A/N: This is a stand alone story in the alternate universe I've created for the Alone series. Jack and Sam have been married 6 years. Their twins, Grace and Jake are 5 years old and baby Jon is age 3 months.
(For those of you reading the larger series, please assume that this takes place after the conclusion of the still in progress story, Saving the World. I just wanted to get this one up around the start of the school year.)
Hope you like!
THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Time: Monday, September 4, 2330 hours
Location: the suburban Colorado Springs home of Lt. General and Lt. Colonel O'Neill and family.
Jake and Grace had fallen asleep around 2130 hours, a full ninety minutes past their usual bedtimes. They were so excited! Grace had insisted on carefully arranging her clothing for the first day of school. Then she changed her mind and rearranged the items, again and again and again. As for Jake, well he'd been playing it cool, but he must have asked questions about school every five minutes before finally settling down. This left Sam to putter nervously around the house, making sure everything was ready for the big day, while Jack wisely got out of her way, retreating to his favorite spot on the deck.
"So, do you think we'll be getting any sleep tonight, Sam?" Jack asked, sipping his lemonade and shifting slightly in his chair as he readjusted the sight on his telescope. Sam had just come out to join him on the deck where he'd been stargazing for the past hour, enjoying the crisp, clear evening.
Sam totally ignored Jack's question, clearly preoccupied with her own thoughts.
"Do you think they'll be alright?" Sam asked a moment later, reaching her hand over to get his attention.
"Sam, we've checked everything. Sure they'll be okay."
"But what if they don't like it?"
"What if they don't like it? Sam, there are days kids don't like school. That's part of going to school, part of being a kid. Least for all the kids I've ever known."
"I don't mean that, Jack. What if… what if they really don't like it? What if someone is mean to them or picks on them or … or …"
"Sam," Jack said patiently, finally turning away from the heavens to look at his favorite set of heavenly blue eyes, now clouded by motherly concern. "Sweetheart, they're tough kids. They'll be okay. We've checked out the school, their teacher, the principal. We've talked to everyone personally. And Homeworld Security has done background checks the likes of which no school system has ever seen. What else do you think we should do?"
"Okay, so I'm being an over-protective mother, aren't I?"
"Just a bit, I'd say, Mrs. O'Neill."
"But they're going off to school tomorrow, Jack. Our babies."
"I know. And by next week, they'll be married and out on their own. It's hard…"
"You…," she said, whacking him playfully on the arm. "You know what I mean."
"Sam, they've been going to pre-school for the past year."
"It's not the same. This is all day kindergarten, Jack. Real school."
"Come here," he said with the soft voice he always used when he realized his wife was upset. "I love you, you know," he said just before he wrapped her in his arms, a gesture he knew still went a long way toward making things better for Samantha O'Neill.
"Jack, I'm serious," she persisted, now speaking into his chest. "I don't know if I'm ready," she confessed, lifting her head enough to look him directly in the eye.
"So that's it, is it? Well Colonel, in that case, may I suggest a few pre-first day of school exercises with your old commanding officer?"
"Exactly what did you have in mind, Sir?" Sam asked trying to fake great military seriousness.
"Well, goes something like this, Colonel…"
The next morning, Jack opened his eyes before dawn, feeling that someone was watching him. Actually he was being watched by two 'someones'. To be exact, Grace was standing over his side of the bed doing everything she could to will him awake while Jake returned the favor on Sam's side. Jack's first thought in his early morning haze was I know it's not Christmas. To his knowledge that was the only day so far that had warranted such behavior from both twins at the same time.
No… just the first day of school. That's right. "Sam…." Receiving no answer, Jack felt momentarily envious of his wife's ability to continue to sleep. That was until Jake decided to take things into his own hands.
"Mommy, come on, wake up. We'll be late for school," he threatened in an animated tone directly in her ear.
Sam woke with a start. "What time is it?" she asked with some dismay before she realized it was still dark.
"It's 0500, Sam. Go back to sleep. I'll try to get these two settled down for a little longer."
"But Daddy, we don't want to be late," Grace said with great seriousness.
"Nobody's going to be late. There are two more whole hours before it's time to get ready for school."
"Daddy….we just can't sleep anymore …"
By the time Sam awoke one hour later, her two munchkins were fashionably dressed and raring to go. Jack had prepared French toast and bacon for breakfast and Jake was in the midst of pouring syrup on the sleeve of his sister's new sweater.
"Ack …," Jack caught his son's arm just in time to avert a fashion catastrophe. "Syrup on breakfast, not on your sister, Slugger," he said in his best fatherly tone, catching the mischievous look in the little boy's eye.
Within another thirty minutes or so, the twins, their backpacks, lunch boxes and baby Jon were packed into the family SUV for the ten minute drive to school. Sam had refused to consider sending the twins on the school bus. That was one final loss of control she couldn't deal with, at least not yet. Jack had indulged her and decided they'd both drive the twins on the very first day, taking turns thereafter.
The kindergarten teachers were at the front door of school waiting to greet their students; after all, this was the first day in the building for the kindergarteners and everyone wanted to help the new students feel comfortable.
The O'Neills walked Grace and Jake over to their teacher. The twins remembered Mrs. Wright from the "meet and greet" (Jack's designation) earlier in the summer.
"Hi, Mrs.Wright! We're ready to start school," Grace said, looking around to smile at the other children taking leave of their parents on the front steps of the school.
"Are you ready, Mrs. Wright?" Jake asked enthusiastically. "Can we go in now? I want to see my desk."
"Jake we'll be going in very soon," Mrs. Wright said, turning to Jack and Sam, the last parents to drop off children that morning. The experienced teacher couldn't help but catch the look of barely restrained panic on Sam's face.
"Please don't worry Mrs. O'Neill, they'll be fine. If there's any problem whatsoever, I'll call immediately."
Jack flashed Sam an "I told you so look", they kissed the children goodbye and got back in the SUV. Sam wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad when the twins basically ignored their departure.
Both Jack and Sam made their way to the SGC that day. Jack had meetings and Sam needed to complete a project in the lab. They'd planned to bring Jon in today to see Janet for his 3 month check-up and scheduled immunizations.
When Jack came to the lab to take Sam to lunch between his meetings, he found his wife on the phone.
"Mark, I feel so silly. I can't believe how overprotective I've become. Were you like this when the kids went to school?"
Jack smiled to himself and stayed in the hallway not wanting to interrupt Sam's conversation with her brother. They'd gotten closer since the twins were born; sharing about their children seemed to have drawn them together.
"Sure, Mark. Yes, I do feel better. Thanks for being a big brother. Bye." Sam finished the conversation, hung up the phone and turned around to find Jack in the doorway.
"Lunch?" Jack suggested innocently.
"What do you think they're doing right now?" Sam countered.
He couldn't help but chuckle, "Eating lunch?"
"Seriously, Jack. Didn't you and Sara worry when Charlie went to school the first time?" The couple had long ago passed the point where it was awkward to talk about Jack's life with Sara and Charlie. It was simply a part of his history.
Jack smiled sadly before he answered. "Sam, I wasn't around very much for Charlie those days. I was off on all those top secret missions, so no, I didn't get to worry about my son going to school. But I know Sara did. And in my own way, I'm worried now."
"Yep, I'm worried for Mrs. Wright. I'm not sure she can keep up with them," he said with a smirk.
Before they knew it, it was time to pick up the twins for the ride home from school. Once again, the O'Neills had arranged to do this as a family. By 1500 hours, they were at the school. Since the kindergarteners were only dismissed directly onto the school bus or to a designated parent or guardian, Jack and Sam, with little Jon in tow, walked to the classroom to pick up their children.
They were greeted by one of the student teachers, Ms. Cooper, who walked over to meet the couple, accompanied by Jake and Grace.
"Mr. and Mrs. O'Neill, I'm so pleased to meet you. Mrs. Wright and I both want you to know what a pleasure it is to have your children in our class."
"Thank you. That's wonderful to hear." Sam looked down to see her two munchkins beaming up at her and their father.
"We were very helpful, weren't we, Miss Cooper?" Jake stated matter-of-factly.
