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But You Can Never Leave

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Jack hadn't known what to think of John Sheppard originally and realized that his own CO’s must have looked at him the same way. Good officer or loose cannon? A man could be both. Jack had been like that once. John was like that too, in his own way.

It started with his attempt to rescue Captain Lyle Holland and continued with his attempt to rescue Colonel Marshall Sumner and hit a high point - in Jack’s book - with taking back Atlantis with all of no actual soldiers to his name, instead two alien warriors and three civilians, only one of whom had regular gate team experience.

After the debrief at the SGC, Woolsey was on the first plane back to DC. Jack was more than content to crash in one of the rooms on base. So he kicked off his boots, sprawled on the bed, and closed his eyes.

His cell phone buzzed.

He sighed and fished it out of his pocket.

And saw he had twenty-seven missed calls in the last eighteen hours.

Twenty of them were from the same person. John Eric Winchester.

Jack listened to the most recent message.

Dammit, O’Neill. Either you're not answering me because you're in on it or you don't care. They took him.

Jack sat bolt upright. Damn. John Eric had called him the first time two years ago when Mini Me listed him as a reference for a job at Winchester Singer Repairs, and they had a cordial enough relationship, with John Eric letting him know how Mini Me was doing (just fine, because he wasn't actually a child, and Jack hadn't believed that embracing high school shtick one bit) and Jack reassuring him Mini Me was really allowed to be on his own.

If Mini Me had been kidnapped, it was The Trust or rogue NID.

Jack could see it all so clearly, either entity trying to seize control of The Chair with both Walking Genes off world.

He tucked his phone between his ear and shoulder and listened to the messages in proper order while he tugged on his boots and the rest of his BDUs.

Sam had gone to Mini Me for help with homework and saw the door had been kicked in. Mini Me was gone and not answering his phone.

John Eric checked with the neighbors and one mentioned seeing a black can pull up in front of the house, but they'd assumed it was legit because the van had Air Force plates and everyone knew young Jonathan had an uncle in the Air Force.

The Trust and NID had been willing to pose as Air Force before.

John Eric reported a call from his son Dean, who was a cadet at the Academy. Dean said he'd received a call from Mini Me. He was quitting the garage, and would someone go and pack up his art collection and put it somewhere safe? The Air Force would take care of the rest.

John Eric and Sam had only just managed to gather Mini Me’s most precious belongings - his art and two boxes under his bed - before another black van pulled up and some young airmen started packing away Mini Me’s entire house like he was being deployed long-term.

Jack thought of the life Mini Me had built for himself, the life Jack had hoped to have when he retired, working with his hands, fishing, season tickets to the opera, memberships at art galleries. It was the perfect life. Jack had been rooting for the kid, figured he was biding his time till he could start trying for serious relationships.

And it had been ruthlessly deconstructed as soon as he was gone.

Jack got to Hank’s office and came up short when he saw Mini Me, hair buzzed short, wearing blues adorned with a lieutenant's butter bars, standing opposite Hank’s desk.

“What the hell is going on here?”

“Jack,” Hank began, but Jack jabbed an accusatory finger at Mini Me.

“John Eric blew up my phone while I was stuck on Atlantis and made it sound like you'd been kidnapped by The Trust or a rogue NID outfit.”

Mini Me frowned. “John Eric? Wait - you've been keeping tabs on me?”

“Of course I was!” Jack snapped. “What is all this? What happened to the garage and the Merlin engine and this season’s production of Carmen?”

Hank pursed his lips sourly. “Apparently you weren't keeping close enough tabs on him.”

“No one should've been keeping tabs on me. I'm an adult and a fully-trained soldier,” Mini Me said tightly.

Jack knew that tone of voice. The kid was inches from taking a swing at someone.

“Hank, what's going on?”

“The Pentagon has procedures in place, for if we ever lose our two strongest Gene carriers,” Hank said.

“Well, Sheppard and I are back now, thanks.”

“Young Jonathan has agreed to do some work for us,” Hank said.

Judging by the look on Mini Me’s face, ‘agreed’ was pushing it.

Jack stared at him. “What could possibly have driven you to -”

“My second Sara,” Mini Me said.

“Your second Sara?” Jack echoed.

Mini Me swallowed hard. “Maybe more like my Sam. And my space monkey, all rolled into one.”

Sam. Subordinate. Space Monkey. Daniel. Civilian.

Wait.

Sam. Subordinate. Space Monkey. Daniel. Male.

It was Jack’s turn to swallow hard. “Who?” Not Sheppard. Impossible. They were in two different galaxies.

“Doesn’t matter,” Mini Me said flatly.

Jack immediately thought back on every subordinate who’d ever turned his head, but there were plenty of attractive men at the SGC. He noticed the way Hank was looking at him, and he raised his eyebrows.

Hank only managed to hold his gaze for a second before looking away.

“What’ll you have him doing?” Jack asked.

“Covert work,” Hank said. “Where no one will expect someone his age.”

“Should’ve left his hair longer,” Jack said. “He’d blend in better looking more like a civilian.”

Mini Me looked away from both of them. A muscle jumped in his jaw.

“You’d better call John Eric and Dean and Sam and talk them down from putting your face on a milk carton,” Jack said finally. He cast Hank a warning look. Let the kid say goodbye.

Hank dipped his chin in acknowledgment.

“And I was looking forward to this season’s production of Carmen.” Jack sighed.

Mini Me said, “You could still see it. Season ticket’s bought. Under the name of Jonathan O’Neill. I don’t bother with my middle initial, so they won’t know the difference.”

“Dismissed,” Hank said, and Mini Me saluted, textbook perfect, before he did an about-face and left Hank’s office.

“Should’ve kept closer tabs on him,” Hank said as soon as Mini Me was out of earshot.

“I was hoping,” Jack said, “he’d have a better life than I did. I guess it’s true, though. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”