Thank you to everyone who continued to follow this story, even though it took waaaaaay too long! I appreciated all of the reviews and your patience. Vini
"Who was that?" Sam asked as she made her way into the living room.
"Hmm?" Jack looked up as he put his phone down. He spent a couple of seconds admiring the view of his wife – nine months pregnant and glowing with happiness – before he answered. "Oh – that was Burke."
"Burke – from the CIA?" his loving wife asked as she slowly and awkwardly sat beside him on the couch. "What did he want?"
"To tell me that he's retired."
"Retired? Is that what he wanted or was he forced into it?"
"Oh, he wanted it!" Suddenly Jack smiled. "He was calling from Chicago. His ex-wife moved there with their son. He wanted me to know that he went and saw them and that things are good. I think he's hoping to get back together with his ex. Even if he doesn't, he said their relationship is good and he's spending lots of time with his son."
"That sounds great," Sam replied. "Do you think he'll miss the action?"
"Maybe, although I think he's figured out that his family is more important." Jack glanced down at his wife and put his arm around her and pulled her closer. "He did ask me to let him know if I ever needed him to go through the gate again."
"And what did you say?"
"I told him that I'd retired too – that I planned to be at home for my kid so I wouldn't be doing any travelling anytime soon."
Sam reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "You're sure you're okay with that?" she asked.
"What? Retirement? Oh yeah – I'm looking forward to it. I can hardly wait to take our kid to play groups and little league and kindergarten."
"And you won't miss going through the gate?"
At that Jack grew serious. "Probably," he acknowledged. "What will make it hard is knowing that Daniel and Teal'c are still out there. Oh well – maybe they'll let me go along occasionally. Still – it's definitely worth it!" He leant down and gave Sam a slow and gentle kiss.
They'd decided, after many long talks – and some arguments – that Jack would retire. Not only did he want to be present in his child's life this time, he was worried that it would be difficult to hide his new found knowledge and abilities if he was in the program full time. The decision wasn't without some difficulty though. He'd spent many years travelling to new worlds and giving it up wasn't going to be easy. Still, he knew it was worth it in the long run.
He and Sam had had a less easy time agreeing on what she was going to do. She insisted that she too wanted to retire. Jack adamantly opposed that idea.
"You have too great a future in the Air Force to retire," he'd told her. "You'll make General before too many years."
In the end they'd compromised. She would take a year's leave and then decide, she told him. In reality she knew she could never go back to gate travel full-time. Now that she was about to become a mother, she refused to put herself in that much danger. She would not leave her child motherless as she had been – not if she could help it.
For now, Jack was still working on base, helping Hammond but not going off-world. His retirement date was in one week – the day before Sam's due date.
The only thing that Jack had asked, when he spoke with Hammond, was that he and Sam be given the chance to return to Terasano one last time. They planned to return for a visit and then to turn over their house and property to Alexios.
They were sad about that probably being the last time they'd get to visit their second home, but both of them had agreed that they couldn't live out the rest of their lives there. They would miss home, their family and friends and, according to Jack, beer and hockey.
Although life wasn't perfect, Jack was happier than he'd been in years. Giving up gate travel was a small price to pay for being married to Sam and to be expecting a child with her. As for his Ancient abilities – well, he hadn't quite decided what to do about those, although Sam suggested that he consider publishing some papers anonymously – and carefully – with some of the knowledge that could help humanity. He was thinking about it.
However right now what he was thinking about the most was the imminent arrival of his child. They still didn't know what it was, but he honestly didn't care. Boy – girl – either would be wonderful. All he cared about was that it was healthy and took after Sam!
"How are you doing?" he asked her suddenly. He hadn't seen much of her since he had been working at the SGC that day.
"Me? I'm fine," she told him. "I've been getting the closets organized for the baby."
"Which closets?" he asked with a frown.
"The one in the study and in the spare bedroom," she told him.
"Why does the baby need the closet in the study or the spare room?"
"Don't be silly," she told him. "Of course they need to be organized before he or she comes. Tomorrow I'm thinking of starting on the garage."
"The – no, you don't need to clean the garage. It's fine and I have everything in there organized."
"No you don't," she argued. "I have an idea of how we can color coordinate things so they're easier to find."
