Chapter Fifteen: Fifteen Thousand Miles From Earth
When Xander innocently passed by the infirmary the next morning, he was surprised to meet Dr. Weir in the hallway about to go in. "Director Harris," she greeted him warmly with her customary professional politeness.
"Dr. Weir," Xander nodded back.
"I was just going to check on Colonel O'Neill. Would you care to join me?"
A bit startled by the offer, Xander nodded and followed her through the infirmary door. A nurse noticed their arrival and went to fetch the doctor on duty who was introduced as Dr. Brightman. She sighed when Weir asked about Jack.
"According to our estimates, he will be physically recovered by early tomorrow morning. His vital signs all show consistent improvement which is accelerating as he warms up. The levels still lie well below survivable hypothermic conditions, but he's alive." The doctor seemed at a loss to explain. "None of us have ever seen a thermal recovery like this before. We think it must be linked to the anomalous reading we saw in the MRI yesterday. We have another one scheduled for 1100. Hopefully we'll know more then."
"And the brain damage?"
"As far as we can tell, that process has been retarded as well," said Dr. Brightman. "For recovery, from what I understand it will be impossible without the Asgard. You can go on and see him, if you wish."
"Thank you," said Weir. Dr. Brightman led them to the private room and left them at the door. Xander was surprised to see Teal'c sitting by Jack's bed. He rose when they entered.
"Dr. Weir, Xander Harris," he greeted them. After a moment, he added, "Would you like privacy?"
"Yes, please. Thank you," Weir nodded. Bowing slightly and giving Xander a lingering look, Teal'c left.
Jack seemed much as he had the night before, like he was sleeping. The monitors were all still attached and providing background noise. Weir moved to the foot of the bed and was silent. Unsure, Xander hesitantly came and stood beside her, his own thoughts revolving around tomorrow and what would happen then.
"I understand you lost your escort last night." Taken by surprise, Xander turned to the woman beside him like a deer in headlights. "You came here?" She looked at him already knowing the answer.
"Yeah," said Xander.
"May I ask why?" But he remained silent, tearing his gaze away from her to the still body on the bed. "Director Harris, please understand I'm not accusing you of anything," Weir said. "You've been spending most of your stay here with SG-1, and last night they sneaked you in here where you sat till nearly four this morning. You haven't been very forthcoming in your reasons for being here and if you have an ulterior motive, I'd like to know."
Xander almost laughed. Sure he had an ulterior motive: making sure Jack lived, but there wasn't much he could do about that at the moment. First he had to finish thawing, then Xander had to call Giles to see what could be done, see if Willow was okay, or barring that another witch, hopefully closer. He might have to call LA. Angel was sure to have someone who could pull off the tricky magic, though it killed Xander to ask the vampire.
"Daniel and Teal'c let me in. Shouldn't that speak for it self?" he asked.
"It begs the question to why."
"It has nothing to do with why I'm here."
"All right, Director Harris," Weir's voice sharpened and when he looked, her gaze was as cool and commanding as any slayer's, one that said don't-mess-with-me. "I will accept that for now. But understand that this man is under my command and that any threats to him will be dealt with accordingly."
"I'm not a threat."
"Just so we're clear," said Weir. She turned and started heading for the door.
Xander watched her back for a full second before he impulsively called out, "He's my father." Weir turned, raised eyebrows the only show of surprise at his announcement. "You can ask Daniel or Teal'c or Sam," he added. If she wanted more proof he bet he could find the paternity confirmation at Jack's house, but he didn't think he needed it.
"I didn't know he had a son," she said.
"You've only been here a week." Weir nodded in acknowledgment, eyes darting from Jack to him as she absorbed this new information. "Thanks though," added Xander. At her inquiring look he smiled. "For threatening me. It means a lot."
Weir smiled in return. "Thank you for telling me." With a final nod she left him to his visit.
Xander sighed as he settled into the chair Teal'c had recently vacated, a mixed feeling of pride and dread clenching his stomach. His gut instinct about her better not be wrong, he thought, but he didn't think it was.
"Dr. Weir, please come to the briefing room," the PA system requested. Xander looked up curiously but knew that until his name was called he wouldn't be welcome. So he stayed and wondered how the girls were doing at home, prayed there wouldn't be anyone else in the hospital, and that Andrew was still in one piece. He didn't know how much time had passed as he let his thoughts wander to friends far and wide.
But when Jack's body disappeared in a flash of white light he was up and running out the door before his heart had started beating again.
Numb . . . cold . . . floating . . . There were noises around him . . . humming but not a song. There was light . . . then it was gone. Words, smells, all faded back into fog. There was no hurry. What would come would come. He was safe.
Time melted. Sounds came again more insistently. Familiar sounds that converged into words that Jack knew. Questions asked that he had answers to. Answers that faded and words that transformed into gibberish that he couldn't understand. Awareness slowly pushed back the fog. He tried to open his eyes, but they were heavy. He sighed in frustration and tried again. The voices stopped.
He opened his eyes. "Daniel?" Slowly turning his head at the semi-familiar surroundings, he found his friend smiling at him, arms crossed across his chest. And beside him was another, much shorter friend. "Thor!"
"Greetings, O'Neill. It is good to see you well," the tiny gray alien inclined his head briefly before coming over and releasing him from the medical pod. Still stiff, sore, and cold and with a cruising headache, Jack slowly sat up and swung his legs over the side. The first thought that came to mind was to wonder what was he doing here, but through the haze in his head, he remembered the planet with the library. That was about it.
"Jack?" asked Daniel concerned now.
"Anubis?" he asked. Daniel nodded.
"No longer a threat. How much do you remember?"
"Not much." It wasn't so much a haze anymore as a blank, with pieces snapping out too fast too see every once in a while. He tried to identify them as Daniel recounted the last couple days of the mission.
"And then you put yourself in stasis," Daniel finished.
"Five days. You actually started defrosting when they removed the power source from the chair two days ago. Thor got here this morning."
"Impeccable timing as ever," Jack smiled at Thor.
"I am only sorry I could not arrive sooner."
"Hey, you got here," Jack said lightly. He stood up to protesting muscles, experimentally stretching his arms. The burning stretch felt refreshingly good. "Don't happen to have anything for a headache, do you?" But Thor shook his head.
"We should probably be getting back," said Daniel.
"Oh? What's up?"
"I think I'll let Xander explain."
Jack stopped and did a double take at his friend who was most definitely sporting a grin and waiting for him to ask. Jack didn't disappoint him. "Xander is at the SGC?"
"Showed up three days ago."
"Daniel," Jack growled at his friend for withholding information.
"Who is Xander?" interrupted Thor. "And why is he yours? Does not your race abhor slavery?"
"What? No," Jack started, turning to the short alien. "Xander's not a slave or anything."
"Then how is he yours?"
Jack stared at him for a long moment then said, "He's my son."
"Your offspring?" Thor actually seemed surprised. "I did not realize that you had any."
"Yeah, well," Jack shrugged. Neither had he. "And he's at the SGC?" he turned back to Daniel who nodded.
"I think I would like to meet your offspring," said Thor.
But Jack still had more questions for Daniel and only told the Asgard commander, "Sure," before asking his teammate in a carefully deliberate voice. "Why is Xander at the SGC?"
"Well -" was as far as Daniel got when the sound of an Asgard transporter interrupted.
"What the -"
"Are you Xander?" asked Thor. And sure enough, Jack's son was standing on Thor's ship.
"Ahhhgg!" Xander jumped back when he caught sight of diminutive Supreme Commander, his hands reaching for his belt, no doubt for a weapon that wasn't there. Shell shocked by his sudden . . . appropriation, Xander could only stare. Jack didn't know whether to laugh or jump up and hug him. Or yell at Thor, though he really wasn't angry at the little guy.
"Thor!" said Daniel at the exact same time that Jack said, "Xander!"
"Jack!" the young man was clearly surprised to see him alive and well.
"Hey, kid. How's it going?" Jack sauntered over, grinning at the utter confusion on his son's face as he darted looks from Thor to Jack and Daniel to the sleek grey room they stood in. Numbly he took Jack's offered hand.
"Okay. Stop." Xander closed his eye and shook his head, disbelief in every line of his face when he opened it again. "Explanations would be good now. The whole disappearing, shiny room, and you not half dead and crazy, and please tell me I'm hallucinating," he glanced at Thor.
