stringertheory: (Made of Awesome)
[personal profile] stringertheory
Title: G is for Godparent
Rating: PG
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, Teal'c
Word Count: 3001
Categories: character study, drama
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for the series. Spans series.
Beta: [personal profile] fignewton
Summary: For the SG-1 Gen Fic Day On-World Alphabet Soup!


Over the years, Jack collected many accolades, each with its own worth and meaning. The official variety were the easiest to identify and understand. Every time the symbols on his shoulders changed, it indicated higher authority, broader responsibility, a heavier burden. The medals pinned to his jacket signified valor and daring feats; they commanded respect and admiration.

Less straightforward were the personal recognitions interwoven into military life. There were thousands of ways big and small that soldiers honored one another, unique to the individuals involved and the circumstances invoked. Jack had been given plane tickets, family heirlooms, specially prepared meals, hand-knit scarves, and one beloved vintage-era trading card. One of the men under his command – barely older than a boy, really – had even given Jack a small glass phial containing some of the shrapnel that had been recovered from his leg. Considering Jack had been the one to haul the man over his shoulder and cart him all the way to the field hospital, the offering had the mark of both a thank you and a trophy - “Here, remember what you did.”

His soldiers gave him trinkets, mementos, and memories. But it was always special when they gave him their children.

Being a godparent had different connotations for military personnel than it did for civilians. For all that it was a symbolic gesture to both, civilians had an understanding that, should the worst happen, they would be called upon to see to the child's well-being. Jack never entertained the same notions. When these men and women asked him to be a godparent to their child, he never expected that he would step into their boots should they not make it home. Neither did they. There were grandparents and aunts and uncles to fulfill that role. Hell, odds being what they were, it was highly likely that Jack would die before any of them, so surrogate parenthood was clearly not the intention.

For soldiers, it was the ultimate show of respect and appreciation a subordinate could give a superior. Trusting your life to another was standard practice for a soldier; they did it every day with one another. You trusted the man at your back to have your back. But to symbolically entrust your child to another's care? That gesture carried a deeper meaning than any title or medal or tchotchke ever could.

Only a few ever offered Jack the honor. Usually they found him on base, stopping him in the hall or joining him in the commissary and hesitantly making their request. One did the same, but then invited Jack to the christening for the formal announcement. Jack bought a new tie just for the event. There was one couple – one stationed in the SGC, one in NORAD – who asked to come by his house under a paper-thin pretense. Jack knew they had just had a baby and guessed at their true intentions, but he played along and even went so far as to tidy before they arrived. One sergeant even took it a step further and named his son after Jack (the middle name, but Jack was pleased just the same).

Jack didn't keep much in the way of personal items in his wallet. But tucked in one of the front pockets, behind an expired gift card he kept meaning to throw out, were pictures. Each one had a name, a birthdate, and the two parents' names carefully written on the back. Jack never pulled them out, but he always remembered that they were there. That was enough.

-00000-

Had circumstances been different, Sam would have been a mother.

From the moment they had discovered Cassie hiding in the field on Hanka, Sam had been drawn to her. There was something in the girl's quiet gaze, in the solemn way she submitted to their examinations that struck a chord in Sam. She had been tempted – despite everything in her life, in her, that argued against it – to adopt Cassie as her own. The maternal connection she had so quickly established with Cassie pushed against the logic that told her she couldn't be a single mother and a member of SG-1, the knowledge that she wasn't yet willing to give up SG-1 for motherhood. For days she was at war with herself.

Then Janet came to Sam to ask her opinion on adopting Cassie, and Sam took it as a sign. Janet was good for Cassie, and vice versa, in a way that Sam could never have managed in her current circumstances. And Sam would get to keep Cassie after all, even if just in a peripheral way. When Janet asked her to be Cassie's godmother, Sam hadn't hesitated to say yes. She and Janet had become close, almost like sisters, and helping Janet raise Cassie had seemed like a natural extension of that. Janet, as strong and self-sufficient as she was, was still a single parent with a high-pressure job, and could always use the extra set of hands. And she knew better than most how much Cassie meant to Sam.

So Sam had Cassie over to her place for weekend sleepovers when she was planet-side, both to spend time with Cassie and to give Janet a night to herself. She established their traditional chess Saturdays and did everything within her power to always be available for them. And she was there whenever Janet asked, whether it was sitting by Cassie's sickbed or commiserating with Janet over Cassie reaching dating age. She got to be an important part of Cassie's life, and she never took for granted the fact that she got to watch Cassie grow up. She felt guilty sometimes, though, as if she were getting all the good parts of parenthood with very few of the difficult parts.

