Epilogue – Everything I Ever Wished For
Leorah stirred in her bed, the light from the full moon illuminating the child's bedroom. A large stuffed frog sat propped in a child's rocking chair, its eyes sightlessly watching the little girl sleep. A smaller, but equally stuffed turtle, lay at the edge of the bed, its legs precariously dangling toward the floor. As the little girl shifted, the turtle lost its hold on the bed and tumbled soundlessly to the floor.
Although it was past midnight, the light from the room showed clearly the décor meant to add warmth and comfort to a child's room. Dainty pink flowers graced the white lace of the curtains. Toys and books lay scattered across the thick plush carpet meant to soften the surface for tiny feet. A small desk stood in one corner; its surface covered by crayons, markers and assorted bits of paper. The pink ruffles at the edge of a flowered bedspread fluttered gently in the breeze that came through the partially open window. Although it was late June, the nights in Colorado Springs had remained pleasant, allowing for the residents of the city to forgo air conditioning and rely on Mother Nature for her nightly cooling effects.
A soft murmuring of voices wafted down the hall and into Leorah's room; voices that were familiar and always offered comfort and security. And normally, Leorah would not awaken at the sound of those familiar voices. But tonight, she was not alone in her room. There was another small, young member of the house who did not know those voices as well as Leorah, and who was just a bit frightened by them.
The little creature crawled slowly to the head of the bed, legs lifting high as one after another got caught in the material of the bedspread until it came to rest on the pillow by the child's head. Carefully, it bent forward and sniffed the little girl delicately on the nose. When it received no response, the creature bent its head closer and licked the child directly on the nose.
The raspy tongue of the tiny animal woke Leorah immediately. She blinked at the moonlight streaming in and turned her head, smiling sleepily when she spotted her new friend just inches from her nose. Pulling one hand from beneath the covers of her bed, Leorah picked up the kitten and settled it gently on her chest. "Hi Belle. Why is you up?" she whispered to the small kitten. She stroked its head lightly and giggled when the kitten tucked her head under Leorah's chin and purred loudly. "I think you wants some milk." She turned her head toward the partially opened door of her room. "Mommy and Sir is still awake. They will get you some milk," she stated with confidence.
Picking the kitten up with one hand, Leorah tossed the covers off and slipped out of bed. Quietly, she padded to the door and stepped into the hallway, her short nightgown brushing against the back of her legs. As she made her way toward the living room, the voices grew louder. Leorah heard soft laughter, followed by the deeper rumbling voice of the man who had brought her the little kitten that was clutched gently in her arms.
Leorah smiled as she remembered how he had come to their house earlier that afternoon carrying a box wrapped with a big green bow. Leorah had been excited, for when Sir brought her presents, they were always wonderful presents…like the roller skates and the bicycle that were out in the garage. She'd been puzzled when he'd placed the box on the low coffee table though, for the top of the box had holes in it. Mommy had frowned when she'd seen it and given Sir an mad look. Leorah thought her mommy might be mad because Sir gave her a broken box. But Sir had just laughed at her mommy and said, "Just wait."
When Leorah had pulled the ribbon off and opened the box, both she and her mommy had gasped in delighted surprise. For sitting in the bottom of the box was a tiny ball of gray and white fluff that had looked up at them with wide, gray eyes. Mommy had gently taken the kitten out of the box and stroked its soft fur, her eyes blinking back tears. Leorah wondered why her mommy was crying…maybe kittens weren't good presents. But mommy had smiled when she handed the kitty to Leorah, then she had hugged Sir really long and hard. When Leorah looked up at him in confusion, he had smiled and winked at her. "You mommy used to have a kitten, pumpkin. I think she's glad that you have one now, too."
When mommy let go of Sir, Leorah had handed the kitten to her and given him a big hug too, followed by a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you , Sir. Me and mommy will take good care of my kitten."
He had tweaked her on the nose. "I know you will, princess." Then he had cocked an eyebrow at her. "Got a name for it? You can't just be calling that little thing kitten all the time."
Leorah had turned to look at the kitten, now residing comfortably in her mother's arms. "He is furry. I think I will call him Beast," she stated with decision.