Jack grinned at the confused string of words. "You're not hallucinating."
"Okay. Right. You sure? 'Cause I'd be happy to be."
"Xander, I'd like you to meet Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. Buddy of mine, well known for coming and saving our butts every once in a while." He got another long incredulous stare before Xander blinked and let go of his hand. He eyed Thor up and down warily before glancing back at Jack to see if it was a joke. Jack grinned and nodded back towards Thor was waiting patiently. Xander took a deep breath and offered his hand.
"Nice to meet you," he said. "Sorry about all that, just not used to the transporter thing." And when their hands shook, Xander broke out into a grin. "My friend Andrew is going to be so jealous."
By the time Jack and Daniel had finished explaining the healing thing, Xander's heart was back in his chest. He'd spent half the discussion staring at Thor who had been just as curious about him it seemed. Xander found that once he'd wrapped his head around the fact that he was on a spaceship, everything else was easier to accept. Just another factor of weirdness to add to his already weird life.
Thor was nice too. He showed Xander around the control room and answered his half joking questions about ray guns and shields (which he had after a fashion) and photon torpedoes (which he didn't) with utmost seriousness. Jack and Daniel were amused, both adding comments here and there. "You should see the Goa'uld run in fear of these babies," Jack said of the ship.
All and all Xander was rather impressed. And a little disappointed. Thor and his ship were pretty cool in and of themselves, but the barrenness of the interior felt cold and hard. Alien. He shook his head ruefully as they reconvened back by the tube bed. That was the point wasn't it? That this ship and the little person with big black eyes were from another planet. They were not a part of the Earth.
"So why did you bring me up here?" Xander asked once the tour was over.
"I wanted to meet the offspring of my friend O'Neill," said Thor in his soft and formal tones. Xander looked over at Jack who shrugged back.
"Oh," Xander didn't know what else to say.
"So what do you think?" Jack saved him from adding anything else. "Good kid, huh?"
Xander glared. "I'm hardly a kid," he groused, but both Thor and Jack ignored him, while Daniel gave him a sympathetic smile.
"He possesses your same instinct for humor," Thor nodded. "And he carries himself well in the face of new experiences."
"Yeah well," Xander shrugged embarrassed, "this is hardly the weirdest thing I've ever seen." One of the weirdest, but face it, he'd dated weirder.
"So what were you doing at the SGC anyway?" asked Jack. He was sitting back on the pod like he had when Xander had first arrived, reminding him that not four hours ago, Jack had been hooked up to a bunch of machines to make sure he was still alive. It almost bothered him that he'd gone through all the trouble of worrying about him to just find him here on this ship, healthy as a clam. The technology around him was a kind of magic in its own way.
"Oh you know, looking for the Earth's magical energy," Xander said lightly though he felt anything but. He was rewarded with two incredulous eyebrows rising. "That weapon you used ripped the magic from the Earth."
"The power source looks like it's really a conduit for channeling magical power," said Daniel. "It acts like a magnet - or it enables one - that draws power from the Earth. We tried to ask you about it while you were recovering and you kept repeating 'One world, one life, one source,' over and over no matter how I asked the questions. So we went ahead and woke you up."
"He did?" asked Xander
"I did?" said Jack.
"Those were the only words," Thor confirmed. "They do not make sense to me, nor does this magical force that Dr. Jackson told me of."
"It's like doing stuff with technology without the technology," Xander tried to explain. "You say some words, sometimes you need a ritual, and you make stuff happen."
"Interesting," said Thor, tilting his head slightly. "I would like to see some of this magic."
"I can't really do any on my own," said Xander. "Some people can, the rest of us need the rituals and stuff to help." He tried to avoid it these days anyway.
"What do you need?"
"I, uh, I'd need a spell book first, so I'd know what to do. Then probably lizard guts or something," said Xander, not quite sure how to answer. He also had sneaking suspicion that he needed to be on Earth unless he was someone like Willow who had a heapful of innate power.
"Next time you're on Earth, Thor, we'll see about getting you a demo," Jack came to his rescue. "If you have time now . . .?"
"No. I am afraid I do not have much time to spare. I have already stayed too long."
"We owe you," said Jack solemnly as he stood.