Jack sighed. A pregnant and nesting Samantha Carter was a frightening thing. He just worried that next she start on –
"I'm going to tackle the basement next," she interrupted his thoughts. "It's a mess down there. It needs a good cleaning."
He closed his eyes briefly and then turned to his wife. "Sam."
"What Jack?" she smiled at him.
"Please – not the basement."
"What? Why not? It'll feel so much better when it's all cleaned up. You must have stuff down there that's year's old."
"I do – and since it's been there happily for many years, it can stay for a while longer. Sam – if you remember – it was me cleaning the basement that started everything," he reminded her gently.
Her eyes grew round as she suddenly remembered how he'd gotten hurt. A moment later, however, she grinned and leaned forward and kissed him. "And see – spring cleaning cleared everything up and now look at us! We wouldn't be together if it hadn't been for that."
"True, but since we're already together – let's leave it for now."
She sighed and leaned back. "Okay – but one of these days I'm definitely going to go through all of that stuff."
"But for now?"
"For now – I'll stick to the closets!"
A week later Jack retired. They threw a big party for him at the SGC and many jokes and stories were told. He was touched, although of course he couldn't let anyone know - which they did anyway. At the end it was bitter sweet and he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down the regrets. Still, at the end of the day, he knew he had made the right decision.
It was just as he was about to leave, with Sam, that Hammond asked to speak with him. His eyebrows rose in surprise – he thought that everything had been said already.
"What is it Sir," he'd asked once they were in the General's office.
"I received a communication from the Asgard," he told Jack. "They have an offer for you."
"For me?" Jack asked in surpise.
"Mmm hmm. They actually approached me a few weeks ago, but I said to wait until you'd officially retired."
"So what did they want Sir?"
"They want you to be the Ambassador to our allies. They've spoken to the Tokra, the Tollan and a few others, and they all agree."
"And ambassador? Me? Are they crazy?"
Hammond chuckled but then looked seriously at his former officer. "No, in fact I think it's brilliant. You'll be able to travel through the gate and have access to classified information, but the job will be part-time. You'll be able to spend time with your family, but keep your toe in the work."
Jack regarded the General for a few seconds and then shook his head. "I don't' know what to say," he finally muttered. "It sounds like it might be a busy job."
"As busy as you want," Hammond assured him. "And you can take Colonel Carter with you," he said. "That was something they stipulated."
"Of course they did. They know she's smarter than me and this way they'll get two for the price of one."
"It's a good offer Jack. It'll be great to have you remain an insider, but it won't be nearly as hectic. Please consider it wisely," his friend and mentor told him.
"Alright – I will. Wow – who would have thought – me, an ambassador."
"I'm sure no one would have thought that Jack," Hammond told him with a grin. Jack laughed.
"There's one other thing," Hammond informed him. "If you take the offer, the Asgard are presenting you with your own ship. Thor said it would allow you to travel more freely in your role."
"My own ship!" Jack stared at him for a moment. "Crap – there's no way I'll be able to say no now," he muttered. "If Sam finds out I turned down a ship, she'd shoot me!"
"So you'll take it?"
"Yes Sir – I'll do it. But let Thor know if it takes me away too often I'll resign."
"I will Colonel. Now I suggest you get going. I'm sure your wife is waiting."
As soon as they got home from his party, Jack told her about the offer. She squealed and threw her arms around Jack.
"I guess you're happy about this?" he asked.
"Of course. Aren't you?" Before allowing him to answer she continued. "You can still stay involved – and you'll have your own ship!"
"Our ship," he said quietly.
She smiled. "Our ship. Jack, aren't you excited?"
He kissed her and agreed. What he didn't say to her – at least not yet, not until after the baby, was that he was sure the Asgard had made their offer for another reason. They wanted him to begin to use his Ancient knowledge and, with their help, he thought he might be able to do some good.
For now, however, Jack didn't want to think about that. For now he wanted to concentrate on his family.
The next few days allowed Jack and Sam to do all of the last minute things needed in preparation for the baby. Finally everything was ready – except O'Neill Junior, who still didn't want to show him or herself.
It was eight days past her due date and Sam was ready to jump out of her skin. She wanted to have this baby now. In order to try and keep her from climbing the walls Jack invited Teal'c, Daniel, Janet and Cassie over for the evening.
