Stargate SG-1 fic: Brave Little Alien
The Brave Little Alien
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
Cassie, Sam, Jack
Cassie has to learn that brave doesn’t mean not being scared when she learns she will be starting school soon.
don’t own… wish I did, but I don’t. No infringement intended.
Things were so very different here. Cassie had no concept of “school” before Janet announced she would be attending. She had stared blank faced until her new mom had chuckled and explained what would happen. The terror that had gripped her didn’t let up for weeks.
Then Sam had come by for a visit. Cassie liked Sam. A lot. Sometimes she wished it had been Sam that had taken her home. Not that she had anything against Janet. Janet was a good mom. But she wasn’t Sam. Cassie sat quietly on the swing, letting her toes dig into the dirt until she slowed to a stop.
“What’s wrong?” Sam asked, stopping her own swing.
Cassie shrugged. That was something she had learned on Earth, too. They didn’t shrug back home.
“There has to be something wrong.” Sam sat patiently next to her. Cassie just drew patterns in the dirt with her toe. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
The silence pressed in on her but she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. Sam had told her she was the bravest girl ever. But she didn’t feel brave. She was terrified and she knew Sam would be disappointed in her.
“How about an ice cream?”
Sam got up and Cassie followed. She didn’t think she could eat anything with the way her stomach was knotted up. A few minutes later a small vanilla cone was placed in her hand and Sam guided her over to a table. Cassie stared at the ice cream dripping over the edge of the cone onto her hand. Sam watched her a moment, taking small bites from her own cone.
“So, you going to keep telling me nothing is wrong?”
Cassie looked up, confusion on her small face.
“I’ve never seen you pass up ice cream before.
Cassie sighed. “I guess… I’m just not hungry.”
“Never thought I’d hear that either,” she said with a chuckle.
Cassie felt a grin pull at the corner of her lips. Sam beamed at her and the smile on her own face grew until she couldn’t help but laugh. “Jack says I eat like a linebacker getting ready for the playoffs.”
Sam rolled her eyes.
“I don’t even know what that means,” Cassie told her with a giggle. “Jack says a lot of weird things.”
Sam nodded, taking another bite from her cone. “That he does.” She regarded Cassie with a thoughtful look. “You ready to talk to me now?”
Cassie sighed. “I guess.” She licked tentatively at the now lop-sided ice cream.
“What’s on your mind?” Sam moved to sit next to her, wrapping an arm around Cassie’s body. She felt her insides warm at the touch. Like how she felt when Mother would hold her. She missed Mother. Another sigh escaped her lips.
“School,” she finally confessed.
Sam gave her a quizzical look. “School? What specifically about it?” She chomped on her cone, leaving just the very bottom in her hand.
“Everything. It’s just-” Cassie took a deep breath. “Janet says I have to go but…” She just trailed off, unable to bring herself to say the words.
“You’re scared,” Sam guessed.
Cassie let her gaze fall to her lap, the ice cream forgotten again. Sam gingerly took it from her hands and licked the sides of the cone.
“I didn’t mean to disappoint you,” she mumbled, tears pressing at the back of her eyes.
Sam stiffened next to her. “Why would you say that? What would ever make you think I’d be disappointed in you?”
“I’m not brave.”
Sam pulled Cassie closer, her fingers threading through the young girl’s hair. “Yes you are. You are the bravest little girl I’ve ever met.”
“No I’m not. I’m scared of something as stupid as school. None of the other kids are scared of it.” She felt the anger building. Her hands covered her face as she willed herself not to cry in front of Sam.
“Oh, honey, there are plenty of kids that were raised… right here… that are afraid to go to school. Especially when it’s their first time going. It’s something new. And it’s scary.”
“Were you scared?”
Sam tilted her head, apparently thinking over her answer. “No. But I couldn’t wait to get to school, to learn everything I could. I loved school.”
“Jack says you’re the smartest person alive.”
She could feel Sam suppressing a laugh. “He did not.”
Cassie nodded into the older woman’s shoulder. “He said you’re a genius that makes all the other egg-heads at the SGC look like nimrods.”
“You shouldn’t listen to things the colonel says.”
“Janet said the same thing,” she said with a hiccup. She no longer felt like crying and the knot in her stomach was easing up. Sam continued to rub a hand up and down her back even as she finished off Cassie’s cone before it melted all over them. “We didn’t have school… in Toronto.”
“Tell me about it,” Sam encouraged, pushing Cassie’s hair away from her face.
“In… Toronto we spent most of our time helping in the fields or taking care of the little ones. I liked to help Mother the best. She would sing lovely songs as we swept out the house or baked bread.” Her voice grew softer as the memories bombarded her senses. The tears stung her eyes and warmed her cheeks. Sam didn’t say anything, just continued to hold her. “Sometimes I’d help Father in the fields and he’d teach me about planting and harvesting and understanding our weather to get the best crops. Sometimes Ilaya… she was this really old lady… would gather all of the kids together and she’d tell us stories about how we came to be… in Toronto.” Cassie frowned at the memory. It seemed like forever since she had seen her family and friends.
