The Hrsul Invasion
Marshal Jack O’Neill had never considered himself to be a particularly brave individual. He did what had to be done, when it needed to be done. He did his job, did his duty. He rarely complained.
Abydos had been an exception to so many rules. In retrospect, he conceded that perhaps when it came to Abydos, he had been a little brave. Othes more so, but he had gone above and beyond then. But Abydos had been a long time ago, when Jack had still been young, cocky, unseasoned and without a family to lose. Abydos had been before Sarah. Before Charlie.
The hardest thing he had ever done and the bravest face he had ever put on was when he gave the order for Samantha to be put through the Gate to Atlantis, without him, without Daniel or Janet. He sent her through alone. Jack found himself thanking God that Charlie was already safely on the other side of that Gate, sent months earlier with John Sheppard, sent before Jack or anyone else had known the world was going to end before Christmas.
He put his faith in his son to take care of her; he knew Charlie would help Sam pick up the pieces and carry on. Charlie was like Sarah, caring and attentive in ways Jack had never been. He had always treated Sam like family, even before she had been Jack’s keri.He hoped Sheppard would find a place for her and keep her safe, that Sheppard would assume his orders to protect Jack’s family extended to Samantha Carter.
He kissed Samantha goodbye the morning of the evacuation. He knew it was forever goodbye, but he hadn’t the courage to tell her that, he hadn’t been able to tell her his plan. For the first time ever, he had lied to her – a lie of omission is still a lie - and nodded when she said she would see him later on the airstrip when it was time for them to go south to the Ancient Outpost.
It had nearly torn his heart out to give the order and watch as she was carried through the Gate by a burly marine. His strong and brave keri had been crying and screaming his name, protesting being sent away as the event horizon had swallowed her.
With a numb heart, Jack went to Antarctica to sit in the Ancient Chair and try to make a crazy half-baked plan work. Without Sam. With only Bill Lee and some jackass name Kavanaugh to work the magic that he usually relied on Samantha to produce.
The sky fell. As he knew it would.
But it didn’t really matter. He had been brave that one last time when it had truly counted for something. His son was safely away in Pegasus. He had sent his love to safety, Samantha would live. And that was all that mattered.
Unlike the rest of the people that had known they were going through the Gate to Atlantis, Sam Carter had not planned or packed for the trip, not even a frantic tossing of items into a trash bag or pillowcase as some had done. She had only the belongings that Jack had scooped up from their quarters and shoved into a few bags that somehow made it through the Gate during the chaos of the evacuation.
It wasn’t until days after her arrival that she realized the bags were there. She was sitting on the sofa in her borrowed sweatpants and t-shirt in the quarters she had been assigned and noticed the three duffels stacked in the corner. Her natural curiosity overrode her depression, and she scooted off the couch and went over to the bags. The tags attached to the handles had her name written across them in Jack’s familiar scrawl, the sight made her throat constrict. She sniffled, but shoved the tears aside for the time being.
Slowly she sank down to the floor, curled her legs under her and pulled the first bag over, it made a clinking sound as something shifted at the bottom. She undid the zipper and pulled out a few shirts, some underwear, some socks. She set the clothing aside and muttered, “Practical Jack, good man.” Her two favorite nightshirts were in there. One was a stolen shirt of Jack’s, she smiled that he had remembered it was a favorite and relinquished it so permanently.
A heavy wooden box that held all of her most special mementos had made the trip, thanks to Jack’s thoughtfulness. It had travelled with her from posting to posting, and had been on the center of her dresser, rarely opened, but always there. The noise in the bottom of the bag turned out to be the clattering of an assortment of jump drives, pens, clips and a letter opener. By the looks of it, Jack had simply upturned the desk drawer into the bag. She set the data drives aside; she’d take them to McKay to review and see if there was anything of any value to Atlantis on them. She tugged out her personal laptop. It wouldn’t boot up; the battery was drained. The cord was missing, but surely someone in sciences had one she could borrow to recharge it.
