A/N: Dedicated to graduates and wonderful fathers everywhere … and to daughters who dream of having a father like Jack O'Neill.


Graduation Day

"Damn it!"

Samantha O'Neill winced as her husband's irritated voice echoed loudly down the stairs. Today was the big day. Their daughter, Janet Grace O'Neill was graduating from high school today. And, as luck would have it, today was also Father's Day.

Jack was determined to look good, for Jan of course. Sam knew better than most how much that meant to her husband. Lieutenant General Jonathan O'Neill wanted his seventeen-year-old daughter to be proud of him. To his way of thinking, being the oldest father at the graduation wasn't likely to cut it. At age seventy, the wonderful man she'd married had started to question himself all over again. Time was he'd doubted his worth, even in her eyes. Then he'd gotten past that, learned better, largely with her help. But now, now Jack O'Neill was fighting the specter of aging once again. And there were days she feared he was losing the battle.

He felt over the hill, even useless sometimes. Only a month ago, Jack celebrated his seventieth birthday with his second knee replacement. In Sam's eyes, the surgeries had been expected consequences of a life spent heroically defending everything they held dear. In Jack's eyes, his temporary disability was a sign of weakness. He'd be walking with crutches today and he didn't like it one bit. And then there was the matter of his favorite grey suit, the one he wanted to wear today, for Jan.

Sam knew he'd put on a few pounds lately. Though Jack was no slouch, working out on a near daily basis, staying in shape was more difficult than usual, what with the knee surgeries. She understood, Jack didn't, not one iota. She'd catch him looking at himself in the mirror every so often. He'd shake his head. She'd come up behind him on those occasions, wrap her arms around him and reassure him he was still the best looking man she knew. It always worked, at least for the moment. But now there was that suit. He hadn't worn it since Daniel's wedding last year; that was ten pounds ago.

"Sam," she heard him call from the upstairs bedroom. "Sam!"

He'd just realized the suit didn't quite fit anymore. She knew it, tried to tell him nicely the other day, but he wasn't hearing it. And they said women were vain.

OoOoOo

Jan was their child, no doubt about it. A perfect cross between the intellectual genius of Sam Carter and the devil-may-care audacity of Jack O'Neill, she'd given her parents the proverbial run for their money.

And some run it was.

Rock concerts, smoking, beer, boyfriends, it all paled in comparison to her private investigation of what mom and dad did for a living. That began even before adolescence.

In an effort to shield their only child from danger, Jan's parents had carefully kept any and all discussion of the Stargate out of their interactions at home. In itself, that had been a Herculean task. A sensitive, brilliant child, Jan knew from an early age there was a big secret in her household. And she'd been determined to figure it out.

At the age of eleven, she managed to hack into the SGC database, surprising even her mother with her precocious acumen. When the powers that be traced the breech of one of the nation's top security systems to the O'Neill household confusion reined. After all, Jack and Sam both had clearance. Why would either of them need to get in through the back door?

Of course, it was Sam who figured it out. It had to be Jan. Mortification mixed with motherly pride as she realized her little girl was well on her way to being more than a match for her own technological finesse. Jan had a bright future ahead of her, that is, if they could keep her out of a detention cell long enough to grow up.

Shortly after that incident, with her parents' encouragement and the President's permission, Jan O'Neill was given access to basic information about the Stargate program. From that moment on, the sky held no limits for the young girl's imagination. Her creative leaps and determination to explore her world knew no bounds. It was worth it, all the schooling, all the discipline, if only she'd be able to pursue her dreams. Still none of this could rein in her adventuresome and rebellious nature, at least not completely.

OoOoOo

There was less than an hour before they were due at the auditorium. In spite of Jack's wish that they drive over together, Jan had insisted on going out to breakfast with her friends and meeting her parents at the ceremony. That was his daughter, independent to a fault, he thought. Reminded him of someone actually, he chuckled proudly to himself. Boy, he'd been a pain in the ass when he was a kid.

With Sam's help, Jack had come to terms with his expanding waistline and was even now donning a suit that fit more comfortably than the one he preferred. Thank God for Sam, he thought. She loves me, no matter what. Then he saw it.

What's this? he thought, his eyes drawn to an envelope on the dresser. In his fit of pique, he'd overlooked it earlier.

His name was on the envelope, penned in Jan's familiar scrawl. He was reminded of the good old days when his daughter gifted him with home made father's day cards. Seemed those days were gone for good. He missed them.

But again, what was this?

A letter, it seemed, folded neatly in half to fit the plain white envelope. Jan wasn't one for frills. Just the basics when it came to stationary, clothing or food, but this, it was a letter for him, on Father's Day. She hadn't forgotten after all.

Expectantly, he sat down and began to read.

Dear Dad,

I'm graduating. Can you believe it/

And it's Father's Day. Symbolic, don't you think? Your rebel child graduating on Father's Day. Bet you thought I forgot.

(Yeah, I did, he admitted to himself.)

You may have had your doubts I'd ever make it this far. I know I've given you and Mom more than your share of headaches these past few years. I didn't mean to be such a pain, really I didn't.

(I know, honey, he thought. It came naturally, genetics and all.)

What I'm trying to say is, I love you, Dad. Seems I've inherited your way with words. Talking about my feelings, I've never been very good at it. Maybe I'll have better luck in writing. Anyway, here goes.

You're the best. No matter what I've said the last few years, you're the best dad any girl could have. In my heart, I've always known that Dad. Even when I'm mad at you, I know it. You're always there for me. When I'm in trouble, I can count on you. Anyone messing with Janet Grace O'Neill had better watch out. The fact that your hit list has included some potential boyfriends lately, well, you know how I felt about that. Got to admit, though, you've usually been right.

(Damn straight, he thought.)

By the way, thanks for saving me from Larry. You know, he was the one with the multiple facial piercings. Cool as I thought he was, turns out he really was pretty lame.

I know how much you love me, Dad. You make me feel special and precious. Even though it doesn't always seem that way, thanks to you and Mom, I know I deserve someone who loves me, and not just any guy. Problem is, having a handsome, smart, heroic dad like you makes it hard for any guy to measure up. So it will probably be your fault I turn out to be an old maid. Just kidding!!

What I mean to say is, you've taught me to wait for the best. You've taught me what's really important. Family, love, loyalty, I've learned it all from watching you with Mom. I'm so proud to have a dad like you. I hope I can make you proud too.

Love, Jan.

OoOoOo

He was whistling. As Jack climbed into the Jeep he loved to drive these days, deftly throwing his crutches into the back, he was whistling. Sam couldn't help but wonder what had changed his foul mood.

And he looked dapper. He'd settled on a striking navy blue suit, tastefully accented by the silk tie she'd bought him last week.

"We'd better get a move on," he said, stopping to smile at her before starting the engine. "By the way, you look beautiful."

Sam looked at him. To say she was puzzled was an understatement. The confident man she'd married had returned. She was glad to see him again.

"You look pretty good yourself," she said, eyeing him appreciatively.

"Not bad, huh," Jack agreed. "Don't need the grey suit after all."

"Nope," Sam replied. "It's the man, not the clothes, you know." Sam hoped the warmth of her smile gave her husband some idea of her appreciation.

"Happy Father's Day."

Jack squeezed Sam's hand gently then proceeded to turn the key in the ignition.

"So it is," he said. When it came right down to it, Jack knew how much he was loved and appreciated. "Let's go see our little girl."


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