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rocketfic | nine-tenths

Title: Nine-Tenths by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Set after "Learning Curve."

Jack O'Neill tended to think of himself as the only real parent on the team.

He liked to think he was the only one who was good with kids, and was still feeling pretty smug about his efforts on behalf of Merrin and the rest of the children on Orban.

Never mind Daniel's natural affinity with the younger Abydonians. Never mind Teal'c's distant son, Rya'c. Never mind that Cassie had somehow remained a fairly well-adjusted and loving kid under Janet's care, despite the horror she'd been through.

Never mind any of that. Now he was on a mission. If people like him were regularly stuck doing unspeakable, scary things to protect the world, then kids should have the luxury of being kids.


So when Sam mentioned, offhandedly, that Cassandra had been struggling a bit in school lately, and that the rampant dervish of hormone-addled teenaged angst had Janet a little stressed out, he jumped on the chance to play Dad again.

The resultant mixture of hope and dread that swirled in Janet's gut was forebodingly familiar, especially where Colonel O'Neill was concerned.

"You want to take her fishing, sir?" the doctor said, hoping she'd heard incorrectly.

"Sure! It'll be fun. We'll take a long weekend, head up to the cabin, and goof off." He flashed his most charming grin, assuming that would seal the deal.

"Fishing might not be entirely up her alley..." she said carefully, thinking that even most adults' attention spans might be taxed by the colonel's idea of fun.

"Psh. She'll love it. And we'll even take Fuzzbutt," he added magnanimously, referring to the dog he himself had imposed upon her. "Everybody wins."

She restrained a sigh, and reluctantly agreed.

For a girl who was missing school to spend a long weekend goofing off with her favorite uncle, Cassie looked decidedly apprehensive as she waited with her mother and her dog in the front yard.

Jack pulled into the driveway with a flourish, deliberately coming to a rubber-squealing halt and delighting in Janet's immediate wince. Tweaking the doctor was one of his favorite pastimes.

"Okay," he hollered, as he hopped out of the truck. "Who's ready for exposure to near-lethal levels of fun?"

Cassie glanced at Janet, who wrapped an arm across the teen's shoulder in a hug. "I packed extra sunscreen in your bag," the doctor said quietly.

Jack rolled his eyes as he lifted the squirming dog into the truck.

"And Sam made sure your cell phone was fully charged, so just call if you need anything," Janet concluded.

"Reception's terrible up there," he drawled. "But we'll be cool, Doc. Trust me."

Her eyes were suspiciously moist as she nodded, then she planted a kiss on Cassie's forehead. "Have fun," Janet said, with forced cheerfulness.

"Okay," Cassie replied. She handed the colonel her bag and walked around the truck to climb in the passenger side.

"See you Sunday!" Jack announced with a grin, before hopping in the truck and squealing back onto the road.

He wasn't sure, but he thought maybe he'd spotted a familiar blonde head in the window of the doctor's house as he drove away.

Upon their arrival, he gave her the nickel tour of his most favorite ramshackle retreat, then promptly started a game of fetch with Fuzzbutt, repeatedly launching a hefty stick into the water and watching as the eager mutt dove after it.

It took him a while to notice that Cassie wasn't playing along. She was, instead, seated on the porch, math textbook and notepad in hand.

"Homework? Cass, you're on vacation," he said, exasperated. This was undoubtedly Carter's influence.

"If I don't do it, I'll fall behind," she insisted. "And it's taken me this long just to get caught up."

He had to stop and think about that, but suddenly realized that it had to have been a herculean task just to get her education even with her peers on Earth. History, grammar, math - they were all radically different from where she was raised. Yet, somehow, she was holding her own amongst kids her own age...

... which was -- undoubtedly -- Carter's influence.

Jack sighed. "Need any help?"

"Nope," she answered, with a confident grin.

As she bent back over her work, he decided some chow was in order. Fuzzbutt seemed to agree.

The next day went a little better, as they grew more accustomed to each other. Cassie clearly expected grownups to act... well, grownup, so being around a Jack O'Neill who couldn't be bothered to comb his hair was definitely a new experience.

He taught her how to bait a hook, was duly impressed that she was only a tiny bit grossed out, and they sat and chatted about cartoons for hours on end. When it got dark, he broke out a chess set.

"Saturday, right? You play chess with Sam on Saturdays," he explained.

"I didn't know you knew how to play," Cassie replied.

"I don't." He held up a knight. "So where do the little horses go?"

After a few games in which she soundly kicked his ass, he announced that chess was quite overrated. They set up a campfire, made cocoa, and listened to the crickets for a while.

"You look tired, kiddo. Too much mountain air keep you awake last night?" he asked with a grin.

She shook her head a bit. "I get nightmares when Mom's not around," she admitted in a tiny voice.

Jack's face fell. "Oh. Hey, Cass, I'm sorry. Janet never mentioned..."

"She doesn't know." Cassie shrugged a bit. "If she's not around, there's always a good reason. She doesn't need to be worrying about me, too."

He had no idea how to respond to that, given that whenever Janet wasn't looking after her daughter, she was most likely looking after him, his team, or the rest of the planet.

Dammit. Kids weren't supposed to be this... burdened.

He heaved a sigh, and kicked a pebble into the fire. "Listen... If you ever need anything, I'm around, too. I know I'm not as smart as your mom or Sam, but I'm still good for a few things."

"Why do you always do that?" Cassie asked.

"Do what?"

"Talk about them being 'smart' like it's something to be embarrassed about. It's not like they haven't worked hard to get where they are."

"Now wait a minute," he sputtered. "Of course being smart isn't anything to be embarrassed about. It's just that... well... frankly, they're freakishly smart."

"It's not like you're stupid or anything. You don't have to make fun of them to convince them you're smart enough to be around too."

Jack bristled, wanting to immediately deny it, but found himself unable to lie to her. "Look. Have you ever seen them work together? Like, put a problem in front of them and watch them attack it? It's almost spooky, Cass. They're way beyond 'smart.'" He affected a dismissive shrug. "Maybe that gets a little tough on the ol' ego."

"You're jealous," she observed, watching even as he reared away. "Because it's something you can't be part of."

"That's ridiculous," he protested.

Somehow, that time he managed the lie just fine.

After a while, Cassie wandered off to try and get some sleep.

Jack got up from the fire and paced, occasionally picking up fallen pinecones from the floorboards of the cabin's porch and chucking them into the night. He tried to pretend that Cassie's innocent observations hadn't stung, but that only agitated him more.

You're jealous.

Bullshit. Why should he be jealous of the CarterFraiser Geekfest? If anything, he was grateful for it; with their combined efforts, the impending-peril factor of daily life at the SGC was decreased by a factor of at least ten.

So why did he so enjoy taking digs at the Doc? Why had he expected a hero's welcome when he offered to take Cassie off her hands for a weekend? Why was he annoyed that he hadn't gotten it?

He remembered, once, when a terrified Cassie had turned to him instead of Janet. He'd savored that, and figured it put him right on the top of the makeshift parental heap.

Then somehow, Janet had earned the balance of the girl's trust, and in the process knocked him right off the heap entirely. It wasn't fair that the doctor had managed to usurp the one thing he was best at.

A tiny nocturnal creature suffered the wrath of his ponderings at the other end of a viciously-chucked pinecone. He stopped pacing to listen to the sudden scurrying of clawed feet through the trees.

It's something you can't be a part of.

Okay, so Janet was smarter than he was. And she'd somehow become "Mom" to an orphaned alien child. She'd forged a solid family bond despite all the odds stacked against her. She wielded her professional authority with perfect, cool control in times of utter chaos. She'd saved the world just as often as he had, and her one-liners were usually better, too.

And she had Sam.

His shoulders suddenly slumped. He wasn't sure what that particular revelation meant, exactly, and didn't honestly care to think about it much further. It was simply the truth. Whether or not the two women were anything other than friends, they were still more than he and Sam ever would be.

He stopped pacing, and stared hard into the night.

The idea that he'd been bested in a competition bothered him. The idea that he felt the need to compete over Sam's affection -- or Cassie's -- bothered him more.

The knowledge that Janet deserved better than that from a friend and fellow officer...

... that bothered him the most.

Neither he nor Cassie got a lot of sleep that night. The next morning, by unspoken agreement, they packed up first thing and headed home.

He didn't even complain when she broke out the cell phone to let her mom know they'd be home early.

Janet was waiting at her door when they arrived, and Cassie feigned annoyance at her smothering welcome-home hug.

Fuzzbutt leapt from the truck and bounded back into the yard, barking with joy as he chased his favorite squirrels.

Jack could only shake his head as he unpacked the teen's stuff from the truck. It was a picture of domestic bliss - alien orphan, single mom, top-secret security clearance and all.

"Thank you, sir," Janet said with a smile, as she took the last of Cassie's bags from him. He nodded, and watched as she stepped back up the path to her house.

"Hey, Doc?" He waited until she turned around. "That's a great kid you got there."

Her face instantly split into the grin of an insufferably proud parent. "Yeah, she is."

"She takes after her mom," he added, with a smile.

And for the first time since they'd met, she didn't have a comeback.

Jack chuckled, and climbed back into his car.

This time, he was sure he saw a familiar blonde head in the living room window as he drove away.

He sighed.

Janet really did have it all - brains, beauty, the perfect kid, the perfect dog, and the affection of a certain perfect Major. Moreover, she deserved every bit of it.

He could concede that much.

Oh well.

At least she was still really, really short.


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