Chapter 1: After Hours
A/N: Because I suspect there are a lot of us who hide our obsession. I save and answer all reviews left with respondable links. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read and review.
Not necessarily fluffy, but . . . well, like the show, it could be. Just a little something that popped into my head as I raced home to watch the Olympics. Part 2 (and that's all there is) will be posted tomorrow.
Jack popped his head into Daniel's lab and glanced around. As he'd expected, the younger man was deeply absorbed in his work. A tiny, almost evil smile on his face, Jack inched slowly forward. "Daniel," he said softly, knowing that he'd get no response to the first try.
If he knew anything about his team's two scientists, he knew that they had an uncanny knack for blocking out mundane levels of sound in order to focus on whatever it was that held their attention at that moment. After a moment he tried again.
Still nothing. Jack glanced at his watch and shook his head. Nope, no time for this. "DANIEL!" Wisely, he jumped back as he shouted, and was glad he'd done so.
Daniel's head shot up at the shout and his hand, which had been idly caressing the side of a most likely cold cup of coffee, twitched violently and sent the brown liquid flying.
"Jack!" Daniel retrieved his glasses and began frantically mopping up the spill. "Honestly, can't you enter a room like a normal guy?"
"I did enter the room like a 'normal guy,'" O'Neill emphasized the term with tiny air quotes. "Can't help it if you didn't hear me the first two times I called your name." Taking pity on the frustrated archaeologist, Jack pulled some paper towels from the dispenser and began helping. "What is this –no," he held up a hand. "Never mind." He cocked his eye at the trash can in the corner and with a dramatic swing lopped the sopping towels into the bin. When they went in he grinned and muttered, "Yes! It's O'Neill from mid-court, nuthin' but net!"
"Jack," Daniel sighed. "Was there a reason you came down here?"
"Yup." He rocked back on his heels, hands now in his pockets.
Daniel peered at him. "You gonna tell me?"
"Sure," Jack shrugged. "Seen Carter?"
"Dunno. She's been . . . odd . . . the last few days. Bolts out of here at the end of her duty day, on the dot. She never does that."
Daniel was quiet for a moment, obviously considering Jack's words. "You don't think she's, ah . . ." He paused, carefully eyeing Jack before he continued. "Ah . . . well, I mean. You know. Got a . . ."
"Date?" Jack shook his head. "No. I asked Cassie."
"Hm." Daniel shrugged. "I really don't know, Jack." He turned back to his tablets, clearly not interested any longer.
"C'mon, Daniel, don't you want to know?"
"Not really, Jack." He looked up and grinned, his blue eyes sparkling with suppressed humor. "But, since you do, why not stop by her house to, oh, I don't know . . . ask?"
For the first time, Jack regretted approaching Daniel. He knew the man was teasing him, knew he was poking him just a bit. Get a little drunk one night and tell a teammate you think a certain other teammate is attractive, and the guy thinks he knows everything. Jack clapped his hands together sharply, getting some rather childish satisfaction in Daniel's startled jump.
"Okay!" He gave Daniel a little wave. "I'm off then. G'night, Space Monkey." He eyes the tablets spread over the table again. "Have . . . fun."
Striding quickly from Daniel's office Jack turned and headed for the locker room. "Fine," he muttered. "'Stop by' the man says. 'Just ask her' he says. Well . . . no reason why I can't. Why two co-workers, friends even, can't just . . . stop by to . . . chat."
Jack stood on the stoop and watched the flickering blue light dance across the curtains. He knew that light. Similar to the blue one that took them to planets hundreds of thousands of light years a few times a week, this blue light could transport you . . . anywhere. This blue light, however, was the last think he expected to see at Carter's. Television? She'd raced home to . . . watch television? Realizing he probably looked rather suspicious lurking on her porch in the gathering gloom of night, Jack stepped closer to the door and rang the bell.
A muffled shout coming from inside cut off abruptly at the sound of the chimes, followed by a somewhat breathless, "Just a second!"
