A Mother's Love – Epilogue

Endings and Beginnings

Jack walked slowly down the corridor with Sam and back to their suite, which they would now be vacating. Neither one spoke as their hearts were heavy with feelings of loss over JJ's departure. Jack opened the door and stepped aside to allow Sam to enter first. He took in the bereft expression on her face and came close to her. "Sam," he reached for her hand but she cut him off.

"I'm sorry, Jack. I can't talk about it right now; it's too painful," she pleaded with him. "I just need some time alone, OK?"

Jack looked at her intently. He really didn't want to leave her alone, not now, but he had to respect her space; she had always done the same for him. "All right, Sam, if that's what you want. But we do have to talk about this, and soon."

Sam nodded, her eyes downcast, and made her way to her room to pack up her few belongings. Jack turned to do the same when the phone in their suite rang. Crossing the room to answer it, Jack gave a glance in Sam's direction before picking up the phone. "O'Neill," he answered tiredly.

Sam heard the phone ring but didn't bother going out into the room. If it was for her, Jack would let her know. She absently sorted her things and put them into her duffel bag. Her eyes welled with tears as her glance kept coming to rest on the empty crib at the foot of her bed. She leaned into the crib and picked up the errant pacifier that had been left behind. Sitting on the end of the bed, Sam felt two tears fall as she looked at the pacifier resting in her hand.

She brushed them away quickly when she heard Jack clear his throat at the door, but didn't look up as he began to speak.

"Um, that was General Hammond. He wants to see me in his office. I'm to tell you that SG-1's downtime starts right now." He waited to see if she would look at him. When she continued gazing at the floor, he went on. "I don't know how long I'll be with the General, but if you want to wait…"

Sam sniffed and said quietly, "I think I'll just head home, thanks." After a few minutes of continued silence, Sam finally looked up at him and noticed the sadness she felt reflected in his own eyes. Feeling guilty for just thinking of her own feelings, she said quietly, "I just need to get away from here and think. I'm sorry."

He nodded his head at her. "I know, Sam. Just don't shut me out, OK?"

Sam tried to give him a small smile but didn't succeed. "I won't. I promise." Sam played with the pacifier in her hands for a moment before turning her gaze to him once more. "You could stop over…at my house…maybe in a few hours?" she asked tentatively.

Jack gave her a smile and nodded at her. "I'll do that. I'll pick up something for us to eat, neither one of had any breakfast this morning," he reminded her.

Thankful for his understanding, she stood up and walked over to him. She hesitated only briefly before wrapping her arms around him in a loose hug and pressing a light kiss against his cheek. "Thank you," was all she said, and it was all Jack needed to hear to know that, however difficult this might be for both of them, they would get through it: together.

Jack gave her one final squeeze before pulling away. "I'd better go, Hammond is waiting. See you in a few hours, OK?"

"OK," she replied before turning back to finish her packing.

"And Sam?" She turned to look at him. "Leave the crib. I'll take care of it." They shared a long look filled with quiet grief before Jack turned and left Sam alone.

Quickly finishing putting her things away, Sam reached for her book on the night stand when something brown and furry caught her eye. Pulling back the corner of the covers, she stared in surprise at the furry teddy bear lying abandoned beneath the blankets. Sam gingerly picked up the bear and held it to her chest, whispering softly, "Oh JJ." She stood holding the bear for several minutes, her eyes closed as she breathed in the smell of the baby that lingered on the stuffed toy. With a sigh, she opened her eyes, wiped away an errant tear, and added the bear to her bag. Making one last sweep around the room with her eyes, Sam left the room for the final time.

She grabbed a few last items off the coffee table in the living room, and let her eyes wander in remembrance of the fleeting moments of happiness she had spent here. She thought of what Samantha had said to her, about taking a chance, and resolutely straightened her shoulders. She headed home, determined to put her thoughts into actions.

Jack pulled up to her house at 1000 hours. His meeting with General Hammond had taken longer than expected. Jack sat quietly in the car after he had killed the engine. His head was still spinning from that particular conversation. That the General had come right out and told him he had some decisions to make regarding his future and that of a particular member of his team still astounded him. Jack knew he had important decisions to make and discuss with his 2IC; he just never knew that his COwould also know that as well, much less elude to it in a conversation in his office! Jack shook his head to clear his thoughts, reached across to the passenger side to grab the bag of take-out food he had picked up, and made his way to her door.

