quickly stolen by the opposing scrimmage team.

Suddenly, Jon grabbed his head. From no where, burning rage was coursing through him. He threw off his gloves and dropped to his knees to stem the tide of hate and rage. As he blanked out his surroundings, one image came clear; Ba’al standing in the gateroom, his smarmy grin, and his simple statement, “I have your friends.”

“NOOOO! Stop it!” he shouted. Jon pushed at the strong emotions and the image and slowly built a mental brick wall between him and it. Brick by brick he forced it back. When Jon finally blocked the image, he ignored the stares from his concerned teammates, hopped the short rink wall, and raced to the locker-room. He barely made it inside before he began to retch. His coach found him doubled over a trash can trying to catch his breath.

“Jon?” came the tentative query.

“I’m fine,” Jon returned automatically, slowly releasing his grip on the trash can.

His coach snorted, “Right, I can see that. I often feel like throwing up after watching poorly played hockey.”

Jon cracked a smile. “Really, coach. I just had a migraine set in. I’ll be alright in few minutes.”

“You sure? There’s not much practice left anyway. Why don’t you clean up and head home. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jon’s only response was a short nod. His coach accepted his response with a curt nod of his own, headed back out to the ice.

Once again, alone in the locker-room, Jon whispered, “Jack, what the hell did you do this time?”

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon didn’t head to his home after he left the rink. Instead he headed over to Jack’s house. He was hoping that the image if Ba’al in the gateroom was wrong. He was hoping, but deep down he knew it was true. Sitting in front of Jack’s empty house only confirmed his fears.

Since Jack had been freed from his icy prison, Jon had been receiving occasional flashes of thought and emotion. The closer they were together and the stronger the emotion the more detailed the image that flashed. Both had passed it off as no big deal.

Jon still had the odd dream that he could only attribute to Jack. The most recent was the pain of shooting Daniel in the gateroom. Jack had even admitted to dreaming about high school and managing some barber shop in Kansas. And while they had tried talking about their odd connection, neither Jon, nor Jack was very comfortable discussing it. In the end, they had decided to ignore it unless it became a problem. Jon considered this last incident a huge problem.

Jon let himself into Jack’s house and walked directly over to the phone. He called Jack’s direct line. “O’Neill.”

“Hey old man, it’s me.”

He heard the older man sigh, “I’m sorry, kid.”

Jon felt a weight of sorrow in that simple apology. “Ah… so, it’s real…”

“Yeah,” Jack replied quietly. “I didn’t… I mean…” another sigh, “I think I dumped it on you by accident.”

Jon carefully thought over that statement. Was Jack saying that he had intentionally pushed his emotions aside and Jon had been the unwary recipient of them? Jon tried to think of a reply, mindful of the unsecured phone line. “Ah. I wondered… Need any help?”

“Can’t. My new assistant arrived yesterday.”

“Right. Well… let me know if anything changes. Oh, and a warning next time would help. I wouldn’t want to be operating any heavy machinery when it happens again.” When, not if. Jon knows that much from Ba’al’s image. Ba’al would be back and Jack would have to push aside his own thoughts and feelings for the sake of the SGC.

Jon could hear Jack mull over the implications of his statement, “OK, I think I can do that. I’ll call when I get home,” he finally answered.

“Don’t bother. I’ll be in the spare room. Now, get back to work, old man.”

“OK, but don’t drink all my beer, kid. See you later.” The phone line clicked. Jon set it back down in its cradle. He gathered his things and pulled out his homework. Time to get back to the mundane life of a teenager.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jack climbed out of his truck slowly. Today had been a very long day; ending with Walter throwing him out of the mountain. Walter had said, “Go home, sir. I’ll call you if there is any news,” then pushed him into the elevator. Not nicely either. He had opened his door before he even noticed that all the lights were all on.

What? “Right. Jon,” he reassured himself. “What’s for dinner, kid?” he asked aloud.

“Chinese. Kitchen,” came the muffled reply from the living room.

“Thanks.” Jack dropped his jacket over the back of one of the dining room chairs on his way to the kitchen. He grabbed his cartons of Chinese food and a beer and wandered into the living room. He noted that Jon was stretched out on the couch reading some textbook, studiously ignoring him. He dropped into the easy chair with a sigh.