Jack frowned. Even from out here Carter sounded winded. He glanced again up and down the street but didn't see any cars parked obviously in front of her place. Apart from his, of course. Still . . . maybe she did have a guy in there and he'd . . . oh God. What if . . . Jack slowly began backing away from the door. He didn't think he could handle if –"
Unable to help himself, his eyes traveled over her. Bright white socks poked out from a pair of faded sweats. Her shirt had obviously been tucked in at one point but now . . . and her face was flushed. The worst of it for him was her hair. Those golden –and silken, he was positive–strands, backlit by the warm light spilling out of the doorway, were in disarray.
Positively . . . mussed.
Jack began backing quickly off of the porch. "I . . . ah. Sorry. Bad time. Should have called." With each apology he moved a step further away.
Carter snapped out a hand and grabbed his arm before he could fall awkwardly off of the stairs. "Sir. Sir!" She stepped forward, her hand still holding his arm. "What's going on, Colonel?" She glanced past him, and Jack wondered what –or whom–she was looking for. "Are you okay? Daniel? Teal'c?"
Shaking his head, he gently pulled her hand from his sleeve. "No. We're all good. I'm . . . I'm really sorry to interrupt your evening, Carter. I–"
Sam glanced over her shoulder almost guiltily, then quickly back at O'Neill. "No. It's . . ." She sighed. "It's okay, Sir." She turned and stepped back into the doorway. After another somewhat resigned glance toward the living room she turned to him. "Come on in, Colonel."
Oh no. No way. Nuh uh. He was so not going in to meet some . . . guy . . . of Carter's. Or some girl. Hmmm. Wait. Jack cocked his head slightly. Hadn't considered – Oh for . . . get your head out of your ass, O'Neill. Whoever was inside, he didn't want to meet him. Her. Them.
"Sir?" Carter's voice was softer now and she stepped back into his space, her blue eyes luminous in the light. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Never mind, Carter, it can wait." He again moved to leave and again she stopped him, her eyes still holding his.
"No." With another not-so-gentle tug she pulled him inside.
She had his coat off and was propelling him toward the living room before he could register her actions. He steeled himself and took a deep breath, prepared to be . . . civil . . . to whomever was . . .
"Sir?" She waved him to a seat as she followed him into the room, a cold beer in her hand.
Jack took it from her rather absently his eyes still scanning the room. Maybe he . . . she . . . they had gone to the bathroom? Stalling he turned his attention to the television and froze. What the hell?
Biting back a resigned sigh, Carter settled back into a corner of the couch, tucking her legs up under her and reaching for her own beer. "Yes, Colonel O'Neill?" She answered him, her attention only partially on him.
"You're watching . . . hockey!"
"Yes, Sir." A tiny smile played across her lips.
"But . . . but . . ." Jack spluttered, utterly outraged. She'd always seemed so . . . disinterested . . . when he and Teal'c talked hockey. He was under the impression that she, like Daniel, couldn't tell a Canuck from a Leaf, let alone know who the Wild were. He stared across at her in disbelief, then glanced again at the television.
Maybe the . . . guest . . . liked hockey. Yeah. That had to be it.
Jack took a long swallow of his beer, then stood. "Well. Great seeing you, Carter, but, ah . . ."
"Colonel." Carter looked up at him, her compelling gaze holding him in place. "There's nobody else here, you know."
"I don't know what you–"
"So . . ." She waved to the empty space beside her and shrugged. "It's the Olympics. I never miss 'em."
Jack watched as she picked up the remote and began rewinding the video at something approaching warp speed. When she glanced up at him again, he shrugged, kicked off his shoes, and joined her on the couch.
"How come we didn't know you . . ." He waved his bottle at the television. "I mean, c'mon, Carter. How often have we talked Stanley Cup?"
She stopped the recorder and turned to him, her expression solemn. "This isn't hockey, Colonel, this is the Olympics." Her tone told him clearly that he should understand the difference.
Jack turned again to the television. "Ice, check. Sticks, check. Two . . . wait, are those women? Cool. Okay, two teams, check. Nets, check." He shook his head and faced her, a slight smirk on his lips. "Ya know, Carter, this looks a helluva lot like hockey to me."
Carter sighed and then carefully set her beer aside. She just as carefully placed the remote on the arm of the couch and turned to him. Jack's eyes flicked once down to where her t-shirt pulled rather appealingly across her breasts and just as quickly met her gaze again. The intensity of her stare was somewhat disconcerting and he fought the urge to set his own beer aside and raise his hands defensively.
"Colonel O'Neill. Are you going to talk or are you going to watch?"
Gulping slightly, Jack studied her. This woman wasn't messing around. This stuff, this Olympic stuff was deadly serious. And she wanted him to stay and watch with her.
He nodded and gave her a little smile before turning back toward the television. If, while doing so, he managed to inch a tiny bit closer to her . . . well, it was a small couch. "Watch, Carter. Definitely watch."
Her affirmation was spoken so softly that Jack wasn't certain he heard it. When he glanced at her, however, she'd retrieved her beer and, after hitting 'play' on the recorder, and was wriggling down more comfortably in her seat. And if her arm brushed his, well . . .
Chapter 2: After All
A/N: Part 2. In case you missed it, Part 1 took place in 1998, eight years ago.
Not necessarily fluffy, but . . . well, like the show, it could be. I'm thinking we're going to span a few years with this chapter. Thank you for all the great reviews for the first part of this story, After Hours. Remember, leave me an email address if you review so I can properly thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Daniel poked his head into Teal'c's quarters, hoping his teammate would be 'home.' He'd tried the gym, the commissary, and this was his last option. He'd knocked softly, just in case his friend was meditating. After a long minute he'd tried the handle and found it unlocked. So . . .
"May I be of assistance, Daniel Jackson?"
Startled to hear the deep voice come from behind him, Daniel jumped back. "Uh yeah. I mean, yes." He stepped aside to allow the former First Prime room to enter the room. "I, um. I was looking for Sam. You haven't seen her, have you?"
"I have not."
"Hmm. Well. Okay." Daniel scratched his head, slightly puzzled.
"Is there some problem?"
"Problem? No, no problem. It's just . . ." He glanced up at the larger man. "She just blew out of here kind of suddenly tonight, and I thought . . ."
"Perhaps she had a prior engagement."
Teal'c slipped a button-down shirt over his tank top and waved Daniel out. "If you are concerned, should we not check on her?"
Daniel nodded. "Yeah. Great. Great idea." But, he wondered as he followed the Jaffa to the elevators. Was this a good idea? Where the heck was Sam? As far as he knew she wasn't seeing anyone . . . God he hoped not. Jack was in Washington, he'd told Daniel that just yesterday. He said he'd be tied up in meetings all week, in fact. As they signed out, Daniel bit back a sigh. He'd hoped that they'd work it out, somehow. Thought that after that last team trip to the cabin after Jacob's death . . . but he hadn't seen any signs. Lost in thought, Daniel stared out the window into the darkness as Teal'c drove them off of the mountain.
The flickering blue lights dancing on the tightly pulled curtains told Daniel that someone was home, and that someone was watching television. A very unSam-like activity. And for that reason, he was suddenly reluctant to ring the bell. Sure, Sam had the right to see anyone she wanted, but . . . damn it. As inconvenient as the long-running attraction between his two closest friends had been for him, he really wanted to–
"Daniel Jackson, please ring the bell."
Teal'c solemn command jarred Daniel from his mental debate and he, despite his growing discomfort, jabbed his finger at the button. When a decidedly male voice shouted for him to wait a second, Daniel exchanged glances with Teal'c and then quickly moved to place the larger Jaffa between himself and the door.
He ignored Teal'c's curious look as his thoughts spun out of control. Sam was seeing someone else.
Even as his agitation grew, Daniel was aware of how like Jack even his mental voice sounded.
Frantically he grabbed at Teal'c sleeve. "C'mon. Let's go. This was a bad id–"
The front door opened and light spilled out into the darkness. Daniel peeked around Teal'c to find Sam, her long hair free of her habitual ponytail and backlit by the hall light, eyeing him curiously. She glanced from Daniel to Teal'c and back again, her brow knitting in concern.
"Everything okay at the base? What's going on?"
She waved the men inside, but before Daniel took a step the male voice shouted again, this time in loud protest, "Oh, no way!"
Daniel froze, then backpedaled. "Uh. No. Um, I'm good." He looked up at Teal'c pleadingly. "We're good, right Teal'c? We'll just–"
"Daniel." Sam reached out and grabbed Daniel's sleeve. "Don't be silly. Come inside, it's cold out here." She turned and stepped into the house, dragging Daniel after her. Teal'c followed silently and closed the door behind them.
Again the man in the living room muttered and swore, and again Daniel tried to leave. "Really, Sam. We're sorry to interrupt. It's just that you left so suddenly, but now I see . . ." He waved a hand toward the living room and nudged Teal'c, trying to convey his desire to get the hell out of here as soon as possible.
"Sam?" The male voice came closer. "Honey, who's at the . . . Daniel!"
"Jack?" Daniel felt his jaw drop open. He blinked again, certain he was imagining . . . "Jack!" Daniel stared open-mouthed at Jack. The voice coming from the living room hadn't sounded like the Jack O'Neill he knew.
"Daniel?" This time when Jack spoke Daniel realized the difference. Jack's voice was hoarse and rough and he sounded rather congested. The combination made his voice deeper.
Teal'c nodded to Sam and Jack. "O'Neill it is good to see you."
Jack stepped around the still shell-shocked Daniel to clasp forearms with Teal'c. "You too, big guy." He sneezed violently, barely turning away in time to avoid spraying them all. "Damned cold," he muttered, but exchanged a decidedly loving glance with Sam.
"Uh . . . Jack," Daniel began, still surprised to see the man who was supposed to be on the other side of the country. "Weren't you in meetings all week?"
"Damned cold. Called in sick." He shot Sam another warm look then winked at Teal'c. "Can't risk infecting the Joint Chiefs." He shooed them toward the living room. "C'mon in. The game's on TiVo, so we can . . ."
"Game?" Daniel found his voice and turned to Sam who was returning with a beer for him and a soft drink for Teal'c. He studied her closely.
Sam shot him a grin and her eyes sparkled as she answered. "Yup, 'game.' Hockey in fact."
"Hockey? You're watching . . . hockey?"
"Daniel." Sam sighed patiently, with the air of a woman who has explained this more than once. "It's not hockey, it's the Olympics."
"Ah. Right." Well, that was clear as mud.
She waved them all inside and waited for Jack to sit before joining him, tucked closely to his side. Daniel's eyes widened as Jack's arm came around her shoulders to give her a brief squeeze. He watched as they exchanged a long look, leaving him, as they always did, to wonder at what they were communicating. Finally, Jack broke away from Sam's gaze to look at Daniel.
"Daniel," he gestured toward the chair they usually considered 'Daniel's chair.' "Have a seat, take a load off, whatever."
Daniel sat automatically, noticing that Teal'c seemed unfazed by the revelation that two of their friends were . . . involved. His mind raced with questions and, as usual, they all tried to tumble from his lips at once.
"When did you, I mean, how . . . why didn't I . . .," he waved toward where they sat cuddled together. "How . . . Cassie never . . . Teal'c, did you know? How lon–"
"Daniel." Jack's voice was as wry as his expression as he lifted a finger to stop the flow of questions. He glanced again at Sam and then waved a hand toward the television. "Are you going to talk or are you going to watch?"
Jack's eyes twinkled as they held Daniel's, and for the first time in years Daniel could see true contentment shining there. He'd much rather talk, but . . . he knew his friend. Giving Jack a pleased smile, he took a long swallow of his beer and pivoted in his chair to face the television. He knew absolutely nothing about hockey, or the Olympics, but . . . well, that wasn't the point, was it? And, if Daniel found his gaze sliding occasionally from the action on the television the action on the couch, well . . .
Afterword: I'm an Olympiphile of the first order. I love to row (summer) and I used to speed skate (short track). I am the undeniable queen of the TiVo for two weeks every two years, summer or winter. I watch everything. I so wanted to work in a Jack comment about Curling, but hockey fit better.
I hope you had fun with this. Go World.
Chapter 3: Ever After
A/N: Part 3. Yes, I know . . . there were only supposed to be two, but . . . there you go. In case you missed it, Part 1 took place in 1998, eight years ago, Part 2 in 2006, and this, the unexpected but asked-for follow-up, just last night. This is because Dubbers said I had to. And so did Tammy. And Starlover1990.
Oh, this part is way fluffy. Shippy-fluffy. Oh . . . way, way, fluffy. You've been warned. Diabetics in the room should probably recalculate their insulin for this one. What can I say? I like a happy ending. Thank you for all the great reviews for the first parts of this story, After Hours and After All. Remember, leave me an email address if you review so I can properly thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sam bit back a sigh as she entered her quarters. As ship's billets went, she knew she had done well with her ten-by-ten space. As Commander of the Hammond she rated not only a slightly larger bunk but a desk and terminal as well. The quarters felt positively roomy compared to the tents she'd lived in offworld for so many years. Her only additional perk, and she could have asked for and received many, had been a larger-than-spec monitor. The sixty-inch screen was actually mounted into the bulkhead for safety reasons and she hoped that her replacement would appreciate the luxury. She certainly had. When not using it to communicate with Earth, diagnose ship issues, or other official business, it allowed her to view the videos that Jack frequently included in her data packets.
This time the sigh escaped while she took a last good look around, checking to be sure she'd gathered every last personal item from the room. She keyed her password into the terminal to make a final log entry, then shut the system down . . . for the last time.
Last . . . nope, not really.
Lots of firsts coming up though, and she was damned happy to take tackle those.
She knelt down peered under the bed. Too many years of base reassignments and changing quarters, let alone finding the displaced odds and ends of those who had occupied the space prior to her own arrival, had taught her to check, check again, and . . . check one last time. This time she fished in the pocket of her comfortable BDUs and pulled out the miniature flashlight Jack had given her so many years before.
"Too bad I can't tell Maglite just how good their flashlight really is," she muttered as she stretched out onto her stomach. Sure enough, the narrow beam had highlighted a small jagged corner of a paper fragment. Inching forward, she snagged the errant piece with her fingers and jiggled it loose from where it had somehow become wedged between the steel bed frame and the bulkhead. As the paper eased free she recognized it immediately and was tickled that she'd taken one last look around. She would have hated to lose this. She read again the words that she'd memorized almost the minute she'd opened the card.
Happy Mother's Day, Sam. Love Jack and Finn.
Her first mother's day card.
First of her very own. Not as an "almost Mom," or "just like a mother to me" card, but an honest-to-goodness choppily made card . . . just for her.
Heedless of the utter lack of decorum she was displaying should anyone even consider bothering her, Sam pulled herself upright and sat cross-legged on the floor, her back braced against the bunk. She opened the card, grinning again at the picture still tucked inside. Absently, she traced a finger along the surface of the photo, her memory supplying the feel of Jack's face, imagining the slight stubble on his chin, then up and over the sun-enhanced creases around his eyes. He was leaning jauntily against the corner of their cabin, one arm up and above his head supporting his weight. The other hung down, the fingers of his fingers resting on the shoulders of a sturdy little boy. The boy was mimicking Jack's pose, though his arm was raised and resting against Jack's hip rather than the house. His grin shined brightly out of the picture, his red hair tousled, freckled face flushed, and green eyes sparkling with laughter that echoed the humor in the eyes of the man behind him.
Unable to help herself, Sam let out a small chuckle. The obvious joy and mischief on the faces of the two fella's she loved most in the world never failed to bring a smile to her face. Her gaze traveled down again to the little boy's face and she was pleased that the sadness that had so often lurked as a dark shadow behind his eyes was nowhere to be found. That was Jack's doing more than hers, she knew. She'd been gone so much over the last eighteen months. This card had been hand-delivered to her just weeks after he'd become a part of their family, and she wondered how Jack had explained the holiday to him. This year . . . this year would be different. She'd be home.
Finn had been . . . a surprise. Unexpected, unplanned, and a beautiful fit into their lives.
One of about a dozen survivors of an abandoned and drifting ship the Hammond had stumbled across nearly two years ago. Sam could still remember the utter shock on Major Marks' face when he'd scanned the "wreck" and discovered viable life-signs within the pods strewn almost haphazardly throughout the ship. The boy, one of the eldest recovered and safely revived, had no idea how he had come to be on a ship at all, let alone what had led them to be drifting, powerless and almost without life support, thousands of light years from any system that supported life. His last memory was of watching his parents and neighbors being slaughtered by the "fire rain" and trying to hide from the "shining men in masks."
He declared that he had "passed five turns" on his last birthing day, and the medics aboard ship declared that all of the children's official birthdays would be registered as the date they were recovered, with varying years as best as they could be determined. Sam smiled. The journey back to Earth had been a lively one. The children had quickly attached themselves to various crew members, and to her surprise and delight, the little redheaded boy had attached himself to her.
Sam never did find out who "appropriated" one of her own BDU shirts and adjusted it to fit him, but the boy had proudly worn it everywhere, oblivious to the fact that a good portion of it dragged along behind him. He'd delighted in their similar last names, adamantly stating that "Onnall" was close enough to "O'Neill" to count. Within a day of his release from sickbay, he'd begun to follow her everywhere, even once sneaking onto the Bridge. For her part, Sam found herself making more and more excuses to leave the Bridge to check various areas of the Hammond, just to be with the bright, engaging little guy.
Once back on Earth it became clear that the bonds formed aboard ship could not, nor should they, be broken easily. Landry, Jack, and Sam herself had made repeated calls to various officials and finally word had been given; the children were to be adopted by approved SGC or SGC Fleet personnel. As she studied the picture before her, Sam remembered again that first meeting between the Jack and the boy. How nervous the three of them had been!
"So . . ." Jack squatted low, bringing himself as close to eye level with the boy as he was able. "You must be . . ." He waited, his expression open, his brown eyes warm and welcoming.
Sam stood behind the five-year-old, feeling him tremble slightly against her legs. She knew Jack knew the boy's name, they'd been exchanging messages the entire journey back, data packets were sent and received each time the ship dropped from hyperspace. She felt the small body tucked against her suck in a deep breath, obviously gathering himself. He glanced up at her once and she gave him an encouraging nod, squeezing his shoulder for good measure.
The soft stutter betrayed his nervousness and Sam's heart clenched for him.
Jack glanced up at her a shot her the barest of winks.
"Hello, Finn'al. I'm Jack." He held out a hand to the child and, when it was clear the youngster was confused by the gesture, he reached forward with his other hand and showed the boy how to respond to the greeting. "Now you say, 'Hello, Jack.'"
Sam had a sudden flash of memory, more than twelve years old, of another engaging little redhead, Jack's young neighbor Miles, demonstrating the handshake that "Colonel Jack" had taught him. How far they had come since that day.
His voice slightly stronger now, Finn mimicked Jack's motion and parroted the words back. He glanced again up at Sam and this time there was less apprehension in his green eyes. Still the pain and shadow of memory, but . . . not as much fear.
Jack nodded, then stood and ruffled the curling red hair. He leaned over Finn's head and gave Sam a quick, loving, peck on the lips. "Welcome home, Carter."
She flashed him a smile as Finn tugged at Jack's arm, drawing their attention downward. "She's not 'Carter,' she's 'Sam.' My Sam," he finished, somewhat challengingly.
"Ah." Jack glanced between Sam and the child. "Hmm." He rubbed his nose slightly. "Well now. We might have a teeny problem, young Mr. Onnall." Again Jack squatted to be at the boy's eye level. "Here's the thing, Finn. Can I call you Finn? Great. Ah, 'Carter,' here," he waved toward Sam. "She's my wife. Do you know what that means?"
Finn cocked his head and thought for a minute before nodding. "She's your . . . um . . . 'ah hash-keh.'"
Jack's eyebrows rose and he looked to Sam for an explanation. Sam shrugged and waved over Lieutenant Baker. A linguist, Baker had served as translator during the journey home when the children occasionally used colloquialisms nobody could decipher. When Sam repeated the unfamiliar word to Baker, the young officer coughed and blushed, then, glancing at Jack, leaned in to whisper the answer in Sam's ear. Sam knew from the look on Jack's face that her own color had risen and she waved Baker away, turning to the two before her.
"Ah, yes. That's right, Finn. I am Jack's ah hash-keh and he is mine. Only here on Earth we say that I am Jack's wife and he is my husband."
"Carter? 'Ah hashbrowns'?"
Sam grinned back at him and then down at the boy who was watching them in confusion. "'Ah hash-keh,' Jack. It means 'treasure.'"
Jack scooped the boy up in his arms so they were both eye to eye with Sam. He leaned in and said softly, "You know, kid, you're gonna fit in just fine around here."
"Colonel O'Neill to the Bridge."
The announcement jarred Sam out of her reflection and she winced as she rose. She'd been on the floor longer than was probably sensible for a forty-something woman. Pocketing the card she grabbed her small carryall and strode from her quarters for the last time.
It was time to go home.
Sam checked her watch as the Sergeant who'd driven her home sped off into the night. Just after eight in the evening, home a day earlier than expected. Being Colonel O'Neill, formerly Commander of the Hammond,still had its privileges, she mused. She walked slowly up the front porch steps, breathing in a deep cleansing breath and giving herself time to readjust to Earth time and Earth seasons. As she reached the top step she paused and glanced to the left, noting the flickering blue light playing along the edges of the drawn curtains. She grinned to herself, knowing what she'd find inside. Just as she raised her hand to open the door, her mental calendar reset completely and she remembered just what she really was likely to find inside and her grin turned to a full-fledged smile.
It was February.
Stepping inside as quietly as she could, Sam set her bag down and toed off her sneakers. She was glad she'd taken time to change before leaving the mountain. Padding down the stairs, she peeked around the corner to find herself facing two pairs of eyes, one set warm, brown, and flecked with gold, the other a bright and sparkling green. Both bright with anticipation and welcome.
Sam's heart swelled. Finn was wearing a bright red jersey that was far too big for his little body. The white-edged red maple leaf covered his entire body and the word "Canada" was lost in the fabric tangled around his little legs. Jack, too, was sporting his own jersey, this one the dark blue of the United States. Popcorn spilled over from the large bowl resting on the coffee table, though the floor was remarkably clean. A half-filled glass of juice sat beside a slowly warming pint of Guinness, both leaving condensation rings on the battered wood of the table's surface.
She was home.
"You didn't think you'd sneak up on me, didja Carter?" Jack's smile was welcoming and loving as his eyes caressed her face, promising a more tactile welcome later.
"Yeah . . . mom."
Sam felt here eyebrows. This was new.
"Uh . . ." Slightly off-balance by the new title, Sam looked from Jack to Finn. Both gazed back at her expectantly. "Um . . . no, of course not. I just wanted to see what you guys were watching."
Jack lifted Finn from his lap and unceremoniously dumped him back onto the couch. The boy's giggles were infectious and both adults grinned. He placed a quick kiss on Sam's lips as he passed, welcoming her home and promising her a beer when he returned. As Sam stepped further into the room she noticed a plaid rectangular pillow resting on the broad stone hearth. Atop it rested a rather well-chewed dog bone.
Before she could form a question, Finn's bright voice piped up, "We're watchin' the 'lympics!" He tugged proudly at his oversized jersey. "Look, I'm wearin' my 'lympic jersey! I'm for . . ." he looked down again and hastily lifted his shirt to display the words embroidered below the maple leaf. "Canada. I'm for Canada."
Without waiting for her to reply, he jumped up off of the couch and raced up the stairs and down the hall. He was back almost instantly, carrying a lumpy package. "Here! This is your welcome home." Finn wrapped his arms around her legs, the package squished between them. He gazed up at her, his expression so open and trusting that Sam was overwhelmed with love.
She bent low and kissed him, taking a moment to savor his little-boy smell. "Thank you, honey."
"I love you." Finn tightened his grip. "Mom."
"Love you, too." Sam blinked back tears and savored the moment. God, she loved being home. She straightened and, seating herself on the couch, set the package on her lap. Finn eagerly helped her open it, tearing at the paper wildly and tossing it aside. Together they lifted the twin to Finn's own jersey out and, at his insistence, she pulled it on over her polo shirt. Sam ran her hand down the embroidered maple leaf and then tapped Finn's matching jersey. "Did you pick this out?"
"Yeah. We got it the same day we got–" He cut himself off and glanced guiltily toward the hallway where Jack disappeared. "We have to keep her. She's orphalaned, just like I was orphalaned."
"'Orphaned,' honey," Sam absently corrected as she looked around for more evidence of what she was certain was going to be the fourth member of their little family.
"And, um, well . . . anyway. It's also–"
"An Earth rule, I know." Sam grinned over Finn's bright hair as Jack reentered followed closely by a golden flash of fur. The little dog ran inside and headed straight for her. She settled herself happily at Sam's feet and leaned her head backward to rest her muzzle on Sam's knee, her wide eyes staring unblinkingly up at her. She bit back a chuckle as she looked from the pleading eyes of the boy to the pleading eyes of the dog. She was damned if the dog didn't have bright blue eyes to go with the silky blonde hair. She lifted her gaze to Jack's and raised a single eyebrow. "Jack?"
"What can I say? She reminded me of, ah . . ."
"Yee-ess?" She teased him slightly, sending a quick wink over to Finn.
"Okay, so sue me. I missed you."
Finn nestled himself happily between them, the DVR remote clutched in his little hands. He carefully hit "play" and settled in to enjoy his interrupted game. He shushed his parents as they talked, a tiny frown playing across his freckled features. When they lowered their voices and continued speaking, he turned up the volume on the television, clearly hoping to send them a message. Sam grinned again at Jack and leaned over their son's head to whisper something in Jack's ear. He chuckled and answered her in kind.
That, for Finn, was the last straw. He paused the playback and imperiously waved the remote toward the television, demanding loudly, "Mo-om." He drew out the word as only an impatient child can. "Are ya gonna watch or are ya gonna talk!"
Effortlessly flipping Finn up from his position between them and suspending him upside down, Jack held the giggling boy by the waist and they watched as his freckled face quickly grew as red as his hair and jersey. Sam reached up and supported the little body with one hand while tickling his tummy with her other. She glanced at the television screen and then back to her laughing boy.
"Both," she answered firmly, pulling the boy onto her lap and cuddling him close. She snatched the remote from his hands and hit "play" again. After all, it was the "'lympics," as Finn had declared. No reason she couldn't do both. And if she got a little extra lovin' in at the same time, well . . .
Afterword: Wow, this took a turn I simply did not expect at the beginning. I wanted them to have an older child than a newborn and then Finn walked in and . . . well . . .
I know, "ah hash-keh" is just the pronunciation. But did you really want me to make you all sound out the Irish Gaelic "A Thaisce" instead?