“It sounds wonderful, Cass.”
Cassie nodded again, wiping at her eyes. “But there was no school and now I have to go to school and I don’t know what it is and how I will get through it and… I’m scared.” The words just burbled out like a creek escaping from a poorly built dam.
Sam smiled, her teeth shining brightly in the mid-day sun. “It’s okay to be scared, Cassie. Everyone gets scared.” At the girl’s surprised look, Sam tapped her nose. “Yes, even I get scared.”
She nodded. “I’m sure the colonel gets scared, too. The difference is a brave person knows they are scared and still chooses to face that fear. That’s what makes them brave.”
“You’re brave,” Cassie stated.
Sam smiled again. “Not as brave as you. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had found out everyone I knew and loved was gone. I don’t think I could have dealt with that. I’m so proud of you, Cassie, for being so brave and strong. I know you’ll get through this school thing, too.”
Cassie frowned down at the table. “I’m still scared.”
Sam surprised her by suddenly getting to her feet. “I have an idea,” she told her with a mischievous look on her face.
Thirty minutes later Cassie was sitting in Sam’s car outside of a large building. She glared at the structure with all it’s windows gleaming in the sun and the playground sitting out front. But before she could say anything about it a hand rapped on her window causing her to jump. She followed the hand up to an arm and on up to a face. Jack.
She smiled brightly at him before she felt a frown pull at her lips. “You told him,” she accused, her arms crossing over her chest. Sam sighed as Jack opened the door.
“I heard someone isn’t too keen on going to school.”
Cassie shot Sam her evilest look before her gaze returned to her hands in her lap.
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad. It’s just…” Jack gestured wildly with his hands, “school.”
“They didn’t have school on Hanka,” Sam told him softly.
“Ah.” Jack squatted down next to her, his hand landing on her knee. “It’s not that bad, I promise.”
“You think I’m stupid.”
Jack looked past her to Sam then shrugged. “I could never think that. Why would you say that?”
“You think Sam is the smartest person ever and she wasn’t scared to go to school. I’m scared so I must be stupid.”
“Whoa, that’s some fancy logic you got there. You’re not stupid, Cassie.”
Jack rubbed at his face. “This didn’t start off very well.”
Cassie huffed. She didn’t care. Her humiliation was all-encompassing and she wished the seat would just swallow her up.
“Cassie,” Sam started but Jack waved her off.
“Come on, Cass, out of the car. I want to show you something.”
Jack moved back as Cassie climbed dutifully out of the car, unable to disobey Jack and disappoint him even more. She followed the two Air Force officers towards the large building, her eyes on her feet as they betrayed her—moving her closer to her doom.
A woman with curly blond hair and big glasses met them at the door. “Colonel O’Neill, it’s so good to see you again. I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”
“I know, Mrs. Dillon, special circumstances.”
“So you said over the phone. How can I help.”
Cassie peeked up at the adults. Mrs. Dillon looked down at her with soft eyes and a tender smile.
Jack put his hand on Cassie’s shoulder. “This is my friend, Cassandra. She’s going to be starting school next week and she’s a little…”
Cassie nodded, not sure what to make of the situation.
Mrs. Dillon reached a hand out towards her. “Lots of kids come here scared. Look at this place,” she said, staring up at the building, “it looks scary. And, I imagine when your a kid it looks even bigger.”
Cassie grinned and finally took the woman’s hand. Jack and Sam followed behind as Mrs. Dillon lead them into the school. The hall was long and kind of dark but as she moved farther in she noticed the walls were covered in all sorts of colorful artwork. From behind the doors she could hear kids laughing and answering questions. Mrs. Dillon guided her over to a long window next to one of the doors. She peeked in and saw kids sitting at desks clumped together in groups. They leaned over books that they shared, their hands shooting up as the teacher asked questions. Several kids stood at the front of the room writing with chalk on long blackboards. They jumped up and down with excitement as each answer was called from a group of desks before jotting them down.
“That’s Mrs. Palmer’s class. They’re studying for the Academic Olympics. We’re hoping to make it to the state finals this year.”
Cassie raised her eyebrows but said nothing. She followed the adults down the hall, looking in each window as they passed.
“I bet Carter could really help with their training,” Jack was telling Mrs. Dillon. “She’s a genius with math and sciencey stuff.”
Cassie glanced up at Sam who flushed bright red at Jack’s praise. Cassie was sure Jack really believed there was no one smarter than Sam. She also knew Jack wasn’t as dumb as he let others believe. Sam knew that, too.
“I’d be happy to help.”
Mrs. Dillon smiled brightly. “I’m sure the kids would be thrilled. And, you, Colonel? When will you be back to help out?”
Jack blushed slightly. “I’ll be here next week as promised.”
“Excellent. I have to get back to the office so I’ll let you show Cassandra around the rest of the school. I believe Mr. Henderson’s class is having PE right now.” She winked at Jack before shaking both Sam and Cassie’s hands. Cassie watched her walk away feeling a little overwhelmed at it all. Her head had a kind of spinny feeling to it, like when she spent too much time on the merry-go-round at the park. She turned back to find Jack staring at the wall in front of them.
At first she didn’t get what was so important about the plaque hanging there. She studied it but she was still learning the Earth alphabet. Only a few words popped out at her but the picture in the center held her attention. The small boy looked so familiar. Then she remembered seeing that photo at Jack’s house. Realization dawned on her. She slid her hand into his reassuringly.
He smiled down at her but she could see the sadness in his eyes. “Charlie used to go to school here. He loved school. Loved everything really.”
Cassie looked back up at the photos on the wall. “I bet he was never scared,” she muttered under her breath.
Jack seemed to have had enough of her moaning. He swooped her up into his arms and held her close. “He was afraid of a lot of things. But he was brave and faced them. Just like you. Charlie would have liked you.”
Cassie felt her cheeks burn and looked away. Jack barely ever mentioned his son. She only knew that he had died years ago because she had asked Sam about the pictures. She didn’t know what to say to him so she just laid her head on his shoulder and hugged him tight. She could feel him taking deep, controlled breaths before he spoke again.
“Come on, let’s go look at the rest of the school.”
A couple hours later and Cassie was running wild through the structure in the playground, breathing hard and laughing as a group of kids following after her. A boy cut her off from around the slide, an evil kind of smile spreading across his face. Cassie yelped in surprise and tried to dash under the slide but he darted after her, his hand grabbing onto her sleeve.
“You’re it,” he yelled with satisfaction. The kids behind her all squealed and began to run in different directions to get away from her. Cassie giggle and went straight after the little boy with the devilish grin. He screamed and tore up the slide the wrong way, jumping over a girl coming down. Cassie zeroed in on him as she worked around to the ladder up to the platform, her determination never waning.
The bell rang before she caught him, though. He stopped with his hands on his knees, breathing deeply. “You’re fast,” he said between gasps.
“So are you,” Cassie told him with a smile. “I’m Cassandra. I’m new.”
“Jeff,” he answered. “You’re friends with Colonel Jack.”
Cassie nodded. “He’s a friend of my mom’s.” It still hurt a little to say that—a little like betraying Mother—but it was getting easier. Janet was like her mother in a lot of ways.
“Cool. He’s the best.”
Cassie glanced over to where Jack and Sam were sitting on the back of a bench chatting with the teacher. She smiled proudly. “He is the best.”
The kids began lining up, panting and wiping sweat from their faces. The teacher called for quiet and they all marched back into the school as they cast waves and salutes at Jack. He waved back at them, a satisfied look on his face. Cassie ran over to join them and Sam hopped down from the bench.
“So-” she said with a slight smirk.
“So…” Cassie responded trying not to smile.
“Not as scary as you thought, huh?” Jack asked with a grin of his own.
Cassie glared at him then broke into a laugh. “I guess not.”
“Good,” Jack said, clapping his hands together. “Now what are we gonna do?”
Sam smiled up at him. “How about we go to the office supply store and start picking up those school supplies.”
Jack grimaced. “School supplies?” He nudged Cassie with his elbow. “Talk about scary.”
Cassie covered her mouth as she giggled. Sam rolled her eyes. “Sir-”
“Ah,” Jack held his hands up, “I’ll leave you girls to it then. I’m sure Sam knows where to get the best deals on notebooks and pencils and all that brainy stuff.”
Cassie giggled again. She was sure Sam was going to roll her eyes right out of her head. She couldn’t help but notice the way Sam sighed and rubbed at her eyes to hide her growing smile. Jack looked pretty smug at her reaction, smiling like a fool. Cassie shook her head at the two adults. They were always like this. It was kind of cute. They reminded her of her mother and father when he would first come in from the fields for the day. Her mother was always rolling her eyes, too.
Cassie took each officer by a hand and led them away from the school. She took one last glance over her shoulder at the building. The walls no longer looked so high. And the windows weren’t menacing at all. They were inviting, like eyes smiling at her with a twinkle of expectation. She smiled back at the building. Brave wasn’t the opposite of fear, Jack had told her; it was being scared and still facing it despite that fear.
Cassie still felt her stomach in a knot but the pain had eased some, the tension leaving her shoulders. Her laughs didn’t feel forced any more and she couldn’t wait to spend the rest of the day with Sam. And maybe she could convince Jack to come shopping with them. She was sure she’d still be scared on the first day of school but she knew she could get through it because she was brave. Just like Jack had said. Just like Sam had told her a million times since they met. She was brave because she was willing to face her fears no matter what they were.