Title: The Barista 18 - Pondering
Season: 2
Category: Missing Scene/Epilogue, Hurt/Comfort
Episode Related: 216 The Fifth Race
Spoilers: Slight reference to Touchstone

It is one of those picture postcard days here in Colorado Springs. The jagged peaks of the Rockies are all covered with a thick blanket of snow, the sun is shining brightly and the forecast is for a high of 28 F with no wind. That might sound cold to you, but up here, it's just perfect. All things considered, mid-January doesn't get much better than this.

I'm in a good mood as I take the long way home from work. I cut through the park behind the University and skirt around the edge of the playground. I smile as I take in the guys playing Frisbee. It had been a little over a month since my last park foray and that had ended with a free breakfast! I had only seen Daniel once since then. It was right before the weather went all wacky last week. That (the weather, not Daniel) had been weird. Usually acute instances of global warming don't just stop after three days, but for some reason it did. Someone up there likes us, that's for sure.

I'm so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I nearly walk right past him. Actually I do walk past him but then I stop and turn back around. Yep- it's him all right.

Jack O'Neill.

Jack O'Neill sitting by himself on a park bench watching the world go by. He looks sad. The sound of children's laughter from the nearby playground seems to catch his attention and he turns to stare at a child being pushed on a swing. Only his eyes move, as he watches the little boy swing up in a high arch and then back down with gleeful squeals.

It's a little weird to see him so still. Hell, it's a little weird to see him out here by himself. I may not know Colonel Jack all that well, but he strikes me as a private guy. The kind of guy who'd much rather hang out in the quiet of his house than in a noisy park. It's a little disconcerting.

Well, I can't just walk past and not say hello. Well, I could but I'm not going too. I clear my throat and take a step forward.

"Oh, hey Kira," Jack says casually as he looks up and slowly takes in my presence before turning back towards the kids in the park. Absently I wonder if maybe one of those kids is his. I sit down next to him. And I surprise myself by just sitting.

I also take in the kids playing in the park, the brilliant blue of the sky and the general feeling of everything being ok in the universe. Maybe Jack is on to something here. He doesn't seem to mind my presence so after a few minutes, I take a moment to surreptitiously study him. I notice how incredibly tired he looks. He has large dark smudges under his eyes and he looks much older. My eyes begin to move upwards and suddenly I let out an audible gasp.

Jack O'Neill has gone gray! There! Along the temples, he's really and truly gray. Actually, it's more silver than gray.. When the hell did that happen?

Jack turns towards me and gives me a funny look, as my cheeks grow uncomfortably warm. Smooth move Meyers.

"Something wrong Kira?" Jack asks, cocking his head slightly to one side.

"Uh, no." I reply in a voice slightly higher than my own natural alto.

"Uh huh." Clearly, Jack doesn't believe me.

"You have gray hair Jack." Might as well get it out in the open.

Unselfconsciously Jack runs a hand through his short brown and silver hair and gives me a short chuckle. "Yeah, I've been noticing that myself lately. I'm going to blame it on Daniel."

"What'd he do this time?" I ask smiling, hoping I'd get a story. Somehow I know any story told by Colonel Jack O'Neill was bound to be interesting.

"More like a cumulative effect," Jack answers with a small smile. He then turns back towards the kids. I wonder if I should leave him to his solitude. I'm just about ready to stand up when the sound of Jack's voice anchors me back to the bench.

"Have you always been smart Kira?" Jack isn't looking at me at all, rather straight ahead. I give him a quixotic look as I ponder his question.

"Define smart." Jack laughs genuinely this time and turns to look at me.

"Good in school, high IQ. You know- smart."

I shrug. Well when he puts it that way.. "I guess. I mean, I'm not Mensa* material, but I hold my own." I say.

"Carter and Daniel are Smart," Jack says with a knowing nod. I swear I can hear the capital S as he says the word. Jack isn't just talking about straight A's smart, but rather the kinda intelligence geniuses (genuii?) are born with. I think about Daniel and Captain Sam. A multi-lingual Archaeologist and a PhD-toting Astrophysicist? I think we're talking Smart and not smart.

"I've never really been book-smart," Jack continues softly. "I was much more interested in girls and cars when I was a kid." I smile. I could so see that.

"But you're a Colonel in the United States military!" I say in rebuttal. I can never remember if he was Army or Air Force.