Then Janet died, and even through she felt crushed by her own grief, Sam had to step up and be there for Cassie. Cassie, who was almost grown and had lost two mothers now and didn't want or need or ask for another, but still clung to Sam's hand like a lifeline while calmly greeting strangers at the viewing. Cassie, who burrowed into Sam's embrace at the funeral and went through the motions of life on autopilot while Sam sat up at night worrying about her. Cassie, who was at turns prickly and devastated, who left for college without giving Sam a hug and called her a month later, crying with homesickness.

When Sam's friends talked about being godparents, their descriptions sounded entirely alien. They never actually became the parent. They passed around three-by-fives of professionally photographed newborns, throwing out weight and height and time of birth the way Sam relayed instrument readings. They explained the choices behind names and recounted humorous tales from baby showers. By a year later, many of them hadn't seen the baby in months and could barely remember the child's birthday.

Sam didn't have any of that with Cassie. She didn't have Cassie's first steps or her first words. She didn't have an accurate birthday for her, since Hanka's calendar had been so different from Earth's. Even Cassie's age was an approximation. But she knew Cassie's favorite cereal and the first movie she ever watched and the boy she was dating. Sam's experience as a godparent was different then everyone else's. It was harder, but it was better.

-00000-

Daniel was responsible for at least seven children.

He'd been asked to be a godparent so often he half wondered if it was a conspiracy. Most of the time, he accepted the requests at face value – as symbols of trust and respect and even admiration. He was asked as a way of saying thank you or out of a genuine sense of friendship. He had friends and colleagues in the SGC; it wasn't unusual they would ask him to be a part of their children's lives.

But sometimes he suspected they did it partially to give him an obligation to live, to come back.

Occasionally, there was something in the way they asked that was far more intense than the circumstances called for, sometimes tinged with an uncharacteristic or unwarranted desperation. And Daniel noticed that the frequency of requests tended to increase after he died – and came back – especially after his first Ascension. The invitations were given with clear, if not always direct, indications that he was expected to be around, alive and well, for the foreseeable future.

Major Habersham asked Daniel to be godfather to all three of his children. When the third was born, the major came by Daniel's apartment to make his request just as he had with the previous two. Daniel liked Habersham and his wife, and it was obvious to anyone who was around the major for more than fifteen minutes that he lived for his children. It was humbling that the man would want Daniel as a godparent once, much less three times. Daniel accepted the offer, as he had previously, without hesitation. The major clapped him on the back in his way, and joked that Daniel would have his hands full if anything ever happened. Daniel knew for a fact that each of Habersham's children had at least four godparents, but the man acted for all the world like Daniel would be the only person around.

Daniel was sitting with Sergeant Santiago in the infirmary when Santiago asked him to be godfather to his baby girl. The sergeant was on day two of a recovery that, according to Janet, would take at least a couple of weeks. The sergeant had requested that Daniel visit him, and Daniel was happy to oblige. He'd been on a few off-world missions with Santiago and SG-14, and knew the sergeant to be an unfailingly upbeat, level-headed soldier who worked hard and appreciated even the smallest things. So Daniel was slightly taken aback by the sergeant's demeanor when he fixed Daniel with a somber, unflinching gaze the minute Daniel sat down. The seriousness of the stare didn't surprise Daniel, given what Santiago had just been through, but there was a complete lack of the lighthearted relief he'd expected to see at least hints of. Instead, Santiago quietly explained why he wanted Daniel to be his daughter's godfather. He was doing dangerous work, work that could get him killed at any moment, and he wanted someone he knew would be there, someone who knew what to do, who could help his wife through his loss, someone who would be there. He gripped Daniel's arm so hard Daniel felt his fingers go numb. Daniel used his free hand to pat Santiago's and assured him that he would be there should it be necessary, even as he assured him that it wouldn't ever be necessary. Just in case, the sergeant replied, finally relaxing back against his pillow, pain etched in his face.

One of Daniel's research assistants, Dr. Freyr, bustled into his lab late one afternoon, heavily pregnant and with a determined glint in her eyes that he well recognized. Lowering herself into the chair he quickly wheeled over, she swept him from head to toe with that same gaze and informed him that he was going to be a godfather. He smiled and thanked her for the honor, but she waved away his gratitude with an impatient flick of her wrist. She and her husband were choosing a godparent each, she told him, and – in her words – his choice was a damn fool. She explained that she'd picked him because she knew he would be able to handle the responsibility. When she stared him down and added that she also knew he would make it a priority to actually, physically be there in the event of the worst, there was an directness in her eyes that gave Daniel pause. She had a bone-dry sense of humor, but Daniel sensed that she was, at that moment, completely in earnest. He responded in kind, and she scrutinized him for a minute longer before nodding her head and asking him to wheel her back to her lab, as she hadn't the energy or the desire to get out of his chair.