All the folders and books that had been on top of her desk in their quarters were also in the bag. She made a small stack of them on the floor beside her to be read later.
The second duffel held more of her clothes, as well as a paper bag with the few tiny outfits and items she had purchased when she had learned about the baby. She sniffed, growing emotional as she realized that every framed photograph that had been on display around their quarters was here. More books and papers filled the remainder of the space in the second bag.
The third bag held her and Jack’s personal music players, as well as the data drive that contained their movie collection and the silly cartoon show Jack loved so much from television. The small jewelry boxes from the top of their bureau were shoved together in the bottom of the bag. He had sent his small collection of jewelry with her. Some pieces had belonged to his first keri, Sarah, Charlie’s mother. Others, Jack had inherited from his mother and grandmother. Thinking to give the box to Charlie at some point, Sam started a new pile.
The breath caught in her throat as she realized that the rest of the stuff in the bag was all Jack’s; items from his footlocker. Six bound handwritten journals, Jack had been a little traditional and preferred to document some thoughts and memories on paper. He had packed his family photo album, with images going back generations, including baby pictures of Charlie.
There was a little box with some mementos of Charlie’s childhood; a silver rattle, a pair of tiny sneakers, an envelope with a lock of hair and two baby teeth. Sam shook the envelope and smiled at the teeth, had Charlie’s mouth ever been that tiny? Sam thought sadly that Sarah had put this little memento box together back when she had thought she and Jack would have forever, that they would see their son grow up together. Like Sam, Sarah had no idea that the end of the dream would come so quickly, and that the years together with Jack would number so few. The baby box was stacked on top of Jack’s jewelry box, she would share it with Charlie, perhaps he would want to show his own family someday.
The heavy weight at the bottom of the bag was Jack’s personal firearm; a 38 Magnum with a pearl handle. He had gone to Antarctica without his ‘lucky’ gun strapped to his thigh. The gun should not be here. It should have been with Jack. Sam didn’t believe in superstition, but Jack had.
The door chime rang, still unaccustomed to the noises here on Atlantis, she didn’t immediately recognize the sound for what it was at first. Once she did, as it rang again, she called out, “Come in!”
Sam sat back and looked at the little hoard of belongings in front of her. Jack had entrusted her with everything he cared about. Clearly, he had known Antarctica was his last mission; he had not expected to survive.
“Hi Sam. I wanted to see how you were doing. I see you started unpacking.” Charlie crouched down beside her, resting a hand on her shoulder and giving it a squeeze. He had been very kind and supportive since she had come here. One of the things Jack had said over the intercom to her as she screamed, begged and cried her way through the Gate Room on E Day came back to her. He had told her to look after Charlie. She hadn’t been doing that - quite the opposite - Charlie had been the one looking after her.
She smiled up at Charlie and put a hand to her tummy as she looked around. Yes, Jack had entrusted her with everything he cared about. It was time for her to stop wallowing and start earning that trust.
It was also time for her to forgive Jack for sending her away.
There was a loud squelch as the probe made contact with skin and lubricant, which prompted an uncharacteristic giggle from Samantha.
“No giggling, this is a serious procedure,” Carson chastised, but there was no heat in his words and he had a broad smile on his face.
Sam giggled again. “Tickles.”
“There we go.” Carson gave a nod of approval and reached his free hand up to turn the monitor towards Sam. He tapped the screen. “There’s your wee baby.”
Sam’s lip quivered and she stretched her fingers out towards the glow of the screen. Carson pushed it closer and Sam ran her fingers along the squirming shape. “Is everything all right?”
After moving the probe around and getting a few different views, Carson nodded. “Everything I can see here looks good. I’m 95% certain that you have yourself a daughter. Do you want to stare at your wriggly dancing little lass a bit longer?”
Biting her lip, Sam nodded. Carson pushed the screen a little closer and moved away to process the blood test he told her he wanted to do.
That little tiny thing on the screen was their baby. Despite all the odds against it; age and fertility and panor and keri genetics and the trauma Sam had endured when the Hrsul attacks came, this little being, her daughter, was still there, still kicking. She settled back against the pillows, and watched her little one for a while.
Beckett returned and with a gesture silently asked if he could turn the screen off. Sam nodded; she had firmly fixed this into her memory, she would never forget this moment.
“Your blood work looks really good, Samantha. All the numbers are within the normal range. I’m going to downgrade your pregnancy from serious to stable; I think you and Sam Junior are out of the woods.”
“Hope,” Sam said.
Carson tilted his head, not understanding, so Sam clarified, “Not Sam Junior; Hope, I’m calling her Hope.”
When Sam finished her checkup with Doctor Beckett, she was a little surprised to find Cam Mitchell standing beside the door to the infirmary.
“Are you waiting for me?” She was glad to see him; she had not seen nearly enough of him in the past few weeks.
“I was on my way out and saw you finishing up with Beckett, so I waited,” he smiled and glanced down at her tummy. “Everything okay?”
“So far. Still early yet.”
With a mischievous smile, he reached down and took her hand, tugging her back into the infirmary. “Want to see something super classified?”
“Won’t you get in trouble?”
“Huh? Oh, no, I’m the one that classified it. C’mere.” He led her towards an odd-looking Ancient device that stood just over waist high. It was round, and had a glass domed top. Cam leaned over the top and jabbed a finger at the glass. “Look.”
She leaned, peeked in and then stood upright in shock. “Is that a baby in there?”
He gave her a goofy smile. “Yeah, ain’t that just the coolest thing? An Ancient incubator.”
“Is this your baby?”
He shook his head, “No, this little one is Lorne and Parrish’s. This is an emergency live test run for the Ancient doo-hickey and if it all works out, Carson has plans.”
A new way for their offspring to gestate? A possible alternative for high risk keri pregnancies? Sam felt a smile creeping on her face as she pressed both her hands to the incubator and looked into the future.
When Sam had heard about the second wave of refugees coming through the Gate on what became known as A Day, she had been as relieved as everyone else that more people had survived the Hrsul. Someone at the mountain with foresight had survived and sent the control crystal to dial Atlantis to the Alpha Site. That person deserved a medal.
It had been a little hard to stay away from the tower, she, like many other people wanted to help with the intake, but too many hands would just add to the confusion. Sub Commander Lorne was calling people in as their expertise was needed.
There was a light tapping at the door of the lab she was working in and she was surprised to see a slightly disheveled John Sheppard there. He gave her an odd smile as he walked over to her. “Hi.”
“Commander, I’m surprised to se you, I would have expected you to be up in Command.”
“Call me John. Cam would have come, but he’s tied up, so I came for him. I have some news for you,”
“Oh?” She spun around towards him.
He cleared his throat and said in a rush. “I’m supposed to tell you to be calm and not get excited, which is really stupid, but I’m telling you because CB said I had to. You need to come with me; Janet Fraiser came in from the Alpha Site she’s asking to see you. She brought Marshal O’Neill with her, Cam said you guys were very close… hey, whoa, hey!”
He caught her before she hit the floor as she went limp and fell off the stool. “Jack? Jack is here?” She clasped Sheppard’s arm and struggled to her feet. “I don’t understand. How? Take me to him.”
“Of course.” He led her out of the lab, and Sam felt as if she had stepped into an unreal dream.
Dodging people rushing around the crowded corridors, they got to the infirmary overflow area in the tower. Entering and looking where Sheppard pointed, she saw that Jack was on a cot not far from the door, a blanket tucked around him, a pump and other machines connected to him and IV hanging beside him. Sam walked over, one hand clapped over her cheek as she gasped in gulps of air and stared in disbelief at the panor’eten she had believed dead. She heard her name called and Janet Fraiser hurried over to meet her, throwing her arms around Sam’s neck and hugging her tightly.
“Janet,” Sam whispered, returning Janet’s embrace. “You’re alive. He’s alive, I thought he was dead, the bond faded, I believed he was dead.”
Leading her over to Jack, Janet said, “I suspected he was yours. I wasn’t sure, neither of you ever said anything about bonding. We never tried to separate a keri and panor across a galaxy before, I’m rambling, sorry. He’s in bad shape, I won’t lie. We had to amputate the leg; there just were not enough resources for us to save it. He’s got a secondary infection and he’s weak, but you know he’s a fighter. They’re clearing us some space in the main infirmary; we’ll be moving him up there soon and running some tests. He’ll be more comfortable when we get him moved.”
Awkwardly, Sam knelt down beside the cot and stroked Jack’s forehead. With just that simple touch, she felt the bond rekindle. Her heart soared as ‘Jack’ flowed back over her, the missing piece of herself returned. “Jack. I’m here. You’re safe.”
Sheppard patted Sam’s shoulder and left and Janet said something about being close by, that Sam could just shout if she needed anything. Sam slipped her fingers under the blanket and clutched at Jack’s hand and stared at his face. He was here and alive, it was more than she had an hour ago, so much more.
“Marshal O’Neill, open your eyes.” Doctor Fraiser leaned over her patient and tried to coax him back to consciousness. “Come on, Jack. You did it before. Wake up.”
He tossed his head a little but did not rouse. Janet sighed and went to check on some of her other charges. There were rows and rows of pallets, makeshift beds and gurneys on the floor the size of a high school gymnasium. It was the best Atlantis could offer at the moment, their infirmary was filled to overflowing. Every safe place in the city was filled with refugees. Janet did not understand exactly why, but it was not safe to go into all the buildings here, tests and checks had to be performed by the Expedition crew before anyone was allowed to go into a new area of the city.
Janet had taken the first row of patients, since Jack O’Neill was her primary patient and he was in this row. She saw other doctors and medics moving through the room. Feeling overwhelmed in the moment, she wanted to sit down against the wall, huddle there, and cry.
It was the end of the world. Janet had never expected to actually survive the end of the world. There had never been anything in her life to prepare her for this eventuality.
Movement caught her eye, and she went back to Jack, now thrashing on the bed. “Jack! Jack, wake up now.” He was more than just her patient, he was one of her oldest, no, now he was her oldest friend. He had been her commanding officer, when she had been the field medic for Gate Team 1, before medical school. This all reminded her of Abydos, but there was hope here for the future. Abydos had no future.
Jack opened his eyes, red-rimmed and glassy-wet with pain. He blinked a few times and then coughed. Then he looked up at her and rasped, “Hi Squirt.”
“Hi Jack. About time you woke up. Are you thirsty?” He nodded, his eyes tracking her as she poured water from the bottle clipped to her belt into a small folding paper cup that she plucked from her pocket. She gently braced the back of his neck with her hand and held the cup to his lips. “That’s it. Probably feels good on your throat, it’s been a while since you had a drink.”
“Got a flask? Harder stuff, water sucks.” He gave her a lopsided smile, which relieved some of her concern, his personality seemed to be intact.
“I’ll see what I can do. I heard a rumor that one of the scientists here has a still.” He probably had not heard her; he had drifted off to sleep. She straightened the blankets over him, after checking that the bandage covering the stump of his leg wasn’t seeping again.
She looked around the room at the medics and marines and officers rushing around, at the other survivors. Her gut clenched and she pressed a hand to her mouth, stifling the scream that was threatening to escape.
Survivor, she was one of the survivors.
Jack O’Neill opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling above him. This was a new ceiling; he did not recognize the tiles over his head. From his time as a Gate Team leader, he had the patterns on the infirmary ceiling tiles at SGO memorized. He closed his eyes to think.
The last thing he remembered clearly was the chair in Antarctica vibrating dangerously beneath him, and then hearing the telltale whistle of missile fire and the sound of explosions as the enemy bombardment hit the base. He remembered wishing that Sam had been there; and thinking perhaps things wouldn’t have gone all upside down and backwards without her. Then Bill Lee had run into the chair room and hollered at him to get out, telling him that they had to go, the roof was caving in.