They talked, laughed and spent time reminiscing over their past adventures. Janet bemoaned the fact that with Jack retired she wouldn't have enough work.
"Do not worry, Dr. Frasier," Teal'c told her. "You will still have Daniel Jackson to treat."
"Hey!" Daniel objected, although everyone else laughed. "I don't get hurt that often."
"Yes you do," Jack told him.
"Okay fine – but it's all in a good cause."
The evening was drawing to a close. Cassie was getting sleepy and Janet had to go to work the next day. Everyone was standing, getting ready to head to the door, when Jack glanced over at Sam.
"Hey, what's up?" he said worriedly when he noticed her strange expression. "Are you okay?" He quickly went up to her and knelt down in front of her.
A second later she smiled and answered. "I'm fine Jack. I'm in labor."
It turned out that she had been in labor for hours, but hadn't wanted to say anything until the pains started to get worse. She hadn't wanted to worry anyone, although from their expressions her friends were pleased, not worried.
Of course the news stopped everyone from leaving. Janet did send Cassie – much to her consternation – to sleep in Jack and Sam's guest room, promising she'd wake her when things got closer.
The next few hours Sam had encouragement from her friends – her friends that were more like family. As the pains got worse, however, she turned to Jack, needing and wanting him with her.
Finally, at 3:00 in the morning, Jack said it was time to leave for the hospital.
Both of them got hugs from everyone. "I'll let you know how things progress," he told them.
"We'll come by when it's closer to the time," Janet told him. "We want to meet the newest O'Neill."
The rest of the night Sam labored, Jack close by her side. When they were left alone he was able to help ease her pain with the help of some of his Ancient abilities. He didn't want to do too much, not wanting to interfere with nature. Sam agreed.
"I want to experience this as naturally as possible," She told him.
He hated to see her in pain, but was amazed at her strength, at the strength of women to go through childbirth.
In the end, of course, it was worth it. When his son came into the world, all pink and white and with a terribly indignant expression, all thought of pain left both of them.
Sam held their son close to her breast, allowing him to suckle, his tiny hands curled up against her. When he was done, and was halfway to sleep, he was transferred to his father's arms – to a father who looked at him as his own little miracle.
"He's gorgeous Sam," Jack whispered, lifting the baby and touching him softly with his cheek. "He looks like you."
"No he doesn't," she grinned. "He looks just like his Daddy – especially when he was first born."
Jack also grinned. "He did look mad, didn't he?"
"Yup – in fact he had the exact expression you get when Daniel ignores your orders. I think he's going to be a handful."
"Yes he is," his Daddy replied with pride. "A real handful." Jack looked again at the tiny baby whose eyes were almost closed, but who appeared content with this new world he'd just entered. Although he didn't know much yet, he knew that he was loved.
"We should call Daniel and the others," Sam said finally.
"I will. Here, hold the sprout. I'll go call and be right back."
Half an hour later their closest friends – and family – were in Sam's room, oohing and aahing over the baby and hugging and congratulating his parents.
"He looks like you, O'Neill," Teal'c said as he regarded the tiny baby in his arms.
"Let's hope his personality is more like Sam's," Daniel interjected.
"Thanks Daniel!" Jack told him sarcastically. He then glanced at his son. "Although I agree."
"No, I want him to be like his father," Sam said. "Brave, honorable, courageous and funny," she said.
"And handsome," Jack threw in.
"Yes," she said, "definitely handsome!"
"So what's his name?" Cassie asked impatiently. "We're dying to know."
Jack turned to Sam, allowing her to do the honors. She smiled at him and then looked at her son.
"His name is Alexander Charles O'Neill," she said softly. She looked then at her husband and smiled and softly said "thank you." He leaned over and kissed her.
"I love you."
As Jack wandered out to the hall to find a nurse and a wheelchair for Sam – so he could take his family home – he thought back to the past year. It had been filled with pain, both literal and emotional, and with treachery and betrayal. And yet it had also been filled with joy – the joy of friendships, old and new, with sacrifice, and adventure and discovery and above all, with the joy of love and a family with Sam.
Yes, that stupid accident that had started it all had been worth it. He touched the scar on his chest and grinned. It all began with spring cleaning.