Jon was still making a good show of ignoring him, so he dug in; though he ate his food with little enthusiasm. As he washed the last of the food down, he noticed that Jon had sat up. Jack set the empty cartons off to one side and waited.

“So… what happened?” Jon finally asked.

Jack snorted, “More like what didn’t happen…” He paused, knowing that Jon really wanted news of SG-1, but Jack was having a hard time voicing it out load. “Ba’al has them… They went to an ‘uninhabited’” he made the air quote gesture, “planet, left their back up at the gate and promptly lost contact. A few minutes later SG-3 watched an Alkesh fly off. An hour later, Ba’al shows up and says he has them and will trade for old camel-ass. Oh yeah, Dr. Lee let loose some plant that has quickly taken over level 19, and I locked up two trade delegates in the VIP quarters.”

Jon smirked, “Busy day.”

“Yeah, you?”

“Oh, same old, same old. Though the coach thinks I’m either crazy or sick.”

“Oh?”

“Yup, that’s what happens when you drop to the ground screaming ‘no’ and clutching your head in the middle of practice,” Jon replied casually, belying the troubled feelings Jack could sense.

“Jeez kid, I’m sorry. I…” Jack started.

Jon stopped him with a look and a wave of his hand. “Don’t worry about it. I would have done the same, really. I just wasn’t ready for it.” Jon looked away. Jack felt Jon’s anxiety peak, “It’s getting stronger,” he stated simply.

Stronger, hell, Jack had forced his hate and fear into Jon. If Jon hadn’t shared his history, well, let’s just say that Jon was the ONLY one who understood Jack when it came to Ba’al. It’s a miracle that Jon didn’t lash out at someone during their brief contact.

“Yeah, I noticed,” Jack replied, his own anxiety over their shared secret increasing. Lord help them, if ANYONE found out about the developing telepathic abilities Jon and Jack shared. Obviously, they weren’t going to go away by being ignored. But it looked like they would have to do more than just talk about them now that they were growing.

Jon leaned back on the couch and let out a huff. “I’m here for the duration. Do what ya gotta do, old man. When we get past this, we’ll figure something out. ‘kay?”

Jack was touched and oddly reassured. “Yeah, thanks, kid.” The one word was inadequate, but he knew that Jon understood. It was an understanding born of their shared history. Any other crisis and he… they… would bottle the emotions up. But the subjects of Ba’al and SG-1 were individually almost too much to handle. Combined, the emotions were overwhelming. And Jon had just offered to bear the brunt of these feelings to allow Jack to work with a clear head. “Well, I’m off to bed. Those nightmares can’t dream themselves, ya know.”

“Yeah, see ya in the cell later,” Jon quipped.

Jack smiled. Yup, they would both be reliving that nightmare tonight. He gave Jon one last look and a nod before making his way to bed; hoping that tomorrow would bring good news.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon called in sick to school the next day. He also called his coach to let him know that he was still under the weather and would be staying with his Uncle Jack. He passed his time studying and watching TV. Jack called him in the evening to let him know that he would stay on base.

Jon was somewhat relieved when he got ready for bed that he had only felt brief flashes of anxiety, frustration, annoyance, and disappointment all day. Nothing overwhelming or forced. Jon suspected that it was Jack’s way of letting him know what was going on. With that in mind, he had let down his mental wall to allow for freer communication between them.

Now, with the base winding down for the night, Jon thought that the chances of another crisis were greatly reduced. As he drifted off to sleep, he felt a brief touch from Jack. Thanks and drowsy relief flowed through him. Jon smiled and embraced sleep.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jack felt the hand shake him. He hoped it was a bad dream. Nope, Gilmore. “What? Oh, God!”

“Sorry to wake you, Sir,” came Gilmore’s quiet response.

Jack rubbed his eyes, trying to push the haze of sleep aside. “It feels like it’s been ten minutes.” He glanced at his watch.

Gilmore stammered, “Yeah… uh… it has. There’s an incoming wormhole. Ba’al wants to talk.”

Shit! Jon, wake the hell up. He felt his anger and fear well up, threatening to overwhelm him. He dropped his head in his hands hoping to stem the tide of emotions. Rage and hate boiling over trying to control him.

Then he felt the touch, soft and light in the back of his head. He sighed with relief as he slowly pushed everything to Jon. By the time he had his boots laced, he was feeling numb and back in control. By the time he was standing outside the gate room door, he was a blank slate. OK, time to grab the snake by his tail and hope we don’t get bit.

He sighed before entered the gateroom. No way in hell was he going back to sleep after this.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon called in sick to school once again. He told his coach that he had some kind of stomach flu and he didn’t want to pass it to the rest of the team. Today, instead of waiting for the crisis to come to him, he spent most of his time in a semi-meditative state. Sort of kel-no-ream lite. However, unlike the previous day’s relative calm, today was spent trying to send calming waves back to his older self.

Jon had found that in the trance-like state he could almost see what Jack was seeing. He marveled in the novelty of it all and hoped that Jack didn’t mind his eavesdropping too much. Especially, since he could hear Jack’s thoughts clearly. But Jack replied that he could hear Jon just as clearly, so shut the hell up, it was distracting.

Today’s chaos was in stark contrast to yesterday’s calm. The early morning wake up call from Ba’al had only been the beginning. Jon had to channel Jack’s outrage at being told to make a choice between his old team and genocide, his frustration with Camulus’ egocentric attitude, and the sheer insanity generated by the plant from hell. But, Jon found that his mere presence helped Jack keep his cool. Jon even popped off a few choice comments when the old man was alone, trying to crack him up.

As the day was coming to an end, both Jack and Jon had run out energy. Jon could cushion the emotional blows, but he couldn’t give Jack the energy he sorely lacked. The final blow had been when SG-3 had returned without SG-1. While both Jack and Jon didn’t expect them to come back so easily, they had both hoped they would. Jon slowly drew back from Jack’s mind as he fell into an exhausted sleep. Both of them were beyond hoping that tomorrow would be a better day.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

As Jack woke up the next day, he immediately felt Jon’s unspoken thought, ‘It’s about time, old man. I was gettin’ worried.’

Jack cracked a small smile, ‘old men need their beauty sleep. Shove off, kid. I got the con today.’

‘Ya sure?’

‘Yeah, I’ll see you tonight.’ Jack broke the contact and spent a moment searching for Jon’s presence, just in case the kid tried the peeping tom thing again. Satisfied that, once again, he was alone in his own head; he got up and prepared to face the day.

As much as Jack had appreciated the support, he didn’t need, nor did he want, an emotional crutch. Jon would resent him for it with time. Nope, time to get on with life. With one last sigh, he got up and started to dress, rebuilding his mental walls as he pulled on a clean uniform. Jack took a last look in the mirror then turned to leave his quarters. Here goes nothin’.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon was debating what to order for dinner when he felt a surge of hope echo through his head. He dropped the menu from his hand and sat down before sending his thoughts to Jack. He joined Jack just as he ordered the iris open. His thoughts sounding like a whisper in Jon’s ear, ‘Screw protocol. They can fire me if they don’t like how I run my base.’

Jon chanted with Jack as they waited for three figures to appear in the gateroom. ‘Come on, come on, come on.’

Pure joy and relief flowed through both men as the three members of SG-1 popped out of the event horizon and come to a halt on the ramp. The wormhole closing behind them.

He heard Jack mumble, “Nice.”

Jon shot Jack a final thought just before he broke contact, ‘Good call, old man’.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

The next morning Jon went back to school. He had Jack fax over a medical excuse for his absence that was sufficiently vague that no one even looked at him crosswise. Somewhere around third period, he began to feel a building pressure in his mind. At first he thought it was Jack, but when he reached out to him, he felt Jack’s puzzlement at the connection. Jack was in the reception for the President with no threat or overwhelming emotion.

So, Jon shut down his connection to Jack and puzzled out what could be pushing against his mental shield. Well, you’ll never find it by scratching your head. So, he relaxed and began to feel out the source of his discomfort.

SLAM!

Jon jumped as a book came crashing down on the desk in front of him.

“Mr. O’Neill, I know that you are recovering from an illness, but I do not appreciate anyone sleeping in my class. If you are not fully, recovered then you need to go home.” Mrs. Thomas was his US History teacher. She was always in a bad mood and frequently pointed her irritation at her students. With her sights currently on Jon, she quickly turned from irritated tizzy to pop quiz mode. “Now, since you obviously were not paying attention, I’ll repeat my question, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin?”

Good thing he had actually studied while he was ‘out.’ “Harriett Beacher Stowe” he replied smugly.

“And just why is it important?” she snapped, clearly not happy that he had answered correctly.

“Well,” Jon started, “I think that Abe Lincoln said it best when he met Mrs. Stowe and said, ‘So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!’”

“Humph,” was Mrs. Thomas’ only response. She returned back to the front of the class and resumed her lecture on the Civil War, but continued to eye him suspiciously.

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

It was lunch before Jon could make a second attempt. The pressure hadn’t abated during that time. If anything it increased. He staked out a shady spot in the quad in the grass, and again slowly relaxed his control.

Chaos. Anger. Lust. Fear. Passion. Joy. Dread. Anxiety. Love. Hate. The whole emotional spectrum came rushing at him. Shit! Shit! Shit! Jon quickly became overwhelmed, drowning in a sea of other people’s thoughts and emotions. Then a lifeline, a voice, calling his name. He focused on the voice, focused on the feeling of his own mind.

“Jon. Jon. Come on, man, you’re scaring me. Wake up.”

Awareness rushed back. Dexter. Friend. Afraid. Afraid? He snapped his eyes open and instantly regretted it. He let out a soft moan, then “Dex.” He said the kids name as a statement. “‘m fine.”

“Yeah, right. First history and now lunch. I think you should see the nurse. Come on.” His friend tried to muscle him up, but Jon resisted and the skinny teenager was simply no match for him.

“No, Dex. I’m fine. Really. Now let go.” Jon gave Dexter one of his patented glares, and Dexter let go of his arm, startled. Jon felt bad for hurting the kids feelings, “Look, if it will make you happy. I’ll call my uncle, ‘kay?”

“Ok,” Dexter responded.

Jon pulled out his cell phone and dialed Jack’s office number. No way was he going to voodoo a connection this time. “O’Neill.”

“Uncle Jack,” Jon started. Letting Jack know that others were listening in to his end of the conversation. “Do you remember my friend, Dexter? Well, he thinks I should head home. I kind of fell asleep twice today. I guess you were right and I just wasn’t ready to go back yet.”

Jon could hear the gears turning. Then he felt a gentle probe at the edges of his mental walls. Hell no, he wasn’t letting his walls down again after what had just happened. After trying for a few seconds the probing went away.

Jon heard a sigh down the phone line. “Head home, Jon. I’ll let the school know. We’ll talk tonight. Get some rest.”

--SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG----SG--

Jon and Jack had squared off over the dinning room table. Jack was waiting for Jon to let him in on the problem. But Jon just wasn’t sure what the problem was. No, that’s not true. You know, and it scares the shit out of you.

“Say again?” Jack asked trying to clarify what had happened.

“I let my… guard, I guess… down and… Shit! I don’t know how to explain it… It was like being caught in a rip-tide of emotion. I was drowning in it. Without Dex to ground me… But it wasn’t from you. Before, I could only hear and feel you. Today… I think that today I was hearing the others at school.” He groaned and sank his head in is hands.

“Crap!” was Jack’s only response.

“Double crap!” Jon quipped from behind his hands.

“Ya know. I knew you sought me out at the reception, but after that I think I felt the… pressure?... or whatever… too. But I didn’t try to find out what it was. Maybe the solution is to do nothing.” Jon glared at Jack. “Hey, it was worth a shot. So what do you want to do?”

Jon groaned. “The hell if I know. Who do you call when you need training on your new telepathic abilities?”

Jack frowned, “The Nox?”

Jon snorted, “They disconnected the phone, remember.”

“Right… Well, I guess we do this the hard way then.”

Jon sighed, “Alone and on our own. Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.”

Jack smirked, “Ack! Kid, you’re only alone as long as the voices in your head are quiet.”

Jon smirked back, “Old man, that would be funnier if you weren’t one of the voices in my head.” Jon abruptly stood up, “So, Thai?”

“Hell no, the old gut can’t handle the heat anymore. Mexican?”

“Sure, as long as we get fresh salsa.”

CONTINUED IN ‘FOR IN THAT SLEEP OF DEATH’