Instead of wallet prints or framed shots, Daniel received baby photos in a more unconventional way. It started simply enough, a couple of small photographs of his first two godchildren pinned to a bulletin board between bookcases in his lab. As he collected godchildren, the board collected more pictures until they were layered – newborn photos, birthday snapshots, school pictures, vacation shots. He never witnessed the growth of the collage; whether they did it intentionally or not, the parents always managed to add to the board while he was out of the lab. He'd just notice a new photograph and would know that someone had been by.

Daniel couldn't help but see the photographs every time he went into or out of his lab. He remembered every name, every birthday. And sometimes, when he was caught in the usual life-and-death off-world, he thought about the board, and all the people who wanted him to come home. And he never forgot that he had promised to be there, just in case.

-00000-

Jaffa children did not have godparents. The concept of designating someone – or multiple someones – to step in as parents should a child's birth parents die was foreign to Jaffa culture. There would simply be no need to ask.

Though childrearing was the parents' responsibility, the entire village contributed. And though many children grew up without a parent – or sometimes both, lost to battles or the whims of the gods – no child was ever at a loss for guidance or protection or care. Neighbors kept an eye on each other's children at play and at work, passing on their individual knowledge and meting out discipline. Even when the children were split into their various adult tasks – warriors, mostly, but also others such as artisans – they were taught communally. A Jaffa's child was his pride, but a village's children were its future, and everyone felt they had a hand in the raising.

Teal'c had seen that the same was not always true for children on Earth. Some Tau'ri couples had large families, while others had small ones or even no children at all. Some lived near their parents; some did not. Some grandparents were very involved in their grandchildren's lives, while others saw them only occasionally. Some parents raised their children alone and others sought help from every friend and family member they could. It was a strange amalgamation of approaches, and it was very befitting the Tau'ri.

Teal'c was aware of the existence of godparents in Tau'ri culture – Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were godfathers to numerous children, and Major Carter was Cassandra's godmother. His three teammates were prime examples of the spectrum of involvement non-family members could expect with children of their friends and acquaintances. Colonel O'Neill had no interaction with his godchildren, Daniel Jackson was kept informed on the children's growth and milestones, and Samantha was almost as much a mother to Cassandra and Doctor Fraiser had been. They each fulfilled the role as it best suited them and the parents who had asked it of them.

Teal'c himself had one godchild, a little boy born barely two months before his father died on a world at the far side of the galaxy.

Corporal Brantley had been newly married when Teal'c saved his life during a skirmish by pulling him out of the path of a fatal staff blast. Even after Brantley was hit in the back during their retreat, Teal'c managed to get him through the Gate and into the infirmary. When Teal'c visited him there a day later, the corporal had been profusely grateful and expressed a desire to find something suitable for Teal'c as a thank you. Though Teal'c had politely dismissed the need for any gifts or recognition, Brantley couldn't be dissuaded. Ten months later, he found the perfect honor when he asked Teal'c to be godfather to his son, Hunter. Teal'c had been humbled by the request. He wondered what role the corporal would want him to play in the boy's life, where along the Tau'ri range he would fall as a godparent.

Brantley died before he could introduce Teal'c to his godson. The first time Teal'c met Hunter, he was part of the contingent sent to inform Mrs. Brantley that her husband wouldn't be coming home.

Vanessa Brantley was from a military family, and Teal'c could see in her expression that she knew why they were there even before anything was said. She recognized him, too, and he knew she wouldn't miss the significance of him being on her doorstep. She led them into the small, tidy living room to deliver the news in full. Sitting alone on the sofa, arms wrapped around herself, she looked terribly small, but she sat tall as Major Donnelly gave her what vague details they were allowed to impart about her husband's death. When the sharp cry of an infant rang from another room, Teal'c offered to see to the baby, and Mrs. Brantley gave him a small smile of thanks before turning her attention back to Major Donnelly, her eyes full of questions they would never be able to answer.

Teal'c followed the cries to a tiny nursery. Hunter Brantley had his father's eyes and a head full of hair a few shades darker than his mother's bright gold. The minute Teal'c picked him up, he stopped crying and focused on Teal'c's face with an unusually solemn stare. Staring back, Teal'c thought about his own childhood and the father he had never really known. In that moment, he knew what his role as godfather would be.

Carefully lowering himself into the rocking chair by the crib, Teal'c cradled his friend's son in his arms and told him about the father he had lost.




on 2014-02-11 10:38 am (UTC)
jdjunkie: (team shadows)
Posted by [personal profile] jdjunkie
This is so lovely, and thought-provoking, too. I'd never really considered the deeper significance of military personnel as godparents.

And how much do I love the idea of Daniel being asked as a way of telling him to stick around and not die, dammit.

A really enjoyable read. Thank you. :-)

Profile

stringertheory: (Default)
stringertheory

October 2015

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
181920212223 24
25262728293031
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 09:37 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios