Chapter 3: The Empty Nest

(Eight weeks after Janet's graduation ...)

"Jack, what are you doing?"

Jack O'Neill heard his wife. But he kept right on going. He didn't even look up from his self-appointed task. Its repetition kept him from the thoughts he'd rather not have right now.

"You miss her already, don't you?" Sam asked.

"Yup," he answered simply. Still he didn't miss a beat.

Sam stood in the doorway of her daughter Janet's room. It was eerily empty or at least relatively uncluttered. Many of the young woman's belongings had been neatly packed and shipped to the MIT dorms over a week ago today. The last two suitcases had flown with her on the trip out two days ago. Actually, her parents had gone too, returning early this morning.

"Can't believe she left this behind," Jack muttered.

Sam couldn't see what he was doing. Sitting on Janet's bed, Jack's back was still turned towards her. Whatever he was fiddling with was effectively blocked from her view, clearly occupying his attention. Better yet, it was distracting him from the fact that he'd just delivered his only child to her college of choice, several hundred miles away.

Silently, Sam walked to the other side of the bed. Once there, she smiled to see what Jack had gotten into. Slowly, she sat down, gently wrapping her right arm around his waist.

"You always could play with the best of them," she said. Leaning her head tenderly against his shoulder, she listened to the silky smooth sound of one of her husband's favorite toys as the overgrown little boy played it skillfully. For now, anything that helped him feel younger was probably a good thing.

"Can't believe she's gone," Jack said flatly.

"She's not gone, she's at school," Sam said patiently. "There is a difference."

"I suppose," he admitted flatly. "Then again, before we know it, she'll be married, with kids, no time for us …"

"Jack …!" Even after nearly twenty years of marriage, her husband could surprise her. The big, bad black-ops soldier, her hero, her love really could whine with the best of them sometimes.

"Yeah?" he responded without stopping what he was doing. Jack continued to play with a vintage yellow yo-yo, his eyes fixed intently on the smooth up and down motion of the shiny plastic discs.

"It's the first one I gave her," Jack said, finally stilling the yo-yo and holding it reverently in his hand.

"Yes, it is," Sam recalled. Though she didn't say it out loud, she remembered how Jack made sure Janet had her first yo-yo before she'd turned one year of age.

"She probably doesn't even remember it anymore," he muttered. "Too grown up."

OoOoOo

Later that evening, as Jack and Sam finished up dishes from a simple evening meal, the phone rang.

Sam answered the phone. It was Janet.

"Hi, Mom," she said cheerfully.

"Janet, is everything okay?" Sam responded cautiously.

"I'm fine," the new college co-ed replied brightly. "We're going out to a movie later. Just miss you guys is all. You okay?"

Sam smiled. Janet was one of a kind. All the excitement of college and here she was calling home her first night without them. She was so grown up and yet so much their little girl.

"We're fine, sweetheart," Sam assured her.

"Dad?"

"He's fine too," Sam promised. "He misses you though, like I do. And he did find something you left behind."

"Really?" Janet asked skeptically. Glancing around her small dorm room, she couldn't imagine she'd left anything behind. Then again, there were one or two little things she wished she'd packed. Sentimental, but important things ...

"Yes, really," Sam said. "I'll put your Dad on; he can tell you about it."

"Janet?" Jack mouthed as Sam handed him the phone. Even before she nodded, Sam could see a small smile tugging at Jack's lips as he took the phone. The empty nest was going to be even harder for Jack than it was for her. They were going to need lots of phone calls, e-mails, letters, at least for awhile.

"Hi, Princess," Jack began, keeping his voice as light as possible.

"Hi," Janet responded. Before she could process another thought, she remembered.

"Did you find my yo-yo, Dad?" Janet asked. "I forgot it. Can you send it to me?"

Jack grinned.

Sam smiled.

Some things would never change.

The End


A/N: Hope you liked this small piece; please review.