And here's the last chapter of "2018"...but not the last of the story. With any luck my brain will start working again and I'll be able to come up with a sequel. It really is fun to write about these characters in the future, so I hope I can. If any of you would even be 'interested' in more, please let me know--and let me know how I ended this one. :) I look forward to hearing from all of you, and writing this story has been a lot of fun! I hope you enjoy the rest! Thank you all who have read and reviewed!
"Are we there yet?" came the young voice from the back seat again.
Daniel glanced at his excited, bouncing daughter through the rearview mirror of the car. "Calm down, sweetie; the park's just around the corner."
"And please stop jumping around so much," Vala added.
Janet complied and settled in her seat. "We're not late, are we?"
"No," both parents said together, grinning and glancing at each other. For once it was actually true.
Daniel turned the corner and pulled into the parking lot of the large, open park just outside Colorado Springs. Almost immediately he spotted the vehicles belonging to the O'Neills, the Mitchells, Teal'c, and Cassie. Everyone had been early. That wasn't surprising, though. They had all been looking forward to this for days.
"But everybody else is already here!" the girl yelped, rising up on her knees.
"They're early, Janet, it's okay. Now please sit down!"
She sighed and sat down again. "Sorry, daddy..." Janet waited until the car had come to a stop and the engine had shut off, then opened her door, unbuckled her seatbelt, and hopped out. Daniel was out next, but by the time he had come around the front of the vehicle Vala had already opened the door, but this time hadn't made it out yet. He gave her a hand to her feet.
Once Vala had stood and turned to collect her purse Daniel rounded to the back of the car and opened the trunk, but before he could reach in to bring out the large picnic basket Vala had followed him back there and grabbed it herself and started to hoist it out.
"Oh no you don't," Daniel chastised, gently pulling it from her hands. "I've got it."
"And I've got the blanket," Janet added, plucking out the blue-and-white checked spread.
Vala raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her swollen stomach. "I'm pregnant, Daniel, not helpless."
Daniel smiled. "I know, but I've been gone for two months. Come on, can't a guy satisfy a bit of his guilt every now and then by carrying a picnic basket for his wife?"
She looked thoughtful for a moment, then grinned in return and looped her arm around one of his. "Well, when you put it that way…"
Janet giggled and then skipped ahead, leading her parents out into the park and across the grass to where the rest of their group was spread out in the shade on blankets under a small grove of trees. By now those already there had noticed the new arrivals and were waving them over. The eight-year-old hit the blankets running and just about bowled Cassandra over, running into her with open arms. The young woman would have been sent sprawling on the spread if she hadn't flung one hand out behind her.
"Hey!" she laughed, balancing herself again and hugging the girl.
"Hi," Janet smiled, and then went to give the others their hugs. Next was her Uncle Skaara, who had been staying with the O'Neills and she had already taken a liking to. Then, of course, he was already within reaching sitting right next to Cassie. It hadn't gone unnoticed that those two had taken a liking to each other as well…
"And finally, last but not least, the Jacksons--again," Jack grinned as he received his own embrace from the youngest of that family.
Daniel rolled his eyes as he set down the picnic basket and picked up from the ground the folded blanket his daughter had discarded. "Be quiet, Jack."
"Hey, Cam and Carolyn here have two kids, both are younger than yours, and they still beat you. What else am I supposed to say?" O'Neill teased.
"Something else," Jackson shrugged, hiding a smile.
Sam hit her husband's arm playfully. "Yeah, really, Jack. Be nicer."
Once Janet had made her rounds and Daniel and Vala had spread their own blanket and sat down with the others, Zach and Tiffany Mitchell came running from the playground to latch onto their cousin. With the weight of two five-year olds, she was quickly pulled to the ground and the three landed in a pile of arms and legs, giggling.
"Be careful, you two; don't hurt her," Cameron admonished.
"Janet, you're bigger than they are…" Daniel warned.
"We're just playing!" Tiffany chirped.
"We'll be careful, daddy. Can we go play now?" Janet asked.
Daniel glanced to Cameron and Carolyn, then to Vala, and nodded. "Go ahead."
"Thanks!" Janet replied, stopping to peck her parents on the cheek before running off with the two younger children.
Jack clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "So, who's hungry?"
"I am," Cameron answered, reaching for the basket they had brought.
"I am as well," Teal'c nodded and Jack and Sam pulled their own closer.
"What about the kids?" Vala asked, glancing over at the playground not far away where they were.
"They'll eat when they're hungry," Daniel answered, opening their basket. "They may not be yet, but I know I am."
"Besides, they'll work up an appetite fast enough running around like that," Carolyn added, pulling out sandwiches.
Vala shrugged and started pulling out food too. "Good point."
As they started eating, the team moved in closer to talk. Being together, after all, had been the point of the excursion. After Jack, Daniel, and Skaara's descension, there had been much to be figured out, politicians that knew about the Stargate program to convince that Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were, in fact, alive, and so on. This had been the first free weekend they'd all had in two weeks.