"Yes, you were," Ms. Cooper replied with a genuine smile. Turning to the parents, she continued, "Grace and Jake both seem to know a lot about outer space and our solar system. We were talking about the stars and planets. And these two told the class about comets."
"You know Mommy, how comets are really a mixture of frozen water and frozen gases and dust that didn't get to be part of a planet a long time ago. And how they're invisible until they come closer to the sun and we can see them," Grace said repeating what her mother had told her during the Perseid meteor shower the month before.
"And when all the ice is melted, what's left looks like an asteroid. Daddy likes to call comets 'dirty snowballs', right Daddy?" Jake added.
"I'm not the only one, Jake," Jack said, sort of surprised Jake remembered. "Sounds like you had quite a science lesson today, Ms. Cooper."
Mr. DeLuise, the school principal was also in the vicinity, eager to meet the new parents as they came to pick up their children. "General, Colonel O'Neill, pleasure to see you again. And this must be the baby we've all heard so much about today," he said, gesturing towards Jon, now wide awake and checking out all the commotion in the kindergarten hallway.
"Yes, this is Jon. And he can hardly wait to join his big brother and sister at school, right little guy?" Jack asked cheekily, much to Sam's chagrin.
"Well, when its time, I'm sure they'll take good care of their little brother," Mr. DeLuise suggested. "By the way, be sure to check out the pictures in the children's back packs tonight. They were asked to draw a picture of something that was very, very important to them. And I'd say they each made a very good choice."
"We will, thank you," Sam said, smiling proudly and reaching out for Grace's hand.
"Let's head home everybody, Jack said.
"Okay, Daddy, we're ready to go. See you tomorrow, Miss Cooper!" Grace called. She and Jake were both waving goodbye as they started to walk towards the car.
That night after supper, just before getting the children ready for their baths, Sam remembered the pictures that Mr. DeLuise had sent home.
"Jack," she called from the bedroom. "Would you bring the backpacks in? We forgot to look at the pictures."
"Will do. Be right there."
"Mommy, daddy, our pictures, we almost forgot!" Grace said, suddenly reminded of the artwork she'd been so eager to show her parents.
"Okay, princess, why don't you and Jake show us the pictures.
They didn't have to be asked twice. In all the excitement of telling their parents every single thing that had happened in school today, they'd almost forgotten the pictures they'd brought home.
"Mrs. Wright said to draw something very important," Grace said proudly as she held out her picture to her mom and dad.
"Oh … it's beautiful…" Sam exclaimed, her eyes tearing up.
"Wow," Jack added, looking over his wife's shoulder, "that's great, Princess."
"Look at mine, Daddy," Jake said, never wanting to take a back seat to his sister.
"I like that picture a lot, Slugger." Jack said, feeling a tear of two in his own eyes. His son's artwork, Jake's vision of what was very important to him, was a family portrait: Sam, the baby, the twins and himself sitting around the table, eating of course. Jack could make out Jon portrayed as a sort of round little creature in Sam's arms.
Actually, Grace's picture wasn't a lot different, just a slightly different setting – outdoors, probably a park, a big sun shining in the background and the five of them in a group hug.
That night as Jack and Sam heard the children's nighttime prayers, the final request was for their new friends, " … and please take good care of Mrs. Wright, Miss Cooper and Mr. DeLuise."
Oh yeah, Jack echoed in his mind. I have a feeling they're going to need all the help they can get to keep up with these two.
By 2300 hours, all the O'Neills were tucked in bed. Sam had just finished breast-feeding little Jon and had placed him securely in his crib in the small nursery adjoining the master bedroom
"So what did you think of those masterpieces?" Jack spoke into his wife's hair as he held her close, her head tucked under his chin. "Pretty special, aren't they?"
"Yeah, they are. And so are our kids … all three of them."
"They are growing up fast, aren't they," Jack admitted, starting to realize they'd crossed a milestone with the twins today.
"Is that my husband I hear getting all sentimental now?"
"Just realizing they're not babies anymore, Sam."
"No they're not. But those pictures speak a thousand words. That's what's really important, that we stay together as a family."
"Always, Mrs.O'Neill," he said, gently tilting her head and kissing her soundly. "That's all that really matters."
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