"I have lost track," said Thor. He turned to Xander. "It was an honor to meet the child of the great O'Neill."
'The great O'Neill?' Xander glanced questioningly at his father who just grinned and shrugged again then nodded to Thor. "Thanks for having me and showing me around." Andrew was never going to believe this . . . unless . . . "Do you have a pen?" he asked Daniel who blinked in surprise before patting his pockets and coming up with a Sharpie. Xander accepted it while hitting his own pockets for something to write on, but he didn't have anything. "Could you, uh . . . sign my sleeve?" he offered the pen and his covered arm to the small alien, vaguely embarrassed for asking but knowing that he'd regret it if he didn't. He refused to look at Jack who he heard mutter "For crying out loud!" and Daniel who he was pretty sure was snickering.
Thor, while his expression didn't really change, was obviously confused, but he got the idea when Xander told him to write, 'To Xander, friend of the Asgard, Supreme Commander Thor,' in alien symbols on his shirt.
"A peculiar custom," said Thor as he handed back the pen.
"It's a reminder that we met," said Xander. "You know, in case anyone doesn't believe me."
"Ah." Thor nodded. "Then will you write for me?"
Xander looked up from admiring his sleeve. "What?"
"Will you not write for me?"
"Uh, sure," Xander grinned.
"Hey! How come he never asked me for an autograph?" Jack complained quietly in the background while Thor went and retrieved one of the half-egg things from the control panel.
"Jack, he named a ship after you," said Daniel patiently.
A whole ship? Xander looked up and wanted to ask but since Thor was handing him the stone, he decided to get it out of him later. 'To Thor, friend of the Watcher's Council of Earth, Xander Harris, Watcher, N.A.'
"Thank you," Thor seemed to smile as he accepted back the stone, though Xander wasn't quite sure. "I will now return you to your base."
Another short round of goodbyes and Thor sent them back so quickly that Xander didn't have time to feel it. Instead, he found himself between Jack and Daniel in the middle of the conference room at the SGC where Dr. Weir, Major Davis, and Sam were all waiting for them.
Jack let his mind wander over appropriate gifts for a twenty-something witch during the briefing that was taking much longer than necessary. For once his post-mission - or he should say post-revival - physical had come with a very nice treat. He'd thought it was a conspiracy at first with his teammates and Xander grinning like that, so he'd followed them warily to the observation room, which, Daniel explained, just happened to look over the quarantine infirmary room, where a certain Vice President was being monitored for a sudden case of boils.
Jack would never forget the look on Kinsey's face when he'd seen Jack grinning down at him. The obscenities and empty threats just bounced of the glass as far as he was concerned, turning the good Vice President purple with rage. There wasn't a thing he could do to Jack from his little room. Ever again. It was deeply satisfying.
"How long will the boils last?" he'd asked Xander over his shoulder.
"Oh, there's no going back," Xander had said cheerfully. "Vengeance is forever. He'll probably have an unnaturally long life, too."
Jack couldn't think of anyone who deserved it more, which was why he was thinking about Daniel's suggestion of getting Willow a present. Unfortunately he had no idea what would be a good gift. He needed to ask Xander, but his son was sitting too far away to slip a note, so he would just have to wait for the briefing to finish.
They were still going on about the nonsense he'd spouted while still in Ancient mode. Dr. Weir was interested in implications for future defense and of course, Daniel was no help in wrapping things up, and neither was Carter for that matter. Davis, the lucky bastard, had gotten out while the going was good.
Jack wondered if he could get away with sending Xander a paper airplane note. He could tell his son had no more interest in the briefing than he did. Xander had declared straight out that he had no idea what the phrase meant. But he had put on his guileless face, the one that suggested he wasn't anymore than a simple man that left all the heavy thinking to others. Jack had a feeling that Xander had a very good idea what 'one world, one life, one source,' meant, and he wasn't sharing. He wondered if he should call him on it, but since Weir wasn't cleared for the supernatural, he decided to get it out of him later.
Xander only spoke when asked a question and the rest of the time ignored the conversation while he inspected his sleeve where Thor had written his autograph. Jack had no doubt that the first thing Xander would do when he got home was frame it. Jack shook his head just imagining Andrew's speechlessness.
"Dr. Weir?" Jack interrupted, finally having enough. "Can't all this be summed up in a report?"
Weir regarded him a moment as a small smile eeked across her face. "Impatient to go home?" she asked.
"When you put it like that . . ." Jack noticed Xander's head come up at the new direction in conversation.
"Very well, Director Harris, if you have nothing to add?" Xander shook his head quickly, "Then the formal briefing is dismissed. Dr. Jackson, Major Carter, you're welcome to stay."
"Thank you." Jack rose to his feet, Xander and Teal'c doing the same. Happy to escape they made for the doors and as they did, Weir called out,
"Enjoy your visit!"
Surprisingly, it was Xander who turned and nodded. Once they were out the door, Jack asked, "What was that all about?"
Xander looked at him then quickly away, taking two more steps before he answered. "I told her you were my dad."
Teal'c almost ran into Jack, he stopped so fast. He didn't know if it was the fact that Xander had told her or that he'd actually used 'my' and 'dad' in the same sentence. "You did?" he said stupidly.
"You told Thor," Xander defended himself. "Besides, it's not like it's a dirty secret or anything."
"No. No, it's not." Jack grinned. He couldn't believe it. He just . . . it topped seeing Kinsey miserable. 'My dad.' He hadn't heard those words said like that since Charlie. He'd wondered if he ever would again, even once Xander had come into his life. And now he had.
Xander noticed that Jack's smile didn't fade on the way to the VIP quarters to grab his stuff or on the elevator ride to the surface. Jack had tried to keep it cool with light questions about Chinese takeout and whatnot, but his underlying happiness was hard for even him to keep in.
Xander just played along. The briefing had given him a lot of time to think, and after the initial reminders to himself to call Giles and see what could be done about getting control of the thing that had caused the magic drain, his thoughts had turned back to Jack.
His dad. He still didn't know why he had told Dr. Weir. He still didn't know why he felt weird about telling her. As he'd told Jack later, it wasn't a secret, but at the same time it felt like it was, something only to share with close friends. Family.
Family. It had made him smile. For Xander, family were the people you went to to get away from your relatives.
Most of his relatives were gone now. None of them had tried to find him after Sunnydale, or if they had, he'd never known about it. And he didn't really mind. He hadn't been their grandson or nephew or cousin for a long time. Or son.
But he was Jack's, and more than that, he wanted to be. And despite the universe conspiring against them, he was going to be for a long time.
"So is that a normal week for you?" he asked Jack after they had passed the last checkpoint.
"More or less," said Jack. "We actually don't get attacked by Goa'uld in ships that often. And Thor doesn't stop by that often either."
"But the whole nearly dying because of alien crap in your head?"
Jack shrugged. "It's part of the job. Would the danger make you stop what you do?"
"No, I get it," said Xander. "Don't think I really did before." He really hadn't. Aliens had been abstract and Jack dying . . . he hadn't let himself think about that until he'd actually seen him. "Thor's cool though," he said to get off that train of thought.
"I can't believe you asked for his autograph," Jack shook his head. "And I can't believe he asked for yours."
"Well, I am the child of the great O'Neill," Xander glanced at him sideways.
"Thor likes me," said Jack smugly.
"Did he really name a ship after you?"
"Carter blew it up though."
"'Blew up' as in 'kablewie'?"
"That sucks." Xander grinned at a sudden thought. "Don't tell Andrew that part."
They stopped for Chinese takeout on the way home which had led to an ardent discussion of what was good and what was not. Cashew Chicken turned out to be the only thing they could agree on so they each ended up with a couple cartons of their own, which suited Jack just fine since that meant more of the good stuff for him.
Once they were back at the house, Jack headed immediately to the kitchen for two bottles of beer and a couple of forks. In the den, Xander had thrown his jacket in the armchair and settled down on the couch, pushing magazines around on the coffee table looking for the remote control.
"Here," Jack handed him a beer and a fork which Xander accepted absently as he clicked on the TV. Jack sat next to him, fishing his Beef with Broccoli out of the bag along with his share of the egg rolls.
"Any channel requests?" asked Xander, one-handedly grabbing the rice and his Spicy Mongolian Beef.
"Twenty-five," said Jack sitting back. Xander switched it to ESPN.
"I should have guessed," he said, sitting back himself and plopping his feet on the coffee table.