At one point Daniel inched over toward O'Neill. Once he had the older man's attention he gestured discretely toward Skaara and Cassie, who seemed to be having a wonderful time in conversation and laughter by themselves on their own corner of the blankets.
"Hey, Jack…when did that happen?"
"What do you mean by 'that'?" the retired general inquired.
Daniel rolled his eyes. "You know…'that', them."
Jack's face lit up. "Ah! That! Well, I don't know. They met, they clicked, and now they're like that. Go figure. Wouldn't be surprised if they're the next two to hook up."
"You already think that?" Jackson asked, eyebrows going up.
O'Neill shrugged. "Sure, why not."
Daniel blinked rapidly. "You do know that if that happens we'll be related, right? In a way…"
"We would be?" Jack asked in confusion. "Oh! You're right, we would sort of be related, wouldn't we? What's wrong with that, Daniel? I think it'd be fun."
"Nothing's wrong with that, Jack. I was just making sure you knew." Then he sat back and chewed more, mulling over that new piece of information. Related to Jack? That could get interesting…It would also mean he and Vala would be related to both related to Sam too, as well as Jack, sort of, and then they would just have to find some way to get Cameron and Teal'c in…But of course any of it was only a small possibility at this point, though the though of all of them being related in some small way was fun to think about.
As for Skaara and Cassie though…"Maybe it's because they're both not originally from Earth," Daniel suggested.
"Could be," Jack agreed quietly back to him. Then he smirked playfully. There were several other families and small groups at the park on this beautiful Saturday noon, and several other children on the playground, but no group was as large or strange as theirs.
"Wonder what they would all think if they if they knew we had three aliens over here?" O'Neill mussed aloud, this time so the others could hear.
"And there's a half alien over there," Vala smiled, nodding toward the playground.
Daniel looked as if that had never occurred to him. "Now that I think about it, I guess she is, isn't she?" Vala just looked at him and shook her head.
Sam smiled over at Skaara. "That's right; we have three of them now, don't we?"
Skaara shrugged as Cassie laughed and hugged him. "Yes, I suppose that you do. I am happy to be here." Then he grinned. "And that you and O'Neill were married as I suspected would happen."
Samantha O'Neill started to blush profusely. "Uhm…yeah…"
Jack put an arm around her and kissed her. "Come on, Sam, no reason to get shy about it," he smiled.
She grinned back at him. "You're right." Skaara only laughed knowingly.
"Look out, people, kid alert!" Cameron called then, just before all three children came barreling into the ranks of adults to collapse on the blankets.
"Whoa!" Jack yelped when Zach landed in front of him. "I guess you're hungry now?"
"Yes sir!" the boy announced enthusiastically, moving over to his parents to collect his food along his twin sister.
Janet went to her own parents and sat beside them, reaching into her pocket for something.
"Whatcha got?" Daniel asked as she pulled out a folded piece of yellow paper.
She handed it to him. "I was playing and felt it in there. I got it yesterday at school and forgot to give it to you."
"Okay…" he said, unfolding it as Vala came up on her knees and leaned over his shoulder. It should be…yes, it was her report card. The third quarter had ended recently. Janet was a smart girl, and a year ahead in fourth grade instead of third. Usually high A's graced her report card, but Daniel knew almost before he opened it that this one would not be the same.
And it wasn't. There was no drastic drop, but a noticeable enough one. There were still no B's to speak of, but the A's were lower than usual. He knew why, too, and couldn't blame her for it. She had missed him, hadn't been able to concentrate on her schoolwork as well. He'd seen it happening from his ascended state, and hadn't been able to do anything about it. And he'd known it was his fault.
He must not have been able to keep his emotions from showing on his face, because seconds later Daniel realized that both Vala and Janet were looking at him with concern.
"What's wrong, daddy? Did I not do good…?" the girl asked, face falling.
"No, no, you did great!" Daniel said quickly, smiling at her. "Really, you did, Janet. I'm proud of you."
And he was. After his parents' deaths when he too had been eight, his world had fallen apart. He'd been ahead from home schooling as he traveled with his parents, and when he'd been put into foster care and placed in sixth grade his grades had plummeted at first. He'd barely made it into middle school. Janet had coped much better than he ever had with a similar situation.
"I was just thinking about something else," he assured his wife and daughter. Vala shrugged, kissed him briefly and sat back down.
"Good job," she said to their daughter, hugging her.
Janet moved to get a hug from her father next, expecting only a brief congratulatory one. Instead, Daniel wrapped his arms around her and held on to her. Janet returned the embrace.
"Dad…?" she asked quietly.
"I love you, and I am sorry I left for so long," he said softly to her alone. Vala knew this; he'd said it so many times she was starting to get a bit annoyed with him even though she was so happy he was back. He needed to make sure that Janet knew as well.
"I know, daddy," she answered back just as softly. "It's okay, really." Then she pulled back and smiled up at him. "Just don't do it again, okay?"
Daniel laughed and pulled her close again. "Don't worry, Janet; I won't. I'm not going anywhere."