Jack had been pissed; determined that he was not going to go out like that, crushed in a cave-in. And then there was light, and heat, and excruciating pain, and then there was nothing for a good long while.
After that, he vaguely recalled opening his eyes to see Major Marks staring down at him, wide eyed and frightened, in the midst of the pain, asking Jack what he should do, begging for orders. Marks kept repeating that the base was under attack and asking if they should try to dial Atlantis. Dialing Atlantis seemed like a fine plan, so Jack had told him to go ahead with that. Sam was in Atlantis, he remembered that he sent Sam to Atlantis. Charlie was there too. Going there would be good. Then everything went all light and fuzzy again.
This must be Atlantis. That was why Jack didn’t recognize the ceiling tiles or the walls.
“Are you in pain, Marshal?” when a soft voice asked the question, he realized he must have groaned aloud. His leg hurt like hell. Coming back to consciousness with serious injuries was a bitch.
He opened his eyes and looked up into the concerned face of Doctor Carson Beckett. He was definitely in Atlantis. He wondered vaguely how he had ended up here, when he was technically supposed to be dead at the bottom of a collapsed base in Antarctica. He vaguely remembered cold and pain. “Would you think less of me if I admitted that I was?” Jack answered the doctor’s question with one of his own, in typical O’Neill fashion.
Doctor Beckett smiled. “Never.”
He allowed a bit of whining to creep into his voice as he begged, “In that case, I hurt like hell, Doc. Please give me the good stuff, I’ll promise you anything, just knock me out again.”
The doctor injected something into the IV line connected to a pump and then pressed a few buttons. “That should take effect in a few minutes. In the meantime, someone wants to see you; she’s been waiting patiently for quite a while.” He patted Jack’s shoulder and stepped out between the privacy curtains around the bed.
The curtains were parted and Carter slipped through and moved to his side, clasping his hand tightly and giving it a squeeze. She leaned in and feathered light kisses over his forehead and then each of his eyelids as she caressed his cheeks.
Jack thought she looked like an angel. He had fought his way back, refused to die, because he had made her a promise once. He had promised that so long as there was breath in his body, he would find his way back to her.
Her eyes shimmered with tears as she braced her hands beside his head on the pillow and stared down into his face, a watery smile on her lips. “I thought you were dead. There was no way out of that base; no way that stupid plan should have worked. I thought you were dead.”
“I told you I’d come back to you, Sam. I told you nothing was going to keep us apart.”
Her duty shift technically over for the day, Janet pulled a chair close to Jack’s bed in the infirmary, turning it around and straddling it so that she could rest her arms on the backrest after stretching her back in a backwards arc.
Jack opened his eyes and blinked against the bright lights. He looked at Janet. “We lost.”
“Yeah, we did. We can't go back,” Fraiser nodded sadly in agreement.
“Now what?” Jack whispered, slightly bewildered, he was a soldier without an army, and now without a fight. And only one leg. “What do we do now that it’s all over?”
Janet swept a hand out to encompass the city beyond the infirmary walls. “We start again. We have safe haven in Atlantis, we start over.”
“I’m not doing it.” Jack said, glaring at Cam Mitchell.
Cam sighed. “Sir, people expect it. You’re the ranking officer.”
“Not anymore. I’m done. I did Abydos, I did the Gou’ald war, I sat through more boring meetings than any man should ever be expected to endure. I gave a friggin’ leg to the ‘cause. I’m retired. I am not running Atlantis. That’s your gig; you and Sheppard figure it out. It’s time for younger heads to rule.”
“You don’t need a leg to run things. There’s nothing wrong with your mind, sir. We need your experience. We’re not asking you to take on a Gate Team.”
Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Retired.”
“Not even to consult?”
“Re. Tired.” Jack closed his eyes and tilted his head back against the pillow. Eventually Mitchell would get bored and leave. Or get called away on some Atlantis-style emergency. Either way, he wouldn’t lurk around too long.
When Charlie O’Neill had been summoned to the temporary infirmary and shown to his father’s beside, he had been elated to find him alive. Those first few days, when his dad had slept so much seemed so idyllic now, in retrospect.
It was going to be a very long recovery, Charlie realized as he heard his father berating a nurse when he arrived with a lunch tray to visit him.
Charlie sat in the chair beside the bed and folded one leg up to rest an ankle on his knee. He toggled the power on his tablet and smiled indulgently as Jack scowled. He wasn’t pouting, his father never pouted. “Now, Dad, I believe we were up to the Expedition’s second February here. There are a few interesting mission reports here about encounters with the Wraith; I’d like to get your opinion from a military standpoint.”
“You are just trying to distract me, Charles.”
“That’s my job, sir. Wraith Analysis and Pest Distraction, Commodore Mitchell said so. You know which half of my job description you fall into, don’t you, Dad?” Charlie flashed Jack a smile and waggled the tablet at him.
“Give me the coffee off that tray and I’ll listen to your damned reports.”
Glancing around to be sure no one was looking, Charlie passed the mug over. But it was a charade for Jack’s benefit. The coffee was a concession; Charlie had cleared it with Janet before setting foot in the infirmary with the cup. “It’s the Almost-coffee; the good stuff is long gone, unless we have a case of condoms, chocolate, porn or a small child to trade.”
Jack raised his arm and shook the IV tube at his son. “At this point, even this crap tastes good. I’m sick of eating through a tube.”
Smiling indulgently, Charlie said, “You will be happy to hear that Janet plans on putting you back on solid food tonight. I hear the special is mashed tava root.” Charlie even managed to look enthusiastic about the tava root. The stuff was vile. It tasted like chalk that had been soaked in vinegar and fermented in someone’s combat boot. Given the experimenting the Atlantis cooks had to do to prepare the weird trade goods they got, that method of marinating was not too far outside the realm of possibility.
The mention of food brought a smile to his dad’s face, and Charlie was relieved, it would be a good afternoon.
“Are you up to a visit, sir?” Mitchell asked. Without waiting for an answer, since O’Neill was bored out of his skull and the answer was almost always yes, Cam sat down in the bedside chair. O’Neill scowled at him.
“If you’re here to try to convince me to take that consulting job again, the answer is still the same.”
Smiling, Cam gave a shake of his head and in his best ‘aw shucks’ voice replied, “Now, sir, you know that what you keep telling me to do to myself is physically impossible. But that’s not why I’m here. Sam told me to stop pestering you about the job, I just came to say hello, she also said you were bored.”
“Oh, so a civilian tells you to knock it off and you do, but your commanding officer tells you to cease and desist and you keep on like a fox with a chicken leg. Your priorities are screwed up, Mitchell; we have to work on that”
Flashing O’Neill a hopeful grin, Cam asked innocently, “Does this mean you’re still my CO? I would be happy to work on whatever you feel my weaknesses are, sir.”
“Stop that! That is not what I said! You’re a sneaky bastard. It’s a good thing I like your keri, Mitchell. Out of respect for him, I haven't hurt you yet.”
Sobering slightly, Mitchell nodded. “I know we’ve been fortunate to have you on our side in the past, sir. I should thank you, by the way.”
O’Neill eyed him suspiciously, alert for another of Mitchell’s persuasive tactics. “Thank me for what?”
“What you did for John. You put yourself on the line for him.” Jack’s first instinct was to deny everything. But it really didn’t matter anymore; the government he had been rebelling against was dust. There was no one around to question or analyze his command decisions any longer.
So Jack just shrugged. “I always liked Sheppard. He needed someone in his corner.”
“It was you all along, pulling the strings, keeping him on the advancement track. You protected him from the OIA and the brass all these years. You were the one that made it possible for him to get to Atlantis.” Mitchell might have suspected it, but this was the first time he was voicing those suspicions.
Jack admitted, “Sheppard was not your typical keri. He was different and that caught my attention. The more I watched him, the more I found myself rooting for him, wanting him to succeed. I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but I couldn’t help it, I liked that kid. He was an exception, so I made an exception.”
“Can’t argue with that, sir.”
“I don’t think I made a mistake.”
Mitchell smiled broadly. “No, sir, you did not.”
Waking him from his mid-afternoon, nap, Beckett had dragged Jack out of his bed, put him in a wheelchair and brought him over to where Sam was stretched out on a gurney. Jack had complained the entire way that Beckett had also interrupted his afternoon nap that day, and his mid-morning nap when the nurse had come demanding blood samples. He accused the doctor of a conspiracy to keep Jack from his very important and artfully constructed napping schedule. As usual, Beckett ignored him, coached by Janet in the handling of retired (recently) Marshals.
Hearing the squeak of the wheelchair’s rubber tires on the tile, Sam smiled, waggled her fingers at him and then pointed to the monitor.
Some of his irritation dissipated as he looked where she pointed.
Reminded of Sarah’s pregnancy with Charlie, Jack took a deep breath to calm his sudden nerves. This was not what he had ever intended to be doing at this point in his life. He had never intended to take another keri. Very few panor ever managed to find two compatible mates, upon the loss of their first, not without a bit of political maneuvering, bribery and graft, anyway.
Jack stared at the wriggling little form on the screen and thought about late night feedings, diaper changes, teething… oh, God, teething again. He was too old for this, too old to start over again. He was supposed to be contemplating his grandchildren. He’d done his duty, had his time, it was Charlie’s turn.
Then he looked at Sam’s face as she too looked at the screen, and he realized that for her, to keep that shine in her eyes and that smile on her face, he could do it again, one more time.
Janet held out a small paper cup and shook it at Samantha, making it rattle.
“What?” Sam eyed the cup, Janet had been trying to force feed her disgusting food for weeks, all supposedly nutritious for the baby. The Pegasus nutrition replacement program thus far had not appealed to Sam’s taste buds. “If that is full of bugs, I will puke on your shoes. And then, in retribution, I will hunt you down the next time I feel nauseous and puke on them again. ”
Sam raised an eyebrow at the answer and Janet just shook the cup again. “Oh, you’re giving me nuts, not calling me nuts.” Sam accepted the cup and peered into it. “Cashews? Where did you find cashews?” She smiled and plucked one up and popped it into her mouth, savoring the taste and texture. Real, familiar food from home.
“I traded for them.”
Sam crunched down on another salty bit of goodness and quite possibly made a ‘nummy’ noise. “Who has nuts?”
“Chuck. Chuck has everything, apparently. For future reference, if you need something, see Chuck.” Janet tapped the side of her nose and walked away, leaving Sam to noisily finish the rest of her treat.
She made a mental note about the Chuck connection.
“Push Sam!” Janet coaxed.
Punching her fists on the mattress, Sam retorted, “I am pushing. I’ve been pushing. Why isn’t it coming? Argh!”
Janet smiled indulgently. “Not too much longer.”
“I hate this. I’m never, ever doing this again. Do you hear me Jack? This is the last one!” she bellowed.
“Now, now, Sam, you know he can’t hear you. And, wow, you’re loud. He’s outside waiting, with the nice giant with the messy hair and stun gun.”
Sam stopped her panting exercises and blinked at Janet, her mouth dropping open in mild surprise. “You’ve got my panor’eten under armed guard?”
Janet gave her a lopsided smirk. “He was being a little… troublesome, got his PSG in a twist. No worries, Cam Mitchell assures me the headache from that gun only last a day or so, no permanent damage. Now, get ready to push again.”
When the door opened, Jack looked up, leaning over to see around Ronon’s legs as the tall man stood between Jack and the door. Apparently, Dex and his blaster had become the Medical department’s trigger man for dealing with potentially berserk panor. Thus far, Jack hadn’t been stunned, but Dex had made it clear he had no problem shooting him. Jack had been doing his best not to give the man cause to draw his weapon.
Angie the nurse stuck her head out. “You may come back in, Marshal.”