"Shoes!" Jack elbowed him. Xander kicked his shoes over the opposite edge where they fell to the floor in two thunks.
"So what're we looking at? Death toll?" he asked.
"Scores," Jack ignored the sarcasm with the ease that came from putting up with Daniel. The past week had been the last of the NHL regular season. As he read the ticker tape summary of the day's games he noted that there had been no major upsets.
"I can't believe you watch this every week," said Xander. "It's so boring."
"You watch sci-fi," Jack replied. "That's just plain bad."
"You just don't like it 'cause you shoot aliens for a living. Face it, you might've liked it otherwise."
Jack tore his eyes away from the screen long enough to say, "I didn't watch Star Wars 'til Teal'c rented it."
Xander shrugged. "I didn't watch Interview With a Vampire until after I met Buffy. And let me tell you, that movie was crap. Vampires are nothing like that."
"What about artistic license?"
"Did you like Star Wars?" Xander asked pointedly.
"Yeah, it was all right," Jack admitted. "It's just a movie. Have you seen the show Wormhole X-treme?"
"The one that came out a couple years ago? Once or twice. Andrew doesn't even like it much."
"Where do you think they got the idea for it?" Jack asked. That got Xander's attention and stopped his fork halfway from his mouth.
"It's based on you? The Stargate thing? No way!"
"I can't say anything, but loosely," Jack nodded.
"I said loosely," Jack reiterated. He'd been on set and seen part of an episode himself so he knew it was bad. But Xander was laughing now. "And don't tell Andrew," he ordered because he knew that his next visit would be hell if the ultimate nerd ever found out.
"No telling Andrew, got it," Xander said between snickers. "Until I want something . . . Colonel Ace Danning!"
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Hearing the name of the character based on him, Jack knew he shouldn't have told him. But his outburst only made Xander laugh harder. Jack tried to ignore him and focus on what the anchor was saying about playoffs while he ate his dinner, relieved when Xander finally started to calm down.
"Does Thor come over for guest appearances?" Xander lost it again.
"Just you wait until there's a TV character based on you," Jack grumbled. In need of something more distracting he reached for the remote by Xander's knee. "And if you kick over the food, you're cleaning it up," he told him.
"I won't kick anything over," Xander protested, nevertheless stilling his twitching limbs. "Hey, flip to the Cartoon Network."
Jack obliged, but only after going through ESPN2, CNN, and the local channels first. There was nothing on except the PowerPuff Girls and Jack let the episode wash over him, content to sit and eat, drink, and relax. Beside him, Xander chuckled at the cartoon, at home on the couch. He finally seemed to have let the Wormhole X-treme thing go, but then he would glance at Jack and snicker. Jack pretended to glare at him which only made Xander laugh harder until Jack felt a contagious grin pull at his own lips. Shaking his head, Jack settled into the show, content to sit a watch and laugh with the young man by his side. It felt good and right in a way that Jack had almost forgotten.
By the end of two episodes, they had finished eating for the most part. Jack gathered together the empty cartons and bottles as the credits rolled, trying to get them together so he only had to make one trip to the trash. Xander helped put things in his hands, his earlier jovial expression giving way to something more serious. He seemed to want to say something, and Jack didn't think it was the "thanks" he got. Not worrying about it, Jack took his load to the kitchen.
He was just reaching to get to the recycle bin for the bottles when Xander called out, "Hey, Dad, can you grab some napkins?"
Jack stopped. Turned. Looked through to the living room. "What?" It came out shaky. But Xander had just called him . . .
"Napkins," Xander repeated, staring him back straight in the eye. And Jack knew that Xander knew exactly what he had just said. And that he knew what Jack was really asking. When Jack didn't move right away, he added, "Like the nickname? 'Cause it's either that or 'Ace' . . ." his son grinned sheepishly, looking down and away then back, uncertain and almost afraid but at the same time defiant.
"No, 'Dad' is fine," said Jack a smile breaking out across his own face even as he felt like the sun was rising in his chest and he wasn't big enough to hold in all the love and pride he felt for Xander at that moment.
"Good," said Xander, breaking out into a relived smile. "Napkins."
"Right, napkins," Jack shook away his shock and grabbed some napkins before rejoining his son in the den.
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page