"O'Neil, stay after class."
As the rest of the students filed out of the classroom to join the swarm in the busy high school hallways, Jake wondered what he could have possibly done wrong. School had only been in session for a month and he'd kept his head down. He was even passing all his classes.
That last had proven to be harder than expected given that while his body was that of a regular sixteen-year-old, he memories were that of an air-force colonel in his fifties. When had calculus become a high school course?
This was the third teacher to "talk with him" after class but the other two were thoroughly patronizing in their attempts to be friends with their students and particularly the poor emancipated minor. Mr. Matthews wasn't like that. He respected his students and they respected him in return. Plus, he had a raised eyebrow that could quell disruptive students better even than Teal'c's. Now that was impressive for anyone, much less a young high school pre-cal teacher.
After reading the background check on this teacher, Jake had even thought of trying to get him and Daniel Jackson to meet. They had both been bounced around the foster care system as kids and they were both really smart. And he liked them both. Maybe they would like each other.
Jake really hoped he wasn't about to be disappointed in his reading of this teacher's character. The problem was that he couldn't think of any other reason for the teacher to have asked him to stay after.
"Wait a moment." Mr. Matthews dug some papers out of his desk and seemed utterly absorbed in reviewing them.
Although, as Matthews still didn't say anything or even look at him as everyone else packed up and left the classroom, Jake got a bad feeling about the situation.
At least there was no way the man was NID. The SGC had done background checks on all of his teachers and made sure that none of them had connections that could get him in trouble. Being the science experiment of an evil alien did not make you a particularly trusting sort and there were plenty of people in the world who would demonstrate that distrust was a great habit to have. But if the situation wasn't going to be bad in a kidnapping and dissection sort of way, well, there were plenty of other ways for it to be bad.
The one that immediately popped into his head was that while a lot of girls had crushes on the young teacher, he flatly ignored their sighs, and Jake's own disinterest in any of the girls in his apparent age group had started a few rumors of his being gay. But if this guy tried anything, Jake would show him a few moves he remembered from his black ops days.
He didn't even notice that he was balanced on his toes and tensed for response when the last student finally left and Matthews looked at him with no little amusement. And raised an eyebrow.
Jake blushed as he settled back down. Damn hormones. Everything seemed to be about sex. "Um..."
"Don't say anything. I'm probably better off not knowing."
"Uh, yeah. Sorry, sir."
Matthews waved the apology away. "I wanted to give you these." He handed Jake the pages he had been looking at.
It was a list and at a glance a few key phrases, "Supreme Court", "Gen. Alexander Haig" and "Yugoslavia," caught his attention. However, reading just those lines, it didn't actually make much sense unless it was seriously revisionist history:
4. There has always been a woman on the Supreme Court, and women have always been traveling into space.
6. They never realized that for one brief moment, Gen. Alexander Haig was "in charge."
16. Yugoslavia has never existed.
Mr. Matthews was still speaking. "Every year Beloit College compiles a list of facts describing incoming college freshmen and their perspective on the world. So this year's one describes kids a couple of years older than you. Kids born in 1981. It's not definitive by any means but it's a good starting summary of a generation. I thought you might want to read and think about it."
And there went the pit of Jake's stomach.
"Sir? How did, what do..." Jake trailed off. What did Matthews know? How did he find out? This wasn't his social science teacher telling him he should learn to have fun and play with kids his own age. This was a smart observant man telling him that his cover had holes in it. And there wasn't any way to ask about it without compromising security even more.
After a moment, Matthews asked, "Was there something you wanted to ask?"
And that question asked in that tone had only one answer and Jake was more than happy to give it. "No, sir!"
"Then both of our next classes are calling."
And Jake O'Neil grabbed his bag and left, pronto, printed list still clutched in one hand.
Methos watched the kid race off as the students for the next class period started showing up. This little hiatus after Adam Pierson finally died just got more interesting by the day.
Adam Matthews was a temporary identity only meant for a year. Short term identities were useful in checking for pursuit but more importantly it gave him some time to study the youth culture. Even short-term identities were solid and could pass background checks, but they could be orphans and have skills more common to an experienced immortal than to a young mortal, such as being able to effortlessly control even the most rowdy of classrooms. Because the intention wasn't to make friends or live for a decade or two without raising questions; it was to be himself, relax, and prepare for the next "real" identity.
And so he studied the type of child that next identity would have developed from.
He observed their mannerisms, their speech patterns, and their views on life, the universe and everything. When he slipped into his more permanent identity, it would be as a young man who had similar views and who was much like his current students.
Well, much like most of them.
Because Jake O'Neil was different. Jake O'Neil had obviously not done his research because he might physically appear to be in his teens but movement and speech patterns were dead on for the baby boomer generation. Among other things, he also had the classic humor of a baby boomer rebelling against the "serious" definition of adulthood that the generations before then had made. And he had the slightly condescending manner, common to immortals in their second and third lives, of someone who thought the kids around him were "children" where he was an "adult."
The military mannerisms on the other hand were only slightly less peculiar. They might possibly be explained by being a military brat raised on military bases but it was both a little too intense and a little too casual for that. Once he had starting thinking of O'Neil as being older than he appeared, that clicked into place, too: they were the mannerisms of a ranking officer who knew the system and how to manage all of its quirks.
So, Methos had settled down to figuring out the mystery of his teenage middle-age student.
He didn't seem to be a Narc from the police force, although that had seemed the most likely at first. But the boy seemed to truly have a teenager's hormone shifts and emotional issues which a cop who merely looked young would not.
He wasn't immortal - he had no quickening.
He wasn't a vampire - he ate solid food and went out in the sun.
From the evidence, Methos guessed that the boy had grown up to adulthood and then reverted back in age, which was odd for someone who appeared so young. Methos might start an identity as young as 17 and let it grow as old as 45, but he wouldn't have thought O'Neil could pass as middle-aged long enough to pick up the patterns. Which implied that maybe he had physically changed appearance. And even delving into all the mythology that Methos had picked up over the millennium, he couldn't think of anything that did that for a long-term change. Quick illusions for an hour, even a day, yes. Years spent in high school, no.
So the question of what the boy was became ever more interesting as every possibility Methos had ever run across in all his years were crossed off. This left the rather interesting possibility that it was something entirely new.
And that was a possibility well worth investigating.