Jack had exchanged a look with Sam at that name, both of them thinking immediately of Teal'c. "Uh. I think it's a girl kitten kiddo," Jack had replied while biting back a grin. "You certainly wouldn't want to be called a name like Beast now, would you?"
Leorah had adamantly shaken her head. Then said, "Belle. That's a good name, right?" she looked up into his eyes. Jack had chuckled, knowing that Beauty and the Beast was still Leorah's favorite movie.
"That's perfect," he'd stated with a smile.
Now, as Leorah looked down at Belle, she smiled too. It was a perfect name, for her little kitten was just as pretty and wonderful as Belle from the movie. And even though she'd only had her kitten for one day, Belle was already her best friend in the whole world.
When her bare feet touched the coolness of the living room's wooden floor, Leorah stopped walking and looked up. She frowned in confusion at the sight before her. She was used to seeing Sir and her mommy sitting close to each other on the couch…and even holding hands and hugging and kissing sometimes. But this was new.
She stepped further into the room and cocked her head to the side as she tried to puzzle this out. Finally, in a thoroughly confused voice, she said into the quiet room, "Mommy, why is you 'quishing Sir?"
Sam sprang up from Jack's lap as if a grenade had just gone off and whirled to face her daughter, her face flushing with a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. "Leorah! Wh…what are you doing up? Are you OK, sweetheart?" Quickly, Sam straightened her rather rumpled shirt and went to kneel in front of Leorah.
Leorah nodded her head in reply to Sam's question then peered around her mother to cast her confused glance toward Jack, who was still reclining on the couch, shirt unbuttoned half-way and looking not at all bothered by the interruption. "Why was mommy 'quishing you?" she repeated her question. "Was you being mean?" the accusation in her tone was apparent.
Jack bit back a snort of laughter at the miniature drill sergeant in front of him and looked over at Sam, who was still crouched in front of Leorah. By the panicked look on her face, he could tell she was far more frazzled by this turn of events than he was…and equally at a loss for words. Jack decided to help out. "Uh, no pumpkin. Your mommy was not…squishing me." His eyes shot to Sam's at the word, laughter dancing in them as she met his gaze. Sam closed her eyes and groaned softly in reply. "We were just…snuggling."
Sam cast him a look of disbelief, eyebrows arched high. Snuggling? Since when did the CO of the SGC use the term snuggling in everyday life? She looked over at her daughter. Oh yeah…since there was a five year old in the room.
Although their relationship had taken a turn for the better three weeks ago up at his cabin, they were both careful not to be too demonstrative in front of Leorah. Because they had waited eight long years to be together, they weren't acting like monks, but Jack also made sure that if he "slept over" he was either in the guest room or out the door by early morning. While they were open and relaxed about hugging or kissing, neither one of them wanted to expose Leorah to anything beyond that. Thank God he hadn't managed to take her shirt off yet, Sam thought with a grimace of embarrassment.
Leorah seemed to take Jack's explanation at face value. She walked around Sam, placed Belle on the couch, and climbed onto Jack's lap. "I wants to 'nuggle too," she declared as she laid her head on his chest, suddenly sleepy.
The corner of Jack's mouth lifted in an amused grin as he looked up at Sam. She had risen to her feet and now stood there, shaking her head but smiling. Now that the moment of panic had passed, she was able to see the humor in the situation…and appreciate the calm reply of the man on the couch. Moving to sit down beside Jack's legs, Sam reached out and stroked the kitten, who was trying to climb her way up Jack's legs and back to his little mistress. "Why are you up, sweetheart?" she gently asked Leorah.
Leorah blinked her green eyes up at her mother. "Belle waked me up, mommy. I think she wants some milk." She reached out a hand and softly rubbed the kitten's head. Then frowning, Leorah added sadly, "I think she misses her mommy. And her daddy too."
Sam opened her mouth, then closed it, biting her lip and glancing over at Jack. This was the first time Leorah had ever mentioned a daddy, so she wasn't quite sure what to say. Again, Jack took over the conversation. "Kitties don't really get to know their daddies, sweetheart," he explained as he gently caressed her curly hair. "They live with their mommies until they're big enough to go and live with a very special person. Just like you." He smiled down at her when she raised her face to look at him. "It looks like you're her new mommy now, pumpkin."