Jack shrugs, and does a funny hand wave as if that doesn't matter. "But I'm not Smart." Again with the capital S. "Sure I can dismantle and reassemble a P90 in less than 15 seconds, but what does that matter?"

"When you're being chased by a big-ass bear and that gun can save your life?" I answer without missing a beat.

Jack gives me another funny look. "Well sure, that might save a life or two, but what about solving the riddles of the universe?!" Jack says this angrily. I take a moment to ponder this.

"Solving the riddles of the universe?"

"Yeah- meaning of life stuff," Jack says with a heavy sigh. "What if you were smart enough to figure out the answers to all those meaning of life type questions?" I'm pretty sure it's a rhetorical question but I decide to answer anyway.

"I once heard Stephen Hawkings speak"

"The guy in the wheelchair?"

I nod. "Yeah. He was giving a lecture at CSU and I managed to get my hands on a ticket and attend."

"Stephen Hawkings is Smart," Jack concedes with a nod. I wonder if everything in Jack's universe is black and white. Smart versus smart. Good versus evil. It was something to think about. I shake my head. Hawkings. We're talking about Stephen Hawkings.

"Hawkings is definitely one of those guys able to solve riddles of the universe smart." I say continuing the conversation. Jack shrugs and opens his mouth as if to argue. "But," I continue, interrupting him. "If he found himself on a mountain being chased by a bear, he'd be dead in seconds."

"Your point?" Jack asks tiredly.

"My point, is that there will always be people who will attempt to solve the riddles of the universe Jack, but without guys who can keep them safe, they'll never find the answers."

"Maybe," Jack concedes. "Still being Smart can be pretty cool." He says this in a strange, nearly nostalgic voice. I suddenly get a flashback to some after school movie. Jack sounds exactly like the character Charly from that book, Flowers for Algernon.

"Jack, if I were trapped on a desert island with only my history books and intelligence, I'd probably die a dozen times over. I don't know how to make a fire from scratch, where to find fresh water, how to find shelter in a driving rain- hell how to build shelter in a driving rain. But I bet you do." Jack lets out a short hmmph and gave me a wry smile as he gave a small affirmative nod.

"And you don't think that's smart?!" I say incredulously. "Hey, if trapped on an island of Ancient Greeks, I might be able to help you out, but only with the language and culture stuff. If suddenly the Greeks decided they needed me as a virgin sacrifice.."

"Virgin, right," Jack mutters under his breath.

"Hey!" I say giving him a sharp elbow to the ribs, "I might still be a virgin." I can't believe I'm saying this to him.

"Kira, you're 21 years old and cute as a button, there's no way you're a virgin." I don't know whether to be complimented or insulted. Still, Jack just called me cute; I'll choose compliment.

"ANYWAY," I say continuing my what-if scenario. "If I were overtaken by a dozen.."

"Two," Jack counters getting into the game.

"Half a dozen fierce warriors," I say glaring at him. "And were I taken to the altar and told that now I would die, there probably isn't anything I could do about it. Sure, I'd try and talk sense into them, cite some historical precedence or something. But sometimes that just might not work."

"No kidding," Jack mumbles.

"And who's going to be the one to save my butt from the burner?" I don't wait for his answer. "Guys like you Jack; smart military guys who can assess a situation and do what needs to be done. No pondering, no questioning, you just do it." I hope I'm not sounding like a bad Nike ad.

Jack just sits there for several long moments mulling over what I have said.

"Smart military guys can make mistakes you know," Jack says softly.

"So can smart, meaning of life guys," I answer back. Jack sighs deeply and goes back to staring at the kids on the swing set. I continue to sit with him for another five minutes before standing up. It's time for me to go. Jack looks at me as I stand. His silver hairs sparkle in the strong sunshine. I decide that Jack O'Neill looks quite dignified with gray hair.

"Your ears are turning pink Jack, don't stay out here too long," I chide.

Jack smiles, eyes twinkling. "Just a little while longer mom."

I laugh and give him a short wave. "Bye Jack."

"Bye Kira. Thanks." Not really sure what he's thanking me for, but that's ok. Jack seems a little less sad than when I sat down and that's not a bad thing at all.

*Mensa- club for folks with really high IQ's.
Flowers For Algernon. A book by Daniel Keyes about a guy with a really low IQ who gains intelligence only to eventually lose it again.

  • 28 F is about -2 C.

I really liked this one. Email me and let me know what you think. ~dcc April 6, 2003

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