Dex reached over and caught Jack’s arm, hauling him up and holding him steady as Jack got the crutch under his armpit. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” Dex grumbled. “See ya around.” With that, Ronon left the waiting area, waving to Charlie on his way out.
“That is a very scary young man.” Jack confided to his son as they went through the infirmary to see Sam.
“He’s a pussycat. His…wife… is the really scary one.” Charlie stumbled slightly over the outmoded term. “You should see him with his little girl.”
Jack blinked in surprise. “He’s replicated himself?”
“Yeah, cutest little thing too.” Charlie held back as Janet came over, cradling a tiny bundle in her arms.
“Sam is fine. The nurse is getting her cleaned up. And this little girl is perfect,” Janet declared warmly.
“I need to sit, so I can hold her without dropping her.” Jack looked around for a chair, and saw that his son was already wheeling a stool over. Charlie traded Jack the stool for the crutch as O’Neill sank onto the seat and held his hands out. His daughter was placed into his arms and he stared at the baby with a tiny bit of awe. A heart-shaped little face with a tuft of blonde hair blinked up at him.
“Wow Dad, look how tiny she is,” Charlie breathed, leaning over his shoulder. “Hey, Hope, welcome to the world.”
Jack kissed one tiny cheek, and resisted the urge to unwrap the blankets to check her over. He’d take Janet at her word for the moment. “I shouldn’t even be here to see her.”
Touching a fingertip to the tiny button nose, Charlie said, “I thank God every day that you are, old man.” He bumped Jack’s shoulder affectionately. “Every damned day.”
“Are you going with Sam’s wishes to call her Hope?” Janet asked.
“Oh, hell yeah. I am not a fool. Sam said Hope, so the baby is Hope. Hope Sarah O’Neill, you can make that official, Fraiser. When can I see Sam?”
“In a bit. She’s very worn out, so a very short visit.”
A nurse came to try to take Hope from Jack, but he refused to give her up, turning on his stool to keep just out of the nurse’s reach. “She’s fine right where she is. She’s not crying. Leave her be.” When the nurse left, Charlie looked at him with a bit of pleading in his eyes, so Jack let her brother hold her when he was allowed to go in and see Sam.
Poor Sam looked like she’d been run over by a truck. She had dark circles under her eyes, her color was washed out and even her long blonde hair was limp. Frowning, Jack went to her, stroking her arm and worrying. He could feel her weariness through the bond.
“Hi,” she whispered as she opened her eyes and smiled feebly at him. “Did you see her?”
He kissed her cheek and stroked his fingers over her nose gently. “I did. She’s gorgeous. Charlie has her; do you want me to call him in?”
“Won’t be able to keep my eyes open.” Sam yawned. “You guys look after her for a while, okay?”
“We’re on it. You did well, Samantha.”
She had a smile on her face as her head lolled to the side and she fell asleep. Kissing her once more, Jack hobbled out to join his children. Children, plural. He smiled at Charlie, looking down at the baby with a goofy grin as he babbled nonsense at her.
“You are not allowed to tease her or pull her hair or put bugs in her bed,” Jack joked.
With mock disappointment, Charlie sighed. “Aw, I was looking forward to all that old fashioned big brother stuff.”
“Tough luck.” Jack bit back the comment he’d been about to make, about Charlie finding his own keri and settling down. It would have been a little cruel. There weren’t enough keri to match up every panor;his son might never find a mate, might never have a child of his own. “You can do all the crap I can’t, give her horsy rides, play hopscotch, jump rope, you know, all the crap you need two legs for.”
“Protect her from the Wraith,” Charlie said with false casualness. When Jack looked at him, he gave a lopsided smirk. “I’m going through the OTS Mitchell set up, I start next week with the first class. I need to be doing something, Dad.”
He was proud and scared all in the same moment. “You’ll make a good officer, Charlie; you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.”
“I’ll try to make you proud.”
Jack slapped his shoulder and then tugged him over into an awkward one-armed hug, awkward due to Jack’s balance and Charlie’s baby-filled arms. “You already have, Charlie, on so many levels.”