Sam was sitting on the couch, legs crossed like a child and holding the teddy bear loosely in her lap. In her hands was a picture that Daniel had taken of her, Jack and JJ sitting on the couch in the VIP suite. She had found it resting next to her computer in her lab; obviously left there by Daniel. She had been sitting in this same position for over 30 minutes, just gazing at the picture and thinking about the little boy and what he might be doing right now. He was probably taking his morning nap; cuddled between his parents, no doubt. Sam bit her lip as she thought of the warm little body cuddled in her own arms. It had been mere hours, but it almost felt like a lifetime ago.

Sam glanced up when the doorbell rang. Knowing it had to be Jack, she wiped at her wet cheeks and stood up, absently tucking the teddy bear under one arm while holding onto the picture. She opened the door to find herself staring into the dark brown eyes of her CO.

Jack took in her appearance, from the soft, worn jeans and oversized sweatshirt to the red-rimmed eyes and the items clutched in her hands. "Oh, Sam," he said softly, stepping past her into the foyer. "What are doing to yourself?"

Sam looked at him with confusion in her eyes. "What do you mean?"

He put the bag down on the side table and drew her into the living room and down onto the couch. "You're sitting here all by yourself, holding JJ's teddy bear and staring at his picture. It looks like you've been crying ever since you got home," he said gently.

Sam looked down at the teddy bear that she hadn't been aware she was still holding and put it next to her on the couch. She went to place the picture on the coffee table as well, but Jack took it from her hands. He studied it closely for a while before smiling gently. "He sure does have your eyes," he remarked quietly before setting it on the table. Then he turned to her. Taking in her drawn features, he asked, "Have you eaten anything?" At the shake of her head, he pulled her to her feet, grabbed the bag, and led her to the kitchen. He placed two breakfast sandwiches on a plate, poured them each a cup of coffee that he was thankful to see she had made, and sat at her table. Sam frowned at how he took over in her house, but followed suit and sat down.

Silently, they ate their sandwiches while the radio played in the background. When they were done, Sam stood to clear their plates and poured them each another cup of coffee. Jack stood, took one of the cups from her hand, and walked back into the living room. They took seats on opposite ends of the couch and let the silence deepen, neither knowing quite how to begin the conversation.

Not being a patient man, Jack spoke first. "Look, Sam. I know this has been hard for you. It hasn't been easy for me either. We both grew attached to JJ and it was hell letting him go. But we have to move on."

Her eyes flashed at what she thought he was trying to say. "Move on? Just like that? He's only been gone for 4 hours! What did you do? Sign us up for a mission this afternoon, like you did right after we thought Daniel had died?"

Jack's face hardened at the tone of accusation in her voice. "That's not exactly what I meant, Carter," he said, the softness from earlier gone as his defenses were raised.

The room was left in quiet tension as each of them tried to calm themselves down. This time, it was Sam who broke the silence. Quietly, not meeting his gaze, she apologized. "I'm sorry Jack. I didn't mean that. It's just…this is still so fresh, I can't just stuff it away somewhere." She looked him in the eye now and continued, "There are other things I just can't hide away anymore, either."

Jack held her gaze and felt his heart quicken at the meaning behind her words. When she saw that he wasn't going to retreat behind a wall, Sam took a deep breath and went on. "This past week, while being stressful beyond belief, taught me a lot of things and opened my eyes to some things that I knew were missing in my life, but I didn't want to face. When we were in the suite, just you, me and JJ, I felt like… I was home. I haven't felt like that since…well, since my mother died," she finished quietly.

"Sam," Jack attempted to say something but she interrupted him.

"Please, let me finish, or I don't know if I ever will." She stood up and began to pace the living room, walking back and forth in front of the sofa. "Samantha has everything; she's working within the SGC, leading a team through the Stargate, but she also has a family to come home to every day. Someone to share her life with. A child to love and raise in a warm, loving family. I want that too, Jack. I think I deserve to be happy."

Jack stood and came over to her, stopping her pacing by placing his hands on her upper arms. "I think you deserve it too, Sam," he said softly. "I think we both do," he added with a light of hope in his eyes.

Sam closed her eyes in relief at his words, then opened them and looked intently at him. "I'm glad you feel that way, Jack. Because I've decided to resign my commission," she said decisively.

Jack's eyes opened wide; this was so not what he was expecting! "Like hell you will!" he growled out, letting go of her to begin his own round of pacing. "There is no way I'm going to let you give up your career, Sam. You'll come to regret it, and me. Besides, there's no way they'd let you go; you're too important to the program. No, that's not going to work," he said forcefully, shaking his head for emphasis.

"You didn't let me finish," she stated just as forcefully. "I'll resign my commission, but stay on as a civilian scientist. We have dozens of them on staff, what's one more? And since I have gate travel experience, I'm sure the General will allow me to go on missions of scientific value."

"Aside from the fact that you're a brilliant scientist, you are also a magnificent soldier, Sam. Your field experience is needed, as well as your scientific brain. No, I'm sorry, but I won't let you do it."

Her hackles rose at that comment. "First of all, this is my decision, not yours. Secondly, why are you being so obstinate about this? Unless, I read everything between us all wrong, and you don't want to…pursue something," she finished with lowered eyes. Oh God, had she just made a fool of herself?

"Christ, Sam. I've wanted to pursue something, as you so eloquently put it, for the last 4 years! And I'm being obstinate because I love you!" he fairly shouted at her. "I don't want to see you throw your career away, and everything you've worked for, when there's another option open to us!"

Sam stared at him in stunned silence. While she knew they shared deep feelings for one another, neither of them had ever said those three words out loud. Jack froze as well, just now realizing what he had said, and ran a hand through his hair. Oh crap, that really was not how he had wanted to tell her the first time. Images of wine, candlelight and soft music flashed through his mind before he shook the thought away. So much for romance, he thought dryly to himself.

Jack walked up to Sam, took her by the hand and led her to the couch. Sitting knee to knee, he took a deep breath before continuing. "There is another option open to us, Sam. In fact, that's what General Hammond called me in to talk about." At her raised eyebrows, he nodded his head. "Yes, old George seemed to sense that things between us had maybe been pushed to the foreground after this week's events. So we discussed some options." Grasping both of her hands in his, he said, "I'm going to retire, Sam."

Sam opened her mouth in protest, but he put a finger over her lips and continued. "My turn to talk. General Hammond agreed to approve in my retirement. 6 months from now, I will soon be Retired Colonel Jack O'Neill. My knees aren't what they used to be; you know that, Sam. There are younger men and women who can fill my shoes." At her sound of protest, he took his finger from her lips and let her speak.

"Jack, no one can replace you. Your expertise, your battle strategies, your experience with the Asgard and in the field just can't be replaced!"

"I notice you didn't mention my stellar diplomatic skills," he teased. When she didn't smile in response, he sighed. "The General happened to agree with you on a few levels, which is why, when I retire, I won't leave for good. He's going to talk to the President about giving me the position of Asgard Ambassador and Off-world something or other. I can't remember what title he came up with, but it did sound important," he grinned at her.

Sam still didn't look convinced, though. She felt he was giving up too much and told him so. He laughed at her. "Giving up being chased and shot at by crazed snake heads? I don't think that's too big a sacrifice. Besides, I'd be gaining much more in the process. That is, if you really are interested in spending your life with a tired old war horse like me," he asked with just a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

Sam smiled for the first time that night. "You're not exactly old, Jack. I think I can handle it." Then she frowned in thought. "Who will take over SG-1 when you're gone? I can't imagine being under someone else's command," she admitted softly.

"Well, I hear there's a brilliant, sexy scientist in the front running for that position," he waggled his eyebrows at her.

She looked at him in surprise. "Really? General Hammond is thinking of letting Felger lead SG-1?"

Jack lunged at her and tackled her to the couch. "Oh, that was cruel, woman! Replacing me with that screw up! You'll pay for that!" and he started to tickle her mercilessly.

Sam shrieked and pushed at him, finally succeeding in holding him at arm's length. Catching the darkening look of desire in his eyes, she said softly, "There's one thing you should know, though. If we do…someday down the road…have a child of our own. I don't think I'll want to go through the gate anymore. At least not as part of a first contact team. I don't want to take the chance on not being around to see our child grow up."

Jack gave her a soft smile, then leaned forward until he was inches from her lips. "Do you think I could kiss you once, before we plan on having children?"

Sam smiled up at him. "Well, I suppose, just this once. But remember, you're still my CO for the next 6 months."

"Yeah, I know. Hammond reminded me of that…several times in fact. But I won't tell if you won't."

In answer to his question, Sam pulled him closer for a kiss that made their senses reel. It was a kiss filled with passion, love, and the promise of a future that was finally within their grasp.

Two years later

Sam leaned back against the bed, her face a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration. Jack leaned over, wiping the sweat from her brow and whispered down at her, "You were absolutely amazing, Sam. I don't know how you did it; I'm so proud of you." Then he brushed a soft kiss against her lips.

"Well, let me tell you, it's not something I want to repeat anytime too soon," she replied with a tiredness that went all the way to her core.

"Don't worry, I'll give you at least another year," he teased lightly as he sat next to her on the bed. As Janet came forward, holding a blue bundle in her arms, Jack helped Sam sit up a little and watched tenderly as the baby was placed in her arms for the first time.

Sam's eyes filled with tears as she looked down at her new son. It had been a long time in coming, but he was finally here with them. She let her mind wander back over the past two years and how they had come to this point in time.

True to his word, Jack had retired 6 months to the day that JJ had returned to his parents. Those 6 months had been fraught with frustration, fear and anticipation on both their parts. Jack had survived a staff blast to the chest, and being frozen for several weeks. Sam had survived being chased by one of Anubis's drones at the Alpha site and being captured and tortured by Fifth. They had refrained from acting on their feelings while on base, but would often get together at one house or the other, just to hold one another and reaffirm their love for each other. Despite all the obstacles, they had prevailed and, upon Jack's retirement and installment as the first official Ambassador to the Asgard and Off-World Operations Specialist, they had spent a few months just dating, before becoming officially engaged.

Sam was promoted and took over command of SG-1. There had been several missions that Jack had come along on; his expertise needed in various situations. And of course, whenever Thor had come to call, Jack had insisted SG-1 come along for the ride. The transformation had gone smoothly and, though they missed his presence, Daniel and Teal'c were happy that their friends were now free to be together and build a new life.

Their wedding had taken place 6 months after Jack's retirement; a quiet affair attended only by close friends and family members. Not long afterward, Sam had found out she was pregnant. There were mixed feelings of elation and fear for both of them, but elation easily won out.

Sam had led her team on a few exploratory missions before requesting a transfer to the labs. Though Jack never said anything to her, he was extremely relieved to know that she was safely working in the labs and not out God-knew where being chased by snake heads. Colonel Baker had taken over the helm of SG-1 in her absence and had immediately clicked with its two remaining members.

And now here she was, holding her new baby boy in her arms, tears of happiness flowing down her cheeks. Jack brushed his thumb across her cheek with one hand as he continued to encircle her with the other and gaze down at his son.

Janet Frasier looked at the happy couple and couldn't stop a few tears of her own from tumbling down her cheeks. That she had been present at the birth of this much loved child had made her feel even closer to both the new parents and the baby. Wiping at her tears, she came closer and stood next to Sam.

"Well, you've got a very healthy 8 lb. 4 oz. son there. Any ideas yet on what you're going to name him?' she asked with curiosity.

Sam and Jack looked at each other. They had discussed in much depth whether it would be right to call him Jonathon Jacob, JJ for short of course. He most likely wouldn't be the same genetic child they had cared for 2 years ago, as he had been conceived at an entirely different time. Yet, they loved the name and the idea of honoring the child that had ultimately brought them together for good. In the end, they had decided to wait until he was born and see what he looked like. If he was to be JJ, they felt they would know once they laid eyes on him.

"We're not quite sure yet, Janet," Sam declared softly as she looked at the infant in her arms. He had the same brown, downy hair that JJ had had and the adorable bow lips as well. But they just weren't sure. Until he began to squirm in Sam's arms and slowly opened his eyes.

The baby blinked at the bright lights, this new world very strange to him. He pursed his lips into a tiny little pout, let out a mew of protest, then settled down as he heard a soft voice from above him. He made smacking noises with his lips and looked intently at the blurry faces hovering just beyond the focus of his deep blue eyes.

Sam and Jack looked with love at the little boy who was staring at them so intently, turned to lock gazes and smiled. "JJ," they said unison, affirming that this little boy was indeed, their JJ.

Janet smiled and nodded her approval, then looked up at the clearing of throats she heard from the doorway. Daniel and Teal'c stood there, flowers in hand, waiting to see if they could meet the newest member of the Carter-O'Neill clan.

Jack looked up and waved them forward. "Come on in guys. Come and meet my new son," Jack declared, the pride evident in his voice.

"Your son?" Sam asked with a teasing note.

"Ours," he quickly amended with a kiss to her lips.

"Congratulations O'Neill, Colonel Carter. I am most pleased to welcome your son to this world," Teal'c stated with all seriousness, yet still with a smile of happiness for his friends.

Daniel leaned forward to get a close look at the baby. "He's beautiful, Sam. Have you decided on a name?"

"Yes, I'd like you both to meet Jonathon Jacob Carter-O'Neill. JJ for short," she said with a grin. Then she bent her head to brush a soft kiss against the baby's head.

"JJ, welcome to our world," Daniel greeted the baby quietly. Then he turned to Jack. "Now for the important question; who is going to be his Godfather? Since you've agreed to give the afterbirth to the NID for study and shouldn't have any threat from that area, I don't think you need to choose brawn over brains," he reminded them pointedly.

Jack grinned at his friend before he spoke. "I think we have the perfect solution, Space Monkey. JJ is going to have two Godfathers; one for protection and to teach him defensive skills, one to teach him how to speak 10 different languages."

Daniel and Teal'c shared a smile, happy with the compromise. Sam added, "And a Godmother who can take care of any injuries he ever might get," and she smiled at her friend, who promptly began to cry once again.

Trying to cover her emotions, Janet quickly returned to doctor mode, ushering the two men out with the order that Sam and the baby needed their rest. When they were alone once again, Sam handed JJ over to Jack and slid over in the bed so that Jack could join her. When he was lying next to her, cradling his son, Sam laid her head against his shoulder and sighed with contentment. She ran her hand lightly over the baby's cheek, smiling as he instinctively turned his face toward the stimulus.

Jack leaned down and kissed her on the top of her head. "What are you thinking?" he asked softly.

"Just about how happy I am right now. And how I can't believe that he's really ours this time." She gazed up at Jack's face. "This is the happiest day of my life, Jack. Thank you!"

Jack kissed her lips gently before he stated, "I should be thanking you, Sam. You agreed to marry a grumpy, beat up old soldier. Then you gave me a beautiful son. I couldn't be happier or more grateful than I am right this moment."

She snuggled into his side and gazed down with love and wonder at her son. "I love you, both of you, so much. I never thought taking a chance on us would be quite as wonderful as it turned out to be."

Jack chuckled softly, "Yeah, we should have done this years ago." Sam laughed softly along with him, before once again nestling tightly against him as she felt the pull of sleep drag her down.

Jack smiled as he felt his wife fall asleep against his side, his son sleeping in his arms. He shifted JJ to his left arm so he could encircle Sam with his right. He gave them each one more kiss to the forehead before pulling Sam more comfortably against the pillows. He leaned his head back, looked up at the ceiling, and smiled. For a man who had recently retired, his life was just beginning; and what a ride it was going to be!

Sigh! And so we come to the end...or is it just the beginning? I want to thank everyone who reviewed throughout this epic: from those who reviewed once or twice to those who reviewed every chapter. Each and every one was truly appreciated! Especially those of you who said thatI remained true to the chacracters and it sounded like it could be a real episode; albeit much too long! Thatis high praise indeed!My aim was to entertain and it sounds like I accomplished that.

This story started out as a whimsical little idea that I didn't think would last more than 10 chapters. Alas, 39 chapters later, it has come to an end! Several of you have mentioned a sequel. I'll have to think about that idea. But I will be taking a writing break for a while as school is getting frantic and one of my darling little second graders is due to undergo a bone marrow transplant soon...so I will be spending time visiting him in the hospital. But I will be back! Thanks again for all of your encouragement and kind words...it really means a lot!