Leorah gave him a small smile and looked over at Sam. "Just like I has a new mommy?"
Jack chuckled. "Yes, you certainly do," he agreed, reaching behind Leorah to take Sam's hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. Even though she had been with Sam for a month, Leorah often needed confirmation that she was indeed her mommy and that she wasn't going to go anywhere for a long time.
Leorah smiled at Sam, then leaned back against Jack's chest and looked up at him once again. Suddenly, her demeanor changed. "I doesn't have a daddy, either. Just like Belle," she stated with a touch of sadness. "What does daddies do?" Her green eyes remained on him, waiting expectantly for an answer to her question.
Jack felt his heart clutch painfully; both at the sadness behind her statement and remembrance at her question. He felt a squeeze to his hand and blinked in surprise, not remembering that he still held Sam's hand in his own. His eyes met her, and in their blue depths, he saw only compassion and a reflected sadness. She opened her mouth, ready to deflect Leorah's question, but Jack stopped her with a firm squeeze to her hand.
Taking a deep breath, he shifted Leorah so that she was facing him on his lap. He cast one more glance at Sam before beginning. "So, you want to know what daddies do, right?" At her nod, he continued. "Well, daddies help take care of their children, just like mommies. They make sure they eat good food, have warm clothes to wear, and try to make sure that their kids are always, always safe." There was a hint of despair in his eyes as he recalled how he hadn't been able to fulfill that particular job description. He shook the memories from his mind as he continued on a somewhat lighter note. "They also like to play with their kids. They bring them to the park, help them ride their bikes, tickle their tummies," he demonstrated with a soft tickle to Leorah's middle, eliciting giggles from her. "And sometimes, if they're very good, he might buy them presents." He softly rubbed her cheek and smiled gently at her. "But mostly Leah, daddies love their little boys and girls very much, just like mommies do," and he gave Sam a soft smile at those words, noting the glimmer of tears in her eyes. He had handled that question so beautifully, and just perfectly for a five year old who had never experienced having a father.
Leorah seemed to digest this information for several long moments as she stared up at him. Then, with the tendency toward directness inherent to most young children, she stated with conviction, "You does all those things with me, Sir. Can you be my new daddy?"
Jack's eyes widened in shock at the rather unexpected question and he looked helplessly over at Sam. Although they had discussed a future together, they hadn't gone so far as to discuss marriage. Deep inside, Jack knew it was what he wanted…to be a permanent fixture in both of their lives. He just wasn't sure if he was ready to be a daddy again. He hadn't done such a great job the first time around.
As Jack floundered helplessly, Sam reached out and took Leorah's hand in her own. "Sweetheart, this is a pretty big discussion for all of us right now. I think we should get your kitty some milk and get both of you back to bed. We can talk more about it tomorrow, OK?"
Leorah frowned slightly, then blinked her eyes as a thought occurred to her. Maybe Sir couldn't be her daddy. Turning back to Jack, she looked up into his face with a sad, puzzled expression. "Is you already a daddy to someone else?"
Jack winced at her words but didn't retreat. He knew she deserved an answer. "I was, once, a long time ago. But…my little boy died, Leorah," he explained softly. Sam felt her heart break at his words. She hated seeing the sadness that entered him whenever Charlie was mentioned.
Leorah nodded knowingly and leaned against him once more, tucking her head under his chin. "My first mommy died a long, long time ago too. So did my daddy, but Bubbe tolded me he wasn't a very nice daddy." She sighed. "Maybe I isn't a good enough girl to have a daddy anyway," she whispered softly as she absently petted her kitten.
Jack heard Sam's sharp intake of breath and met her pain-filled eyes. Feeling a rush of protective love for both of these women, he lifted Leorah slightly and turned her to face him, causing Belle to leap to the floor. When he had her full attention, he said in a quiet but firm tone, "You listen to me, Leorah Michelle Carter. You are the most special little girl in the entire universe. There is nothing you ever did or could do that would change how much you are loved. And if anyone deserves a daddy, you do. Do you understand me?"
Eyes wide, she nodded her head. Even if she didn't quite understand everything he was saying, she did understand the commanding tone in his voice. Then, very timidly, she whispered, "Does you love me enough to be my daddy? Maybe someday?" she asked hopefully.
Overwhelmed at her words, Jack pulled her close, closed his eyes, and bent to rest his head on top of hers. "Oh sweetheart, I love you enough already." He looked over the top of her head and met Sam's tear-filled gaze. "And if your mommy will have me, I would love to be her husband…and your daddy." He pressed another kiss to the top of Leorah's head but his eyes never left Sam's.
Without a moment's hesitation, and with tears of happiness running down her face, Sam leaned forward and kissed Jack soundly. When she pulled back, she looked deeply into his eyes. "Yes, Jack O'Neill. We most definitely want you become part of our family."
His face slowly breaking into a wide grin, he placed one hand around the back of her head and pulled her close for a long, deep searing kiss. After a few moments, they pulled back slightly at Leorah's voice. "Mommy! Now you is 'quishing me!"
With much laughter and tears of happiness, Leorah was lifted from Jack's lap and placed in Sam's, then Sam took her daughter's spot on Jack's lap. When both his girls were settled in comfortably, Jack asked Leorah with a teasing grin, "Better now, pumpkin?"
She smiled back. "Yes. Thank you…daddy." And once more, the little girl with the chestnut hair and the big green eyes was squashed between the two adults who loved her most in the world. Not to be left out, Belle jumped back into Leorah's lap, completing the picture.
Two weeks later, right before Sam would have to report back to the SGC in her new role as civilian head scientist of gate technology, Sam and Jack were married in a quite backyard ceremony. Only their close friends and family attended…and the members of SG's 3 and 7 who had been instrumental in bringing Leorah safely to Earth. General Hammond came from Washington and brought his two granddaughters along to meet Leorah. Although they were several years older than the little girl, their presence helped give the small gathering an even stronger family feel.
Wearing a frilly white dress, Leorah stood beside Sam during the brief ceremony, her eyes never leaving those of the minister's. When Sam turned to hand Leorah her bouquet before the final vows were said, the little girl broke into a wide grin and stated quite loudly, "Is Sir almost my daddy now, mommy?"
The small group chuckled loudly at her words while Sam blushingly replied, "Yes, sweetheart. He is almost your daddy now."
Jack grinned down the little girl and gave her a quick wink before returning both his and Sam's attention to the minister. He had in fact filled out the adoption papers the day after their late night discussion. All that was left to do was to officially change her last name, something that Sam had insisted on happening. In fact, she insisted that they both take his name as theirs, a proclamation that had had touched Jack deeply.
When their vows had finally been exchanged and sealed with a long kiss (to the great delight of everyone present), Jack bent and picked Leorah up, settling her against his left hip while his other arm remained firmly around Sam's shoulders. Looking out at the crowd, he gave a crooked grin and announced, "I would like to present to all of you Samantha Carter-O'Neill and Leorah Michelle Carter-O'Neill. My family."
At his words, the entire backyard erupted into applause and cheers. Sam blushed at the attention but it didn't stop her from turning and giving Jack a kiss filled with the promise of a bright future for all of them. They pulled back and gazed into each other's eyes, both of them thinking the same thing: namely how saving the life of one small girl had brought both of them to a new life that promised to be filled with love and happiness.
Leorah smiled happily and leaned forward, kissing Jack on his cheek when Sam pulled away. "Now you really is my daddy and I doesn't have to call you Sir anymore!" she exclaimed with excitement.
Jack chuckled and replied, "Thank God for that," before pulling both of his girls close for a tight hug.
Daniel, his arm around Marjie's shoulders, shared a look of complete satisfaction with Teal'c. It had been a long time coming, but both men knew that their two friends were finally where they needed to be; with each other and the little girl whose rescue had been instrumental in bringing them to this point.
As he looked on with fatherly pride, George Hammond glanced up toward the sky. "Well Jacob," he said quietly, "She did it. Your little girl finally has everything she wants. And I think she's going to be very happy."
From somewhere beyond space and time, George thought he heard an amused voice reply, "I couldn't agree with you more."